Getting unstuck

Sometimes we’re stuck in a situation that we can’t leave immediately. It sounds easy to leave a party when the host fat shames you, but it becomes much harder when you came with a friend who doesn’t recognize what’s happened and wants to stay. It sounds like an easy decision to leave a company when your boss is bullying you, but when you’re already living out of your overdraft it’s a much harder decision. During these times it’s hard to trust that things are going to work out and hearing advice to “stay positive and be patient” can be frustrating. I have been in a situation where I wanted to flee, and I wanted to share a few concrete steps that helped me cope until I was able to leave.

Changing plans may seem a bit of a cop-out but was a huge help to me when I was trying to leave a difficult situation. I had originally planned to stay in the job I had for two years. When things became difficult, I struggled. I kept thinking I would have to stay for that long, because that was ‘the plan.’

Then I changed plans. I started looking for way to leave early. Changing my plans made staying less awful. Once I changed my plans, I found it helpful to make new ones, both short- and long-term. I spent some time deciding how and when I could leave, as well as deciding where I wanted to be in a year’s time. Having an idea of where I wanted to go helped me figure out the steps I needed to get there.

I find this step especially important when it comes to financial goals. Often we can’t leave a situation because of finances, so figuring out exactly what we need in order to walk away is essential. Working towards that goal can also help distract us from a difficult situation. Watching savings grow and ticking things off our lists gives us a boost, especially when it means getting closer to leaving the situation we’re stuck in.

Being in a situation that we can’t immediately leave can often make us feel lonely or cause us to isolate ourselves. Finding a support group of friends and family wherever you can takes away some of the burden you may be carrying. Having people to whom you can vent is essential to coping. On a particularly rough day at work a text from a friend, a rant in a Facebook group, or a quick chat with a work friend in the bathroom can keep you going.
Building a supportive network is absolutely essential if you’re trying to escape a relationship. Maintaining allies when you are trying to away from a negative relationship means that when you are feeling weak you have someone to turn to. I firmly believe that an online community can offer just as much support as a friend you see face to face. Try to make time to meet someone for coffee once a week or take fifteen minutes to pop onto a Facebook group.

If you are struggling with isolating yourself or finding allies you can look towards groups online on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, and if you’d like to find allies that you can meet face-to-face, consider picking up a hobby like a knitting group or game night. When you’re stuck in a social situation you can’t get out of, and you don’t have an ally there, reach out and text someone who isn’t there, or go to your social media of choice. Just because you’re physically somewhere without an ally doesn’t mean you can’t remove yourself emotionally and connect with an ally who is somewhere else.

Everything I’m wearing is from Top Vintage. You can find the dress here, the cardigan here, and the hair flower here.

Setting aside quiet time can also be helpful. When I have been stuck in a relationship or job I hated I have found that taking fifteen minutes helps me keep my cool. I take some time every day to sit quietly (in a bath, on the couch, in a coffee shop), shut off anything I am listening to, and focus on my breathing. I don’t think what I do is officially ‘meditating,’ but it’s the same concept, I think. I just try to slow everything down and allow myself to feel whatever emotions come up. Sometimes I cry (which is why I prefer the bath), sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I just sit and breathe. Those fifteen minutes feel restorative. They take me out of myself a bit and somehow I hurt less.

I also sometimes use that time to remind myself that I am not defined by my environment. It may be obvious to some people, but I forget that I am not what surrounds me. Take time every day to remember that you are not defined by your bad job, abusive partner, unkind friend, or even loud, scary social event. I know going through something you can’t immediately get out of is hard but you are still yourself. When it all gets on top of me I take time to remember I am still the loving, kind, strong, sexy, hilarious, clever human that I have always been, and that I have a 100% success rate for getting through awful situations. You do too, so keep fighting. You’ve got this.

What are your best coping skills? How do you get through an awful situation? Please let me know in the comments below, through email, or to the social media platform of your choice.

