BEHIND THE SCENES: SATURDAY AFTERNOON PHOTO SHOOT


I love spending afternoons with friends, covered in ridiculous amounts of makeup, listening to The Verve, while wearing layers upon layers of gauzy pink fabric. Today was another one of those days with Liz from CandyStrike. Here is a peek behind the scenes... can't wait to show you the finished product!

 




I also can't wait to do more photo shoots without the brutal summer humidity. But really, I'll take any opportunity to play dress up with pretty ladies... who can blame me?

What are you up to this weekend?
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FIND YOUR TRIBE: BY LOUISE GREEN


My name is Louise Green and I opened my own business Body Exchange, in 2008 on a quest to carve out a space for the plus-size community. My goal was to create a place where people would feel welcome and safe to sweat with a tribe of their own. In 1999 I had hit rock bottom with an alcohol and drug addiction and decided if I wanted to stay above ground it was probably a good idea to seek out some help.  I did. For many years and as part of my recovery I returned to the athletic roots that I had enjoyed so much prior to the party years. 
In 2007 I became a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Heading down this career path required me to face my terrorizing fears and overcome them, all so I could give back to aspiring athletes and those transitioning from one lifestyle to another.  My fears began when I decided, 3 months after having my son, at my all time heaviest weight that I was going to become a certified trainer. I had decided on maternity leave that I was going to make a full career swing and finally do something meaningful with my life. The anxiety and feelings of unworthiness began as soon as I signed up for the certification. My inner peanut gallery began with fearful banter that I would be different than everyone else, fat and out of shape and that I would be judged and rejected.  Although I had done a lot of work through recovery, I still suffered from low self-esteem and imposture syndrome and feelings of isolation. Deep down I had a purpose that was burning inside of me that kept telling my negative self to do it anyway. I had a dream to inspire women, at any size, to elevate their lives through fearless fitness and adventure. I put one foot in front of the other and finalized the certifications and eventually became a fully certified personal trainer, all of this at 245lbs.  And I was right, I didn’t look like anyone in the room, my body was much larger but I had something that no one else had; an understanding of what my demographic goes through and what its like to be a fat woman and to feel that on a day to day basis; I knew her, spoke her language, I am her.  For what I was about to embark on, this was invaluable and no trainer in the room had an advantage on me. I am empowered by this today.
With my dreams in check, I persevered and mustered up the courage to open a fitness business exclusive to plus size women. I had no idea what I was doing but did it anyway. Today Body Exchange offers boot camps, learn to run programs, adventures and destination retreats all dedicated to a plus size market.  I see these initiatives as tools to empower women to live to their full potential regardless of their size. When I work out I feel like a warrior and all the negative messages dissipate. It is my power hour, my gospel and it is all mine. I see my business as a place where I can give back and share the positivity I experience. Where I help women defy the norm and pulverize the stereotypes and preconceived notations placed on overweight people, especially in a fitness arena. To me this feels like familiar territory - I see it as another form of recovery. After-all recovery means to return to a normal condition; the condition we were in before all our injected ideals, instilled judgments and the stories we are told. We were all at one point, happy active children.


The fitness industry can be a pretty harsh place for people like me and perhaps you too; it has been difficult to call it “my” industry and truly feel apart of it. I persevere regardless. Nothing will stop me in fact it only fuels my fire for building my business.  

