Saturday, January 8, 2011

Here's to How it Feels to Be Real

I don't care if it hurts,
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul.

Radiohead's song, "Creep"

Have you ever had one of those "A-ha!" moments when more than just one idea occurs to you? A flash of knowing that is more like seeing a glitch in an enormous matrix? A profound learning occurred in my life this week when I came across the term "accelerated discontent" in a marketing webinar I attended.

According to what I discovered, “accelerated discontent” is an advertising mechanism for attracting consumers to specific products by making them so unhappy with what they have, they MUST buy your product/service to ever be "happy" again. And, as it is our constitutional right to pursue happiness, more often than not, we take the bait.

Here is an example, everyday you walk through your kitchen. All the appliances work just fine. It's a decade old but you don't really think about it much. Then the New Years sales begin. "HUGE SAVINGS ON KITCHEN REMODELS" start showing up everywhere. Billboards, television, mailers, radio ads. All of a sudden you start to notice how "bored" you actually are with your kitchen. You start to think how fun it would be to have a new breakfast nook here and a new light fixture there and maybe a shiny metal fridge rather than your old school one.

Seems harmless, but pretty soon your kitchen that was perfectly good at Christmas is driving you nuts by Groundhog Day. Yes folks, this affliction has a name: Accelerated Discontent. Look around. Can you see this idea being sold to you everyday?

In the small mountain town I call home, this sort of manipulation is not nearly as present. Our advertising tends to happen more through relationships with each other as interdependent community members and business folks. This is not to romanticize my town, we have a Walmart within driving distance and a Subway. But that is about it. And many of us are so busy working and playing we aren’t bombarded by TV commercials, and we don’t have billboards forced on us either.

What I have come to love so much about my community is how real everyone is. I rarely feel pressured to be anybody but who I naturally am. If I want to wear makeup, I can. And if I don’t, no one notices anyhow. No one cares what kind of car I drive, or clothes I wear, and the feeling is mutual from my end.

However, I cannot say that this was the experience I had growing up. I can still sing commercial jingles from the 80s that I heard while watching Saturday morning cartoons. "I'm gonna wash that gray right outta my hair!" "Calgon, take me away."

As I begin this blog, I am reminded of a moment that occurred the summer after my 6th grade year. We had a family membership to our neighborhood pool. I had a fabulous bright pink ribbed one-piece bathing suit. I recall lying on my back in the sun on my rainbow towel. Kid’s were screaming and splashing in the pool. Sounds of “Marco!” “Polo!” filled the air.

In the midst of all this chaos and joy, I remember staring down the length of my body over my little rounded belly to my sunkissed thighs, thinking, “Please, God, whatever happens, give me beautiful legs. I don’t care if I have a belly. Just give me pretty thighs. Please.”


I would spend a lot of money, waste a great deal of time, mental and emotional energy, and make dangerous personal choices in an effort for airbrushed-perfection legs. Images of Elle Macpherson and countless other supermodels and the products they advertised accelerated my discontent with being in my own skin. I have spent years, trying to get out of this skin – this beautiful, perfectly-me skin.

In fact, an After School Special, aimed at informing kids of the dangers of bulimia, gave me a brilliant idea: I don’t have to stop eating everything I love, I can just throw up after! I theorized that I wouldn’t die, because I would only do it for a little while. Just till I was skinny. Fortunately, I was physically incapable of making myself throw up. I tried and tried, but never succeeded.

In my life I have made friends with so many women that I used to envy, and men I could only dream would ever "want" me, only to hear stories of their lifelong fight against their bodies, and of their struggle with self-loathing. I have discussed these challenges at length with anorexics, bingers, purgers, exercise bulimics (people who over-exercise out of fear of getting fat), and people hypnotized by all sorts of eating disorders and addictions. And everyone is in the same battle, like Don Quixote and the windmills in his head. We are fighting lies about who we are and what really matters. The billion-dollar diet and fitness industry thanks us.

I spent 7 of the past 8 years of my life terrified to ever be as heavy as I was at the end of my marriage. I have under-eaten, over-exercised, run until I injured myself, and stressed about making sure “I (would) never be that Heather again!” I became so blinded by this obsession that at the peak of my physical fitness, I honestly felt as fat as ever, and more discontented than I'd known to be possible. Climbing at my peak, working on and summiting Mt. Rainier, running 10 miles of mountain trails effortlessly, spending 81 days out on a wilderness course - and I would look at my body with disgust if I glimpsed it in a mirror.

This past year, my mission became clear – face this fear and make peace with my body.

Today as I lie on my tummy completely vulnerable in all my glory under the loving hands of an amazing massage therapist (thank you Marcus of Massage Green in Frisco, TX!*), I had the most freeing realization – again. “I am just here. Home in my skin. And it feels so wonderful to be me, right here, right now, free of all judgment.”

I say “again” because I have had this experience of sudden joy at being in my own skin a few times now. But each time it happens, it is like the first time because I have spent nearly 30 years wanting to be in almost any other body but my own. So these moments remind me of how much I have to be grateful for.

After a lot of delicious reflective silence, Marcus and I began talking. We talked about our work. He shared that he is working on getting licensed as a physical trainer, with his goal being to integrating it with massage. We got on the topic of writing somehow and I shared a bit about the "Clan of the Thunder Thighs" project. I shared that a big part of my inspiration to do this has been the many young girls (and boys and adults) I've watched struggle with eating disorders and how I feel that it's time to change that trend.

