This was not a Dove commercial. But, the face looking back at me just didn’t look like me.

As I write this, exactly one week ago, on Tuesday, April 16, the Huffington Post‘s Huff Post Women section included the Emma Gray article, “Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ Ad Campaign Tells Women ‘You’re More Beautiful Than You Think‘”.  The article focused on Dove’s newest ad campaign featuring an interesting — whether you love it or hate it — commercial.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look.

This isn’t a post chiming in on comments by some who have issues with the fact that the women chosen weren’t reflective of the diverse society in which most of us in the United States live, or whatever else is the gripe.  This is a post about something I experienced days later.

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Some time ago, I’d purchased a Groupon for a professional photography session — studio, lights, make-up artist — the works.  I needed headshots working in Corporate America, and really, I’d wanted a new set of professional photos.  The last time I’d treated myself, it was almost 20 years ago.

The date seemed to be rushing towards me.  I wasn’t ready.  Nope.  I hadn’t lost 20 pounds and my bellies were still where I left them…on me.  I needed more time. *panic*  Too late.  It was now the night before and I had an appointment first thing in the morning, on a Saturday morning, I might add (this was so nuts), and I couldn’t think of a reason to call to cancel.  Short of a family emergency or my own personal emergency that involved a hospital visit, there was no way out of this.  I had to go.  Bottom line:  I needed to find it in me to turn on the charm and turn off the nerves through what I envisioned would be excessive “cheesing” and three wardrobe changes.

It’s was a long time since I did one of these, and even then, it wasn’t professional-professional with lights, cameras and a true make-up artist.  Heck, the last time I did this, the photographer didn’t even use a digital camera!  (Those were not the “norm”.)  I had negatives.  All I really remember from that shoot are two things:  (1)  The scarf I had wrapped around my head framing my hair — yes, hair (because, you know, that’s stylin’…smh) and (2) my cousin plucked my eye brows for the first time into oblivion a night or two before. I could barely feel the top half of my face.  I was still hurting.

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Morning broke on Saturday and off I went — small suitcase in tow.  Yes, a suitcase.  (Look, I had clothes and several pairs of high heels.  Don’t judge me.)

Fast Forward:  The actual shoot was not as painful as I thought it would be.  The photographer made me extremely comfortable, I almost forgot about the 2 decade time lapse and 30 extra pounds I was carrying.  Then, it was over.  The last shot.  I had nothing but anxiety.  How would I look?  Would I have paid for this, gone through an intensive wardrobe prep, lugging a suitcase on a Saturday morning through Midtown Manhattan to a photo studio near Times Square only to then see the end result and be completely disappointed and deflated about how I looked?

Modern technology allows you to see things almost immediately — almost 250 shots.  Yes, that many.

As I sat in a chair looking at a computer screen about the size of a television, I thought: Is that me?  It didn’t look like me — full make-up that was shockingly natural and so frighteningly close to my skin tone, but the lights placed a glow over my entire body.  The face looking at me didn’t look like me.  They were beautiful (and not in a conceited way).  This is not how I picture myself.  It’s not that I don’t have photographs of myself or allow people to take snapshots of me or don’t look at myself in the mirror every morning, but in my head I see a face that, frankly, has seen better days.  Years of battling acne (since puberty), dark spots, bags under my eyes, not-so-smooth skin — that’s what I see.  I also see the body weight and a large head (an unfortunate family trait).

This was not a Dove commercial.  But, the face looking back at me just didn’t look like me.

It’s interesting, the older I’ve gotten, the more self-critical I’ve become.  I don’t remember being this critical even as a teenager.  Sure, I know I look a lot younger than my age (also a family trait, but a really good one.  The “look”, however, doesn’t hide the obvious flaws I see.  And notice, I didn’t say, “…I think I see.”  What I described earlier in the post is real in my head.  But, perhaps my brain and eyes are making things a lot more prominent than they actually are, evidently, because the photographer, the make-up artist, and several family members who I’ve since shared one of the photos, couldn’t be more complimentary.

This brings me back to the Dove commercial.  What’s in a face?  Obviously, a lot from someone (me) who is seemingly coming to terms with aging.

Is this what qualifies as a mid-life crisis?

How do you see yourself?  When you look in the mirror or look at a photograph of yourself, what do you see?  Would people describe you as you’ve described yourself?

