Last month, Ben and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and as an inevitable (and slightly cheesy!) part of the anniversary celebrations, the wedding photo album came out and I hate to say it, but looking through them left me feeling a bit sad.
Let me give you a bit of background…….In typical “me” fashion, just 3 months before our wedding, I was a size 18/20. However, I was so unhappy with my size at the time (no surprises there then!) and I was so convinced I’d be able to lose a lot of weight very quickly (oh yes, that old gem!), that I went ahead and bought myself a size 14 dress (yup – mental!!!), and dived head first, all guns blazing into my second bout of Lighter Life.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the diet, it is a complete meal replacement programme, where you are limited to a strict 500 kcals a day in order for your body to enter a state of ketosis. If you stick to it, it really does work, in terms of the weight coming off quickly but I can tell you from bitter experience that it also makes life pretty bloody unbearable!
The sad fact is, when I think back to the run up to my wedding, the main thing I remember is hunger and an ever deepening obsession with the scales ! How tragic is that? I don’t really remember the excitement of planning, or the romance or the attachment to the finer details of the day…… I just remember the constant mental and physical torture of not being able to eat ANY food or drink anything other than water for 3 whole months!
Having said that, in the spirit of getting a job done and being the sort of person that doesn’t easily quit, I stuck at it and I made damn sure that I got down to the size 14 and fitted into my dress in time for the big day. But do you know what? I still wasn’t content with how I looked at all. I remained utterly convinced that I was huge and repulsive. I clearly remember sitting in my classroom after school one day, about a week before the wedding, crying to my friend about how disappointed I was because I was going to look so disgusting on my wedding day.
So when I revisited the photos last month, it broke my heart to my heart to remember how tortured I’d felt on an otherwise perfect day. It made me want to put an arm around the old me and sit her down for a cup of tea (sod the Lighterlife!) and a sisterly chat.
And what would I have told her? Well, first and foremost, I’d have told her that she needs to revel in the fact that she has found a man who really, truly loves her, no matter what dress size she is or what the number on the scales says; and I’d tell her that it breaks his heart to hear her ripping herself apart in the mirror every day. I’d tell her that her that despite all of the torture she has put her body through, it’s still doing her proud. That the body that she has scolded and hated and criticised incessantly for the last 20-odd years will soon carry and nurture the first of two beautiful, perfectly healthy, wonderful children. It will birth both children naturally with very little pain relief and no lasting after-effects.
I would tell her that while she frets and cries about her huge thighs, overhanging stomach and flapping bingo wings, she is missing out on some wonderful and life affirming opportunities. The holidays she doesn’t want to go on because she’s not thin enough? She’ll really regret that one day.
I’d tell her not to waste any more of her precious life on guilt, shame and embarrassment but instead to revel in love, laughter and family. To shift her focus away from her reflection and towards the important people who surround and love her. I’d tell her to realise that the biggest problem she has is not with her body but with her mind, and that she’ll need to put her time, effort and energy into changing that rather that her waist circumference.
I’d tell her to learn about nutrition, not points and syns. I’d tell her that eating what she wants, when she wants doesn’t not make her a bad or weak person, no matter what the diet rule book tells her! I’d tell her to make the most of her wonderful body, to appreciate it for all of the amazing things it would enable her to do, if only she’d give it a chance. And do you know what else I’d tell her? I’d tell her that she looks absolutely beautiful, and in years to come she’ll look back on those photos and wonder what the hell she was worried about.
If only eh? If only we could take the younger us to one side for a little pep talk. But I can’t do that, so what will I do instead? Well, I’m going to bust my ass on making sure that my own children don’t battle with their body image in the same way that I did. I want more than anything for them to grow up appreciating their bodies as amazing instruments of wonder that will enable them to enjoy and experience the world and all it has on offer. I don’t want them to miss out on a single opportunity just because they believe they don’t look “right”. I want them to understand that if they love, care for and nourish their body, it will reward them by making itself a vehicle for all of the wonderful opportunities life consists of. I want them to truly understand and believe that they are about so much more than just a reflection in a mirror. I want them to love their bodies the way that I love their bodies and the way that I’m finally learning to love mine!
