Have You Tried Exergaming?

By Katie, 5:37 am

If you’ve ever made a Mii, or if you know what DDR stands for, or if you’ve exercised using a balance board, then you’ve probably tried exergaming.

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That’s right, the new style of video game that requires the player to get off the couch and move a little bit has officially prompted a new vocbulary word: exergaming. I’m talking games like Wii Sports, Dance Dance Revolution, and EA Sports.

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This Baltimore Sun article reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics has officially declared that playing these kinds of video games can be considered exercise. Indeed, a recent study in the research journal Pediatrics found that playing the more intense ones – like Wii Boxing – was equivalent to moderate-intensity walking.

Honestly, this doesn’t really surprise me. We own a Wii, and I have definitely worked up quite a sweat beating playing Dave in match after match of tennis, or swinging over and over again in a baseball homerun derby. Indeed, many “relaxing” Friday evenings with the Wii have left me tired and sore the following day! 8-O

But does this really mean that video-game buffs can now swing, punch, and dance their way into decent physical shape, all in front of the television? It’s questionable. Like everything in life, it’s all about balance. Wii Tennis can never take the place of picking up a racket, acing a serve, sprinting across the court – you know, actually playing tennis. Skiing down the virtual slopes will never be as good – both physically and mentally – as feeling the chill on your face at the top of an actual snowy mountain.

In other words, as the article states, “exergaming beats sitting around staring at the screen…but those games don’t provide as much benefit as participating in actual sports.”

Overall, I think exergames are a great way to add a physical component to an otherwise sedentery activity. They also make moving fun by adding the element of playful competition. But they’re never going to replace fitness centers and walking trails.  While they make a great addition to a workout routine, there will be always be something special about old-fashioned exercise, no technology required. :-)

So have you exergamed? If so, which type of exergame did you play? Did you enjoy it?

AND

Do you think people can get a good workout from things like Wii and Dance Dance Revolution?

Body Metaphors

By Katie, 5:22 am

Sometimes I’m surprised by the places I learn interesting lessons about my health, by the situations that force me to look at my relationship with myself in a new light.

For example, who would have thought I’d have an epiphany about body metaphors in this environment?

At a Baltimore Ravens pre-season football game? Really? 8-O

Really.

While cheering my team on to VICTORY 8-) , I was thinking about this article I recently read about the players’ nutritionist. This woman has quite a job – making sure a bunch of huge guys get the proper fuel for all of the running, throwing, kicking, tackling, pushing and shoving that they get paid to do.

Which got me thinking: in order to be successful, football players (and their nutritionists) have to conceive of their bodies in a particular way; they utilize a particular metaphor for their bodies that influences how they treat it. I bet a lot of these guys think of their bodies as machines.

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The body-as-machine metaphor is a pretty common one, but there are lots of others, too. For example, some people think of their bodies as their art form.

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Others use their bodies as a display.

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A lot of people think of their bodies through the Biblical metaphor of body-as-temple, or holy site.

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Some people build their careers around fixing bodies that are broken, healing bodies that are bruised.

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Some people use parts of their bodies as their instruments.

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And some people see their bodies as a site of peace and relaxation. Their bodies become the channel through which they find rest and rejuvenation.

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For a long time, I subscribed to a rather unhealthy body metaphor: body as measuring stick.

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I thought my body was a measurement of my success in life; I used my weight to determine my worth, and assumed others were doing the same.

But a metaphor is only worthwhile to the extent that it is helpful and true, and the measuring stick illustration is neither of those. So I traded it in for a better one.

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These days I think of my body as my home. I don’t want to get too attached to my home because I know it is only temporary, and what’s inside is what really matters. But I still want to take care of it because, well, I have to live there! A home that’s messy and malfunctioning brings with it extra stress and headaches, which takes time and energy away from all the wonderful stuff life has to offer. But a home that is clean and operating efficiently becomes a place you want to go to, a place where you feel comfortable.

I want my home – my body – to be a happy and healthy environment, but at the same time I’m not placing more emphasis on it than it deserves. That’s a metaphor I can live by. :-)

Do you identify with any of the body metaphors mentioned above? Do you have another one to share?

