Parenting body image

How school uniform is the latest body image blunder

I hate the word – I wish it was banned. Can someone neuralise the word “skinny”? It makes me baulk every time I hear it. Mainly because it is such a hoax. A false marketing manifesto of such power, it sells just about anything it attaches itself to. But It. Doesn’t. Make. You. Skinny. Find another word.

These skinny jeans I have on aren’t skinny. They are not human or alive so they can’t assume human attributes such as: clever or funny or skinny. They do not make my large legs skinny. They are still formidable legs. I hate how it is bandied around like catnip to shoppers.

This year, I entered a high street shop and was met with my (body conscious) version of a horror story. A uniform section strewn with body shape labels, in enormous writing: “slim”, “regular”, “plus size”, “super skinny”. And to me it all seemed wrong. I unstabled my high horse and wrote said store a letter, declaring that I would be boycotting their wares and finding myself somewhere more inclusive to shop. Except I later realised… actually there isn’t anywhere. That bandwagon is full to the brim and the horse has bolted.

Shop by fit

You see where commercialism has bled dry the women’s markets with that ol’ familiar format of selling ideas that don’t exist, the witchery in marketing offices has turned its attention first to men (male grooming is now a booming market) and apparently children.

“Ok guys, guys, we know that skinny sells, so what’s next”

“I know, I know… SUPER skinny!”

“Yes!” to rapturous applause “Give that man a raise!”

Now imagine you are the mother of a nine-year-old daughter who is tall beyond her years, (and please keep in mind the FACTUAL research that early dieting practices in kids/teens creates three times the likelihood of adult obesity) and imagine she brings an age nine dress to you to try on. In times gone by, Mothers have done the sensible thing and gone up a size or two to accommodate taller, wider, fatter, preparing for puberty, children. That would be the “diversity is normal” approach. The “people grow at different rates” message.

Now, I think I’m right in this, we are to tell her she is a plus size? Or she is quietly to come to this conclusion herself by browsing the rails and absorbing the messaging. Some of these labels are indicated from the age of three. Whether it is true or not, it is not surely shopping’s job to judge us. To apply body stigma.

Skinny school trousers

I am literally cringing with the thought of numerous unaware body shaming conversations as a result of this misfire.

“Oooh Billy, looks like your three-year-old legs and just too fat for these trews.”

“Jamie love, no rugby player’s going to get their thighs in them super skinnies. Not for you.”
“But Muuuum, regular one’s just aren’t cool!”
“I can’t shrink your legs poppet.”

After hockey, while Rose is in the shower, “Did you see? Her label? PLUS size” snarky, bitchy cackling to follow…

So here’s a thing. Ingrained fattism is rife and majorly misunderstood at all levels of society, and I’d guess most misunderstood in corporate marketing offices (and dance schools, and Hollywood, and most media industries and some doctor’s offices). Judgement and labeling of fat people does nothing to help fat people. We don’t need to help fat people. They’re just fat. We just need to accept it and shut up about it. Fat people are just fat, like people are just black or just straight. The narrative that we can all be Kate Moss if we tried hard enough… is an ever-so enticing vehicle to sell us more stuff we don’t actually need. We are all aware that 90% of women and 45% of men are unhappy with their bodies? Yup, good – how are we going to improve that stat for future generations? Ideas…

Like stop using the world “Skinny” in branding, can we mark it out as judgy (it is) and uncool. Find another system. Call clothes lines actual names. The Jamie, The Olivia. Or letters A, B, C. Or for the love of Cumberbatch, we have a metric system for a reason! Put clothes (all of them) into measurements! Just stop with the oppressive, emotive, desirous / non desirous labeling which is serving the body judging masses with ever-more reinforced messaging that hurts. They’re just kids. Can we please improve this in time for next year?

Postscript: Ive just remembered a conversation I had with my daughter a few years back. She said “Mummy I want to buy you a beautiful… how old are you?”

“I’m 34 darling.”

“…a beautiful age 34 dress.”

