Burning Man: Helping April get over her fears yet again.

Hello again, readers!

I apologize for my silence over the past two weeks but I have been busy preparing, attending, and recovering from Burning Man. I ended up staying just a few days at the monumental event of around 70,000 people, however, I came home with a bunch of stories and an even more magical embrace of my body image than I had shown up with. Last time I wrote here on the blog, I told my story about my first experience at Burning Man and how dropping my top helped me get over a lot of my self-shame about my body size.

This time at Burning Man, I tested myself even further. I had longed to separate the sexuality aspect away from the ability to just be comfortable in my own skin with no constrictions. My brother Tommy was going to be joining me for this adventure and, you may remember me saying, I was hesitant about getting fully topless in front of him. It just didn’t seem like something I could do. The general American view of women being bare-chested around other people in a non-sexual situation is just not accepted.  Women can barely whip out a boob in a private corner to breast feed her baby without someone gawking at her or making a rude comment about how she needs to “cover up.” As my time progressed on and the desert heat continued to beat down on me like Animal on a set of drums, I started to make small steps in finding my true level of comfort around a sea of strangers. I suggested to Tommy on the second night, “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you just walk about thirty feet in front of me? That way, you won’t see my boobs.” My brother would laugh and walk on as I fell behind to embrace nothingness upon my skin.

On Day 3, our final day there, I decided to just go for it. I had left to go to port-o-potty land and while walking, I decided to take off my uncomfortably itchy bikini top. Instantly, my body temperature dropped and I felt much better. Once back at our truck, my neighbors offered me some coffee and as I went over to talk to them, I covered up my chest and commented how I didn’t want my brother to see as he was a couple hundred feet away taking down our tent set-up. My neighbors, two lovely people from Montana named John and Sherri,  laughed at me and began what became a few hours of amazing conversation and insight on how to live life. They broke down for me so simply how silly I was being and that if I wanted to do something, I should just do it, and surely my brother would get over it. I also remarked how eventually my brother will probably see a kid attached to one of my boobs so I might as well get it over with now.

After talking to these Burning Man angels of wisdom, I decided to approach Tommy. I went up to him all confident and stated my claim, that I wasn’t going to be afraid today to just let it all hang out. As the amazing brother he is, he said something that gives me happy tears as I write this. He said, “April, I’m pretty sure the only one who cares about me seeing your boobs is you.” I instantly felt a million times more confident and for the rest of the afternoon, I paraded around not only topless but just in a bikini bottom and my hand-sewn white hooded cape. I even got noticeably checked-out so that made me feel great too until they would notice Tommy and IMMEDIATELY turn away.

Words of advice: If you don’t want any attention from the opposite sex at a large social event:  make sure you go with your sibling – everyone will think you’re married. This concept also works with friends as well.

Once I got home my ability to just be comfortable with my body didn’t leave. That night, as I laid in bed with Alyssa (who was in town hosting our honorary sister Katelyn’s bridal/bachelorette parties), I didn’t even pay attention to the fact that I was sans-shirt and totally talking to both girls with no shame at all. I didn’t even give it a thought until Alyssa  commented on the noticeable difference I was showing as she knows first hand my insecurity about my chest. Now that it’s been a week since I got home, I haven’t exactly been running around topless in the house, but I don’t seem to be as self-conscious about bits of skin showing. If my shirt accidentally comes up a bit and my love-handles show, I’m not so aggressive when it comes to getting my shirt pulled back down immediately. I went to the doctor the other day and as I sat there in my luxury giant drape of medical paper-towel, my bare ass totally exposed for the doctor to see, I quickly shushed my inner thoughts of body shame and had an epiphany. I realized, if anything, getting to see my lower parts was probably like visiting a princess’s palace in comparison to the hundred’s of different bodies she sees in a year. I may be overweight but I bet she would rather see my bare ass than that of a 85 year old man. So I got over it and left the doctor feeling proud of myself for putting myself in check so quickly.

How are all of you when it comes to nudity in a non-sexualized way? If you’ve breast fed, have you ever had feelings of insecurity about doing it in a public place? Have you been one of the women that has been ridiculed by an unpleasant human uncomfortable with the milk of life? Would you be able to be topless around your siblings?

Let me know, I would love to hear about the way other people view this topic!

Have a wonderful Thursday everyone and thanks for reading!

