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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.
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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!

 

 

 

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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.

 

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“Comfy!”

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

 

 
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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.

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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.

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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…

 

 

 

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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…

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Weight! We’re going the wrong way!”

This morning I posting this humblebrag…

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The time is right now!

I had a really illuminating and helpful chat with The Committee of Advertising Practice last week and guess what? It’s already happening, the issue of body image is already under review under an umbrella review of gender stereotypes in advertising. It will be released in May/June of this year for public consultation and you bet I’ll be commenting on it.

Talking with their office, they were pretty dismissive of my concerns, saying that the status quo is very unlikely to change through their input. It never has – except of course in the case of tobacco advertising.

So what was different in the case of tobacco ads? It turns out that it was a combination of evidence to prove that smoking causes harm (cancer) as well as statistics for what they called the “economic burden” – i.e. the cost of smoking to the NHS and the loss of productivity in the workplace. The tipping point came when it was asserted that there was “no safe way to smoke” ergo “it’s unacceptable to advertise tobacco”.

I asked if these kinds of statistics had been sought out to address the issue of body image – a concern that they “hear a lot”. The answer was “No”. So when we’re asked to comment on the findings of the review I might drop in…

I can’t stress enough how the time is right. More than right. If we miss this opportunity who can say when it will come around. Imagine if these findings come with the support of hundreds, thousands, millions(!) of signatures to support it.

If you, in your heart believe that the lack of diverse body images in branding, has had a role to play on your self-esteem, your body pride, your ability to feel good in your skin, please support this campaign. We can do this, have it in the bag right now, not ten, twenty, a hundred years’ time. Things can change now! I’ve heard so many times “It’ll never change”. It will. It already is! Sign the petition but more importantly, share it, support it, get it out there. Let’s do it!

➡️sign the petition⬅️

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Conversations with my daughter “Am I fat?”

We were at a kid’s disco, she was five years old.

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I was… horrified! Where had this come from? My little bundle of electric energy, my baby, in that one question, the care-free relationship she had with her body shifted and she started to see (and question) what others see. It really bothered me and it was the beginning of a shift for me where I started finding signs and paths that lead me towards more research, more realisations that the society we are living in, feels like madness!

All I really needed to do raise my head and see what she sees and realise how she – we are being so manipulated to doubt ourselves and that it has become so warped but commonplace, we just accept it.

I learnt that the way I talk to myself when I look in the mirror, is the way the majority of women do. I realised I didn’t hate my body on my own terms, that actually I had a lot of respect for it. And I realised it was my job to start conveying that to my girl.

But more than that I’m embarrassed for us. That as modern, thinking women we are putting up with this construct. This utter nonsense, this widespread discontent.

I found that thin-elite views about bodies aren’t just in magazine beauty features and fashion PR, but they’re entrenched in the upper reaches of society. I found that the Codes of Practice for Advertising believe our current dogma is “socially responsible”.

So I submitted a petition to parliament and I thought to myself: this is a no-brainer. I know other care-givers feel the same, I know this will spark a radical shift, I know this will engage the huge body positive community out there to call for change, to shift perceptions, to change our world.

It hasn’t. What I keep hearing is “it won’t change anything”. How inspiring, I am motivated now to, have a little doze. It has reflected the apathy of our society – like sleeping giants in the BFG. Is that it? Is this OK? Did no one tell them we get to choose? That society doesn’t have to be run by branding to make us feel wounded so they can heal us? That we can demand a kinder, inclusive, compassionate landscape.

I’m also told that folks feel “well what can my one vote really do”, to which I’d say fooey! Collect the raindrops and beware the flood! I need more raindrops because I do want a flood. A flood of new body shapes in the world around me, so that my grand-daughter doesn’t measure herself up at the age of five and find herself lacking.

Please sign the petition.