Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ask, Don't Tell

(possible trigger warning for discussion of weight)

Today, I came across a comic that really hit home for me:

(Image from InkMurder on tumblr)
(Image from InkMurder on tumblr)

This jumped out at me because I've been there.


Personally, I tend to lose weight when I'm experiencing stress and anxiety. This isn't healthy for me. However, I've had people tell me how "jealous" they are that I can "lose weight easily" - with no mention or consideration of my overall health.

Several years ago, I became very ill and lost 20+ lbs in a short amount of time. Recovery was very slow, and it took me many, many months to gain back the weight I lost in order to get back to a healthy level. But during that time - during which there were periods where I could literally not walk across a room due to weakness - there were people who commented on my weight. Of all the things to comment on. As I struggled through my illness, I had people (both health professionals and friends) telling me that I looked good (because I was thin), had others telling me to just eat more because I was "too skinny", and still others telling me I was "fine" when I expressed concern about my rapid weight loss (people who assumed that since I was still proportionally curvy [read: still had larger breasts despite my weight loss], I wasn't "too thin"). As you might imagine, everything together contributed to a somewhat skewed sense of body image/self.

Today, I am at a healthy weight for my individual self, and I'm working on my overall health by doing the best I can in regards to eating well, getting the right kinds of exercise in, etc. But everyone's "healthy" looks different. It's something holistic that's not determined solely by appearance.

When I created this blog, I decided to use the word "skinny" in my tagline ("skinny, curvy, geeky") as a way to sort of "re-claim" a word that has been used as an insult by some, and to illustrate that someone can be naturally thin and curvy at the same time. But I want to make it clear that I don't think that the words "skinny" or "curvy" are some kind of goals to attain; rather, they're (fairly ambiguous) descriptors for certain body types. No body type is "wrong".

I wish it was common practice to tell friends "You look so healthy!" or ask "How are you doing?" instead of jumping to comment on someone's weight. This may require actual conversations and getting to know people - which, admittedly, isn't as easy as just making quick assumptions and remarks. But I think the aim is to be strong, happy, healthy - words that mean different things for different people. Ask me how I'm doing; don't tell me about myself based on what my body looks like.


What are your thoughts? Do you think that society tends to focus more on weight and appearance rather than overall, individual health?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Body Hair and Body Acceptance

I recently had a group conversation online about body hair. It started out the way these conversations usually go - someone admits to having a problem with "excess hair", others gradually start to chime in, and by the end of it everyone's saying "I thought I was the only one!"

This isn't always the scenario. Sometimes you're alone in a group of friends while they're talking about how they saw a woman today with unshaved armpits and how "gross" it was. You're just glad you're wearing a shirt with sleeves, because you don't always shave. Do they think I'm gross? you wonder.

This has come up for me even as part of the blogging world. All of the pictures of lingerie models I come across don't show any body hair. I look at pictures and feel vaguely out of place and even ashamed, because... that's not me.


Sometimes I shave my armpits. And sometimes I go weeks or more without shaving them. I like the feel and don't mind the look of fuzzy armpits, so I don't see a reason to always keep them shaved. That's just me. When I was on a swim team, I shaved a lot more because of practicality.

We have society today telling us that we should - we must - shave "excess" body hair. Ideally, according to some, we need to be completely hairless besides the hair on our heads. This was illustrated to me when once in the company of a (hairy, I might add) guy who expressed loud shock and disgust at the joking suggestion of a female friend that "we girls should participate in No-Shave November, too!" Apparently the thought of a woman with body hair was horribly disgusting to this guy.

Spoiler alert: most of us aren't completely hairless.

I shave my legs below the knee because I tend to like the way it looks and feels. I shave my armpits periodically mostly because of societal pressure. Even the minor backlash I got when one of my blog pictures was misappropriated and posted on a joke-type site (most comments were about how I must've had a breast augmentation, but others were focused on my armpit stubble) has made me nervous about showing any underarm hair in blog pictures.

Truth be told, some of us are just prone to more body hair than others. Certain ethnic groups are. I have pale, sensitive skin and generally dark body hair. In general, shaving tends to irritate my skin.

I apparently inherited my Welsh great-grandfather's awesome dark, full eyebrows, so I pluck and shape them.
(thanks, g-grandpa)
I chopped off my hair to donate and have kept it very short for over two years. I still have acne, even as a woman in my 20's. I have pockmarks and get random hairs on my face and have a thin, white scar under my lip from an injury suffered as an infant.

That's me.

If someone prefers things like smaller breasts, less body hair, long hair, or no tattoos in a significant other, that's great - but it doesn't make it okay for them to make body-shaming comments like "More than a handful is a waste", "Short hair is unfeminine", "People with armpit hair are disgusting", "People with tattoos are trashy".