Love and bare chests for all,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

PS – Here are a bunch of photos from Burning Man for your viewing pleasure <3

 

Two men – both impressive in their own ways – Random stranger, I’m sorry I didn’t get your permission to take this photo but you definitely add to the artistic integrity of this photo.

 

The Temple – A place where people can honor those who have passed on as well as a place to leave behind anything you are ready to release from

 

Our tent battling the wind. This is a wonderful place called “walk-in” camping… a chance to camp with a bit of peace – NOT quiet – sound travels way too far in the desert.

 

Tommy during one of the many quick dust storms.

Art shark.

Art shark.

This is me being VERY brave posting this online. The internet has never seen my stomach before but oh well, this will be a great picture to use as a "before" shot for my future weight loss success!

This is me being VERY brave posting this online. The internet has never seen my stomach before but oh well, this will be a great picture to use as a “before” shot for my future weight loss success!

My favorite art car – CHARLIE THE UNICORN! Click the picture to see the internet video this was inspired from.

 

My brother Tommy and I about fifty feet up on a giant climbing structure!

My brother Tommy and I about fifty feet up on a giant climbing structure!

A sweet art car in the desert.

A sweet art car in the desert.

Bone tree.

Bone tree.

 

And finally, that gorgeous Nevada sky.

 

#deep

Last Friday night I had an interesting interaction that lead me to do some deep thinking over the course of the week of how I view myself.

I was walking towards Chipotle (mmm) to get my favorite standard salad with no dressing when I noticed a dude checking me out as I approached.  As I got closer, I decided to actually give him some eye contact for once instead of shyly looking away and avoiding looking at him.  The cute dude smiled and said, “Hello”  and feeling brave I said “Hi” back and walked into the restaurant.  As I stood staring and the menu and debating between chicken and pork, the dude came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder.  He said, “Excuse me, I know this is random, but would you like to have dinner with me right now, my treat?”  I gave him a curious eye but decided he seemed harmless enough and said, “Yes, I hope you like Chipotle.”

So I ordered my salad and he ordered an enchilada, something that any Chipotle fan knows that is NOT a menu option.  Although he clearly told me he liked Chipotle after my question above, how could he not know they don’t have enchiladas?  Then when it comes to pay, he struggled to find his check card and then claimed his buddy had it along with his phone.  I silently wondered why but insisted that I didn’t mind paying for his $3.75 quesadilla so we could get the horrible awkward moment over with.  Twenty minutes pass and we learned a bunch of random information about each other and got to the point of exchanging numbers.  But wait, his buddy had his phone!  Well, I suggested that he should just use my phone to call his own phone to get in touch with his friend, who supposedly had gotten separated from him an hour earlier at the mall Chipotle was in.  Sure enough his friend picked up and they were set to meet at Applebee’s.  The dude was quite persistent in trying to get me to come with him but I was quite focused on going on and doing nothing as I had been gone all day already.  As we hugged goodbye, he tried to kiss me and I immediately rejected his plan and said my goodbyes.

So that was that.  Now, I guess it could be a common situation for some people but for me, it is not so often that I get blatantly hit on and asked out on the spot.  It happens, but never like this dude.

All throughout the entire situation I kept thinking of this horrible scenario that relates back to the dating website Okcupid.  One of the great things about the site is that is asks all these questions and one of them is “Would you ever go wart-hogging?”

If you don’t know what it means, I didn’t until I was on  this site, it is when a group of men/women go out and try to “bag the warthog” or basically to pursue someone ugly/fat/unattractive that they weren’t interested in just for kicks.

What if I was the warthog?

I just didn’t get why a relatively hot guy would single me out and follow me into Chipotle without some other type of motive than just pure attraction.  Maybe he was a con-artist who uses women for their money to buy him food.  Maybe he was going to steal my phone but Chipotle wasn’t the right place.  Maybe he was going to try to abduct me if I went with him to meet his friends.

All these what-ifs crossed through my mind but the one that DIDN’T was:  What if he is just into me because he thinks I’m hot?

It sucks because there has been very little to make me have the self-esteem that I do.  I typically think that my self-esteem is pretty great and all the men I have dated I have always found pretty attractive and they seem to be attracted to me.. so why don’t I think I deserve a genuine situation like this to happen to me?

I think it may have to do with the fact that my relationships either come out of guys who I meet through friends or using Okcupid where the interest is sparked through conversation first. It’s just such a random thing to be approached out of nowhere for this day and age and clearly, it’s messed with my head.

Have any of you had issues similar to this? Have you ever felt not worthy even though you knew you really were deep down inside?

