Suns Out, Tums Out

This weekend, local Columbus girl bosses Stef Streb and Julie Wojno threw a body positive pool party – Suns Out, Tums Out. This event brought together 105 women from around the city to put on their swimsuits and reclaim their bodies. And let me tell you, it was magical.

each guest received a drink coozie, and if you were 21+ up to two beers

Every summer in grade school I would throw a pool party a week or so before school started. At first bringing girls from all different friend groups together for a day in the sun and a good ole fashioned water balloon fight. Eventually, boys started coming too, despite my dad’s complaints.

This was the highlight of my summer, and when I think back on those pool parties it always makes me incredibly happy. I rocked bikinis, ran around, ate as many pieces of pizza that I wanted, and took tons of pictures. But I often wonder where that carefree version of me went. When did I go from complete comfort in my body, to dreading being in a bathing suit? When did I start comparing my body to the bodies of other women at these kinds of events?

Where did the confidence go?

Well, research conducted by a local non-profit, Ruling Our Experiences (ROX) can shed some light on that. In 5th grade, 86% of girls say that they are confident, and only around 20% say they want to change something about their bodies. Between 5th and 9th grade that dramatically changes. By the time girls start high school, only 60% say they are confident, and further, 58% now want to change something about their bodies.

Learn about Ruling Our Experiences in this short video

ROX works to intervene during that critical time so that young girls do not lose that confidence. Suns Out, Tums Out ran a raffle that benefitted ROX, and in total raised $575 dollars for their cause. And let me tell you that felt good. I want young girls to never lose that confidence, I want them to experience what I cann the “Suns Out, Tums Out feeling,” everyday.

Walking around at the event, I kept wishing that every pool party could feel like this. Hell I wished that every space could. It took me back to the pool parties I used to throw, back to when I didn’t think twice about my body. Deep down I just had this feeling of, “why did we have to grow up?” As women, we not only learn to hate our bodies, but we also learn to compare ourselves to other women. And let me tell you – this can often create this innate competitiveness of who can be the smallest and the “healthiest.” We begin to resent each other, and sometimes when we see a woman proudly posting a bikini photo on the gram, our first reaction is to accuse her of seeking attention. How sad is that? Wouldn’t it be great if our first thought was, “Good for her,” or “look at how confident she looks.”

Pure Magic

Well Suns Out, Tums Out created just that. The day I woke up for the event, I actually kept finding myself on the verge of tears. And I kept racking my brain like, what is wrong with me, did I forget to take my happy pills? Am I starting my period? What is going on? And as I approached the party in my Lyft, I started to tear up again. I was happy. I was thankful. Happy to be entering a space where I wouldn’t have to think about my body. Where I could forget sucking in my gut, and sit down and just let my rolls be rolls. Where the feeling of my thighs rubbing together made me feel cute instead of self-conscious. And thankful that an event like this even existed.

my glitter

Upon entering the pool party I was immediately taken aback by the sheer beauty of all these amazing, normal bodies just glistening in the sun… and glitter. Yes, I said it – glitter. Guests were encouraged to glitter up their bodies. Normally I would be so concerned about where I put the glitter and what I was calling attention to, but watching everyone smear their bellies with a rainbow array of glitter I did the same. I glittered my tummy, my butt, my thighs and I started to feel that child-like sense of confidence bubbling up. And just standing around a table full of women excited to get the chance to just wear glitter for fun for a day is really something to be seen. You immediately bond with girls you have never met before over this feeling of pure joy.

The fun didn’t stop there. Next up – the braid station. Yes my friends, whatever braids you could imagine – you could get. As someone who can’t braid her own hair, my dreams came true. Women of all ages waited in line to get pig tail braids, princes Leia braid buns, crown braids and more. And the ladies from PENZONE Salon, glittered up themselves, were able to make it all happen. A big shout out to them, I think they probably braided all 105 women’s hair there. The line was steady throughout the whole event.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The only thing just as steady was the consistent stream of photos being taken. And the best part was that taking the photos had nothing to do about how anyone looked, and more so how we all felt. You definitely could feel this vibe of comfort, inspiration, and just pure respect for everyone in the space. No one was worried about what they would look like in a photo – they just wanted to be able to remember the day. And let me tell you, I didn’t want it to end.