Some women have dark body hair, facial hair, hair on their toes, hair on their thighs and/or butt and/or pubic region, hair on their stomach or chest or back. Some don't. Some women prefer to remove body hair. Some don't. And either way is great. Whatever we decide to do (or not do) with our body hair - that's okay. And whatever others decide to do - that's okay too.


Other posts and articles on the subject:
Voluptuously Thin
Arched Eyebrow
Article from Global Indian about Balpreet Kaur
American Apparel store mannequins
Woman with PCOS participates in No-shave November 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Braologie Bracie (Mini Posture Vest) Review

Early last month, Braologie was having a super sale on the updated version of their mini posture vest, the Bracie. The Bracie was created with several things in mind: to help take pressure off the ribcage from bra wires digging in, improve posture, create a smoother line under clothes, and bring the breasts more to the center (as well as create a more "uplifted" look). At the sale price of just $19.99 + free shipping, I decided to finally snatch it up!

I ordered a Size 1, which is the size recommended for ribcages measuring 24-27" (my underbust measurement is about 27"). My package arrived surprisingly quickly, especially considering the company is based in Hong Kong. A pamphlet is included that gives clear directions on how to wear the Bracie.


The size I ordered measured about 32" stretched. However, as the Bracie is worn a little lower than the bra band, it's good to keep in mind that you may need to size up if your ribcage flares out or you're in between sizes. Although I could fasten the Size 1, I would've been interested to try a Size 2, just for comparison.



The Bracie adds some support to the breasts by helping lift them from underneath. This can create some extra cleavage, which may be a great bonus for some. I appreciated the fact that I could use the Bracie for this if I so desired. However, I found that the Bracie gave my profile a little bit of an odd look from the side, possibly due to my breast shape. My breasts looked more projected and "centered", but as the Bracie comes up past the underbust, the band sort of cut in to my breasts and made them spill over the top of the Bracie a little oddly.

Profile with the Bracie

So, on to the main question: Did it help with posture? I've always struggled with poor posture, exacerbated by years of wearing ill-fitting bras in high school. Thus, I have really been on the lookout for something that serves more as a "gentle reminder" rather than full-on posture vest (which my chiropractors have advised against). The Bracie does provide this bit of a gentle reminder, and also does help a bit with smoothing the back. However, I would have to categorize the posture help I personally get from the Bracie as "very slight". It's not nothing, but it's less than I had hoped. However, I've heard accounts from others who say that they definitely noticed that their posture was helped by the Bracie, so this may be a very individual thing.
Image from Braologie.com

My main issue with the Bracie - and this was a big one for me - was that the bottom edge of the posture vest where the hooks sat was rough and caused skin irritation. I eventually tried wearing it with an extender to see if this would help the issue. It may have helped a little bit, but it by no means solved the problem. While I realize that I have more sensitive skin than some, this was such that I couldn't comfortably wear the Bracie for more than a few hours at a time, if that, and I was left with darker red marks that lasted for hours, far longer than the marks usually left by my everyday bras.

Red marks left by the Bracie

I experienced this irritation and marking regardless of whether or not I used an extender, and I don't believe it had to do with the Bracie being too tight - rather, I think it was a poor design factor that left certain portions of the fabric rough. You can see from the below examples where the main portion that caused the irritation was - on the bottom of the hook portion.

Normal vs. with band extender. Both ways left marks.
 One possible solution to this could've been wearing something protective underneath the Bracie, and/or covering the irritation portion with something like moleskin or another fabric, but I felt that this was too much of a hassle and shouldn't have been necessary. Also, I felt that the irritating portion was a little big to cover easily. I did experiment with sticking a bit of fabric underneath the hooks for a little while, but found it didn't really help the overall feel.


In summary, here's my personal pro/con list for the Bracie:

Pros
Fast shipping time
Helped create a smoother back
Slight posture help
Cleavage boost and a more forward/projected shape
 
Cons
Irritating fabric edges
Not as much posture help as I had expected
Somewhat odd profile shape
Not super comfortable overall

I think the Bracie would be best for those who struggle with bra underwires digging into their ribcage. Since I don't really have this problem, I didn't get to experience the benefit of having this relieved by the Bracie, but for those who have this issue (often a problem for those with sub-28 bands combined with J+ cups), the Bracie could become a wardrobe must.

Other Bracie Reviews:
Weirdly Shaped and Well Photographed
UndieGamer 
Venusian Glow
Voluptuously Thin


The Bracie regularly retails from Braologie for $39.99. What are your thoughts on this mini posture vest? Have you ever tried it, or anything similar? Would you?