In other news, I’ll be updating this blog around 11am with my Weight Watchers results of the week.  I’m not expecting a loss, but we’ll see.

I hope you all have a glorious Friday and first weekend of March!!

Peace and monkeys,

AprilSignatur

Body shame

Reading Alyssa’s blog post yesterday about her reflection on body shame made me do some reflections of my own.  As she referred to in the post, Saturday I had a swift lesson on reality.  Alyssa and I had changed into our bathing suits at the beach bathroom down by San Diego.  She finished first and took with her the towels so upon that realization, I nervously walked across the road feeling super self conscious of the people around me.  I was so afraid of the way my body parts were potentially bouncing around in my tankini suit! As soon as I got to the other side of the street and grabbed my towel to hide my shame, Alyssa commented on  two men in their car checking me out and within half a second I snapped back about how they were probably only looking at my fat thighs.

Instead of the common response of “Oh, April, shut up,” Alyssa quickly responded back to me about how I wouldn’t ever say that to my best friend, so why should I ever say that to myself?

That simple sentence definitely got me pondering deeply about the way I treat myself.  Of course I would never say something so hurtful like that to anyone, but yet it’s just so easy to mean to myself.  Society has successfully manipulated my mind into believing what is attractive and what is not and breaking away from that hypnotism has been as much of a challenge as losing weight itself!  An attractive woman in a bathing suit does NOT have thick thighs and her boobs always stay in a perfect cleavage form, never once falling to their own individual sides!

Labeling ANY body as the worst is not OK, celebrity or not.

Labeling ANY body as the worst is not OK, celebrity or not.

The other night I was at the grocery store and gazed upon the magazines conveniently placed to distract customers away from their own lives for a moment.  With headlines on most magazine covers about Miley Cyrus’s bold life, my eyes turned to the genuine trash magazines.  On the cover showed an assortment of celebrities braving their own bodies at the beach.  A few actresses made the cut of what is considered attractive with their perky breasts and bikini bodies.  Other celebrities were hidden behind some tagline like “Guess who!?” in a horribly timed photograph that captured the reality of what many people face; she had cellulite on her thighs!

It’s easy to get caught up in magazines like the one I am describing.  I love seeing a celebrity with cellulite so I can relate as much as many other Americans or else headlines like this wouldn’t exist.  But the message magazines like this is sending is horrible.  I’m not sure who is pictured on the cover as one of the “worst beach bodies” but when I see that mystery woman in her bathing suit, I don’t see a horrible picture.  I see a woman in a red bathing suit having fun at the beach!  She shouldn’t have to feel self conscious about wearing what people are SUPPOSED to wear at the beach! It’s a shame that the media has put such negative attention onto bodies that do not fit into the perceived general idea of attractiveness.

What if the magazines took pictures of civilians on  the beach and labeled them as  having the worst bodies?  The magazines would probably be pulled from the shelves within two days for sending such a hurtful message to the public!

Just like it wasn’t alright for me to tear myself self image of myself  in my bathing suit, it’s not alright to tear apart a celebrity in their bathing suit either.  Degrading anyone’s body with words is sending out a negative message to the world that everyone needs to fit into this assumed idea of what a perfect body looks like.

Maybe I didn’t feel attractive in my bathing suit as I crossed the road over to the beach, but according to Alyssa, there were two men who thought I was.  Too bad I was too worried about how my thighs and boobs looked rather than being able to flash them an “April smile.”  Those San Diego surfer dudes are pretty hot!  :)

Besides my bathing suit reality check at the beach, I went through another moment of getting over body shame this weekend.  On the drive down to Los Angeles, our friend Katelyn and I passed the time by singing.  We sang all types of songs from our favorite movies like Pitch Perfect, but one song in particular moved us enough to record it as a tribute to Alyssa and her husband, Matt.  After failing at being able to text or email Alyssa the voice recording we made, we decided to record a video to upload to Youtube.  We successfully recorded the song in one shot and after we stopped to watch it, I immediately became less excited about how high I could hit the notes and started to dwell on how fat I looked.  All sorts of thoughts raced through my head of what I could have done better. If only I had worn make-up that day!  If only I wasn’t wearing a hoodie!  If only my hair was a bit more voluminous!

WHY DO I HAVE TO HAVE SUCH A BIG DOUBLE CHIN!?!?

