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.

Advertisements

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.

Bare faced challenge.

Back in November I set myself the challenge to go make-up free for 3 months. I have worn make-up since I was about 14 or 15; it started as most stories do, to make me feel more confident and hide bad skin. But as a clueless teenager I was actually highlighting my problems by applying too much…and then there was that awkward stage where no powder was thick enough for me so I resorted to patting on a layer of natural eyeshadow. Yes, you did just read that.

I’ve continued to wear make-up (no eyeshadow as foundation anymore) pretty much everyday over the years just as part of my daily routine, I wouldn’t think twice about going to the mirror to apply it. And because I had become complacent about this everyday task, I wanted to address my relationship with cosmetics.

Why do I wear it? Is it to do with confidence? Am I thinking about the products I’m using? How do they effect my skin?

Before I undertook this challenge I was very sporadic about skincare, all I cared about was looking smooth and *cringe* ‘perfect’. It seems very foolish now.

The first morning I was really excited, but then I got dressed and went downstairs looking and feeling ‘unfinished’. When I stepped outside I had a moment when I wasn’t sure I could do it…but that is what made me carry on. That moment of worry about what other people might think was an indication that it was still perhaps something I associated with my confidence. And in my on-going quest to find true contentment with myself by challenging and questioning societies portrayal of appearance, I knew I had to grit my teeth in the name of research!

It was a strange few months. I very quickly got used to not wearing anything on my face and soon completely forgot that I was bare faced on all occassions. I went to a couple of functions and went through the whole Christmas/new year season (with one very red nose…how foolish of me to pick the coldest months). It was empowering because I knew a few years ago I couldn’t have done it. Some people commented on how ‘brave’ I was for doing it, which is where the discomfort started setting in and the realisation of how ingrained our expectations are for women to look ‘beautiful’ and like you’ve at least ‘made the effort’.

But lets get this straight before we go any further…

I am not saying there is anything wrong with wearing make-up. But I think it is important to evaluate why you wear it. I’ve gone back to wearing it, but the experience was invaluable because I was able to measure my confidence without anything to hide behind. When we live in a media driven society that sells the attainment of beauty and perfection as a commodity, it’s good to strip it back and check in with yourself that you’re still ok with you under there. That your confidence isn’t set in your appearance and that you know your worth is not tied to it.

Now lets talk about the amusing downside to the whole thing.

A few people thought I was ill.

I was asked for ID for EVERYTHING! At 26 I was refused sale on a Euro-millions ticket. You have you be 16 to buy those.

A school boy flirted with me on a bus.

A lot of people nervously asked me “Are you ok?”

But all you really want is some pictures right?

BEFORE

AFTER

 

So the ‘before’ was taken November 2013 after I had removed my make-up with a branded face-wipe and face wash. That’s one red face eh!

 

 

 

This one is taken end of January 2014. I have done my eyebrows in this one but my skin is completely clear of product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always had red pigmented/slightly blemished skin but I’m certain the constant make-up use and not considering the best products for my face contributed to this. I haven’t got many selfies to document this period, simply because I always looked the same so it got a bit boring.

Anyway I would urge anyone who wears make-up a lot to try the bare faced challenge, you don’t have to do it as long as me, perhaps try a few weeks? It’s a great way to evaluate your relationship with your appearance, see how others react to you and simply to give you skin a bit of a break. I had to start looking after my face properly when I had nothing to cover it with which meant making sure I always drank enough water and tried to balance my sweet tooth with more fruit and veg. I’m also much more relaxed about myself now, because I know I’m confident in what’s underneath. On the whole it was a really positive experience. I went back to make-up gradually (much less as my skin felt too caked otherwise) simply because I enjoy putting it on. I learnt a lot about the cosmetics industry as well….but that is for another post.

Now go on, get naked.