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Unexpected: A fear of eating

This past Lent, I decided to fast.  Not to get heavy into religion here, but for the benefit of non-Christians, Lent lasts for 40 days.  Many Christians decide to “give up” something during the season.  Christians believe Christ suffered for us and made the ultimate sacrifice.  Hence, many feel it’s a good idea — a bit of a spiritual reminder — to sacrifice a thing or two during this period.  Some examples include alcohol or smoking — or other things…(cue: *eyebrow raise and a flash of a side eye*)  But, it depends on the person and how deeply and seriously they’d like to take this.  None of this is mandated across the entire Christian faith.  It’s up to the individual, or in some cases, a church’s clergy may make suggestions, which usually includes spiritual support.  It could be the entire 40 days or a portion of the Lenten season.

Just in case you’re interested, here is a condensed explanation, thanks to About.com, with links related to the Christian season of Lent.

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I had this brilliant idea I would fast for Lent.  Oh, not just for a week or two.  Noooo.  The entire 40 days.  *blink*  My self-imposed sacrifice would be fairly regimented.  Before sundown, beverages; after sundown, one meal.

My schedule would be —

  • 2 shakes (I should have penned a blog post about shakes, but I’ll put a note at the conclusion of this post about things to consider) —  one before 10 a.m., the other at around 3 p.m.
  • 2 cups of a hot beverage (I’m a bit of a tea drinker, but I’ll have hot chocolate and the occasional cup of coffee…eh, not my favorite) — I’d have these during the hours between my shakes.
  • As many ounces of water as can be tolerated to keep myself hydrated and “full”.

The first two and a half weeks were the most difficult.  The drastic drop in calories brought on severe dips in blood sugar, obviously, because I was weak, stressed, could not fall asleep and did not sleep well when I did (and I’m the absolute worst at both), had headaches, was irritable, went to the bathroom way too many times, thought about food all…the…time, and I think I hallucinated a few times.  Not kidding.  (See my posts here and here.)  This was not easy at all — not for a normal person…not for a “foodie”…not for someone with an 85-year old West Indian aunt (my grandmother’s sister) a.k.a. Sassy Spitfire, who believes people should be eating several times a day and whose memory must be the worst or perhaps she was just torturing me by saying, “Why don’t you eat this…”  Um, I’m fasting.  I thought I was clear about this weeks ago.  Seriously, woman, now is not the time to play with me or my mind.

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The period of Lent ended on Sunday — Easter Sunday.  I made it!

I had a shake for breakfast, a matzo cracker for lunch followed up by a shake, and a cup of tea about an hour before dinner.  As for dinner, I enjoyed a wonderful meal of truffle-infused pasta with truffle cheese sauce (see pic below) and a small seared tuna steak.

Parmegiano Reggiano Italian Sauce with Truffles

That was all I had for the day.  My largest amount of calories, again, after sundown.  Other than the cracker, I’d basically had what I’d been having for weeks. I was done for the night and felt stuffed — even hours later as I went to bed.

Manischewitz Organic Matzos

A new day — Monday:  I had two shakes, two cups of tea, no water…and dinner.  I also had a few cashew nuts.  It hit me on Sunday night and the thoughts returned to my head on Monday…

I’m actually afraid of eating.

I used to look forward to what I dubbed on Twitter as #TheGreatLunchHunt — lunch time “foodie” adventures where I would hunt for food trucks with delicious options.  The mere thought of this is giving me anxiety.  Now when I eat, I feel “heavy” — almost like I’ve eaten too much.  It is a very unpleasant feeling.

Now what?

My intent is to finish the Glucerna shakes I still have remaining and then slowly begin eating again.  That’s the intent.

I’m a foodie with a problem.  I’m not ready to sound the alarm bells, but…

I never expected to feel this way.  Ever.

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Observations about shakes:

I don’t have a juicer or one of those fancy Bullet-blender things.  So, I purchased ready-to-drink meal-replacement shakes.  When I began my fast, I drank Medifast shakes.  They were tasty, creamy, but extremely low in calories.  Once they were finished, I purchased four bottles of GNC shakes to see how they tasted.  They were much larger (much larger), which was a big plus.  However, they were a bit on the watery side with a strange taste.  They would not do.  I then purchased two cases of Glucerna.  (I didn’t need “testers”.  I’d already tasted them in the past.)  Like the Medifast shake, both flavors — chocolate and vanilla bean — were creamy and delicious.  Unlike the Medifast shakes, they were higher in calories, but lower in sugar compared to a similar product, Ensure.  Taste is only part of the equation.

My suggestion is that you not be delusional when doing something like this.  Be cognizant of your health status.  I’d even suggest that you consult with your doctor before living on meal-replacement shakes for an extended period of time.  As I mentioned, I chose Glucerna because of its lower sugar content.  I also checked labels for sodium and saturated fat.  You should too.