Friday, 9 January 2015

Beginning again

So, it's been a while. Since my last post in July (!) I've been playing with the baby, trying to get the kitchen redone (never again) and taken up running.

As of this week I've also returned to work and now get to wear clothes that don't require constant and immediate access to my boobs. This is one of the hardest bits of breast feeding for me I've found; the limitations it has on your wardrobe as dresses are pretty hard to wear if you need to get your boobs out in a reasonably discrete way. If you don't, fine, but otherwise it's been tops and jeans and sweaty running gear for the last 11 months.

Anyway, I'm back and the same but different. The same in that I'm still looking for good plus size fashion that makes me feel great and like 'me' (how often do we end up buying clothes because they are there and in our size rather than because they are what we truly want to wear?).

But I'm different in that my body has changed since pregnancy and B's birth. I'm now a size 20-22, down from a size 26-28 previously. I've also started running three times a week so that may have impacted my body shape too.

I've made mistakes along the way: bought clothes the wrong size because I bought the size down with out realising I needed the size down from that too. Bought things without thinking if they went with anything else, or suited my figure. All the rooky mistakes. But now hopefully I've calmed down. My body seems happy where it is so we can park up and wear what I've got and try some new things.

New things I'm enjoying include easy access to tights. Oh the joy of £3 Primark tights that fit perfectly and the ease of being about to buy clothes from a larger range of stores. I still don't understand why so many stores cut off their sizes at an apparently random size 22. Being able to buy running and workout clothes cheaply is another big plus.

The irony is that I didn't look to lose weight, it just happened. When I gave birth I found my pre-pregnancy clothes were too big. I think my appetite shrank while I was carrying B, and it continued while I breast fed him. My weight has now plateaued and I'm fine with that. I had, and continue to have, no interest in diets or actively pursuing weight loss because I know it doesn't work for me in the long term.

As a quick FAQ.

Do I prefer my body now? Well, I think it looks the same, it just seems to fit smaller clothes.

Do I feel like I have more energy? Well, I'm not carrying around a baby in my tummy any more so yeah, I feel better thanks.

Oh you must feel so much better now!? Err, felt fine before thanks.

How much more do you want to lose? Nothing thanks.. but I want to get my 5k running time down.

Are you a sell out to diet culture and body positivism? Part of loving your body and being body positive is loving it whatever weight it decides it wants to be. It's also about treating my body well and making it happy. Running makes my heart sing and my legs ache in a very nice way. I've always liked the way I look.

So, yeah. Hello again. I'm hoping to post OOTD's here and maybe some other bits and pieces.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Mummy days and new looks

Wow, it's been a while! Since I last blogged I had a baby boy at the beginning of March and have been on maternity leave since.

While this is paid for some part of the year you can take off, I'm now into the Very Little Money bit so had signed up to a July spending ban... which lasted until about the 3rd after I spotted a skirt on ASOS. I will show you that when it comes.

Anyway since having Baby B I have found that my body has changed quite a lot, resulting in me having to buy new clothes, mainly jeans. While jeans shopping (oh how I missed jeans while pregnant!) I discovered denim shorts. Not sure why I never had the urge to wear them much before, but this year if the temperature gets about 20 degrees I'm whipping my legs out! Life is simply too short (haha) to be hot and bothered in summer. So, here are my favourites:

These are from TU at Sainsbury's. They are a boyfriend style and lovely soft denim. Large fitting size 22. T old from Gap on the left, top on right is from H&M standard range (on sale and now sold out). Love these shorts and only £12.

These are from New Look and may still be online. To be honest I don't really like this outfit looking back. The shorts are quite baggy (they seem to have stretched after buying) and I would wear a tighter top with them next time. After wearing loose baggy clothes during the long dark years of hating my body, I now tend to prefer wearing either my top or bottom reasonably form fitting.

Vest still available from Asos and the kimono is from the Forever21 main range but sold out.

So, yup while I do have fat legs and I may be breaking every flattering fat girl dressing rule there is... I don't care.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What being a fat woman is really like

Thanks to Claire for this brilliant idea where lots of us give our personal take on the questions posed in the Cosmopolitan article.

