You Are Beautiful Despite Your Flaws

Look into the mirror. What do you notice first? Do you immediately notice your flaws — that big nose, crooked teeth, a birthmark, freckles, wrinkles or lines?

In our society, beautiful women are those who are considered flawless. Beauty products are geared towards eliminating such flaws or at the very least, concealing these. The beauty standards women are held up to often make us feel uncomfortable going out in public without doing something about the flaws that make us un-pretty.

But last night, C1 and I attended the launch of an unusual collection of pictures and stories of ordinary women by famed fashion photographer and model, Sara Black.

Sara Black

Dove, as part of its Campaign for Real Beauty, collaborated with Sara Black to produce the book When I Look in the Mirror.

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Featured in Sara’s first book are 50 women who, at first glance, are beautiful. A number of women featured in this book are familiar to me: Maan Hontiveros, Cris Villonco, Wilma Doesnt, Aimee Marcos. But a large majority of those featured are ordinary women just like me. And it is only upon close inspection that you realize that they are far from flawless. Each one of them has a facial mark.

The amazing thing about how they were captured by Sara though was that she captured each woman’s true beauty essence. Each portrait picture showed the woman’s unique and individual beauty. Every page of the book had the woman’s story. I leafed through some of the stories and I identified more and more with them. These women were real women with natural beauty.

Dove slogan: Campaign for Real Beauty

We bumped into a young lady about the age of my girl C1. C1 was immediately attracted to her. “Mom, I LOVE her Oxford shoes!!!” So I approached the young lady and asked if they could have a picture wearing their Oxfords.

KC Pusing

It was only later that I realized KC Nina Pusing was one of the featured women in Sara’s book and it was because she had a birthmark.

KC up close

In yoga, my teacher told me that it was acceptance of one’s body (flaws and all) that we needed to learn. Instead of being impatient that we were inflexible or could not execute a pose as well as the one beside us, we just had to accept that this was where we were at this point in time. We are taught to push our bodies only as far as we could make it go and in time, the body would just naturally bend with more flexibility.

Sara Black’s focus on women with flaws is a definite statement for us who can enumerate a litany of defects whenever we look at our face and body in the mirror instead of seeing the beauty that stares back at us. Sara told me, as she was signing the books I held out for her, that she really admired the women for allowing her to catch them up close, flaws and all, for this book. Sara, who so often captures the beauty of people in fashion, admirably states: “This book is my reaction to working in an industry that can sometimes be so overly obsessed with perfection. Sometimes, so many alterations are made to a person’s face to remove “imperfections.” These perfect images of women put a lot of pressure on other women who end up thinking that it’s their benchmark or standard of beauty, but in reality that really isn’t how the model looks.”

I attended this event primarily to accompany C1, who was the REAL guest of Dove Philippines here as she is one of the bloggers featured in their Real Thoughts page. But after talking to Sara and after meeting a real person like KC, I came away knowing I could confidently look myself in the mirror and see my flaws but still be able to look beyond them and come closer to what yoga teaches — acceptance, contentment, love.

The photo exhibit of Sara Black showcasing the women of When I Look in the Mirror will be at The Gallery, second floor of Greenbelt 5 till March 22.

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Spa + Theater = BlueWater Day Spa Theater!!!

I have tried several spas. Some were disappointing; others were great experiences that wanted me yearning to go back.

I am a yogini so spas are a welcome winding-down treat after a really great, sweaty yoga class. Many times, the aches and pains I feel are immediately relieved by a great massage. I am an advocate for healthy living and I truly believe that the spas contribute significantly to overall wellness.

As a part-time consultant too, I am not immune to the stress that corporate life brings and last year, I did find myself more often at a spa either for hand/foot treatments or a rub-down just so I could tune out my stress and breathe it out.

But guess what! BlueWater Day Spa has cooked up a winning combination for a spa. This concept is unlike any of the other BlueWater Day Spas you see around the metro. In fact, my office building had a BlueWater Day Spa branch right behind that I patronized. THIS one, definitely a first in the Metro, is a SPA THEATER!

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BlueWater Day Spa Theater is a haven in the heart of the corporate jungle and is located along Ortigas Avenue.

Its look and amenities are unlike any others. Check out these features:

* 621 sq, meters – larger than the usual branch sizes

* A larger reception area with a Modern European look

* A private consultation area so you can be assisted in choosing the right treatment for you

* A theater that can accommodate 28 people at a time and features High Definition cinema projectors with Dolby Sorround 7.1 sounds and BluRay movies

* The 28 Lazy Boy leather-seat sofas have been tailored to lean back at an angle suitable for both movie watching and comfort while being pampered

bluewater-hallway

this awesome hallway makes you feel like floating on water

Read more about the theater’s features and see more photos  HERE.

Of course, they still have the usual private and common rooms if you prefer their individual treatments.

I thought that one unique concept for a spa party at BlueWater Day Spa Theater would be a baby shower-spa party.

I have 4 kids and while they are all in their teens and tweens now, I can still clearly remember what it was like to be pregnant. You felt bloated all the time. Your feet hurt easily and you were in this constant state of fatigue and dizziness. Your tummy was too big for you to see your toes — worse, to even give yourself a decent pedicure. You also felt ugly at times because your officemates were all dressed in their corporate attire while you had to wear flats with a shapeless dress.

