On Monday 16th July 2018, the UK parent blogging community lost one of it’s original members. The vivacious, kind and witty force of nature, Kate Sutton. Although it’s been under the saddest circumstances, it’s been exceptionally heartwarming to see bloggers united in their adoration for this wonderful woman. Kate touched so many lives.
Whether you were super close to her or only knew her through her social channels, it would have been impossible to find a bad word to say about her. This isn’t a dead person being martyred here. This is what genuinely happens when a person who is loved so much passes away too soon. Please check out the GoFundMe campaign to help her boys, Ben and Dexter.
Kate was the queen of positive body image, so Tanya who blogs at Mummy Barrow thought it would be a great tribute for us bloggers to get in our swimsuits and post a photo on Instagram. The response was incredible. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes coming together, no matter how scared they were of baring their bodies for the world to see. Us mama’s (and I’m all too aware the dada’s too) often have major hang ups about our bodies. Yesterday, the message was clear: LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF and we should all #bemorewitwitwoo (obvs!) Head over to Instagram and check out all the awesome posts on the hashtag.
Trouble is, body confidence doesn’t just appear overnight. Many people posted inspirational photos and words, but how many of us will actually wear that damn bikini all summer?
How negative body image starts
I’m going to be totally honest here with my words. They are not intended to fat shame or make anyone else feel bad. This is my story, and I suggest in the kindest possible way, if it’s a trigger for you, then you skip the rest of this piece.
I grew up in a family where people hated themselves. My mother was diagnosed morbidly obese before the term was widely known. She was extremely vocal about despising the way she looked. She went on countless fad diets over the years, and never managed to stick to any of them for longer than a month. The half brother and sister I grew up with were overweight as kids, and copped a lot of teasing for it during the school years. Particularly as we moved around as much as we did, and just being new was enough reason for us to be bullied. My half sister was incredibly damaged by the time she left school. My half brother was sectioned for the first time shortly before his twenty first birthday.
I was as skinny as a rake growing up. I was an ill child, which started as infant reflux and led to major stomach surgery at five years old. I went from throwing up after every meal to not physically being able to vomit. Most food caused me pain. I hated eating. I was tube fed at points. I have a scar that starts under my breasts and stops at my belly button. I used to look in the mirror and see the most ugly, grotesque reflection staring back. It also didn’t help that I was sexually abused from the ages of eight to ten. My mental health problems started before my earliest childhood memories.
Creating lasting healthy habits
After leaving home at fifteen I drank and partied myself into oblivion, then ate cheap junk food. I’m talking McD’s for breakfast, stodgy for lunch and 99p microwave meals for dinner. Not surprisingly I piled on the weight. I began to hate myself, just like my mother hated herself.
I’d like to state for the record that I truly applaud anyone who feels comfortable in their own skin, despite their size. I’m not saying that we need to weigh X stone to be happy. I, however, am just over five foot one and my body simply cannot cope with being more than a size ten. I felt sluggish all the time. My face looked like it belonged to someone else. My mood was super low. For me, being healthy means eating well and exercising. I was not doing either of these things and subsequently in a perpetual cycle of feeling like crap. I did not like what I saw in the mirror.
So I changed it, through sheer hard work and determination. I learnt to cook and started properly utilising the gym membership I’d been paying for but not getting my money’s worth from. It was a slow burner, but it was an approach that has led to life long healthy habits being formed. I absolutely loved Kate’s piece about quitting slimming world, and learning to enjoy healthy food and exercise instead. Reminded me a lot of myself back in the early naughties. Essentially give up the yoyo dieting, go back to basics and you’ll see immediate results.
The long road to loving ourselves
In order to love ourselves, and for it to last longer than one Instagram post, we have to be able to look in the mirror and like what we see. This goes way deeper than being a size whatever. It’s about owning our choices in life, and not allowing them to make us miserable. Believe me, even when we’re in the depths of despair, there are always choices to be made. The consequences will either enhance our wellbeing or destroy it further. It’s all very well and good having a “fuck it, I’m eating the cake” attitude. Providing of course that eating the cake doesn’t make you feel like shit afterwards.
My issues aren’t with food, they’re with booze. Last October I gave up drinking, and lasted three moths. When I come off the wagon as it were, I didn’t beat myself into the ground. I’d come to the stone cold sober conclusion that I was searching for happiness in all the wrong places. I thought my drinking was the root cause of so many of my problems in life, but giving up the booze did not help me solve them. Regular yoga, diffusing essential oils and eating clean does much more for my wellbeing than not drinking.
Again, this isn’t to say others don’t feel immense benefits from being sober. Abstinence is the only way for many. Short term abstinence has been vital for me several times now over the last decade. Moderation has always been my downfall, but I’m getting better at it and am determined to nail it over the next few years.
How to adopt a positive body image
The advice to eat wholesome natural food, not drink too much and regularly exercise is beyond basic. It’s not sexy, and well, it doesn’t sell diet books does it? It bloody works though, and I defy anyone to tell me they don’t feel better within themselves after making changes in this direction.
I’ve said so many times that top of my list as a mum is giving my kids a childhood they don’t have to recover from. It starts with ensuring I’m making good decisions and owning the consequences, come what may. Not giving them even more things to agonise over than they’re already going to have during the usual process of morphing from child to adult.
My body isn’t perfect, not by a long stretch. I’ve joked before about liposuction for my thighs and butt. Hubby used to say he’d buy me some new boobs for my fortieth birthday (he isn’t going to, don’t worry). I’ve cried over not fitting into previously loved clothes. However, regardless of how I feel about my body, I would never ever say any of it in front of my kids. The easiest way to being body confident is by growing up around body confident adults. When children see their grown ups being happy with the way they look, they’ll have no hang ups over the way they do. I’ve seen it in many of my friends, and although there will always be a few exceptions to the rule, it’s definitely the stance I’ll continue to take.
I’ve ummed and ahhed over hitting publish on this, for fear of backlash or my words being misconstrued. If this week has taught me nothing, it’s that life is too damn short to worry over things that might not even happen.