Overtime our concept of plus size fitness found its way into the media spotlight  - as you know the media likes to cover obesity, the epidemic and the health crisis. The Body Exchange concept was new and the media had a hard time with me because Body Exchange does not focus on weight loss. We focus on empowerment and mind expansion to unlimited possibility. To many people this is confusing.  I designed our groups to be exclusive, ironically, to be inclusive of the plus size community; a group I feel have been overlooked and sidelined.
Our clients shared horrific stories of their experiences of being bullied as far back as elementary school gym class.  Countless clients tell me they have felt like losers their entire school life because they were fat and couldn’t keep up with the other kids, this feeling stayed with them into their adult life and often kept them from trying anything fitness related.  I listen to their stories of self-hatred and body loathing and my heart sinks but I see it as another opportunity for recovery and a revolution.  
In 2012, I was asked take part in a major newspaper front-page feature – as a small business owner of course I was thrilled.  I got up early that Sunday morning to go down to the corner store to buy the paper only to find that some how our feature had turned into the headline “GYM BANS SKINNY PEOPLE”. My labor of love was now a scandalous "skinny ban" and for three weeks media hounded me. People wanted to know why I discriminate against skinny people. The story spread internationally, I was bewildered, confused and scared. I felt misunderstood and some of the worst hate mail came from my own industry professionals. I heard everything from “how could I possibly inspire anyone when I am fat” to hate mail sent to my inbox saying “shut this fucking disgrace down”.  Why such resistance? Aren't we doing a good thing and addressing some serious needs?  I began to doubt, hide, and stew then revolt. 
I will not tolerate haters, so I continued on.
My personal fitness program keeps evolving; I started running half marathons and in June I rode 240km from Vancouver BC across the border to Seattle WA for Cancer research including two seven hour days on a bike, Oye!  I know firsthand that my body is capable of doing anything I train it to do, 100%.  I am living proof, as are the many women I work with.  My accomplishments, challenges and triumphs build me up and I am now a fighter for something I so fucking strongly believe in.
I have learned a lot along the way and one thing I do know for sure, if you provide the right environment, women thrive and they are capable of anything.
My business continues to grow and we started training women by the hundreds. We train them for 5k and 10k runs then half marathons. We climb to the top of mountains, we take women surfing and join obstacle mud runs.
We empower women to love their bodies at any size - the expectation to lose weight is never part of the conversation.  Body Exchange has built an amazing community full of life lasting friendships. The thing I am most proud of is that we instill a no limits attitude in a group of women who have been left out of the fitness arena, made to feel like they didn’t belong and that the good life was not theirs to have.  Fuck. That.  We have no ban, its not that complex, we just want people to feel comfortable and thrive.
I am not saying my journey has been easy or yours will be either but I am saying it will be worth it.  I can feel the movement changing in society, slowly but surely. When I look back on my life from the day I walked into my first AA meeting emotionally broken and spiritually bankrupt to now, I have a hard time reconciling I am the same person.  Walking through fear, recovery and resilience will take you places.
I will leave you with this:  search high and low, search around every corner but search for YOUR TRIBE.  Every “body” deserves an epic life and when you find your tribe it changes everything. 
Best wishes to you all,
Louise Green
Founder, Body Exchange Lifestyles INC
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Louise is a light in my life, and I'm so grateful for the work that she does. Dibs on her being in my tribe. You can visit her Body Exchange page or her Body Love Movement (TSHIRT!) page. Or you could just go visit her in Canada. That's what I want to do.
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EXERCISE CLASSES AND FAT GIRL FREAK OUTS

(This is my I-just-killed-a-fucking-demon-tonight face. It's a little frighting.)

So.
I had a hardcore melt down Friday night.

A legit, sobbing, unable to fully understand what was going on, shaky body kind of melt down... and it was all over a dance class.


A friend had invited me to Jade's African dance class, and I agreed to go with her; no problemo! But an hour before, my system suddenly realized what I had signed up for and went into total shock. Guys, I freaked the fuck out. I felt like I had a momentary break into insanity; it was so unexpected and at the moment I couldn't even tell you why. I panic-attacked all over Liora's message box and I think I'll share the gist here, since it perfectly captured my state of mind:
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Me, at home in tears: 
Nope. I’m not going. 
Goddamnit dude, I’m too fucking scared to go. 
This body stuff is so HARD. 
Nskjdgfsbhkassdfjwsbvgfudjsc. 
And I feel totally guilty. 
I’m the worst fat person ever. 
I’m having a panic attack. 
Like crying and shit. 
ALL OF THE CRISES.

Friend: 
Whats the issue at hand here? The real issue?

Me: 
Lots of things. 
I haven’t been in a dance class since college and I’m positive it will be harder than then and I’m already a physical failure 
and I’m positive I’ll fail in this class and I don’t love my body today 
and I feel like I’m supposed to go and my brain keeps telling me I have to or else I’m the worst fatty ever 
and when I see you I’m just going to regret not going 
and then I’ll have to sit on my fat ass all night knowing I didn’t do it 
when I should have but I can’t. 
I just cant.

Friend: 
Can I talk you through a little bit about what the class is like? 
It’s a new teacher and no one else will know what’s going on. And last time there was a 60 year old guy there and he could barely move around. 
There are people of all shapes and sizes and everything and it was a challenge 
but I decided it was COMMIT OR GTFO so I committed and it was awesome and afterwards I felt like I had 10 orgasms.

Me: 
I hate being fat Liora. 
I hate everything about it. 
I hate how hard it makes daily living 
and how many mental barriers I have to fight through just to do what others do. 
And I hate having to justify everything to myself because I feel like I owe the world to lose weight 
or at least try and lose weight or eat differently and lose weight… or something. 
It’s just really hard and sounds crazy but it’s so common for me. 
THIS IS ALL OF THE HARDS.

Friend: 
I understand. 
It is ALL OF THE HARDS. 
Body image is all of the shit, and I totally get it. 
But do me a favor: don’t do this class for the weight loss. 