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

Personally I don't care. I have fat days. I have days when I feel more bloated or lumpy or larger than other days. Think we all do. If it is someone who goes on and on about them being 'oh so fat', well, mostly it's fishing for compliments and the best answer is to ignore them. I'm not offended.

How has your body image changed since high school? College? 

I had little confidence about my body in high school, or indeed in the early years of university. This was really to do with the way that I had been brought up and I really equated my weight with my self worth. I should point out though that I was never bullied due to my weight, had lots of friends and boy friends too. All the negative feedback I received was from my parents. I used to feel like I had a life that I enjoyed and felt valued in while at university and then when I returned home during the holidays it would all be ripped apart and I would leave home feeling like I was completely worthless. I'd then spend my time with my friends and long term bf building myself back up.

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

I've tried lots and I've lost lots of weight on them; probably the most would have been about 100 pounds over a 6 month period. Weight returned over four years.

I started dieting with my Mother when I was a pre-teen. She was always on one and had very strange eating habits (can of diet coke for lunch only etc). I did lots of 600 calorie diets with her and remember once going on a 4 day walk/hike eating only that amount and feeling ill constantly.

When I was about 18 I spent a few months on diet pills, the speed ones. I went a bit manic and did lots of exercise and lost lots of weight while living at home and doing open university. My 100 pound loss though was done in a 'healthy' way, I joined a gym, ate low fat and was very driven to get thinner. I then got into competitive sport and while I did of course gain all the weight back, I still love being active.

Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?

I think it is a combination of a number of factors. Both parents were larger build, but my mother's issues with her weight and the impact it had on her self esteem was probably the biggest factor in determining my early shape. I developed really weird ideas about food and weight and would do things like secret eating and even stealing food.

But I am an adult now and I have control over what I eat and do in life. My weight is due to my eating habits. I'm active and like being physically fit, but I make food choices that could be healthier. However after being on a roller coaster of weight loss and then eating everything in sight and gaining weight, I've managed to be about the same size for the last 6 years by eating what I feel like eating and trusting that it won't always be chocolate cake and chips (although often it is).

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

I suspect my mother was a long term diabetic who wasn't diagnosed until quite late in life and she was always scared I would have the same health issues because of my weight. Because of my pregnancies I've been checked for this and other health issues and I'm apparently very healthy. I may have my genes to thank for that.

I know people who are thinner than me who have Type 2 diabetes who assume that I must too because I am larger. The most annoying instance was going to the doctors when I was at university complaining of a sore ankle and immediately being told it was because of my weight, not the hockey puck that had contacted my foot during a game of ice hockey. Found that attitude very annoying. I think people probably don't realise that I'm as fit as I am.

Being fat and pregnant also opens you up for a whole new world of medical professionals telling you that your BMI is going to led to health issues for you and the baby.

I have had two pregnancies (about to give birth to my second child) with, touch wood, no complications at all - weight related or otherwise. My way of dealing with consultants etc has been to get as informed as possible on the research out there into BMI and pregnancy, be open to discuss my weight and keep active.

Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you're at? Have they always been?

I think you can probably guess the answer to this. Both my parents have since died but the awful thing is that when my mother died almost 5 years ago a part of me took a big sigh of relief and thought 'I never have to have another conversation about my weight where she makes me feel shit about myself again'.

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?
Simply, I just want access to what other women of my age and taste have access to. I want nice clothes, in good fabrics.

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?

I think men can be bigger without it being such a factor on their 'pulling' power and so it's more acceptable. Men aren't so harshly critiqued on the way they look in general, as long as they have status in some other way. Women's status is related to the way we look and being fat is seen as low status.

Do you think there’s an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it? 

We are lazy, with no self control, little education and most likely poor. On the plus side, we are funny, good friends and always have chocolate.

The one that really annoys me is the assumption that we are somehow damaged emotionally or suffer from some kind of mental health issue (the 'mad or sad' assumption). Yes my mother was a complete bitch in many ways, but I've always had a core of self confidence that has screamed 'I am a good person and I will love myself no matter what' and also 'I don't give a shite what you think of me'.

I'm not pretending to be happy or ok with my weight or what I look like. I couldn't really give a rat's arse mostly, I've got better things to worry about than the size of my thighs or someone else's opinion about them.

Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?

