The struggle of choosing to be natural

file4941261620140

I think increasingly in today’s society it’s difficult to make a conscious choice to stay natural. By ‘staying natural’ I don’t mean letting your pit hair grow past your waist or never wearing make-up – of course not! I mean staying away from surgery, fillers, hair extensions and weaves and other fairly invasive enhancements which Instagram models and celebrities display in abundance on constant streams of ‘perfect’ photographs which tell us how we should be – and which often cause us to feel inadequate as a result.

I’m still natural – but only just

Over the course of my journey to semi-self-acceptance I’ve considered most of the above countless times. I even went all the way to the surgeon’s office for a boob job before he (rightly) turned me away because he could see that my motive wasn’t right and my perception of myself was skewed because of my body image issues. although in my opinion surely anyone without medical need who considers potentially risky surgery which involves a foreign body being implanted into you and general anaesthetic has some sort of body image issue?)

Let me define what ‘natural’ means for me, though. Natural is no permanent hair extensions or weaves (I have clip ins for special occasions but rarely wear them, as I spent a lot of time battling hair loss and getting my hair thick and long again). Natural is no false lashes (I look after my own to keep them long). Natural is no surgery (boob jobs, lipo, bum implants). Natural is not feeling bad with no make-up on.

Why is staying natural difficult?

Whilst my journey started with me wanting to change myself ‘for the better’ into the person I felt I should be in order to be liked, now when I have rare episodes of self-loathing they tend to be because I’ve inadvertently been exposed to n image of someone who I can never look like, or someone who I can look like, if I have some sort of work done. the first one is heartbreaking, because i can’t change how I look (and shouldn’t – there’s more on that in this post here) but the second is plain dangerous. Because suddenly, that look that for some reason I desire (and is coveted by many others) becomes attainable. It’s also difficult because these two groups aren’t easily defined – for example some girls have weaves which look incredibly natural yet enviably perfect, or subtle facial enhancements such as Botox or lip fillers which give them a ‘perfectly natural’ appearance when in fact the opposite is true. What we see as ‘natural’ online is actually fake – and if that’s confusing for those of us who know, how must it feel for those who don’t (especially young people and children)? And with social media and an increasingly image-obsessed media, we’re constantly exposed to images of these ‘naturally perfect’ people – it’s the world we live in.

I call surgical procedures and sen-invasive beauty treatments like peels and fillers ‘enhancements’ because that’s exactly what they do. So you almost feel like when you choose to be natural, you choose to be sub-standard. Less than perfect. And that’s the biggest draw to opting for fakeness over liking who you really are and the beauty you were born with- and the most potent reason behind why staying natural is difficult.

Why do I choose to stay natural?

Only one thing has stopped me from giving in to my self-enhancement cravings. And that’s my desire to stay natural. For starters I really dislike having things stuck on my face or on my body – fake tan, fake hair, fake lashes – even fake nails. This is one of the reasons I choose to grow my hair long, to grow my nails long and take care of myself on the outside and on the inside nutritionally to make sure they’re well nourished. But more importantly I just feel as though being fake is cheating a little. I know in my heart of hearts that however much I crave that surgery, if I take it, I’ll be letting myself down. I’ll be conscious that every compliment I receive isn’t mine – it’s for a surgeon, or a product, or a weft of hair. I always say that although nowadays I do receive a lot of nice feedback about how I look that it doesn’t change how I feel inside – deep down, I’m still that girl who is being bullied and I tear myself to shreds feeling ugly. But one thing that feedback does do is remind me that if I change who I am externally, the perception of who I am internally those around me have may also change – and nothing’s worth risking my relationships for.

So how do i ensure I can live with myself with out giving in to these cravings? Aside from my golden rules (you can read about these here) I do invest in myself with a number of key products and routines. For example, instead of wearing fake lashes (even on nights out) I use an oil-based growth serum on my lashes which works really well. I only use natural shampoos and fresh aloe vera to wash my hair with. I moisturise my skin with natural oils.

Compared to someone who doesn’t do any of these things, I might seem unnatural or overly obsessed with how I look. But actually these things simply nourish my natural body and whilst they go some way to ‘improving’ it they don’t change my appearance drastically. They’re just part of the method I use to help me to live with myself. Nobody can be expected to walk around with no make-up and no clothes on carelessly in a world so image obsessed – and Tough cookie isn’t about that. It’s about encouraging and praising small changes.

Why should you choose natural?

The bottom line is, it’s easier to go fake than to stay natural. It’s easier to quickly ‘fix’ the part of yourself you don’t like or obtain something you feel you lack and be showered with appreciation than it is to try to love what you have and risk fading into a background of ‘perfection’ when you do.

