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Actually, You Don't Need a Summer Detox

Actually, You Don't Need a Summer Detox | Writing Between Pauses

The worst part of summer is not the sticky, hot weather that starts to get oppressive around, say, late August; it's not the sunburns, or bug bites, or having to work when the weather is absolutely splendid outside. No, the worst part of summer is the diet industry. 

If you read my blog, you know that I've struggled with body image for a long time. It's what made me stop taking outfit photos. And it's why I don't really photograph myself for this blog still. Trust me, I'd love to--but it's just not something I can do right at this moment. 

And you know what absolutely doesn't help? Summer and the rapid influx of blog posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts about doing a detox. More than 10 people I follow have mentioned their recent juice detox (ugh), or their extremely pared down diet that is little more than socially acceptable anorexia (double ugh). Having to mute everyone who mentions doing a summer detox is exhausting, so let me be the one to say: y'all, we don't need detoxes. 

If you have a functioning liver, you don't need to detox. Your organs do that for you. 

You also don't need to drink special tea to help you lose weight. And you also don't need appetite suppressant lollipops. 

That's right, Kim Kardashian, I'm talking to you. Instagram is often rife with diet culture, repeating absolutely false and quite frankly dangerous information. (Does anyone else get those awful weight loss accounts in their Explore section of Instagram? I swear, it's the worst part of the Instagram algorithm.) It's not just poor, misinformed Kim K whose doing it. She's in good company, of course. Every single one of her sisters (minus Kendall, bless) has posted a misguided ad for some kind of weight loss product. 

Khloe K
Kourtney Kardashian
Kylie Jenner

In case you don't know, Fit Tea (and Fit Coffee and Lyfe Tea) is a tea that acts as a laxative. That's all these products are: expensive, repackaged laxatives. Not only is it dangerous to take them as weight loss products (and not just for your dignity and outfit if you dare venture out of the house after drinking one), it's incredibly irresponsible. Laxatives are not a way to lose weight. They are a way to damage your body. Just like detoxes. 

Appetite suppressant lollipops aren't just meaningless marketing tactics (most likely, they're about as effective as eating a real lollipop); they're dangerous as well. Encouraging people to "eat a lollipop" to "suppress their appetite" presumably when they are actually hungry... is encouraging people to starve themselves. Plain and simple.

Just like these teas aren't designed to make you actively lose weight (but rather to become addicted to a mindset and product that benefits only the person who sells the tea), this isn't a lollipop designed to help curve overeating or boredom eating (two things that can be helped more effectively buy body positivity, rejecting diet culture, and intuitive eating); this is a lollipop that encourages you to starve yourself and not eat, period. But the truth is, it won't work; if you try to use it that way, you'll end up eating, which makes you feel ashamed of yourself; you'll buy more lollipops, you'll try hard. And now you're stuck in a negative binge-and-restrict diet culture induced cycle. This is the damage that ads like this cause. 

Summer detoxes are the same thing. Juice cleanses don't actually cleanse any part of you. They starve you. You'll lose weight, of course, because you aren't eating food or any fiber at all. You're just drinking empty calories, sugar, and water. This is dangerous. Your body needs food to survive. As long as you are in reasonably good health (and many people with chronic illnesses are not--and they deserve to love their bodies too), you don't need to detox yourself. If you do need to detox for a medical issue, that's something you discuss with your doctor--not with some charlatan who survives off of carrot juice on the internet. 

So as June approaches, remember: you don't need that detox. Even if your sister in law is doing one and won't stop posting about it on Instagram. Even if your friends are work mention that they want to start drinking smoothies for every meal. You don't need to detox. Your body is good enough, and beautiful enough, as it is, right at this very moment. 

What Does Being Petite Really Mean?

For as long as I could remember, I thought of the term "petite," as least when it was applied to body size, as meaning "short." Short sizes. Small inseam lengths. That kind of thing. When my mom and sister shopped in the petite section, it was to try to find pants they didn't have to hem. It did not, in my mind, mean that the sizes were teeny tiny. 

