It’s looking kind of apocalyptic out there, and all of us are struggling. Self-care, always a necessity, is no longer something we can put on the back burner. We can’t expect our mental health to take care of itself, and we can’t afford to neglect ourselves anymore.

I can’t use boudoir magic to make people feel better right now, but I’m going to be here helping nonetheless. So this is the beginning of a series of self-care challenges, ideas, and inspirations. I want you to come out of this healthy and strong, so make yourself a priority! It’s times like this that we need to pull together, support each other, and find new ways of strengthening our resilience.

Today’s challenge:

Throwback Thursday

Use that old-fashioned device, the tel-e-phone, and call someone you don’t usually. A childhood friend, someone you used to talk to but have fallen out of touch with for no good reason… grab a cup of cocoa or glass of wine and take the time to reconnect.

If you’ve got phone anxiety, here’s a trick to beat it; at the moment you think of who to call, count, 5-4-3-2-1 and then do it. No thinking. It’ll be fine once you’re in, I promise!

(If you do this challenge, comment below and tell me how it went!)

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Sometimes I like to use my blog to shamelessly brag about how great my friends are, and this is one of those times. <3

I met Debbie in 2013 when she impulsively decided to come on the very first Fearless Destination Boudoir Retreat. These days, the retreats are well-known all over the world and when women sign up they can look back at old blog posts and galleries and Instagram pics and have a pretty good idea of what to expect; but this was the very first one. It had never been done before- not just by me, but by anyone. No one in the world was doing anything like this. So she was basically signing up to go across the ocean with a stranger with a cool dream and only charisma to back it up.

Debbie, along with Colette, Lilliana and Doreen, the original Fearless women, is the reason that the retreats exist today; their trust and bravery in taking a chance on my crazy idea has sparked not just the last 7 years of amazing adventures but a revolution in the boudoir world. Retreats like ours are starting to happen all over, little pockets of fabulousness, girlpower and body positivity that are lights in the darkness.

So, what kind of person takes that kind of crazy gamble? I’ll tell you.

Debbie is brave and loud and unabashedly herself. She’s a musician in the army and she takes no shit from anyone. She’s the most loyal friend you could ask for, and will be your friend in a minute if you let her. She’s generous and silly and warm and has a big personality and she always says “yes” to adventure- like the time she came on the Bali retreat and impulsively went to Australia afterwards for a quick visit to a friend while she was in the area. She has been on every international retreat and I can’t imagine them without her- her friendship, laughter and support are a part of so many of my best memories.

Today is her birthday, and while I can’t go visit her, I can (and did!) dredge my hard drives for photos from every retreat to share with you. <3 I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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Body Positive Women

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Guest post written by Michelle Oxier

Before photo boudoir

“I’m not model material! Especially not boudoir model material!”

That’s what I’ve always thought. I never saw myself as having the “right” body for boudoir photos, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to do it. I’ve always wanted to have my hair and makeup done by a professional, and to have my photo taken so that maybe I could see myself as the opposite of what I’ve always been told or believed about myself.

 

Then I found Acts of Beauty on Facebook and my attention was grabbed. Body positivity was in the forefront of what they were doing. Any woman, any size, shape, color, background… ALL women should have the opportunity to see themselves as the beautiful creatures they are… even me.

I spent the next hour on their website in awe. There were women like me featured in the gallery. There were blog posts that made me feel like Star was talking directly to me. I knew that if I was going to gather up the courage to have someone photograph me in an open and vulnerable way (ie: in my bra & panties!), Star had to be the one to do it.

On the day of my shoot my anxiety was in full force. Did I pack enough clothing and accessories? Did I pack too much? Was I really going to be able to loosen up enough for these photos to turn out great? Or would I become tense like I usually do when someone takes my photo? And was I really going to find the courage I needed to take my clothing off?

(Narrator: She was)

Gorgeous plus size boudoir photos

From the first moment I met Star, I knew there was something special about her. You expect to be treated a certain way by a business when you’re a customer and of course those expectations were met, but what I didn’t expect was the genuine kindness and care that is so obviously exactly who Star is. It’s not forced, it’s not fake, it’s completely natural.

It was that kindness and care that made me comfortable when I stepped into her studio. She made sure I was taken care of. She understood when I broke down in tears because I still believed I wasn’t the type of person who should be doing something like this. She gave me hugs, she fed me chocolate, strawberries and croissants while Michelle, her incredibly lovely hair and makeup artist, enhanced my features.

To be honest, I am not someone who is comfortable in front of a camera, I never have been. I was sure I was going to be an awkward mess the entire shoot. Ten minutes in, I was surprised to discover that I was fine and actually having a lot of fun! There was this sense of sassiness and spunkiness coming out of me that I didn’t realize existed!

Gorgeous plus size boudoir photos

Michelle, ten minutes into her shoot

Star guided me through posing, I wasn’t left to flounder and figure it out myself, she knew exactly what to do. She made me laugh, she made me comfortable. To me, that’s one of the most important things a photographer can do for a subject…bring them to a level of comfort that will allow them to be themselves…that’s when the real beauty comes through.

A few weeks later, I returned to the studio to view my photos. I was nervous. You know how you can pick apart photos of yourself based on what you think is good or bad about how you look? I fully expected that to happen. It didn’t.