So come on, now it’s over to you. What would you like to be able to say to the younger version of you? What lessons would you like to share with her? Drop me a line or head over to the Facebook group to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them
Oh and a quick PS…….. As for the meal replacement plan. By the time I came back from our 4 day honeymoon in Venice, I was already struggling to fit into to most of the clothes I’d bought just before leaving! Yup, you think the weight comes off quickly? Just wait until you see how fast it goes back on again!!
Step 3 of my 7 Days to Happilicious challenge talks about the importance of learning to ditch the inner bitch. We all have one don’t we?! She’s the horrible voice inside our head that pipes up at the most inopportune times. Whenever we’re feeling even remotely vulnerable, she senses the chink in our armour and nips in there as quick as a flash to make sure she tells us exactly how fat/ugly/useless we are. She’s a spiteful, calculating bully and we have to work really, REALLY hard to shut her up.
The first step in conquering her is to notice when she starts to rear her head, and then as soon as you’ve noticed her, the trick is to jump straight in and tell her to STFU! But then what next? What do you do to replace the gap that she leaves in your consciousness? Well, you need to turn it on its head and rather than allowing yourself to believe the heinous lies she feeds you, you have to affirm, with confidence, the qualities that a perfect future you would have.
Look, there is a certain element of fake it ‘til you make it about this idea, but just think about what happens when people start repeating the same lies over and over again….. that’s right, everyone starts to believe it. You keep telling yourself that you’re fat, ugly and useless and you’ll get nowhere fast, but change the record and repeat to yourself how confident and comfortable you are in your own skin and slowly but surely, you’ll start to feel the difference! Hell what have you got to lose? If you’re going to be telling yourself one of those stories anyway, then why not put the effort into making it the positive one?
Now, at first you might think this is mumbo jumbo BS, but I promise you there is proven method in the madness. Studies have shown that 80% of our thoughts are negative, and given that we have approximately 45,000 to 51,000 thoughts per day, that’s a whole lot of negative thinking we got going on!!! So how do we counteract that? By regularly using positive affirmations, that’s how.
While they work primarily on the subconscious mind, studies have also shown that positive affirmations can also have an amazing affect on muscle strength and energy levels (true story!) and more obviously, our emotional well-being. I am a huge fan of starting the day with a gratitude list to lift the spirits and shift your focus to all things positive, and likewise, reaffirming positive statements to yourself has a positive affect on your attitude, behaviour and actions.
Ever heard the statement, “the body achieves what the mind believes”? Well it’s not wrong! Our mind is a hugely powerful tool and we often underestimate the influence that it can have over our bodies. Scientific research has shown that positive self talk releases endorphins and serotonin in our brain which then flow throughout our body, making us feel fabulous! And I’m sure we’ve all heard how top Olympic athletes are encouraged to visualise themselves crossing the finishing line in a blaze of glory, right? Sports psychologists have found that this action actually triggers neural actions within the brain that can then be used to enhance future, “real life” performance. Pretty powerful stuff!
So back to our affirmations! To get the best results, your affirmations need to be in the present tense, so as if they are already true, right here, right now. For example: “I love and repsect my body” rather than “One day I will love and respect my body.” You also need to repeat them often so that they get embedded in your brain and become second nature. I love using mine as soon as my inner bitch pipes up – almost like psychological armour, but it is also a great idea to find concrete ways of weaving them into your day so they become associated with certain daily habits. For example, repeating them every morning when you stand in the bathroom brushing your teeth; every time you switch the kettle on to make a cuppa; on the drive to school to pick up the kids. Say them in your head, say them out loud, say them while looking at yourself in the mirror, write them down, keep them on your phone as a screen saver and repeat them every time you pick your phone up…… Any which way that suits you is grand!
