The Ultimate Diet.

Apologies for the lack of posting; new job means getting used to a new routine in a new phase of my life.

As I’ve said before it has been my own journey through body image issues and self-discovery that has led to me to this new place of positive body image activism. I only recently noticed that an old triggering point had arisen once again: gaining weight. I spent too much time in my teenage years and early 20’s battling my own mindset about how I looked, how I should look and struggling to disassociate my worth from my weight. So this now felt like a great time to test whether I could walk the walk, after I’ve spent so much time and effort on here talking the talk.

A UK size 14-16 is where I have averaged out throughout my adult life; I used to be positively ecstatic if I fitted into something smaller as the numbers meant a lot to me. Looking back now I can see just how much they dictated how I felt about myself at 18 years old, even though it’s so clear I have always been an average or below average size. But I was cross with my body because I felt it didn’t allow me to be the person I wanted to be.

I tried to stick to the ‘rules’ of how women considered ‘curvy’ should appear. Try to keep your hair long and full, it will hide excess chins and it’s more feminine. No boots, we don’t want to make those legs look bigger do we? Try a flared jean instead to balance out those proportions. Accentuate your waist as it’s the smallest part of your body, we need to see how small you can be! Try an A-line skirt to skim and cover your hips. Three-quarter length sleeves will hide any unsightly bingo wings. PUT DOWN THAT TANK TOP!

This kind of thing really annoys me. I’m not a piece of fruit.What it should say is: Are you human shaped? Then wear whatever the hell you want.

 

I was lucky I have family who tried their best to balance out the negativity I was picking up from outside, but those external influences are strong at a young age. The message I received from the media was that we must always try to be smaller, more fragile…

Women should aim to take up less space.

Confused?

Are you confused?

 

When actually, if pinterest had been around then, mine would have been filled with cropped hair, mini skirts, doc martin boots and skinny jeans. Now this isn’t to say I NEVER wore any of these things, because I did. But the point is how I allowed myself to feel in them, and if I had been brutally honest, I usually felt uncomfortable. Thankfully, nowadays I’m way more relaxed, so much so that I almost missed the opportunity to write about this, simply because it didn’t become a ‘thing’ in my life.

Until summer I’d spent a period of time being at the smallest I’ve ever been at a 10-12. It wasn’t something I’d taken much notice of because I no longer weigh myself or particularly pay much attention to what size I’m buying. I was eating on the go and exercising 6 times a week as a way to de-stress my way through my fourth and final year at college. Although I had no time to socialise and was in bed by 9 most nights; I wasn’t obsessive, I wasn’t restrictive or negative, it was just my life and routine at that time. The only other time I have been that size was in the end stages of my time living away from home; when I was devastated by bereavement and possibly suffering from a mental breakdown. Nevertheless, at this present time I was casually applauded for this change in all situations; at college, at the gym, at church and when I was out socially. Years back this used to make me feel really good; but now I just smile awkwardly so as not to be rude, but know that on the inside I’m eye-rolling. When one girl noticed my disdain for the ‘compliment’ of “you’ve lost weight, you look amazing now” I was told to “enjoy it” and that “you love it really, everyone likes to hear they’re thinner.” I’m at a point now where if that’s what you think I’m thinking, you really don’t know me at all.

 

Smaller, earlier in 2014. That skirt might not fit now…but it is JUST a skirt.

 

When I finished college everything changed. I had kept my head so focused on that end goal for 4 years, I really hadn’t thought of life beyond getting that certificate, because if you had told me 5 years ago that’s where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed you. My routine changed; I was job hunting, writing, not working out much, happily spending time re-focusing on what the next journey could be. The whole rhythm of my life changed again. I wasn’t sad to leave college, I had gained everything I wanted out of the experience. It wasn’t all easy, as change seldom is but I’m focused on all the privileges I am blessed with in my life that some people don’t have, one of the biggest privileges of all: choices.

