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Black Girl Magic

11 Aug

11231849_10155925756280268_3757726510498463682_nI don’t know what’s changed recently, but I’ve noticed a trend. I didn’t so much see it coming as much as I was so caught up in the whirlwind of it that I couldn’t see what was happening around me. But others did. They saw. They noticed and made sure others did. And it’s amazing.

Not one, not two, but three amazing fitness goddesses are gracing the covers of magazines this week. Not just any goddesses–black goddesses. These women are the epitome of black girl magic. And they are working it!

These three women exemplify what Black Girl Magic is–black women working hard and accomplishing the goals they’ve set out for themselves. It’s not often that the world gets to see such power, atheleticism and elegance exemplified by black women on the covers of national magazines. It’s uplifting and remarkable to see. I know I’ll be picking up my copies and learning more about these phenomenal women.

Serena Williams

11817170_10153516713484826_5534474984263977955_nMy love of Serena is well-documented on this blog. I don’t have to remind you of how her dedication to her sport is awe-inspiring. I don’t need to reiterate how watching her repeatedly defeat her opponents in such swift manner gives me the giggles. I shouldn’t have to tell you again that her body is my life’s goal.

What I will tell you is that she will head into her fourth and final Grand Slam of the season at the end of the month. I’ll fill you in on the fact that if she wins the U.S. Open, it will be the first time in decades a woman has completed a calendar-year Grand Slam. I’ll spill some tea about how Serena has learned to stop being so hard on herself and just enjoy the game. That glee at just being a part of the sport she loves so much has allowed her excel far more than anyone would have expected this far into her career.

And when she takes the court at the end of the month, I’ll be watching as many matches as possible. Because my hero deserves it.

Misty Copeland

misty_essenceJust as I have used a great amount of server space fawning over Serena, I’ve begun to notch out some room for Misty. I love dancers. I loved dancing as a kid. I still have impromptu dance parties by myself in my living room. The freedom of expression through movement is such an incredible craft to master. And Misty has done that in spades.

Like Serena, Misty was met with odd comments about her body. She is muscular, where many of her contemporaries are not. But she is athletic. She can take difficult choreogrophy, attack a move and still make you think she’s moving through the air like a feather. Because she’s awesome.

Essence magazine thought so, too, when they gave her the cover of September’s issue. In one of her spreads, she’s surrounded by several young black ballerinas who are looking up to their role model: the first black principle ballerina for the American Ballet Theater.

Misty is an inspiration to millions of young dancers who may not be the perceived ideal of what a prima ballerina looks like. She is the new ideal.

Ciara

ciara_shapeCiara’s had it rough in the press this summer. Not because of her album. Not because of any diva tirade she’s gone on. And not because of any scandal she’s created. She is an adult involved in a romantic relationship with another adult that doesn’t involve sex. This news would have blown over swiftly if it hadn’t been for her ex-boyfriend questioning her as a mother and her relationship decisions.

Instead of clapping back (as I would have), she took the high road. She ventured a couple of little subtweets and moved on having fun with Russell Wilson.

Then she went on to release the video that makes “Ride” and “Body Party” look like Kidz Bop videos.

Now, to top it all off, the mother of one is on the cover of Shape magazine looking like she’s ready to fight. Ciara has always had a great body. Like Misty, her body is her instrument. She’s an amazing dancer and keeps her body healthy to maintain those physical demands. Like Serena, she has studied the greats and uses that knowledge to make herself better.

In Shape to Work Out

29 Jul
womens_running_cover

Courtesy of Women’s Running

I have large thighs. Occasionally they look like tree trunks. As I’ve gotten older, my arms have gotten wobbly. I have the opposite of a six-pack. And there’s flab in places I’d prefer it not to be.

I’m also a runner.

When perusing health magazines–or magazines in general–you won’t come across people who look much like me. But get out on the trail, and you’ll find us there. Those of us with short legs and jiggly butts. Those of us who’ve never had flat stomachs but possess awkward gaits. We’re out there with the supermodels and the model parents. We’re making full use of what nature has provided in order to make ourselves healthy.

We’re out there with people like Erica Schenk. It was such a treat to see Erica on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. The August issue features Erica mid-stride in her super-cute running wear, looking like many of the runners I pass (but also pass me).

Erica, who was being shot for a spread on the different available sizes in athletic wear, ended up being the editor’s choice for the cover.

