Posts tagged "Cosmetic Surgery"

Guest Post: ‘My Breast Enhancement Surgery….and Removal’

A special thank goes out to Melanie Hawskley today for emailing and asking me if she could share her journey of body acceptance with Beautiful You readers.  I of course said yes when I learned more about Melanie’s life experiences and her desire to share her story with others in the hope they may learn something from it; especially if considering cosmetic surgery.  It’s a true and raw tale of learning and self love and I thank Melanie for sharing it with us.

My name is Melanie.  I’m a personal trainer, C.H.E.K (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology Institute) Holistic Lifestyle Coach, massage therapist and mother to two lovely kids.  In 2005 I got silicone gel breast implants to improve my very saggy post feeding breasts.  I was 34 years old, 3 years out of my marriage and in a relationship with a guy that definitely didn’t think much of me as a woman.

As a young woman I was always very self conscious about having almost no breasts, often making bras and bikini tops so I could pad them out.  All my friends wore bras and I wanted to be the same.  This desire was something I thought about lots as I grew up. In 2002 my marriage ended and I found myself in a relationship with a self centred man.  He was breast obsessed and often commented on mine being small.  He wasn’t the only one.  Other women would comment too.  I can now see if I’d had any self esteem I would not have cared what they thought but their words cut deep. 

It was 2004 when I met the guy who supported my decision to get breast implants.  I knew he was poor partner material but he had a way with words and knew how to keep me down.  My breast implant obsession began one night in a club.  I saw a woman with the most perfect breast implants, but when I looked at them I also thought how stupid it was to have them.  My partner laughed and said something about how bitchy women were.  I thought this meant he wanted me to have implants and that I wasn’t good enough without them.

I spent the next 6 months thinking about it obsessively until one day I announced I was getting them.  Again he laughed but never once did he say it was a dumb idea or worry about the implications for me.  I choose one of Sydney’s top surgeons and decided to get a ‘C’ cup breast (3 sizes bigger than natural) and was very excited.  The surgery cost me $11,500 and was the beginning of a very interesting life journey.  My partner came with me and took me home.  He was a pig; wanted to take my sleeping drugs and got so drunk he left me alone in the house un-able to change my own dressings.  I was very sore and swollen and even from the start felt they looked REALLY fake.

I now had ‘DD’ size breasts, 5 sizes bigger than my natural breasts.  It was a love hate relationship from the start but we got along OK for about 3 years.  3 years after surgery I went back to university and ditched the bloke but was beginning to develop unexplained fatigue.  I ignored it.  I had two children to rear, a business to run and studies to complete.

Eventually my health was too poor to continue doing what I’d come to love; working out at the gym.  I was studying to be a personal trainer, was lean, exhausted and in need of help.  I decided to study C.H.E.K Holistic lifestyle Coaching and was sick throughout the course; but what I learned changed the course of my life.  I learned why I was unwell which included excess stress on my immune system, how to get well, and how to share that with others.  After a workout one day I developed acute swelling around my left breast.  Investigations revealed nothing but it happened again much worse a few weeks later.  This time I felt ill and went to a great GP who discovered I had excessively high levels of ‘C Reactive Protein’ – a sign the body is rejecting something.

It took me a while to find a surgeon I could trust but in May 2011 the implants were removed.  It’s been a journey of mixed emotions.  I was truly relieved to be bringing my body back into balance and good health but it’s been a big challenge with clothes as my breasts look a lot worse now than they did before the implants.  I also discovered that due to the original implant surgery and my love of fitness, I’ve torn a lot of chest muscle tissue off the bone so now only have half my chest muscle left.  I also have lots of breast distortion when I exercise which means I need to hide my chest more than I want to.

To be really honest though, I’m happier than I’ve been in years.  The implant removal was such an awesome experience in that it enabled me to see just how much I have grown as a person.  Right now my breasts don’t look awesome but I can handle it far better than I could handle my wonderful natural body before implants.  I have grown into a self confident woman who’s following her path in life doing what she loves.

I look back at the whole experience and wonder who I’d be without it?  Where would I be, what would I be doing now?  So much good has come out of something so bad.  I’m now helping other women understand the value of their health.  We can’t take our health for granted; it’s not for free.  Through fitness, holistic lifestyle coaching, massage, meditation, good food, self appreciation and appreciation for the world we live in; we are able to bring our lives back into balance and experience our birth right…..optimal health and fitness.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and fulfilled life.

