Next up on my blog series is Dana (on Instagram: dothehotpants) My friend told me that I needed to follow Dana months ago since she is all about body positivity. What I love most about her is how REAL she is in her Instagram posts. If she's having a shitty day, she doesn't act like everything is all rainbows and butterflies; she keeps it real. I find it incredibly refreshing!
Oh and did I mention she's from the San Francisco Bay Area?
Below is a piece of her bio from her site. I didn't want to botch it so I've copied and pasted a part of the bio!
Dana Suchow is a writer, stylist, and activist. Since overcoming bulimia and compulsive exercising that resulted in permanent injuries, she has become a champion for women’s rights, eating disorder issues, and body positivity. Dana founded Do The Hotpants in 2012 as a fashion blog, but once she realized that fashion’s unattainable beauty standard was fueling her eating disorder, she switched gears. In 2014 Dana gave up her dream of becoming a famous fashion blogger, and has now made it her mission to use her own life experiences to educate, empower, and uplift anyone struggling with bad body image. Dana now curates and hosts women’s networking events that support all self-identifying women and focus on the importance of female safe spaces.
Check out Dana's interview below.
We all have an inner critical voice – what do you do to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down on yourself?
I feel shitty a lot. It’s not something where once a week I have a bad body moment. I have to constantly remind myself to be positive because if I don’t I go to a negative space. Just being on social media and seeing other body positive bloggers that have more followers, or that are more secure in showing their cellulite or bad body image always sets in comparisons.
But there ARE things I do to combat those feelings. I save all of the positive messages I get from my followers. I have a folder on my Gmail that’s just positive messages that I’ve received from either fans, friends, readers or anyone that sent me a message telling me, “I really appreciate what you do and it has helped me get through x and y.” These help me realize that I’m fighting the good fight. I may not be winning every battle, but keeping these message and remembering that what I’m doing is bigger than myself has been extremely helpful.
A lot of times when I have a bad body moment, I go “You know what? There's other people who are counting on me, and there are more things going on in this world that are more important than me worrying that my thighs touching.” I think having accountability like that has been really helpful. Someone can tell you something nice or send you a nice email and for 5 minutes you feel great, but 20 minutes later those good feelings are lost. It’s being able to hold on to those positive messages that’s so important. Our mind is a muscle and we aren’t wired to be positive all the time - it’s work. So when I need help getting into a positive headspace, I just go into my Gmail and read those messages. It’s an instant mood booster!
And second is constantly educating myself. When I get down on my body I remind myself that this is not a natural place where my mind should be. I have to remember that I feel this way because of the diet industry, because of capitalism. Because we live in a patriarchal society that keeps women down. It’s remembering the root cause of why I feel bad about my body. It’s not because my thighs touch, it’s because society tells me I’m ugly because my thighs touch. My thighs touching has nothing to do with my relationship to the world, to my friends or to the people that love me. It’s all about remembering to stop yourself and separate your mind from those negative thoughts. And it helps to find the deeper meaning of why you’re thinking negatively. If you don’t know the root cause, these negative thoughts will continue to happen.
We’re constantly surrounded by messages from the media and our diet culture that we aren’t good enough. How do you navigate your way through these negative messages?
That’s a tough question because I always say that unless you really seclude yourself from society, its very difficult to avoid absorbing the negative messages society tells you on a daily basis.
I do NOT read magazines; fashion, home, wedding, anything. The advertisements, the models, the sexism, every aspect of magazines right now promotes a white, thin, cisgender ideal woman that doesn’t even exist. Even the models are all photoshopped. Nothing is real, and these faux bodies we see end up distorting our reality.
I also avoid most media. TV shows with only thin, white actors, or movies with a weak female who is saved by a man. I don’t follow social media accounts that make me feel like shit. No one’s life is as perfect as their social media and if something is making me feel bad about my life or my body, I remove it. Granted, there are certain times that something will make me feel bad and it’s because of my insecurities, so learning to separate - Do I feel bad because this person is thinner than me and it’s brushing up against my own insecurities? Or do I feel bad because they are promoting the idea that thinness is better? That’s where I have to center myself and remember that I’m good enough. I make sure not to follow any accounts that promote one ideal body type. They now have ads on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram and I can’t control the content of them, so there’s always a diet brand or a photoshopped thin white model that ends up sneaking into my feeds, and it can be triggering, but I try my absolute hardest to make my online spaces as safe as they can be for me and my mental health.
There's definitely no good answer on how to avoid diet culture and how to avoid the messages. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the history of body positivity and feminism and learn where these negative messages from society come from. And it’s also important to learn the history of the body positive movement. It didn’t start to make thin white girls feel better about a stomach roll. The movement came from fat women, trans women, gay women, and women of color who felt like they didn’t have a place to feel loved and respected in society. The movement has been taken over by brands like Aerie and Dove, but these “body positive” brands are just skimming the surface and profiting off of a movement that doesn’t feature the women whos backs it was built on. There's a lot of education that needs to happen and I cannot stress enough for people to be reading and doing their research. There's so many books on feminism or intro to feminism that I think will help people understand why they hate their bodies and why this movement exists.
