Susan Schenck: I Adore BEING In My Body!






I love my body! I adore BEING in my body!

But this wasn’t always the case. At age 16 I went on my first diet and gradually developed an eating disorder: anorexia. It lasted for three years and I got down to 95 pounds at 5’4”. Due to the starvation I was putting myself through, I became obsessed with food. Overnight, the eating disorder flipped over into its twin, bulimia: bingeing and purging. That went on for a hellish seven years. I finally got a grip on it and stopped purging. I began to exercise, reading that repetitive motion such as swimming and running can calm a person with eating disorders. Over the decades, I came to love being in my body.

The yo-yo dieting continued nonetheless. Over the years, I have lost hundreds of pounds–the same ten to thirty pounds over and over! I have tried every diet from Atkins to Zone.

I counted calories from age 15 to 34 for nineteen years. Then I quit for nineteen years. It worked until, at age 39, I went on Prozac. I gained 40 pounds in just a couple of months!

I went on a raw vegan diet for six years. I lost but then gained weight from eating all the nuts, trying to get some protein.

Finally, at age 52, I tried an 80% raw paleo diet, which included raw eggs and lightly steamed meat. I also went back to counting calories. I got my weight down from 160 to 122, where it has stabilized for three years. I feel like now I know what is important: high raw (fruits and veggies), meat and eggs to stabilize the blood sugar, moderate on the carbs and a food journal in which I count calories. (This keeps me from fooling myself.)

The key for me to love my body has been diet & exercise and also knowing which supplements to take. I eat a high raw diet with some steamed meat and vegetables. I work out at the gym twice a week, bounce on a mini-trampoline at least ten minutes most days, do half an hour of yoga a day, walk at least forty-five minutes most days and do half an hour of facial exercise. I have integrated these habits into my life so I can multi-task (ex: do face and yoga while watching TV, walk while I am going downtown anyway). I keep fit so that I can go hiking, skating or do anything I want. Two days ago I climbed a steep hill, 1100 feet, to see a gorgeous waterfall that cars cannot get to.

I cherish my body’s health more than anything except for my mental and spiritual health. But they are all intertwined: the healthier my body is, the sharper my mind and the higher my spirits! I have gone on to write two nutrition books sharing with others all the insights and information I have learned. and

Susan Schenck, LAc, is a raw food coach, lecturer, and author of the 2-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet—as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Go to and register for the free newsletter to get a copy of the first chapter of The Live Food Factor.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011


Marc Lerner: Dating Without Self-Consciousness

 Dating Without Self-Consciousness

I am a 60-year-old male. I have had Multiple Scleorsis (MS)  for thirty years and one of the biggest problems of having a chronic and disabling disease is finding someone to love you in a romantic way. I have always had a girlfriend and I have definitely dated people who loved me, but either within me or within them there have been limitations. These were the fears of my condition getting worse. Then, I committed to a lady who had equally as bad disabilities. Now, when we are together, there is no thought or concern about either person having a disability. In fact, when we are together, it is as if neither of us is disabled.

I feel that when two people accept each other exactly the way they are, a strong foundation of love is established. That acceptance, when it comes to disabilities, is crucial because the subtle thoughts about disabilities create automatic limitations. When I dated a person with a handicap, they had the ability to relate to me and acknowledge my handicaps. Then, they could easily ignore them. The fact of two handicapped people coming together allows you to ignore the thoughts of handicaps. It opens up a depth in the heart where real loving sharing can take place.

Now, not every handicapped person can be in a relationship with another handicapped person. Handicapped people have chemistry and beliefs, and need to find another person with the same chemistry and beliefs to make a powerful relationship. I share this because of the hesitancy to date a
handicapped person, even if you are handicapped.

I encourage people dealing with any kind of body abnormalities to find someone who personally knows the struggle. Dating is not always easy, but when you can support someone’s weakness and they can support yours, a powerful bond is created.

Let me share an example: I often fall with my MS and my partner knows that reality within her own life. One time, I fell down when she was sitting right next to me. All she said was, “lah dee dah.” Instantly, my ego reacted but then I realized she knows that making a big deal does not really help anybody. In fact, some of my biggest hassles happen when I fall and someone overtly tries to be nice to me. Now, don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the kindness of people but by her saying “lah dee dah” instantly
forced me to see the situation as not unusual. It was up to me to take it from there.

Sometimes, during a fall, I would have appreciated kindness and sympathy but it was nothing like being met in the moment with a loving heart that understood my situation. I wholeheartedly encourage people dealing with physical limitations to at least search in the disabled community.

Marc Lerner, author of A Healthy Way to be Sick , teaches people how to tap
inner resources to become an active participant in life. Go to, where Marc has expert author status and has posted over 70 articles on health and mental health. Go to:  to review his work and listen to 14 radio shows, which he hosted on World Talk Radio.