A few years ago, I encountered a very strange argument on Instagram regarding the introduction of new Anthropologie petite sizes. Firstly, I don't shop at Anthropologie; I cannot justify a $70 pillow or a $200+ cotton dress, I just can't. And secondly, Instagram arguments are weird and petty and always kind of funny.

The drama on the Anthropologie issue started over people leaving comments that seemed to be a little, well, thin-hating. Obviously, bodyshaming of any variety is not ok. However, I started to think: wait, what? The line is a line of smaller sizes or shorter lengths?

Basically: are they just making smaller clothes or are they making a petites line, like the petites sections that have long existed in department stores like Macy's or JCPenny's? Have we officially confused the English language so much that we have multiple different definitions of "petite"? 

As it turns out, the line is for women 5'3" and under. From what I can tell on the website, the clothes aren't necessarily smaller (except for length) and come in almost all conventional sizes. That's pretty awesome. But it made me wonder: why did the post about it on Instagram devolve into arguments about sizes (and by that I mean number sizes, not inseams), including quite a few comments that could be read as a bit thin-hating? 

I decided to google what petite meant Interesting. "Having a small and attractively dainty build." Stop, Google, you're making me blush. But seriously, is petite about being physically teeny, as in both short and extremely thin?

I have a dainty build (re: small bone structure), but some sizable fleshy parts of my body. I'm 5'2" and wear a size 8 regularly, yet I still often find myself being called the smallest person in the room (even though I know a ton of people who are smaller than me, physically, if not height-wise). Further definitions included: "small, slender, and trim; used for girls and women; a clothing size for short, slender women." Thanks, Free Online Dictionary. 

Another unhelpful, but maybe helpful, fact is this: the number of blogs dedicated to fashion for "petite" women is astonishing. I started reading through a few and I found myself getting, well, uncomfortable. The purpose of these blogs is ultimately noble and good-intentioned, but I found myself feeling a little weirded out by the constant description of their super small bodies, their need to only buy children's clothes or to search out specifically "narrow fit" boots. Some of the women who run these blogs are also not very short in stature; they just happen to be very, very thin. So, that's what petite means to some fashion blogs. 

I always thought to be petite, you just had to be short. And as far as I can tell, short people come in lots of different clothes sizes, including plus-sized. There is a disparity between what clothing producers mean when they say "petite" and what people think when they say "petite"--in fact, I think it's two different things. I think when Anthropologie posted about a new "petite" line, some people immediately thought: "clothes for skinny people." Because, apparently, that's the main definition of the word petite. 

However, when you look up Petite Size on Wikipedia, it mentions that conventional clothing sizes in the United States are designed to fit a woman who is over 5'5" (which is insanity, no wonder none of my pants fit) and so petites lines and entire store sections emerged as a place for women under 5'3" to buy clothing. And that clothing came in a variety of conventional sizes with the wonderful P added to indicate they were just cut differently. That's pretty awesome for ladies of the short variety (like me). However, now we have other definitions of petite popping up: thin or not-thin, short or not-short. 

Can we just have all words mean the same thing, ok? Thanks, English Language. 

This reminds me overwhelmingly of the use of the word "curvy": some people mean one thing when they say it, some people mean another thing when they say it, and sometimes people aren't being necessarily nice when they say it, which is pretty sucky of them. All kinds of arguments and anger can spring up when someone uses the word "curvy". I distinctly remember referring to myself as "curvy" once in college and the person I was talking with immediately consoled me, saying, "You aren't fat! Don't say that!" Except that wasn't what I meant by curvy, but ok. 

So, the real question is: are petites sections in department stores lies? What gives? 

It turns out, it's not. There are two meanings to the word petite and unfortunately, that gets confusing most of the time. Some people will claim that petites sections in stores cut their sizes about 1-1.5 sizes smaller (so a size 8 in a petites isn't really a size 8), but that doesn't make sense and isn't really true. I find I'm the same size in petites sections as I am in regular sections, everything is just shorter (and let's be real, frumpier, because apparently department stores think all people under 5'3" are 85 years and older).