Being a mother now myself this is a tricky one. I want my child(ren) to grow up the happiest way they can and so the truth is I don't want my daughter to grow up fat. I don't think that she is genetically wired that way and I'm going to try to ensure she doesn't develop the weird relationship with food or body image that I did.

I think really that once you are fat it is very very very difficult to lose and sustain weight loss due to a series of very complex biological and physiological factors. The easiest way is to never gain weight in the first place.

If however she does gain weight in the future then I would only be concerned if it caused her any negative issues - social, health or otherwise. It's got to be about her, not my hangups.

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?

That I smell, because all fat people smell. That there is no point wearing nice clothes or make up if you are fat. That no one will love me if I have a body like mine. Wrong on all accounts.

How did you respond?

Because this feedback only came from one source it was easier to deal with it. I've perhaps been lucky, but I've had very little, almost no, negative comments from people on the street, strangers or friends. Perhaps some guys I fancied didn't fancy me back because of my weight, I don't know. Maybe some people laughed behind my back. I don't know and I don't care. If it wasn't my weight I'm sure people would find something else to critique me on.

I also call myself fat, openly and without fear. That sort of deflates anyone who might try and use it as an insult against you I think.

What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

I've been described as 'strapping' and strong. I suppose because I'm relatively tall I carry my weight reasonably well. I've got big boobs which helps as they tend to be popular with the male population and I have always had a reasonably thin face so been complimented for both of those.

I've been told I dress well and have a good style. I like that because that is actually something I can have some impact on, rather than just the way I happen to be made.

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

Apart from friends I have made through plus size blogging, all my friends are mostly slim. I tend to find that regardless of weight, as women we still have the same hangups and body issues. I don't choose my friends on the size of their clothes but on how we get on together.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all? 

Um, I would say that I may have felt that I had something to prove about my sense of attractiveness in the past that meant that I may have slept with one or two people I probably shouldn't have... but other than that, not really no.

When you've been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

No, I was in a long term relationship at my heaviest and now married and dated in between. I think people are attracted to confidence and self esteem, they don't want to have to spend their time trying to make their partner feel good about themselves constantly.

Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?

Don't think any of the guys I dated was into larger women as a 'thing'.

Do you feel weird if he's only dated slimmer women before you?

My husband's lust of choice is Winona Ryder. Er, so a bit different than me. But he married me. Statistically most men are going to have dated women smaller than me, why hold that against them?

Lots of other lovely bloggers have given their responses to these questions, please have a look below:

Becky Barnes

Monday, 24 February 2014

Fat, clothing and class

We've all seen the headlines. The UK and most of the developed world is apparently facing epidemic levels of obesity. There are fat people everywhere. It's like the zombie apocalypse but with more cake.

The images and narratives that go along with this reporting usually follow a common theme. There are lots of fat people, these people are fat because they don't know how to eat healthily or are too poor to do so. Fat people tend to be poor, deprived, uneducated and need saving - mostly from themselves. The headless images that accompany these stories are of badly dressed fat people lurking outside Poundland during the middle of the day - just on the way from the job centre to buy the latest Iceland specials.

It's not our fault you see? We just don't know any better. We don't realise that fried chicken isn't good for us. We are too thick, lazy, poverty stricken or idiotic to be able to make better decisions.

Now, I should point out at this stage that I am not actually from the UK, so what I am going to say in the next few paragraphs is from what I have seen since living here. Think of me as Jane Goodall spending time with the friendly gorillas and observing their ways. An interested anthropologist. Or something. What I am trying to say is that I didn't grow up here so my experience of the UK class system is second hand; from observation rather than embedded.

Because what I see here in all the stories and images about weight in the UK is wrapped up in class. If you are fat you are undoubtedly  poor, are of lower socio-economic status and mostly of working (or lower) class.

Fat people have low status. We have no discipline with our bodies so the script goes that we don't do well in either the education system or in the work place.We don't marry money as we are lucky if anyone wants to marry us at all. We probably even use our weight as some kind of disability so we can scam the hard working nation for benefits.

I'm not in the position to research how much the prevailing myths about obesity and class are true. All I know is that they are not true for me or many others that I know. I also know that it seems like it has an impact on the clothes that fat women (and men too I expect) can access. And let's face it, social inequality and stereotyping is bad and all, but it's all about the clothes ;)

Because while I am fat, I'm not either unemployed or lurking about Poundland on a daily basis (although I do have an occasional look). As I said before I'm not British but from what I have learnt since living here I think I probably fit into the Middle Class category.

