Dietgirl to the rescue!

It was mid January of 2001, 23 year-old Shauna was doing laundry, “I was hanging my knickers on the line. Size 26 and gigantic, they were so worn out that the elastic was gone and the fabric transparent… Then I hung up my little sisters. Hers were like a size 6 and frilly and dainty. I remember looking up at the contrast between them and thinking, ‘I’m twenty-three years old. I can’t believe I’m wearing granny pants. How can these possibly belong to me.’”

Well, 8,000 miles, 7 years, and 175 pounds later, Shauna is literally half the woman she used to be. A real-life superhero, she has blogged her way through defeating her demons and conquering her cravings all while traveling the globe and meeting the man of her dreams in a Scottish pub. “I lost my job. I lost my grandfather. I moved half way across the world. I had to start to realize that I was going to have to step back from my black and white thinking—I realized that I didn’t have to wait until I was skinny to do things,” said Shauna.

Practically raised in weight watchers meetings, Shauna was all too familiar with the dieter’s mentality. Self-loathing came as naturally (and as often) as breathing air. But one day Shauna decided that a life of bullying her body into social perfection was just not good enough. She wanted more—it was time to feel comfortable in her skin. Easier said than done…

The real ticket to Shauna’s success was creating her wildly successful blog, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. With her wry humor and sage-like optimism Shauna set out on her journey to self-love and found strength in the community of the interweb. “While I knew what to do with what I ate and how I moved, I’d never done the work on sorting out what was in my head,” Shauna said. ”Why did I over eat? Why did I turn to food for comfort? And writing about it was the way that I started to unravel all of the issues in my head.”

What’s the hardest part about losing half of your body weight? Changing the way you talk to yourself. “Once I started treating myself kindly with good food and exercise instead of disgust and anger,” she writes, “I started to appreciate my body, lumps and bumps and all. There was more to me than the size of my jeans, after all.”

No better words have graced our ears.

5 things to remember

1. You don’t have to be perfect, just persistent.

“When you have a bad day—or bad months—you don’t have to give up. It may not being the ideal situation, but if you do the best you can you will get there. It may not be as fast, or perfect as you hoped. But what is?”

2. Be prepared.
“Rather than waiting for hunger to strike and being so tired after work that I just go through the drive-thru or order a pizza, I take the time to plan my meals for the week and do the shopping so that I’m prepared. I have healthy foods in my cupboards at home. I have healthy foods in my desk at work. I still eat the foods that I really enjoy. I just plan them in rather than gobbling them all of the time.”

3. Let go of the idea that you are either on or off the wagon.
4. Accept that life gets in the way.

5. Set new challenges.
“I have an orange belt in kickboxing (which means I am qualified to kick down an old lady). It’s not just about eating healthy and trudging off to the gym, it’s an activity; it’s a new experience; I’m learning something. So it’s not an endless bore. I don’t go to class so that I can burn calories so that I can eat my dinner tonight, I go because it’s fun.”

Overall, this weight losing superstar’s philosophy boils down to this: Do the healthy more often than you don’t do the healthy thing. Remember that life is not about numbers and scales, it’s about eating well and being kind to yourself. And that’s a lesson we can all learn—weight-loss game or not.

Shauna’s book is out now in the USA! Check out The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl.

MORE TIPS amp;& TOOLS

Listen up!
Tune in for Shauna’s interview podcast with Back in Skinny Jeans

Read Shauna’s blog
Just do it! You’ll thank us later.

10 blog’s to drool over when you are on a diet
Check out Shauna’s picks for what to read.

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The sexy side of breast cancer

You’re there. Sitting in an impersonal doctor’s office, so cliché in its décor that it could be any doctor’s office. You’re in a chair that you’d rather not remember but whose upholstery you’ll never forget. Because the itch coming from that hue of blue made your skin crawl so much that your body didn’t feel like your own.

You see the doctor mouth the words you knew in your gut were coming. The words you felt clumped together in your breast a week before you came to this office. And sat in this chair.

A breast cancer diagnosis can make you feel like your body was hijacked. Everything that was womanly about you is suddenly taken from you, quite literally, and you’re left by yourself to rationalize something that is too intimate for others to understand and too universal to keep bottled up.

Not very often does a breast cancer diagnosis make you love your body, and even less often does it make you love your breast. But that’s what happened for Eriko.