When you choose to go natural and ignore aesthetic pressure, you start this process of self-acceptance. It won’t happen overnight – especially if you have self-esteem issues, but gradually you will start to feel better about yourself. You’ll have more time for the things you really love in life, because you only be so hung up on how you look (and you won’t be spending hours in the salon or in front of the mirror) Before you can ‘go natural’ completely, you have to not give a shit about other people – about what others are doing, and about what others are thinking. And that’s easier said than done (I’m not at that stage yet!). But as I said before, small steps add up and eventually you realise you’ve come a long way. So start with the golden rules and work your way towards not self-love, but self-acceptance. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself – and for your children and the next generations to come.

Need help? You can read all about getting to a point of self-acceptance here –

 

FacebookTwitterShare

How to be kind to yourself

DSC_8009

When was the last time you paid yourself a compliment (or accepted one from someone else)? ‘Oh, I look nice today.’ Or ‘My hair is great!’ I’m guessing you might be struggling to remember?

One of the main themes I explore in Tough Love is this difficulty we have with liking ourselves – and treating ourselves with kindness as we would a friend. That’s why I thought this would be a fab post topic – especially as the nights set in and the Christmas food fest looms. Are you ready to learn a few quick tips on how to be kind to yourself?

Stop comparing

I dedicate a whole chapter in Tough Love to this, because it really is something we all do without thinking which makes us feel bad. Scientific research has shown that our brains process our own image differently to images of others. What this means is that your less than favourable opinion of yourself in comparison to other people is down to chemistry – not because you are any less beautiful. We rarely come off better when we compare – so try to keep the focus on you and what you are doing rather than on how other people look.

Identify one thing you like

In the book I dedicate a whole chapter to this, too! We spend so much time finding and thinking about things we don’t like that we often forget to identify something we like. Take a look at yourself and try to be impartial and non-critical just for one second. Is there anything you like? Perhaps it’s your nails, or your eyes, or your big toe. If you’re struggling, how about noticing something you don’t hate? That’s a step in the right direction. You might learn to like it more once you notice it.

Focus on what really matters

We’re taught that our outside appearance is the ‘be all and end all’ – but actually, it’s a very very small part of who we are. Although undoubtedly the way we appear to others is important, we don’t need to lay so much store by it – and even less so when it effects the way we live our lives. I always find it sad that people will miss a fantastic event because they are so busy trying to snap the perfect selfie – or sacrifice time they could spend with family and friends or doing something they love agonising over outfits and make-up and hair. I’ve been there, and I’ve done it, and I know how miserable it is to be obsessed with ‘perfect beauty’. It doesn’t exist – and what’s more, the ‘holy grail’ of satisfaction you’re striving to achieve will never match up to the euphoria of doing something you love, or that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you sit and enjoy gossip with friends or take off on holiday and bask in the warm sun. You matter – as a human being – and that includes all of you, not just what’s on the outside.

If you need more encouragement, support and tips on how to see yourself in a better light, take a look at Tough Love here.

smallersignature

FacebookTwitterShare

Love Your Cellulite

 

A few weeks ago, I was away on holiday with my family (hence the lack of posts!) Unsurprisingly, the holiday inspired a body-image related post – with an especially unusual name (I bet you haven’t heard those two in the same sentence before). Yes, it might seem like an oxymoron to reference cellulite alongside ‘beautiful’; because we are told that the two don’t mix. We are told that we should banish and eliminate cellulite using expensive creams, lotions and surgery. It is often given unhelpfully negative personifications such as ‘unsightly orange peel’ – so naturally, we want to get rid. We’re also sold this misconception that if we have cellulite, we must be fat. So here I am (cellulite and all) to banish these theories and to prove to you that actually, cellulite ain’t that bad.

EditedPoolPicsimage1

I noticed that throughout our holiday, my mum was especially self-conscious. She seemed to be constantly comparing herself to others and putting herself down.  In the end I found this pretty annoying because really, there is nothing wrong with my mum! But I know it’s something I have done often in the past, so instead I tried my best to support her and help her to feel better.

One of the things she was especially hung up about was her cellulite. Now to me, it really isn’t that noticeable – but to her, it’s hideously obvious and ‘ruins her legs’. Understandably this makes wearing swimming costumes and bikinis a bit tricky – but unfortunately she had little choice in 45 degree heat!