And as I contemplated all the things I have achieved so far that I am actually proud of and all the things I still hope to achieve, I wondered how they could link in to my blogging experience. I got my answer when I was getting dressed later that week; a proportion of my clothes no longer fitted and I found myself just casually tutting instead of blind panic. Sure, it was annoying, those skirts my mum had taken in would need letting out and still might not fit, I even hulked out of one of my favourite shirts…

I lift weights at the gym to be strong not to make myself small, so feeling a bit she-hulk was kind of awesome.

I lift weights at the gym to be strong not to make myself small, so feeling a bit She-Hulk was kind of awesome.

 

But I didn’t freak out. I just adjusted my diet a bit and aimed that I’d stick to 2/3 workouts that I enjoy a week whenever they fitted into the rest of my life…but my size didn’t change. And I finally got it, that this is my natural shape. The thing that so many women fight a daily battle against. Because you can never win when you make yourself the enemy. As long as you’re healthy (whatever that is for you as an individual) and happy you are winning. I may have gained physical weight, but I realised I’d finally lost what I had needed to all along, I’d lost the emotional weight. Don’t underestimate it, that’s a lot heavier than you might give it credit. You’ll be so much lighter to do all the things you want to do, to dream all the things you might do. Lose the guilt associated with taking up more space in the world. Lose the shame that you’re ‘letting yourself go’ if you skip a few workouts. Lose the fear of being less attractive because in real life you can’t Photoshop yourself to perfection. Lose the hate that you will be worth less because you weigh more.

That is the only diet you will ever need. Lose your emotional weight.

This will mean so many different things to people, that I couldn’t begin to cover it here, but start the ultimate diet by focusing on the achievements in your life that have nothing to do with your weight and appearance. All the positive things and things I am most proud of: finishing school, travelling, always working at any job I could find, re-discovering my christian faith, having wonderful family and friends, overcoming depression, supporting gender equality and gay rights, getting my degree, appreciating what I have, always keeping hold of my dreams…you wouldn’t need to know the number on my scales or the number in my waistband for any of those things.

 

 

So what have you done?

Found out who your true friends are and cherish them?

Made peace with something or someone in your life?

Studied towards something that means a lot to you?

Fallen in love?

Have a wonderful family?

Got a job you love?

Left a job you hate?

Travelled alone?

Faced your fears?

Stood up for what you believe in, at all costs?

Always remember those things. The positive and negative, the light and shade in your life is who you are; your spirit, experiences, memories, choices and changes. Not your physical body.

 

We will all be smaller and larger at different times in our lives but we must never let it dictate our worth. I will keep saying this, over and over: your weight has NOTHING to do with your value in life. If you’re a size 6 or a 26; you can be whatever you want, your dreams are just as valid and attainable as the next persons and you can be beautiful and sexy. So don’t wait to lose weight, or gain it, before you start living your life and being you. It goes by so quickly, there’s only one you, there will only ever be one you. So make it count.

Oh and stop being an apple, rectangle or pencil and wear what you want. Your ‘bony’ legs or your ‘spare tire’ aren’t going to kill anyone. And just FYI, I recently graduated, bought more miniskirts, now own multiple pairs of boots and chopped my hair off…and it feels great.

Thanks to Beauty Redefined for the celebrity quotes.

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Change your world, not your body.

It’s a misconception that confident people have always been that way, or that they hide some terrible ‘flaw’ behind the mask of confidence. Although both can be true; sometimes you just need to find your feet and blossom into a truly confident person, usually through your perception of the world and your interactions within it. And more often than not, this requires change. A change of perspective and an open mind.

In my previous post I wrote about how I became interested in feminism and equality, and it was during this time my interest bought me to many sources of inspiration.

Throughout my school years I was bullied because of my weight and appearance, something I know unfortunately too many of us can relate to. I was the ‘fat’ one, even though I’ve never been above a size 16. It never made sense to me. I come from a home where I have always been told I am smart and beautiful, so although the taunts were hard to bear and sometimes it was exhausting, I trusted my families judgement better. I know others who weren’t so lucky.