Experts suggest that the most powerful results come when you create your own very personal affirmation, but I think that when you are starting out, it can really help to read the affirmations that other people have used and adopt and adapt any that particularly resonate with you. So in that spirit, here are some that I have found particularly helpful! Please feel free to use them in whatever way suits you best:
I love my body as it is today
I am comfortable in my own skin
I am grateful for everything my body allows me to do
My flaws are unique and beautiful
I am enough
I make healthy choices. I have respect for my body
I am active and full of energy. I am healthy, vibrant and I look great!
So there you have it. A quick, free and easy way of boosting your self esteem that doesn’t take 12 weeks of food restriction or a daily hour of beasting yourself at the gym!!! I’d really love to hear from you if you have a go at using any of these affirmations so feel free to leave a comment below. Or why not head over to Facebook and join the Happilicious living closed group where you can share your experiences with a group of like minded women?
Shortly after my first baby was born (over 8 years ago now), I went to the GP for the scheduled 6 week check up. The doctor had a cursory glance at my son and didn’t show much concern about the large lump he had over his right eyebrow (which, incidentally had to be surgically removed a few months later) No Siree Bob! What the doctor could not wait to do was to make sure I realised I was fat, and “really should try to do something about it!”
Believe it or not I didn’t need him to tell me I was overweight. It was something I had actually managed to figure out all by myself! He also went on to ‘help’ me by explaining how easy the process for losing weight is: simply eat less and move more. Well bloody hell, if only someone had let me in on that little secret earlier eh?! He even used the phrase “you’re obviously quite a bright girl, it’s really not that hard”…………
Now, I know I’m not medical expert but at this point I feel compelled to add an FYI to any GPs who may be reading this – talking in this manner to an obviously overweight, first time mum who is only 6 weeks post partum (with all of those crazy hormones circulating at max speed), is not a particularly clever move!
While I had not had a whiff of post natal depression up to this point, this appointment quickly extinguished all of my new mum fuzzy warm glow and sent me into a nasty black hole. All of the anxieties which had plagued me throughout my younger years, came flooding back and were now magnified larger than ever as concerns about my health/appearance/suitability for motherhood began to spiral out of control and I’m sad to say, ended in some quite drastic and destructive behaviour from me.
Those GP visits
While I look back on this appointment with horror now, I’m sad to say that it wasn’t something that was completely new to me. I have lost count of the number of times I have visited a GP about a completely unrelated issue (ear ache, ingrowing toenail…..) only to have the appointment concluded in some “helpful” advice about my need to lose weight. Unfortunately, my experiences are not that uncommon and I know of many other ladies who have faced similar issues with their GPs.
Now I’m not denying that there are increased health risks associated with being overweight. We are all well versed on the correlation between obesity and a myriad of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. However, we are also now increasingly aware of the fact that the dietary advice often suggested as the default by our healthcare providers is pretty outdated and more than a little questionable (low fat/high carb?) So what is the alternative?
Health At Every Size
Well, I would argue that we should all focus on eating for health rather weight loss. You would have thought that they were two and the same right? WRONG!!! All too often, weight loss plans are focussed solely on the intention of dropping pounds and the assumption that that in itself will automatically result in improved health. Unfortunately, most main stream weight loss plans encourage a reliance on over processed ready meals and snacks with a huge list of unpronounceable and questionable ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!!!
If you do an internet search for HAES (Health At Every Size) you will see that there is a whole movement dedicated to the cause of eating for health rather than weight loss. Their theory is that dramatic, sustained weight loss is practically impossible for the vast majority of people. In fact they go on to point out that: “Efforts towards such weight loss are instead held to cause rapid swings in size that inflict far worse physical and psychological damage than would fat itself.” I couldn’t agree more. Been there, done that and worn the XXL t-shirt!