 

Technical Difficulties

Hi folks, I’m so sorry for the raido silence. Those of you who follow me on social media will already know but I had a troubling incident with my MacBook Pro and some juice. My computer is now with the specialist and I have found a replacement to get me through the next three weeks. I will be resuming posts early next week. Thank you everyone who asked if I was ok. I really appreciate each and every one of you who reads my posts and I’m grateful you noticed I had been absent last week. I have a lot of exciting projects in the works for the blog  over the next couple months. Please subscribe so you don’t miss any posts.

Pushing Boundaries

I often talk to people about the things that I’ve done in my life, things I’ve said, worn, ate, or even the adventures I’ve had. The most common response I hear is “I wish I could do that.” My standard response is always “Why can’t you?” I get a variety of answers but usually they boil down to fear. People are scared to take big leaps and try something totally different, which is why pushing your boundaries is such an important skill. It means that you might not quit your job and backpack around Uganda as your first adventure, but maybe you will take a weeklong trip by yourself to somewhere a bit exciting and a bit scary. It means you don’t just rock a bikini after years of turtlenecks, but you might wear a shorter skirt than usual or a crop top. Pushing boundaries is about working up to the big things while doing something that’s not your comfortable norm.

To begin pushing your boundaries it’s important to identify what your end goal is and where your comfort zone is. If you really want to spend a month on another continent alone think about what the appeal is and begin to make the goal specific and write it down somewhere. If you have decided that you really want to wear a bikini on your next holiday that try to figure out what you would be comfortable wearing now. It’s so important to make your goal specific so you know where you’re going and it’s also important to figure out where you’re starting from. It’s nearly impossible to get from A to B if you don’t know what they are! I decided I really wanted to wear a two piece outfit when I wasn’t at the beach. I had seen some 1940s sets that I yearned to wear. I had become mostly comfortable with bikinis so I knew that was my starting point and when I saw the two piece set from Trashy Diva that I’m wearing in these photos I knew it had to be my goal.

Once you know your starting point and destination you can begin to create your road map. It’s important to come up with steps that lead you from your starting point to your goal. The number of steps and the time they take will depend on you. If you’ve never left your hometown and want to spend two months alone on another continent in a place they don’t speak your language you are going to have some extra steps, which will require more time. I was only moving from bikinis to a two piece outfit so I had only a few steps and it all happened quite quickly. Deciding on your steps may make you nervous or even anxious and that’s ok. Write them down anyway. You’ll be working up to them so they will become less scary. Spend some time with your steps until you have a roadmap that is a little scary, a little exciting, and totally accomplishable.

Once you have your roadmap you are going to need to start doing the steps. Just thinking about this may make your heart race. Try to give yourself a timeline and plan out when you’ll be doing the steps. I  tend to move at a pace slightly faster than I am comfortable to keep me motivated but you may want to work slowly and pace yourself or super quickly to get it all over with. Before you do each step there will be worry and fear. That is totally normal! It’s important to think about what is intimidating with each step. Why does it make you scared? What is the worst case scenario if you take the step? What is the best? When I finally wore the two piece outfit I was worried people would laugh or stare. I took some time to understand why that would be upsetting and why it would matter to me. I wore the two piece and as you can see I slayed in it. No one seemed to care, except Mr Westwood who really loved the outfit on me. I won’t say I felt 100% confident the first time I wore it but it’s a work in progress.

This set is from Trashy Diva and is still available. The top is here and the skirt is here.

As you go through your steps be kind to yourself. What you’re doing is hard and you should give yourself a pat on the back for giving it a go.When things get difficult picture yourself at your goal feeling happy and content, knowing that you got there. Use that image to spurn you on and if you have any questions or concerns please get in touch. On my darkest days pushing through my body positive goals I looked at Elizabeth’s instagram account and watched her smash her boundaries and share her fears. It was a huge help. We all need each other to help us so don’t be afraid to reach out, let people know what you’re doing, and ask for support.

Making friends with myself

I have a friend who is one of the most generous, kind, and hilarious people I know, but for the first year we knew one another we hated each other. We were in law school together, training to be barristers, and I don’t if we hated each other because of all the competition, because we had such different personalities, or if we just couldn’t see the other’s value while we were on the course. After the course finished we ended up on a work trip together, and realized that we got on really well.  Since then, we’ve developed a deep friendship. She brings joy to my life constantly and is there to support me in the worst times.