Editors Note:

It’s my job to edit the stories that come into the Body and Self Image Blog and I do so with a grateful heart. I consider it an honor to be able to help people share their stories and I am touched by them all. This story, however, has a special place with me. My older sister was afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis for over thirty years and I know how difficult it was for her to deal, not only with the disease, but with the fact that other people viewed her as not just different but as somehow less. Inside she was the same person but her body, through no fault of her own, had betrayed her. I applaud this gentleman for giving us his story and hope that it will help others who may be dealing with similar issues.

Ann Werner 

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Asymmetrical Breasts And A Muffin Top

I have had both an Abdominoplasty and a Breast Reduction/Lift.
I wanted a breast reduction since I was seventeen years old. I finally had them fixed when I was thirty-eight. I always felt my breasts were too large and just never felt comfortable with them. It made me look much heavier than I actually was and there was nothing I could do to feel otherwise.
I met my husband to be when I was just shy of turning twenty-three. I voiced my desires very early on in the relationship and he was always against me having them done. He had an ex-girlfriend who had a reduction and had terrible scars from it and was scared that would happen to me. As time went on and I realized that we were getting serious and eventually got married, I decided to put that thought on hold until I had my kids.
About a year after I had my second child by C-Section, I was diagnosed with an Umbilical Hernia.  “An Umbilical Hernia occurs when part of the intestine protrudes through an opening in the abdominal muscles. Umbilical Hernias are most common in infants but they can affect adults as well.”
~Mayo Clinic
Even though I was never really overweight, I definitely had that muffin top after my C-Section and was uncomfortable seeing myself naked. I then went to my general surgeon to discuss my options for fixing my hernia and he mentioned he could fix my hernia and I would be happy. He said I would be much happier if he did it in conjunction with a plastic surgeon who would also fix my Diastasis (separation of the abdominal muscles usually after pregnancy). Mine was pretty wide.  At the right angle I could fit four fingers wide into my abdomen. Since I was unhappy with that muffin top and felt I could never wear anything on the tighter side due to my stomach hanging out and realized that no matter how much weight I lost, I would never lose that flap of skin, I decided to do a consult with the plastic surgeon. After that consult, I decided to go ahead with the Abdominoplasty in conjunction with the general surgeon to fix my hernia. I am so happy with the results three years later. I can wear tight shirts and not feel self-conscious about that pouch hanging out.
About a year and a half after I had the Abdominoplasty, I thought it was time to address my breasts. As I said earlier, my husband was not for me fixing them and he still wasn’t totally into me having the procedure. After having two kids, not only were my breasts large but they were also asymmetric. I decided to go for it anyway and am so incredibly happy with the results. My husband, in the end, supported my decision and is also happy with the results. They are now symmetric and I am very comfortable with them. I have no problems walking around my room without a shirt on and can wear a tighter fitting shirt without feeling like I have irregular boobs and half my stomach falling out. These two procedures are definitely some of the best things I have done for myself.
***Editors Note: Always check to see if the physician you are using or considering is Board Certified and talk to some of the other patients about their experiences. Research carefully and thoroughly.
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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Joy Huber: Cancer With Joy


How Cancer Impacts Your Body & Self Image
On Wednesday, March 24th, 2010, my life changed and it will never be the same again.  On this day, I learned of my stalker; something that would truly follow me around like a shadow for the rest of my days. 

My stalker’s name was Non-Hodgkins Follicular Lymphoma Cancer. We found out later it was stage four with involvement in a major organ (my kidneys) and in my bone marrow.  There was nothing any law enforcement agency could do to protect me from it either.

Fortunately, after six intense chemotherapy treatments, each spaced three weeks apart, I achieved remission and as of this writing, continue with what is considered maintenance chemo.  I still receive one medicine through my port, which is implanted in my upper left chest between the breast and clavicle, every eight weeks, and the plan is to do that for approximately two years. 