I feel I grew up not seeing a diverse enough range of bodies in mainstream media. I had people I looked up to, sure, but I wish I had seen more fabulous curvy ladies like me. I loved Dawn French because she was so unapologetically herself but that just wasn’t enough.

My weight has always fluctuated; I really really LOVE food, I put on weight easy but I exercise regularly and enjoy it. I spent years never fully being myself, holding parts of myself back or not doing things until I could ‘lose some weight’ or change in some way. It seems madness to me now, when I not only like but appreciate what I see in the mirror. But a lot of people never emerge from that negative cycle.

So I offer up to you now some great resources of inspiration for me personally and hope it encourages you to find your own. This post tends to veer on the curvier side as that is a body type I feel is not represented well but hopefully there is something for everyone. I know I have some male readers so apologise for the distinct lack of men but I’m only just scratching the surface with this, so in time I will develop a broader knowledge base . In the meantime perhaps, as a starting point check out Jackson Katz an anti-sexism activist who was featured in the Miss Representation film.

But this is for all of you, male or female. To remember that all different shapes and sizes are amazing and those inside deserve respect.

Laura Wells

An environmental scientist with an extreme passion for our oceans and protection of biodiversity, international plus size model and a promoter of positive body image. She is one of the first plus size models I came across during my research. ‘Plus’ size causes a lot of debate when models like Laura state they are only a UK 14-16 but the industry starts at an 8-10 and at the moment that is just the way it is. She doesn’t gripe about this: an industry that has given her so much. Instead she talks a lot about healthy body image and also being more than just your appearance, highlighting the importance of education and global causes.

check out her Facebook page for links to all her projects and other sites.

 

HILDA

The creation of artist Duane Bryers, ‘Hilda was one of the only atypical plus-sized pin-up queens to grace the pages of American calendars from the 1950s up until the early 1980s, and achieved moderate notoriety in the 1960s.’ Full of fun and not shy about her body, she’s out living life through fabulous illustration.

See more at ToilGirls.com

 

GABI FRESH

OH this woman is stylish! She runs a personal style blog aiming to showcase high fashion is for all sizes and has collaborated with swimsuits for all on a range of diverse sized swimwear. It was this picture that first caught my eye…she is so right.

Go to her website for great posts and beautiful clothes.

 

NADIA ABOULHOSN

Another wonderful fashion blogger, Nadia is also a brand ambassador for boohoo.com. She is one of the people featured that encouraged me to just GET OVER myself and my fear of wearing shorts.

Go to her website for diverse style and ways to wear the newest trends.

 

CHERRY DOLLFACE

I’ve previously interviewed Cherry on her involvement with the modelling industry and her struggle with body shaming due to being smaller. It’s important to highlight that although smaller body types are better represented, this kind of image based bullying goes both ways. Cherry has many fashion and beauty collaborations and supports the Bombshells Against Bullying campaign, all of which are all mentioned in the interview ‘A bite of the cherry’

Her Youtube channel also has great hair and beauty tutorials.

SAFFI KARINA

A former ‘straight size’ model who instead of suppressing her natural figure to fit the industry decided to embrace her body and switched to the plus size industry. One of her former agencies dropped her for being ‘too big’ at a size 10 (yes, really!) but she didn’t let this stand in her way. She has launched The Curve Project in London, the UK’s first plus size model workshop, offering advice, inspiration and body confidence masterclasses.

 

TESS MUNSTER

I found out about Tess through Cherry as they have done various events and videos together. She always wanted to be a model but struggled with bullying and rejection from the mainstream agencies. Following a passion for beauty she became an amazing makeup artist and began blogging, through which she built up a strong fan base. Recently named one of the world’s top plus size models by Refinery 29, Huff Post, & Vogue Italia, her career has really taken off in the last couple of years. She has fulfilled her dream of modelling and uses her platform to be a fierce ambassador for women’s empowerment.

Founder of the #effyourbeautystandards movement, more images and links can be found on her website. I spend way too much time following her updates!

