Sunday, April 24, 2011

DVF, Beauty and Imperfection

Diane von Furstenberg is a designer who is well known for her classic prints and iconic wrap dresses. She has been designing since the 1970's and as a successful designer in the fashion industry (and as a woman!!), she has a lot to say about beauty. I came across something that she said recently that I wanted to share.

"Sometimes I think that we've regressed . . . All these women with fake breasts and cosmetic surgery — all that just objectifies us again . . . But I think the pendulum will swing back the other way. The whole point about beauty is its imperfection."

What do you think of that statement that she makes, that the whole point about beauty is its imperfection? While I certainly agree with her, I think it is a tough thing to conceptualize-- since most of the cultural messages we receive tell us a different story. One thing that I try to think about is how boring our world would be if we all looked the same! I think that we can often get sucked into the comparison vortex, trying to measure our appearance (and really our perceptions of our appearance!) based on what others look like. It is a vicious cycle that amongst other things, lends itself to a lack of originality. I hadn't really thought about it like that before... Consider the words of Diane von Furstenberg this week, and start to think about how you might begin to embrace the beauty of imperfection.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Compassion and Magazines...

Awhile back, I wrote a post about mixed messages in the media (what else?! haha)... and the confusion/backlash that can result when celebrities, for example, have had plastic surgery and then pledge their solidarity with real women all over the world by going without photoshop on the cover of a magazine. Rather than judge (which is the likely inclination), it occurred to me that the issue of beauty hypocrisy is an extremely complicated one. And rather than judge celebrities for sending mixed messages about health and beauty, perhaps we might try to understand the intense pressure that they are under and ultimately consider what leads them to make the decisions and choices that they do. By working to try to understand, it is possible that we might somehow see things differently as we have compassion, which might impact our expectations towards our views of beauty, ourselves, and trying to make consistent decisions about our health. I would encourage you to check it out here.

I say all of that as a way to preface the fact that I was completely overwhelmed with compassion when I read about something that happened this week with Scarlett Johansson. Let me first start off by saying that Scarlett Johansson is beautiful!! She has been outspoken about healthy body image and not succumbing to Hollywood pressures to fit an unrealistic ideal. (Check out the piece she wrote in the Huffington Post back in 2009 here after being criticized as rumors were going around about her losing weight for a movie role.)

So, this past week, Scarlett was out for a run and a paparazzi snapped a picture of her... and baby rumors started flying.  From the angle of the shot and the way her body was moving, it looked like she had the makings of a tiny baby bump. Well, turns out it was no baby bump and just the way that her body appeared from that particular angle, while running and in spandex. Can you imagine having your picture snapped while going for a run in spandex for the whole world to scrutinize and judge? Um, no thank you!! While some people might argue that it goes with the territory of being a celebrity, I would argue that no job or status should override the common decency extended to every human being, ... no one should be scrutinized in that manner- celebrity or otherwise. Celebrities are real people too, with feelings and insecurities-- what makes us think it is okay to judge them and their bodies when we say that it is not okay to criticize and judge our own bodies, or those of our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones?? 

The difficulty lies in the fact that we play a part in providing a demand for these kinds of photos because we buy the magazines, read the celebrity blogs, etc. Let me be the first to say that I am an offender! I like to know what is going on in the world, and that involves Hollywood. After I graduated from college, I subscribed to multiple magazines (not exactly literary ones- think US magazine, Glamour, etc). In recent years however, I have really tried to not buy magazines. Of course, there are times when I am given magazines by others- friends in town visiting who want to get rid of them after a flight, etc. But I try not to buy the ones that I used to subscribe to. I don't keep a hard and fast rule that says I will never buy or read a magazine (I'm a Real Simple fan!!), or that I think it's wrong to, I just feel that by not buying them, I am taking a little stand and not using my money or time to invest in something that may serve to impact me and others in a negative way. I also feel that the less I subject myself to images in magazines that so often aren't even real, I am exposing myself less frequently to a standard that I don't want to feel pressure to submit to. I know the power and influence that images can have, and I don't want to welcome that influence! However, I don't think the answer to the body image/beauty/media problem is to hibernate and not interact with any outlets of the media. I just think that by not buying these magazines (even if it means only buying them occasionally instead of often), we might reduce the demand for such pictures. Just a thought to consider. If you enjoy reading magazines, this isn't a judgment call for you to stop reading them. But it is one way to consider making an impact!!