Additional good actually came from this devastating diagnosis.  I really believe good can come from any obstacle life throws at us but we do have to make the choice about how we’re going to respond to the obstacle.  As a non-smoker who is relatively healthy (I have my sweet tooth and love ice cream!), my diagnosis came as a total surprise.  I’m not going to tell you I didn’t get mad or sad and shed tears over my diagnosis!  But I chose not to stay there and as I moved into acceptance, I decided my response to this would be to fight with all I could using the power of positivity, a positive attitude and humor. 
As I achieved remission, I was overpowered with the idea of “Cancer with Joy.”  This was doubly interesting to me because of the double meaning.  I’m Joy, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer as a young adult, so it’s helping people face “Cancer with Joy,” literally with me.  It’s also introducing to people this simple but profound concept of “Cancer with Joy.”  It’s never been said quite that way before!  What’s unique about it is my story and the unique ways I faced “Cancer with Joy” and what I can contribute to the dialogue.
I wrote a book called Cancer with Joy:  How to Transform Fear into Happiness and Find the Bright Side Effects.  But I didn’t explore the topic of how cancer impacts your body and self-image in-depth in the book.  When I learned there’s this amazing blog out there, I really wanted to contribute something to it.  From my experience of talking with many and introducing this new idea of “Cancer with Joy,” I have found every single person can tell me of someone they know currently in treatment or who had cancer.
In the book, I write the most emotionally painful moment for me was the complete loss of my shoulder-length hair due to one of the medicines they were giving me in treatment that killed all rapidly growing cells.  My medical team tried to remind me the “good news” was when my hair was coming out, it meant the medicine was getting hair cells but likely also killing cancer cells. 
All of a sudden waking up and going into the bathroom to reach for my toothbrush, since I must brush my teeth immediately upon waking, I didn’t recognize the woman in the mirror.  I was painfully aware and reminded of constantly by this image in the mirror all that cancer HAD been able to take from me while I was battling. 
Ironically, I was getting back together with an old boyfriend (We met in 1997!) right when I was diagnosed and starting treatment.  Our “first date back together” was not too long after I had my head shaved.  I wanted to look “like me” as much as possible, so that night I opted to wear a halo (elastic ring of hair with hair that hangs down in the front for bangs, on the sides and in the back, with the bulk of your head being bald,  and you cover the bald part with a fun hat!  This is very cool in the hot Summer, trust me, since my first six chemo’s were from April-August!).  My “hair” was close to my former color, length and style, so I felt good.
As our relationship progressed, I agonized about the first night I was to stay over at his house.  What would I do when the sun streamed in in the morning, lighting up my bald head and potentially horrifying him?  He has always known me with chin-length hair at the shortest.  See for a pre-cancer recent hairstyle and you can visit my contact page to contact me and my programs page to learn about my “Cancer with Joy” live event!  I went so far as to ask him if he had a guest bedroom I could sleep in! 
I learned how to handle even complete hair loss from “Cancer with Joy” and now I’m helping many others thrive, from diagnosis through treatment.  Remembering it is how you choose to respond, I chose to make fun out of this obstacle being thrown my way as a young adult!  I had always wanted to see how I’d look as a “saucy redhead!”  After ordering many different halos, wigs and hats from the Tender Loving Care catalog, I decided to have an Online Fashion Show and involved all my friends in the process to show them this unique way I was choosing to respond to the complete loss of my hair!  My dear mom, my caregiver, took pictures of me modeling many different looks.  I tried a variety of colors, lengths and styles!  We uploaded the pictures to Facebook and invited my friends to “like” and comment to help me select my look(s) for the Summer of 2010!  That’s taking hair loss, the most emotionally painful moment for me during my cancer experience and truly facing “Cancer with Joy!”
You see, what I was reminded of throughout my journey that I want to share with you is that your self-image should not be wholly defined by how you look.  My cancer treatment definitely changed things about my body and how I looked, and I know many women who have had a mastectomy, which changes their body.  Men’s bodies change during cancer treatment and we all change anyway through the natural aging process.  But, if this doesn’t sound too crazy, my cancer experience probably improved my self-image.  How you ask?  Because I realized that self-image is about who you are as a person, not wholly how you look!!
Through the founding of my brand “Cancer with Joy” and the many good things that have come from my experience, I feel better about myself as a person because of what I’m able to contribute and how many I’m able to help just by giving.  It’s my sincere hope reading this simple story inspired you to think about how you’re responding to obstacles and also helped you in some way as you consider your body and self-image.  When how you feel about yourself comes from the kind of person you are, which you are free to choose and change, it gives you confidence of the staying kind that surpasses the messages media and others may try to impose on us.
If your “stalker” is a culmination of those messages from the media and those mean things we all say to ourselves, focus on improving your self-image through feeling good about who you are and what you give to others vs. how you look!   
Joy Huber is a stage four young adult cancer survivor and the founder of “Cancer with Joy.” She is an award-winning international presenter, individual coach and songwriter.
Joy helps the newly diagnosed and those on their support team learn how to transform fear into happiness with resources, support and en‘courage’ment. She wrote “Cancer with Joy” to be the essential resource for the newly diagnosed, providing helpful and highly valuable information that saves precious time, energy and money. Joy is an inspiration, and her humor and positive energy ignites others to transform their experience with cancer from negative to “Cancer with Joy.”
“Cancer with Joy” is being published by Morgan James Publishing of New York City.  It will be available Spring 2012. Pre-order the book on Amazon and at  . Fall 2011.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Grow Old Or Die!

Kimberley A.  Johnson
Why do so many women feel ashamed to admit their age?
I am forty-three. I have no problem telling anyone how old I am. I never have. In fact when I was thirty-two and was no longer pursuing acting, I found myself at a slew of Hollywood parties filled with producers and directors and various actors. Because I had been out of the industry for about a year, I no longer felt the pressure of how I looked or how others perceived me in order to book a gig. I was free. It became a game with me that when I met a new producer, I would tell them I was ten years older than I was and would offer how much I weighed. I could see them cringing for me and then they would lecture me on how I was supposed to keep those things private. My stock answer was “Famous people’s ages and birthdays are announced every night on “Entertainment Tonight.”