Eating for Health
So how do we eat for health? Well, the most significant dietary change you can make is to ditch any processed food that you currently eat. As a general rule of thumb, if it comes in a package with a list of ingredients on the side, steer clear! Remind yourself that real food is ingredients rather than has ingredients. If you start buying and cooking good quality fresh produce, this in itself will have a dramatic impact on your health. Focus on real food that is grown in a field rather than made in a factory and you won’t go far wrong. Just aim to include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, good quality meat and fish, eggs and dairy, nuts and seeds and healthy oils in your daily diet. No other rules; no points, syns or calories to count. Just a range of gorgeous food for you to experiment with and enjoy in abundance!
I’ll admit that If you have been caught in the diet trap for a long time, it can feel scary to turn your back on the set recipes/meal plans and daily counting. For some, the freedom can even feel daunting and somewhat overwhelming and if you feel you need some support with that, then by all means, get in touch! I can promise you that once you start to flex your food freedom, the difference it makes to both your physical and mental well-being is astounding; When you shift your focus away from weight loss, life starts to taste so much better!
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had similar experiences with your GP. Have you visited the surgery about a non-weight-related issue, only to be sent away feeling fat and useless? Or have have you ever followed a diet plan provided by your GP? How did you find it and what sort of support were you given while following it?
Please feel free to share your comments in the box below, on my Facebook page or group or by all means, email me directly.
Wow!!!! Where to begin……….? Well, last night was the night when I finally got to see the documentary, Embrace whilst sitting in a cinema surrounded by amazing ladies. It’s a film I’ve been trying to bring to Truro Plaza since December last year and I know that many there were surprised to find out that it was actually the first time I’d seen the film.
I know it sounds crazy, but even though I hadn’t actually watched it, I fell in love with Embrace back in 2013 when the initial Crowd Funder appeal started circulating on Social Media. At the time, I was still firmly ensconced in Slimming World and getting more and more desperate and demoralised by my lack of progress, lack of freedom, and resulting lack of happiness!
Seeing the early trailer for Embrace almost felt like a gift… A glimmer of hope that there were other women out there who felt just like me and that there was another way. Not another diet – God knows I’d tried (and failed and succeeded and failed and succeeded and failed…. You get the picture!!!) enough of those. But another way of living, thinking and being. It was undoubtedly one of the things that encouraged me to begin my journey towards self love and ultimately to re-train as a body positive health coach.
For those of you who haven’t heard about the film, it is an eye-opening documentary which was made by Aussie Taryn Brumfitt after she came to terms with her own body image issues and decided to investigate the effects of these issues upon women across the globe. Her findings are both heart -breaking (she discovers that 91% of women hate their bodies – WTF?!!!) and encouraging as she goes on to meet some incredibly inspirational women who prove that it is possible to make peace with your body in even the most difficult of circumstances.
I think it’s safe to say that all of us in the cinema last night felt moved and inspired by the film’s message and content. What particularly struck me was the fact that it wasn’t ‘just’ a film about learning to love your wobbly bits. And neither was it about encouraging obesity or an unhealthy lifestyle (a criticism that is often lazily fired whenever the words “body positivity” are mentioned).
Embrace covered many other aspects of body image issues, from the models who struggle to maintain their stick thin frames (and keep the work rolling in) to burns survivor Turia Pitt whose belief that her horrific accident “may have been the best thing that ever happened to me” as it has given her a different point of view and a different path to follow. I mean…… WOW! Who didn’t feel humbled and ashamed of their own seemingly insignificant “issues” at that point?!
While I loved the film itself, I have also been utterly amazed and overjoyed by the conversations that have already begun happening as a result. In the few short hours since last night’s screening, I’ve had ladies telling me that they are going to quit dieting, that they are no longer going to criticise their own bodies in front of their own children and that they want to make other positive changes in their lives as a direct result of watching Embrace.
We have to keep talking to one another about the body image issues that we all face. In our offices, shops and staff rooms, it is depressingly common for conversations to revolve solely around the latest diet or exercise trend and how much weight it’s going to make you lose. A great starting point would be to try to steer those conversations in a more positive direction. Tell them about Embrace. Tell them what you’ve learned!