So, for the mother-to-be, holding her baby shower in the spa theater would be a chance for her to literally put her feet up, be treated to a great spa treatment while relaxing on a reclining sofa, and made to feel beautiful all over. It would be a treat too for her married friends whose husbands can likewise settle down to a good movie. And for her single female/male friends? Of course, this would be a treat they won’t say no to! The lolos and lolas-to-be would greatly enjoy this treat as well. The movies could either be the mother-to-be’s family videos or wholesome family movies that can keep everyone entertained, relaxed and truly at home. Gift opening would be even more fun since the baby shower celebrant could be videotaped opening her gifts and this could be projected onto the huge theater screen, including clips of the proud daddy-to-be.

I really would love to try this spa theater out.  My home is not far away too so that is a PLUS!

Well, I may no longer be a potential baby shower mommy but I can think of so many excuses reasons to visit BlueWater Day Spa Theater again and again.

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100 !

At the risk of having my yoga mates throw their mats at me…(just kidding yoga mates! I know you practice ahimsa — nonviolence)

Despite the possibility of teasing from family and friends who are on the opposite side of this battle…..

I daresay this…

Finally, after what seemed like a futile effort, I have managed to bring my weight to 100 pounds.

And for those who didn’t know, I was not battling to lose weight.  Rather, I had been trying for months to GAIN weight.

Yes, believe it or not, I was having just as hard a time keeping pounds on as my women friends were attempting to lose them. I was DESPERATE!

At my worst condition, my usual 105 pounds dropped to 95. I saw bones sticking out of my shoulders, my face (unfortunately, in women it is the face that collapses first though I wish that happened first to my thighs!) became gaunt at one time. People I had not seen for a while expressed surprise at my weight loss.

It started with my having adult braces. It was difficult to eat well for many, many months. Mouth sores were almost daily fare. Aside from that, my regular yoga practice sped up my metabolism and most likely brought it back to the metabolism rate of my youth because no matter what I ate, the calories were all burned up immediately. Last year, I also got hit by an attack of kidney stones which landed me in hospital twice in the span of 2 months.

But now, I am almost at the end (I hope!) of my brace-ful life. If my teeth cooperate as the lower set is being pushed back to correct my bite, I may be off these metal contraptions within the year! Woohoo!

I still have a-ways to go before reaching my normal weight of 105 but crossing 100 is a milestone I wish to relish for now.

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We Celebrate International Women’s Day Today!

Every March is International Women’s Month and specifically, March 8 is celebrated globally as International Women’s Day.

On the International Women’s Day (IWD) website, the day is described as follows: “Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. While there are many large-scale initiatives, a rich and diverse fabric of local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.”

Many corporations have began to actively support IWD. Even Google reportedly changes its logo every March 8 on its search engine pages.

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I found several activities (many from FilipinaImages.com) in Metro Manila as well as in the provinces that aim to celebrate women and inspire each one to achieve her full potential — to celebrate womanhood in all its forms.

March 9, NBC Tent, Rockwell (7am – 5pm)all women’s expo and all women’s run of different distances. Sen. Pia Cayetano will be one of those joining the run.

March 9, Quezon Park, Dumaguete City (5am – 10pm) – A 5-kilometer Fun Run/Walk for all women and girls will take place with support from men distributing information flyers on womens rights.

WikiPilipinas is hosting the Portal Encyclopedia of Filipina Women.

Filipiniana.net has a link to Philippine Women Studies which features links to laws relating to women, academic and statistical works on Filipino women, and literary masterpieces written by and for Filipinas.

FilipinaImages.com founders Noemi Dado, Dine Racoma and Lorna Dietz, in collaboration with wikiPilipinas, launched a writing contest, “Filipina Stories” for bloggers.

HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY TO ALL —

Filipina kababayans (fellow citizens), most of all to those who have distinguished themselves in their own fields and given the Filipina a positive image

my Pinay mommy blogger-friends (you know who you are!)

my women blog readers

women all over the world — with special mention to those whose basic rights as women are not respected, upheld or appreciated

WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

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Effect of Stress on Women

My dear girl friends — READ ON!!! This explains why YOU are all so important in my life. You keep me sane, healthy, and alive! Thank you, Nicky (a guy friend) for passing this article on to moi…..

STUDY ON FRIENDSHIP AMONG WOMEN

By Gale Berkowitz
University of California, Los Angeles

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriages, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis.

A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It’s a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research—most of it on men—upside down.

“Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experienced stress, the condition triggered a hormonal cascade that prepared the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible,” explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors. “It’s an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.”

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just “fight or flight.” “In fact,” says Dr. Klein, “it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the ‘fight or flight’ response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men”, says Dr. Klein, “because testosterone —which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen”, she adds, “seems to enhance it.”

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic “aha!” moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. “There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded,” says Dr. Klein. “When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.”

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the “tend and befriend” notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.

“There’s no doubt,” says Dr. Klein, “that friends are helping us live.” In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life.

In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight!

And that’s not all! When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate.

Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That’s a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships/ (Three Rivers Press, 1998). “Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women,” explains Dr. Josselson. “We push them right to the back burner. That’s really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they’re with other women. It’s a very healing experience.”

Sources: Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R.A.R., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000).

“Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight”, Psychological Review, 107(3), 41-429.

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