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Doug Ford is likely going to be fined $11,950 for all the illegal signs his campaign planted
Business of Sex: Sexy and The Single Girl
Screw thigh gaps; we chat with author Morgan Toombs about finding your “authentic sexy”

Photo of Morgan, taken by Nadia Pejic

It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re single, or maybe you’re in a relationship, but you’re finding you’re not as happy or confident as you should be, and you’re wondering what the problem is. According to Morgan Toombs, the CEO of The Vibrant You Training Institute and author of the new book Sexy: It’s Not That Serious…How to Feel Sexy at Any Age and Size, it might be that you don’t love yourself enough. The good news, she says, is it doesn’t have to stay this way.

Through her book and upcoming series of workshops designed to help single women gain confidence and feel “delicious,” Toombs says women have the power to become their sexiest selves ever without changing anything other than their outlook. The idea is based on “authentic sexy,” which she writes in her book is “a redefined vision of sexy that fits each woman’s age, curves, personality and life.”

The most common reason women struggle to be and feel the best they can is “they don’t realize what’s possible for them and they don’t realize what’s holding them back,” Toombs says in an interview at her office, following a workshop.

Toombs says many women confine and define themselves by today’s mainstream idea of sexy, which is rooted in westernized beliefs of celebrity beauty spawned in the 1960’s when the waiflike model Twiggy became viewed as the new standard. It’s an outdated ideal, she points out, that is more than 50 years old. In an exercise at the workshop, women were asked to identify how they define sexy. It was all pouty lips, thigh gaps, and flat bellies.

Toombs’ work instead seeks to help women feel confident and happy as they are and beyond the physical. When women look at themselves and see their individual beauty and worth there is no competition. Sexy in this case becomes a state of being. The easiest way to make this distinction is to refer to your body as a “meat suit.” This term, coined by Toombs’ inspiration Misty Tripoli, a body image expert and motivational speaker, is used to describe the structure that supports your bones and organs, allowing for movement and a physical form of which to carry your being. Toombs says all this boils down to is stepping into a space where you allow yourself to just be.

Toombs’ positivity and accessible, peppy language makes her literature endearing, though she is not the first to question what makes a woman sexy.

“What is a sexy woman?” Helen Gurley Brown asked in her revolutionary 1962 novel Sex and the Single Girl. “Very simple. She is a woman who enjoys sex.” Beyond that, she writes, “Being sexy means that you accept yourself as a woman…with all the functions of a woman. You like to make love, have babies, nurse and mother them (or think you would). Being sexy means that you accept all the parts of your body as worthy and lovable…your reproductive organs, your breasts, your alimentary tract.”

She says, “A woman who feels all this is sexy. She wears it like perfume.”

Though there are obvious parallels between Hurley Brown’s work and Toombs’ contemporary workshops (both adhere to the principal that authentic sexy comes from within), the main difference lies in the framing of where sexy lives. In their works, both authors describe how sexy has roots in childhood, tapering off with the belief that young girls are taught that things are “naughty” and thus they are “bad.” But Gurley Brown maintains that much of womanhood sexuality is dependent in the context of a sexual partner, specifically a man. Toombs’ workshops and writing challenge this, removing outside validation and placing the context of sexy solely on how a woman feels and carries herself. It is then, she says, a woman can open herself up to receiving the love she deserves.

The difference here is love versus sex, with love being the foundation of Toombs’ work. Her efforts to promote self-care and self-love in her workshops are obvious. After a fate encounter on Queen Street West first introduced me to Toombs, she quickly invited me to her workshop launch event last week. We completed two exercises. In the first, we had to write down 50 things we loved about ourselves. Next, we had to write down 25 things we loved doing, then sign and date the form along with a witness, promising and giving permission to ourselves to do at least one of those things each week. This is the basis of self-love, Toombs says, appreciating ourselves and doing the things we love in an effort to take care of ourselves. Self-care leads to increased happiness, she said. Her research shows it.  

Toombs’ discovery of the significance of self-love did not come easily. When she was younger, she suffered from body image issues. She was also depressed and suicidal. She thinks this is why, at 21, she found herself in an abusive marriage, a destructive affair that left so many emotional scars she begins to cry as she talks about it. It was only through dancing that she was able to regain some of her confidence. When she performed, she felt like she was on top of the world. She felt empowered and beautiful. She wondered, what if you could feel like this all the time?

It wasn’t until she was working as a personal trainer at her first company, Joyful Journey Health and Wellness, that Toombs realized how widespread these feelings of self-doubt are across women. While training, a client said, “I’m so tired of being at war with my body.”

“I was like, if she’s feeling that way and I’m feeling that way, how many other people are feeling this way but we’re not talking about it?” Toombs says. “I just had to be the voice. I stand very firmly for helping women heal their relationship with their body so they can feel confident and worthy.”

She engulfed herself in research, earning a prestigious humanitarian award for her work with woman and mental health from Ryerson University, where she studied nursing and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. Her early work studied how women perceive their social value and worth based on society’s definition of “sexy” instead of their own. She worked to translate medical research into accessible language, still a huge part of her business, dissecting studies such as why five-year-olds are dieting and linking this to the idea that women unconsciously pass on their insecurities and troubled patterns to their children. She says by changing the way we view ourselves, we can change the path for future generations.

Beyond that, she recognizes that sexy isn’t about a physical form. It’s about accepting yourself and your past by letting go of the “emotional backpack” you carry with you throughout life. For her, this meant in part abandoning a harmful perspective passed on to her by her father when she was eight-years-old. He told her that boys take advantage of girls who are bigger. It took her years to realize he didn’t mean to inflict a lifetime of self-doubt on his daughter, but when she finally did she was able to remove that heavy item from her shoulders.

One of the most important elements Toombs hopes to pass along to women is that you can’t get sexy wrong. Start by focusing on yourself and doing one thing each month that you love, just for you, so you can begin to be your “most delicious self.” By falling in love with yourself first and learning to let go, Toombs says, “the relationship of your wildest dreams can come into fruition.” 

This was something she realized just before she found her current relationship, a love that was sparked over Facebook.

“It’s okay to like yourself,” Toombs says. “You are good enough.”

Information on Toombs’ upcoming retreats as well as her singles workshop “Sexy But Still Single? Three Big Blunders Most Professional Women Make That Keep Them Frustrated, Irritated and Wondering Why They Heck They Are Still Single” is available on her website.

____

Sheena Lyonnais writes for Toronto Standard and pens the Business of Sex column. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

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