Do it for the orgasms.
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So, 'do it for the orgasms', I did. The night turned into a spiritual experience; one that really altered my perspective. And I would estimate I doubled my friend's record of 10 orgasms in a night. It's was. Amazing.

Most of you know that Jade is amazing from her international coverage, but she is even more incredible in person. Her infectious energy reminded me that it's important to love others and even more important to love yourself. And you should see her shake that incredible booty on the dance floor. God. Damn.

I had to force myself to put on my dance pants while I was talking to Liora so I wouldn't back out at the last second. I then turned my brain off and focused solely on my promise to just show up for the warm-up, but I of course stayed for the entire thing. I allowed myself to make mistakes, friends, and a fool out of myself. I wasn't worried about the steps for the most part because I had triumphed over my biggest insecurity just by being there.

Now, today, I look back at the transcript I shared above and I read it void of emotion. It's hard for me to understand how something as simple as going to a movement class could shake my world so much that I would lose my ability to function. But it did. And it was real. And that sort of freak out is so common.

So often, us fat ladies feel the social pressure to "better ourselves" by losing weight but then feel ostracized in a workout setting. We feel obligated to join The Perfect Body Factory (okay, maybe you call it a gym) but once there, we feel out of place and pushed into a competition we've failed at before even stepping foot inside. It's a mindfuck, and scares a lot of us shitless. The combination of fat bodies and exercise can resurrect a lifetime of shame. The most powerful kind of shame in the world.

I'm really glad I "documented" the experience that night through our conversation. It was such a good reminder of the fucked up social construct we live in and how much it can affect our daily lives. I have missed out on too many opportunities in my time. I've stayed away from so many events, people, and adventures because I was convinced I would fail.

I was convinced I would fail last night too. I would have bet $1000 dollars on it. But I DIDN'T FAIL! I finished the entire class and loved every single minute of it. There was one arm move that confused the shit out of me that I couldn't get down, but that wasn't because of my weight. It was because my brain was like "WHATTHEFUCK COUNTING ON OFFBEATS IS HARD". Sweat was never so rewarding, and I had a lot of it. Well, we all did. Proof:


I was lucky to participate in a class that was inclusive and focused on feeling good. I was lucky to have a friend who encouraged me to go because she knew where the value could be found. I was lucky to see my "before" and "after" and realize that none of this is about obligation, weight loss, or skills sets.

It's about feeling good.

And feeling good is not exclusive. Endorphines are not just for those who have perfectly toned bodies. I am allowed to move my body in any way I like and not apologize for the way it looks while doing so. I don't have to be perfect and I don't have to go to change my body. I can go because I want to. Because I like to work the machine I live in. Because I want to feel amazing. Because I deserve to feel amazing.

My advice to every woman who wants to participate in a cycling, aerobics, yoga, Jazzercise, pilates, swimming, dance, or Zumba class but is scared to try?

Don't go for the weight loss.
Go for the orgasms.
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SCHRÖDINGER'S CON: AM I A CON? OR AM I NOT?


Truth: my pretty little head became an emotional roller coaster when the Instafame hit. I started to live on an hour to hour basis, I couldn't comprehend information presented to me, and sleep became a luxury. It was an exciting ride, but there was something that bothered me deeply. One thought that I couldn't shake: "How can I be a role model when I'm so thoroughly flawed?". It really bothered me y'all. Really really really. I felt inadequate, faulty, fucked up, hypocritical, you name it. I felt like I was somehow pulling the wool over The World's eyes; I felt like a total con.

I had a moment of clarity though, way back in June while at the ModCloth mixer. Before showing up I knew that I would be sitting next to some of my favorite blogging idols. Women who's work I had read for years and repeatedly thought "Someday..."

But guess what? When I arrived... I didn't even recognize them.
I said a thank you prayer to the name-tag gods for their sticker invention. Without name-tags I probably would have left without knowing that they were the ladies I loved. Frrealz.

As I started to chat with (and awkwardly hug) all of them I had a stupidly profound realization: THEY WERE ALL HUMAN. Like, just like ME human. Sure, Gabi probably didn't sweat in real life as evidenced by her rocking a polyester jacket in 100% humidity, but as it turns out, she is human too. She's also obviously more photogenic, but lets just say I was trying to make a face to highlight my personality... Yeah. That.

None of the bloggers were made out of pixie dust like I had imagined, but rather out of skin just like the rest of us. And they all ate cookies and laughed like normal human beings. And then they talked. In English and not some beautiful secret "cool kid" language. I was floored. I would even imagine that they make mistakes and have regrets too. ARE YOU HEARING WHAT I'M SAYING GUYZ?