Thank you for being so brave and sharing such a significant part of your life with us Melanie.  You can connect in with Melanie at At-One Womens Fitness and on her Facebook page

Embracing Ageing

The worlds oldest woman died recently.  Here she is -  Maria Gomes Valentim.  I mean, how beautiful, beautiful, beautiful is she?  Just adorable.  Maria died aged 114, just a few weeks shy of her 115th birthday.  How extraordinary.

Maria’s passing has made me think a lot this week about things such as ageing, beauty, time and living.  Not small things to think about and I have no definitive insights on any of them, other than what I personally believe myself and have spoken about many times here at Beautiful You.  Things such as beauty exists in all of us – time is promised to no one – living and not existing is a right for us all.

Whenever I have thought about ageing this week however I keep thinking of the saying “ageing gracefully.”  It sounds so lovely in many ways.  It conjours up images and thoughts to me of quiet grace, duty, fulfillment and reserved beauty.  But is that really what ageing should be all about?  Is it really necessary as we age to have to quietly dispose of grey hairs, lather creams to erase wrinkles and be a ‘sweet little old lady?’  I am sure that most people don’t think that, but is the alternative to try and deny ageing through means such as cosmetic surgery or lying about our age?

We don’t honour ageing as much as we should which is evident in the pervasive messages that the world of media, advertising and pop culture send us all the time.  There are constant references to ‘turning back the clock’, slowing the ageing ‘process’, and of older women in professions where their appearance is seen as being important, (eg. journalism, acting, modelling), constantly being overlooked or even replaced by younger women.  At the core of it all seems to be the message that instead of embracing visual signs we are getting older, we must be rid of them.

This is such a shame as I fear it translates into us either thinking, wanting or just forgetting that older people are incredibly beautiful, vibrant and alive too.  How many times do we hear of stories where an older person has said they feel invisible or unwanted?  This is of course a very personal concern but I can’t help but think that we so rarely see elderly people on television, in advertising or as the stars of movies that it’s understandable they may feel as if society view them as attractive.  Well, I think they are attractive and the more of us that think so the more we will see our definition of beauty widen.  And that can only be a good thing.

I’ll leave you today with a favourite quote of mine (author unknown) that I think is so fitting – but will probably call into question if I am going to age gracefully!

 “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other – body thoroughly used up and totally worn out, screaming: WOO HOO! What a ride!”

Crack the champage, polish the dance floor and put away the botox injections – I’m skidding into middle age and beyond screaming “WOO HOO!”

What about you Beautiful You?

A Guest Post: The Lure of Labiaplasty

I was recently contacted by a Beautiful You reader called Kate who explained to me her recent experience with Labiaplasty and her feelings about her labia.  I was touched by her honesty and when Kate said she had always found the Beautiful You community open and brave in it’s approach to topics, I asked if writing a guest post may help her share her feelings and story.  I was thrilled when she said she would, with a particular emphasis on wanting to let other women know that they are not alone if they are experiencing negative feelings about their genitalia.  I am sure you will agree it’s an amazing read.

Just over a week ago, I was booked in for a surgery called Labiaplasty. Labiaplasty is a surgery for women with elongated labia minora, or the inner lips of a woman’s vagina. I happen to be one of them.

I first noticed the additional length in my early teens.  I thought that something wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with anyone. It wasn’t until nearly fifteen years later that I broached the subject with my Mum and sister.  At first Mum was shocked – her words were actually, “No, it’s not supposed to look like that.”  Needless to say, I freaked out!  My fears were confirmed.  The following few weeks were a blur of research, doctors appointments, specialists appointments, blood tests and pre-surgery preparation.  I was excited.  I was going to be normal!

In the lead up to the surgery, I continued reading and researching.  I found estimates that 20% – 40% of women have elongated labia.  The surgery had initially been for comfort reasons, as many women suffered pain and chafing, but had gone on to become popular for cosmetic purposes.  In my case, it was both.

I found women of all different ages were populating online forums asking whether they were normal, whether they had done something to cause it and in most cases, how they could get the surgery.  There were girls as young as fourteen asking whether they were eligible for labiaplasty and even suggesting frightening extreme solutions if not.  While some of the women included were happily married or partnered, many avoided relationships because of the fear of a partner discovering this part of their body.  The fact that this part of our body is so essentially female, and only open to viewing in the most intimate of situations, added a heartbreaking psychological impact for many of us.  I too, was greatly influenced by the fact of re-entering the dating world after ten years.