*As a side note, when I was considering what images to add to this post, I was searching images and added an old cover of an US magazine, and then realized how hypocritical that might be to use. !! It requires so much thought to be consistent, and we sometimes make mistakes and aren't able to see it. But that is okay! We are all just works in progress :-) While I am always very careful about the images I use on my blog, and never want to use images that would be triggering or unhealthy, I would say that this made me think even more about what kinds of images I use! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

 Happy Happy Birthday to my brother, Jonathan!!

While I don't normally write posts like this, I am SO proud of the man my brother has grown up to be and wanted to make sure he knows!! I am obviously a little biased, but he is just such a nice guy. He coaches tennis now for Duke University, and I believe that he is making such a difference in the lives of college guys as he coaches and teaches them about tennis, but also about having character and class. He has always had both (well.. aside from the occasional middle school boy jokes, haha). This is one of my favorite pictures of him above.. accepting the Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship Award when he was in college from Jeanne Moutoussamy, the wife of the late Arthur Ashe, while at the US Open. 

He is a loyal and supportive friend to his loved ones- he willingly joined in on my moving party this year when I went out on my own in private practice. Here he is on the left, pretending to pout about something (haha) while walking for a cure at the Komen Breast Cancer 5k this past June to support my aunt in her recovery from breast cancer.

I like to encourage people- on my blog AND in real life:)- to tell the ones you love how you feel about them and what they mean to you. Words can go a long way. So Jonathan, on your birthday, I wanted you to know that you are loved! Hope this is your best year yet!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grateful Tree and the Fashion of Gratitude

Last year, I had the opportunity to interview Brett Clouser (of the reality show Survivor) and Courtney Schreiber of The Monument of Our Hearts (TMOOH). I was so impressed by their clothing company and their mission to "design apparel that creates conversations and empowers people to feel beautiful." In addition, they donate a percentage of their profits to different organizations that promote healthy body image. You can check out that post here (and their merchandise here)While I believe that fashion is generally created with the intention to inspire conversations about beauty, perhaps it is designers like Brett who are trying to empower people by starting different kinds of conversations that are counter-intuitive to the fashion industry's definition of beauty. 

Michelle, me, Karen- grad school friends!
It is rare to find socially conscious clothing lines, which is why I was super excited to hear that one of my friends from graduate school recently started such a clothing line- The Grateful Tree!! But the most exciting part about it is that the clothing company she started is focused on gratitude and helping others. Karen Thiel, the designer, started this company as a way to raise money for her favorite charities. In addition, when any product is sold, a tree is planted through their partner organization Trees for the Future. You can read more about that here. Karen and I met while we were both graduate students at Arizona State University studying counseling psychology- we endured some long study sessions together but have fun memories of Phoenix Suns games and taking a girls trip to Vegas! While we were in school, Karen was volunteering and doing her internship at Healthy Futures, a practice in Scottsdale that specializes in treating eating disorders. (In fact, one of the charities that she donates to is NEDA! The National Eating Disorders Association- more on that below..). Anyways, she got a job there after graduation and worked for awhile before taking a break to launch her clothing line. I had a chance to ask her some questions and wanted to share more with you about what she is doing!!

Q: What inspired you to start Grateful Tree? And where did the name come from? 

Karen: Grateful Tree is a combination of things I love: Positivity, apparel with a cause, comfortable clothing, helping others, & the fashion of gratitude. Last year I was going through much work stress. I craved a creative outlet and something that was light hearted and fun. It felt right to have giving as a key component. The name- “Grateful” came because I wanted to promote the fashion of gratitude; that a shift in thoughts and perspective towards finding appreciation is powerful in times of distress and crucial for finding enjoyment in life. I chose a virtual “Tree” due to my liking of metaphor and symbolism. Trees encompass meaning from so many things; growth, nature, yoga, strength, stability, and beauty. 