I think Katelyn could sense my disappointment with how I looked and offered to re-record the masterpiece on Sunday in the daylight. All through the weekend, I thought about making the video again and after we re-did it and watched it, I decided I needed to get over how I look on video and keep our original improved and hilarious video.  I decided I didn’t care about how I thought I looked because what matters is the amount of fun I had while making the video.  This video has brought me to tears so many times from laughing and makes me happy enough to have NO SHAME.

So, in spirits of getting over my body shame, here’s the video for you all to laugh and sing along to at a low volume level on your computer.  Enjoy!

A Whole New World sung by Katelyn and April on Highway 5

Love,

AprilSignatur

Being Your Own Best Friend: Body Snark

This weekend, I was lucky enough to spend a few days with my sister April and my best friend Katelyn. They had caravanned down from Northern California to check out some schools for April. We shared a lot of laughs, some good discussion, yummy food and relaxing time. Being among my besties was awesome because it made me realize how these gals have helped shape who I am. They love for me — not my blonde hair, or blue eyes, or the size of my jeans. On Sunday we were walking across the road to the Tamarack state beach. April and I had to change into bathing suits in the little public restroom. I mistakenly took April’s towel when I finished up, and she had to walk across the street to us with no towel to drape around herself. As she crossed the road in her cute blue tankini, I notice two gentlemen in a car check her out. When I told her this, she said, “No, they were probably looking at my fat thighs.”

Now, I can body-shame with the rest of ‘em. But I snapped to my sister, “April!!! Don’t say that about yourself. Would you say that to your best friend? Treat YOURSELF like your best friend.” Body-snark-police, I am. I think hearing my sister say that about herself was eye-opening for me because it reminded me of the very important reality that ultimately, who we love, respect and idolize in our lives has nothing to do with how they look. I love my sister for her love of singing, the inherent, ironic laziness we both share that never shows up at work and earns us accolades as extremely hard-working employees, but in our personal lives has us spending weekends in sweats. I love her for eco-enthusiasm, how she gets grumpy at me for using paper towels when I should just use washable dish rags. Despite finding her very beautiful, all of the things that make up April are not what’s on the outside. It wasn’t her thigh comment alone that inspired me to write this post. Tonight when I logged onto Facebook, a very respected friend of mine had posted that she was having trouble sleeping because of all the voices in her head telling her she wasn’t good enough. I reflected on this friend, just like I did with April above, and realized that despite her BEAUTIFUL outside, what I love about her is what’s on the inside. Her kick-ass dancing abilities, her sweet personality, the warm, inviting “Here, I’ll show you” persona that makes her an amazing teacher. We’re always so good about seeing the good in others, but how do we see the good in ourselves?

I think as women we need to work to change the dialogue in our heads, to make it NOT acceptable to become the body-snark authorities of our own selves. I’m guilty of this, too, and I’m sure I even snarked on myself several times through out the weekend. But when did it become a game to one-up each other on comments about how fat we are, how hooded our eyelids are, how oily our skin is, how blonde our hair is, how gross our pedicure looks, how long our arm hair is, how many freckles we have on our face? (Yep – every single one of these remarks was made this weekend among we three lovely women.) It’s not all our fault. It’s the magazines, the asshole ex boyfriend, the TV shows, the gossip rags, the radio shows, the “Well meaning” family member, the cosmetic companies, the diet pills, the fashion designers, the mean girls. No matter how far women come in their professional advancements, sitting next to male cabinet members and finding cures for diseases, we still decide that the sum of all of our parts is ultimately determined by our looks. This makes me feel all rage-y, and takes me back to the 15-year-old Alyssa who was dumped on AOL Instant Messenger by her first boyfriend for being a “feminazi”. I will proudly be a feminazi if it means declaring that we are enough as we are. That we don’t need to be 5’9, 125 pounds, perfectly tanned, with smooth hair, no flyaways, white teeth, a thigh gap, naturally rosy cheeks and big boobs. We ARE ENOUGH.

We can’t stop years of this bad habit overnight. Just as I overcame my habit of stress-eating, I’ll overcome the habit of body-snarking on myself. I’ve already gotten lots better, and now, when I catch myself dissing my bod’, I gently remind myself that I’m working on changing what I don’t like. I grew up in a beauty-positive household, one where my mom on a daily basis would comment on her beautiful daughters, how pretty we looked. I am thankful to my mom for that because I think despite my weight issues, I have a healthy self-esteem and confidence. I will always say the same things to my daughters and sons, because I know that even though my mom thinks on the outside we’re flawless, she really, truly sees what’s on the inside. Kindness, intelligence, compassion, courage, humor. Those are the things that make people beautiful in the way that makes you want to hold them near you. To be around them, to soak up their light. We don’t choose friends because of how they look, and if you do, you have some serious self-reflection to do. I’m challenging myself this week to be body-positive and to respectfully tell the body-snarking voice in my head to shut the eff up. You should do it, too. The world is a much friendlier place when we make peace with what we don’t like.