Many of the women in these discussions had seen images of women in adult media and found themselves to be comparatively different.  Further research indicated that many of the adult entertainers had either had the surgery themselves, or were subject to airbrushing of their genitalia before they were featured.  Some countries laws actually required this because a visual of the inner labia were deemed too intimate.

The more I read and the closer the date of my surgery loomed, the more questions I asked of myself.  If so many women were the same, was my attitude to myself as “disfigured” justified?  Was I doing a dis-service to myself, and other women, by going through with the surgery?  I had suffered with eating disorders and low self esteem through my teens and I wondered how much of this decision was being influenced by remnants of self doubt.  Finally, the evening before the surgery, I broke down in tears. I couldn’t go through with it and I postponed the surgery.

I still am yet to conclusively decide whether I will go ahead with it in the future, but I felt that it was important to share my story because there are so many other women going through this.  It’s not something that is readily talked about and people are hurting and afraid because they think they are alone.  I know that hearing other women’s stories really helped me through this time.

My point for writing this is to say to other women like me that you aren’t alone.  Surgery is a big deal, and if you feel like you are the only one who is like this, it’s easy to see it as the only option.  The truth is, it’s not.  We are all different.  I know that it takes a great deal of courage to accept yourself as you are, but it is possible. I’m still not sure if I am that brave, but I have come far enough to know that acceptance is just as much an option as surgery is.

Thank you Kate.  I am incredibly touched by your words and experience and know it must not have been easy for you to contact me about such a deeply personal issue.  I have no doubt that there will be many women who read your post and draw both inspiration and comfort from it and for that you have my gratitude.

Is there anyone else in the Beautiful You community that can relate to Kate’s story?  When we talk about body image I want it to be something where we can create a culture that talking about ALL parts of our body and how we feel about them, are seen as important and vital.  If you don’t have a personal experience like Kate’s do you have any words of encouragement and support for her?  So many of you have written amazing comments here before in support of others and I know this post will elicit the same response.

Image: Picfor Me

Kate Middleton’s Weight Should Not Be Media News

I guess you would have been rather sheltered to not know that Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married this week.  The ‘Wedding of the Century’ as it is being called is certainly global news and what wonderful news it is when of late we have been burdened with so many natural disasters.  Nothing can take the pain of such experiences away except time and natural healing, but the magic of a grand wedding and the love that surrounds that is a lovely thing for the world to witness right now.

As with any wedding there is a great deal of focus on the beautiful bride to be.  She appears to me to be a lovely young woman who is much in love with her Prince, as, most importantly, considering his parents marriage, he is with her.  There’s nothing like love to make you look beautiful and indeed feel beautiful.  Like so many other brides, even those not about to become a Princess, I am sure Kate is feeling a giddy mix of excitement and nerves.  I guess one billion people watching you get married, let alone your family and friends like all the weddings I have been to, and the one I have been a bride in, will do that to you, apart from marrying the man of your dreams.

What makes Kate’s bridal plans so exceptional of course is the fact that the world right now is watching her every move.  Considering she is marrying into the most famous and well known Royal family in the world this is not surprising.  Even though some may disagree with it, the duties of the English Royal family are very entertwined with the British people and considering British tax payers are footing a considerable portion of the wedding bill it’s understandable people will be fascinated with her, him and the big day.

While very aware of this public fascination, the one thing I had hoped for Kate in the lead up to her wedding was that the scrutiny and commentary on her weight, diet and appearance (no links from me – they’re everywhere if you really want to seek them out), would not be both so prominent or in certain instances, so cruel.  Then again, should I really be surprised when outside of royal circles and in every day life we have television shows that get brides to be to compete for plastic surgery?  Such has become the intense pressure to be a hot, thin and perfect bride on nearly every woman getting married, it’s become a cultural phenonemon that is exceptionally hard to ignore and even resist.

How amazing it would have been if the world’s media (and in particular the British tabloids) had chosen not to comment on Kate in this way.  None of it is necessary.  I understand the fascination and the need for photo’s and footage of public appearances.  A discrete snap of having lunch out or shopping is possibly even ok.  Commentary on these appearances, the designers she is wearing, her royal duties and even future babies is all to be expected.  But snide comments on any weight loss or gain, sniping at her dress choice, criticism of the way she wears her hair?  None of it is necessary.  Have the paparazzi and media really learned their lesson from all those years ago when William’s Mother, Princess Diana, silently suffered with an eating disorder for many years, was persistently criticised for her dress choice and spending (despite now being considered a ‘style icon’) and eventually met her death while in a car chase, speeding away from paparazzi?  Seems not.