I walked out of the cinema last night on a total high which, thanks to all of the wonderful messages of encouragement and support that I’ve received today has not disappeared yet. It is amazing to be a part of such a powerful surge of positivity and I feel honoured to have watched the film, on International Women’s Day, in a room full of brilliant, diverse women (and 3 men!)
Now its time to keep the momentum going. We’ve seen the light, so now let’s work together to make it glow even brighter!
So Valentines Day has been and gone for another year; the foil wrapped chocolate hearts have left the building and the crème eggs are filling up the shelves as we speak!
I have to say, I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentines day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, but I don’t like being told when to be romantic, and I hate the idea that romance has only one day designated to it annually! However, one thing that I did love about V-day this year, was the widespread encouragement to pay more attention to self love in the midst of all of the teddy bears and over priced flowers.
Now, for many of us, self love is an alien concept which is tricky, if not downright impossible to grasp. Loving ourselves is something we just do not do! From the shaky days of adolescence when our bodies morph into something which feels uncomfortable and unrecognisable, we often continue to foster a difficult relationship with our bodies as we grow and mature. We’re forever being told how important it is to make our bodies look the same way they used to when we were young, carefree, (child-free?!) twenty-somethings. We’re encouraged to chase an ideal which for most of us, just isn’t attainable. Because guess what, our bodies are constantly changing. Its what they do!!! Time of the month? Pregnancy? Post pregnancy? Winter? Summer? Menopause? An ever changing reflection is an inevitable part of life and yet we’re all fixated on looking like a younger/slimmer/more toned version of ourselves. And worse, we’re told that’s absolutely how we should look……. and if we don’t? Then we’re just not good enough!
We’re encouraged to fixate on the us of yesterday rather than being happy and content with the us of today.
It’s safe to say that we have all been brain washed. The media is constantly telling us that in order to be accepted by wider society, we must all look a particular way, and that if we don’t, then we damn well need to be doing something about it – sharpish! Hence forests worth of magazine pages, filled to the brim with the latest quick fix diet fad promising to make us all look like Jennifer Anniston.
But then they take it even further, because the next thing we’re led to believe is that if we attempt the latest diet (the one that promises a “bikini body”) but we don’t achieve it in the same way that Jennifer Anniston has, then it is definitely, undoubtedly, 100% OUR FAULT.
So now look at you….. not only do you not have a bikini body, (and are therefore, by default, a hideous mess) but you’re also a failure because everyone else manages to stick to this diet and achieve wonderful results – if you don’t believe us, just look at the before and after pics………..
Bloody hell, it’s no wonder we’re all struggling in the self love department. I’m surprised we manage to get out of bed in the mornings! The truth of the matter is that, of all of the people who lose weight on a diet, 95% will go on to regain the lost llbs , and then some….. 95%!!!!!
When you look at numbers like that, I think it’s pretty obvious that the problem is with the diets, rather than the dieters. But here’s the the big secret; diets are designed to fail! They are intended to be a short term fix, because guess what, keeping you coming back for more, time and time again is how they make their money.
So I say, its time we stick two fingers up at the diet industry and make a change ourselves. Let’s sack off the diets and stop trying to turn back time (damn you Cher!) and instead, put in the effort that it takes to start loving our bodies as they are today.
Given time and encouragement, we can all find something we like about ourselves, but for some of us, the battle has run so deep, for so long that it can feel like an insurmountable task. So in a bid to get the ball rolling, I’ll go first……..
Ok, I may not look like a supermodel (who does?!), but I’ve got two strong legs that allow me to walk my children to and from school every day; oh and those two children….? I grew them in my belly (how amazing is that?!!) So I guess I’ll excuse it for being soft and wobbly!!! I’ve got two brilliant ears that let me listen to the latest Elbow album REALLY LOUD and a cracking voice that lets me belt out the amazing choruses……see, absolutely no room for false modesty round here!