OR (if that question is too taxing for a Monday!)

Are you a football fan? What’s your favorite team? Have you ever been to a live game?

**Note to the English nerds out there: I realize I am actually using similes, not metaphors, but “body metaphors” just had a nicer ring to it. ;-)

My Kitchen Bucket List

By Katie, 5:16 am

Lately the idea of making a “bucket list” – filled with everything you’d like to experience and accomplish before you kick said bucket – has become quite popular. I’ve decided to take a cue from Holly over at The Balance Broad and make a version that’s a bit more specialized. 8-)

I present to you…

My Kitchen Bucket List

Before I leave this lovely little planet, I would like to…

1. Successfully caramelize onions.

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I ♥ caramelized onions so much, especially as a pizza topping! But I have yet to master the art of not burning them. :oops:

2. Make a loaf of bread…without a breadmaker. 8-O

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I’m not talking sweet breads here, people. Indeed, I was quite successful with making Gingered Applesauce Bread with Dark Chocolate. But I want to make hearty bread. And I know it’s doable because the Hubby has done it before, in my very own kitchen. But I didn’t help…not even a little bit. Oops!

3. Make pretty stuffed chicken breasts.

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For whatever reason I am convinced that stuffing a chicken breast is very difficult, way out of my culinary range. Not sure where I got that idea, actually, but it’s something I’d like to try adding to my repertoire.

4. Bake a cake (or a pie!) from scratch.

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As I mentioned earlier this week, baking is not exactly my specialty. So to successfully bake a scratch-made cake or pie would just be the epitome of awesomeness. 8-)

5. Feed my (future) baby homemade baby food.

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No, Mom, there’s no bun in the oven yet! :lol: I’m just thinking ahead!

6. Roll my own sushi.

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Again, super intimidating. Which is exactly why I want to give it a shot! :-)

7. Learn to use our outdoor grill.

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Dave is definitely the grill master in our household, and there’s a part of me that would be content to keep it that way forever. But what about female independence? I can’t be relying on a man every time I crave that smoky flavor! ;-)

8. Make my own ketchup.

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I’m sure this lovely lady will support this endeavor. 8-)

9. Make my own fresh pasta.

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Flour, a couple of eggs, a little bit of salt…how hard can it possible be, right? :roll:

And last, but certainly not least…

10. Bake a batch of perfect chocolate chip cookies.

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Again with the baking! But I can’t help myself; there’s just nothing like a warm chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven…and someday I’d like that oven to be mine! Wanna place bets that I’ll try recipe after recipe, only to find that the best one is from Nestle Toll House? ;-)

Which items on my Kitchen Bucket List have you already checked off?

AND

What’s on YOUR Kitchen Bucket List?

But I CAN’T Honor My Hunger Cues

By Katie, 5:53 am

Once you enter the world of Intuitive Eating, your eating issues seem to magically melt away. You always listen to your body. You eat when you reach the exact right level of hunger, and you stop when you hit that perfect state of satisfaction. You honor your cravings but never go overboard. Everything, until the end of time, is perfect.

Right?

Yeah, right. :roll:

One of the most common questions people face when they begin an Intuitive Eating journey is this: “But what do I do when the circumstances simply don’t allow for Intuitive Eating?”

Lately I’ve been facing this question on an almost-daily basis. You see, the office I started working at in June is rather small – five employees, to be exact. And we eat lunch together every single day. Not by force, and not by intentional design. It’s just the way it is, and the way it always was.

So I eat lunch, admist conversation with my boss and co-workers, every afternoon at 12:30 on the dot.

In so many ways this is a blessing. It gives me a chance to connect with the other staff members on a deeper level. It forces me to take time away from my desk to eat a nourishing meal. But it also makes it really difficult to honor my hunger cues.