We all play a part in this and not just for the reporting about Kate, but indeed all celebrities and people in the public eye.  While people such as myself, and I know many of you, while bemoan this form of cruel and critical reporting, we have to take things further than just saying it’s not ok.  Why?  Because clearly there is a market for this type of media, even though I loathe it and wish there wasn’t.  We must send a message to editors, reporters, advertisers and wider media outlets that we simply aren’t interested in the best bikini body stories, the how quick a new Mum has lost her baby weight stories, the worst dressed list stories and the ongoing scrutiny of the weight, diet and shape of people such as Kate Middleton.

How do we do it?  It’s easier than you may think.  Don’t buy magazines that have this sort of reporting as their fodder.  Avoid publications and sites that use paparazzi taken intrusive photographs of what should be private moments.  Do not click on ads at internet sites that earn their living out of making fun out of belittling people and driving a thin culture.  Do not frequent celebrity and gossip blogs that feed off body shaming media.

And beyond this?  Talk openly with children and young people about how someone’s weight, size and shape is no one’s business but their own.  Create a family and friendship culture that is accepting of differences.  Teach children to stand up for themselves and others when they are being teased about their appearance.  Honour ourselves as human beings whose value is so much more than what we look like.

Then we will begin to see a lack of interest in such media reporting which in turn will force publications and outlets to think very quickly about what they are feeding us and the fact we are turning away.  Only then can we hope to have any impact on ensuring the apallingly cruel weight, body shame and appearance focused stories that abound, cease.

While I wish for this and have refused to comment to media outlets who have been asking me to pass comment on Kate’s weight for the past month, I can only wish her and her Prince all the very best.  According to a news report I have seen on TV today, William has supposedly asked the Queen that Kate not be expected to undertake a heavy load of royal engagements for at least two years so he can help her ease into a Royal and very public life.  Sounds like a very smart idea to me and indeed, the perfect amount of time for the media circus to start giving us stories that are more balanced, positive and uplifting.

Crinkly Cleavage and Ugly Underarms?

Well…we already know according to the advertising, media and consumer worlds that we have serious issues with our thighs, bottoms, tummies, cellulite, wrinkles, sun spots etc.  All are in desperate need of serious overhaul because they aren’t smooth enough, thin enough, or just…enough.  All have to be poked, prodded, creamed and dieted into conforming to what our culture currently sets as the beauty norm and therefore is seen as attractive and even acceptable.  Sigh.  It’s a full time job trying to keep up with all the body shame!

Well…I have some overtime for you but unfortunately it involves no pay, only some media literacy and the hope you will hold on to your consumer dollars.  Seems now there are two new kids on the block that we have to worry about, namely crinkly cleavage and ugly underarms.  Both can be fixed of course if you spend your hard earned and buy a product to fix yourself – but don’t open your wallet yet!

Firstly we have the issue of wrinkly boobs.  That’s not a typo.  Supposedly one of the first places that women wrinkle is in their cleavage area.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t but then again it’s so hard keeping up with all the creams and potions I need to buy to combat wrinkles around my eyes and on my face.  I can’t be expected to keep up with everything!  You?  Of course all of our wrinkly cleavages can be reformed with a whole host of products described here ranging from a specific bra to outrageously expensive laser treatments.     

Then we have your underarms.  According to research by the beauty company Dove, 93% of women consider their underarm area to be unnatractive but what question/s have been asked to get that answer and with what agenda or purpose?  Clearly it is to sell products and in this instance, a new Dove deodorant that is claiming to make your underarms smoother and softer.  But why do we have to promote products that prompt women to think about another area of their body that supposedly needs something to ‘fix’ it or make it more attractive? 

It’s your armpit.  Is it really even meant to be attractive?  Should the focus not be on ensuring the deodorant just works and gives you confidence you don’t have body odour?  My preference for a brand that has promoted real beauty so heavily would have been the message that as a confident, authentic, strong, beautiful woman you deserve a deodorant that WORKS and that you really shouldn’t worry about what your armpits look like.