This post was also probably inspired by two awesome things I read this week:

1) The girl’s embarrassing photo went viral and she took charge to handle it. Read it and reap a good lesson (and note who she says most of the meant comments were from!).

2) I’m a big Amanda Palmer fan, and this weekend she wrote an open letter to Sinead O’Connor in response to O’Connor’s letter to Miley Cyrus. Palmer wrote about how rare it is to find female artists who have the balance of image/art and came back with a list of Women who Slay The Balance. Check it out here.

 

What do you LOVE about your body?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether or not you enjoy this holiday, April had a great idea that in the spirit of love, we each share a few things we LOVE about our bodies. It can be hard in our society, especially for women, to embrace what some perceive as flaws, but ultimately, I know the path to a healthy body includes working on a healthy mind; acknowledging the fantastic things my body can do and be at any size. Please read what April and I love about our bodies, and then, we challenge you to comment with one thing you love about your body. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting or can’t think of anything, know this: you are unique, you are beautiful, you are loved.

April, Alyssa, and Tommy at an age when body image didn't matter.  What matters was who got the coolest shell.

Here’s what Alyssa had to say about her body…

plus size wedding gown corset bodice lace victorian dress

Corset dresses were made for curves!

1) I love my womanly shape. I’ve always said in regards to my weight loss plans that I don’t need to be skinny, I just want to be healthy. I want a little “ba-donk-a-donk” or junk in my trunk. I love that I have big hips, an ample bottom and a voluptuous chest. I’m proud of my hourglass figure, and without it, couldn’t have rocked my corset-style wedding gown.

2) I love my hands. As a writer, my hands are the vehicle for my livelihood. They also help me do some of my favorite things – bake and decorate cupcakes, plant flowers, paint my nails, pet my kittens, text my friends.

3) I love my strength. Despite being obese, I’ve always been proud of how strong I am. I can carry my own groceries, I can open doors, I can flex, and bend, and stretch and feel my muscles working.

4) I love my height. A lot of tall girls say they hate being tall, but not me! Never once have I had to ask someone to reach something for me. It can be annoying to find pants that fit, but I love being tall and would be lying if I said I didn’t feel more powerful because of my lucky five feet and nine inches.

Dewy and milky is fine with me!

Dewy and milky is fine with me!

5) I love my skin. I have a very milky white complexion and I used to be embarrassed of how pale I was. Now, I realize that not everyone needs to be tanned to be pretty, and I will happily accept compliments about my “peaches n cream” skin and “lovely complexion”. My cheeks turn a pretty rosy pink, and I look great in purple and black. No shame in being ghostly!

And here’s what April had to say about her body…

It can be rather hard to remember to love your body if you have struggled with weight or other physical appearance insecurities, especially if you’ve been reminded of what you don’t like about yourself from sharp-tongued others.  However, as fast as your self esteem balloon can be deflated, it can easily be filled up again when someone kinder pays you a compliment or perhaps you find the confidence to overlook harsh words.

It has taken me many years to be able to say that I love my body and even though I struggle with shame over my weight, I still am grateful for the body that I have and what it enables me to do.

– I *love* my legs.  I’m 5’11” and like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I’ve got “88 inches of therapy” to wrap around Richard Gere when he’s feeling blue…   Or more realistically to be able to step over fences and reach top shelf items with ease.  My legs also enable me to be “sturdy like a tree” in ska mosh pits so I don’t get knocked down and they also provide me with some extremely awesome balance… which has helped a lot in yoga.

Julia and Richard with her 88 inches of legs.

Julia and Richard with her 88 inches of legs.

– I also love my hips.  I once was not a fan of my hips but after being told enough times now that they’re awesome, I have come to appreciate the way my waist curves around my hips and how I get this sexy little bump when I lay on my side.

– This may be strange, but I love my fingers!  I always joke about how my fingers are the only skinny part about me.  They’re super long and I am said to have “piano hands”, which means when I spread them out as far as I can go, they can hit 11 piano keys.  I get random compliments on my hands too, some are nice and come from grocery store clerks and such… and some are creepy.  Thanks, okcupid, for helping me receive the creepy comments.