I have had a similar relationship with my body. I spent over three decades fighting against my body and didn’t stop to think why. I never took the time to focus on how much stronger I am when I work with my body instead of against it. I didn’t have a hallelujah moment with my body the same way I did with my friend, though. My new relationship with my body took time and understanding from both of us but now I see my body for its strengths. I see how it can help me live a better life for longer. I don’t treat my body like a temple–I treat it like a friend. I see its flaws and love it anyway. I compliment it, I take care of it, and sometimes I give it treats. Since I changed my attitude toward my body it has rewarded me with some of the most amazing experiences.

The journey from enemy to friend with my body took years. It started when I began running in my early thirties. There was no dramatic shift but I started to pay attention to what my body was telling me. If my body wanted hydration or fuel than I drank or ate. If my body needed a rest day then I took a rest day and didn’t shame my body by calling it lazy. At the same time, I began to notice that if I believed my body could do something, then it usually could. I would believe my body could finish an 8 mile run and it could. I think we all get that it’s easier to accomplish something when someone believes you can and I found it worked the same with my body. I began to focus on my body’s positives. I realised how strong I was, and though I still wanted to be a skinny girl at this point, I began to see the beauty in my large, strong body.

I’m wearing the Harley dress from Pinup Girl in a 2x. They no longer have the stripe pattern available but they do have other colours and patterns available here.

I also started to compliment my body. It may seem silly but to someone who hated their body for so long this was revolutionary to me. My thoughts would go something along the lines of “I may be a fat cow but my calves are really shapely and I like them.” It’s amazing how looking toward the positive can snowball and lead you to see more and more positives. I used to really struggle with receiving compliments but as I started to give them to myself it became easier to accept them from other people. Now if someone tells me I look great in a dress I often respond with something like “Thanks, it makes my butt look amazing!” Not only do I believe the compliments from others, but I also add in one of my own. I’ve noticed this has also motivated me to give genuine compliments more often to others. I like to believe this will create a positive environment where we can focus on our own and others positives more.

Have you ever tried noticing your positives and giving yourself a compliment? I know it’s not easy but I’m going to challenge you to give yourself a compliment every day this week and see how you feel at the end. I’d love to hear how you get on with this challenge. Please get in touch in the comment section below, through email, Instagram, or Facebook.

Judgement Day

I recently watched the movie Embrace. It’s tagged as a body positive movie. It’s so, so much more than that. If you haven’t seen the movie go watch it now. (Go on, I’ll wait.) When I was watching the movie so many things resonated with me but one sentence really changed the entire way I think about myself and others. There is a line in the movie, which I am going to badly paraphrase as “if you stop judging yourself you will also stop judging others.” It’s amazing that as I have stopped judging myself I have also stopped judging others so harshly. I also found it started to work in the reverse, as I stopped judging others I stopped judging myself. I have now started a positive cycle in my life, which has resulted in less judgement for everyone including myself.

It’s really easy to say “stop judging yourself and others.” It’s really bloody hard to do. I wanted to set out some concrete steps to help you stop the judgment. The first step may seem obvious but you’ll need to start noticing when you’re judging yourself. Maybe you want to try on an outfit but your brain says “you won’t look good in that” or maybe you’ve decided to try a new hairstyle but before you even leave the house your brain tells you “that style doesn’t suit your face shape” or maybe you’re about to order a dessert and your brain tells you “you really don’t need any more calories, do you?” These thoughts occur so many times throughout the day that we often don’t notice them. So, step one is to notice when they are happening.

The second step is to step back and observe. It may sound crazy but right now you are just going to watch yourself judge yourself. To make this a little more difficult it’s important not to judge yourself for judging yourself. That’s right folk, we’re going completely meta today. Spend a day (or a week) noticing when you judge yourself and step back to observe as if you were someone else. Once you’ve got the hang of observing the judgement try step three – figuring out where the judgement is coming from. I know that I used to judge myself and anyone else for having a muffin top. When I was a teenager it was pointed out to me as something that was ugly and wrong. I had to take some time to understand that I was judging muffin tops because of what I was told. You might be judging something about yourself because of something you read or heard. Try to figure out where the specific judgement has come from.