I believe this sort of advertising and reporting stems from (depending on how you view it), either a conscious or sub-conscious attempt to get women to feel bad about their bodies which in turn will prompt them to purchase a product to make that feeling go away.  The irony (or not for the company if someone goes on to purchase the product) is that the damage is often done.  The advertising or feel of a campaign or story prompts body shame which may then never go away – at all – even if the product that can supposedly help is bought.  When you compound this with ever increasing advertising for anti-ageing, diet, weight loss and cosmetic surgery options on a large scale we find ourselves in a media saturated world of body shaming.

Don’t fall for it Beautiful You!  While you are entitled to buy any products you like, there’s something I’d like to tell you you aren’t allowed to do.  You’re not allowed to think your underarms are unattractive or your cleavage (wrinkled, smooth, bumpy, lumpy or whatever!) requires overhauling.  You’re divine and beautiful as you are.  And yes.  That includes your underarms and girl charms.  

Mother Injects Daughter, Aged 8, With Botox

There are many things in life that I am not fully sure of and know are not black and white.  Life is not absolute in both its gloriousness and messiness and there are many shades of grey all around us.  There are also billions of varying passionate opinions about everything from democracy, to brussel sprouts to meditation.  But here are a few things I know, in my own mind, for absolute sure…

Little girls should not be injected with Botox

Little girls should not have pre-emptive waxing so they do not grow pubic hair

Little girls should not be told they have to look or be perfect

Little girls should not receive invasive beauty treatments as a birthday present

 Little girls should not check their face every night for wrinkles

Little girls should not want to have a breast augmentation or nose job 

 

These things I know for sure.  For absolute sure.  While I might be sure about all these things, I have read a story today that clearly tells me others disagree entirely.

This story outlines how Kerry, the Mother of eight year old Britney, regularly injects her with botox, is getting her waxed so she doesn’t grow and has lesser pubic hair and is deliberately grooming her to be a star:  “What I am doing for Britney now will help her become a star.  I know one day she will be a model, actress or singer, and having these treatments now will ensure she stays looking younger and baby-faced for longer.”  It doesn’t surprise me to learn that on this path to stardom Kerry is also entering Britney into child beauty pageants: ”When Britney takes part in pageants, parents talk about how they have given their daughter an extra jab to plump her lips or lose a wrinkle.  Everyone is doing it and talking about it.  We are not doing anything illegal, and I don’t want my daughter being the only one who doesn’t have a bit of extra help.”

I’m not sure where to even begin explaining how I feel about this story because, quite honestly, I swing from feeling deeply saddened to blindingly angry to outrageously concerned.  All I know is that young Britney doesn’t deserve to be caught up in this world of ‘star’ making, wrinkle worry and needles in her face.  It’s wrong.  It’s very, very wrong and nothing will make me think otherwise.  I certainly won’t think it ever worth it for a cheap polyester pageant sash or Youtube hit.

Why?

Because no little girls development and journey into womanhood should be twisted or stopped in this way.  Childhood is a precious and beautiful time where girls should not be worried about anything except playing, sharing, learning, exploring and having fun - all day, every day, on repeat over and over.  Childhood is not a time to be so deeply obsessed with appearance that we have girls checking for wrinkles in the mirror and trying to make their Mothers’ happy about having a foreign substance injected in their face.

I can’t even begin to explore without knowing Kerry or talking to her myself, why she is so deeply entrenched in treating her daughter in this way.  The variables are just too great.  I can only hope that at some point in time she will be able to see Britney for the precious natural gift she is and stop subjecting her to these invasive procedures that teach a child that the most important and valuable thing about them is the way they look.  I can only hope that Britney does at some point know that she is a beautiful girl without Botox and, yes, with pubic hair.

While I hope these things for Kerry and Britney, I will likely never meet them or be able to help them directly.  I can only do what I can about what I see are blindingly atrocious beauty standards, the increasing sexualisation of childhood, narrow media ideals and a pervasive culture pushing ever more strongly towards personal body scrutiny and self hatred.  I know I am not the only voice. 

Thank God.  There are so many of you out there and when we see tragic things like this we must not give up speaking out.  We must continue to speak out against a world where the chasing of celebrity status or a fabricated beauty ideal infiltrates our lives in such a deeply personal and potentially tragic way.  The risk of raising a generation of girls who are deeply troubled about their body image, sexuality and value as human beings is too high not to.