Basically, what this all boils down to is this: words are just words and you shouldn't get up in arms about them, or upset about them, unless they are used intentionally to upset you (then you should totally get your cranky face on). A chain store creating a line of petites clothes wasn't meant to offend anything; it was meant to create clothes for shorties, because sometimes it is hard to find clothes in a world where all clothes are cut for people 5'5"+. Getting cranky about a store creating a line of petites -- or plus sizes or whatever -- might be personally offensive to you if, I don't know, you really dislike short people, but it's not meant to be and so... cool it and stuff, seriously. Once a "well, I don't personally like that" turns into a "I'm gonna leave hate comment on Instagram," you've magically transformed into a jerk. Congratulations!

When Did Everyone Start Caring about Thigh Gaps?

I wrote this post in June 2013. While the thigh gap craze has definitely died down, it's still really relevant: there's always a new desirable trait (big butt and tiny waist, thigh gap, "hip bridge") and all of them are just as problematic as thigh gaps. There are hundreds of ways to feel bad about your body. It amazes me that we still find new and interesting ways to make women feel bad. 

A few weeks ago, I read a really interesting article that posed a really fascinating question: When did we all start caring about thigh gaps so much? And where did the obsession come from? 

If you use Tumblr, or Instagram, or Twitter, or any social media site actually, you've probably noticed an obsession with thigh gaps. The impressive Casey of PopPilates has several "get a thigh gap" videos. Pinterest is flooded with simple work out routines promising thigh gaps and thin thighs, as well as a reduction of love handles, an increase in the size of your butt, and to flatten your stomach so much it's like you've traded your internal organs for pure nothing. Tumblr is overrun with pictures of girls and their thigh gaps.

It's become an internet obsession. Let's be real, it's totally kind of creepy. I mean, do women really need another thing to nitpick our bodies about!? I'm already obsessed with the size and shape of my nose, my stomach, my chest, my arms, and my ankles. Please don't make me paranoid about the fact that my thighs touch, world. 

The article I read actually mentioned that it's confusing as to where the thigh gap obsession originated: obviously, there are roots in the pro-ana Tumblr community. Somehow, it spread to mainstream, to every day not-that-eating-disordered women thinking that having thighs that don't touch is the ultimate measure of a perfect body and perfect health. And then, of course, it spread into pornographic images, which makes its origins in pro-ana communities super weird. 

I've always followed a ton of fitness accounts on Instagram, another community that I would use the word "weird" for. The other day, though, I noticed most of these accounts frequently tagged photos with #thighgap. Um, excuse me? Aren't you supposed to be "healthy living bloggers"--and don't most humans know that a thigh gap is ultimately a measure of your body type (aka how wide your hips are, how your femurs are positions) and not your health? 

As a reminder, there are a few things we all should know. They are: 

  1. Having a thigh gap is not a measure of health. You can have a thigh gap and be overweight (yep!) -- it just depends on your body composition. You can have a thigh gap and be healthy. You can have a thigh gap and be very unhealthy. You can be very thin and not have a thigh gap. You can be not very thin at all and have a thigh gap. A thigh gap is primarily a measure in the width of your hips and your muscular structure. Seriously. 
  2. Losing weight to get a thigh gap is terrifying and if you're trying to lose weight to get a thigh gap, you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself what you're really doing. Time to confront some truths.  
  3. No amount of exercise is going to widen your hips. Coming from a wide-hipped lady, trust me, you don't want that to happen. 

The thing is, some human bodies just aren't meant to look a certain way. I'm never going to look like Giselle Bundchen in a bikini: I'm not that tall, that tan, or that slim-hipped. It's just a fact. Some bodies aren't every going to have thighs that don't touch. And that's totally okay

Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.
— J.K. Rowling

There are more important things in life than having a thigh gap. It's okay to want a body that is healthy and strong. It's not okay to try to manipulate your body into behaving a way that it just might not be able to. It's like a lactose intolerant person eating milk and cheese every day, even when it makes them sick, because they feel like "to be healthy" they need to eat milk and cheese!

