Nothing hits a girl’s self-esteem harder than middle school and high school. Suddenly, you go from the happy-go-lucky girl playing outside, getting bruises, and generally not worrying about how you look to a girl who obsesses about her appearance and compares herself to other girls. The switch happens lightning-fast…at least it did for me.

My concerns about my body image began in high school. Puberty had kicked in and my high metabolism disappeared a day later. Instead of being able to eat anything without gaining a pound, I would gain weight just by looking at a cookie. The weight gain came, and it was unexpected.

By the end of my freshman year, I was convinced I was fat. Looking back, I probably was about 15-20 pounds overweight, but not fat. (It didn’t help that I got on a scale once and a well-meaning uncle expressed shock at my number and told me I should probably lose a few pounds.)

I found myself looking at other girls and comparing my body to their lithe, thin figures. My figure was nothing like that. I first sprouted boobs at the age of 10. By the time high school began, I was already wearing a C-cup. Just my boobs alone made me feel self-conscious. I wore large tops to hide them.

Unlike many girls in my class, I had wide hips and thighs. I walked a lot and rode my bike everywhere. My thighs weren’t fat, just muscular. I didn’t consider that as a reason though. It must be fat. After all, my 9th grade gym teacher told my class that if our thighs touched then we needed to lose weight since it was an indication we were fat. (The recent craze about thigh gap irritates me because of this reason alone. It’s a bunch of crap!)

I was on the Junior Varsity cheerleading squad when I was a sophomore in high school. When ordering uniforms, a fellow cheerleader let me know that another “bigger” cheerleader from the year before might be willing to sell me her uniform. She made it clear she thought I was big and emphasized all the ways she recently lost some weight. It only confirmed what I knew to be true: I was fat.

I became obsessed with being thinner. I ate less and less. I was obsessed with the numbers on a scale; numbers that never seemed to get as small as I wanted them to be.

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By my senior year, I was borderline anorexic. I say borderline because I never gave up eating, completely or allowed my weight to take over my life. However, that said, I knew I could go up to 24 hours without eating anything without issue. Once I got to 36 hours, I would have a spontaneous bloody nose. So, I would make sure I ate something at least that often.

Breakfast was a slice of plain bread. My usual lunch was either a small fry with cheese or a packet of Cheez-its. Dinner was whatever my parents served, but nothing beyond one small serving. Oh, and forget snacking. I avoided it like crazy.

What killed me with my obsession was that I couldn’t lose more weight. The smallest I got, with my 5’8” frame, was 145 pounds with a 27” waist. And guess what, I still thought I was fat. It didn’t help when my grandmother emphasized that she thought I shouldn’t put butter on something because it would add to my weight. It only confirmed what I knew. I was huge.

I wish I knew then that I wasn’t fat. I wish I knew then that I was thin. I wish I appreciated how great I looked and knew that what I was doing to my body wasn’t helping me. Not one bit. I couldn’t lose weight because I wasn’t feeding my body properly. I couldn’t lose weight because I was probably at my perfect weight at the age of 17.

I wish I had known that my body had just developed curves earlier than others in my class. That instead of shopping in the junior’s section at the department store, I should have avoided it. I didn’t know that those clothes were cut to fit a slimmer, less developed body. I let the size I was (an 11/13) become justification in my need to lose weight; to get slimmer. If I had gone to the misses section, I might have discovered I would fit in a size 8 and been satisfied. But, I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. I was ashamed of myself and my body. In my mind, a size 11/13 only confirmed that I was fat.

It wasn’t until college that I began to appreciate my body and my weight in a new way. My new college friends didn’t judge me or my weight. Like others, I gained the freshman 15, and by my junior year I had gained 30 pounds. I decided to do something about my weight then. Not because I was obsessed with the number, but because I wanted to feel good about myself. Instead of starving myself, like I tried to do in high school, I just ate healthier (less late night pizza runs) and started power walking. I ended up losing 20 pounds, settling in at a healthy, fit 155 pounds.

I also had a conversation with my mom about my grandmother’s comment about butter. My mom laughed and told me that she made comments like that to her when she was younger and had a 23 inch waist. It was just my grandmother’s own issues with weight and body image.