I did my best to convince her throughout the holiday that the cellulite wasn’t really that bad at all – and besides, it only made up a small part of her. Women of all shapes, sizes and ages have cellulite – I have cellulite. It really is very much part of being a woman and something which I can understand people being self-conscious about, but really believe shouldn’t be such a sticking point. We don’t often see super-slender, airbrushed models with cellulite (especially advertising numerous anti-cellulite products which in themselves imply it is something to be banished!) – but in real life, (i.e, on a beach) you see it on nearly every woman. Sitting on a beach of many women, all of varying ages, shapes and sizes, I noted that over 70% had cellulite. Yet they were all individually beautiful! In addition, many of them seemed perfectly confident lying in the sun or splashing about in the sea even though they possessed this ‘defect’. I pointed this out to my mum continually, but it didn’t seem to have much effect.

On the last day, I found a wonderful example which I hoped would change her mind. I’d spotted a beautiful girl being ogled by blokes as she lay on her sunbed – wearing a red bikini with dark skin, waist-length wavy dark hair which shone in the sun with oversized sunglasses shading her eyes. It was clear that she was beautiful, even though she was lying down in the shade. Several hopeful guys sauntered up to catch her attention and try to talk to her within the space of a couple of hours. Then late in the afternoon, she was asked to translate in Russian for the sunbed guys, who were desperately trying communicate with the couple on the loungers next to us who couldn’t understand why they needed to pay. She stood with her back to us as she explained that the sunbeds would cost so many dollars – and as she did I couldn’t help noticing that actually, she wasn’t as slim as I’d had her down to be when I’d seen her on the sunbed from a distance. Standing before us now, I realised that she was actually a size 12 or 14, maybe even a 16, with wide hips and lumpy thighs, topped with a large bottom which was covered with ripples of cellulite. Yet this didn’t detract one little bit from her beauty. In fact, these features enhanced her beauty. She was gorgeous – cellulite or no cellulite.  I watched as she walked back to her lounger and waded out into the sea with her friends. She seemed carefree, happy; unaware of how beautiful she was but completely oblivious to her so-called ‘imperfections’. This was so refreshing for me – and straight away I pointed out to my mum how beautiful she was – to which mum agreed. Then I asked her if she had noticed her cellulite. She said she had – but that it hadn’t changed how beautiful she was. So then I turned it round for her and asked – ”why should it make any difference to your beauty, either?’

In Tough Love I talk about how we see others differently from ourselves – and this is most certainly an example of that. We tend to see the merits of other people before we see our own – or worse, we don’t see anything positive at all when we look in the mirror. But actually we fail to see when we have positive things which reflect in others – and the so-called ‘negatives’ which we have come to believe are embarrassing or defective parts of us because of harmful outside influences are magnified in ourselves but ignored when we look at other people. It’s holiday season – so try to be kind to yourself and remember that you are beautiful just the way you are – no matter what you may think is ‘wrong’ with you.

Signature

 

Enjoyed Love Your Cellulite? See more like this in my book here.

FacebookTwitterShare

Stefania Ferrario: proud to be a model, but not proud of the ‘plus size’ label

image

I came across this story this week and had to share it with you! Australian model Stefania Ferrario, who is a UK Size  6-8, recently posed with the caption ‘I am a model’ to demonstrate that with or without the plus (or the model status) she is a beautiful woman.

“I am a model FULL STOP. Unfortunately in the modelling industry if you’re above a US size 4 you are considered plus size, and so I’m often labeled a ‘plus size’ model. I do NOT find this empowering. It is harmful and damaging for the minds of young girls to call a model “plus.” Let’s have models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and drop the misleading labels! I’m NOT proud to be called “plus,” but I AM proud to be called a “model’, that is my profession! #droptheplus”

Enough said!

smallersignature

FacebookTwitterShare

‘There is no wrong way to be a woman’ – Denise Bidot

image

Beautiful plus-size model Denise Bidot has teamed up with Swimwear For All to create a campaign which runs in the same fabulous vein as Panache and Cacique’s recent advertisements empowering women and attempting to challenge current stereotypes surrounding body image. You all know how big a fan I am of this sort of thing!!

I can’t gush about this latest campaign enough, especially given what Denise herself says about body image:

‘There’s no wrong way to be a woman. It’s time to stop apologizing. I want women to feel confident and sexy by knowing that there’s nothing wrong with being yourself. Forget all the rules! I love everything about my body. Every bit of it … the cellulite, the stretch marks, everything that I thought at one point was an imperfection, I now realize is everything that makes me unique… curvy women shouldn’t apologize for anything. They should wear a swimsuit that makes them feel comfortable. It’s all about the confidence. They shouldn’t worry about anything.’