– The last part of my body I adore are my shoulders.  I think most women are a fan of their shoulders because it’s a part of our bodies that are very feminine and lead to some our other best assets (BOOBS!).  My shoulders lead to my least favorite part (ARMS!) but it doesn’t stop me from rocking strapless tops and dresses in opportunity to show them off.  I also love shoulders on men, it’s just something about that clavicle bone that is so attractive to me, haha.

April loving her body and showing off her great balancing skills!

April loving her body and showing off her great balancing skills!

Ok ladies (and gents), it’s your turn.

What is one thing you LOVE about your body?

*** There’s still time to join the Double Chin Diary DietBet! Our pot is over $600. Score a split of the pot with only a $15 buy in. Hurry, the game starts tomorrow!

Embracing my awkwardness: shaking my booty in Zumba

Fraggle Rock!!!!!

When I was a teenager, it took me awhile to realize that I wouldn’t ever be cool in a conventional way. I would never be the girl who had a sheath of straight, blonde hair that fell in a perfect waterfall down my back, nor would I collect phone numbers en masse. My first two years of high school I remember trying desperately to fit in, to have the same L.E.I. jeans as everyone else, even though mine were a juniors size 14. With my brace face, cowlick curls and curvy hips, I never quite fit the mold. I muddled along feeling awkward until something magical happened in my junior year. With the help of my best friend Katelyn, I learned to let my awkward out. I embraced the dorky music lover inside of me, and started to realize that I didn’t CARE if playing the flute was nerdy or if liking Lenore comic books wasn’t cool.

Rockin’ out with My Ruin at the merch table (I was SO SKINNY!!! Why on Earth did I think I was fat?!)

My parents let me go to heavy metal shows in the city, and I became a little band-aid to a bunch of girl rock metal bands. It was the best thing ever. I bought a BC Rich Warlock Guitar and I had pink streaks in my hair. I drew creepy little monsters in my text books, started to make my own lunches and dated a boy in a band. (I married him. Aww.) My life got much, much cooler but only because I learned to let myself be awkward. The day I embraced myself was the day I realized how liberating it was to just be yourself — to say, I don’t give a crap if you don’t like my cow-print socks or my fondness of Phantom of the Opera – because I do, and I am awesome. Embracing your awkwardness is incredible – and I’ve recently had a mini-renaissance of this feeling from Zumba.

You see, I’m not a dancer. I would never call myself graceful. I bruise easier than a ripe peach on a hot summer day, and I’m constantly tripping over my own shadow. I took my first Zumba class several years ago and was horrified by the shimmying, the shaking, the legs crossing over each other and the sheer amount of dance patterns you had to perform. I went once and never again – because I felt too awkward. Nobody wants to see a fat white girl gyrating to latin music, right? At FitBloggin’, I participated in a group Zumba class. The old familiar feeling crept in – the embarrassment, the awkwardness. The negative thoughts started coming. “I look fat. Everybody’s looking at me. I can’t dance. I’ll never get these steps right. I’m so offbeat… I should just give up.” But, by the grace of Buddha, I shushed those thoughts and kept going. And I had fun. Eventually the little voice waned into a quiet whisper, and I shook and shimmied and tried to dance — and it was fun, and I burned calories.

Awkward and Awesome!

I did Zumba tonight and some of the old familiar thoughts came back as I caught sight of my pasty white arms in the mirror. My tummy clung to my hot pink tank top and I thought “Ugh, I look gross.” But I kept going – and I reminded myself that I’m never thinking about what other people look like when I’m working out – I’m thinking about how tired I am or how I’m going to sneak a handful of chocolate chips out of the cupboard when I get home. And BAM – the negative voices stopped. I danced, I shimmied, and I shook — and I burned calories —  smiling and laughing while doing it. On the way out, the teacher even told me how she loved my smile. That’s right. You don’t smile at the gym if you’re not having fun! Tonight I realized I may never feel 100% confident in my skin, but as long as I can embrace my awkward rather than fight it, I remember that it’s not so bad being me. I can’t dance but it’s not about whether or not I can dance. It’s about working up a sweat, churning up some endorphins, and burning fat. It’s about saying, “I don’t need to be the Zumba Queen. It doesn’t matter if I do the Salsa! Eff the standards of perfection – I’m gonna shake my booty!” So thank you, Zumba — for reminding me how to embrace my awkwardness.