This dress is from Pinup Couture. The dress is no longer available but they do have a skirt here and trousers here in the same print.

Once you know where the judgment has come from you can start to evaluate whether it’s a valid judgement. That’s right–it’s step four, reevaluate! I took some time to think about muffin tops. Why did I judge myself and other for having them? I haven’t always had an hourglass figure. Sometimes jeans hit me in a spot I deemed less than ideal. It’s didn’t make me any less sexy. My body wasn’t wrong, and the jeans often fit everywhere else. Also, I really like muffins, especially the tops. When I realised muffin tops weren’t inherently bad and I didn’t have an especially good reason to be judgemental of them I was able to stop judging myself when I had one (this did not happen overnight! This took much time and patience). Once I stopped judging myself when I had a muffin top I naturally stopped judging other people. The less I judged myself for the less I judged others. The less I judged others the less I judged myself. A positive cycle was born!

Take some time this week to notice when you’re judging yourself and see if you can follow the steps to less judgement. If you have any particular struggles please let me know though the comment section, email, or direct message on social media and hopefully together we can get you on the path to less judgement.

 

Losing weight

We are surrounded by messages about weight loss. These messages push us to shed physical weight off our bodies, but I haven’t seen many ads that focus on losing other types of weight.  These losses can be even more important. Shedding unwanted ideas and thoughts can change the rest of your life.  Shedding self doubt or self hatred can propel you forward to places you never dreamed of going. Shedding unwanted people in your life can be uplifting and freeing. Shedding a negative environment gives a freedom that doesn’t seem to come by losing five pounds of fat from your body, yet the ads we see and the message we receive seems to be that as long as you have lost enough of yourself you will feel better.

In September I will be 40 years old. I spent many years with a fear of numbers. I was scared of my age, scared of my measurements, scared of how little money I made. As I creep closer to 40 I find I am shedding that fear. When I stopped to think about my life I realised that I was often the happiest when I was making the least amount of money and when I weighed more physically. I also realised that my teens were unbearable, my 20s were mediocre, and my 30s were the best decade so far. Following on this path means that my 40s should be amazing. There’s no reason that this larger number should scare me. The media has told me that going into my 40s means I will start to creak when I get up on the morning, that everything will sag a bit and get a bit squishy, that I’ll be tired, and that my fun youthful times are over.


I say bollocks to that! I had my first hip replacement when I was 2 years old. I have always creaked. I had my first child at 21 years old. I have been sagging and tired for nearly half my life! Now that I’m coming into my 40s I have gained so much knowledge about myself and the world around me. I’m comfortable in my own skin, my kids can pretty much take care of themselves, and Mr Westwood and I earn enough to live comfortably and travel. My life is heading in the right direction even if society tells me my numbers are wrong, so I’m going to party in September like it’s 1999, except this time I’ll wear what I want, eat what I want, say what I want, and dance like the whole bloody room is paying to watch me. I’ve mostly shed my fear of numbers and it feels better than losing any amount of physical weight could have.

Being stuck in a negative environment can be claustrophobic. I’ve seen weight loss ads that talk about being stuck in your own body. I’ve never really felt stuck in my body but I have felt stuck in an environment that made me feel so small and unappreciated that I struggled to breathe some days. A negative environment such as a job or a team or even a class can be draining. For me it combines my fear of numbers and toxic people. Staying positive in a negative environment can be downright impossible. In an effort to protect ourselves we often start using negative behaviors like eating our feelings and sleeping to avoid reality. Getting up to go to a job you hate is like putting 100 pounds on your back to go for a run. It feels heavy and weighs us down and can often make us sick. I know a lot of us have felt that Sunday dread knowing that we have to go somewhere that is sucking the life force out of us and turning us into something we’re not. Deciding to walk away can be liberating. I know that not all of us can walk out and I will talk about coping strategies in a few weeks but as we’re talking about shedding weight I want to say that walking out of a toxic environment can change your perspective on everything. Removing that weight from a Sunday and instead taking that time to go for a walk, see friends, or just watch a good movie without the dread hanging over can be joyous. It feels uplifting to know you have removed the weight of that environment and are able to go back to being yourself.  