These inspirational words got me stopping and thinking – because although that’s exactly what I advocate, I’ve never heard it said so plainly by someone in the public eye like Denise. What’s more, all images from the campaign are unretouched.image

Hats off to Denise and to Swimwear For All – good work! You can see pictures of the lovely Denise from the campaign here:

 

smallersignature

FacebookTwitterShare

Panache Lingerie ’s new advert is ace

Panache-Lingerie-Role-Models-Campaign03-533x800

I recently wrote a post about Lane Bryant’s fabulous ‘I’m No Angel’ campaign for Cacique, which featured gorgeous plus size models with the message that any size, ‘skinny or curvy’, is beautiful (a message which I just LOVE!).

Now Panache Lingerie have released an advert to rival Cacique’s with a similar sentiment (once again wildly popular with me) – the fact that there is more to a woman than the way she looks (even if she is a super-hot model). The ‘Role Models’ series, which features several models and prominent figures including Marquita Pring and Amy Hughes, focuses on all the other areas of the models’ lives which come together to make them powerful, beautiful women – just like you or I.

I’d love to see more brands doing this – advertising their products as items which enhance self-esteem and natural beauty rather than pointing out ‘problems’ with women which need to be ‘fixed’, or promoting unattainable standards of beauty and warping our perceptions of who we are and how we look.

Have you seen the campaigns yet? Take a look here!

 

Signature

FacebookTwitterShare

Inspirational Women: Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel Campaign

You might have read my post on Belle Vere a couple of years ago – and if you did, you won’t be surprised to hear that this week I was SO happy to see this campaign in the headlines!

Lingerie giant Cacique’s range by Lane Bryant launched last week – with a brilliant ad campaign which directly challenges the controversial Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ campaign a few months ago. Provocatively titled ‘I’m No Angel’ with the tagline ‘I’m all kinds of sexy’ (CLEARLY referencing the elitist nature of VS advertising and lingerie sizing) – five of the world’s top plus size models (including Ashley Graham, Candice Huffine and Marquita Pring) are beautifully photographed beaming in black and white, looking like they’re having an incredible time.

The label ‘plus size’ does still annoy me a bit because honestly, it should read ‘normal sized’ – but there you go! It’s still really refreshing to see beautiful women who aren’t underweight or incredibly slim in a major ad campaign.

Do you like the #I’mNoAngel campaign? See more photos below!

imnoangel3

imnoangel1imnoangel4imnoangel2

 

smallersignature

#imnoangel

FacebookTwitterShare

Why BMI and Weight mean absolutely nothing

Need diet

The massive importance of BMI and Weight – one of the biggest myths of our time.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, weight is a number on a scale which essentially tells you what your relationship with gravity is. It doesn’t tell you anything else; it doesn’t take into account other physical or personal qualities. I wanted to expand a little bit on this though because I get a lot of people talking to me about ‘weight loss’ and when I explain why I disagree with that so much I’m often met with a lot of confusion and questions!

I think the main reason for this confusion is the conditioning we have all been subject to over the last 30 plus years, which has seen the idea of ‘weight loss’ painted as a positive and ‘fat’ as a negative.

Of course in the 40’s, there was an influx of adverts promising ‘curviness’ for ‘skinny’ girls, who were ostracised just as bigger women are nowadays for their ‘undesirable’ size. Doesn’t that just go to show the power of the media, and the consequent effect it has on society? Someone, somewhere decides what is ‘normal’ or ‘good’ and we all follow blindly as we are told to do. At the moment, ‘skinny’ is in, and as a consequence we have all become obsessed with how much we weigh, with fat as a rule avoided like the plague.

BMI has long been painted by health professionals as an accurate and reliable gauge of a person’s health, based on the correlation between their height and weight. Contrary to this, many will now tell you that it in fact does the opposite and tells us very little about a person’s physical make up and overall health. Here’s an example: take a body builder who is very lean but has a heck of a lot of muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat, so they weigh quite a lot. They are however lacking in height – meaning their BMI indicates that they are clinically obese. Yet this person does not have a scrap of fat on them – so how can they possibly be obese?

This outdated system lumps people into categories of ‘healthy’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘really unhealthy’ on opposite ends of the scale.  Another example is a naturally slim, tall person whose height and weight indicate that they are drastically underweight and dangerously so. Yet this is simply how they are made up naturally – it’s impossible for them to put on any weight.

What concerns me about this reliance on BMI is that many people are being told they are ‘clinically obese’ when that simply is not true. It focuses us even more keenly on a number on a scale, and not the health of our bodies as a whole. More recently, worrying stories of children and young adults being berated for the product of their BMI results have emerged in the press, which of course is unhelpful to say the least at such a formative stage both mentally and physically.

