Body Positivity

Let’s Talk About Plastic Surgery.

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Where did my boobs go?

Let’s take it way back to 2013.  I was still a physician assistant (PA) student doing my clinical rounds at a medical installation in Georgia.  At the same time, I decided then would be a fantastic idea for train for my very first body-building (bikini) competition.  I had lost a lot of weight and put on some fantastic muscle mass. I remember my masseuse gloating over how well my deltoids had developed. I was pretty excited about my progress and was looking forward to hitting the stage for the very first time in about three more months. I went shopping for new bras and of course, the good ole Victoria’s secret representative came around and offered to measure my bust.  When she was done… she told me I was an A cup.

Now don’t get me wrong, my bust had always been small.  I used to be a barely B cup so when I was told I had lost that much breast mass I literally had a significant emotional event.  I remember talking to other friends about what I had experienced and they explained that was why they or other women sought out breast implants.  The ugly side of bikini competition is that although you lose an insane of fat-mass, judges somehow expected you to have nice breasts at the same time. How fucking sway? But take a look…. Have you ever seen a flat-chested bikini champion? I’ll wait.

Natalia Melo was one of my favorites back then. Look at her-- very little body fat. Do you really think that boob is all her? Nah.

At any rate, the decision to look into breast implants was not for the stage but for my own self-esteem.  I was built like a shit-brick house without the boobs to match. I wanted to enhance my curves and had the means to do so, and with much enthusiasm from the ex-spouse I gave it a go. I got the surgery sometime in April 2014, and all was well. I went under the pectoral muscle (for a natural look) via an arm-pit incision.  I went from a 34A/B to a 32DDD in a matter of hours.  I am still to this day very happy with my implants and would do nothing differently.

Breast Augmentation by Dr. Chris Pettigrew. Click this photo to head to his website.

“For someone that hardly eats, I don’t understand how you’ve gained weight”.

My ex-husband and I had problems WAY…WAY… before 2014.  Honestly, we had problems the moment I left for PA school in 2010, so how the hell I thought marrying this man was going to work was beyond me at the time.

 

At any rate, he and I ended up separating early September 2014.  Because of stress eating, lack of exercise, a new job, new life as a commissioned officer and the life of an (emotionally abused) wife, I had no concept of a healthy work-life balance.  My ex had no idea that I comforting myself with fast food before I got home. Imagine having panic attacks as you pull up to the driveway of your four-bedroom home with manicured grass. Home was hell, not a sanctuary. On the outside, people would think I had “it all” but didn’t really know “at what cost?”   

On the outside, this looks like I had it all. Not so.

The relationship between me and my ex-husband took a serious toll on me; I was constantly harassed about seeing my (male) patient’s nude, he fetishized my medical practice with female patients, hated that I outranked him, postulating over the concept of me telling him what to do at home because of my rank. He was constantly reminding me of how much money I was making as an excuse for lack of fiscal responsibility. I never heard “I’m proud of you”, “I’m happy for you”, or any type of compliment or praise. I spent days listening to him about his work life and he never wanted to hear anything about mine. I was living in a four-bedroom house physically married but spiritually ALONE. He had issues with all of my friends, so I was socially isolated. I was starving for approval that I would never receive unless it had something to do with him. I had no sense of self-worth, or confidence. I begged for but continuously lacked a king in my own kingdom…and felt lost and worthless.  He gaslighted and *narcissized the fuck out of me and I had no clue.

My childhood trauma along with the trauma in my relationship with my ex-husband left me reeling over a (very wrong) idea that I was not desired, that I was not beautiful. Beauty and intelligence are an unwelcome anomaly in men’s eyes. Men just want women to be arm-candy and nothing else.  Keep your mouth shut, just be pretty. A prop. Don’t be too smart. Don’t overshadow a man’s presence. Don’t shine bright.  Otherwise, you will be unloved, hated and undesired. You’ll be left for someone that doesn’t threaten a man’s ego. That has to be what men want, right?  But I couldn’t undo the three degrees on my wall and there was no way that I was not going to give up my hard-earned rank.  So, I came up with an idea. Plastic surgery.

One week post-op. Liposuction of thighs, hips and flank. The (almost) worst pain of my life.

In November 2014, my plastic surgeon removed about ten pounds of fat from my thighs and hips.  Let’s talk about the absolute WORST post-operative pain I have ever been in, even with Demerol on the clock.  Between the bruising and shitting bricks because of the narcotic medication, I was in pure hell for about ten days.  But I thought that things would get better between me and my ex if he saw that I had put in the effort to change SOMETHING about myself.  Something.  We did get back together, but it wasn’t because of the surgery, and we ultimately got a divorce in 2015. I remember in 2018 running into a friend of his that became my patient.  When I explained that he and I divorced he said, “I’m not sure if I should say sorry, or congratulations”.  I sat in my khaki’s and polo shirt, legs crossed with red bottoms on my feet.  I said with a smile, “Oh, it’s definitely a congratulations”.

