The last month has been hectic, and a little tough. Since coming back from holiday (did I mention I’d been to Canada?) work and life has been nonstop which means that unfortunately this little blog has been rather neglected. But I am back with a vengeance because it has been a busy month but a productive one and as we are now half through November- what! – I thought I’d reflect on the last couple of weeks; the good, the bad and the inspiring.
Over the last year, I have been on a bit of a weight loss/health kick and have never felt more myself and comfortable in my own skin than I do now. I decided back in April to get a bit healthier because I didn’t feel like myself. I joined Slimming World, got to where I wanted to be, started exercising more, ate more broccoli (no hardship as I bloody love broccoli!) and generally took a bit more notice of the choices I was making with food. Slimming World has worked for me and the main thing I have taken away from it is the lifestyle choices it encourages you to make. However, it hasn’t come without its drawbacks.
Overall, I feel pretty darn great but with an increased awareness of trying to eat a bit better, comes an increase in some occasional rather unpleasant thoughts about myself which have made me feel a rubbish. Guilt is an ugly sensation and I am sorry to say that over the last few weeks, I have been feeling a bit bad more eating perhaps less healthily than I did in the summer and have beaten myself up over it. I fully understand how daft this is but it got me thinking about the wider context of why I feel this way, despite being the healthiest I have ever been.
The pressures put on human beings and in particular women to look a certain way is constant and in this age of social media those preconceptions are so hard to avoid. I know I have never felt more confident and at peace with myself but why does my brain refuse to accept that sometimes?
I know I need to call myself out on it when those self-doubting feelings creep in. And 98% of the time I manage to tell those feelings to do one. There are some wonderful movements on social media that really help quash these thoughts. They aim to promote body positivity and encourage women to move beyond seeing themselves as a number on a scale which ultimately is just our between gravity and the ground. Jameela Jamil’s Instagram feed iweigh is bloody fab and if you aren’t following it you really should be. Megan Jayne Crabbe is an absolute queen and Anushka Moore’s work with the Midsize Collective and Lucy Wood’s #averagegirlsize are really inspiring for us inbetweenie gals. Slowly but surely we are telling the world to ‘eff their beauty standards and that all women of all shapes and sizes are BEAUTIFUL. On my off days, I am trying my best to remember this.
Sometimes it’s OK to have an off day, but an off day doesn’t mean you can’t eat that chocolate bar if you want it. An off day doesn’t mean you are allowed to tell yourself off for your giving your body the sustenance it needs to LIVE. Food is great, your wibbly tum is great, your squishy thighs are GREAT. End of.
Nothing brought this home to me more than being asked to speak at conference in Reading about body positivity and my on-going campaign with H&M at the end of October. My best friend arranged the Ignite conference for young people, aged 16-18, who had taken part in the National Citizen Service’s summer programme. The event was a chance for the young people to celebrate their new status as an NCS alumni and it took place in a beautiful church right in the centre of Reading with stalls, talks, workshops and glitter face paint. I ran a stall called More Than What You See which honestly just reiterated why I am so passionate about empowering women and making us all feel good about ourselves. The stall involved the young people writing on three mirrors in bright coloured pens. On the first, they had to write the very first thing they notice about themselves when they look in a mirror (in my case, I wrote my sparkly Converse). On Mirror 2, they had to write the first thing they thought OTHER people notice about them; I wrote ‘chin’, naturally. And on the final mirror, they had to write everything they are other than what they see when they look in a mirror. E.g. Feminist, sister, plant mother, dog lover, Harry Potter aficionado.
I had no idea how the kids would take to it but oh goodness, they just blew me away. They brought such enthusiasm, creativity and wit to the mirror task and by the end of the afternoon, the mirrors were filled with beautiful, funny, wise words meaning no one could see their reflection bringing home rather perfectly that we are all MORE than what you see when you look in a mirror, more than a number on a scale, more than a number in the back of a pair of jeans. Ho hum!
I won’t forget that experience in a hurry but one particular memory stands out. A group of girls came over to my stand and I got them to start deciding what colour pen they wanted to use. I could see straight away that one of the group didn’t seem as enthusiastic as her friends. I asked her if she wanted to write something on the mirror and she said she didn’t think she’d like to because she would only write something bad about herself. I promptly told her she was amazing and that I needed her to write on the mirror because it wouldn’t be complete without her. After chatting for a little while, she picked up the pen and rose to the challenge like an absolute champion. These conversations are so vitally important for young women, more important than ever in this age of social media where impressionable young women are having to navigate growing up in a world fuelled by Instagram likes, the number of friends on Facebook, having perfect eyebrows and being told continually every day that skinniness equates happiness.
The conversations I had with the young women and men at the Ignite conference just brought it home to me that I can use the very small platform I have to continue to promote messages of loving yourself for who you are and that everyone is more than just how they look. I left Reading feeling thoroughly inspired and if my message resonated with just one person in some way then I consider it a victory. The whole weekend was a joy and I am incredibly humbled to have been asked to take part.
That brings me on to H&M: The Sequel. To cut a very long story short, the fight continues. This woman is still on the same mission and will continue to be fighting for high street chains to make clothes that actually fit. I won’t be going away until all the changes promised by H&M are brought into stores across the UK. There are a few exciting things in the pipeline on this one so watch this space…
This post feels a little bit like brain dump but these thoughts have been whirling around the old noggin for the last few weeks so I’m glad to get them down on paper/screen.
Onwards and upwards. If I have a bit of a wobble again, I’ll remember those insightful and empowering conversations, remember how much I have continued to become a good, better person this year and I will strive to always remember that eating an entire pack of Cadbury Crunchie bars in one sitting is definitely something to be proud of and a skill I should embrace more often.
Until next time, please enjoy this picture of my favourite creature in the world who always looks at me like I am best thing since sliced bread.