What difference does it make? If you look old and say you’re younger than you are, people either know you’re lying or they think you really look old. If you look good for your age, others see that and respect that you have the freedom to be honest.
Clearly as we age, we lose the youthful allure we get so used to in our adult life. We all want to feel attractive, sexy and alluring. I believe women at any age can be and are attractive and it’s no secret that no matter what you look like, how old you are or how much you weigh, if you want to have sex and/or a relationship, you can find someone.
Our culture has so much to do with it. Magazines are one of the worst culprits. I no longer buy or read beauty magazines. They bombard you with hypocritical messages. Open it up and see an article claiming you can erase years off of your face with the latest and greatest face cream. Next page is an article about how you should love yourself they way you are. The next is a picture of a mature woman who has been totally airbrushed and wrinkle free. Take this seriously and you may find yourself running to the plastic surgeon or beating yourself up because you have lines.
Regardless of how you look, age is something you have earned. You have acquired knowledge, experience, wisdom. If someone else is going to pass negative judgment on you, isn’t that their problem? Why do we make it our problem?
In the last decade, I have known men who also have a hard time with the age thing though men do have it easier. They get to be “distinguished.’ Not all, there are those men who don’t age well. But so what??? WHY is it such a big deal? 
I take pride in knowing I have survived the challenges life has thrown at me as well as riding the wave of all the wonderful things it has to offer. I do wish I had the body I did when I was about thirty-five. I was smokin’ hot. But I don’t. I still look pretty damn good! I work out and eat well. Every day, Father Time takes his toll…on all of us. Shame should not be a factor. The alternative is death. Which would you prefer?

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Being Different


This post came unsolicited (the best kind!) from someone who already shared her story on this blog. This time she chooses to be anonymous and you’ll see why. She deals with a variety of issues that are not so common. I would imagine part of why she keeps her identity private is to avoid judgment.
People can make snap judgments, especially when it’s about something embarrassing or something we secretly fear.
What I like most about this story is that it shows we all have these weird little quirks, issues or experiences with our bodies that we would rather not have. It’s embarrassing. We feel like if anyone knew the truth about who we really are, we aren’t going to be accepted or loved. Here is proof that is just a bunch of malarkey!


Being Different

As women, we all have issues with our body image and self-esteem.  Some grapple with these issues more than others.  For every issue that makes you hate to look in the mirror, know that there IS a solution.

My awareness of my own differences began at a very early age.  Even before I began school, I was already physically scarred. That had an impact on my self-image, even as a child.  My mother told me not to be bothered by the inconsiderate people who stared;  she told me that if that happened, THEY were the ones with the problem, not me. Even though she meant well, I found her advice hard to take, at least for myself. There were kids who were inquisitive, of course, but only one that I remember as being really mean, and that was in high school. I used to be so self-conscious that I would wear long-sleeved shirts in the blazing heat of summer.  Even now, I will still catch people staring, and some are even bold enough to ask me what happened. I tell them the bare basics and leave it at that, because I have come to the conclusion that the part of me that’s scarred is just one small physical part and it by no means defines who I am as a human being.  I was burned by coffee at the age of four. My parents had one of those old coffee pots that percolated.  It was plugged in across from the kitchen table, and I was running around the table and tripped over the cord.  The pot tipped and the coffee went all over me.  I was wearing long-sleeved pajamas, and when my mom took my pajama top off, she inadvertently peeled off a layer of skin with it as well. I had a skin graft, but to this day my arm is still scarred. I used my mother’s advice to teach my own children compassion. However, that wasn’t the only demon I was struggling with.

For as long as I could remember, I had a problem with bedwetting. Certain children struggle with this problem more than others and in the majority of cases, it usually tends to correct itself by a certain age. I wasn’t so lucky. I remember having to undergo some painful and scary tests at a very young age, only for the doctor to tell my mother that my kidneys hadn’t “matured” yet.  We tried a lot of solutions—cutting back on drinks in the evening, using the bathroom before bed and sometimes being awakened to use the bathroom in the middle of the night but those methods didn’t work either. After I got to be a certain age, with no sign of my problem resolving itself, my self-esteem began to suffer.  Sleep-overs were a source of stress, as was going away to camp, family vacations, etc. My father seemed to take it worse than my mother did because he would get upset and argue whenever I would have an “accident”.  However, I didn’t find out until later that my father had endured the same problem until he was fourteen. I married at eighteen and even then I was still suffering from “accidents.” I informed my husband of it before we were married and his advice consisted of things I had already tried. My problem ultimately caused my marriage to suffer and even ended up being used against me in our divorce and custody proceedings. Fortunately, nothing bad came of the nasty and hateful affidavits that were presented against me. Between my first and second marriage, I had a few serious relationships but I tended to keep my problem a secret and just hoped for the best whenever I would be intimate with my partner. I developed a plan in my head, screwed up as it may have been, that if I happened to have an “accident” while with someone, I would just get up in the middle of the night and go home.  Fortunately, I never had to do that.  Finally, my mother nonchalantly asked me if I still had the same “problem” and let me try some medication that her doctor had prescribed. To my relief, it worked and I wasted no time in seeing my own doctor to inquire about taking the same medication.  My current boyfriend knew about my “problem” before we began living together and he was extremely understanding and even a bit humorous about it. His response was simply, “Well, I guess we’ll just do more laundry.”  My point here is that no matter how bad your problem may seem, there ARE understanding people out there, just as there usually is a solution.

