Body Image, Self-esteem

And Exhale

Wow. I’ve just got back from Exhale festival. It was another wonderful experience this year. There is so much to process from the weekend. So many feelings, ideas and inspirations are running through my head. Yesterday I had the honour of running a body image talk. It was to my great delight that a packed barn of men and women came together to share, discuss and listen to what I had to say. If I think back to three years ago when I first publicly talked about my eating disorder I realise how far i’ve come. It’s still hard and emotional to talk about but this time there were no tears just big smiles. I just want to say a HUGE thank you to each person who showed up, your presence was greatly appreciated. And to those who shared thoughts and feelings in the circle thank you for being brave. Thank you to my partner Gerard for being there, supporting me and always believing in me, even when I struggle to.

I remember wishing the ed had never happened to me. Now I realise it’s one of my greatest gifts. When I was ill I NEEDED to hear and see stories of recovery, that there was a way out, that I had a hope to be back to myself. It is this that pushes me to keep talking about it and to keep sharing because I know that if it makes a difference to one person then that is fucking amazing.

There is far too much pressure on people to look a certain way, to attain to an ideal that is unachievable for most. We are all unique, that is what makes us so special. We all have something to offer this world, to share and a unique inner strength. It’s so important to appreciate all that we can DO and all that our bodies do for us. The image stuff, well it’s there but you are perfect just as you are. If you want the cake then eat the cake, life is too short not to. I really worry for the younger generations growing up in a world where social media is at their fingertips. With constant expectations about how you ‘should’ look then how we can we ever match up to it if you don’t achieve it?

I did some powerful work with Mark Walsh yesterday on yoga for social change. It was thought provoking and timely. I want to see people being kinder to each other and most of all kinder to themselves. We need to have communities and support, not segregation, isolation and wars. I want to help people who are suffering with body image issues, whatever that may be. I need to use all I have learnt, keep sharing and develop ways for actionable change. It’s not enough to say ‘love your body’, if only it was that simple right?

So thank you to each and every person who I spoke to this weekend and Carl & Darren for making Exhale festival possible. The sharing, connecting, love and community had a powerful presence and i’m sure a lasting effect on everyone. Lastly but by no means least as I write this I think of my wonderful parents who looked after me when I was ill. You encouraged me to keep fighting and to always keep learning, thank you.

 

Standard
Adventure, Self-esteem, Uncategorized, Wellbeing

I am Fearless

Today I feel fearless. I saw this photo below of me surfing in Indonesia in 2010. I got a helping push onto the wave but I said ‘yes’ to it, paddled for it, saw the mound coming towards me and I went for it. Over the years my fear of taking bigger waves on my own has just grown and grown rendering me unable to just ‘go’. My mind has built up a block that feels impossible to push beyond.
surf
Today I had a conversation about regretting giving up gymnastics as a child. I left because I felt inferior, not good enough and jealous of those around me who performed better in the competitions. Back flips, handstands and the splits became distant memories of the past.

Today I practiced handstands in the park. I lent that little bit further over my shoulders and I felt more air time than ever before. That little fear point lingering close! But I’m not fearful of falling backwards. Maybe it’s the fear of actually holding it, of being suspended in air for a moment with one way or the other to go.

Today I went to calisthenics and instead of thinking ‘I can’t’ I thought ‘I can’. I can do this. If I can’t quite get there I will damn well try. I will try and just see what happens. Because I am here and I am strong and I am fearless.

Today I spent time with my partner and enjoyed every moment of it. We drank tea and ate cake and kissed and connected. I used to feel fear, fear of the ‘what if’ and the questioning myself, him and us. Then I realised that I didn’t have to feel this way. Over years I had become conditioned to ignore my feelings and push them away. Now I know I have a choice to embrace this man and everything we have. That we are a partnership and it’s ok to be vulnerable together. That we learn from each other. That nothing is perfect. That relationships ebb and flow. But that we have love and each other and the space to grow together.

I’ve allowed myself to feel inadequate, never quite good enough. Any success always lined with a thin layer or anxiety. Sometimes feeling like my own worst enemy and critic. In jobs where I looked to others to hold responsibility. To think I couldn’t do something. It’s incredibly exhausting and demoralising. The constant loop of challenge, lack of attempt, feelings of failure wore me down. I’ve always noticed improvements in others before recognising my own.