Since then, I have had some other procedures done, mainly liposuction in those difficult areas such as the back of my arms and the knee complex.  It’s not that I wasn’t putting in any type of work, it had everything to do with full blown genetics.

 

When pain is your professor.

  1. PS won’t make your personal problems better. It won’t get your man back. It won’t make people treat you better. It won’t get anyone to honor or value you if they didn’t beforehand. Do PS for yourself and yourself only.
  2. PS will not replace lifestyle choices. ESPECIALLY if you are looking to get liposuction.  Even after I had the surgery on my problem areas I was still not totally happy. If you think that liposuction procedures will eradicate the need to work out in the gym, are going to be insanely disappointed.  You still need to consider diet and exercise. You can undo a surgeon’s work with lack of good choices. Speaking from personal experience.
  3. PS won’t give you much definition without muscle mass. Reference #3.
  4. Don’t do PS in a mental space of hating your body. If you’re investing thousands of dollars in a procedure just understand that the self-investment doesn’t stop once you swipe your credit card and go under.  Speak to a surgeon about the beauty you have that you wish to enhance, not about what you do not like about yourself.
  5. A PS will make you look great in clothes but your own work will make you look great naked. Remember that models that have had plastic surgery STILL get photoshopped so have realistic goals and expectations.

Forward thinking.

By all means, I am not against plastic surgery, but our bodies are complex yet truly miraculous machines that deserve celebration pre-and post op. This is why I love carnival because I feel so alive no matter my size on the road.  A lot of people want to be silent about plastic surgery as if it is something to be embarrassed about, and it really is not.  You can still love the body you are in and want to enhance it. You can pierce it, tattoo it, but not get PS? How sway? I think that if people were more transparent about plastic surgery we would eradicate all these incidences of botched procedures, death and lack of emotional support (because plastic surgery can be a significant emotional event). Just something to think about.

 

Find a plastic surgeon that is capable of providing you the service that you desire.  For example, Arm-pit incisions for breast implants are not very common but I kept looking for a surgeon until I found one.  The reason why is because I personally I leave bad scars and didn’t want to risk it, even under my breasts.

Don’t let a PS push an aesthetic on you that you are not comfortable with.  At the end of the day, find a PS that says no to risky/questionable requests. Carefully evaluate his portfolio.  Do your research and trust your gut. Set realistic expectations and seek out what you want. Develop a support system. Appreciate the body that you are in, and set yourself up to do your part of the work.   If you’re looking for a great resource that has feedback from real patients and engage in discussions with prospective surgeons, I highly encourage you to visit realself. 

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Rock out with your ass-crack out.

I remember the very first time I played mas in 2015.  My marriage was slowly dying, stress and depression had been weighing on my shoulders for several months and I weighed almost 180 pounds.  I grossly underestimated my weight gain and found myself insanely insecure with a bottom that clung on to dear life.

Since this was my first year I allowed my twin sister to be my guide. Standing next to her who was probably 30-35 pounds lighter was difficult.  In my mind, she was showing me what I was supposed to have looked like coming out on the road. I remember trying to get ready and I was a lot less agile when I was lighter, falling over myself to get my leggings and panty on. I was flooded with insecurity.  As she ushered me to the meeting point I found myself constantly using my fan to cover up my waistline and caught myself checking to see if I was revealing more than what I should in the back.

But as I began to look around, I saw women of varying sizes and shapes. Post baby bodies— stretch marks adorned in glitter. Size 16 and up wearing thongs.  I saw the smiles, and the hugs. THE CONFIDENCE. The freedom. I realized that this was the norm and I was accepted and welcome regardless of my weight. I  began to relax a little.  And as the bass from the truck permeated my spirit, and something told me to just let all that shit go. Carnival changed my life.

Hiding my fluff behind a fan. Me on the right! Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival 2015.

Endurance is important, appearance is not.

It’s very important to have a level of cardiovascular endurance so you can have a good time on the road.  Fitness will also lower your risk of heat injury.  But flat abs, leaner thighs and hips is not what Carnival is about anyway.  Our ancestors took to the streets to celebrate their freedom; I cannot imagine back then anyone wondering if their bodies were good enough to go out and celebrate their liberation and discard any burdens they carried leading up to that special day.

Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival 2018.

F*ck Social Media's definition of beauty.