This dress is no longer available from Trashy Diva, however they do have a similar style here.

It amazes me how much society focuses on losing the physical weight but doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on losing emotional and mental weights that hold us back from living our lives. What’s one weight you could shed this week to start moving forward with your life? Please let me know in the comments below, through email, facebook, or instagram. I love hearing your stories and hearing about your journeys to self acceptance.

 

Future thin girl

A few months ago I went to the doctor to explain I was having trouble losing weight. She asked me a life changing question – “why?” She wanted to know why I was trying to lose weight.

I just stared at her for a moment. I was trying to lose weight because that’s what I have always tried to do. I have been trying to lose weight since I was 12 years old. Anytime my body grew above a size 16/18 I tried to lose weight. In my teens I tried to lose weight anytime I wasn’t a size 10. If I wasn’t trying to lose weight I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t happy with my thinness. In my mind thin equals happy. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate other assets my body has, like its strength and resilience, but until recently I’d still always assumed that fat was bad and thin was good. In that one moment my doctor put a life long held belief on its head. My doc explained that I have low blood pressure and cholesterol, I don’t seem to be in danger of diabetes, I got regular sleep, I ate balanced healthy meals, I drank enough water, and I exercised. I was doing everything right, so why was I obsessed with what size I wore? I walked away from that appointment a bit dazed and confused. I had spent my whole life thinking about what I would do when I was thin.

What if I was never thin? I had planned my whole life up until that point as a future thin girl. I tried to take in the fact that I might just be a fat, healthy girl for the rest of my life. Could I really just start doing the things I had put off? Deciding that I might never be thin felt partially liberating and partially like I was mourning the loss of a dream. If I was going to let the dream go I needed to understand where it came from in the first place. When I was younger I was skinny. I had a child’s body until I was 12 and I was thin as a rail. At 12 everything changed. I became a 32D seemingly overnight.  Suddenly I had hips and stretch marks. I never minded the stretch marks too much and I found a power in my new feminine body, but also an insecurity.  The first time I needed to buy size 12 jeans and I was horrified! I was 14, and I was sure this meant I was huge. I looked like all my friends, healthy and appropriately sized and shaped but I never felt that way. Since then I’ve yoyoed, and  convinced myself that someday I would go back to being a size 10. I just never thought that size 18 would be my norm–I always thought this size was temporary.

Since my size was temporary I lived my life from one event to the next thinking about when I would lose the weight and when I could allow myself to relax. Upcoming high school reunion? Diet and exercise like a fiend. Christmas season? Relax. I realised that I had lived my life thinking always about the next big event that I would get thin for. Accepting that I could live my life now was difficult but also so freeing. Before I could let go of the idea of not being thin I had to come to grips with why I equate with good and fat with bad. I started to delve into where I got the message that I was not good if I didn’t wear a certain size. I double- and triple-checked with my doctor, read blogs and books (especially Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker) and even recently saw a documentary called Embrace. I started to study unhealthy skinny people and healthy fat ones. If it isn’t so bad that I am fat, maybe, just maybe, I can stop living my life for when I am thin.

This dress is no longer on the Trashy Diva website but they do have a dress in similar styles here and dresses in a similar pattern here.

This is one of the reasons I’m so adamant about telling young woman how gorgeous they are. I know what it’s like to feel like a hideous monster when you’re actually a pretty fit chick. After all this research, thinking, writing, and praying, I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am today and to stop living for ‘when.’ It’s been a struggle to do things now, because I want to, and not wait until I’m thin. It’s also been a struggle to adjust to the thought that I might be good now, just the way I am. I know there are a lot of people who are in my situation.  A lot of them have helped me, and I’d like to think I can help a lot more people too.  I want as many people as possible to realise that if you’re fit, you’re fine. If you’re not fit you can work on that and I’m happy to help.  If you’d like to talk about this, please get in touch by leaving a comment below, emailing, or on Instagram or Facebook.