 

DENISE BIDOT

In the last month Denise walked the runway at both New York and London fashion week with elle.com naming her this seasons break-out plus size model. She has been the face of Levi’s, Forever21 Plus, Target Plus, Kohls, Macy’s, and stars in Nuvotv’s series Curvy Girls. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

More of her editorial work can be seen on her website.

 

ASHLEY GRAHAM

American plus size model Ashley is also making waves in the industry by spreading the message of positive body image. She recently walked the catwalk for the SS15 Evans Design Collective which was full of beautiful pieces and a breath of fresh air to see a variety of different body shapes wearing the clothes. She also has a lingerie collection with plus size retailer Navabi. And like many of the women featured in this article she encourages those who can to exercise with the #curvyfitclub.

vogue.co.uk recently named her as one of ‘the new role models’.

Ashley Graham website

 

THE BEAUTY MYTH. NAOMI WOLF 

This book was essential for my dissertation, I have read and researched both praise and criticism for it and highly recommend you read it.

 

HEALTHY IS THE NEW SKINNY

At first I found the HNS title a little problematic, however it is not stating there is anything wrong with being skinny, as for some of us this is a natural body shape. It is simply a comment on societies ability to make certain body types ‘fashionable’ and desirable over others. They have turned this on its head and suggested ‘how about we make health the priority, the most desirable thing’. Now I’m a believer that ‘healthy’ is different for everyone, not a one size fits all deal, so I always just take what I need from healthy living resources and apply it my own way. HNS is great for this as there are plenty of good recipes, workout tips and messages of positive thought!

You can find out more about founder Katie (above) and her husband Bradford on the website and facebook

“Healthy is the New Skinny is about revolutionizing how we think about, talk about, live in and love our bodies.”

 

JESS BAKER

When the news broke that Abercrombie and Fitch CEO had stated that he didn’t want ‘fat’ or ‘not so cool’ kids wearing his companies clothes I felt like face-planting my desk. However Jess Baker had a much better response which I found through Huffington Post. This lead me to her unique brand of awesome-ness on her website The Militant Baker where she describes herself as:

“A mental health professional, pastry chef, ex-art major, crazy cat lady, fat model, fiery advocate, and total pain in the ass.”

She has very recently given up her 9-5 in pursuit of becoming a full time international body advocate and I wish her every bit of luck, she’s already doing a fabulous job. Her website has a great selection of intelligent and funny articles to check out, as well as her Ted Talk!

 

 

she also had on one of her posts this awesome quote (via tumblr)

And that is right, being a Body Image Warrior isn’t always easy because it can feel like a battle. But every time I think it’s too hard to fight such a huge industry and ingrained societal ideals, I remember what it was like to be 14. To be a teenage and to be taunted for simply looking like you, and I remember is it so worth standing up for what you believe in.

Yes there are more terrible things happening in the world but as Jess Baker says in her Ted Talk; it is not superficial, because how you perceive yourself on the outside effects the inside and your whole participation in life (watch it, she explains it in more depth). Happiness and health start from within, they are things that are different for everyone and look different on everyone. But more acceptance and respect means more happy people, which makes a better world to live in. And to me, that sounds far from superficial.

So go, get searching, take these few inspirations and use them as a springboard to find your own positive body image warriors. But remember it all starts with YOU.

 

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

It’s only in recent years I have been identifying myself as a feminist. Not because of a lacking belief beforehand but simply because I was unaware of how oppressive some ideals in society still are; how certain limiting expectations of gender have become so normalised only a small proportion feel the urge to question their effect.

When I went back to education at 23, I really began to open my eyes. Perhaps I was ‘maturing’, perhaps it was that I felt stronger for getting through some tough times, perhaps it was that I was nurturing a healthier view of myself and an appreciation of what I have. Whatever it was, I began to crave that sense of inner strength and empowerment.

