Banishing Should – Take two

The dress and cardigan are from Top Vintage. You can find the cardigan here and the dress here.

Last week I asked you to focus on four steps. First, I asked you to notice when you use should or shouldn’t. Second, to think about why you feel you should or shouldn’t do something. Third, to try to remember who first told you that you should or shouldn’t do it. Fourth, to focus on how you feel when you tell yourself you should or shouldn’t do it. I’d really like to know how you did so please let me know through the comments below or email. I know a lot of you signed up to receive the worksheet, so I’d also love to know what you thought. Did using the worksheet help? There will be another worksheet sent out this week to those of you who signed up. (For any of you who didn’t sign up last week there will be another option to sign up at the bottom of this post.)

This week we’re going to work on an important but sometimes difficult step — removing “should” from things you can’t control. I know many of us struggle with using “should” when we are discussing past events such as “I should have gone to the gym” or “I should have invited her to the party.” Using “should” for past events is brilliant. It both shames you for having done or not done something but it also assumes you have super human power to go back in time and fix the situation. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell to you this but you don’t actually have that power. Using “should” for past events really only serves to cause guilt because there isn’t anything you can do to undo what you shouldn’t have done. This week’s first step is going to be to stop using should for events that have already happened. If you’re feeling brave you can start replacing “I should have invited her to the party” with “next time I have a party I think I will invite her.” Looking forward to what you can change is much much more useful that looking back at what you’ve already done and wished you hadn’t.

Step two is something that I still struggle with. I try to be understanding and open to other people’s lives but sometimes I really like a good, judgmental gossip with friends. During theses bitch fests we often say “She should not have gone on a second date with him!” Or “he should never wear those jeans again.” I am aware that this is wrong on so many levels but I’m not perfect. This week you and I are going to try to recognize when we’re using should about other people and then (the harder bit) not use it. Now I’m not taking away anyone’s bitchy card so feel free to say “Why do you think she’s still with him?” Or “she could do so much better.” But try to avoid should whenever discussing other people. It makes you feel more important than others and more judgmental. Asking “Why doesn’t she break up with him?” gives those around you the option to say “She doesn’t want to” or “she really bloody loves him” or even “she wants to but she’s scared. I wonder how we can help?” Not using should in these situations gives others the options to disagree without feeling like you’re just going to should all over them.

Now I’m a big fan of putting things off so I obviously decided to save this weeks hardest step for last. Step three is to stop using should when talking about things you can not change. This often comes in the phrase “I should be able to lift that much weight” or “I should be able to party till 2 AM like everyone else.” It’s the “should” we put on ourselves when we want to do something that we know we physically or emotionally can’t. I was a great one for using it after my hip replacement. I felt I should be healing faster, running sooner, stretching easier. In my head I knew I couldn’t do those things yet but I wanted to be able to. This is when I refused to accept my limitations and instead decided shaming myself would be a better option. Accepting you can’t do something when you really cannot is awful. It’s almost easier to accept you can’t do the things you can do but don’t want to. This step is going to suck but please, please try this week to look out for the times you are using should because you don’t want to accept you can’t do something. When it happens remember that you are the only person who knows if you can or can’t do something and if you can’t that is OK because there are so many things you can do that others can’t.

Finally, I want to end this week by saying “be kind to yourself.” You are not perfect but you are pretty damn awesome. No matter who you are there are people in this world who would have less joy in their lives if you weren’t around. As always if you have any wobbles or questions please get in touch through the website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you’d like this week’s worksheet to help you keep track of there steps please sign up here. The next installment of banishing should will be here roughly the same time but if you want to make sure you don’t miss it please subscribe here or to the Facebook page. Good luck this week, my little ducklings, I believe in you.

The dress and cardigan are from Top Vintage. You can find the cardigan here and the dress here.

Banishing Should

The bikini is from Simply Be. You can get the top here and the bottom here.

I am starting a 3 part series about something that matters a great deal to me — removing the word should (or shouldn’t) from your vocabulary. Should is a guilty word. It shames us.  Should is a word that we often use to prevent ourselves from doing things we want or forcing ourselves to do things we don’t want to. Should guilts us into doing things rather than motivating us. I’m going to be sending out a worksheet with each blog post from the series to help you keep track of the steps and to help you move forward to removing should from your vocabulary. If you’d like to receive the worksheets please signup below.


We often use should when we have assigned a moral value to something that doesn’t need one. We decide that eating cake is bad and dressing a certain way is good for no real reason. We say “I’m being bad, I shouldn’t have a second helping of dinner.” For a long time I thought I shouldn’t wear a bikini without ever giving thought to why. There are hundreds of articles out there explaining to us why women of a certain age, or skin tone, or size shouldn’t wear certain items. Very few of us take the time to think about the motivation behind the should. Once I stopped to realise there was no God of bikinis who was declaring them unwearable for fat girls I was able to give myself permission to wear them. The first step I’m going to ask you to take this week is to start noticing when you use the word should and when you do I want to to ask yourself why. See if there is a good reason such as you actually shouldn’t eat sugar out of the sugar bowl as you are diabetic or if it’s some unknown authority making the rules.

