Sunday, 21 August 2016

I've started a YouTube Channel on Body Positivity!

Hi Guys!

Below is the first video I've uploaded to my YouTube Channel which is an extension of my blog really! I'm hoping to film lots of videos on Body Positivity and things that relate to it such as Intuitive Eating, self care and talking about clothing sizes etc.

Hope you like it!

Lots of love,

Saturday, 20 August 2016

You will never look 18 again...

And that is totally okay.

Two things happened this last fortnight which got me thinking about how things change in life and how your appearance changes; both in ways you sometimes can't control and maybe don't want to control again. 

The first:
I was having a spring clean of my room and whilst I was doing this I had one of those weird epiphany moments. On a mirror in my room I have photos of me with family and friends stuck all around it. I looked at myself in these photos, I mean I really looked at myself; then back at my reflection in the mirror and as cliché as it sounds, I suddenly realised that I don't look like that girl anymore. I took one of the photos down and just couldn't believe how different I looked in it. I was 18 years old, tanned, fairly toned, a size 8/10 and despite the big smile stretched across my face, I remember that I was very unhappy. 

The second:
I went to the counter of a well know French beauty brand to buy a mascara. The assistant seemed fairly friendly; she looked at my eyelashes and made a recommendation; I said I said yes that's great, thanks etc. but the conversation then took a dive; she said "you know, just looking at your eyes, you have a few fine lines around them and I think you would really benefit from an anti-wrinkle cream"; I laughed and told her my age thinking it was a joke, but no, she was actually serious; she then proceeded to tell me that an anti-wrinkle cream "could take five years off" me. 
I was flabbergasted. 
I'm not sure if it's just me but I didn't think it was the ultimate ambition of most 23 year old women to look 18 again. 
The whole encounter just annoyed me really.

So how do these two events link? 
Well I think they both made me realise that I will never look like the girl in those photos stuck on my bedroom mirror ever again. Fact. Because things change you. Things happen that you never even expected and once they've happened you cant go back. This is on both a deeper emotional level and on a more obvious physical level. They also made me realise how far I have come in reaching body acceptance and the profound effect this has had on my life.

After my mirror moment I had a little dig through my photos and found the below pictures. The first which I'll call the "before" was taken before a night out when I was 18 on my gap year. The second photo, the "after", was taken just a few nights ago after I'd passed my driving test (Ahhhhhhhh!).

My "before" and "afters":

There's no getting away from it; I look different.
In the "before" I'm wearing a size 8 dress and the in "after" a size 14. In the second photo I look a bit older than in the first, a tad (okay a lot) paler, less toned, I have more boobs, bigger hips etc.
Just different really.

I'm guessing these photos probably look wrong to some of you reading this, like they're not in the right order? As a society obsessed with bodily perfection we're almost conditioned to expect that the "before" photo will show an overweight, miserable woman and the "after" a sparkly, thin, happy woman.
People are quick to judge. Many would probably say I look "better" in the first photo but what people don't often see when they judge others on their appearance is what's behind the eyes of that person.

So let me tell you what's behind the eyes of my 18 year old self and the person I am today. What the "before" and  "after" of a journey towards self-acceptance looks like. 
Albeit eyes with fine lines...

The "before":
I was obsessed with my appearance. My thought process went like this: 
Do people think I'm "thin" or "fat"? Do people think I'm pretty? How many calories are in a pack of sushi? Oh my god my arse is enormous! Do men find me attractive? If I eat this yoghurt will I go over my calorie allowance for the day? Shit I need to lose 20 pounds before that party/date/my sister's wedding/I let the man I like see me naked. I wonder if I could get the fat sucked out of my bum and injected into my bee-stings? Am I tanned enough? Does my outfit look okay? Does my hair look good? Does my make-up look good? Do I look good?
Basically; am I good enough?

I was so wrapped up in my physical self I failed to make the right choices for myself and take responsibility for my own life. I was forever doing what other people thought I should do and not trusting my own intuition.
I started my degree a year after that first photo and didn't enjoy it because I had no interest or energy for anything other than my pursuit for perfection. I did fairly well in my 1st year of uni but I knew I wasn't reaching my full potential. I had no real hobbies or interests. In fact, my main hobbies were baking myself on sunbeds, applying fake tan or flicking through magazines that rated/slated celebrity bodies. I've always been lucky in that I'm surrounded with amazing people that love and support me but I feel like I neglected them. I was never really "present" in my relationships. Instead of watching my nephews play, I was probably logging my calorie allowance on myfitnesspal.