I blame commercialism for clouding the spirit of carnival and its true origin and meaning. I blame society and social media for it as well.  While I completely understand the phrase that “sex sells,” who said that thick isn’t beautiful?? In the spirit of Carnival do I not deserve to be celebrated as well for everything I have endured and accomplished? It seems as if we see an abundance of lean women in costume without a stretch mark in sight on every platform. Girls that I could easily bench press gracing the stage in the costume I wonder is really right for me. To this day model-type bodies are flooded with likes and comments but our thicker brothers and sisters in mas get less love.  The photos and videos you see captures moments, but does not embody the TRUE spirit of mas. Mas is all sizes, shapes, colors… coming together in the spirit of unity, love, and liberation.

Your CURRENT body is your carnival body.

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Wearing the carnivalista steps in Spice. Clik the photo to shop. Use Code: AWM2022 for 10% of your order

With six years into playing mas I admit that I still struggle with body image challenges especially when it’s time to get into costume.  But when I finally get on the road, I find that all that anxiety about my physical appearance didn’t even really matter in the moment. Like seriously, why did I put myself through all that?

One thing I have also realized is that when I remember what Carnival is truly about, the photographers that have asked me to step aside and the presentation of what is beautiful on social media does not matter. I don’t need a camera or likes on social media to validate my accomplishments, or boost my spirit.  They have no bearing in my ability to celebrate my own life.

AWM exists to remind every current and future masquerader that the measurement on the scale is not what playing mas is all about.  Regardless of your weight gain or loss, the purpose of mas is to leave your stress behind, celebrate and/or mourn the wonders of life and everything you have endured.  Your weight is not your permission slip to play mas.  The simple fact that you woke up that morning with oxygen filling your lungs and blood flowing through your veins when others did not is your reason why YOU CAN. That body you have right now is a representation of everything you’re enduring and overcoming. This is why we celebrate carnival… we celebrate your spirit and those of our ancestors.  Your current body is your carnival body.

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Fear of the Photo Shoot.

By Posted on 3min read45 views

Starving for Fresh Content.

As COVID-19 lingers, creatives are working very hard to continue to maintain relevancy in the midst of dreaded social media algorithms.  As the months pass on, I find myself along with many other creatives broadening their horizons, developing new and sharpening old skills.  One of the biggest problems that I have had is that I just don’t have a lot of really great photos.  I can lightroom my photos into something presentable, but I decided that I just needed more content for consumption… so I booked a photo shoot with Favor Films, and and got some concepts together.

COVID-Calories and my new Reality.

Being an Active Duty Soldier and a clinician, I have not been as physically active and put on 10 pounds since I got back from Trinidad Carnival due to COVID-19. My beloved CrossFit gym closed as quickly as it had reopened due to a spike in cases. But  I told myself that I had time to trim down because the photo shoot was at least a month or so away.

But life got in the way and I quickly found myself days away from a shoot, standing on the scale, and rethinking my life choices.  I started to ask myself if now was the good time to really do this shoot. The night prior to the shoot I found myself stressed wondering whether or not this was a good idea. My cycle is days away which means that the definition in my abs would not be present the following morning thanks to bloating.  I was worried about what people would think now that I had gotten a bit softer. How the definition in my quads were gone. I wondered if people would notice that my bum didn’t sit as high as it once did when I was having frequent sessions with the barbell. I thought forward and realized that If I didn’t take this opportunity, there wouldn’t be another until September. I wanted to look my best and I was just got feeling this COVID-body at all.

Honoring my Accomplishments.

Here I go again being so hard on myself, spiraling down the slide of negativity.  I forced myself to reflect on the past four months, and reminded myself of all that I have accomplished since COVID-19 started:

  1. I built a website.
  2. I started a YouTube channel and added content.
  3. I learned how to use Adobe Lightroom.
  4. I learned how to use Adobe Premiere Pro.
  5. I studied for and successfully earned my Drone Pilot License.
  6. I learned new Makeup Techniques.
  7. I attended online drone photography and cinematography workshops.
  8. I started a small business (Lyon Hart Done Photography).

All the while still meeting the needs of the United States Army, and dealing with the loss of friends, family, and a brother in arms from COVID-19.

Im still beautiful at any size, and I can still deadlift a running back. If that’s not dopeness, I don’t know what is.

Forward Thinking.

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"More Life". RIP, Jonathan Elliott.

Photo shoots are just superficial representations of who you are, and not everything that you have accomplished and endured.  What was a photo shoot turned into a mini-celebration of my life for the past four months. Sans the alcohol.

Life happens, but you deserve to celebrate yourself any given time of the day, month or year.

COVID-19 is a tough period for us all.  And if you’re just getting through the day, that’s an accomplishment.  So go take that selfie, boo. Show off that sexy fluff you’ve gained. You’re amazing. We got this.

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