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Beauty Is...

At a recent conference I attended, Dove posed an interesting question...how do you define what #BeautyIs? This seems like a simple enough question and then I tried to answer it. I struggled with it for a moment, so I thought that since pictures are worth a thousand words, I could define it with a picture. Nope! I could not find just one picture that defines beauty in my life. Beauty is having a picture of my mom where she is smiling and for a minute forgets that she is in one of the last stages of Parkinson’s Disease. Beauty is a video of my 3 year old laughing uncontrollably about something simple and silly. Beauty is the triumph I feel after climbing what seemed like an insurmountable mountain with my husband and then staring at the most amazing view of nature around us. There just isn’t one way to capture beauty in a photo. I thought to myself, I could put together a picture collage but that was not the assignment. Was it possible to define what “beauty is” in words? 

Over the last 3.5 years, since having had my son, I have struggled with feeling beautiful. Losing 60 pounds of baby weight has felt nearly impossible at times. I have tried everything to make me feel better on the outside while still trying to lose the everlasting muffin top. Getting dressed every day (which is a personal meltdown activity) is stressful and confidence shattering, I mask my face with make-up in hopes that I will feel better about myself. Truth is, all I have is a well concealed face with a self-esteem that is in pieces. The muffin top that flops over my jeans is a constant reminder that I don’t feel confident in my own skin. On top of that, I don’t feel healthy. I know the longer I have the extra weight the harder it will be to lose. The muffin top is a reminder of how frustrated I am with myself for not being my pre-pregnancy size years ago. Let me clarify that it is not so much the size and the extra weight I am carrying in my mid section. I have had every blood test, done every exercise video from Zumba to Jillian Michaels to Insanity. They all help me goal in being heart healthy but none have solved the belly fat issue. 

Ultimately, there just isn’t a lot you can do for yourself when all you see in the mirror every day is imperfections. It is so easy to focus on the flaws. The muffin top, the bags under my eyes, the stretch marks, the scars. Every time you pass a window and see your reflection you cringe. You only post the photos on Instagram and Facebook that are taken at the right angle and decently flattering of your face only. I  am sad now looking at the first 2.5 years of my son’s life because I am missing from so many pictures because I did not like being in the pictures because of the way I look. I neglected to think outside of myself to my husband that constantly tells me I look beautiful and a son that thinks the same. Over time I have learned that they are not telling me these things to be nice but because they truly believe it. It’s me who does not believe I deserve to be told I am beautiful because I feel that bad about my body.

So in the past 6 months, I have come to realize that it is entirely up to me to shift my exercise and eating habits in order to lose the weight. The days that I don’t feel like exercising, I have to. The stressful days I feel like indulging in comfort food, I shouldn’t. It is the shift in my choices that have helped my drop the last 10 pounds of “baby weight” or my weight.Losing the weight is a snowball effect because the more weight I lose the better I will feel about myself which will increase my confidence and ability to see the beauty within myself. Through this thought process, I finally realized that I had defined what beauty is to me:

Beauty is:

  1. The sounds of genuine laughter from my 3 year old
  2. Being in the moment with family and friends. 
  3. Most importantly, beauty is being comfortable in your own skin

The first two ideas are pretty straight forward, but being comfortable in my own skin has been quite the undertaking for me especially the last few years. Before I had a kid, I always thought that losing weight post baby would be easy. You breastfeed and the weight literally melts off. With my formerly high metabolism, in no time I would look like my pre-pregnancy self. You eat right, work out and have pretty good genes...and BAM that would be the recipe for post partum weighloss success. I could not have been more wrong, well at least for me. During my pregnancy, I gained 60 pounds somehow. No, I was not indulging one craving after another. I think it had something to due with being on bed rest for 10 weeks and getting my appendix out as well as having an emergency c-section. After giving birth to my little man, maybe 15 pounds came off. I recall sweating off the next 10; however, 3 months later I still looked 6 months pregnant with 35 pounds of weight to come off. Over the last 3+years, I have explored every option of losing the baby weight. I am a fairly active person who watches what they eat for the most part but the weight was not budging. Every day I felt my self esteem go down a notch. I did not feel comfortable in this new body. None of my clothes fit but I could not let go of what I used to look like. Getting dressed everyday was a disaster and could send me into a tailspin. It was so frustrating to see friends of mine post their “hot” bodies post birth. I was happy for them but so green with envy. I tried every supplement (Garcinia Cambogia, Rasberry Ketones, Yacon syrup, etc), juicing diet and still nothing. I was so uncomfortable in my own body that going to the gym was difficult. Everything was difficult. I did feel beautiful and I could not feel comfortable in my own skin. Some how, some way I managed to start running and revisiting my weight workout from my Miss California days coupled with a vegetarian diet (no dairy, no gluten) that was portion oriented. And within a couple months, every last pound is gone. Do I look like my pre baby self? No. Will my stomach ever be flat again? No, but a couple pairs Spanx might be my new best friend. Do I feel more confident? Yes. Do I feel healthy? Yes. Do I feel comfortable in my own skin? Yes. So if you ask me what #BeautyIs today, I would be able to answer you. To me, #BeautyIs feeling healthy, comfortable and confident in your own skin which allows you to radiate from the inside out. Thank you Dove for making campaigns that remind me of what is important in life.

Former Miss California

Veena Goel Crownholm is a UCLA grad and former Miss California. Prior to having her son, she worked in the non-profit field doing special events and program development as well as working as a Program Officer for the Thomas J. Long Foundation. In 2010, after she had her son, she began her career as a Lifestyle Contributor both online and on-air, as well as motivational speaking.