About me, Body positivity, fat acceptance, fat positivity, It me, personal

Body Talk

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A very silly picture of me I took on New Year’s Eve where I looked great and was trying to show off my ‘guns’.

Well, Happy New Year. After the long, hard, emotionally gruelling slog which was 2017, I know that I was not alone in feeling a huge sense of relief when the bells chimed at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let us know that 2018 had arrived. This isn’t to say that this year is guaranteed not to be a stinker – after all, I felt pretty positive about things this time last January too. But so far, I’ve been feeling relatively good about the state of the world and my place in it. I’ve been cooking delicious, plant based meals. I’ve been getting eight hours sleep a night. I’ve finished watching Feud, been to my first spin class of the year, started rewriting the Cattington website and even found the time to read a book. So far, so good.

That is, until it comes to bodies. As anyone with access to social media knows, January is a toxic slush of bad opinions when it comes to diet talk, exercise talk and just general blather from people who tell us that we need to forgo carbs, dairy and booze in order to become a ‘better’ person. Do you know what the first thing I saw on Instagram on Boxing Day was? An advert for a high impact exercise plan (quite offensive when you consider that the only high impact exercise I was conducting at that point was consuming all the cheese in my fridge.) Thankfully, a lot of this discourse is being counteracted by the growing ‘body positivity’ movement. While I have a few issues with ‘body positivity’- mostly because it seems to elevate voices which are white, cis, pretty, middle class and ‘acceptably fat’ – I’m still glad that it’s there fighting the good fight across my social media channels.

But it’s not easy. As someone who has long struggled with their self image, it can sometimes feel like body positivity is a magic trick performed by other people. So much of what I read about it makes it sound like the simplest thing in the world, like there’s a switch I can click in my brain which will allow me to transform all the shame and complex emotions I feel about myself into something wild, beautiful and wonderful. ‘Turn off the guilt!’ ‘Eat what you want!’ ‘Stop hating yourself!’ For those of us who aren’t quite at that point yet, who are taking baby steps towards feeling better about our bodies, this exhortation that if you feel occasionally feel bad about your body, you’re a traitor to the movement can sometimes make it feel like just another thing we’re failing at.

Sometimes I feel like being fat is an intrinsically narcissistic act. You can’t stop thinking about your body – the way it looks, the space it takes up, the clothing that you put on it – because society won’t let you stop thinking about your body. It’s always telling you that in order to fit in, you need to change yourself in some elemental way. And when you’ve been told your whole life that you are wrong, when it feels like diet culture has seeped into every nook and cranny of your being, it can just become exhausting.

I’ve been going back to this piece by Virgie Tovar a lot recently, where she discusses how hard it can be to practice self love. I like how she appreciates that it’s not an overnight process, that it can be difficult and incredibly emotionally gruelling at times. When the narrative about your body has been written by others for so long, it can be difficult to wrest back control of it and sing your own song. Appreciating your body – what it can do, how it feels, how good it looks in clothes – is a process and one which gets easier every day. Just so long as you keep putting the work in.

Because there will be bad days. Days when you go to the doctor and they’ll talk more about your weight than the actual condition you went in with. Days when you see a picture of yourself not looking your best and flinch. Days when someone will shout something abusive at you out of a car window, or snap a picture of you on their phone when all you’re trying to do is go for a fucking run in peace. On days like this, it’s OK to feel disheartened. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to rage against a world which seems to want to do everything in its power to make you feel like shit.

But then you have to pick yourself up, have a word with yourself, keep going. Some of the things which make me feel better when I’m having an off day are to surround myself with the wise, funny and fashionable community of fat babes I follow on Twitter. I might go to the gym and lift some really heavy weights or do an online yoga class (while I realise that this isn’t for everyone, I find that I always feel better about myself when I make the effort to move my body and appreciate the amazing things it can do.) I put on an outfit which I really love and wear an obnoxiously bright lipstick. I fake it – and will continue to fake it – until I make it.

Learning to love yourself isn’t easy. But I want to believe that over time it will become something I don’t even think about, as simple and effortless as putting one foot in front of the other. And on the days where it’s not, I will happy that there’s people around me who will pick me up, dust me down and tell me to keep going. Who will be with me – and you – every step of the way.  