“There’s a stereotype that all runners are skinny, and that’s just not the case,” editor-in-chief Jessica Sebor said in an interview with Today.com. “Runners come in all shapes and sizes. You can go any race finish line, from a 5K to a marathon, and see that. It was important for us to celebrate that.”

It’s important to celebrate athletes of all sizes. Just as Amanda Bingson is a powerhouse at the hammer throw,  Prince Fielder is an amazing hitter and Misty Copeland is a technical wizard at ballet, you can excel at your field.

Or you can just participate in it. Being of able body doesn’t mean having the perfect body. We can’t all be shaped like Brittney Griner or Michael Phelps in order to succeed at a sport. It helps if you want to excel. But the only requirements for participation is a wilingness to try.

That’s it. You just have to want to do it. Getting better at it will come with time. As I said, definition is not the definition of success. Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Did you accomplish the task by finishing your run? Did you do the extra laps at the pool you’d intended on doing? Were you able to increase your resistance and not pass out?

Success! And you did it all without looking like a fitness model.

Do the work and worry about the image later. If you want further defined legs and arms, then make that a goal. Worrying about what you like like on the road to success will only slow you down. As for me, I’ll take my tree-trunk thighs to the pool, spin class and even the park because it’s what I enjoy doing. And my in-shape brethren will be there with me (likely eating my dust).

Have you ever let your size deter you from trying a new fitness activity? If you were able to overcome it, how did you do it?

Prom Night

4 May

promWhen I was in high school, I couldn’t wait for prom. I was that girl. My daily attire consisted of some combination of jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants. If the weather warmed up, I’d throw on some shorts. But when it came to events like homecoming and prom, I’d turn it up a notch. I’d put on skirts and stockings, wear a little makeup and even have a purse to carry it in for touch ups. And let’s not forget the heels. I looked like a different person. I didn’t feel the need to dress up on the regular because I had to walk what felt like a gazillion miles to and from in addition to having Pom-Pom practice after school. Dresses were for special occasions.

Today’s kids don’t need an occasion to get dolled up. But they still treat that annual rite of passage—prom—with a bit of reverence. They look forward to letting their style shine through. For many, it’s their own version of the Oscars.

If that’s the case, why shouldn’t they shine bright like the diamonds they are? If that’s the case, why would an adult prevent one from letting her light shine because she wasn’t size appropriate?

That’s the sense I got when I read the story of Alexus Miller-Wigfall of Harrisburg, Penn., who was suspended because a school official deemed her prom dress too revealing. Another school administrator ripped up the reprimand, though no one has explained why Alexus was suspended in the first place.

alexus

Please, tell me what you see. I see a beautiful girl who’s face is beat. Who looks wonderful in red. Whose date looks like he just won the lottery. Who looks simply amazing.

What I don’t see is a girl revealing any more flesh than some of her schoolmates may have. She’s actually quite modest except for the V in the bodice, which, let’s be honest, is as deep as the V in a T-shirt.

It’s bad enough when our peers shame us for our appearances, but for a school official to pick on a student who is dressed so lovely for such a special occasion is reprehensible. How is that ok?

It’s not. This site isn’t just about my weight-loss journey. It’s about coming to terms with who you are, both physically and mentally. Wherever you are on your journey, you still have to live life. You still have to interact with people. And you should try to take moments of joy whenever you can, regardless of what you look like.

Alexus did just that and she deserved to have the prom of her dreams. Screw the administrator who took that away from her.

How to Get Beach-Body Ready

27 Apr
bikini_body

Courtesy of Tumblr

The worst is finally over. Soon, we’ll have non-stop 70-plus-degree days. The sun will shine, the leaves will bud on trees and the beach will be calling your name.

Yes, skinny people, it’s almost time to get back on the beach. I’ve had my own issues with being beach-body ready. Or, really, bikini ready. Those are two different things that are kind of the same, if you think about it.

Being bikini ready literally means being ready to wear a bikini. The funny thing is, bikinis come in every size. I knew this before I put on my first bikini, but still didn’t feel confident enough to wear one. Eventually I got over it and put on the suit you see in the strip at the top.

I even gained so much confidence in my bikini body that I bought a suit in the city known for the tiniest suits to man. Rio de Janeiro, God bless is, has no shame when it comes to being bikini ready. Someone from Brazil told me that to wear a full-piece bathing suit is to stick out like a sore thumb. She even said that she feels weird wearing bottoms that cover her whole bottom. It’s just not done in Brazil.