Today, I’m far from that slim, weight-obsessed high school girl, and my body is definitely not a healthy and fit 155 pounds. I am now a plus-size woman and though I’m not happy with my weight, I love myself and the body that has given birth to two marvelous little girls and allowed me to go on many adventures in my life. I work to get in shape, not really to lose weight, although that would be pretty great. (After all, all the cute clothes are in the smaller sizes.)

If I had only known as a teenager that obsessing about what my body looked like was not nearly as important as loving myself for who I was. I can only imagine how much happier I would have been in high school. I know that now and I’m grateful. Now, as a mom to two precious little girls, I hope I can pass on the lessons I learned on my way to loving myself and my body.

Denise is a 40+ year old KU alum and SAHM trying to navigate the world of motherhood. She blogs about parenting, food, and has been featured a few times on BlogHer and has an upcoming feature on Scary Mommy. She enjoys solving mysteries (Okay..reading mysteries or watching them on TV), cooking, and drinking way more caffeine than she should…basically, doing anything she needs to do to survive the toddler years.  Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

This post was originally featured on Jill Robbins’ blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. Photo via

My husband thinks I’m nuts, which is a given, but even more so because of the emotional attachment I have with every single book I read.  Even the not so great ones. But once I start a book, damn it, I have to finish it. Example A. I read several books at a time but there’s always a front-runner and after that book is finished, the cycle starts over again.

Stage 1: Deciding on a book to read. Sounds easy but it’s torture picking one book out of millions. Damn those first world problems.

Stage 2: I finally decide on one but there might be a few more that are in the running. As much as I love real books, I’ve been reading on my kindle more and more. So, I use the “buy now with 1-click” button. And those few other books that sounded good? The “buy now with 1-click” button makes me get those too.

I had more self-control when I would be asked for my credit card but it would be in my purse downstairs and I would be too lazy to get it. Boom, no impulsive shopping for books or anything else for that matter. Now, with that clicky button, I go clicky crazy and have accumulated so many books, I could open my own library.

Stage 3: I seem to start out reading a book and usually think, meh. Because it’s not the last book I read and my head is still in that story.

Stage 4: I cannot put the book down. I don’t want to tear myself away from the characters. My kid needs to be fed, dinner has to be made, and laundry has to finally be folded after spending the past 3 days in the dryer after being dried over and over again with the intention of taking it out but then forgetting about it. But I can’t stop reading!

Stage 5: It never fails that when I’m at a crucial point of a book, my 6 year-old wants to have every single second of my attention. Even if she has a friend over to play with. I’m convinced that kids have an internal radar that pings when you really, really need a little time by yourself. It’s like she knows and thinks “Wait a second! My mom looks like she’s enjoying herself without my company. So, I will bug the shit out of her to make sure she remembers I will never let that happen.”

For that matter, even my husband is that way. The man isn’t much of a talker but when I’ve been having a toddler like tantrum in my mind because I haven’t been able to move along in the current book I’m reading and my daughter is in bed at last, I open up my kindle and my husband seems to have a rare moment when he wants to talk and talk. They know. Oh, yes. They know.

Stage 6: Oh my god. I’m getting close to the end of the book. No! No! No! This can’t be happening. I want to finish but I can’t let these characters go!

Stage 7: I set the book aside for several days because I need time to accept the fact that it will be over soon. Sniff… sniff.

Stage 8: I finish my beloved book and it’s bittersweet. Yay, I’m done but booo, so is the story and characters I’ve been consumed with.

Stage 9: Spend days with a book hangover.

Stage 10: Finally settle on a new book. And get a few more because of that damn “buy now with 1-click” button.

This post was originally featured on Elle Davis’ blog, This Is Mommyhood. Featured image via.

Look, we can’t all look like models all of the time. But in spite of our own sweatpants couture it’s still fun to check out the looks of our favorite fashionable mama, Blake Lively.

So in honor of the actress/entrepreneur/writer/badass, we put together a few gifs depicting the times Blake blew us away.

 

1. When her baptism outfit was pure 1930’s glamour.

 

2. When she made the perfect food baby/actual baby joke.

 

3. When she was a loving mom even though her daughter was 50 years older than her

 

4. When she made baby bumps a hot red-carpet accessory.

 

5. When she was part of this gorgeous mother-daughter moment

 

6. When she brought the fashion AND the funny.

 

Looking for some inspiration for your Labor Day Weekend celebration? Then take a peek at this festive roundup we’ve put together of all things red, white and blue! From food, to nails, to decorations, you’ll be sure to find something to help bring out your holiday spirit! 