 

What really got the ball rolling for me was watching a clip from the 2011 documentary Miss Representation in a contextual studies class. It aims to disseminate issues of gender inequality, particularly towards the media’s portrayal of women but also how this affects men and boys. This is something film maker Jackson Katz highlights:

“We are socialising boys to believe that being a man means being powerful and in control.  Being smarter than or better than women. That our needs get met first in relationships with women. That’s not genetically pre-destined. That’s learned behaviour.” (2011)

 

It made me realise just how important feminism is for both sexes. The choice to be free to be yourself without the restraints of gender roles and expectations which are enforced for power and profit.

I read up on the subject, focusing first on attitudes to appearance and beauty, because this is where I have felt personally effected most in the past. It even became the focus of my dissertation.

I felt very privileged to be able to spend so much time writing about something I felt so passionately about and it only fuelled the fire as I delved deeper into this arena of struggle and triumph.

It changed me. Those books and articles cannot be unread, the videos and documentaries cannot be unseen. And it’s when you start speaking up and tuning in to all the daily occurrences that would come with the hashtag #sexism that you start to feel the boundaries, suddenly they become acutely visible. Certain off-hand remarks would have gone over my head years ago but now they knot me inside because I know comments like “You know what women are like” or “Man-up and don’t be such a wuss” only serve to reinforce gender imbalances that are systemic throughout all cultures and lead to much bigger issues like mental health problems and violence. I notice it everywhere from overhearing conversations on public transport to my favourite TV shows.

But with this new-found cause in my heart I’m often met with the same responses:

“Don’t you think you’re blowing it out of proportion? It’s just one little comment. Chill out.”

“Just calm down. It all sounds a bit aggressive for a woman.”

“You’re overreacting. It’s just banter.” …when stating how much I HATE rape ‘jokes’.

 

Suddenly you’ve become the killjoy. “Don’t tell that to Jenn, she won’t approve.” If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that whispered…

Well you know what, that’s fine. Because I believe that women have to right to decide what they do with their bodies, that men should be allowed to cry without the fear of judgement, that sexual assault and violence against either gender is wrong and not great comedic material. I believe in equal pay, that pitting women against each other for economic profit is wrong, that cat-calling is abusive and not something to ‘be grateful for’. I believe that women should not be asked “what were you wearing?” when reporting an attack, that men should not be forced into hyper-masculinity to prove themselves worthy of their sex, that women have the right to be comfortable with their bodies at any size. I believe that men can be incredible allies in the fight against gender inequality and that feminists are not ‘man haters’. And a whole host of other things. And if that has made me a killjoy then so be it.

It’s true that once you become more conscious of these things, these systems, these social structures, they have less power over you. And for a while I considered just going about my life ignoring the foolish things that try to undermine our choices. I could do it, stop reading the articles and just live my life not noticing these things (even though they would still inadvertently affect me). But I am blessed to be in a position to make that choice…a choice that not all people have because of inequality. And THAT is why it matters. Those people who say we “don’t need” feminism anymore or that it “doesn’t effect men”, you are wrong.

Feminism, gender equality, they are such multi-faceted terms. I’ve seen many debates online about the importance of one particular topic over another; that aiming to change perceptions of beauty is ‘shallow’ and that media literacy classes for children are ‘unnecessary’. What I have learnt is that all aspects are intrinsically linked and all have important roles to play in creating a more balanced world. It is a vast topic and subsequently could never be covered adequately in a post like this. But just to start participating in conversations and changing attitudes should not be played down as each positive step is advantageous.

 

When U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson spoke this week about launching the HeforShe campaign, I can’t deny I had a lump in my throat. From all I have learnt in researching and participating in my own small way to this cause, I know how incredibly important this work is. How there is so much need for change still. We can each find our own way to respond to feminism in a positive way. Despite what the media is attempting to churn out, there is no wrong way to be a feminist because at its heart it is simply a belief. A belief that gender is not a limitation and that we all matter. Equally.

I urge you to watch this. I thought she was incredible.

Your ordinary and magical life.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ordinary and the exceptional.

I read about this speech David Mccullough had given at the commencement for high school students, boldly reminding them they are ‘nothing special’, you can read about it here. And also thinking about my only encounters since graduating; the countless  uncomfortable looks given when I state I’m ‘just sticking around here at the moment’ when asked what I’m doing next. “Aren’t you going to set up your own business and become a professional?” Umm….no, no current plans for that. Always followed by a big grin to ease their unwarranted disappointment. Thankfully though I was not bought up in a house that measures success only by accolades.