So when I was in Brazil, I did as the Brazilians did and wore the world’s smallest bathing suit. It was four pieces of fabric held together by string. It covered just what needed to be covered. And not a snicker was heard. Because nobody in Brazil cares. It’s hot, the beach is cool, and you can get some sun and a nice ocean breeze.

The beauty of that is beaches are everywhere. And while having the confidence to do as Brazilians did may sit well with me on another continent, I may not always feel myself enough to rock that sucker here in the states. But that’s not going to stop me from going to the beach. The beach is for everyone and every body. Sand doesn’t discriminate when it gets stuck between your toes. Ocean water is salty no matter what size you are. And the sun will fry you regardless of your dress size.

So if that’s the case, then what’s the fuss about being beach-body ready? Beach-body readiness is the line of propaganda fed to us like warm, gooey mac and cheese to get people to feel bad about themselves for wearing less clothing at the beach. It’s bullshit. In order to be beach-body ready, you need to have and do three things.

1. Have a body

2. Take that body to the beach

3. Wear whatever you want

This weekend, some Londoners are planning to protest this sign, saying it body shames people into feeling bad that they don’t look like the model at the beach. Screw that company and screw anyone who wants to put people down for not being their definition of “beach-body ready.” You do you.

If you’re not feeling your look that day, you don’t have to wear a bikini or even a bathing suit. Wear what makes you comfortable. Look up the weather that day. Find out if you need to bring an extra set of pants if it’s getting cool that night. Or rock out in your kaftan. Or cover up head to toe in a burqa, if that’s your steez. It doesn’t matter. If you want to be at the beach, take it to the beach.

All I ask is that you slather on the SPF, because skin cancer doesn’t care how much you weigh.

Body You Want vs. Body You Get

27 Apr
reflections

Courtesy of Tumblr

I’m getting old. Well, older. My birthday is in a few weeks, but I’m reminded daily of the toll age is taking on me. Mostly, the toll age is taking on my hair. In the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more white hairs popping up to besmirch my luscious black. I had a feeling this would happen. While my mother barely grayed, my father has a head full of white hair. I can’t remember him not having gray hair, albeit not this much.

This constant reminder of days gone by can be a drag. But the good thing is, I can dye it back to black. I can cut it or style it to where the grays are hidden. And if I get it cut in a style that looks like I told my beautician to betray me, I can go somewhere else and get something better. Or I can wear wigs. Or I can get braids. Or I can shave my head and start all over again.

There are numerous options available to me when it comes to getting the hair I want. I may find a style in a book that looks great there, but looks terrible on me. The same can be said for my body.

There is a trap we all get into when it comes to weight loss. We look at Vogue, Elle, InStyle and the rest of them and see the Jourdan Dunns, Joan Smalls, Lara Stones and the like. Or we look at the sports magazines and see the Serena Williamses, Rhonda Rouseys or Alyson Felixes of the world and we paste them up on our vision boards.

“That’s what I want to look like,” we tell ourselves.

Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

The problem with that is we don’t always know what we’re in for. Serena and her sister Venus share the same 100+ mile-an-hour serve, they have the same nose and even their giggles sound alike. But they are shaped very differently. It’s not that one works out more than the other. It’s that they are physically different.

Discovering that the work you’re doing won’t make you look like your idol can feel like a setback. Try to think of it as a step forward. Your weight-loss journey is yours alone. Your idol didn’t take you there. Your idol didn’t prepare your meals or lace up your sneakers. Your idol didn’t wake you up at the butt-crack of dawn to burn calories. That was all you. Your idol was your motivation, don’t let them be your goal.

You did all the work and now is the time to celebrate. Take pride in the muscle you’ve toned on your arms. Take another gander at those gams that have shaped up recently. Rub on that stomach that’s not pooching out as much anymore. It doesn’t look like your idol’s. It looks like you.

not_the_sameWe’ve all heard the lines. “I’d kill for her calves.” “Her arms are my obsession.” “That’s what I want my butt to look like in a dress.” It’s a nice idea, but maybe it’s not for you. Maybe your calves don’t curve that way. Maybe bicep curls and triceps dips will only keep the turkey giggle away and not form tighter muscles. And maybe your butt is just your butt. It doesn’t make your body less than anything you’ve seen in the magazines.

John Mayer had it right: your body is a wonderland. It will move how you want it, but it will shape on its own. Love it anyway.