These fears don’t disappear over night. But jeez Alice you can do it. You are more than capable. You are fearless. Small steps, however minute are so much more motivating than taking the ‘safe’, comfortable option. Appreciate how far you have come, and inch by inch just try, you will never know how it feels otherwise.

So thank you for today. Right now I feel fearless.

 

Standard
Body Image, Health, Self-esteem

Recovery is Waiting

There is a special woman in my life, her name is Jess Griffiths.  Having made a full recovery from an Eating Disorder herself she has dedicated her life to helping others through theirs, including me.  A wife, a mother and a kind soul.  Jess and I still keep in touch and through her network I have been able to help out several people who have wanted to call on my experience of recovery.  Dr James Palfreman–Kay just sent me these two videos made by Bournemouth University:

Recognising you having an eating disorder – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qb6OOjODm8

Recovery from an eating disorder – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RO2bwklIzWM

Being able to support the work Bournemouth University do to raise awareness of eating disorders and promote recovery gives me great pride.   Bournemouth has a special place in my heart, it’s where I spent three years of my life, got a degree, suffered through Anorexia and then made a full recovery.

These videos highlight how eating disorders can happen to anyone but also importantly you can recover.  Recovery is 100% worth it.  I urge you to watch them if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know.

If you are seeking advice please visit http://www.b-eat.co.uk/

Standard
Body Image, Health, Self-esteem, Wellbeing

What is right for YOUR body?

In the past week my social feeds have been awash with this brilliant response from two bloggers towards the PW advert.  I wholeheartedly appreciated their message of actually “my body is already bikini ready (see image)”.  Yep, any body is bikini ready because you know what, we all have bodies.   The sentiment of the advert is the issue, not the model.  Then I read an article which really made me annoyed.  A brave and brilliant woman, Juliette Burton tweeted to PW about how their advert played on her anxiety of her body image issues.  Their response was nothing short of disgusting and cruel,  the responses came from the CEO and MD.  Wow guys you really know how to empower someone and make them feel good about themselves don’t you?   Two men in a position of power being purposely unkind.  Funnily enough the cowards deleted their tweets, shame for you that snipping tools exist chaps!

Anyway it got me thinking, and it got me juiced up to write this blog post.  As a body confidence campaigner and someone who has struggled with body image issues I just think we need to stop shaming and start appreciating what is right for OUR body.  Because frankly who knows your body better than you?  I just finished a circuits class and i’m so glad that I feel fit and strong.  My friend Laura took this image of me before yoga and one of the first things I saw was the roll on my tummy.

Bloody happy right now

Bloody happy right now

Why?  Because I have been conditioned to believe that I should have no rolls, be perfect.  Um reality check, i’m not perfect.  I have fat, it keeps me warm and it keeps me alive.  I live in this body and I respect it and I don’t care what others say about it.  I just cannot fathom saying cruel things to people about their bodies, what do they get out of it?  Does it help people sleep better at night knowing they’ve made someone feel crappy.  I sure hope not!  So mean people keep your thoughts to yourselves?   Instead of saying mean things why don’t you use that energy for something useful and donate to help those affected by the earthquake in Nepal?

 

 

Standard
Body Image, Drink, Food, Health, Self-esteem, Uncategorized

My Eating Disorder

Legs pressed against my tiny heater all I could think was how much I didn’t want to go for a run but that I MUST do it.  I was freezing from the inside out, it was April.

Eight months previous to this moment I had begun university.  I couldn’t wait to leave my home town to be by the sea in what felt like a new world.  When I waved my mother goodbye I think I ate a cookie for dinner, chatted to my neighbours and went out to party on VKs.  The next morning with a hangover I dragged myself out of bed to bond with my fellow ‘car park’ living students.  Yes we lived in a converted car park, it was as horrendous as it sounds, no wonder I ended up depressed (kidding).

Being thrust into uni life I felt a little uneasy a lot of the time.  I thought people didn’t like me that much and missed my best friends from home.  Hence food became a replacement for companionship in my life.  I knew how to cook but I just always felt hungry.  I would binge eat at times till I felt sick and as I put on weight I hated how out of control I felt.  In fact I weighed then roughly what I weigh now.  But I had always been naturally very slim and had never gained weight so quickly which came as a shock.

When Christmas came around I was miserable and bloated.  A fleeting comment from someone stuck in my mind and I resolved that come New Year I would be on a diet.  I cannot stress enough how damaging it is for some people when you comment on their appearance or what they eat.  Whilst a comment isn’t wholly to blame from those who I know have suffered from an ED they always remember a negative comment that set off a trigger in them.