There seems to be this unspoken desire in our culture today that we have to aspire to be remarkable individuals, but that ideal is measured on a skewed scale.

We have such a limited, blinkered view of what we perceive to be an accomplished life. Money and notoriety are presented to us as things that are synonymous with happiness. There is this idea that we should always want more. The problem is that no one really knows what they are chasing, this thing that has no tangible form, nobody knows what it looks like or what it feels like. Therefore this desire to do more, be more, achieve more can be manipulated, packaged into countless forms. And sold as solutions and ideals for those hungry for reassurance to devour. But it can never satisfy.

I think there is a lot of misconception about settling for an ‘ordinary’ life, not constantly feeling that urge to fill your life with ‘more’. As if it means you should give up on all your fantastical dreams. That should never be the case. You just cannot live off delusions of grandeur based on other people’s sense of success if you want true happiness. You cannot strive to be the best at what you love, just so society will give you a pat on the back for trampling over the competition, triumphing over thousands of others with your same dream. Your dreams must be rooted within you, to be fulfilled because they bring you contentment and peace. The outcome is sometimes superfluous, it’s the journey, the enjoyment of the present that counts.

I love to write. I have been writing my first book for a few years and I have no idea if it will ever be a ‘bestseller’ but I HAVE to write it because I couldn’t live with it inside me forever. It would be wonderful if a lot of people eventually read it…but it’s not why I’m writing it.

tumblr_n6anu7SXBZ1qz9z1no1_500

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something huge to change the world for the better…but do it for that reason. A successful life is not just about getting on the rich list or having your picture the newspapers or hitting 10k followers on Instagram. That’s great if you have arrived there through a lot of hard work, with a happy heart; not needing anything more, but taking opportunities graciously as they present themselves. A successful life is full of friendship, love, simple acts of kindness to others, loss, strength, hope and happy memories.

Getting average grades at school makes you no less worthwhile than the straight A students. Leaving college and working in a local shop (like me) doesn’t have to make you feel any less successful than those who moved to the big city with the high paid jobs. Staying in the same town all your years and leading a quiet life is no less remarkable than someone who worked all over the world and regularly attended ‘prestigious’ events. Comparisons make people miserable and don’t think there aren’t powers beyond some of our control that don’t know that.

So don’t measure yourself against industries that seek to extract money from you, society standards that seek to make you feel inadequate or people who seek negativity and woe in every corner of life.

Watch the seasons change, take pictures, see your loved ones grow and change, comfort the sick and those in need with love, listen to the birds sing and see them fly, feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, remember your dreams and hold tight to them or adapt them through the years.

There is no doubt there is a lot of suffering and hardship to be seen, but the Dalai Lama says that if each of us simply strives to be happy, it’s one of the best ways to change the whole world.

I saw this advert on Facebook a while ago and though I knew it was a commercial I thought the narrative was beautiful.

 

Your life, can be extraordinary. Just give yourself permission to let it be so, on your terms.

When the leaves begin to fall.

I’ve always loved writing poetry, but have never had a platform to share it from. I’ve been discouraged in the past because of copyright issues but it feels sad to have untold stories hidden away, living between the pages of a notebook. All I can do is ask that you respect the words and ask permission or credit me if you wish to use them.

I initially wrote this one as part of my study for my photography work ‘Ubiquitous’ (which can be seen in a previous post). Its focus is on loss, change and the journey back through healing…

When the leaves begin to fall

 

It was stolen from me many years ago,

Though I had not missed it until now.

Through an empty chasm did a cold wind blow,

The echo followed like a lovers broken vow.

Through the window life beckoned me with a long, outstretched finger,

“You must come back my child” she whispered on springs gentle breeze.

The sharp urgency of her breath, I knew I could not linger,

Promptly rising from the shadows, legs carried me with ease.