I'm not going to lie, I actually feel ashamed writing that thought stream out. I would be thoroughly ashamed for anyone who knows me now but didn't know me "before" to meet that shallow, self obsessed person; but this was my reality and is the reality of so many women. 

The "after":
I'd say the turning point came on my 21st birthday. I looked around at my loving family and friends and felt that same shame I've just mentioned. Why shame? Well because I had been so obsessed with trying to "look my best" that I honestly feel I may as well have lived those years in a coma. I lived my life in a complete and utter haze. Moments to celebrate were losing weight, moments to despair were the times I felt unattractive.

The reality of my "after", of accepting myself and my body, has been life-changing. It has enabled me to take complete charge of my life.
I changed my course at uni to something I absolutely love and am incredibly passionate about. I'm doing better in my academic work because I'm actually interested in it now. I push myself in a productive way, going for any opportunity I can take. I have real hobbies and interests now; from things as light-hearted as baking, to blogging on serious issues like the one I'm discussing right now. I think about what's going on in the world because I truly care about other human beings. I question something other than how many grams of fat are in an avocado and am capable of feeling more than guilt for not exercising that day. When I get dressed in the morning I feel good about myself, not because I'm perfect, but because I accept who I am and everything I have to offer myself and other people. My relationships are real; there's no one in my life that doesn't add something to it and vice versa. Learning to drive recently and the freedom that has brought me was the cherry on the cake. I'm always busy doing something and I love that.

My life is full now.

So why this post; what's the point? 
I assure you, it's not to look back on photos of myself because I wanted to have a little Marcia Marcia Marcia moment. In all honesty, writing this post was actually quite a painful process. Looking back through old photos, there were times where I was thinner than the 1st image above and that makes me sad. I considered including them but decided against it because I look clearly unhealthy in them and "achieved" that body type through unhealthy means; I don't want to advocate any of that on my blog. All I remember when I look at those photos is feeling "fat" and "ugly". I was convinced that if I just lost weight, everything that was wrong in my life would be sorted.

Hand on heart; if Aladdin's Genie could click his magic fingers and take me back to my physical and mental self at 18 years old I would say thanks but no thanks. In the last 5 years yes I've gained a few pounds but I've gained a lot more than that. I actually like the person I am now and finally feel comfortable in my own skin. You can't even understand how amazing that feels until you start on your own self-acceptance journey. My eyes see the world in a different way than they used to and that's because I know now that looking thinner or younger isn't going to change your life. Whilst you are in this mindset you are wasting time; precious years you will never get back.

This socially constructed idea that women should try and "go back" to times where they looked thinner or younger is absurd to me now. The reality is that you will never be as you were at 18 because we are a specie that is forever evolving; both physically and mentally.
Ageing is a natural human process and no matter how many face creams you use or face-lifts you have, you'll never look exactly as you did in the past. The same goes for your body, no diet or exercise regime can wind back the clock and give you the body you had at 18. 

All of this naturally leads to a bigger question: Why? 
Why should women be forever striving to achieve something completely impossible, essentially to go back in time? I mean when you think about it, it's completely ridiculous isn't it? We are never allowed to enjoy ourselves as we are because we should always be striving to look how we used to look or as good as someone else looks. We are never just allowed to enjoy our bodies and live our lives as they are now. 

So I say stop. Stop putting pictures of yourself when you were "thin" on your fridge as motivation to get back to how you were. Look after your skin if it that's what you want to do, but don't buy into this idea that you will somehow be more attractive the younger you look. Live every moment in the present and not the past. Enjoy your life and enjoy your body. 

Most importantly, remember that you are enough right now. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Body Positive Basics: What is Self Care and Why is it Important?

Hi Guys!

Today I thought I'd write a blog on self care; what it is, why it's important and what it has to do with Body Positivity. It's going to be the first part of a mini series on the basics of Body Positivity, basics that you can explore and then utilise in order to reach a point in which you start appreciating your beautiful body.

When I first gave up dieting and excessive exercising a couple of years ago, I wish I'd known what I know now about self care. It is a way of looking after your physical, mental and emotional health so you feel more balanced and able to take on the ups and downs of life, of which there are many on the journey towards self acceptance. People often think that going against the grain by choosing to accept your body and everything that might entail (ditching food and exercise plans, giving up dressing a certain way, abandoning grooming regimes etc.) is the easy option. However, the journey towards Body Positivity is far from easy and that is where self care rides in like a knight in shining armour. 

