Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Combating the Photo Crazies

The crazies have been hitting full-force lately. Wedding crazies. Life crazies. And, for me, the I’m-not-pretty crazies. I didn’t realize it until all the self-deprecating language crept back in, despite working so hard to move beyond it and keep it at bay. The “I’ve gained ten pounds” panics have been making headway, which only hit me when Meg left this comment on my engagement picture post the other day. 

“I'm going to make you officially shut up about ever saying anything bad about your looks ever again. CROWS FEET? Whatareyoueventalkingabout? That's face scrunching. ALL THAT OTHER STUFF YOU SAY ABOUT YOUR LOOKS? WHAT? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Sof*ckingprettytheend.”

Um, yes. And, if I remember correctly, I sent a very similar wake-up message to my soc*ckingprettytheend girlfriend a few months back. And I ended my email with the line “Now I'm going to save this email to remind myself when the inevitable crazies hit on my end.” 

Well, the crazies have hit and I went to re-read that email. And it helped. It was a reminder that I was braver and smarter about things after my boudoir photo shoot in which I (very privately) pranced around in unmentionables and felt beautiful. It was a reminder that I am still this brave and smart, when I let myself believe it. So, as some of you head into wedding season and as I continue to battle with general life demons, I thought that sharing this “shut up you’re awesome” email and photo-prep advice from my wiser six-months-ago self might be helpful for someone other than just me. Just replace the word “boudoir” with “wedding” and I think there are a few glimmers of wedding-crazy truths for a few of us. 

This is saddest line I will ever type - I've felt fat every single day of my life. Period, end of story. I will always be a fat girl, even though I'm healthy now. It's sick, and it’s the mental battle I fight each and every day. Somehow, I put it so far out of my mind at the boudoir shoot that it didn't register. But I'm still "fat." Which is insane. You've seen me. I'm not fat anymore. I just have a sick leftover mentality. So starve the sickness on your wedding - not by literally starving yourself, but by treating yourself well and therefore shutting it out. By appreciating you and giving yourself (non-food) presents and taking care of your health. I swear, in combination with your partner and wedding day joy, that's all you'll need to feel like the best version of yourself that has ever lived.
I want to shake you until you see how beautiful you are, even though I know it probably won't work. It shouldn't surprise me any more that beautiful women don't see themselves clearly, but you're so pretty. Really and truly. At the enviable weight you are. When I met you, all I could think was how stunning you looked. Not five pounds from now, not with different hair, not with different makeup - just now. Stunning, just now. 

I know you know it. But I also know there's a difference between knowing and knowing in your core. You said you exercise and eat healthy food and it shows. And dieting deprivation only leads to binging and unhealthiness later, so you know you’re on the right track with healthy choices. And some days you’re happy with yourself and some days, without any seeming change in context, you’re not at all. I just wish there were a way to make the "happy with yourself" stick during all the contexts.

I don't have any earthshattering advice here as you prepare for wedding-looks fears and wedding photo fears. But I do know the panic I had to face down before going into my photo shoot. You've seen my Facebook photos. You've seen that they, um, aren't really all that flattering. Even at my slimmest, I'm not usually photogenic. When I gain weight, my features get lost. I'm not one of those women who can be large but pretty. [Ed note-to-self: shut up Becca, you’re sof*ckingprettytheend]

I'm better now than I have in a while, but all the issues are still here, ready to rear their ugly head. And I knew that, so I used the boudoir shoot to try and combat those issues and calm me the f*ck down about the wedding. And it worked. So here's my "wedding routine" advice via my boudoir-shoot prep experience. It's nothing special, just sensible living and a few tiny boosts that made me FEEL amazing going in. No dieting. No self-hatred. No nothing special. Just a focus on feeling great.

I started my process by searching out a ton of boudoir photos and found that the best ones were all where the women felt confident - even at reaaaaaally heavy weights. Not kidding. 100% true, cross my heart. The best set of photos I found were of a strong, confident, larger women who rocked it. And so, I started chasing confidence and not a perfect body or crazy dieting. Just me, as I am, but at my best. It made all the difference in the world.
  • I was pretty strict about my long-term Weight Watchers monitoring for the two months before. I stuck with simple non-processed, non-hormone foods in sensible portions during the week, and allowed myself either one splurge night on the weekend (dinner and drinks) or two nights of drinks. Yeah, you get splurges on Weight Watchers and I used them all and loooooved them. I think the splurges were key.
  • I exercised 4x/wk, bumping up my toning. Not a big shift (ok, maybe a shift from 2 or 3x per week)
  • I cut alcohol and sodium for five days before the shoot (Monday - Friday). The sodium near killed me, but the steamed veggies, garlic, and basic chicken thing was do-able for a few days.
  • Facial 10 days before. My skin is always problematic, and I splurged. Yes I did, because it gave me confidence. I also had my eyebrows waxed, so there.
  • I gave myself a mani/pedi the night before and stayed in with tea and a movie and snuggles. It felt nice.
  • I got fake eyelashes. Turns out, I can't apply them worth sh*t, but my hairstylist could.
  • Yeah, I got a hairstyle that day. Whatever. It was worth it to not mess with my nervous blowdrying attempts with my fine finicky hair and the eyelash application was a free bonus.
  • My girlfriend did my makeup that morning while I drank wine and listened to Jason's mix CD. It was divine and I relaxed into the moment.
  • I decided I didn't give a damn and wanted to have fun. And I did.
  • I had another glass of wine.

I looked amazing. I've never looked like this before or after, and it wasn't because my body rapidly shed weight and became “perfect.” In fact, it didn’t change all that much at all.  But I felt better, and so I looked better. It was just the feeling of treating myself well, treating myself with a few not-super-expensive niceties, and some non-deprivation, healthy eating in the weeks beforehand.