And soon the world was upon me, living once again,

I could recall the touch of light, brushing past my cheek.

But just as life had told me, a shadow would remain,

Sorrowed past had spent so long with me, without it I felt weak.

 

We travelled over sand and road, searching as we went,

I had to find my missing piece, someone would know its place.

Sorrow walked some steps behind perhaps knowing its time was spent,

I sensed my first port of call and followed down to memories trace.

My first love sat alone on the sand, skimming stones across the water,

Next to him I rested my head, smiled and asked for its return.

“I do not have it, not even mine, for now it belongs to my lovely daughter”

And there he left me in beautiful summer, feeling nothing but its burn.

When days grew short I heard the music and leaves were falling in the wood,

I was sure the bewitching notes I loved had swept it from me by chance.

I sang along but the tune was different, it played ‘we wouldn’t take it if we could’,

So the music played on and the trees grew bare and I missed the urge to dance.

Snow crunched underfoot as we came across a house, filled with warmth and light,

My loved ones inside felt my pain but said it would return when it was ready.

I frowned at this wisdom and in my persistence backed out into winters bite,

As I started into the darkness that’s when I heard it, beating soft and steady.

 

And there I was so suddenly amongst the snow and air, soft and still,

In a place where cold stone rose from the earth, standing prominent and proud.

My breath escaped me, I felt exhausted and then I felt the chill,

There lay my heart, my lost piece next to a stone but cushioned like a cloud.

How had I forgotten that I’d given it, just given it away?

I knelt before heart and stone on mossy ground and knew it would come to me.

“I need this back now my darling” I said aloud. “I need it back today”

I should have known it was here all along but the haze had made it hard to see.

My love, my heart, sorrow and I sat for a while in the woods of stone,

When sorrow left I looked for him, but there was no trace I would have known.

The snow was melting, spring was returning, birds soaring above in the sky,

I would come to realise I was all the pieces, all the music, all the changed seasons and I would endeavor not to question why.

All rights reserved © 2014 Jennifer-Anne. Do not use words or imagery without the artist’s permission.

Ubiquitous

I started Art College back in 2010, it seems such a long a time ago yet when I look back over my work it can feel like yesterday. Going back to education was one of the best decisions I ever made. I rushed into things years ago when I returned back from travelling; picked the wrong course and when personal turmoil meant I had to move home, I was left feeling like I’d wasted so much time.

But it all helped shape where I am, who I am today. That’s the thing with loss; there really is only two options once you’ve hit rock bottom. You can become embittered and angry at the world, deciding it owes you something to make up for all that it has taken. That pain will eat away at you from the inside until all good that enters your life is brushed with the slick poison of fear and fury. Or you grit your teeth, somewhat reluctantly and feel the pain in your heart as a reminder that you are still alive. The best way I’ve found to remember those you’ve lost, is to nurture immense gratitude for your own life and to make it as happy you can on your terms. Find contentment in the small things and work through each day until your smile isn’t just a mask on your face but genuine in your heart again.

That is what ‘Ubiquitous’ was all about. My final Degree project. The culmination of 4 years of soul searching and confidence rebuilding through photography and writing.

An extract from the foreword:

“This series explores the journey through loss; rediscovering the world and your place in it after that time.The sense of uncertainty and confusion is all-consuming after a loss as you search through the haze for traces of normality and what was once present. Using photography this story is told through varying shades of light and shadow, hope and despair, life and death. Bereavement can create a time of readjustment, a quiet period of contemplation which canbecome a catalyst to start seeing everything anew. Like ripples on the water, change spills out further than you first realised.

A curiosity and comfort can be found in the mundane; everyday moments revealing beauty and sadness, the simplicity and greatness in everything. And as you make your way through the dark towards lighter moments the horizon no longer feels so far away. Although everything will always feel more delicate, more fragile, like it could be blown away in a breeze. So you cherish the sun on your face, the sound of the crashing waves and when spring returns you finally realize that what you seek cannot be found in any fixed place. It is found everywhere.