Run, fat girl, run

img_3715“You run?” “You run half marathons?” I can almost hear them say “but you’re fat!” after those questions. It’s implied that I don’t run and certainly couldn’t go for 13 miles because of my size. People can’t seem to believe that at my size I run and I enjoy it. People look at me and see the fat woman. I look at myself and see an athlete. When I was regularly running distances over 8 miles and in the fittest condition I’ve been in I wore a size 16 and still had thighs like tree trunks. My body is big and my body is strong. It took me a long time to accept that getting fit for me didn’t mean getting thin. My body does a great job of replacing the fat i lose with super dense muscle. It means I’ll never look like Kate Moss but it does mean I can squat more than Mr Westwood. Being a larger woman trying to work out is a battle. Finding workout clothes that are flattering and do their job can be a struggle. Sports bras are a nightmare for the D+ crowd. Trying to explain to a trainer that I don’t want to try to get skinny makes me feel like I speaking a foreign language. I know that all of the struggles are worth it as I only have one body and it rewards me when I treat it well. This doesn’t mean I don’t often use these struggles as an excuse to put off going to the gym. 

SAMSUNG CSCWhen I was younger I wasn’t much of an athlete. I played field hockey and lacrosse in school but I always offered to be goalie because there was less running. Running for anything other than a train seemed silly in my early 20s. Every few years  in my mid to late 20s I’d get a pair of trainers and throw on some leggings and try to run but it seemed like my body just didn’t know how to move fast and breathe at the same time. I’d go for a few half run/walks and feel like a failure and give up. Running hurt every part of me and I always felt like people were staring at the slow, wobbly, fat lady who kept having to stop. After my second child I tried again and even did a few charity 5ks where I ran most of the way but I always felt like a failure as I took breaks and was larger than everyone else. When I was 27 we moved to England and I focused my time and energy on my new life. I lost weight as I was happy and busy. I was a size 14/16 and I didn’t even have to exercise!

SAMSUNG CSCWhen I was in my early 30s I found roller derby. I had the same experience hundreds of thousands of women around the world did. I found a way to be athletic and play a team sport but on my own terms. No one judged my size or my age. Joining roller derby was the start of me becoming me. Joining roller derby is also when I realized that being smaller didn’t mean being healthier. Roller derby made me realize just how unfit I was as a size 14/16. I loved skating but I struggled to keep up. I realized I needed to do some work outside of roller derby to get better. I decided to try running again. I don’t know what made this time different. I know that I stopped caring about people thinking I was too large to run. I stopped thinking of walking breaks during a run as failure. I also had an end goal that mattered so much to me that I didn’t want to give up. I started running and I didn’t stop. As I relaxed into running I found my body relaxed as well. I found my brain truly shut off during running, especially during distance running. I was able to escape the judgement and the pain and just move forward. 

SAMSUNG CSCI eventually retired from roller derby after my hip replacement. I haven’t stopped running though. I dream about running now. I crave it. There are times, like now, that I haven’t run for a few months because of work and illness. I try not to judge myself too harshly, I save that job for the people I’ll see when I go back to the gym. They’ll still be there looking at the slow, wobbly, fat girl thinking she doesn’t belong. I may even let it get to me at first but then I’ll start running. Starting to run after a break is always hard but that means that I’ll be too tired and in too much pain to worry about the judgement of others. It means I’ll be using all my energy to push through and I’ll have no energy left to worry was the woman next to me thinks or if I look ok in my workout clothes. After a few weeks my body will start to remember how to run and I’ll be going to the gym often enough that people will stop looking at me like a freak and just accept that I’m going to be there.  I know the judgement and the struggles with finding the right gear can really put people off but that’s why more of us should go. We need be the norm. We need to show those young lads how strong we are as we move the weight on the machines up after they get off. We need to show the world that us wobbly, fat humans do care about our bodies, we do know how to exercise, we aren’t lazy, and we do want to be healthy but that thin just isn’t going to happen for some of us and that’s ok. Strong and healthy is our goal and we are getting there one stride at a time.