Last, but not least, I address the issue of unwanted body hair. I’m talking hair in places where there shouldn’t be hair on a female body. Whether it can be chalked up to genetics or hormones gone wild, I have to deal with this issue as well. Unbeknownst to my family, I have to shave like a man (my chin) every day. I always make sure that the bathroom is locked so no one can come barging in and discover my shameful little secret. I also have hair on my breasts that I also choose to shave. I’ve had electrolysis done on my chin, to no avail. I’ve tried bleaching but the chemicals irritated my skin and caused my chin to break out. As for my breasts, I’ve tried the cream hair removers and they’re more of a pain than shaving.  I’m no stranger to looking at myself in the mirror and thinking of myself as a freak, just as I’m no stranger to looking in the mirror and wondering, “Why me?”  Despite all these issues, I’m still a woman who is liked and loved by many, flaws and all. And that, more than anything else, is what eases the pain and makes my demons easier to bear.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Beverly Cialone: What It’s Like To Have 44 Double D’s!

Beverly Cialone
I began to “develop” around the age of nine. My mother blamed it on medications I received at the age of four after I received a nasty burn and a resulting skin graft on my arm. 
At the age of nine, I started my period and the rest of me also began to develop.  Since I was still in elementary school, I received a fair amount of teasing due to my enlarged chest and the arrival of my period.  The boys, of course, didn’t really tease me then. Even as I got older, I wasn’t what you’d call the “popular” type.  Frankly, I was more concerned with my weight than my chest, even though my mother made comments along the lines of “That’s all the boys will want” and things like that. Bra shopping was a nightmare—I DID have a fair amount of modesty and having a complete stranger (the sales persons)  touch me THERE was a bit disconcerting. 
As an adult, things have been very different from the way they were when I was in school.  I, probably more than anyone else, am acutely aware of just how big my breasts are.  My bra size has increased to a 44 DD and that seems to be the size I will always be.  I have never really considered a breast reduction, though. I DO have back problems from time to time but I chalk that up to a few nasty falls I’ve had in the past instead of my breast size.  That, and having an epidural with my youngest son. 
I can’t really tell you if I have ever been offered or denied employment because of my breast size, because I don’t know. I remember reading an article about doctors that suggested doctors/surgeons with big breasts weren’t regarded as “trustworthy” or as “capable” as their smaller-breasted female counterparts. I thought that was just ridiculous. Breast size has no impact on a person’s intelligence or their ability to perform a certain job and it isn’t really something a person can control.  They can, by way of surgical enhancement or reduction, but I have never opted for either of those.  As for my breast size and my romantic life, I actually had a former boyfriend tell me that he would always love me, just as long as my breasts didn’t get smaller. I thought that was a bit shallow and callous of him to say. My current boyfriend LOVES my breasts (and the rest of me!) just the way they are. I’ve engaged in “breast intercourse,” and I honestly don’t see the fascination with women’s breasts. Maybe men are just jealous because THEY don’t have them!
There are times when the size of my breasts affects how men treat me. Just the other night, my boyfriend and I had friends over for dinner – a married man and woman. I was outside talking with my boyfriend and the man and when I got up from the steps, I think my breasts must’ve jiggled a little (I wasn’t wearing a bra). I actually had to tell the man that my eyes were up HERE, not THERE, because he was definitely staring!)  I took no offense to it—I actually found it amusing. There was one instance in a bar where the man (yes, he was drunk and begging me to take him home with me) obviously couldn’t tear his eyes away from my generous chest, which prompted my friend to get me out of that situation in a hurry.  Despite that, I’ve never been in a wet T-shirt contest and when I’m not working, I DO tend to go bra-less. 
At the end of a long day, I feel I just HAVE to get out of my bra. Some bras feel like they’re cutting into my shoulders, while others, although they fit, don’t seem to give me the support I need. And one thing I absolutely will NOT do is wear a bra with an underwire.  I tried that once and once was more than enough for me! 
Women don’t necessarily treat me different. My women friends sometimes comment on it in a joking kind of way and I’m always a good sport about it.  I have been known to make comments about my own breasts to friends, whether they’re male or female.  It just depends on the friendship. 
Even though I’m aware of how big my chest is, I really don’t give it a lot of thought. I’ve seen the magazine models, I’ve seen pics of naked women with the “perfect”, perky breasts and had a few moments of envy but, for the most part, I’m content with what I have. The mere thought of surgery terrifies me, so that will probably never be an option for me. I sympathize with women who have breast cancer, even though I have never had to fight that particular battle. I know that for them, and probably every woman in the world, their breasts “define” them as being a woman.  If you see a woman with short hair and a flat chest, you really don’t tend to think of her as a “normal” woman, like the rest of your female friends.  The lack of breasts, whether by nature, disease, or choice, has a big impact on a woman emotionally.  Other people tend to look at her differently—some may wonder if she’s a lesbian, while others may wonder if she’s had her breasts removed due to cancer. I remember seeing a pic of a woman who had undergone a mastectomy and she chose to make that part of her chest a work of art by having an elaborate flower tattoo drawn where her breast used to be.  I thought that was a novel approach to what the monster disease of breast cancer had done to her. 
All in all, I can’t really say that my breasts have had a major impact on my life. Of course I remember the teasing in school, I remember feeling like an oddball because I was developing at such an early age when the other girls weren’t, but even though for me it revolved around my breasts, my weight, and the scar on my arm from the skin graft, I also know that other kids got  teased as well, for different reasons.  It’s just something that everyone has to go through. As an adult, I actually haven’t endured any “teasing,” per se, but I know that my breasts probably have the capability to garner a fair amount of attention in certain settings. Because of that, I make up my own jokes regarding them—I call them “The Girls,” “The Twins,” and I say things like, “They’re the first things to enter the room,” and “They’re so big they need their own oxygen supply!”  The other night at dinner I spilled some food on my shirt and I even joked about that—“See? They have to eat too, they were hungry.”  However, despite the jokes, I WAS told a long time ago by a nurse that since my breasts were so big, I would need to keep an eye on them because of the increased risk of breast cancer.  I really don’t know if having bigger breasts means I’m more at risk for something like that.  I’m 44 now and so far me and my breasts are doing just fine. They DO tend to sag a bit, even though I didn’t breast-feed either of my children but for some reason, certain men just seem to still find them attractive.  I know everyone has heard the phrase, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” and it would definitely apply here.  No matter what your breast size, be glad you have them—they make the already unique person you are even more so!