Little old ordinary me was transformed with basic prep and the simple feeling of believing in myself and being willing to have fun. That's it. And that’s how I know that you'll be transformed on your wedding too. I didn't even have the emotion of a wedding behind me, just a sensible approach and a great photographer. Please believe me. You're beautiful already. And on your wedding day, your have the added bonus of joy that will transform any ordinary bits into their most extraordinary beauty, lit up from the outside in.

12 comments:

  1. I have the opposite problem. Because I was thin from childhood to young adulthood, it's hard to believe I'm now overweight.

    Anyway, the first time I saw pictures of YOU, I mentally cataloged you as "slender".

    Also, as far as prettiness, has anyone else ever noticed that there are plenty of very pretty women who have never had a successful relationship? And then you see dozens of fairly ordinary women who are happily married with husbands that adore them?

    Well, I have.

    It makes me wonder if I would prefer to be less pretty and happy in a relationship, or gorgeous, but never achieving that.

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  2. You ARE pretty! I understand what you say about feeling fat, I usually do too, but as you found out the important thing is confidence.

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  3. this is an awesome post. it's all about feeling confident and comfortable in your skin. applies to everything, not just boudoir and wedding and photography... thanks!

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  4. You always have impeccable timing. Yesterday, I bagged up an entire closet full of clothing. Clothing that fit women sizes 2-8. I have about 4 outfits left -- the only 4 that fit. Yes, they're larger than an 8. I've hit double digits, but I've been here for about 3 years, and unless I suddenly find myself with enough time to sleep 8 hours every night and to exercise for an hour 5 days a week, my situation is not likely to change any time soon. There are times when I hate looking at myself, but I have to find a way to feel comfortable in my size and my skin.

    It's a work in progress.

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  5. Thankyouthankyouthankyou for this post.

    Yesterday, I looked at pictures of myself in my wedding dress and had a moment (well, maybe about a half hour to 45 minute moment) of the crazies: I hated my dress because my arms looked fat, the ruching which I originally thought made me skinny looked fat, etc etc.

    I've realized that since planning for the wedding has started, I've become much less confident in the body that I'm in - and while it's not super skinny, it's a wonderfully healthy, athletic and well-curved body. Why or why does wedding stuff make me so insecure?

    Either way, the description of how you prepped for your boudoir session has pushed me to fight back: I'm going to make time for myself and start getting comfortable with my body again.

    As Sarah (right before me) said: It's a work in progress.

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  6. Wow! You have summed up all the feelings in my head too. I have always felt fat, every single day of my life. Yet, whenever I look back at old photos, I can see I wasn't fat then, but cannot shake the feeling that I am now though. Your observation about confidence being key is bang on. One of the things I make sure I do when I shoot people is to big them up - not by lying, but being honest about their good bits. Everyone has something that is uniquely beautiful to them, even if they don't know it. I make it my business to spot it and tell them. It makes them feel good, it makes their photos better, and it makes me feel good too.

    Thanks for posting so honestly and openly.

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  7. we're on some kinda wavelength, as i posted something in the same vein today.

    you know what i think about your looks. the end.

    the thing about our old trusty crazies, is they don't take a vacation for wedding planning. if only. they seem to drink red bull and start knocking out our sanity and logic with TKO punches.

    i'm so, so happy the boudoirs turned out! i'm still not thrilled with my pin-up shots. but josh is. and that counts.

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  8. This is so true. I think the way to feel good is to do things that make you feel good. I "feel" thinner when I've exercised for a couple of days, even though I'm not. I do looker prettier when I eat well and look after my skin. I think we just need to make the effort with ourselves sometimes. I'm not talking about dieting or exercising obsessively, just giving ourselves the best chance to feel good. And once you feel good, nothing else matters.

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  9. Though I know you weren't fishing for compliments, you (and your photos) were lovely. I love how honest you are. This weekend I had a fit of the crazies while going through our wedding photos. The photos themselves are beautiful, but the voice in my head kept picking apart how I looked in them. I think for most people, learning to be kind to ourselves is a process.

    I was ordering makeup this weekend and stumbled upon Bobbi Brown's Pretty Powerful campaign (on her website). It was a good reminder that beauty doesn't have to mean looking like a Victoria Secret model.

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  10. thank you for all of the "what worked for you tips" and the commensenceknockinthehead that I needed today... feeling a little less than fab after a dress fitting i needed this to tell me to shutthef*ckup..

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  11. I didn't quite understand boudoir shoots before but now I see the appeal of having those photo of my sexy, gorgeous self to keep for myself.

    I, too, have all my life had a self-image as a pudgy girl. Yay family judginess. And yet I look at photos and think, huh, why do I only remember my family telling me I was a chunky child? This child isn't chubby.

    I am trying to move towards breaking the thin = virtuous/good/healthy/beautiful equation but it's difficult, and doesn't just end with my own mental state because it gets to the point in this post about being afraid of being thought of as presumptuous: http://saturdayjane.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/958/

    "What it boils down to is this: I am okay with my body, but I don’t want other people to know that I am okay with my body, because then they will notice it, and what if they discover something that is not okay? And then if they think I am okay with something that really isn’t okay, they’ll think I’m a snob, or a bitch. They’ll think I’m one of those blindly self-praising girls who thinks she’s all that. They’ll tell everybody else that that’s what I am. A girl who thinks she is all that, when I am not all that at all, I’m not even a little bit that! And then everyone will talk about me behind my back and I’ll never get asked to prom and nobody will ever approve my housing loans.

    I am not afraid of people thinking I am ugly.

    I am afraid of people thinking that I am presumptuous."

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