Body Positivity means different things for different people but for ease I'll discuss my own approach to it. For me, becoming Body Positive meant giving up obsessive calorie counting and exercising for ridiculous amounts of time to change my body i.e. to be thinner. It meant accepting my body, my size and my shape exactly as it is. When I did give up the beliefs that I needed to alter my body, it was a complete shock to the system.

When you give up dieting you realise how much time and brain space it takes up; calculating the caloric value of every element of your sandwich, going on a three hour bike ride, calculating your daily calorie deficit and consequently how long it will take you to lose 10 pounds. It goes on.
Hating your body and attempting to change it is a great distraction and when you give those things up you're left with real life; no distractions and no solutions. You realise that getting that thin body isn't a solution to the fact one of your relatives is sick, that you hate your job or that you've just had a shit day. 

So what do you do to feel better when negative thoughts, feelings or situations arise?

You look after yourself as best you know how. 

Self care is your own little toolbox of activities that make you feel good about yourself and ensure that you look after your own well-being. It can be something as simple as taking time to enjoy a coffee in the morning to perhaps something more extravagant such as buying yourself flowers. It can be a physical activity or something slightly deeper such as checking in on your emotions and acknowledging how you feel.

A plant I bought recently for my dressing table

To start out, write a list of things you love doing. Make sure they vary in ease and accessibility so that even if you just have a minute to yourself you have something planned such as deep breathing. This will be your own toolbox, unique to you.

As a neat freak and obsessively organised person I love writing a good list

If you need some inspiration I previously wrote a blog post on seven things that are good for the soul which basically gave a list of some of the more standard self care activities. Search Instagram using the hashtags #selfcare or #selfcaresunday. You can also search Google images for a million more ideas of course. However, here are some ways of looking after myself that I've been loving recently.

1. Exercise
I never (ever!) thought I'd type these words but I actually enjoy exercising now. I used to use exercise as a form of punishment, either for eating too much or to discipline my body because I thought it was the wrong size. Now I see exercise for what it is; the chance to look after my body and create balance of both body and mind. Interestingly enough, I now move my body for so many reasons but none of them are weight loss. Recently I've been walking my sister's Shih Tzu a fair bit, going swimming and on bike rides. Why don't you give one a go and see how you feel afterwards!

Walking the Shih Tzu

2. Craft
This is a more unusual one that you might not find in most self care suggestion lists. However, recently I've been restoring old bits of furniture and doing a couple of DIY projects as I plan to redecorate my room at the end of summer and thought it would be nice to have a few unique pieces to add to it. I've been painting an old metal mannequin, creating flower vases out of jam jars and turning cake tins into storage boxes ( I am planning on writing a blog piece to show you how I've done it once my room has been decorated so watch out for that!). Taking time out to be artistic enables you to be present, to be mindful of that current moment and it's incredibly satisfying. Why don't you see if you could restore some old furniture? Or perhaps take up knitting/painting/card making etc. Whatever you fancy! Enjoy the simple joy of being able to create something unique with your own bare hands.

The mannequin I've been repainting

3. Baths
Last but certainly not least is having a bath. It's one I've mentioned before but have to mention it again because, if I can, it's the first thing I will do to relax. I think it's because you can incorporate so many other self care activities into it. When I have a bath I like to read or listen to music, use an indulgent bath bomb from Lush, do a face mask, have a nice hot drink (or a rum...) etc. Basically all of my favourite things. All of that takes care of the mental side of things and as for the physical, I think there's a real feel good factor in just lying there naked, really seeing all of your body. To pamper your body and see it in all its glory can be incredibly empowering. So make the time to have an indulgent bath; pick an amazing bath bomb, your current read and just enjoy relaxing.

Geneen Roth = widsom of the world

FYI: All the above photos are taken from my Instagram page, where I regularly post self care activities. 

So there you go, the basics of self care which in itself is a basic part of becoming Body Positive. I honestly believe that self care is the foundation of a happy heart and body acceptance. Self care is not  just something you engage in only when you've encountered something negative, it is a daily commitment to yourself to look after your own interests.

Self care is not a luxury, it is not an indulgence; it is absolutely necessary.