Some days 12:30 rolls around and I’m not the slightest bit hungry. My body simply doesn’t want food at that moment, and yet I feed it anyway. Other days I’m ravenous by noon and fear that I’ll chew my arm off by the time the clock says it’s officially lunch time in my office. And other days I’m so hungry at 11:30 that I eat a snack, which totally throws me off the 12:30-lunch schedule. Days when my hunger perfectly matches my office schedule are gloriously rare.

But you know what? That’s ok.

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FACT: There are going to be times when you simply cannot eat at the exact right moment of hunger. There are going to be days in which external circumstances leave you ravenous, and others when you will eat (either by force or by choice) when you’re not really hungry at all. That’s just life.

No rule or guideline – regarding eating or anything else in life - is going to be applicable to every situation you face. The only solution is to accept it, be flexible, go with the flow, roll with the punches.

Believe me, I know that’s easier said than done. No one has ever called me the Queen of Rolling with the Punches. :roll:

But still, when you’re faced with situations where honoring your body’s cues just doesn’t work, the only thing to do is not stress about it. Because when you start stressing over eating intuitively, you’re missing the entire point of the experience: to stop stressing so much over your eating habits! 8-O

Intuitive Eating won’t solve your eating issues; indeed, it brings with it its own set of challenges and struggles. It ain’t gonna be perfect, but remember this: perfection was never the goal in the first place.

Do you find there are days/circumstances that make listening to and honoring your body’s cues close to impossible? How do you deal?

AND

Are you pretty good about going with the flow when it comes to your eating habits? As for me, I’m working on it…

White House Granola Bars

By Katie, 5:17 am

Alternate Title: The Obamas Like It Sweet.

Alternate Alternate Title: Katie Can’t Bake. Jessica, will you please come give me a personal lesson? :-(

I consider myself to be a decent cook at this point. But I have yet to find true success with baking. How a person who can perfectly sear a scallop can simultaneously fail so miserably with baked goods is beyond me.

Take, for instance, these White House Granola Bars, inspired by a recipe from the Obama family’s pastry chef. They actually look pretty good.

But in reality they turned out way too sweet, way too sticky, and way too thin. Oops! :oops:

The recipe calls for mixed dried fruit, so I used this great Trader Joe’s blend of golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, and blueberries.

My final mixture contained: toasted oats, toasted sunflower seeds, olive oil, honey, Sucanat, maple syrup (no wonder it was so sweet!), salt, dried fruit, and cinnamon.

Now the mistakes started happening:

  • First, this baking dish was too large, making my bars much too thin.
  • Second, I should have thought to cut back on the sweeteners; the bars not only tasted too sweet, but the use of both maple syrup and honey made them a sticky mess to consume.
  • Third, even though I let them cool completely before trying to cut them, I really should have popped them in the refrigerator first. Most of them totally fell apart in the cutting process! I photographed the ones that most closely resembled bars, but in truth the majority were more like granola blobs.

Even though my mistakes were many, I do think this recipe has potential. So I am including the original one, the changes I made, and the changes I wish I had made. You can then decide for yourself the best way to adapt.

White House Granola Bars
Recipe from The New York Times
Yields 2 dozen bars (I cut the recipe in half)

Ingredients
6 tbsp grapeseed oil (I used olive oil)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup mixed seeds (I used raw sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup honey (I wish I had omitted either this or the maple syrup)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (I used Sucanat)
1/3 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1.5 cups mixed dried fruit (I used the TJ’s Golden Berry Blend)
1 tsp ground cardamom or cinnamon (I used cinnamon)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350º. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, letting a few inches hang over side of pan. Brush with oil. (I used an 8-inch square pan even though I cut the recipe in half. This pan was then much too large. Also, I used non-stick foil and did not brush with oil.)

2. Spread oats and seeds on another baking pan and toast in oven just until golden and fragrant, 6-8 minutes, shaking pan once. (I toasted them in a dry skillet over medium-heat instead.)

3. In a saucepan, combine oil, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and hot. In a mixing bowl, toss together toasted oats and seeds, dried fruit, and cardamom or cinnamon. Pour hot sugar mixture over and stir until well combined.