We spoke about how until someone loves him or herself it does not matter how you manipulate the outside of a person, they will still see what they hold inside. At one point, Marcus jumped in excitedly, "Yes! You HAVE to love yourself first!" Self-loathing is one of the ugliest things in the world. And if you look in the mirror through that filter, you will never see your beautiful self.

It’s really good to be home. It’s feels so good to be real. As I told my sister Amy today, I want this freedom for the whole world. Let’s stop allowing others to think for us. We are being manipulated to spend money, not to get healthy. Being and becoming healthy begin with loving ourselves exactly where we are right now. This kind of love gives us the strength to let go of any harmful beliefs and subsequent unhealthy habits. This kind of love clears the deck of accelerated discontent and makes way for peaceful contentment to ALWAYS be at home in our own skin.

I leave you with the link to a Christine Kane song. This is my new song that replaces the old of wanting a “perfect body” even if it “hurts.” This link takes you to her new album “Wide Awake.” Click on the second track called “How to Be Real.”

Here’s to how it feels to be real.


*Massage Green is all over the country. Be sure to check them out and if you are in the Dallas area, Marcus is worth the drive (to Frisco), so be sure to request him! Or contact me and I can connect you with him as he does independent massage as well.


  1. Hi sweet girl...loved this...

    Did you ever see this piece on TMCYouth?

    love you, k.

  2. I DID beautiful sister! I LOVED it and thought I emailed you so! It is a beautiful piece and I highly recommend it to all! Lotsa love! I see you! ♥

  3. I loved this piece. So relevant and real. Thank you for your courage! XO

  4. Thank you for YOUR courage FE! And for being such a model of strength and being true to who you are. Thank you for walking the path with me, a sister of the Clan! xo

  5. This above all; to thine own self be true. - William Shakespeare

    What an interesting age in which we live- the age of the “unreal”. HERE’S TO BEING REAL!!! I believe humanity's next evolution is reprioritizing individual dignity and humanistic values over capitalistic greed and superficiality. I learned about accelerated discontent as part of my communication major studies in college. It made me want to join a Marxist-based, communication revolution and aggressively “defend” our youth; someday I may still consider putting aside my pacifistic tendencies and leading some Tyler Durden style “leveling” of advertising agencies. Until then, here’s to everyone willing to be courageous and take a stand against such harm. As a teacher, my students learn that the difference between heroes and villains boils down to whether your actions help or harm. You’re a hero Heather. As a middle school language arts teacher, I do several mini-lessons that challenge students to evaluate marketing and its potential harm. Here’s a couple videos I show them regarding the “reality” of what they’re bombarded by in advertising. You’ve most likely seen them, but just in case- the Dove commercial shows how computers have taken beautiful realistic women and transformed them into what I refer to as “unicorns” (fictitious creatures that don’t exist) and what it does to women to constantly be comparing themselves to computer generated fiction. I also show the video of the woman who is a model, who is most likely an exercise bulimic, and yet when she goes undercover into a modeling agency, she is still told she isn’t good enough and requires the computer enhancements! For the boys, I turn it around and we discuss how they feel about the increasing amount of highly sculpted male figures in marketing as well as the male enhancement / erectile function related commercials that apply accelerated marketing methods to sexual insecurities. Lastly, I believe another battle in this war is the fight to stop overly valuing youth and devaluing age. Thus, the link to Dove’s pro-age campaign (the ad was banned in the U.S.).

    Thanks again Heather! You're a hero.

    Here’s the links:

    Dove’s Beauty Campaign (Dove Evolution)-

    The undercover model being told she’s not good enough and has to be computer enhanced (The Phtoshop Effect)-

    Dove’s Pro-Age Campaign-

  6. Wow, Kevin. Thank you for these invaluable resources (and the generous compliment)! I was in a sports bar a few years ago on one of my trips when a Dove Beauty Campaign commercial came on. I was so shocked by the ideas it was broadcasting on national TV that I found tears of joy streaming down my face. FINALLY, I thought. If I had seen that as a young woman, wow! I have also seen the Dove Evolution video and it is AMAZING! I will check the other two out (and revisit the Dove Ev vid.).

    I will also post these resources to my Facebook page. Thank you for leading the fight as a man who is a role model in his classroom and community. You, too, are a hero, a true brother-in-arms in the best sense!

    Bless you and thanks for reading and taking the time to post so passionately!

  7. Superb post, through and through and full of realness. Thank you, I have some people I will be sharing it with <3

  8. Fabulous Beej. Thank you for your support and spreading the word. I am also launching a Facebook page today by the same name as my blog. Please feel free to join and suggest friends. There will be space for folks to dialog and post helpful links and Heroes and Sheroes that inspire us to just be at home in our own skin! Thanks again for reading! Blessings

  9. Wow! You are so inspiring. It's interesting that I was just writing about accepting myself entirely, being "comfortable in my own skin", as you put it. This idea of not being good enough when compared to the societal "ideal" pervades all aspects of self… body image, mental health, sports performance, intelligence, career choice / success. If people buy what society is selling, we all end up dissatisfied. The real key to happiness that you are talking about is self-love, under all circumstances. If we give up on ourselves, how can anyone else love us? You are beautiful!

  10. You are beautiful too, my dear Kira-Lou! Thanks so much for your sweet comments! I know you have been learning right alongside me all these years. What a long, strange, and marvelously marvelous trip it's been! Loving you and cheering you on too!