And it occurs to me the absurdity of using ages to size clothes. It surely is an archaic system. We don’t impose it on ourselves as adults, but do so to children who grow at exponentially different rates.

Emi is available for work-based body diversity in branding consultations and employee body image wellbeing training. Contact her for more info.


Body, my love...

If you’re reading this on holiday, take a deep breath

Holidays… the build up, the anticipation. The getting things done and the ticking off lists to switching off from life. The relaxation, the rest, the restorative sea, sand and sun. There’s only one mosquito in the mojito… The body. No amount of waxing or priming will prepare you for the big reveal…

Day 1

The immediate almost nudity in front of actual strangers. A scenario which, for most of us under normal circumstances, is not our idea of rest, relaxation and general bon temps.

It can take a few days to relax into the new World of Holidays, no matter how many we’ve been on, because there’s an internal struggle going on…

Just kidding - same day
Day 10 – just kidding, I’m just breathing


There are the same thoughts plaguing many of us, I’m too out of shape, I should have worked out for this holiday, look at her cellulite, look at my cellulite! What does this belly think it’s doing here? And it’s hard to remember just how skewed and unrealistic those thoughts are.

We’ve been sold the perfect holiday (🙄 -add it to the list) of mothers wave-frolicking or rakish girls rolling around in the sand, or the beautifully-posed sun lounger scam, sometimes women in duplicate, sometimes crossing legs in camp ’50s formation. And truth is, they’re are sofas less fabricated than these wind-ups. They’re the dreamscapes of marketing guys, crafted in stale-air offices far away. These holiday ad girls aren’t switching off from life, they’re at work, being paid… to hold their tummies in. And likely not taking full advantage of the catering van, unlike me, when faced with the international bounty of an all-you-can-eat-buffet!

But fresh air is being pumped into marketing offices (see me if you want to know how) and that old universal advertising “thin-sells” format is shifting slightly so that more of us are seeing more of us in these kinds of dreamscapes. But that’s not enough to shift the delusions of a lifetime. I’m afraid we have to address the situation and rationalise it.

So here is the truth you must hold close to you this summer vaycay. You simply can’t relax and hold your tummy in at the same time. Try it now. Hold your tummy in and take a deep relaxing breath.

Cheese Baby, nearly cooked

If you’ve ever done yoga or mindfulness, chances are you may have come across full belly breathing. This is using the full extent of the lungs to breathe and you need to push out your tummy to do it, to expand the lower lungs. Pushed-out-tummy-breathing is a super-charged way to chill. It creates uber-good vibes in your body. It kick starts the parasympathetic nervous system to help you relax, which also aids any healing which might need to take place and the digestion of that plate of prawns, falafel, gateaux and cheese you just put away. You see it’s a win:win.

What’s more, why not order a side-helping of gratitude for your body too. Is it performing? Is it feeling ok? It’s ok even if it’s not, it’s still performing thousands of functions. Did it make this holiday possible by packing the many clothes you will and won’t wear, but that you treat to far-reaching trips anyway? Can it put its own sun cream on? Can it embrace loved ones and create snap-shot memories to cherish (I mean Insta)?

This holiday I implore you to breathe, not try and be thinner. Because holidays are for letting go of the usual strains of life. I’m going to indulging in not-giving-a-flying-flip-flop about a bit of belly, who’s with me?


We never blame the clothes!

Last year, my trousers split – right down the bum. My favourite pair, after years of rear tension, up, down, round and round action. All over in the blink of a cotton-splitting eye! Oh how I loved them. Did I rationalise this with… RIP dear trews, thank you for your service.  Did I heck! I went into a sudden panic regarding the size of my sitting pillows! Because old habits die hard. It didn’t last long, I’ve thankfully upgraded my thinking in that department.

But also… why do we never blame the clothes! Why do we first presume it’s our body at fault.

I want to introduce you to another pair of bottoms. These are a pair of Zara jeans, bought approximately eleven years ago, shortly after giving birth to a human. Have you ever done this? Bought clothes to incentivise you to lose weight? What skeletons have you got in your closet? But I loved the jeans, just the perfect colour I was looking for. I loved them… I mean I loved the idea of them.