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Anne Temple: Who Really Wants To Be Normal Anyway?

Anne Temple
Fifty years ago I was born into this world with many physical challenges. I was born with congenital bilateral hip dysplasia, Strabismus and a rare movement disorder (familial paroxysmal choreoathetosis with Dystonia). I ended up with arthritis at a young age, which caused me to have many surgeries. I was unquestionably not normal with my body type and looks.
As a result of having many eye surgeries, my right eyelid droops down. I also have a limp on my side right when I walk. Many of my family and friends told me they couldn’t tell, yet I’ve always had people ask about my eyes or why I walk funny. I was shy growing up, feeling as if no one really liked me. My home seemed to be the hospitals. I felt so unattractive but looking back at the fourth grade, I did have two young men who liked me and, to be honest, I had my first kiss. As I look at it now, a lot of what I felt was internal but I did feel alone a lot of as a young girl. 
I want to make it clear that there were times when kids and adults were downright mean. I was teased when I was a young child. As a teenager I had issues; like when I was 15 years old. I was in the hospital. My roommate was a cheerleader and she had a few boys visit. They wanted to take a walk with her to get a sandwich. She asked if they would mind if went with them and they answered very loudly “No, she is very ugly, we don’t want her to come!” This hurt me so very much and didn’t help with my feelings of being unattractive.
I learned at a young age that laughter was better than feeling sorry for myself. Not that I didn’t go through times of depression, because I did and still do.  I have learned in these fifty years that the word “normal” means so little. After people get to know me they really don’t see the droopy eye lid, the limp on my right side and the strange movements (familial paroxysmal choreoathetosis with Dystonia). Going in and out of wheelchairs, walkers and crutches, I find ways to jump these obstacles. I was told many things like I would never walk or have children naturally. Guess what: I did all of these. As an adult I’ve had people say unkind things to me. I am learning that you can please some of the people some of the time, yet not all people all of the time. Abraham Lincoln said something like this so I’m in good company.
Even with having physical challenges, I have learned how to live and have gotten over feeling unattractive most of the time.  I do go through times of depression, feeling unattractive and going up and down with my weight.  Most of the times, though, I feel all these physical challenges, surgeries and hospital stays helped me understand myself and others better. So when I hear the word normal I think to myself “what is normal” and do I really want to be like everyone else?  It seems boring. No offense, I’m not sure if normal defines anybody because we all are unique. Who really wants to be normal anyway?
* If you are interested in finding more about these issues, please check out the links.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Ling Wong: I Loved My Body When I Was Pregnant – It Changed Everyday






Ling Wong, MS, CHHC, AADP
Nutrition and Wellness Coach
Thoughts for Foods
Holistic Health

I am 5’3” and currently I weigh 105 pounds. I had a baby about two years ago and now I am still fitting nicely into the clothes I had in college. But it’s not always been like this for me. I had my share of weight problems and struggled with my relationship with food. My journey into pregnancy gave me a big smack on my head and woke me up to my skewed body image and my relationship with food.