Q: Tell me about your shirt that raises money for NEDA!
Karen: I’ve dedicated the Grateful “Hope” shirt to NEDA. Grateful Tree will donate 30% of proceeds from sales of this tee to help support their endeavors. The shirt is turquoise, vintage soft, and made in the U.S.A.
The Grateful 'Hope' Shirt

Q: Why did you choose NEDA as a charity to give to? 

Karen: I’ve been familiar with the work of NEDA for the last few years while working as a clinician in a counseling clinic specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. I admire their creative ventures that bring hope and awareness to communities. Societally, I think that eating disorders are misunderstood and underdiagnosed. Having frequently witnessed the strife that they can have on individuals and families, I feel tremendous compassion for the cause.

I am so proud of Karen for all that she is doing to raise awareness of eating disorders and donating time and money to such a great cause. Beyond that, it's exciting to see someone pursuing creative and unique avenues to impact the lives of others in positive ways. I would encourage you all to check out the website, which is located at  --you can access it by clicking here. Karen also has a blog that you can check out here! If you are interested in updates and new products, you can also follow The Grateful Tree on Facebook! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Raleigh NEDA Walk Recap !!

Yesterday marked the first annual Raleigh NEDA Walk. (NEDA=National Eating Disorders Association). I know I have mentioned this event a lot on my blog, so you're probably either excited to read this post because it means the event is over and I will no longer be incessantly posting about it :), or you are maybe excited to hear how it went! Well... I am so happy to share that this event was not only FUN!!, but we raised over $10,000!! How incredible!!

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day (at 630am however, I was wondering if my fingers were ever going to thaw out- ha!). After a week of rain and clouds, I was just so thankful for a sunshine-y and blue clouds kind of day!!
Walkers heading from Meredith College onto the Greenway!

While the final numbers aren't in, I think we ended up having around 140-150 people come out for the event. I was so excited that people came out to support and help raise awareness about such an important cause. It ended up that a few news channels came out to cover the walk which was a great way to raise a little awareness for those at home- you can follow this link to watch a quick clip from News Channel 14's coverage. As a funny little aside, I had to give a super quick interview (which I really, really didn't want to do!! haha).. And I totally choked on the last question that the news reporter asked me!! I got nervous, and froze. Afterwards, I told the reporter how embarrassed I was that I froze (this was live and not able to be edited), she tried to reassure me that it was fine-- and then she said, "honestly, it's not like anyone really watches this anyways." HAHA. I thought that was pretty funny considering this is her job--I think she was just trying to make me feel better :-). It was a good reminder though that it's okay not to take yourself too seriously..

One of my favorite little things that we did at the registration table when people showed up??? We had ribbons out for people to pick out and wear- and while I'm not sure whose idea this was, it was awesome!! All of the ribbons were different patterns, colors, shapes and sizes...  which reflect beauty, ...which comes in all colors, shapes and sizes!! When people came to check in and register for the walk and I shared with them what the ribbons meant, people were really impacted. I wish I knew who to credit for this brilliant idea!!

Left to Right: Erika Pockell, Buddy Howard, Elyse Tilley, Nealie Tebb,
Michelle Adolphsen, Ellen Morrison, me and Heather Peyton
This was just such a rewarding experience, and one that I am so glad I was able to be a part of. I met some really great people in the process, too!! If you are interested in participating or volunteering for next year's walk, let me know (send me an email!). While we aren't going to start planning again for awhile, we could always use more volunteers, people who are passionate who want to help out OR who have ideas about next year's events. We already have some really great ideas and events that we are going to try to make happen in 2012.. but for now, I think celebrating the fun that we had and the community's contributions are in order :-)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tomorrow, Tomorrow!!!

I'm so excited for the Raleigh NEDA Walk that is happening tomorrow (Sunday April 3) at Meredith College! It's not too late to register or come on out Sunday morning! (or donate money to the cause as well!). Follow this link for more information. I will post a re-cap of the day (hopefully tomorrow) so check back in!! 

A few quick details below...

  • Directions to Meredith College located here!!
  • Walk begins at 9am (registration starts at 8am!).
  • Dogs are allowed (just be kind and pick up after them!)
  • Elyse Tilley will be sharing her recovery story.
  • There are two options for the walk- a one mile loop and a two mile loop. We encourage people to participate at their leisure, and if you don't want to walk, you can come on out and just show your support by being there.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at, or Michelle Adolphsen at