Because they didn’t get near me. For the purposes of this blog I’ve just tried to get them on and genuinely struggled to get one leg in!





I eventually did get them on with great hilarity –  how much weight was I anticipating losing? Or was I just intending to perhaps melt, from the pelvis!

What was I thinking? I can’t even get my bum in them!

Remember from last week’s blog that I’m at the peak of my physical fitness reader! That I was bigger than this when asked by my surgeon to put on weight for my fat-transfer op.





I have actually worn these out to dinner once. I can only assume I had to unbutton to digest.





Pah! I think these need a new home…




The thing is, maybe I could lose weight, but it wouldn’t be self care, it would be an obsession based on thinist ideals. When we reject our own bodies, or the idea that there are a variety healthy body types, we subscribe to thin idealism. It’s not real. I’m a working mum and even just from a practical point of view, it would rob me of my precious remaining down time, impact my work/life balance and rob me of food joy, and I’m just not prepared to do it. My body is great!

Try this one, I distinctly remember making the decision to keep this top, even though clearly, following my double mastectomy, it doesn’t really fit any more around the boobs, it’s really tight, they’re not bigger boobs, just less forgiving.


This top literally won’t fit me comfortably until I have my implants out – no matter how much weight I lose, these bad girls are staying put! Even before the surgery, I wore it with the buttoned sleeves undone, to accommodate my strong arms! Why is it still in my house? Charity bag!



Here’s another one for you. Two years ago we spent a weekend in London celebrating my son’s birthday. We visited the Hard Rock Cafe and all got commemorative t-shirts. They didn’t have my size. Rather than go without… I bought a size clearly too small and again said to myself great motivation to slim into it! 

I wouldn’t. I didn’t. Know why? Because it doesn’t fit me! I wore it the other day. The first time ever in two years… while my kids have grown out of theirs, surprise! I haven’t shrunk into mine.



Look at it! How thin are my arms going to have to get for this to comfortably fit? With my body frame and without removing my deltoid muscle, it’s just not possible. What was I thinking? I still wore it on Tuesday. I love it actually 😫 Still I assumed in the shop that it was my body that needed to change not the size of the clothes.


Because I was still in the habit of eschewing the reality of my actual body in favour of thin ideals.

And it brings me to another point, when we talk about the ideal body image, we’re not just talking about thin bodies, but bodies with all sorts of credentials: tall, great posture and poise… but one that rarely gets any air time is ideal ratio. I have a fairly slim body with broad shoulders and some quite powerful limbs. This can often mean having to go up a size in dresses with sleeves. Know what I mean? Or this…img_20190523_195457_9875156713174773869117.jpg



The lesser-spotted armpit shot…





Spot the hole in this totally natural shot of me staring at the sky in pure whimsey… I love both these dresses. But I have come to accept, it is the dress, or the cut, that doesn’t work for my body… not the other way around. And I will stop buying clothes that don’t fit. And please don’t look too closely at my armpits, because these dresses aren’t going anywhere, and maybe not the Hard Rock T-shirt either…


Weight! We’re going the wrong way!”

This morning I posting this humblebrag…


The truth is, I am proud of my body, I am at a peak of my own physical health. There was once a time I couldn’t get myself out of a cold bath #truestory. Today follows a year of me steadfastly refusing to lose weight for my wedding based on two comments implying that weight-loss should be #1 in my wedding-planner. I lose weight for no man! (or woman, actually they were both women).