--
A brief housekeeping note:

You may have noticed that I added a "Support the Blog/Donate" button to the sidebar a little while back. I've been on the fence about doing this for quite a while as I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable or obligated. However, I decided that giving readers the opportunity to contribute to blog content if they so wished would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. I can't always review items that I'd like to or that are requested due to my limited budget, but if there's something you'd like to see, you can donate towards a specific item on my blog wishlist, or just make an "in general" contribution - all donations will put towards blog content.

Again, no obligations or pressure to contribute here, but if you feel like this blog as been helpful to you and would like to see more varied content, this is a way to make that happen! And, as always, thank you guys for being so awesome. I appreciate your readership, moral support, and insightful comments. You're what keeps me going. <3

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Brand Review: Fit Fully Yours

Once in a while, I'm alerted to a brand that I'd never heard of before. The owner of online bra shop BeautyFull Bras contacted me the other month about reviewing a growing Canadian-based bra brand that she herself had fallen in love with: Fit Fully Yours Lingerie. (note blog policy)

My first impression when looking over the website was that even though the company uses US sizing (which traditionally tends to be more limited), the sizes available are fairly impressive: 30A to 46J (that's 46GG UK). The brand also looks to be expanding sizes in their lines that are more limited - a good sign!

As a UK 28H/US 28K, I'm sized out of just about every brand I can think of that uses US sizing, but luckily for me, the Maxine bra is available in my sister size of US 30J (UK 30GG), so I agreed to give it a whirl! I also enlisted the help of a reviewer, Marie, to try out a few of Fit Fully Yours' other options. Marie, who wears in the 36DD/E range, is lucky enough to generally fit within the Victoria's Secret size range; her recent experiences have largely been with VS-brand bras, in terms of comparison. A big thanks to her for sharing her thoughts!

Smooth Sweetheart in 36DD
The Smooth Sweetheart is available in nine colors in sizes 30-38 A, 30-44 B-F, and 30-38 FF (UK sizing). It retails for $58.

Marie says:
"The bra seems like a good standard bra made with decent material. I decided to try the Fawn colorway since I needed a new tan bra (although I did like the other colors available). I liked how in the front the material in between the cups has a slight upward curve. It made the cups seem less bulky and annoying while I was wearing it.

Smooth Sweetheart 36DD
The band was tight. I'm a solid 36 band across the board, but even fastened on the loosest hook, the bra is very firm. However, I like tight bands so this was good for me - it was a "comfy tight". Someone who likes looser bands probably would not care as much for this bra.

Front and side views of Smooth Sweetheart, 36DD
The straps were interesting... I could only adjust them halfway. I have a long torso (bras that advertise as convertible into racerback have too short of straps for me to do that), so the straps had to be loosened all they way for a comfortable fit."

Crystal Smooth in 38DD
The Crystal Smooth comes in five colors, in sizes 32-38 A and 30-40 B-FF (UK sizing), with a retail cost of $59.95. Marie first tried the bra in a 36DD, but found the bra to be too tight in the band and small in the cups. She exchanged for a 38DD (the owner of BeautyFull Bras was great to work with, by the way) and was much happier with the fit, calling it her "new favorite bra!" Her thoughts:

"I really liked the Crystal bra! I generally wear a 36DD, but the 36 band on this bra was way too tight for me (it measured just 35" fully stretched). I went with 38DD instead and it fit perfectly!

36DD Chrystal in turquoise as compared to the 36DD Smooth Sweetheart, top
38DD Chrystal in champagne, bottom

I think the material is super comfy, which definitely makes it nice to wear all day. It also had a cute little jewel decoration in the center to add that something special. :) My only dislike was the straps. Again, you can only adjust them halfway, and the other half is a "fixed" strap. It's not uncomfortable, but personally I just like being able to adjust the whole strap.

Front and side views of Crystal Smooth in 38DD
Overall, I think this is a GREAT bra that is very comfortable, but order the band one size bigger then you normally do."

I've also been informed that this bra in particular (as well as many others from the Fit Fully Yours line) works well for augmented breasts. Since it can be very tricky to find a bra that gives a good fit and the right shape for implants, this should be welcome news for many!


Maxine Moulded in 30J (30GG UK sizing)
I tried this bra out in the Ocean Green colorway (it ended up being a very, very light, almost minty green). The Maxine comes in sizes 30-46 D-GG (UK sizing) and five colorways, with a new red color coming out in early 2014. It retails for higher than most of the rest of the brand's offerings (presumably this is largely due to the fact that it comes in more sizes), at $79.95.

In keeping with Marie's experience with the other two bras, the band was definitely firm, measuring 29" fully stretched. My underbust measures 27", and this bra felt snug to me when fastened on the tightest hooks. It would be ideal, then, for someone who prefers looser 28 bands, tighter 30 bands, or who considers themselves "in between" bands.

