In 10 months of blogging I’ve been lucky enough to discover a whole bunch of awesome blogs and bloggers who have made me feel completely welcome in this strange new world of online shenanigans. I quickly discovered the world of linkies, an opportunity to share and discover blog posts and so once I’d figured out how they actually worked I decided to dip my toe in with #coolmumclub, which is co-hosted by Sarah at Mum Muddling Through. Ironically, while wandering around St Pancras this Saturday (en-route to Blogfest) Sarah was also the first of my online blogger buddies that I met in actual real life. It’s just as well she recognised me really, what with her being an international woman of mystery and all I’d struggle to recognise her from her profile pic. This week she’s very kindly offered to take part in the series and talks about the different stages of womanhood and how these have directly influenced the relationship with her body and her view on body confidence in increasingly positive ways.
Name 3 parts of your body that you love and tell us why they’re so fabulous?
Now this is hard, isn’t it? If you asked me to name my three worst parts it’d be easy, but what I love about this series is how it’s challenging us to embrace positivity about our bodies so here goes nothin’.
My first thing would be my eyes. They are very dark brown, once described as chocolate buttons. I have no idea what it is about them but they get a lot of compliments! They will never age, never be a bit fatter or thinner, and are absolutely the window to my soul.
Next my legs (can this be 2 & 3? No? Okay.) Strangely skinny, and yet strong. My legs have taken me many places and more recently been a source of many hours of cathartic runs. I never knew what they were capable of until I put them to the test!
Lastly, my brain. Probably not the prettiest of parts of any person but the mind is a wonderful thing! Whilst I lacked in extracurricular hobbies growing up, my strengths were always academic and therefore my ability to remember, regurgitate and create has taken me places I’d never imagine. In fact, it’s brought me to you right now.
Share a memory of when you felt particularly good about yourself.
Over the summer some family offered to take the girls out for the day. All day. Which meant for one of the first times in 4 years, I had a whole 6 hours or so alone. The first item on my agenda was to go for a long run. Free from the guilt of needing to get back, or be doing something else I ran and ran and ran. 6.8 miles. Now this is no marathon, but it made me realise my dream of running the London Marathon maybe isn’t that unachievable. Coming from someone who 5 years ago couldn’t run around the block, I felt amazing that not only have I come so far but also proud that I even wanted to spend my precious time doing something so energetic. It felt good.
Has your relationship with your body changed over time?
Absolutely. As a teenager, I had quite low self-esteem. Teenagers can be extremely cruel, and some scars run deep. I’ll never forget the day one of the ‘cool/mean girls’ discussed her dodgy new haircut, and in front of the whole class she declared how much she hated it, because it made her look like, yep, yours truly. I’ll never forget that feeling of wanting the ground to swallow me up while no one else seemed to even acknowledge it was an insult.
I would describe myself as a bit of an ugly duckling, a late bloomer. I only found confidence in my appearance in my twenties once I had escaped school and grown in reestablished myself in the work environment (and discovered GHDs and hair removal). Although I started to appreciate my body aesthetically, I didn’t look after it on the inside too well in my twenties. I was fueled by coffee and cigarettes by day and beer and Jaegerbombs by night. I never exercised (apart from dancing till 3am) and care for nutrition was non-existent. My weight plummeted as I went through some rocky relationships, I also had a stressful job and burnt the candle at both ends.
By my thirties I had chilled, settled down and taken up step aerobics. I switched sticky dance floors for nice restaurants, and as thoughts turned to starting a family, it became apparent how much more care I needed to take of myself. I started to enjoy cooking, took an interest in superfoods and funded Jamie Oliver’s campaigning with my obsession for his cookery books. It was a natural progression towards the mother I am today, and I left that young party girl behind a long time ago. (Well, she makes a rare appearance every now and again).
Like a lot of women, I have always perceived myself to be bigger than I really am. In fact, in the lead up to my wedding I joined Slimming World and after setting my target weight, I weighed in three pounds under it. I never went back. I have always fluctuated around a size 10-12 and although I like the idea of being trim, I also like the odd Maccie D’s, all you can eat breakfast and slap up Roast dinner so dieting isn’t very high up my agenda. Fortunately, I also have a taste for a lot of healthy food too, so that probably helps balance things out. I have accepted that if I could never achieve that toned tummy in my twenties, it certainly ain’t happening three pregnancies and a decade later. And now, finally, I’m happy with that. There’s only one muscle I worry about toning these days and that’s the one I want to keep pumping blood around my body till I’m a crazy old Granny.
If you are a parent (or have little people in your life), has this changed how you perceive or discuss healthy body image?
Totally. We avoid the F word (that’s fat) as I can’t bear the thought of the girls worrying about that so young, or ever. We try and talk about what’s ‘healthy’ and encourage the girls to choose something from the fruit bowl than the treats cupboard. It’s so much easier with our eldest who is a fantastic eater and is as happy with a raw carrot than a bag of crisps, but with the mouse we are still battling to get any calories in her at all. That said, I am incredibly conscious of how this could lead to bad eating habits so we’re fighting the battle but hopefully winning the war.
What advice would you give to your teenage self on the subject of body image?
It makes me quite sad to think of how I saw myself as a teenager. I would tell myself that it won’t always be like this (amazing hair straighteners will be invented) and to not let them get you down.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever done for your body?
Without a doubt, giving up smoking. I know ex-smokers are the worst but it makes me feel sick now thinking back to the days I could cane a dozen fags by lunchtime, or wake up hungover smelling like an ashtray, and reach straight for a cigarette. Gross.
Share one confidence boosting trick for days when you’re feeling a bit ‘meh’.
I think we all have one beauty-regime we feel totally undone without. On the days you need to, make sure you give yourself 10 minutes to get that one thing sorted. For some it’s make up (not me might I add, I go bare faced most days), for others it’s fashion (I confess, probably not me again). No, my feel-good fix is to sort out my barnet with the GHDs*. If I ever get caught in a shower, let my hair dry naturally, or just have a two-day old wave going on, I feel a total mess inside and out. It’s not about how you look; it’s about how you FEEL. And I feel like me when I have tamed the frizz! I told you those scars run deep. Probably compounded by the fact that my hair has significantly thinned since I had children. Thanks for that hormones.
Who in the public eye do you admire for celebrating natural body shape?
Rebecca Adlington. Any woman who can stand on a podium in swimwear in front of the whole world with confidence, and leave us all talking about her achievements in the pool as opposed to in the bathing suit is a pretty awesome role model for young women.
Give us your best body positive quote or mantra.
A smile is the nicest thing you can wear.
I pledge to love myself a little more today by…never drinking again. As I write this after a civilized evening in London with friends I may or may not be slightly jaded. Another reminder why parents of young children should leave the partying to the care free twenty-somethings…Okay, so maybe not ‘never’, after all being life and soul of the party is a part of who I am…but I will definitely grab a berocca and an early night 😉 We all need to let off a little steam from time to time.
Thank you Charlie for the opportunity to reflect back on my evolution, whilst it was more emotional than I expected to revisit that henpecked young girl, and that nutty carefree twenty something, it reminded me how far I have come.
*Other brands of hair straighteners are available 😉
Thanks so much to Sarah for being my guest this week. If you are enjoying this series and think you would like to join in then just drop me a message in the comments below- I’d love to hear from you! x