I was a chubby kid, got made fun of and had to bend over backward to get accepted in school. I didn’t know better back then about the relationship between food and weight.  I was drinking soda pop and eating big pieces of pastry. My mother had me take ballet classes and I absolutely hated being in those tight-fitting tops and tights. They were never comfortable for me and I was scared of being looked at by others. I never did well in PE classes either – especially when I was in elementary school. Every class was a drag – I was clumsy and again, scared being made fun of by my classmates.

I continued to struggle with my body image all through high school, treating my body as something that was “in my way” and never learned to respect and love it. I diverted all my energy to intellectual endeavors and left my intuition and my sensitivity to what my body wanted behind, believing that I could think my way out of my body image woes.

After the College Freshman 15 (a term used to describe weight gain by college freshmen), I came to the point where I was determined to change things around. I was not happy; I was looking for a way out. I didn’t know anything about nutrition or weight loss. With the new-found freedom in getting whatever I could from the store without my parents’ ok, I picked up diet pills from the drugstore. My first education in calories and weight was from the pamphlet that came with the pills.
I became obsessed with serving sizes and calories. I ate small breakfasts and skipped lunch. I restrained the amount I ate and was very rigid about it for almost a year and a half. I went on to try different diet pills that claimed to take weight off in different ways. Things started to happen and I looked trimmer. I thought things were working and continued down the path of skipping meals and sometimes I craved carbs so much that I would forego dinner so that I could eat a big piece of cake.
One day, my body gave in. Something just snapped and I was hit with this excruciating stomach-ache. I literally dragged myself to the clinic. The nurse looked at me. She put me on the scale and told me that I weighed a measly 96 pounds! What??! I thought – I am the chubby one! The nurse warned me that if I dropped below 90 pounds they would have to put me in the hospital.
I realized I had a problem in my relationship with food. I also had issues with my body image. I got better with my meals and my eating but that was by no means the end of it. For the next ten years, I was obsessed with calories, the latest diet and supplements that would help me burn more calories, curb my appetite and/or reduce the absorption of carbs and fats. I got dependent on herbal laxative. I gained weight, I lost weight and started all over again.
I had good days and bad days. Two extra pounds on the scale could ruin my day. I got distressed if I ate past my “calorie quota”. When I ate out, I could not see food as enjoyment – it all had the number of calories stamped on it in my mind’s eye. I had a sweet tooth, so to satisfy my need of control and my craving for sugar, I would forego a meal so that I could dig into my dessert. My relationship with food was screwed up. 

Honestly, I have no problem eating. I love food. The challenge was what went on in my head. The incongruence would drive me crazy. Nothing good can come from counting calories and thinking about taking this pill and that tea to “counter” the calories  just consumed. 

My obsession with staying thin was further fueled by my involvement in endurance cycling. I could easily burn 1500 calories in one training and, with my calorie conciousness, I never let myself eat enough to replenish the calories burned. Being light means less weight to haul up the hill – good advantage. I soon got myself back down to 97 pounds. My period disappeared.

Then we tried to get pregnant. I went to the OB/GYN and she was very concerned about my weight and my low hormone level. She sent me for a bone scan and I was diagnosed with osteopenia (estrogen plays a role in maintaining bone density). She sent me to a fertility expert, who then diagnosed me with hypothyroidism (probably as a result of low metabolism due to restricted calorie intake). I was still doing things my way, thinking medication would fix whatever problems I had. After a few unsuccessful cycles of taking hormones, which made my life very miserable, and a miscarriage, I finally had enough and sought the help of an acupuncturist.  

I knew I had to work with my body, respect what it needs and stop fighting it. I was treated with acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine. I followed my body’s lead, gave it the nutrients it wanted and gained six pounds. My hormones bounced back, I got my period. And I got pregnant three months later. This experience was a wake up call – I had to respect my body, listen to it and give it what it needs. 

Getting my body “fixed” also gave me the kind of emotional stability I had not experienced for a long time – I began to see that there is a connection between food, the body, the emotions and the mind.