We Need More Body Positive SPaces

Despite being exhausted from the sun, and emotionally overwhelmed, I wanted it to last forever. Towards the end of the event, you could tell that others felt the same. Looking around I noticed that people were more quiet than they were at the beginning of the day, and many were just sitting, looking around with pure contentment on their faces.

guests could take photos with a balloon wall

I know that I was feeling an appetite for this sort of space to be the norm, and I can only guess that that was running through the minds of everyone else. It was so refreshing to spend a day with women, tums out, not talking about what we like or don’t like about our bodies, and eating as much as we want because Sweet Carrot, Jeni’s, and Bakes by Lo are to die for, and not once hearing anyone say, “I feel so fat,” or “I can’t believe I just ate that.”

And none of this would have been possible with Stef and Julie, who consistently show up to help women reclaim their bodies and their confidence. Who aren’t afraid to raise their voices against diet culture. Who wear what they want, when they want because they appreciate and love their bodies. Who got in the pool when no one else was ready to make the jump yet, to show us it really was okay. If I had not met these two, I would not have come as far as I have on my own body positive journey. And if I dare say it, they’ve kindled the beginnings of a movement here in our community.

Stef (left) and Julie (right)

From starting out with small, intimate Girls Nights where twenty or so women would come together to talk about body image and struggles with diet culture, to already having a location booked for next year’s pool party at an even bigger venue – there is an appetite among women for body positive spaces, and they have taken on the responsibility to make that happen. Women want to come together both to talk about this issue, but also to have genuine conversation and connection beyond talking about the latest diets and exercise programs. And to see local businesses like Land Grant, Rhinegeist, Sweet Carrot, Bakes by Lo, Jeni’s, PENZONE, and more supporting this cause gives me hope. Hope that eventually spaces like this will be the norm for girls and women. And that culture will understand that who a woman is matters more than what she looks like.

swag bags filled with product and discounts from the event sponsors

Just that one afternoon confidence boost has carried through to the next day. Today I put on a crop top, tossed my hair back, and walk from my car into this coffee shop with my head held high. And funnily enough, the staff, who I am familiar with from coming here regularly, commented that I looked “radiant” today. In my mind I said to myself, “yes I know. It’s that Suns Out, Tums Out after-glow feeling,” and it’s priceless.



So recently I reached a tipping point. I got fed up, and I realized I didn’t want to feel how I was feeling anymore. I was tired of my constant awareness of how my body looked. Was the way I was sitting showing my stomach rolls? Is my arm pressed too firmly against my side making it look wider than it really is? Could my butt showing in these shorts? 

I was tired of feeling like if I ate a cookie or skipped the gym that I was doing something morally wrong. Tired of associating living a successful life with working out everyday and eating different variations of salads for 2 out of 3 meals, 7 days a week. 

I was tired of thinking that I couldn’t go to the beach or fall in love until my body was smaller. Tired of thinking that I could wear certain clothes, even though I love fashion. Tired of not having pictures of certain memories because I didn’t like I how I looked in photos. 

Some background

Now let me tell you about that tipping point and how I got there. 

In the winter of 2017, I had already been in a major depressive state for about a year. Exasperated by a breakup and the fallout from that relationship, and dealing with health issues and family problems I had hit rock bottom. As I have written about before, after self-harming I realized that I needed help. I took a medical leave from work and entered treatment. 

During that time I also found out that I needed my now third knee surgery and that it was going to be the most intense yet. Complications during that surgery made my recovery time even longer than it was going to be at the outset. 

Over three months later, I finally returned to work and life – still with more recovery to go. But when I got back, everyone started telling me how great I looked. Asking if I lost weight. I honestly didn’t know the answer to that question. I had been basically bedridden for three months. I didn’t have the energy to get up, or let alone weigh myself. 

Size does not equal health

It took stepping on a scale after those comments for me to realize that I had lost 30 pounds. I felt great. Like i had accomplished something while I was away. Like that was my biggest accomplishment. Not that I had gotten through a major surgery or started to come out of my depression, but that I lost weight. 

But it didn’t last long. Nine months later, I gained it back and then some. I was so frustrated with myself that I criticized and insulted myself almost everyday. What had I done wrong? I was working out, I always had a well-rounded diet…

Panic set in. In a frantic call with my mom, I was brought back to reality. She listened to my cry and talk myself down for a minute, and then interrupted me… “sweetie, you were really sick. You were depressed and not eating. You were on pain medication with no appetite.”

