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By Andrea Peyser
March 10, 2017
It’s hard to shed a tear for Chrissy Teigen, a glamorous, trim and wealthy woman who seems to have it all: A fabulous career as a supermodel and TV personality with a cookbook-writing sideline, a loving hubby in musician/actor/songwriter John Legend and an adorable baby girl. At 31 years old, she’s in her prime.
But don’t be so critical of Teigen because she’s beautiful and successful. She’s no different from the rest of us.
At what appeared to be the happiest time of her life, the stunner was hit with a crippling one-two punch of anxiety and sadness so severe, it nearly sapped her ability to work and her will to soldier on. It’s all because of something she shares with ladies around the globe, and even some dudes.
Postpartum depression is real. And it’s hell.
“Getting out of bed to set was painful,’’ she shared in an essay in the April issue of Glamour magazine. “My lower back throbbed; my shoulders — even my wrists — hurt. I didn’t have an appetite, would go two days without a bite of food, and you know how big of a deal food is for me.
“One thing that really got me was just how short I was with people.”
The funk set in after the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model went back to work last August as co-hostess of Spike TV’s “Lip Sync Battle’’ after giving birth in April to her and her 38-year-old husband’s first child, Luna Simone Stephens.
“When I wasn’t in the studio, I never left the house. I mean, never.
Not even a tiptoe outside.’’ she wrote. She spent frequent, often sleepless, nights on a couch, sometimes with Legend. She threw up a lot. Teigen joins celebrities who’ve come forward with confessions of postpartum issues, including Brooke Shields, Courteney Cox and Gwyneth Paltrow. If it can strike them, it can afflict anyone.
After I had my now-teenage daughter, I slid into anxiety and anger.
I had no idea why. With a guilty conscience, I left the little one I loved more than anything on earth with a sitter one morning to visit a mental-health professional. Her reaction floored me. She wanted to know if I had considered harming my child. Never! This question, which I perceived as a harsh judgment, may help explain why many women, particularly those of color or lower incomes, fear having their children taken away from them and avoid seeking help, according to Ann Smith, a nurse practitioner and president of Postpartum Support International. Organization personnel connect the afflicted with caregivers and provide training to social workers, nurses, doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, teaching them to show compassion and understanding.
In its mildest form, “baby blues’’ is characterized by mood swings.
“They’re up, they’re down, they’re crying, they’re laughing,’’ said Smith. According to experts, this affects about 75 to 80 percent of new moms, and symptoms disappear in two to three weeks without intervention.
About one in seven moms suffers mild to severe clinical mental-health episodes collectively known as “perinatal mood disorder,’’ and this can start during pregnancy. In addition to the depression, anxiety, loss of appetite or bingeing, insomnia or loss of energy and inexplicable fits of anger, some 50 percent of these women experience “intrusive thoughts,’’ Smith explained. They fantasize “50, 60, 70 times a day of harm coming to the baby, maybe at their own hand.’’ It’s scary. Additionally, some 10 percent of partners —male and female — are estimated to suffer.
At the worst end of the spectrum, about one or two out of 1,000 new mothers experiences postpartum psychosis — they see visions or hear voices that don’t exist, and these may tell them to hurt or kill their children. Think of Andrea Yates, who drowned her five kids in a bathtub in 2001.
The good news, said Smith, is that all these things are treatable, through psychotherapy or medication.
The difficult part is getting mothers to quit blaming themselves.
Teigen underwent a physical examination in December and received an unexpected diagnosis. Now, just speaking up about postpartum depression and anxiety helps her cope.
“I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.
Sometimes I still do,” she wrote. … “I want people to know it can happen to anybody, and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone.’’
With this golden girl’s example, let’s hope other people find permission to heal.
By Andrea Peyser
March 6, 2017
The lady rocks!
After being endlessly bombarded by Photoshopped images of supposed womanly perfection — emaciated dames with flawless skin and enhanced boobs who seem to ingest little more substantial than lemon juice and pixie dust — another kind of picture enveloped me like a warm blanket.
Plus-size goddess Ashley Graham, 29, in all her fleshy gorgeousness, broke from the pack of skin and bones, confidently rocking a red tank-style bathing suit out of “Baywatch,” soon coming out as a movie, in a shoot for the Swimsuits for All campaign.
But Graham took her size-16 bod a step further. The first generously proportioned babe ever to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine’s Swimsuit Issue was photographed aboard a jet ski in Miami last week, showing off not only her bodacious backside, but her dimples. That’s right, the woman has cellulite — just like most of us.
And she looks fabulous.
“I work out. I do my best to eat well. I love the skin I’m in,” she wrote in a caption for a January Instagram post accompanying a pic of herself, bodily flaws and all, in a bikini. “And I’m not ashamed of a few bumps, lumps of cellulite, and you shouldn’t be either.”
Graham, whose husband, filmmaker Justin Ervin, adorably gave her the pet name “Butt,” was joined by, among others, Teyana Taylor, 26, the singer, songwriter, dancer, actress and entrepreneur known for appearing in Kanye West’s “Fade” video. Taylor has admitted she’s tried her entire life to gain weight. (We all should be so cursed.)
Yet she grapples with her own body issues.
“My favorite part [of my body] used to be my breasts, but now my breasts belong to Junie,” she said in an interview with Self magazine published in January, referring to her 1-year-old daughter with husband Iman Shumpert, 26, a hoops player for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I appreciate every stretch mark, every sag,” she said. “One boob is bigger than the other . . . but it is what it is. I love my body and I love the place that I’m in.”
What is happening here?
Women displaying diverse body types, ages, races and even disabilities are finally being presented as attractive, strong and desirable.
They’re crushing on red carpets and runways, in all forms of entertainment, social media and even at offices and on the streets.
Once, worthiness was thought to live exclusively inside the frames of anorexic and bulimic, mainly teenage mannequins wearing Size 0. Now, Dame Helen Mirren, 71, and muscular tennis star Serena Williams, 35, are widely considered hotties. Oscar winner (for her supporting role in “The Help”) Octavia Spencer, a lovely full-figured lady of 46 years, was front and center at the Oscars, nominated again for her supporting role in the flick “Hidden Figures.”
Even some Barbie dolls, which began encouraging impressionable young girls to binge and purge in 1959, have grown love handles and pot bellies.
And the sexiest gal on television these days may be Chrissy Metz, 36, of “This Is Us,” a woman of size who recently had two male characters on the show vying for her affection. (Her contract requires her to lose weight; NBC brass should reconsider.)
The cynic in me sees the effort to find desirability in previously marginalized populations as a moneymaking scheme, using big, pretty women to sell cute clothing to those once steered toward muumuus rather than thong underwear.
But what’s wrong with women looking fine?
“The popular culture is reflecting what you see every day,” female body-image expert Stacey Peterson, Ph.D., 50, a professor of communication studies at Montgomery College in Maryland, told me.
“It’s important for women” — we’re primarily talking about women here — “to see images of people who look like us. It’s very positive for a young girl to see a model of her femaleness, someone who’s full-figured, whatever the politically correct term is. We’re seeing it depicted more regularly and positively, and that’s new,” she said.
This should in no way be taken as an endorsement of obesity, an epidemic that leads to the deaths of about 300,000 American men and women annually from ailments including diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health. This is about maintaining good health at every weight.
“What we want to encourage is people being healthy, taking care of themselves, physically and emotionally,’’ said Peterson.
All women deserve the right to feel awesome.