Total Relaxation –  something we all long for, like a fully paid vacation on a tropical island, eight hours of sleep a night, or even just 10 minutes of alone time on some days.  As much as I’d love world peace, I find myself selfishly longing for a day without doing dishes much more frequently. Alas, since most of us aren’t able to escape to the spa on a daily basis (or permanently eliminate the things that cause us the most stress), here are some simple ways you can have moments of relaxation and reduced stress throughout your day.  Spoiler alert… eating chocolate is one of them!


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1. Eat Breakfast Before Coffee
Caffeine on an empty stomach can increase blood sugar levels, which can lead to irritability.  No wonder we are stressed almost from the moment we wake up.  Also, as many nutrition experts will tell you, it is important to eat something within 30 minutes of waking up to kick-start your metabolism for the day. If you don’t have time for a full breakfast, something small is OK, but keep it healthy, like a hard boiled egg or 1/2 a grapefruit.  Reducing your blood sugar will keep you more calm throughout the day. Check out other quick and healthy options here. (Source)


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2. Tea Time
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone by now, but green tea is one of the most healthy beverages on the planet.  It’s loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of cancer, has numerous heart health benefits that can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and lowers your blood sugar level to keep you calm, among many others.  Take 5 minutes to kick your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea every afternoon!   Make sure you are super comfy from head to toe. I highly recommend keeping your feet cozy with a pair of Gold Toe Oh So Soft socks.  Unlike traditional spa socks, these are thinner so your feet can actually breath without sacrificing softness and comfort.  Love the fun colors, and I love that they are made with a little spandex so they fit my feet perfectly.  Since I work full time, my tea ritual is usually in the mornings or at night right after my shower. (Source)


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3. Take a Long Bath
This one might not be as feasible on a daily basis, but ALL moms need to dedicate at least one day a week to a long, hot bath.  I fill my tub with tons of bubbles and lavender-scented bath oil.  The scent of lavender is known to reduce your heart rate for increased relaxation (more on scents below).  I light a candle, turn off the lights, put on my favorite calming music, and zen out as long as possible. After the bath, of course, I put my Oh So Soft socks on and enjoy a cup of green tea. (Source)


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4. Take Time to Smell the Roses
It might be cliche, but there’s a very real reason this expression exists – aside from the obvious message of stopping the hustle and bustle of your daily activities to enjoy the small things in life (which, of course, is very important). There are many known scents that have been proven to help people relax: lavender (my all-time favorite), jasmine (my other all-time favorite), mandarin, vanilla, chamomile, bergamot, sandalwood, rose, lilac, and ylang-ylang. I try to keep a lavender candle lit whenever I’m home, and I spray jasmine on my pillow case at night. I even have lavender-scented dish soap so I stay a little more calm while doing dishes every day. An easy way to keep a scent with you all day is to spray a little bit of your favorite fragrance on a cloth and put it in your purse. If you start to feel stressed, pull it out and take a little sniff to calm down. Or, next time you eat an orange, keep a few of the orange peels in your car or in a bowl at home so you can be surrounded by the scent all day. (Source)


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5. Eat Chocolate
Yes, you read that correctly my friends.  Studies show that dark chocolate (in moderation) can lower your blood pressure and lower the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack…. not to mention the shear joy of indulging in chocolate guilt-free!  Remember, everything in moderation, so go ahead and have a couple squares of your favorite dark chocolate during tea time.  You’re welcome! (Source)


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6. Exercise
Now that you’ve enjoyed your chocolate… exercise might seem counter-intuitive to the notion of ‘relaxation’, but it’s not.  Exercising even a moderate amount daily actually helps maintain your metabolism and reduce spikes in your blood sugar.  My favorite form of exercise is dancing.  For me, there’s nothing better than putting on my favorite music and busting a move.  While I take regular dance classes at a studio, I will often take a few minutes to dance to a great song if I’m feeling particularly stressed.  Even when I’m at work, I can put my headphones on and take a brisk walk around the block to calm my nerves. (Source)