This work has grown to represent all those tiny moments, shattered fragments, the missing pieces. They are the quotidian, the banal and the profound. They are the visual footprints through the loneliest yet most universally human experience we have. Hopefully it can serve as a reminder that as well as grief and sadness, comfort, love and hope are not a rarity.

They are ubiquitous.”

All rights reserved © 2014 Jennifer-Anne. Do not use without the 
artist's permission.

When I finally held the book in my hands it was like a relief, there was something so cathartic about releasing all that I had been carrying around for 4 years. As cliche as it may sound, it was the work I was meant to make there. But instead of feeling like the end, I think it’s really only just the beginning.

To see a preview and/or order a copy, please visit my Blurb Bookstore

At what cost?

So during my make-up free period, I used the time wisely to look into the products I was using and the companies that make them. What I discovered has changed my shopping habits forever. I genuinely had no idea how much animal testing still goes on in today’s society.

I wont retell specific incidents I’ve read about because quite frankly they are heartbreaking; the pain and suffering that innocent creatures are put through for us actually turns my stomach. Rabbits, dogs, cats, monkeys, even deer are just some of the victims of this.

Did you know this?

Because of the amazing work of the BUAV the final stage of their ‘No cruel cosmetics’ campaign was put into place March 2013. No animal testing on cosmetics occurs within the EU and there is a ban on importing products from outside of the EU that have been tested.

So we can all rest easy now then? Unfortunately not.

Yes, ok, YOUR EU stick of mascara wont have been tested specifically but you’re still supporting companies that do test elsewhere in the world. Now if that’s good enough for you, well that is your choice, it’s very easy to deny this awful process and companies make it very easy for people to do so. But remember there’s a whole host of other things that are still allowed to be sold in the UK, tested or not, that includes household cleaning products. So don’t be polishing up that conscience so swiftly.

There is no need for these cruel procedures to be carried out. There is a lot of information about the alternatives available now:

“The information that has historically been gained from animal tests is increasingly being replaced with quicker, cheaper and more reliable non-animal methods. Many of the animal tests used to test cosmetics ingredients have now been replaced.

These modern methods are more relevant to humans and have been found to predict human reactions better than the traditional outdated animal tests.

For example, to assess skin irritation alternatives such as Reconstituted Human Epidermis, like the skin model EPISKIN, can be used. These tests use reconstituted human skin donated from cosmetic surgery and have been shown to be more effective than the original cruel rabbit Draize skin test that they replace.

Models also exist and can be used to replace cruel animal tests for eye irritation, the effects of skin sensitization can be predicted by looking at proteins in-vitro (in a test tube), and phototoxicity can also be assessed with a cell based test.

Furthermore, companies can prove their products are safe by utilising established ingredients. There are, for example, almost 20,000 ingredients in the European Union’s database for which safety data is available.” -Taken from Cruelty Free International

The trouble is companies make it very hard for consumers to distinguish whether or not the have good policies outside of the EU. At first it can feel like a bit of a minefield trying to shop responsibly but websites like Go Cruelty Free offer great support.

Check out their Cruelty Free Shopping Guide

Personally Superdrug has become one of my new favourite places to shop. ALL their own brand products are BUAV approved and they are great quality. I have everything from body wash to the suncream. And their B range of skin care and make up is brilliant.

I can be hard to change habits but if you do even just scratch the surface with reading just a little of what goes on within some companies, I’m sure you’ll think it worthwhile. I know I haven’t always got it right due to tricky loop holes in policies etc but the point is to at least to try to support our lovely furry friends. It’s an issue so much bigger than just cosmetics as I’m slowly finding out one horrified step at a time, but perhaps just start with looking at your make-up and household products to make better choices.

If you’re unsure and don’t want to do all the digging around and emailing to find out a companies policy, just look for the leaping bunny logo. That way you know it is BUAV approved.

They don’t have voices of their own so we must speak for them through our actions.

At what cost do we want great products? Just because something is vulnerable it doesn’t give us the right to take advantage. Every living creature deserves a good life and freedom.

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