See if you can remember when you first heard that you shouldn’t wear a certain kind of clothes or eat a certain food. Try to remember who said it and what was their motivation? Does the statement involving should motivate you? Thinking about how you should go to the gym isn’t usually inspiring. As you’re going through your week and noticing when you use should take some time to think about how it makes you feel. When you tell yourself you should go to bed at a certain time how do you feel? Do you want to conform or rebel? Do you feel guilt or defiance? Think about how the statement with should affects your mood. If you feel you should go to the gym at lunchtime and then don’t does it put you in a negative space? How long does the feeling last?

It’s very important when starting to break a habit to notice the habit first. Don’t worry about changing your vocabulary yet, unless it comes naturally. Spend this week working on four steps. First, notice when you use should or shouldn’t. Second, think about why you feel you should or shouldn’t do something. Third, try to remember who first told you that you should or shouldn’t do the thing. Fourth, focus on how you feel when you tell yourself you should or shouldn’t do the thing. It may seem scary at first but it’s important that you don’t place judgment on yourself for using should. If you’d like to download the worksheet to help you keep track of this week’s steps please join the email list here.

The bikini is from Simply Be. You can get the top here and the bottom here.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

I am a very smart woman. I am very, very good at coming up with excuses. I have spent many years coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t do yoga. I’m not the only one who has come up with reasons. There’s a whole host of people out there who have reasons why I shouldn’t do yoga and they happily tell me. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t do yoga because I’m too fat, because I’ve had a hip replacement, because I’m not flexible enough, because I don’t have good balance, because I’m too old. There have also been subtle messages that I shouldn’t do yoga such as the fact that it’s nearly impossible to buy cute, comfortable yoga clothes above an xl or the fact that most yoga advertisements feature petite women and never any plus size women. Also, walking into a yoga studio can be really intimidating. It’s intimidating for anyone who hasn’t tried yoga before it is especially terrifying for those of us who carry extra weight. There are definitely things that studios can do to make the atmosphere more welcoming for those of us who are fat.

I was lucky that when I posted on Facebook that I wanted to try yoga someone contacted me and invited me to an open day. Once I agreed online I couldn’t really back out. For me this was helpful as I was terrified of going but once something is on Facebook it has to happen. It’s sort of the law. When I arrived at the studio I was met by a large group of people. An open day can be helpful in creating a more comfortable environment, especially if you can ensure there are people of different sizes and shapes there. Walking into Hot Yoga Sheffield was fantastic as the building was filled with people with quite diverse body shapes. I didn’t feel like I was sticking out in any way and as a fat person I tend to want to fade in to the background in new and uncomfortable situations.

I took a few minutes to adjust and then asked to see the woman who’d invited me on Facebook. I’ll be forever grateful that she was so warm and welcoming. Sally seemed truly happy to be able to show me around the studio and was a big part of the reason I joined. The studio suited my requirements. There were changing rooms that had the privacy I sometimes like when getting my kit off around thinner women. There were couches in a quiet room, which made getting shoes on and off easier. There were also several different levels of classes from a warm 60 minute beginner to a hot 90 minute intense session. They’ve also got a brilliant little vegan cafe in the back with snacks and a fridge stocked with locally made juices. It may seem silly to a super fit person but the idea that they didn’t want fat me to just scoot off after class was a big deal. They didn’t seem embarrassed by me, which meant I felt able to let my guard down a little.

After a tour of the studio and a chat with Sally a terrifying thing happened — they had a spot in a beginners class and they encouraged me to give it a go. This scared the bejesus out of me. I walked into the warm room of around 40 people and saw they were all different sizes, shapes, and levels of sweaty. A lot of them looked nervous too! I found a mat in the corner and said a quick Hail Mary. We were encouraged to sit or lie on our mats before we started. The room felt wonderful! I love to sweat and I love the heat so I was really hoping hot yoga would work for me. I was still terrified about the yoga bit but sat down to give it a go.