So the start of 2006 came around and I was thrilled to be on a new eating regime.  For the first time in my life I went to an exercise class.  My legs were jelly afterwards and I felt great.  I quickly came to the conclusion that by cutting out certain foods I could lose weight quicker.  Funnily enough it worked, I lost weight.  Within a couple of weeks half a stone had come off and without me even realising I was falling straight into Anorexia Nervosa.

Just as I felt more in control my father was diagnosed with cancer.  This is the worst news I’ve ever had in my life.  I still vividly remember him telling me it was a tumour and that was it, I no longer needed or wanted food.  I felt so utterly useless being stuck in Bournemouth as my Mother rushed around looking after Dad, and then he got MRSA.  I went home for Easter to help out and my obsessions with food and exercise spiraled.

By this point people were commenting and complimenting me on my weight loss.  I felt powerful and strong , like I had a won a battle with myself.  I didn’t realise it but I was always internally fighting.  I reduced my eating habits to an amount I will never publically disclose for fear it will trigger others.

I trained for a 5K Race for Life race with rigid precision.  There was no missing a run, it just couldn’t happen,  I was literally running on empty.  I obsessed over exercise never missing a class or a bike ride to and from Uni.  I started to withdraw, I stopped drinking because of the calories.  If I did allow myself a drink I would restrict my food even more.  I threw myself into uni work and exercise.  I would stay in bed too weak to get up at times and then push on through.   My body was constantly freezing, I had my little heater on all the time which often drew comments from others on how could I live in such a warm room?  Not once did anyone ask if I had a problem, its OK though, I know how hard it is to speak to someone you think is suffering.

I used to weigh myself daily which also became addictive, as the numbers dropped I felt so proud of myself for discovering this new way to eat.  I felt like I had trumped all the diets.  Not once did I think I had am eating disorder.  I became cranky and irritable if anyone tried to make me eat something I didn’t want to.

When Race for Life came round I achieved a PB, I thought I was invincible.  Dinner that night was torture and ecstasy.  A real meal and yet I was terrified.  The jam roly poly was tasteless and I was upset to have wasted the calories.  My parents were horrified at my weight loss and attitude and begged that I would do something about it.  I felt horrendous, I was obsessed and miserable.

I returned to Uni dejected and wanting to change, I just didn’t know how.  The little paper slips on the toilet wall offered a place for those with an ED to come and talk.  I didn’t have an ED but maybe some little problem, or so I had convinced myself.  So there I sat and for the first time I was honest about what I had been doing. It felt so strange to be telling all my secrets to a stranger.  Yet she was so reassuring and kind that I felt safe.

What ensued was a visit to the doctor and a referral to the hospital. It was taken seriously, suddenly this had become the small steps to recovery.  Kimmeridge court hospital in Poole was where I cycled to my assessment, again I wasn’t letting up on any habits.  It was here they discovered I had Osteopenia in my hips, the start of osteoporosis.  That’s when you start to compute you’re doing damage.  I hadn’t had a period my whole first year of university.  I wanted to punish my body for letting me down so much, I never twigged that my body weight could be the cause.  I lay on the floor with wires attached to me which measured every bit of body fat, water, density etc.  There was a long list of questions to be answered and some tears, then the diagnosis.  Even when I was told I was anorexic I didn’t believe it.  I thought I wasn’t thin enough, don’t you have to look seriously emaciated?

This is how I looked.

image

Race for Life 2006

 

There are few pictures of me in first year, I didn’t look in the mirror much anymore let alone pose for photos, if I ever did go out.  I hated myself and my body.  That thought terrifies me now, how could I loathe myself so much?  How did I get to that point?

It was during the Summer of 06 that I really felt very low.  I knew I was sick but I didn’t know how to get better.  The worst was on a walk with my Mum who said “you’re killing yourself” and at that moment I didn’t care if I died.  I was so unhappy and felt so trapped in my mind.  I couldn’t imagine being free of the disease.  I didn’t think I could ever eat a normal meal again.  This picture is bleak but it’s how it was.  I spent the whole of my first year pretty depressed and not even realising it.

image

Summer of 2006 and Star in a Bra 2013

In my second year I received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which I believe saved me.  Without Jess Griffiths and Micki I don’t know if I would have recovered, or it sure would have taken longer.  I had to find joy again in life.  I entered second year scared and anxious.  Routines still plagued me but at least I was eating again.  Alongside the therapy I was weighed weekly, weight gain was imperative, if I hadn’t gained one week I had to work harder the next to put on the pounds.  The weight came on slowly and gradually, no piling on pounds as the media liked to make out.  In this year Jade was my rock and solace from my house.  I found partying difficult and Jade would drive me to hers so we could hang out and cook together.  In those acts of kindness I knew she was my friend for life.