“My breast cancer made me a sexier person,” she said. “I was forced to become in tune with my body and my breast. I had no choice. Not all women really want to have to deal with it, but when you’re confronted with a diagnosis of cancer, you have to pay attention to your body in ways you never did before.”

Eriko decided right after her diagnosis that her cancer wasn’t going to take her life from her. She pulled out a calendar, started a treatment countdown and asked her husband to buy her something pink and sparkly to honor the occasion.

Honoring herself became as central a part of her treatment as her mastectomy and radiation were, and Eriko believes that helped her maintain her sense of femininity.

“While I was going through breast cancer treatment, which was hell, I would set these little mini-goals,” she said. “One of them was, on Fridays, when I knew my radiation treatment was over for the weekend, I would drive over to my favorite restaurant and order my favorite salad, take it to go, then run home and take a nap or a bubble bath – just to kind of honor myself.”

A little extra attention went a long way in making Eriko comfortable in her new body. When she first lost her breast, she was very sensitive about her scar and didn’t like anything to touch it. A friend gave her a pair a silk pajamas, and soon the scar started to feel less like a battle wound and more like a badge of honor.

“One of my girlfriends flew to Thailand often, and she said, ‘I have the perfect gift for you. I am going to buy silk Thai pajamas for you and I know you’ll love them,’” Eriko said. “When she gave them to me I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to wear anything like that. It’s like too much fabric against my skin.’ I was still very, very sensitive, and my scar was still healing. But those silk pajamas are my favorite ones now because they make me feel very sexy and pretty.”

The pajamas showed her that her sensuality had little to do with her anatomy and more to do with her state of mind. If she could make herself feel feminine and sexy by wearing clothes that felt good against her skin, her scar wouldn’t be as disruptive.

“When I finally felt like it was okay, I would go shop for these really sexy camisoles,” she said. “That’s what I wear underneath my clothes, and that’s just for me. It makes me walk taller and feel proud that I am a woman.”

Eriko feels that cultivating her sexy side during her breast cancer treatment gave her a new perspective on life, and while it may seem counterintuitive, she recommends other women try it.

“When going through breast cancer treatment or other hardships, always know that there is an end, and that it is not always going to be this dark,” she said. “Treat yourself, buy some bling, buy a sexy outfit. Buy a camisole, buy some shoes. Go out and get a manicure or a pedicure with your girlfriend. You deserve it.”

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the body’s transformation from woman to survivor, check out Save the Ta-Tas, a cute line of shirts and other gear that celebrates breasts and scars alike. A portion of all purchases goes to fund research, so your dollar does double duty!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
Founded on a promise between sisters, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has been a pioneer in funding and finding a cure.

All About Breast Cancer
Understand symptoms, treatments, research and how to lower your risk. It could just save your life.

Ribbon Worthy
Cancer is a club you didn’t ask to join, but since you’ve been granted admission, you might as well meet your fellow members. Join Pink-Link to ask questions, share experiences, dig for information, give a resource, and get help through rough spots.

How to Feel Beautiful in a Bathing Suit

Beach vacations, pool parties, boat trips, weekends on the lake. The memories of good times past make you hungry for the lazy days of summer every year… until you realize that it means it’s time to break out the bathing suit.

Fortunately for womankind, Malia Mills was born.

Growing up in Hawaii meant that Malia thought of her swimsuit as a second skin that made beach romps and playful days possible. She never really gave much attention to the way a suit fits until she was 12 and her mom agreed to let her buy a new, striped knitted bikini.

“I brought it home and had to sew the cups down on the top because they were way too big for me,” she said. “It was one of those first moments where I was so excited, but it was a bit of a drag because I had to adjust it to fit. It made me sort of not feel great about myself.”

Malia took that experience and that bikini and moved with her family to New Hampshire, only to be confronted with feeling awkward in a swimsuit once again.

“Here I was at the pond in New Hampshire in this very surfer girl bikini with strings everywhere, and something that felt super comfortable in Hawaii felt super out of place in New Hampshire,” she said. “I realized what an incredible, emotional impact you can have in a swimsuit, and how something that feels so right in one situation can feel so wrong in another.”

Tapping into these life experiences, Malia decided to spend spring breaks with her parents and semesters abroad in Paris tracking down women who made custom swimsuits out of their homes. She became very inspired at the thought of helping women feel as comfortable in a swim suit as they do in street clothes, and in 1991, she launched Malia Mills Swim Wear.

From the outset, Malia relied on friends, family and her fellow waitresses for fittings, and that sisterhood has certainly contributed to her success as a designer of suits for real women.