But, I'm also fat, so the clothes I see other women like me wearing, in jobs like me, in places like me, don't come in size fat. Because apparently you can't be fat and middle class.

With very few exceptions, brands that offer clothes in plus sizes are heavily weighted towards the cheap end of the market. New Look. Supermarkets. Evans. Lots of those online stores that sell the same dresses from China for very low cost and quality. Simply Be do try to differentiate some of their brands as more up market, but the majority of clothes for sale fit into this lower quality/price bracket.

With hanky hems, butterfly transfers and endless polyester dresses we get told that these are the sort of clothes that we obviously wear to the endless nights of bingo and package holidays.

It is true to say that the more expensive the brand, the higher the status, the smaller the range of clothes sizes. Yummy mummy brands like Boden, Jigsaw, Hobbs, Joules, Coast, East, Monsoon, COS rarely if ever make it over a size 22. Higher end labels are smaller.

The implications are that fat women are too poor to buy 'nice' clothes, and that poor women are fat.

And it's really annoying when you could afford the clothes, but you can't get in them.

So you wait, hoping that some day the world will realise that us fat people are truly everywhere. In the boardrooms and in the universities. Even in 5 star restaurants and hotels, and we are just dying to spend our money somewhere on lovely, well made and high quality clothes.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Starting young - how our children learn that fat is bad

This isn't an easy post to write really. It’s inspired in part by Naomi’s very open, honest and heart breaking account of the bullying she has suffered over the years. The sad reality is, I’m seeing this pattern develop with my own child – but not in the way I had thought.

While I have been fat, or at least larger than average, the majority of my life I have not suffered bullying by people outside my family to anywhere near the extent that Naomi described. I did grow up however with a parent who thought it was her job to police my eating, my size and my attitude to fat through what could be described as ‘negative talk’.  It could also be called emotional and verbal abuse, but let’s not get hung up on terminology.

We (my mother and I – who was a bit overweight and despised herself for it) used to play a game called ‘I’m not as big as her am I?’ where we would judge and critique anyone overweight we saw around us. I’d get told that I smelt, I would never find anyone to love me and I would never been accepted if I was fat. I was told my friends secretly despised me for being fat. Everything I ate was judged, everything I wore. Diets were common and full-on: I did a 5 day walking trek on 600 calories a day.

This isn’t about me though, but what I wanted to give you is a flavour of what my background was so that I can explain why I am trying to bring my daughter up the way I am.

I have a lovely, adorable, cheeky, smart almost 5 year old girl. She is kind and considerate. She also happens to be slim and delicate in stature – taking after her father’s side of the family more than my tall and strapping heritage. She eats a wide range of food and we don’t police her eating or the amounts she eats. We try to have healthy snacks but she can also have ‘sometimes’ foods as well.

Because of the way I was brought up I don’t use negative self-talk. Ever. I don’t refer to myself negatively about my weight or other people. I don’t comment on other people’s looks to her, unless it is brought up by her and then it is in reference to everyone being different (isn’t difference wonderful?). I’m strict on this and my husband (being a man and from a normal family) doesn’t do that sort of thing anyway.

I refer to myself as fat, not in a derogatory way but in a descriptive way. I’m fat, some people are short, some people are black, some people have freckles and some have only got half of an arm like one of the CBeebies presenter. We are all different.

I thought I was doing well. I thought I am bringing up a child who won’t have the same negative, body focused, self-image that I did who won’t judge others by their looks.

Then she started school. There is a girl in her class that is overweight and tall. Looks older than her years frankly, but also has excess weight.

Within a few weeks my daughter started saying that this girl was fat, but not in a descriptive sense but in the sense of it being a BAD thing. She has a fat tummy apparently. I do too I replied, but she told me off for saying it and apparently it’s because there is a baby in there (wishful thinking there). I said I’m fat too – “oh no Mummy don’t say that, you aren't fat you just have a big bottom”. Because somehow in the course of a few weeks, a month or two, being fat is now a bad thing to her.