Gorgeous plus size boudoir photos

I was proud of the woman I saw looking back at me in those photos. She was fierce. She was beautiful. She was strong. She was worthy. She was imperfect and she was okay with that fact.

As I sat there staring at those images, I knew that it was time for me to realize that I was all of those things too. Not just in a photograph, but in real life?

 

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Looking to hang out with amazing women like Michelle in a body-positive, supportive atmosphere? Check out the Acts of Beauty Insiders Facebook Group here!

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“I feel betrayed by my body.” I’ve read this a few times in the discussions on our Facebook group today, and in my work I hear this a lot. Our amazing bodies grow entire new humans, survive massive stress and illness, or just plain love cake, and they get bigger. Softer. Stretched. And we feel betrayed, because being big and soft and stretched is supposed to be a sign that we aren’t good enough. Don’t try hard enough. Don’t value ourselves enough to take care of ourselves.

A woman who takes care of herself is fit. Capable. Not sick. Has energy and tight skin and a smooth stomach. These are the prizes we get for good behaviour.

Now, you read that and you know that it’s not true, right? But when you look in the mirror, those are the standards you’re using to judge yourself. Maybe a lot, maybe only a little, but we all carry or have carried those beliefs because we were all raised with them.

When your body becomes softer, looser, and bigger, that’s not a sign of failure. It’s a natural consequence of life. And the only thing that makes a toned & tan body “better” than a just-gave-birth body is that the people around you, sold the same lies you were, will congratulate you for slimness and be, at best, silent about the kind of beautiful that comes after life has its way.

When we see before and after photos of people who have lost weight it’s easy to congratulate them, to feel envious, to think the person in those pictures has gotten the reward for good behaviour that we crave. But health is not measured by your dress size. Health is about eating food that nourishes your body and soul, moving your body in ways that makes it stronger, creating a life that fulfills you and doesn’t sicken you with stress.

Being thin is not life’s win condition, and it shouldn’t be yours. Strive for health and happiness, but make a conscious decision about what that looks like for you and why.

Am I saying no-one should ever try to lose weight? Well, kind of, yes. It’s not that weight loss is bad. It’s that I think we should all work towards being our best self, and as physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually balanced as we can be. In some or even many cases, weight loss will be a byproduct of those changes. But as long as weight loss is the only goal, you’re missing the chance to celebrate an enormous number of successes and you are prioritising a part of the process that (in my opinion) is one of the least important.

We’re not going to make it through life looking like 20yo bikini models. We’re going to stretch, sag, and, frankly, age. The only way to do that with grace and sanity is to start redefining beauty and stop equating that slim, fit, springy body with success and worthiness. We need to revel in our softness, forgive our curves and stretchmarks, hold our pendulous breasts in our hands and enjoy the weight and flow of them, watch with wonder as our smile deepens and our eyes crinkle with life.

So if you’re trying to lose that last 20 or 50 or 200 lbs, that’s fine. But I think you’ll be much happier if you add in some other markers for success and celebration too; trying a new activity, reaching a realistic fitness goal, calling your friends more, making art, saving a kitten or playing an instrument or making a neighbour’s day. The impact you make in the world has nothing to do with your weight.

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From the moment I first spoke to Jennifer, around this time last year, I knew I had to do a shoot with her. Kind, compassionate, strong, and brave, she felt none of those things- but she had finally started to realise she deserved to. Seeing the changes she has made in her life since her shoot has been utterly heart-filling.

This video was shot just after she saw her photos for the first time; below you can read a bit more about her experience in her own words.

What’s your story? Why did you decide to do boudoir right now?

After spending 10 years in an unhealthy marriage, I figured I wasn’t worthy of love or affection and that I must have something wrong with me. I had been sick and battling Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus and had gained weight and my doctor was telling me as well that I was not where I should be. As I was going to enter the dating scene again I decided I needed to finally take my own advice, the advice I always give my girls: that you need to love yourself first before finding a partner to love, or you will always settle for less than you deserve.

Before your session did you have any worries or fears?

I was self conscious and worried. I told myself she is no miracle worker and even though she had gorgeous pictures on her site I shouldn’t expect that for me. That I would settle for ok. I hated my body and felt ugly, undesirable and not sexy at all.

Beautiful moody natural light boudoir photo

What was a highlight of your session?

The way Star and Michelle treated me, like I was important and so worth their time. They made me feel beautiful and sexy. Star made me feel comfortable and talked to me before and throughout the session, asking questions and what I was comfortable with. She played music I liked and kept telling me how beautiful I was and that she loved the pictures. I was flying high after it.

How did you feel when you saw your photos?

I cried. I couldn’t believe how beautiful I was. I was in awe, and it was not like she put a Snapchat filter on them- it really was me. I was so happy. I was amazed by how beautiful and sexy I looked. To see myself through her eyes has touched my life forever.

Beautiful curvy boudoir photos_0001

What would you tell someone else considering coming to Acts of Beauty for a boudoir session?

Love yourself enough to do this. Give it a chance. I know it’s daunting but I wish every woman could love themselves like this and Star is the woman to help you do it. She is so kind and fun and totally puts you at ease. Do it! Do it for yourself and allow yourself to see your body through her eyes. It’s worth it.

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