But do you think I did this? Hell no! I don’t really have any right to be proud. This, like every other healthy / unhealthy lifestyle I’ve adopted is purely circumstantial. As a younger teenager I thought I was fat. I now realise I wasn’t. I first put weight on when I went to Uni, I lost it a bit after graduation, I lost it a lot when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and I trained for a Cancer Research UK trek across Costa Rica to raise money. I put it on when he died, cushioning the blow with rest and chocolate. I put it on when I got pregnant, I lost it when my kids were born, I put it on when I was treated for cancer with chemo and steroids, I lost it through an anti-cancer diet and on again when I needed a fat-transfer operation, and I lost it again after that op was done…

Me wanting to lose weight and actually losing it, have no correlation at all. In fact when I really focus on it, my body turns rebel on me and I go into conflict, anxiety and food obsession. Me feeling shame about my body has never resulted in lasting improvements to my physical health and will assuredly have impacted my emotional health. Thinness has always happened like stars aligning: the timing of external episodes such as major life changes; motivators, like wanting to stay alive or be an active Mum and privileged circumstances, such as working for myself so I can spend two hours this morning in the forest, because…20190414_113132

This time, the external factor has been the adoption of one inexhaustible hound four months ago. Yes I’ve become that person. I hope you appreciate my self-control over not filling my Insta with her.

What today’s little humblebrag didn’t tell you was… I’ve been struggling… with post-canine depression. So niche is this mental illness I’m sure you probably haven’t heard of it. I have, I believe, just coined the phrase. But it is real. I have struggled: with losing the life I had before; with all of my spare time having been hijacked; not being able to go to the loo alone; gushing feelings of love; conflicted feelings of frustration; anxiety around her behaviour towards others; the responsibility of keeping her alive; the joy that she has bestowed on our family (my daughter has literally just walked past singing “I love my Dog more than anything in the world… tra la la la la!); getting used to her habits and routines; having my back wrenched – necessitating countless physio visits; the food I’ve lost; lots and lots of cleaning – the hair! Guys, we gotta shedder! And I will just point out, no Canine Leave, yep just working right on through it.

You may think from my light tone that I’m kidding, or perhaps worse, making light of post-natal depression. I’m not, I really have struggled. I was so unprepared for this!Things are getting better, but my point is, I look my physical best and had felt my emotional worst. OK so there are worse things… maybe not worst but still fairly untethered.

I haven’t shared any of this on social. I feel confident to now with a bit of distance and normality. And you can bet, when I put on two stone a couple of years ago, so that the fat could be shifted from my butt to my boobs, I wasn’t all over facebook congratulating my miraculous fat for multi-tasking. Even though it blew my mind, and I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to morph my arse into my chest. What’s your super power?

My point being, we’ve got to start packaging successful health as more than just food, exercise and thinness. Health is a multi-layered, truly complex subject. But out of it all, the most unhealthy thing, the thing least likely to lead us to a healthier place, the thing least likely to help, is feeling ashamed of our mental or physical selves. Ditching that would be the healthiest thing we can change.



Why M&S is my heartbeat song…

Up up up up all night long.

I have in fact been up all night long, such was the buzz from last night’s M&S Summer Ball. Couldn’t sleep.


The evening was styled in the theme of the Secret Garden with hanging foliage, birdcage table centres, flowers adorning our food and a champagne bicycle.


I attended the ball as a VIP – an ambassador for Breast Cancer Now having appeared in last year’s fundraising campaing which meant for the acts: Soprano Joanna Forest, Paloma Faith, Rob Brydon and Kylie all compered by Gabby Logan, I with my 20 comrade ambassadors, were front and centre of the 100 tables present.

But none of those are reasons why M&S are my heartbeat song. It’s because last week at the UK Plus Size Fashion Week, M&S were the ONLY high street brand in attendance, modelled here by the Grey Goddess Rachel Peru.


It’s because last year they launched their curve range which appreciates that in creating larger clothes you can’t just up-size them, you need to redesign them.


Because they stock the largest range of sizes on the high street and because when I pointed out my bikini shopping research, they listened.

Marks and Spencer are far and away the front runner in pushing the envelope on body image on our high streets.

And from a personal perspective I cherish their authentic commitment to Breast Cancer Now and saving lives.


In his speech, M&S CEO Steve Rowe, confirmed their ethos is a commitment to making “a real difference to people’s lives”.

All of that, and because my lingerie drawer would be nothing without them, they are my heartbeat song.