Now it’s your turn. It may be your gorgeously thick hair, your dimples when you smile or your perfect sense of direction! Whatever it is, notice it, appreciate it and be grateful for it!
Once you start making your list of positives, try reminding yourself of them regularly and then adding to them each time a new aspect of your fabulous self becomes apparent! Once you start making small mind-set shifts like this, you’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make to your general sense of wellbeing.
Replacing the negative self talk with some positivity is a big, bold step towards a brighter future and if you’re looking for more help and support, why not sign up to receive my FREE 7 Happilicious Days challenge where you’ll find more small ideas which can lead to big change!
I’d love to hear about the positive shifts you make in your life, so please drop me an email or pop over to the facebook group to spread the positivity!
Happy International Day of the Girl!
I have to be totally honest with you, I didn’t realise that there even was such a thing until I stumbled across a Marie Claire article about it online last night! While my late discovery has meant that I haven’t been able to do anything radical, high profile and exciting to promote this awesome day, it has nudged me into sitting back and really thinking about how bloody kick ass us girls are!! And it has also fired up my belief that given the current state of high profile girl hate that seems to be out there in the big wide world (Trump the chump anyone?!) we need now, more than ever to stand together in proper female solidarity. As Michelle Obama put it “When they go low, we go high!”
I don’t know about you, but at the moment I feel really energised by a new wave of feminism which is gaining momentum at a crazy pace. There are a lot of women out there who are embracing their feminine spirit and harnessing it to go after the life that lights them up. This of course causes an inevitable ripple effect, lighting up others around us and inspiring other women to go out there and do their thing, whatever it may be! Increasingly there is a shift towards “Mind Body and Soul” careers with a huge number of women who are coming out of the spiritual closet and striving to change the world in a far more gentle, spirit lead way rather than the old school ego bearing, chest beating way that we’ve been encouraged to use in the past. Women such as Rebecca Campbell (Light is the new black, Rise Sister Rise), Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic, Eat Pray Love), Lucy Sheridan & Jo Westwood (Higher Selfie) are all writing books and running programmes which encourage us to step into our light, and away from our ego in order to change not only on our world, but also the world of those around us.
With easy access to the internet and social media “getting yourself out there” and connecting to a worldwide audience has never been easier. Thanks to online blogs such as Hurrah for Gin there is now a very prominent and often very funny online conversation based around the very real every day trials of being a mum. They’ve opened a dialogue which didn’t really exist before. The concept of the competitive, uber mum is dying a death and in its place is a feeling that we are all in this together, often with a tantrum ringing in our ears and a poo-filled nappy in our hands.
Not only this, but blogzine Selfish Mother have done truly amazing things in terms of bringing women together virtually, but also in real terms – the Selfish Mother #goodtees campaign has to date donated £250,155 to ace charities around the world including mothers2mothers (m2m), an Africa-based, global nonprofit organisation that unlocks the potential of mothers to break the cycle of paediatric AIDS and create healthy families and communities. All the while enabling the rest of us to look pretty cool and able to spot a fellow #sista a mile off!!!
From my Happilicious point of view, this new wave of sisterhood is also strengthening the message that the time has come to reclaim our bodies and stick two fingers up to the universally approved “way that we are supposed to look”. We need to truly believe, and to prove to younger generations that we are about waaaaaay more than a number on a scale or a dress size. We have a message that we should be allowed to share regardless of how we look or what we weigh. We need to steer the conversation away from appearances and instead towards the way we feel and the principals that we believe in and live our lives by. And we need to back each other every step of the way. Let’s not do each other down. Instead, lets cheer each other on. In the words of my rather fabulous new badge:
A few weeks ago, I spotted the following meme on girlganguk’s insta feed and it hit me like a ton of bricks:
I want to be THIS person. I want to be an inspiration and an encourager and an enabler. I want to help young women to step into their light. I want to help change the world with my #sistas by my side! Who’s with me?!