4. While mixture is warm, transfer to prepared pan, pressing into pan evenly with an offset spatula.

5. Bake until brown, 25-30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool completely. (I wish I had stuck the pan in the refrigerator at this point.) Using the overhanging foil or paper, lift out of pan and place on a work surface. Cut into bars, about 1.5 inches by 3 inches.

So that is what it is. I’m still searching for a baking success. Unlike the fine folks at this awesome establishment. ;-)

YES! My first trip to Great Harvest Bread Company! Dave and I recently had some business to take care of in Columbia, MD, where there happens to be a location. I was like a kid in a candy store in there!

I ate this unbelievable Blueberry-Cream Cheese scone – which was approximately the size of my head! – on the spot.

And we took home a loaf of the Dakota Bread Kath is always raving about…with good reason!

This bread is soft and fluffy, but with the perfect crunch from all of the seeds.

You could easily just eat it by the chunk, which I did! I also paired it with a hunk of Brie and with some locally-made blackberry jam. Please promise me if you’re ever in a Great Harvest that you will purchase this bread. You won’t regret it!

I bet their White House Granola Bars would have turned out just fine…delicious, probably! ;-)

Are you a baker? Have you had any failed baking attempts like mine? Do you think there’s hope for me??? :lol:

AND

Ever been to a Great Harvest? What did you buy there?

Thin Fantasies

By Katie, 5:45 am

I had originally planned on posting a granola bar recipe today, but sometimes such plans must be tossed to the wayside. Something told me to instead post about a topic that I’ve been struggling with lately on a more personal level. But don’t worry; the granola bar recipe will be coming tomorrow. ;-)

I am by nature a daydreamer. My mind tends to wander this way and that way, and I often have to purposefully pull myself out of my own little mental world. I’m like the kid at school who stares out the window when she should be completing her spelling test.

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Most of the time my daydreaming is harmless. But lately I’ve noticed my mental musings slipping back into a realm I do not care to inhabit, one that’s filled with what I’m calling “thin fantasies.”

Thin fantasies are daydreams that start off innocent enough: imagining an upcoming vacation or special event, or maybe what life will look like a few months down the road. But when I dig a little deeper, I notice that the “me” I’m picturing on that future vacation or at that future time doesn’t look like the “me” sitting in front of the computer today. The future Katie looks different…she looks thinner.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in my opinion the fact that I’m harboring these thin fantasies is unacceptable, for two reasons:

1. My thin fantasies demonstrate that I am still falling into the trap of “life will be so much better when I lose those 10 pounds.” You see, I’m not just thinner in these reveries; I’m also more confident, funnier, the life of the party. In these visions, I basically have no problems whatsoever. Because, apparently, 10 pounds is all that stands in the way between my present self and pure bliss. :roll:

2. Imagining myself as so-very-different demonstrates that I am still in the state that Christie articulated so well in her Monday Book Club discussion - the state of wanting to fix myself. Why do I need to be thinner in these visions in order to see myself as happy, confident, and carefree? Why can’t I just accept myself as-is, no changes necessary? Why do I have to remain in a state of flux, a state of self-improvement? Why can’t I just be?

It’s worth noting that while not everyone harbors thin fantasies, I think these “I will be different than I am today” daydreams are pretty common. Maybe you look the same but you own a stellar car or an amazing home. Maybe you envision yourself in a much more high-profile career. But in some way you imagine what life will be like when things are not the way they are today.

I think I should also mention that I’m not talking about having a goal and fantasizing about the path to get there. Goals are good; a lack of self-acceptance is not.

So today I am committing to blocking these thin fantasies out of my mental awareness. The moment I notice one creeping up, I am going to nip it in the bud, all the while reminding myself that even though change can be good, I am perfectly acceptable exactly as I am today. Besides, there are so many worthwhile things to muse about (saving the planet, bringing about world peace, what’s for dinner, etc.), there simply isn’t enough room in my noggin for self-rejection. ;-)

Is any of this ringing a bell? Have you ever caught yourself having a “thin fantasy,” where you imagine your future self as looking a bit different from today’s reflection in the mirror?