Being healthy is about how you feel, throughout your day and about yourself. I've struggled for a long time with body image issues and I've spent my fair share of time in front of a mirror wondering why my belly isn't perfectly flat and why my butt is so dimpled. The fact is: that's just how my organs are arranged inside my body; that's just how my (female) body decides to store fat. There are things I can change and things that I can't. 

I've come to accept though that my body is a certain shape and I just have to work with it, not against it. It's easier to say that, of course; in reality, there are many days where I just want to hide away because I don't have a thigh gap, I haven't lost the weight I want. But when we start letting things like this--like thigh gaps and work outs and weighing our food--we start ignoring the things that really make us who we are. 

We're all more than bodies. We are bodies that create, and write, and love, and work. We can make pumpkin spice lattes and we can write novels. These bodies can hug a friend. 

What's more impressive? Dedicating yourself to passion, whether it's fitness, hiking, writing, scrapbooking, or whatever, or having a thigh gap? 

That's what I thought. 

Getting Over Body Obsession

I wrote recently about my struggles to stay body positive while also actively trying to lose weight. This is not an easy task for me and one that I work really hard at; I don't want my friends who are happy with their bodies to think I'm judging them simply because I am trying to lose weight. Remaining body positive, and supportive of everyone in my life, is incredibly important to me. 

But beyond that, there are things I need to work on that aren't just losing weight and body positivity. I've always had an unhealthy obsession with my body size, and monitoring my body size. I recently mentioned to a group of mom friends that I can remember my exact weight at every important event of my life: my wedding day, the day I got home from Idaho after graduating, the day I got engaged, the day I had Forrest. These are numbers taking up valuable space in my brain. A small part of me had held out hope that this was normal behavior, but I knew it actually wasn't. It's not normal, or healthy, to remember your weight on exact days, especially days dedicated to your own wedding or your first child. 

I cried every morning I had a doctor's appointment because I knew they would weigh me--and write that down on a little piece of paper, cruelly, without letting me defend it. I always wanted to put an asterisk on it. One that said, perhaps, I was thin once! I really was! I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted because I was so active! I work a sedentary job! I'm working on it! I wanted to argue with the computer system that classified me as a "high-risk pregnancy due to overweight status." I wanted to tell my doctor, every appointment, that I'm not, like, ok with my weight; I know I need to change. 

This is also not normal behavior. The actions of the medical community notwithstanding (there are some definite changes that need to be made regarding the treatment of weight issues and non-issues), it's not normal to obsess about how much you weigh when you're pregnant. 

I remember writing up a workout plan for myself postpartum. I remember anxiously imagining a time where I could restrict calories again. This is not only not super healthy, but really depressing to think about. 

It's hard to know that I have so many issues relating to my body and health. As I've written before, I know I'm dealing with body dysmorphia, but that doesn't really change the fact that when I go to the doctor, I get treated like none of my issues matter because, obviously, I just need to lose weight and they'll all magically go away. (This is one of the most annoying things about my medical treatment: I can guarantee you weight loss isn't going to fix at least 75% of my issues, but ok.) I know I want to lose weight for my health and my personal happiness--but I also know that, in some ways, I won't ever really be happy because you can't be happy when you're obsessed with your body. Period. End stop.

I posted on Twitter recently about all the fitness Instagrams I follow. A lot of them are people who have lost significant amounts of weight through IIFYM (If it fits your macros), a method of measuring food that focuses on macronutrients versus calories. I love following these accounts because I feel like IIFYM gives you a more realistic ability to follow meal plans, because you worry about nutrients instead of just calories. You go for nutrient dense foods and you'll feel fuller and be healthier. However, a significant portion of people who follow IIFYM tend to start going down this very strange path where they start eating a lot  of artificial foods (like that nasty Halo Top ice cream stuff or Arctic Ice) and weighing their food. Seeing a woman list that she ate 100 grams of onions, and only that much, is a whole new level of obsession.

It's very easy to go from one end of the spectrum to the other: being overweight and obsessed with your body to the point of hatred, then losing weight and becoming obsessed with staying that way. Perhaps so intensely obsessed that you start to do things like traveling with a food scale everywhere and weighing individual sandwich ingredients in a restaurant. It was six years ago that Marie Claire published this piece about healthy living bloggers--and how their meal plans are dangerous and unrealistic--and yet, we're still doing it. 