My journey through pregnancy was what it took for me to overcome my body image issues and my relationship with food. I loved my body when I was pregnant – it changed everyday. Something new and fascinating happens every morning and I was in awe what it could do. Pregnancy set my body image  concerns and my relationship with food free.  I learned to listen to my body and eat what was needed without being enslaved to counting calories. Weight gain definitely was a concern for me going into pregnancy and I was very careful with my weight – gained twenty-three pounds – but I ate well and exercised, so I was confident that I would get back in shape afterwards -and I did, three months postpartum. 

Sometimes the weight gain was stressful but I educated myself enough to know that fluctuations could come from constipation and fluid retention, so I tried to be OK with things and not be stressed out about it.
Pregnancy was a great time for me to get in touch with and listen to my body without being held back by numbers on the scale. I had the right and the responsibility to gain weight! I viewed my body in a completely different way and instead of focusing on numbers, I valued how I felt and what great things my body was doing for me.

Postpartum, I was determined not to fall back into my old pattern. I researched and studied and found ways to help me feel that I am in control of my weight without having to count calories, going on yet another diet, or taking pills and supplements. I have been able to manage my weight without the frustration and restriction that comes with “diets”. I studied holistic nutrition and became a holistic nutrition and wellness coach.When coaching my pregnant clients, I focus on listening to the body, feeding the body nutrient-dense food and trusting that the body will do what it needs to do.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

Amber Krzys: I Was In An Abusive Relationship With My Body

Amber Krzys
twitter: @bodyheart
Ideal vs. Real – My Fight for the Perfect Body
by Amber Krzys (age 35)

We as a culture are familiar with setting goals. We hear all the time, “Dream big.”  “Create your reality.” Which I agree with. I find value in setting goals, intentions and getting clear on what I want in my life. But what about when it comes to our bodies? I can’t help but wonder if we’re holding so strongly to an ideal that we can’t see what’s right in front of our face?

Sometime as a young girl, I created an ideal image of what I was supposed to look like.  I call this image THE perfect body. And that is exactly what she is…Perfect. 

She is taller than me. Thinner. Has bigger boobs. She doesn’t have any cellulite or unwanted body hair. She’s confident. Loves to shop and can eat anything she wants whenever she wants it.  Those are just a few of her magical traits. 😉

She was quite different from me. For over thirty years “Perfect Body” was my model of beauty. I believed that in order for me to have value, or in order for my body to have value, I had to be her. And I fought like crazy for that. I fasted. I over-exercised. I followed every diet plan out there. I thought continuously about how to lose weight. I was overly critical, unappreciative and unhappy. 

Truth be told, I was in an abusive relationship with my body. I punished her for years. By punishing her, I was ultimately punishing myself.  I walked around not wanting to be seen. I hid in my clothes. Or I forced myself to wear clothes that didn’t fit properly because they were a size 6 and I couldn’t go above THAT size!  

From the outside I looked happy. I always had a smile on my face “out there”. But on the inside I was completely insecure and miserable.  Miserable because I had created an Ideal. A made-up image that I clung to so desperately that it prevented me from seeing the gift in front of my face.  That gift being my REAL body.

When I first started to examine this concept of getting to know my actual body, I had an epiphany. I realized…I am NEVER going to be taller, have bigger boobs, no cellulite or unwanted body hair. Those aren’t possible for me. By believing they were, I was an active participant in the vicious cycle of punishment. 

In that moment, with that awareness, something happened. A shift. I was more free. I felt like I got to see my real body for the first time ever. And boy, was she happy to see me! 

It was like I finally pulled that ratty, smelly, old book off the shelf and opened it up to discover the most miraculous, magical story!  By “opening her up”, I discovered such beauty and joy. I started to see my body as the gift she is. I found gratitude for the way she hears and responds to music. For the way she loves to dance. For the simple pleasures she provides me of sight, touch, taste, smell. Suddenly there was so much to see. So much I was WILLING to see. My lesson was letting go of the Ideal to embrace what was/is Real. 

By holding so tightly to that Ideal, I limited the unlimited. I didn’t allow for surprises or for something better. Which, by the way, is what I have found. Something better. This body I have is exquisite. I now walk through life with confidence, fully knowing exactly what my body needs to thrive…not just survive. She is my friend.  Not my enemy. I have opened to a place of pure compassion for her.  

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t slip up every now and then. I am human and sometimes my old boyfriends Ben & Jerry still get the best of me.  But I don’t beat myself up anymore.  I reconnect and recommit to taking care of her.  Which is ultimately taking care of me.

So…if you find flaw in every little thing and, in a way, enjoy picking things apart, I’ve got news for you. You may be suffering from “Ideal vs. Real” too.  Something to consider: What if perfect looks different than how we’ve imagined? Are you willing to hold onto your dreams loosely and allow for something even better to come into your life?

Might be a fun exercise to say YES! “Yes” to who you are.  “Yes” to all the wonderful things your body offers you. And “Yes” to seeing perfection in your imperfection.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011

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