She was right. That weightloss was during a time I wasn’t healthy. Now, I was mentally stable and able to talk again. I was enjoying food again and taking care of my body. Now I was healthy. 

The dress fitting

Despite that realization, I was still upset. Still felt like that failed. And that all came to head at a dress fitting for a bridesmaid’s dress. 

I had had the dress hanging for a while in my closet. Unconcerned. I scooped it up one Saturday a month before the wedding and headed to Macy’s with my Spanx and strapless bra in my purse. 

I got into the dressing room, stepped into the dress, put my arms through the sleeves and proceeded to reach for the zipper. It wouldn’t zip. At that moment, with the bride in the dressing room with me, my heart dropped into my stomach faster than I let out my next breath. Then, I noticed the dress was tight around my thighs and that the lining wouldn’ t go all the way past my butt. 

“Do you expect that she’ll lose the weight?”

We walked out to the tailor and I stood up onto the pedestal in front of all the mirrors. The tailor came out and went straight for the zipper. He tried to zip me up, yanking at the dress as if no one was inside of it. “It doesn’t fit,” he said. He turned to the bride, and said as if I wasn’t right there, “do you expect that she’ll lose the weight.” 

I could feel my chest tighten and my eyes begin to fill with tears. He began to say that they usually don’t hem dresses unless they fit. Still — not talking to me. I snapped, “we’ve established that it doesn’t fit, let’s hem the dress.” 

He huffed and puffed, but got to work. I felt like I was standing there in front of the mirror for ages. Crying quietly and trying to avoid my own reflection right there in front of me. When he was done I walked as quickly as I could back into the dressing room and closed the door. I felt like I was suffocating. 

When I doubt call your MOM

I took the dress off and immediately texted my mom. After that, I emailed the bridal shop where the dress was from and inquired about ordering a new dress. I was not about to ruin one of my best friend’s wedding — the people in my life are the most important thing to me. I didn’t care about how much money I would have to spend, I just wanted it fixed and I wanted it fixed yesterday. 

It was all I could think about the next few days. And when I found out the bride was also contacting the shop I panicked. I had become a problem. An added stress. 

For the next week I cried myself to sleep. I was exhausted. I was confused how this happened. But I knew that I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. 

Freedom from Shame

The SnapChat memory

Then I had a SnapChat memory from a year ago pop up. A mirror selfie at that 30+ pounds lighter time. And then I remembered. I hated my body then when I was thin, and I hated it now. It wasn’t all about the weight. 

And it wasn’t my fault. I, just like you, have grown up in a society and culture that glorifies certain bodies and demonizes others. Now I may have a larger body, but my body at my size, and my skin color still put me in a place of privilege when it comes to the most marginalized bodies. 

Regardless, I want to be free of the constant shame I have of my body. I want to walk around not focused on how I look and eat food without thinking people are watching me. I want to take a photo and not hate how I look. 

Making new meaning

Personally, I knew I could not accomplish this all on my own. So because I have the means, I made the decision to work with a body image and intuitive eating coach. 

Julie helped me to turn that negative bridesmaids dress experience into a story in which I decided to take the power back. For me, it is no longer a story about failure or sadness. It’s a story about me deciding that enough is enough. 

I can tell you that I’ve begun to notice small changes. The day of the wedding, after alterations that cost more than the dress itself, I fit into it like a glove. I was comfortable, I got my hair done, my nails done, and I did my makeup. And not once did I have anxiety about that dress. Not once did I think about how I looked. I strut my stuff with my head high, and I was present. I ate the absolutely delicious dinner and dessert without shame. I enjoyed every moment of two of my dearest friends getting married. For one night I was free. And I hope to share the rest of this journey to freedom with you. 

My Body isn’t Your News Story

I have a simple request. Can we please stop using women’s bodies as topics of news? My body isn’t your news story.

This past week, I had been traveling in Dubai for work. When I travel, in the mornings while I get ready I like to watch the news. Usually CNN or BBC. To my dismay, those channels were not available. The only channels available in English were National Geographic, Discovery, and E! Network.