Maxine, 30J
Fitwise, it was really quite close to being a good fit despite my having to sister-size to a 30 band. I did notice that I got a little bit of empty space in the bottoms of the cup, but not enough to make the bra unwearable. The top edge of the cups seems fairly forgiving, and I'd guess that the cups would work with most breast shapes. The tops of the cup felt a tiny bit empty for me (although the edge of the cup sat nicely against my chest) as I have a more full-on-bottom shape, but I think that this wouldn't happen in my exact right size (and those with a more full-on-top shape would probably get a nice bit of cleavage in this bra).

Maxine Moulded side and front - 30J [30GG]
The straps are halfway adjustable, the band has three hooks, and I'd call the wires on the more narrow side. The top of the cups and the straps also have an embossed design, which adds a bit of interest and (I found) doesn't show up under shirts. Overall, the look, feel, and style of the bra reminded me of the nicer bras that one sees in department stores and Victoria's Secret - it was nice to get to wear the kind of bra similar to what I see carried in stores for just about the first time. I would consider this bra to be more "full coverage" than the moulded bras I usually wear; it's definitely not as deep a plunge like the Freya Deco (see below).

Deco as compared to Maxine, both 30GG
However, I also didn't find that the bra came up too high - it didn't show under the scoop-neck shirts I tried it with (I'd steer clear of wearing it with very low/wide v-necks, though). The material was comfortable and lightweight, and it's moulded, not padded (for comparison, the Deco has a light layer of padding in between the fabric). And while the bra cups themselves appear a bit pointy rather than completely rounded, I didn't find that the bra gave a pointy shape underneath clothing.

30J Maxine bra under Urkye Skub shirt (36oo/ooo)

Concluding thoughts:

My overall first impression of the Fit Fully Yours brand is a positive one. I think the bras would be ideal for those who prefer a very smooth, "mainstream" looking material, are looking for firmer bands, are looking for sizes that can be hard to find (like 30 bands and 40-46 bands in B-GG cups), and (particularly the Crystal Smooth line) for those who have had a breast augmentation. Personally, I appreciated the decent size range, the range of colors available, and the firm bands. The price point for this brand is on the higher end, but for those within the various "hard to fit" categories, it may well be worth it.

You can find the Fit Fully Yours bras mentioned in this post in stock at at BeautyFull Bras, which offers free shipping.

Have you heard of this brand before? What are your thoughts?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mental Illness Awareness Week: Oct. 6-12

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week in the US. It's estimated that 20% of Americans have personally experienced mental illness, and 5% suffer from serious mental illness. Thus it's very possible that most of my readers either know someone who struggles with a mental illness or have struggled themselves. This is one reason I decided to write a related post this week.

Today's post is on a subject that hits close to home for me. Some readers may already know that I suffer from depression and sometimes-debilitating anxiety, and I have loved ones who struggle with various mental illnesses.

Mental illness is still a fairly taboo subject in today's society. While overall it seems that public awareness is improving - for instance, when celebrities or athletes share about their own struggles (Carrie Fisher, Brandon Marshall, Brooke Shields, Paula Deen, Pete Wentz, Jon Hamm, to name a few) - there are still many misunderstandings and stigmas that exist.

Thankfully, there are many resources out there today - books, articles, online forums, phone helplines, classes - both for those who struggle themselves and for those who have loved ones struggling. I'm including a quick roundup of a small variety of helpful/educational books and links that I have read or have had others recommend. Sometimes, it helps to just know that you're not alone and that there are resources out there from others who understand. And even if you do not personally struggle with mental illness or have a close loved one who does, resources like these can be helpful in order to educate yourself and better understand how to help others.
*please read at your own discretion as some resources contain trigger warnings. If you or someone you know is seriously struggling, please consult a medical professional. Remember that only medical professionals can make a diagnosis.


NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a great overall resource. Their website has lots of helpful information and articles. NAMI also holds local, 12-week classes both for family members/loved ones/caretakers of those struggling with serious mental illness (Family to Family) as well as classes for those personally suffering from serious mental illness (Peer to Peer) and various other support groups.




I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment

Ben Behind His Voices: One Family's Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope 
(+ blog)

Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner

Depression Part Two (Blog post from Hyperbole and a Half)

Depression Quest: An Interactive (non) fiction about living with Depression

24 Comics That Capture the Frustration of Anxiety Disorders

It Happened to Me: My Parents are Hoarders (Article from xojane)

4 Things No One Tells You About Having OCD

I Do Not Have an Eating Disorder (Comic that touches on the author's struggles with Anorexia/Anxiety/Depression/Self Harm)

Stop Walking On Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back when Someone You Care About has Borderline Personality Disorder

Real Monsters (Illustrations of various mental illnesses as monsters)

Mental Health - From Shame to Seeking Treatment (7-part blog series)

Series of various posts from Homeschoolers Anonymous


If you have resources that you've found useful, feel free to add them in the comments.