The teacher, Rosie, greeted us and started by taking us though Sun Salutation A. (That’s right, I can now talk fancy yoga phrases.) We went through it quite quickly and then broke the steps down through the rest of the class. At one point I was struggling with a move and out of nowhere (and right before I nearly burst into tears feeling like I was too fat to do yoga) Rosie appeared with a brick and changed everything. That brick made me feel like I was accomplishing the pose, like I wasn’t a failure. She also said things like “if you’re struggling with this move you can try an alternative.” She truly made me feel like I deserved to be there as much as anyone else. We finished the class by putting all the poses together again to do another sun salutation and I nearly cried again as I was able to do the whole thing, but this time with happiness (luckily I was sweating a hell of a lot and was able to hide it). When we lay down at the end of class to breathe and relax, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

When I came out of the class I was on a high. I was so proud of myself. I also hadn’t considered how great the endorphins would feel. I happily signed up for the one month introduction special (this is still available if anyone wants to give it a go, it’s £32 for an unlimited month at both studios). It’s now been a month since my very first class at Hot Yoga Sheffield and I’ve been going twice a week. I wish I could go more as the studio is such a welcoming place to be. I’ve even done a private family class with Mr Westwood and the kids as the physical and mental health benefits are brilliant for anyone. I have definitely noticed my balance is getting better, as well as my strength, but the biggest change has been my mental health. The combination of the heat and yoga has been brilliant for my body and brain.

There is a growing body positive movement with in the yoga community. There are some inspirational women out there like Jessamyn Stanley and some great websites like, which helped reassure me I wasn’t the only one struggling with downward dog. There also a long way to go to making plus size women feel comfortable walking into a yoga studio. If you’d like to try a class at Hot Yoga Sheffield but you’re nervous to go alone please get in touch. I’m happy to join you in your first class as I know how terrifying it can be. If you’re not in Sheffield and would like to try hot yoga I would take some time to look online and see if you can find out the vibe of the studio before going. Having welcoming ambassadors like Sally, and understanding teachers like Rosie, are the reason I’m still at it. I’m well aware how a bad experience can put you totally off a type of exercise. If you’re not sure send me a message and I’ll see if I can find recommendations for somewhere in your area.


Learning to speak, again

I remember being 12 years old sitting in the car with my mum outside a store called Caldor. My mum had something she wanted to return but she was having severe anxiety about it. I didn’t quite understand at the time so I offered to return the item for her. It went smoothly and I didn’t think about that moment until recently. It brought back other memories. I remember having to ask for prices for things in shops or extra condiments at restaurants. I was often my mum’s voice. I don’t know that I ever fully understood my mum’s anxiety until I was in my 20s.

In my mid 20s I was a stay at home mum trying to take care of my kids. Somewhere between super hot teenage girl and overweight and exhausted mum I stopped thinking about what I needed or what would make me happy. I’m not sure what happened. Somewhere along the line while I was becoming a mum I stopped becoming me. I know the transition started from a good place. I suddenly had creatures I was in charge of and they became my priority. I was so focused on their needs that I stopped thinking about my own. I also started obsessing about inconveniencing others. I was both desperate to make sure my kids were happy and healthy and also not in anyone else’s way. Somewhere (read – media, society, patriarchy) I had been convinced that the best mums were invisible and as I struggled to find an identity beyond mum I felt all of me was supposed to be invisible. I stopped asking for what I needed and sank into the background.

When I was 29, having spent 8 years defining myself by those around me, I came up with the crazy idea to go back to university. I decided I wanted to find my identity. I won’t lie to you, it was terrifying. I was in classes with kids who were closer in age to my child than to me. They all seemed to cool and clever. Early on in the process I decided there would be no competition. I was going to be fatter, slower, and older. Basically I decided I had nothing to lose. I started to speak up. I started tho raise my hand and ask questions. It was scary but I knew that in order to pass my classes and not waste a tonne of money I needed to stand up for myself. As I started to stand up for myself at university I also started to stand up for myself in other scenarios. I stopped apologizing for a full five minutes before I returned things. I started asking for the specific thing I wanted in shops and at restaurants. I also stopped trying to hide. 18 months into my 3 year university course I found roller derby, which filled me with even more confidence.

Dress and cardigan are from Top Vintage. Dress is Miss Candyflloss and can be found here and cardigan is by Hearts & Roses and can be found here.

As I started to speak for myself I learned some important lessons. 1. No one is offended when you ask for mayonnaise for your fries. 2. The woman at the service desk at Marks & Spencer does not care that I am returning an item. 3. Everyone in the quiet car on the train is grateful when I ask the knobhead to put in headphones or turn his music off. 4. Having a little flutter in my belly before I speak up for myself does not make me weak. 5. I deserve to be visible and I will not be silenced just because someone has decided I’m not longer who they want to sleep with. The last lesson took me a long time to learn but is probably the most important rule. I deserve to be seen and heard. I am worthy. It has nothing to do with wether I am (or not) the physical ideal. This is the lesson we need to continue to tell ourselves and each other. We find excuses why we don’t deserve to be visible — I’m too fat, I’m too tall, I’m just a mum, I’m just a girl. It’s time for us to make ourselves more visible, to make ourselves heard. It’s time that we teach the next generation that they have every right to stand up for their beliefs and if they are scared that we will stand next to them shoulder to shoulder until they can feel worthy of visibility because everyone deserves to be heard and no one should have to live without mayo on their fries.