Seeing women of all shapes and sizes settle into being in a swimsuit, watching them transform from insecure and vulnerable to empowered and free to enjoy all that a swimsuit involves lit a fire in Malia. She adopted the slogan “Love Thy Differences” for her company and set out on a mission not only to create suits that respected and celebrated women’s bodies but also to teach women how to appreciate themselves and the way they look.

Malia said that the first critical step in enjoying swimsuit season is embracing a new state of mind. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but she does have some helpful tips to make the anxiety-riddled bathing suit buy more of a pleasure than a pain.

1. Put yourself in a good mood.

Get a manicure or grab a cup of coffee with your girlfriend. Tell yourself that it’s going to be a good day, and take that optimism with you to the dressing room.

2. Be willing to experiment.

You may find something, you may not. But you must be willing to try things, and if they don’t work out, you don’t give up. It’s the same mentality you have when trying on blue jeans or dresses.

3. Bring a friend along.

Take a girlfriend with you to be your runner, to giggle with you when things really don’t work, and to keep you from getting down on yourself.

4. Ask for help.

The sales clerks are actually very knowledgeable, so ask them for guidance. Admit to them that you’re a little nervous about the process, and you’ll be amazed at how they’ll really be rooting for you. Tell them what colors you like and what styles you are interested in. Ask questions, ask for guidance, and reach out a little bit. You’ll be amazed at what you get back.

5. Take it all in.

Instead on turning around and zeroing in on your bottom or your love handles, look at yourself in the suit from head to toe. Appreciate the way the suit looks in the context of your entire body instead of focusing on how well or poorly it masks your least favorite areas. No one else looks at you in a swimsuit like that and you shouldn’t either.

With customers like Madonna, Cindy Crawford, and Elle Macpherson, you’d think that Malia Mills is only for the super glamorous, but that’s just not the case. Even as her suits show up in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and Victoria’s Secret catalogues, she remains committed to pleasing real women and creating swim wear that suits their various shapes.

Changing the world, one girl at a time

As much as we’d like to believe that we are given what we have earned, the truth is that we don’t live in a meritocracy. And we certainly don’t live in a world where everyone is given equal chances in the educational system. There are jaw-dropping, stomach turning differences between which schools get certain programs, funding, and teachers. Some of this has to do with money, some with location, but some of it can be attributed to good old fashion social roles and stereotypes.

Recalling the tree houses of childhood, the grown-up exclusive clubs are ever as menacing, but much more subtle. Take the world of math and science, for instance, written in the eyes of professors, teachers, and fellow students is that familiar knell, “No Girls Allowed.”

“When I was growing up, I got the message that girls were bad at math.” Dreaming of becoming a veterinarian was nice and cute when Rachel was a child. But as she came of age it was time face the facts: without the right math or the science classes, she couldn’t become a doctor. So that was that, Rachel moved on.

It was not until she graduated college and started volunteering with middle school girls that the problem became apparent for Rachel, 10 years later nothing had changed. Something had to be done. So Rachel founded a non-profit organization for elementary and middle school-aged girls called GirlStart to empower girls in math, science and technology.

“We take the trends that appeal to girls, and we show them the math and science and technology behind those trends,” says Rachel. GirlStart shows girls how to do everything from taking apart a computer, building a website, making music videos, to ooey-gooey sticky science.

That’s right, Rachel started her own company without a trust fund, a master’s degree, or an engineering degree! No one her family had started a company, it was created “on a shoes string” of passion, $500 in the bank, and a credit card.

And so, GirlStart began in the living room of Rachel’s apartment. She had spent almost a whole year living on rice and beans, struggling to make ends meet when she finally got the grant. The day had come, “I went to the post office. I opened my box, and I couldn’t believe it. I hopped in my car and turned on ABBA really loud. It felt like the biggest euphoric rush I had ever experienced.”

But the truth is, part of being an entrepreneur are these dark days just like those years Rachel was scraping by, and trying to find strength to sell her idea. “There are bombs and ups-and-downs along the way,” Rachel says, “but the payoff is so worth the challenges. The opportunity to see these girls and the difference this program is making in their lives is worth every hardship. And even the hardships are really opportunities in disguise. When you really, truly believe that you will be successful, you will be able to handle all the bumps in your path.”

As long as there are little girls in the world who are afraid of math class and who think that technology is for boys, there’s always a reason for GirlStart.