 

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Anxiety, Eczema, It me, mental health, personal, tattoos

New Year, New You, New Danger

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I’m a bit of a sucker for a new start. I love the idea of each year being a tabula rasa filled to the brim with potential. I buzz off the excitement of new projects, the crisp lines of a new notebook, the opportunity contained within the pages of an empty diary. But, I’m also acutely aware that writing about new year’s resolutions is one of the worst lifestyle blogging cliches. And, before you say anything, I also know that reading about other people’s new year’s resolutions – many of which they’ll have broken by the second week of the year – is pretty boring. So, I’m (going to do my best) not to write about them here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention recently. I read this piece by Deborah Orr in the Guardian and was shocked by how much I related to her experiences of living with difficult mental health. Like too many people I know, last year wasn’t the easiest one for me. I was stuck in a job I hated (and was eventually made redundant from), experiencing some pretty nasty health issues, saw too many bad things happen to the people I love and – the cherry on top of this cake of shit – the return of the crippling anxiety and depression that has plagued me since my teenage years. At one particularly low point, I deactivated all of my social media accounts and almost deleted this blog because I was just so tired of seeing everyone else leading brighter, better, happier lives than mine. I hated the way I looked, I hated the way I felt and I hated logging on to discover everyone living it up while I was stagnating.

Of course, this is not a particularly rational way of thinking. Particularly for someone who works in social media and so should be totally aware of the glitter and artifice people sprinkle over their lives when discussing them online. Being alone with my thoughts only made them worse. I found it increasingly difficult to get out of bed and had to start working from home more to accommodate this. I was having panic attacks in my sleep and drinking too much. When I was at my office, I would repeatedly find myself bursting into tears and having to go and hide in the toilets. I had to finally face up to the fact that I needed help.

I went back onto antidepressants and discovered one that worked for me (I had been wary of them since a terrible experience with Citalopram in my late 20s.) I started seeing a therapist who helped me to unpick some of my ways of thinking and examine them in a new light. Being made redundant helped me to realise that one of the reasons I was so depressed was because I was in a job which wasn’t right for me and it provided me with the impetus (and money) I needed to finally go it alone.

I’m saying all of this not out of a desire to make people feel sorry for me, but more because I’m proud of managing to come out on the other side. I did some amazing work in 2016 – both professionally and personally. I’m entering 2017 happier, stronger and with much better hair. I’ve also acquired some awesome tattoos, but that’s by-the-by.

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My noble steed

Like many people, I have big plans for 2017. I want to write more, both for myself and for others. I want to make my freelance career a success. I want to be more careful with my money, not just because I am acutely aware of the precariousness of freelance life but also because I want to find methods of self care which don’t just involve purchasing things that I don’t really need.

My friend James came to visit me over the Christmas break and was kind enough to fix up the old Raleigh Shopper bike which had been gathering dust in my hallway for a number of years. Last week, I found myself going on a 13 mile bike ride alongside the River Mersey, enjoying the feel of the wind through my hair and feeling so incredibly lucky to live in such a scenic part of England. I don’t know what will happen to me this year. But I know that if I continue to take pleasure in the little things, I’ll be OK.

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It me, plus sized bloggers, plus sized blogging, plus sized fashion, psbloggers, women's media

I’m at The Pool!

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Normal service (i.e.poorly taken outfit selfies in train station toilets) will resume here soon, but I just wanted to highlight the fact that I was featured on The Pool yesterday talking about the new River Island plus sized collection and fat fashion in general. I highly recommend you read it, if only to read about my teenage dress sense – or lack of it, as the case may be.

One of the things I’ve been struck by is the amount of people who messaged me on Twitter to say how refreshing it was to see a piece about plus-sized fashion on a women’s website. Which is both flattering and a bit depressing. As more retailers embrace this market, it’s a shame that women’s media isn’t following suit. After all, it’s not like there’s a lack of fashionable items out there (unless you’re over a size 24 which is utterly shameful.) Fat women are just as stylish (if not more so) as ‘straight’ sized women and our spending power is increasing.

Huge props to The Pool for allowing me to write for them, and I hope that this is just the first of many plus-sized fashion piece I see on there. I also hope that more outlets follow their lead. I can only speak for myself, but I’m far more likely to read and interact with fashion edits when they feature clothes than I – and my plus-sized peers – can wear.

I realise that I talk about this topic a lot, but it’s one which is very important to me. And I’m ‘lucky’. As someone who is on the smaller end of the fat spectrum, I have the luxury of being able to buy a lot from the plus-sized items put out by high street brands. So it’s vital that plus-sized women keep blogging, tweeting and pitching women’s websites and retailers about these issues. Our voices are powerful and we deserve to be heard.

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