Yeah, I know. You already knew this.

But I didn't and this epiphany melted all my guilt away. I wasn't a con after all!

Yes, I have really shitty days. I make so many mistakes I don't even bother counting them. I fumble, fall, and make a splendid crash while doing so... but so does everyone else. Even Rebel Wilson I would imagine, though I'm pretty sure when she falls, an invisible audience breaks out into applause. But that's just because she's so blessedly funny and everything she does is amazing. She probably is a real unicorn, but I'll never know until I meet her.

So, I no longer feel bad that you like me and I make sure that I blog about my imperfect human qualities as well as the wonderful and extraordinary. And maybe that's the whole reason you think I'm cool; who knows. All I can say is that I plan on remaining my imperfect self forever. It's been working so far.

Thoughts?
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LETS MAP OUR INTERNATIONAL BODY LOVE COMMUNITY!


Hey! I need your help!

We're going to compile a comprehensive map of body love heroes and I need you to share your favorites! Go ahead and leave a comment with the people who inspire you to love yourself and where you're from. They can be bloggers, photographers, news anchors, singers, movie stars, activists, speakers... you name it! Afterwards, I'll be doing a list with links by country and BOY HOWDY is that going to be an amazing resource! A reminder that we're all in this together.

Readyyyyyyyyyy... GO!
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25 THINGS FAT PEOPLE SHOULDN'T DO #20: SHIMMY!


25 Things Fat People Shouldn't Do is an unabashed middle finger to the preposterous idea that any human who weighs more than the status quo does not deserve to live a full and well rounded (ahem) life. The list of 25 is composed word for word from direct lists of sheer assholery found on the internet. These range from the absurd to the profoundly shameful, and I will be disproving this offensive notion with style. Feel free to join in on the fun, and if you do, link at the bottom so I can share. May the Chub Club live long and prosper!
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Confession: I suck at boob shimmies. Legitimately suck. Ass shimmies? That I can do. But when faced with needing to tackle boob shimmies for this post, I decided it was probably best to bring in a professional, and so bring in a professional I did. Welcome Miss Pearl Necklace!


I actually had the pleasure of meeting this gal a little while ago at a runway addition. Sweet, gorgeous, and all around amazing. Plus, THAT NAME. Amiright? She made a "how to" video just for us and I'm honored to host it here. She makes it seem super easy, but I definitely needed the instructions. Pretty badly.


Classy broad, man. I attempted to shimmy video style, but it just ended up drastically inappropriate. Though I did get kind of a rhythm going in the end. Y'know, in the end where the shimmy was two inches away from the camera. Oh my god it's pretty brutal... I'm warning you; the shaking of boobs gets pretty out of control. This was probably enhanced by the fact that I'm listening to Rihanna of all people. I don't think I even know what classy means.



ALL OF THE BOOBS.

So, that shirt is from my gal pal Louise Green and on the back says "Love your body." I kind of adore it and it allows the girls to shake just enough. You can order one if you email Louise at mytshirtmission@gmail.com.

Wanna join in? Shimmy your heart out. Practice, take pictures or video record it. Whichever. Share what you loved or hated about the experience and don't forget to link up at the bottom of this post! Good luck!
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WANNA LOOK LIKE A COVER MODEL?

                Exists in our universe.                     Doesn't exist in any universe and wont ever.




Yeah, well, tough luck.

Reality check: even the cover models don't actually look like cover models. Don't waste your time on impossible perfection, okay? Go kick some ass as your perfect self instead. 

And that's an order.
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NOT A FETISH


To find my body attractive is not unusual, strange, or bothersome. And it is most certainly not a sign of a mental disorder.

To find my body attractive is to appreciate its softness.
To find my body attractive is to understand its complexities.
To find my body attractive is to engage in the playfulness.
To find my body attractive is to adore the unique curves; there so many to adore.
To find my body attractive is to respect the power of raw energy harnessed by skin.
To find my body attractive is to visualize my body as the integrated masterpiece that it is.

Freckles and tattoos, angles and curves, sensual drops and exciting rises; it's living, breathing art. It is all of those things and more.

Make no mistake.
I have a fat body that is often worshiped, but I am not necessarily worshiped for my body fat.

To find my body attractive is not unusual, strange, bothersome. And it is most certainly not a sign of a mental disorder.

I am so much more than an object for specific obsession. I more than a category for things that some may find uncomfortable.

Finding me gorgeous doesn't automatically mean you have a fat fetish. It can also mean that I'm simply sexy and you recognize that. Welcome. Congrats and join the club; there are quite a few of us here already.
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