 

This brings me back to ‘weight’ as a whole. I admit I weigh myself once a week, same time, same day, so I absolutely cannot sit here and tell anybody not to weigh themselves at all, even though in all honesty that would be the ideal alternative. I know people who weigh themselves incessantly; sometimes twice in a day. When you have body dysmorphia or an eating disorder, gaining one pound can alter your whole perception of yourself and how you feel for the rest of that day. Clothes feel tighter, imaginary rolls of fat appear in the mirror. ‘Weight’ means nothing. The weight of our bodies depends on many different factors and varies from hour to hour, day to day, week to week. Women especially are subject to daily hormonal changes and don’t forget the contribution of our digestive systems to how much (or little) we weigh.

So what’s the alternative? Whilst I don’t suggest that this is widely used and suitable for everybody, I think it’s better to look to more accurate techniques such as fat calliper testing to get a clear indication of someone’s overall health. This coupled with other investigations can really give a true picture of how a person is made up, and where. If you are carrying excess fat, where it is on your body is important, as this often determines whether it poses a risk to your health and also the cause of its presence. Not everyone who carries excess fat eats cake for breakfast!

Next time you find yourself at the doctor’s and they insist on working out your BMI, please don’t lose heart if it isn’t favourable. It is a vague indication, if that, of your health and physical components. Not only that, there is more to you than a number on a scale. You are a wonderful person on the inside, and as long as you are also healthy, that is all that matters.

smallersignature

BMIANDWEIGHT

FacebookTwitterShare

Inspirational Women – Kate Upton

 

kate-upton-the-other-woman-stills_1

She’s only 20, yet she’s a number one sex symbol worldwide. But there’s also something really refreshing about Kate Upton – she’s honest, she’s curvy and she comes across as incredibly normal whilst possessing maturity beyond her years. She just had to be a part of my Inspirational Women series.

She’s aware that she is a prominent person and a huge role model to women globally  because of her modelling career – but also has something to say about Photoshop culture and marketer’s responsibilities to women.

Of beauty and the falsehood of Photoshop, she says: “Most of the time the model is retouched and too skinny and other people get depressed by it…it’s not realistic for that model or for that woman reading the magazine to think she should look like that.”

Of her own body image: “Everybody goes through hard times, regardless of if they are being criticised for their body.”

Some might say Kate speaking out is ‘all very well’ considering she is a beautiful globally recognised model and a prominent part of the industry itself. No, she’s not necessarily brave or noble, but she speaks with kindness, honesty and integrity which may inspire other women and also proves that each and every one of us has bad days. What do you think of Kate and her comments?

smallersignature

FacebookTwitterShare

Small Steps – retailers begin to ban Photoshop

31a4334b134ca13897502734d510699f

This year has seen significant steps in reducing the false expectations of beauty we see in the media and marketing, something which I am very passionate about.

With so many retailers and brands under pressure to ban Photoshop, or at least reduce their use of it, in August this year, Modcloth became the first retailer to sign a pledge which promises not to use Photoshop. And when it does, it will add a label to the image making consumers aware that airbrushing has been at play. The bill is part of the Truth in Advertising Act, which aims to present a more realistic view of beauty and body image to women young and old in an increasingly critical and aesthetic society.

Debenhams also made progress this year by vowing not to airbrush their lingerie and swimwear models, as it emerged that girls as young as 11 and 12 were unhappy with their bodies and taking action to lose weight. Now campaigners (including myself) are hoping that other retailers will realise that each and every one of them has a moral obligation to ban airbrushing.

Founder of the bill, ex-advertising exec Seth Matlins  (who features in my last post about Dove Beauty), hopes the bill will be adopted by more and more brands once they see that consumers embrace it wholeheartedly, instead of peddling harmful false representations of ‘beautiful’ women.

‘Please be a part of the solution and a hero. Please consider that you are responsible for the side-effects of how you sell as surely as you are for what you sell,’ he says in a message to advertisers.

It’s heart-breaking for me that the rate of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression and self-harm cases are increasing year on year, and at younger and younger ages. The future for our children looks bleak if we don’t take action and change society’s view of beauty and the perception of ‘beautiful’. We also need to lessen the emphasis on appearance and encourage our younger people to focus on the things that really matter in life.

I can’t wait to see what progress next year holds for this bill, and look forward to seeing change soon.

Read Seth Matlin’s blog, Feel More Better, here.

Signature

FacebookTwitterShare