The thing that made me really think about this was when she was walking up the stairs in front of me and I couldn't stop myself from pinching her lovely bottom and telling her she had a lovely chubby bum. “Oh Mummy don’t say that! X (girl from school) has a chubby bottom, I DON’T. I have a little bottom!”

And my heart broke a little, because she’s  4. 4. It shouldn't matter what size her bottom is and the size of your bottom shouldn't determine whether she is good or bad. But it seems to already.

Her teacher has told them all that it isn't nice or kind to use words like fat or chubby, or smelly or stupid about people because it hurts their feelings. But how do you stop the all persuasive culture where fat is already seen as a bad thing?

I’m still trying. I’m still saying the same things and trying to think of new ways of saying that being fat is ok, whatever you look like is ok. But I’m feeling like Canute trying to stop the waves rolling in and it’s scary. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Plus London - or A Great Way to Spend a Weekend

I was lucky enough to be able to attend both days of the Plus London event last weekend.

The Saturday was filled with brands, the usual suspects and a few new ones I had never really heard of before. I thought the opportunity for brands to talk about their vision and forthcoming offerings was interesting, although to be honest I was more interested in finding out about smaller brands rather than Simply Be etc.

Two to have a look at are Apple and Pears and Miss Lacy Ltd. I bought a tunic top from Miss Lacy on the day and am ordering something else from her. She is a design student who has done what many of us dream of, namely starting her own plus size clothing brand. I am seriously impressed by her style, the quality of her garments and the fact you can discuss your size and requirements and she will make you something to suit. Please support!

I loved catching up with lots of lovely people, and meeting many for the first time. The large and tasty Vietnamese lunch from just up the road also helped...

I didn't go to the evening event to laziness and the fact that being unable to drink makes spending time with people doing vodka shots a little strange/tiresome/sad as I can't join in. I did have a fantastic bed party for one with a takeaway and chocolate buttons. Oh, it's the glamorous life for me!

Anyway, the big highlight of the weekend for me was the second day based on the concept of community. Also I was deeply delighted and flattered to be invited to take part in a panel discussion on sexuality and confidence. As opposed to the other speakers (the excellent Dr. Charlotte Cooper and Dr. Caroline Walters) who have written and researched extensively in this area, I'm more focused on the issues of confidence and body size. I work in diversity and equality and also try and help women to discover their inner confidence, strength and assertiveness through self development training.

I would say my contributions were probably more personal (growing up fat in a very negative environment) and frivolous (I like analogies with hot chocolates and cream). I love doing things like this. Any excuse to talk ... but also because while I don't think the way I think about myself and my weight is anything out of the ordinary, I find that just hearing someone else say I'm fat and it's ok can be hugely empowering for others.

There were other talks and workshops that I also enjoyed immensely but the biggest shame was that there weren't that many people around to share them with. There have already been some excellent posts on why this may be. I don't want to cover the same ground really, but I got more out of the second day and would be keener to go to something like that again than day 1. Do I like looking at pretty clothes? Sure, but the reality is they are  just trying to sell me stuff I don't really need and won't really make me feel great inside. I felt great after PL3 and that was due to the women I met, the conversations I had and the sense of empowerment I came away with.

The lovely Claire, me and bump.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Just another blog challenge - moving from Summer to Autumn

When Toni raised the idea of a new blog challenge I was keen to take part because I have been very slack in posting. I'm blaming laziness and pregnancy. That's a whole another post, but I am 5 1/2 months and due in February.

Anyway, the weather is on the turn so this challenge is about taking items from your summer wardrobe and make it work when it gets a little colder.

This dress is from Laura Ashley and I bought it in summer and was wearing it with bare legs and beige ballet flats.

To make it work now, and to be honest I think I prefer it this way, I'm wearing it with tights and my new Simply Be boots. These are fab. Really comfortable, leather and fit like a dream. I would recommend them even if you have very large calves. Mine are big and these are the curvy size, so there is a whole size wider you can go. Try them.

I've wanted tan boots for ages. Black boots are great, but I've always felt a little weird wearing them with lighter coloured fabrics and blues and browns. I think this colour works well.

Apologies for poor pics.

Cardi from H&M  

Me 5 1/2 months pregnant. Yeah I don't look pregnant just fat. That's ok.

Please check out the other bloggers to see how they are interpreting this challenge