As I prepared to hit the pool one early morning, and pulled on my one-piece I suddenly tuned into my chosen background chatter. The subject: Beyoncé’s post-baby diet. When I looked up to the visual, it was an extremely grainy, zoomed in paparazzi shot of Bey’s half-eaten apple. I’m guessing Golden Delicious. 

Yes. What you just heard is correct. A zoomed in shot of the apple carcass left over from the Queen B’s afternoon snack. The anchors proclaimed that Bey had revealed the secret to her weight-loss. Zero carbs, zero sugar, zero red meat, zero, zero, zero. 

INDIO, CA – APRIL 14: Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

I shook my head and proceeded to order waffles to my room. But then I heard one of the hosts question if it was, “too much too fast?” Now, I missed exactly what it was referencing, but whatever it was… it shouldn’t have been something that the public needs to weigh in on. Were they saying she had she returned to work too fast after having her baby? In that case, we should not be promoting mommy guilt, or judging mothers for their choice to or to not go back to work.

If they were talking about her weight-loss… again, this shouldn’t be up for discussion. Nor are these hosts certified medical professionals who get to have an opinion. 

Using Women’s Bodies as News Subjects

This is definitely not the first instance of women’s bodies or appearance being the subject of media coverage and attention. Half of most awards shows are just about how “well-dressed,” actors are, and if they have “pulled off” their look. And let’s not even begin to talk about how female politicians and nobility have their outfits discussed instead of their accolades. Then there’s the history of makeover and weight loss shows that “right wrongs,” or “unhealthy behavior.” And I’ll give a final shout out to shows like America’s Next Top Model. 

Then there’s the countless editorial content in magazines and online news media about the weight-loss or gain of celebrities, the diets that they’ve used, or spreads that pit women against each other to see who “wore it best.” 

I often wonder how those in the media can talk about women’s bodies so much, when I can guess that most would not want to undergo the same scrutiny. Yet, this practice seems to be tireless.  To be perfectly honest, though I don’t often watch E! Network, I had hoped that this is something that they had grown past. E! News, I challenge you to find other things to talk about besides women’s bodies. 

Affects of Observing Anti-Fat Behavior

Recently, a group of psychologists at McGill University found that celebrity fat shaming is associated with an increase in women’s implicit negative weight-related attitudes. UK Magazine, Stylist, says the following, “Implicit attitudes are people’s split-second, instinctive reactions as to whether something – such as fatness or weight gain – is inherently good or bad. Explicit attitudes, in contrast, are those beliefs that people consciously and openly endorse. In other words, we might never say out loud that we think bigger bodies are bad. But thanks in part to celebrity fat-shaming in the media, we may also find it hard to internally shake off negative ideas about weight gain.”

Specifically, researchers found that after witnessing a celebrity fat shaming, women experience a dramatic increase in anti-fat attitudes. Further, the more notorious or critical the fat shaming, the higher the increase. 

I’m going to take you back to some research that I’ve discussed before in my blog. The Girls’ Index, a report from Columbus non-profit Ruling Our Experiences (ROX), found that by ninth grade the percentage of young girls who wish to change their appearance dramatically increases. Simultaneously, the percentage of girls who say they are confident declines sharply. 

Today, women’s bodies are not only criticized and made the topic of conversation by Magazines and TV hosts, but by everyday people through social media. The same anti-fat attitudes are translated through social media as they are through TV and print. ROX found that the more time that young girls spend on social media, they are up to 24% more likelyto want to change their appearance. They don’t think that they’re good enough or beautiful enough. And 27% will delete an Instagram post if they feel like it didn’t get enough likes.

I ask again, why is this still happening today. A common practice in the 40s to the early 60s was listing a women’s weight and physical characteristics in newspapers. This was done even when the information was totally irrelevant to the story. History professor Michelle Moravec says, “The practice of including women’s weight — or any other physical observations — in the news has been a way, consciously or not, of “putting women into their proper place,” by giving more value to their appearances. For men, on the other hand, with the exception of athletes, characteristics like weight or attractiveness weren’t important, “Nobody’s describing like, ‘The male candidate in the gray suit got up to deliver a powerful speech,’” she adds. “That’s how you know it’s a gender dynamic: It sounds absurd when you apply it to men.”

Hell, we learned Condoleezza Rice wore a dress size between a 6 and an 8 before we could actually get into the article that talked about her security expertise in a 2000s New York Times article. What does this teach women about their worth? Why aren’t we applauding Beyoncé for her athletic prowess and commitment to her artistry? Would you want your dress size to be the headline of a story about you and your life’s work? 