Turns out girls aren’t so bad at math, “We have girls who walk into GirlStart and do not know the difference between a computer chip and a potato chip. But they come into GirlStart, and they get into it. We have girls that have gone on to start their own companies. We have one girl who was only in eighth grade and she has her own Web design firm. We have girls who did not have a relationship with their dad because their dad’s a techie. Then they went to GirlStart and learned how to build a Web page. Now they can talk to their dad. We have girls who came to GirlStart and did not speak a word of English. And they learn how to speak English through GirlStart, because math is the universal language. We have girls who have gone on to be engineering majors and came back to mentor other girls.”

Even though girls live in a stressful bubble inundated with advertisements practically commanding them to be self conscious and isolated because that’s “just what it’s like to be a teenager,” there are places like GirlStart where they’re being themselves. They’re taking risks. They’re doing things they’ve never done before—just like Rachel.

If Rachel could tell you just one thing it would be:

  • Think about who you really want to be

and

  • Start working toward that goal today

That is all it takes. After all, starting small is starting somewhere; if you take one step a day you are still moving forward.

“We throw out so many obstacles for ourselves, but they’re really only perceived limitations. I see it with the girls that we serve at GirlStart every day, and there’s nothing that women can’t do. We need more women out there doing great things.”

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GirlStart
Now that you’ve heard all about GirlStart, go check it out!

Volunteer Match
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Guide Star
Guide Star connects people with non-profits.

Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls
A non-profit, builds girls self-esteem through music creation and performance. Providing workshops and technical training, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, and encourage social change and the development of life skills.

Real Women, Real Beauty Insights

Did you learn how to look your best by watching your mom get ready or by reading magazines? What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever heard?

Watch as we ask real women for their best beauty secrets.

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Face Value
We love the Campaign for Real Beauty that Dove is doing. The latest video, Onslaught, shows just how much the beauty industry warps our minds.

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Take the Discovery Health self-esteem test to see how you really feel about yourself. And then give yourself a big, fat hug from us!

Beauty’s Only Skin Deep
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Bellydancing — A Woman’s Workout

To watch her belly wave in and out and side to side as though she’d been doing it since the gypsies of 1000 AD, you’d never know that Teresa was all set to be a pharmacist before belly dancing shook her awake.

In the 12 years since she took a class with a pregnant friend, she has gone on to open a dance studio in Lexington, Ky., and perform on stages across the United States. When she steps into class, she helps women reconnect with what makes their bodies worthy of admiration and reverence that’s as long-standing as the human form itself.

“I’ve always been pretty physical, but belly dancing started bringing me into myself as a feminine creature,” Teresa said. “Belly dance, for me, is so good because it gives me that physical high, but it also connects you with music and your own sense of self and your feminine sensuality. You’re like, ‘Oh, okay. I like jewelry. I like being a goddess.'”

Teresa’s belly dancing practice has not only improved her mental state and made her more appreciative of her body, it’s also had physical benefits. In belly dancing, the torso is engaged at all times, so any movements you make work your obliques, your lower abs and your hips.

According to Teresa, “A belly dancer prides herself on being able to isolate all her body parts, to independently move her chest or move her hips or move her belly or move her head or whatever. There are all these amazing isolations happening, and they involve huge amounts of physicality.”

Learning to move the way Mother Nature intended doesn’t come instinctively. Even Teresa admits to feeling lost when she first got started, and she likens the experience to learning a foreign language.

“If you initially come in and get totally caught up in the technical aspects of which muscle is moving, your brain won’t let you have it because it’s not the way you move in your daily life,” she said. “Just like learning a foreign language, you might first learn how to pronounce the words. Then you’re able to form sentences. And then you can speak in paragraphs. And then you don’t sound like Tarzan when you speak.”

The kinship with other dancers is also an attractive part of belly dancing, and Teresa has performed with some of the best contemporary dancers on the planet, including Rachel Brice. Brice is probably the best belly dancer in the world, and to see why, watch this.

Where in the world can you take a belly dance class, you ask? Try http://www.bellydanceclasses.net/, a comprehensive, global list of instructors and studios all over the world.

To dress the part, check out Velvet Peacock Designs, a woman-owned and operated business in Maui.

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Notes from the Belly
At Teresa’s dance studio and gallery, you can get in touch with your inner dance goddess.

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Enter the world of poi by stopping by the Home of Poi, the fire twirling authority. Find friends, get online lessons, understand equipment, and, most importantly, you won’t get burned.

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Ohm My Gosh!
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