Pumping Iron for the Golden Years

By Katie, 5:39 am

As I recently explained, a few weeks ago I decided to start focusing more on strength training, primarily by going to Body Pump classes and by lifting free weights in my living room. I really enjoy strength training; I think it’s fun while I’m doing it and I love the way my body looks and feels when I have a bit of muscle-action going on. 8-)

Indeed, the reason I strength train is because I love the benefits it brings me here and now. But the truth is that if I stick with it, the advantages could serve me well into the future.

I recently came across this interesting article that highlights some new research on muscle memory. As the article explains:

Pumping up is easier for people who have been buff before, and now scientists think they know why – muscles retain a memory of their former fitness even as they wither from lack of use…The findings suggest that exercise early in life could help fend off frailness in the elderly.

In other words, what I do today really can have a positive impact on my health down the road, even if I have slip-ups along the way.

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I realize that’s not a huge surprise, but the research could have some interesting implications. For example, the article notes that it may affect how long sports agencies ban athletes who have been suspended for taking steroids and other performance-enhacing drugs, since the advantages they get could last much longer than we thought before. It could also prompt schools to begin incorporating more muscle-building activity into their gym classes.

For me, though, it’s just a needed reminder that I really am in this for the long-haul; I’m taking my health seriously now so that I don’t end up with huge regrets down the road. Of course there are no guarantees – I can do everything right today and my body could still suffer when I’m older. But maybe it won’t. Maybe the choices I make in my 20s and 30s really will enhance my future quality of life.

I admit that when I’m trying to pry myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to make it to Body Pump, I’m usually not thinking about how this will help me when I’m 70. And when I’m 70, I probably won’t remember those mornings I gave up an extra hour of sleep for the sake of exercise. That is, my mind probably won’t remember. But apparently my muscles will, and they will thank me. :-)

Have you heard about this idea of “muscle memory” before?

AND

Does thinking about your golden years motivate you to take care of yourself in the present?

Smile Therapy

By Katie, 5:14 am

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Which came first, the internal emotion or its physical manifestation?

Usually it’s pretty straightforward: you feel happy and you smile. :-D You feel sad and you cry. :cry: You feel angry and you scowl, kick, scream, and brood. :-x

But it can work the opposite way, too, if you’re willing to give it a shot.

Maybe you’re having an awesome Monday right now. Maybe your day is just peachy; you have no burdens on your shoulders and no worries on your mind. Happiness is just seeping out of your pores. You can’t stop smiling if you tried. If this is you, great! You probably don’t need to read any further. ;-)

If this is not you -  but you’d like it to be – then try this: SMILE. Right now. Lift those corners of your mouth as high as they’ll go. Go on, show me those pearly whites.

If you’re not smiling yet, it’s probably because you think I’ve taken a dive off the corny coast into the sea of cheesiness. Maybe you’re thinking that if you sit there and smile aimlessly at the computer screen it means you’ve officially traded in your last shred of sanity. You’re probably thinking, “This post is so dumb.”

That’s ok. Smile anyway.

I’ll do it too, if it helps.

Now start to get really into it. Don’t just focus on your mouth; try to smile with your eyes, your nose, heck, try to smile with your eyebrows. Put all of your energy into making your face just beam with joy. If you feel silly or are worried someone will walk in on you and tease you, just tell them Katie made you do it. Or tell them you just saw the silliest picture of a canine Maid Marian.

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Good, now you’re smiling. ;-)

I’m hoping you took me seriously and joined me in this little smiling exercise. But if you didn’t, I sincerely encourage you to give it a try, even if you think it seems too silly or cheesy. Because when I’m having a rough day – or even just a “blah” day – I’ve been known to try all kinds of elaborate strategies to create happiness, all to no avail. But when I stop trying so stinkin’ hard and just smile, somehow I start to feel a twinge of joy creeping up my spine. Soon I start thinking about all the reasons I should be smiling right now, because darn it, life is good! The next thing I know, I feel genuine, honest, bona fide happiness. And all I had to do was contort my face a little bit. :lol:

So go on, get grinning!