I sure don’t, but to get it out of the way. I’m between a size 10 and 12, and if that changes how you feel about anything I just said, thank you for your time but kindly leave my page. 

Body Positive Movement

The body positive movement is starting to catch steam in the retail industry. This week I got really excited, and a tad emotional when the retail company I work for released their new arrivals online. There were two new “plus sized” models. And by “plus sized” I mean around size 8 / 10. Which, yes I’m going to out myself, is my size at the moment.

It was a bit comical to suddenly become aware of the fact that I was smiling from ear to ear at my computer screen in our work café. I definitely got a couple looks like “why is this girl so happy to be working right now?” But that’s the reality. I haven’t seen many girls that look like me at most of the brands that I like to shop.

I do think that it’s a bit crazy to be regarded as “plus size” – as of June 2018, 68% of American women wear a size 14 or above. At a size 8, or a size ten after I’ve ate too many tacos, I think to myself, “I’m still am a medium goddamnit.”  

I’ve heard both sides of the sentiment surrounding the body positive campaigns out there. For one, there is the perspective that they celebrate people who are unhealthy and encourage those individuals to maintain their current lifestyle. And in contrast, the view that retail companies are becoming more inclusive of the diversity of body types that really exist in the world. That just because you are a higher number in sizing doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy.

Positive or Negative?

Someone close to me who has struggled with an eating disorder for a large part of their life recently asked my opinion on body positivity. She wondered why it was okay for bigger women to be body positive, but not girls who are extremely thin.

In my perspective, we live in a double bind. You can’t be “too small,” or “too big.” There is one body type that has prevailed as being “beautiful,” and therefore that body type is featured in marketing, popular media, and film. And that body type “sells.” People buy products and services that are advertised with women who fit the beauty ideal.

The problem that I see deals with visibility. Disproportionately, we are making bigger women invisible. We don’t celebrate their body type, and we don’t tell their stories. We are making 68% of our American population invisible. Hence my excitement of finally seeing myself reflected in the plus sized model at a brand that I work for, and like to shop.

I had never felt like I have the right to label myself as beautiful. And I often find myself feeling that I am invisible because of my size. Invisible to potential male suitors and therefore impossible to love. It was hard not to think that my size contributed to a partner cheating on me in the past once I knew who they had been with.

I placed my worth on my size, because that is what I have been taught to do. Girls my size play the “fat friend,” or the “fat girl” that gets ridiculed, laughed at, and left out in movies. I still struggle with this. It often feels like if you aren’t in the stereotypical version of being, “in shape,” then you can’t be successful in your life. Feeling invisible, I start to impose that on myself. I don’t order the dessert that I want, because I feel like I can’t be seen eating it.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter… oh my!

This is further emphasized in social media. Women report that social media, followed by TV and movies are the most impactful factors in how they view their bodies. And we can’t forget that this is starting at a very young age. The more time that young girls spend on social media, they are up to 24% more likely to want to change their appearance. They don’t think that they’re good enough or beautiful enough. And 27% will delete an Instagram post if they feel like it didn’t get enough likes.

Similarly, new research this past year revealed that 88% of women report comparing their bodies to images in the media, and 51% of those individuals think that they compare unfavorably. At this doesn’t just affect women. Sixty-five percent of males report the same behavior. And in general, overtime both men and women become less confident about their bodies.

Being Body Positive

Back to those who believe that the body positive movement is contradicting. Yes – obesity is the leading risk factor for disease and death in the U.S. But the body positive movement is not about “denying science.” We’ve been trained to think of “fat,” as “bad.” And we often either pity those of a larger size, or think of them as “lazy.” We think that they could, “try a little harder,” even while we may simultaneously applaud their confidence.

What the body positive movement is about is loving the body that you have, and treating it with love and respect. Outside of that, it isn’t preaching that weight loss is the answer to someone’s presumed unhappiness. People can be overweight and healthy. People can be overweight and happy. And people can be body positive and want to lose weight. None of these things are mutually exclusive.

But if we continue to make this group of individuals invisible, and “bad,” their self-worth will dwindle. And with it their motivation – their motivation to treat their bodies with respect and love.