We live in a culture that is obsessed with bodies and body sizes--so it's easy for us to get obsessed as well. It's a cycle that difficult to break, but I believe it is possible: I believe it is possible to lose weight and be body positive, to lose weight and not become obsessed with staying thin, to be healthy and not weigh food. I believe these things are possible--I just need to work on doing them. 

I'm Ready to Talk about Postpartum Weight Loss

While going through a journal recently, I discovered a plan I had written for losing weight after I had Forrest. The date on the page in my journal says July 26, so it's been almost a full year since I wrote down possibly the funniest, stupidest plan ever. I listed times I would go walking, workout plans, meal plans to follow. 

You know what happened? None of it. 

I had neither the time nor the confidence to take Forrest on stroller walks three weeks postpartum, let alone three months postpartum. For the first three months, I survived entirely on lactation cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, and whatever I could cook for a few minutes while Danny held Forrest. After 3 months, I was so tired of paying attention to what I ate that I just gave up. I canceled my gym membership. I never went walking. 

I could have lost the weight by now. It's true. And actually, I am at my pre-pregnancy weight right now (but my pre-pregnancy weight was not exactly where I want to be either). I could have lost all kinds of weight by now, but sometimes, we just aren't ready. 

And we aren't ready to talk about it either. 

I read an article recently about having your picture taken when you're not exactly your ideal weight. This is a fact: I don't have any pictures of Forrest and me together that aren't selfies. I don't let people take my picture. I just don't. I also don't take my picture without carefully posing and even then, I'll probably cry about how it looks if I see it. Another fact: I know I'll regret not having pictures, good ones, with him when he's older and when I'm older. 

Not having my picture taken is my attempt to deny that I've gained weight. I always have this idea that if I can put it off just a little bit longer, give myself more time, I'll avoid having to confront the idea that I am bigger than I've ever been. I have a fear of people I knew in high school looking at pictures and saying, "Wow, Michelle got big." I was self-conscious in high school and I'm still self-conscious now. I went through a phase where I finally felt pretty... and now I've lost it. I'm back to high school me, nervous and embarrassed about how I look, and it's not fun. 

One more fact: I am bigger. I have gained weight. Yes, I've gotten "big." But I like to think that, in reality, when people see pictures of me they won't think, "Wow, Michelle got big." Instead, they'll think: Michelle had a baby, or Michelle got married, or Michelle looks so happy.

I like to think that as a society we can move past the expectation that we will all stay at our ideal, pre-adult bodies forever; I like to think that we can move past the expectation that the minute you have a baby, you should start restricting calories. I like to think we've moved past the discussion of women's bodies as assets. I want to believe that we can move past the idea that women should only take up a tiny amount of space. 

The truth is: I'm bigger now than I ever have been. But my life is bigger now too. 

It doesn't mean I will stay like this forever. I eat healthier than most people I know: I eat banana pancakes and boiled eggs; I snack on cheese sticks and carrots; I cook chicken and broccoli for dinner more often than not. I won't pretend to see my errors: last week, I ate an entire box of Cheez-its in a day because they were there and if Danny even suggests Taco Bell, I have no willpower to refuse. This is my body, though. This is the size I am. I can't deny it anymore. 

It doesn't mean that I got here through laziness. I worked out every day for two years. Then I had a baby. Then I fed a baby with my body (via an electrical pump) for 6 months. 

I'm ready to talk about postpartum weight loss. I'm ready to say I'm just starting, that I'm working on it every day, and that I know I will succeed and move past my food issues right now. I'm ready to admit that I struggle every day, that I wish I could eat pizza as nonchalantly as most of the population. I'm ready to say that I'm tired of my clothes not fitting. 

I wasn't ready before, but I am now. 