Be honest: did you smile while reading this post? Do you think I’m on to something here, or do you think I’m a total cheese-pot? Do you believe you can create a positive emotion simply by acting it out physically?

Unconventional Snacks

By Katie, 5:07 am

Ever notice how we humans are very into labeling? We put labels on everything, including food.

Now you all know that one of my main goals in life is to take those food labels – healthy, unhealthy, good, bad, slimming, fattening, etc. – and rip them to shreds. That same philosophy holds true for silly labels like “meal” and “snack.” 8-)

I’ve found that many foods most people deem “meal foods” actually make perfectly good, filling snacks. It’s a bit more difficult now that I’m in an office for 8 hours a day, but when I was still a graduate student I used to blow the “meal” and “snack” labels out of the water. ;-)

For example…

Seven “Meal” Foods I Eat As “Snacks”

1. Oatmeal

I love a big hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, but a smaller portion is perfect for curbing between-meal hunger.

2. Soup

Who says you can only have soup for lunch or dinner? I think 3:30 in the afternoon is a great time for a warm bowl.

3. Peanut Butter Sandwich

Half of a peanut butter or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich makes for some satisfying mid-day fuel.

4. Sweet Potato

Wash it, stab it with a fork a few times, wrap it in a paper towel, pop it in the microwave for a few minutes, split it open, and add your favorite toppings. Any time of day.

5. Whole-Grain Waffle

If you love Breakfast for Dinner, just wait until you try Breakfast for Snack. Let’s call it Brack. 8-)

6. Sushi

If I’m going to have sushi for a meal, I either need to supplement it with something else or consume a lot of it. This stuff is not heavy, in my opinion, or at least not the types I prefer. A small serving is a perfectly portioned snack!

 7. Cereal

For some reason I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who believes cereal should never be labeled “meal food” or “snack food.” It is absolutely-anytime-anywhere food. 8-)

How about you? What typical “meal food” do you often eat as a snack?

What Is Sexiness Anyway?

By Katie, 5:07 am

Note: This post contains photos that may not be safe/appropriate for work…or little eyes.

If you judge solely by our culture’s mainstream media outlets – television, movies, magazines, etc. – you would think we all define “sexy” in the same way: super skinny bodies, pouty lips, and over-exaggerated “come hither” looks.

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So I was quite surprised to read about the whole Lane Bryant commercial fiasco that happened back in April. Did you hear about this? Apparently both ABC and Fox refused to air a commercial for the plus-size retailer because it was considered too risqué.

And yet both networks have no problem airing ads featuring the “bombshells” of Victoria’s Secret. Tell me: why is this deemed completely appropriate…

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…while this is just too sexy for TV? :-?

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As this article points out, in some ways this is a major victory because it proves that people really do find curves sexy. Even if you find both models’ photos to be inappropriate – even if you’re a bit offended that I posted these pictures on my blog in the first place – you can certainly recognize that the situation sheds some interesting light on our society’s definition of what sexiness is.

But the article goes further. The author asked her husband if he found the Lane Bryant ad sexy, and of course he said he did. When asked why, he didn’t talk about her breasts or her thighs or her body at all; he said he found her confidence attractive, and he liked the fact that she looked like a “real woman.”

This is not to say that a Lane Bryant model is any more “real” than a Victoria’s Secret one. They are both “real women.” I think what the man meant was that sexiness doesn’t come from fitting into some standardized mold; indeed, it has nothing to do with a particular size or shape.

Sexiness, rather, is a quality that radiates from within. It comes from a place of self-love and self-acceptance, from being the type of person others want to be around. A confident posture, a friendly smile, a willingness to connect – for me and for many others, these characteristics have way more to do with someone’s attractiveness than how much skin they’re showing in a particular outfit.

Which means that you – yes, you! – have the power to look and feel sexy right this very second. You don’t need to change your clothes or your hair or your makeup; you just need to change your outlook. :-)

Were you surprised by the fact that many people deemed the Lane Bryant advertisement too sexy, even as Victoria’s Secret commercials were airing without controversy?

AND

What does sexiness mean to you?

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