Are there any challenges with being influential on Instagram? Is there any negative self talk that stems from being influential and having lots of followers?
Absolutely! I’m single right now and the last couple of months I’ve been dating. Having men that I’ve been dating or anyone that I’m interested in see my social media or follow me, adds a completely different level to my social media. I get nervous at times that when I put out a picture of my acne, my cellulite or my hairy legs, that I’m not going to be lovable or datable. These people are following me for a different motivation or different intention than my normal audience. And yes, while I should know that if they can’t handle my acne or my belly rolls, they don’t deserve to date me. It can still brush up against my insecurities from when I was younger, that my self-worth is directly connected to the male gaze.
It’s weird being so open and not really have any sort of privacy of who I am or what I go through. There's definitely a lot that I don’t share on social media. Part of it is because I work a full-time job in corporate America - so I can’t post the underwear pics that so many girls do because slut-shaming is a very real thing I have to deal with and take into account when I post pictures. It was easy when I had 100 followers and they were just my friends, but having complete strangers see you at such vulnerable moments can be really terrifying. I know that me being vulnerable helps others, but I also have to keep my sanity, so it’s a fine line. I know I shouldn’t be worried about what other people think, but at the same time it confronts my existing insecurities and it can be challenging. What I want to expose vs. what I want to keep private is a balance I’m still trying to figure out, because I am my brand.
What’s your favorite thing to do to show yourself some self-love?
So this is an interesting question because one of the ways I show myself self love is exercising. But that can be really triggering for people, so I don’t like saying that exercising is self-love. Because even for me, for so many years, exercise was punishment and there are still some days where I’m like “Eh I ate shitty yesterday I gotta go run today” So I can still at times, use exercise as punishment. But when I’m feeling down about my body and I go to a kickboxing class or I go for a run, it definitely makes me feel better emotionally, not just physically. Remembering that my body can still do things whether I feel jiggly or not, is really important.
Another thing I’ll do is have a total veg out day. I’ll stay indoors and won’t leave my house. I’ll watch Netflix and order delivery. I hang out with my cat and don’t change out of my pajamas. Over the years I’ve removed the pressure to be cool, to party, to be at level 10 all the time. Now, if I’m tired I stay in. I listen to my body a lot more. I don’t workout as much as I used to, especially if I’m tired or not feeling well. So for me, self-care can be staying in bed OR going for a run!
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you want to share with others?
I would say the most important thing I’ve learned is that everyone struggles with their body and we are not alone in these feelings. This is why I don’t like when people on Facebook or Instagram post only their highlight reels because I know life just isn’t like that. I know they’re struggling and they don’t love their body 100% of the time. I know their finances may not be in order just like mine aren’t. When I’m having bad days, I remind myself that I’m not the only person that feels this way right now.
Another important lesson has been learning my privilege. For years I was like ‘Woe is me - my life is horrible, I have this eating disorder and no one has it as bad as me.’ But now I’m like, well I’m not a woman of color, I don’t experience ageism, I have an able-body, and I don’t have extreme health issues. I fit society’s beauty standards. There are so many areas in this world where I’m privileged. There are so many things that I’ve been given privilege just by being born in this body, and it’s learning how to use that privilege to amplify the voices of people who don’t have the same privileges that I do. When you think you have it really bad, I promise someone else is struggling more. It doesn’t mean that your experience is any less valid, but you do need to remember to put things into perspective.
And remember, when you get down on yourself, 9 times out of 10 it’s because you’re comparing yourself to others. But just know that everyone has gone through something messed up in their lives too. Most people just don’t have the courage to share it because it’s too terrifying. A lot of people are walking around with a lot of shame and secrets. I promise you’re not the only one.
What’s one thing you want your followers to know?
I am not perfect! I get a lot of people that message me saying “You’re such an inspiration, you’ve gotten over you’re eating disorder, I want to be like you when I grow up.” And as much as the messages make my heart swell, I have to remind them that while it may look like I have my shit together, (even though I try to be as real and vulnerable as I can), I promise that my life is not together. I promise I get stressed out, depressed, anxious, and sad.
I’ve had bouts of crying the past couple of weeks thinking about feminist events that I want to do but working on them feels overwhelming. I’ve had binge episodes in the last couple of weeks which aren’t as bad as they were five years ago, but still make me sad that I’m not further along in my recovery.
I just want people to know that I’m still struggling. I promise I don’t have it all together. I just turned 33, and this is definitely not where I thought my life would be, but I’m trying my best. And I’m trying my best to help others the only way I know how, through my own experiences.
If you don't follow Dana you definitely need to check her out! You can find her at dothehotpants. You can also learn more about her on her site, which you can find here.
Thank you so much for being part of this blog series Dana! You're support has been amazing!
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma and body acceptance.