Follow my weight loss journey on my new fitness Instagram, @fitforforrest

Oh No, My Shoes Don't Fit

On Monday, I put on my plaid print maternity dress (not my favorite) and a denim jacket. Minimum effort for maximum effect, which is really all I can ask from maternity clothes these days. For the past few weeks, I have found myself wearing the same pair of shoes every single day: my blue and white striped loafers that I impulse bought from Old Navy. They are already worn in, with embarrassing prints on the inside, and scuffed up somewhat badly. I made myself promise that I wouldn't wear my striped flats again. 

Instead, I put on a pair of strappy, studded, flat sandals that I've owned since the summer of 2010. They have served me well as a go-to, slip on sandal in the summer months... and they've always been a smidge too big, flopping away from my foot on the inside.

Monday morning, I slipped on these old, trusty sandals as not my first choice, but rather my last one. I would have preferred to wear a wedge, but my sore feet can't really handle walking even my 1-block walk in them. I put them on, drove to work, and worked 8 hours. 

Throughout my workday, I kept noticing my feet feeling, well, number. Especially the toes. But my office gets pretty cold, especially with air conditioning, so I moved my feet around and told myself to ignore it. The feeling got more and more intense until I left around 3pm. 

It wasn't until I was standing in the elevator and looking down at my feet that I realized the straps of my sandals that travel across the base of my toes were, well, nearly imbedded in my foot. I wiggled my feet around, pushed my sandals back a little. They moved, but my toes were horribly constricted and looked like fat little piggies, perfectly bright pink. 

As I walked to the parking garage (and thus, my car), my feet started to ache, the constricting strap cutting into my toes and making every step painful. 

My stupid feet. My stupid, fat feet! I wanted to scream. When I got to my car, I loaded my purse and lunch bag into the passenger seat, then promptly tore off my sandals and threw them on the floor of my car. I was mad. 

It was a foot betrayal. 

I drove how barefoot, feeling excited and free with my feet less constricted--and really happy that the feeling of numbness quickly disappeared from my poor toes. But I also found myself thinking: This can't happen. 

I can handle my clothes getting smaller. We all expect that in pregnancy, right? You can't wear your normal jeans or your favorite t-shirt or most of your underwear drawer. 

But you can always wear your shoes. 

My tiny shoe size has always been a comfort to me. Wearing a size 4-6 reminds me that my body has the potential to be small. No matter how unhappy I might be with my size 8 or 10 pants or my size L top, I knew that my feet were small. Society could suck it--I have small feet!!

Realizing, with a sudden and painful stab (like that of constricted toes), that my shoe size is changing. Is it swollen feet? (They're puffy, but not that puffy.) Is it the tendons in my feet shifting? (Maybe? Is that a thing?) Are my feet just growing with the rest of me, rebelling against what I've done purposefully? 

I can't fit into any of my favorite kitten heel shoes (my high heel of choice is, hilariously, a teeny tiny kitten heel). I can't fit into some of my smaller, more narrow flats. And most of my sandals cut into my puffy little feat. 

But I can wear my loafers. Trusty loafers. They never fail to disappoint, do they? Except that loafers don't go with every outfit and, come fall, it would be nice to wear other closed toe shoes. 

As soon as I got home Monday (and stopped hyperventilating), I found myself staring into the hallway closet where I store my shoes. Flats and boots and sandals and heels. I have so many shoes. So many teeny tiny shoes, size 4s or 5s, 6s, a few 7s. So many that I can't fit into, that make my feet look like bread that's proofed too long. 

In times of distress, I find that reorganizing always helps. So I did that. I looked at all my shoes; I counted them (don't ask how many, please don't); I organized them into two piles, too small and fit ok. I organized them by the mere fact of whether I could still wear them or now. I found myself comforted by the number that I could still fit my foot into (comfortably). More than just a few pairs of loafers: most of my non-pointed toe flats, some heels, my boots. 

It's hard to let go of an old fact about myself. I feel defined by the things I've always thought myself to be: a writer; a reader; a good student; a girl who wore a small size of shoe. It's hard to tell myself that there are other things that define me, more important things than my feet, and that a few pairs of too-small shoes aren't that big of a deal... but then I remember, I really love my shoe collection.