As I gained weight I felt better.  I felt more able to cope with what was happening to me.  My bones no longer dug in at night and I started to have some fun.  The ED was no longer controlling me.  after a year of therapy I was signed off at a healthy weight.  Over the next few years I became stronger and stronger.  I still found conversations about food hard, especially in office environments whilst on placement in third year, but it became easier with time.

I’ve been recovered nearly 8 years ago now.  I was such a different person then.  I lost Alice for two years, lost to a disease who wanted every part of me.  I am so grateful I broke free of it.  I used to wish it had never happened to me.  Now I see all the benefits it has brought me in later life.  Ironically I think I have a better attitude to food and body image than a lot of others.  I’ve been a size 6 and I looked terrible because I was damaging myself and it’s not where my body wants to be.

I don’t skip meals and I don’t count calories.  I eat what I like and do a lot of exercise, without being controlled by it.  Of course I have days when I feel down on myself, that’s just life.  It frustrates me when food is labeled good or bad, what kind of message does this send to people?  Eating shouldn’t have guilt attachments to it.  When I was in the trappings of anorexia I didn’t want to ever have to eat outside the realms of what I had carved for myself.  But we must eat to survive, I almost had to re educate myself to this.

I used to think Anorexia was my fault, that I had done it on purpose.  But eating disorders are not a choice they are a serious mental illness. I can look back now and see that multiple factors played a part in it.  One major one being unable to cope with being at university and feeling depressed.

I am recovered and I hope it will never affect me again in my life.  It breaks my heart to see or hear of people suffering.  What can be done to help them?  It’s really difficult, you can’t tell an anorexic to just eat, it’s not that simple.  But by breaking down taboos on EDs hopefully this can help to educate and perhaps awaken those to the fact they have problem.  To fight it you need willing to get better.

Without my ED I might not be the person I am today. A perfectionist personality is useful you know!  But really, I probably wouldn’t have entered Star in a Bra or worked with Body Gossip and Be Real Talks, or tried to support body image campaigns.  It shocks me how so many people have a negative body image.  But it’s not surprising when a lot of messaging is peppered with “you’re not good enough as you are” and “you need to look different”.  It seems some can’t remember they are great just as they are.

So this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  I wrote this article to try to break down the taboo of Anorexia. To look at me now you would never know but it’s where I came from.  It’s where my first part of adult life took a side step.  It’s where I lost the joy in living.

If you think someone is suffering then talk to them.  Yes its really difficult and you have to be careful but it could save a life.  Often EDs are covered with what appears to be a little bit of weight loss, its only when it becomes extreme that people can visibly notice.  If you’re reading this and it all sounds familiar then please do comment below, I am more than happy to help where I can.

I’ll end it on this.  Now, free from Anorexia I have my life back.  Every part of it was worth the pain of recovery and a full recovery is truly possible.  If you are worried about yourself or someone you know then please get in contact with BEAT who will be able to help.

image

Happy and Healthy Today

Standard
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust
Body Image, Self-esteem

The Beautiful Fuller Figure Fuller Bust

Georgina Horne is an amazing woman, creator of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and self confessed ‘shoe whore’ she is a delight to spend time with.  The first thing I noticed about George was how beautiful she was (cause I was perving on her on Instagram), secondly that she looks like a rockabilly dream and then thirdly and probably one of my favourite things, her absolutely filthy sense of humour.  I wanted to chat to her more about the forum she has created, quite modestly, that gives women a voice to discuss body image, confidence, boobs and all in-between.  Without further ado this is what she had to say…
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust

The Rockabilly babe

What inspired you to start Fuller Figure Fuller Bust?
I started FFFB in 2011 after entering a few non serious modelling contests. The one I did that really fired up the resolve to start the blog was ‘Star In A Bra’, Curvy Kate’s annual model search. My whole reason for entering was that I wanted to show people how a large busted and bodied lady looked in lingerie, and that desire didn’t go away after I claimed bronze. I wanted to have a way to show women underwear and clothing that worked for me, and I wanted to provide commentary. And so I hit upon the idea of starting a blog…
I see you as a great inspiration and a voice for a lot of men and women with body questions, how do you feel about that?
It feels crazy that people see me as some kind of body confidence guru! There are days when I feel like a fraud as I fear I’m faking the confidence I exude online, and I want to cover every mirror in the house and sit and eat celery for a month. But on the whole I feel very privileged to be seen as an inspiration and a trusted place to go to when people need to offload or question things and I hope that I can always give them good advice.
When do you feel most body confident?
I feel the most body confident when I’ve done my hair and make up and I’m all dressed up for a night out. Maybe I should say another answer that involves me nude or made up free, but the truth is, I adore the process of beautifying and it makes me feel wonderful when I can transform myself into this pretty presentable human. Not only do I look good, it’s a reflection of my skills!
What’s your greatest achievement in life so far?
I think my greatest achievement thus far is probably dropping out of Uni! I went to Uni to train as a primary school teacher, but a few months in I realised that it wasn’t for me, and thanks to my wonderful and incredibly supportive parents I dropped out and went travelling for a year. It’s so cliche but true – I really ‘found myself’ in that year and it made me realise that, within reason, I need to do what makes me happy.
You are a body snark banisher which I love, if in an ideal world we didn’t have body snark what do you think it would be like/look like and how do you think people would be in that world?
A world with no body snark sounds lovely! I think people would be happier. They would be kinder. They would be less image obsessed and afraid to wear what they want to wear. Elysium!
Which underwear brands do you swear by?
My absolute favourite brand right now is Ewa Michalak, a Polish brand. They make the biggest range of sizes I’ve ever seen and the bras and so beautiful and comfy. I recommend them to everyone I speak to! I also adore Freya, Curvy Kate and Elomi.
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust

Absolutely smokin’

If you could visit anywhere in the world where would be your destination?
If I could revisit a place – New Zealand. It’s so beautiful and charming and there’s so much to see and do.
In terms of new places I think South America. It just looks so varied and interesting.
Where would you like to see FFFB go?
I’d love to go into schools and talk about body confidence and bra fitting. I’d love to blog full-time. I’d love to become a Mum in a few years. But to be honest I’m happy as I am now as well!
What are you tips for body confidence/self-esteem?
Confidence is something that really has to come from within. But to aid you on your journey I’d say… Don’t read those awful magazines that talk about celebrities weight. Don’t follow ‘rules’ when it comes to getting dressed, wear what you want to wear. Be kind to others and accept compliments.
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust

This woman!

Nobody is perfect and I believe we shouldn’t pretend to be, if you have negative feelings towards your body/hair/shoes whatever do you have tricks to combat that?
It’s really hard to stop those negative thoughts at times. They roll in like thunder and before you know it you’re deep in a world of self loathing. I’d say the best thing you can do is change it if you can – pop a new pair of shoes on or re style your hair. If you can’t change it then stop worrying, and wait until you can or focus on things you do like. And if it’s something that requires a lot of work to change it then think long and hard about your reasons for disdain and who you’d be changing for and if ultimately changing would be better long term then do it!
Thanks George, you’re a babe for taking the time to chat.  George is getting married next year and in a very honest and frank post she talked about her feelings about the endless cycle of dieting and wanting to lose weight.  I read this post and thought WOW what a refreshing read that just cuts out the bull sh*t.  George is on her own journey for her,  you can find out more about it with Stella.  Body confidence, I believe, comes from being happy from within and if that means altering habits for renewed confidence then I say go for it!
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust

You’re welcome

 

Standard
Body Image, Self-esteem

Body Positive with Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan November

Cosmopolitan November

In the sea of negative media articles telling women they should be thinner, better, taller, smoother it is SO refreshing to see that Cosmopolitan have started to go against the tide.  Ever since being part of their Amazing Bodies series last year I have noticed the content become more body positive and celebratory of the female form in it’s natural glory.  I know that re-touching will always happen, such as colour correction, but I would love to see re-touching of size or shape eradicated.  Women and men are hard enough on themselves without unrealistic and unnatural images disguised as ‘real’.

Recently an advert popped up on Facebook about some ‘magic’ slimming aid, it had some ridiculous claims and ridiculous photos.  I don’t want this garbage clogging up my feed but unfortunately that’s down to FB’s algorithms.  However, I can chose the magazines I pick up.  Thank you Cosmopolitan and Cosmo Body for making strides in promoting body positivity, long may this continue!

Standard