Are we developing a generation of women who will grow up hating their bodies? 

 

Last week I was asked to pop over to my local TV station That’s Manchester to give my opinion on a recent study, which devastatingly showed that children as young as three are developing body image issues. The study centred around Disney – and in particular its recent blockbuster movie Frozen.

This was easy and difficult for me to comment on at the same time. Because whilst undoubtedly Frozen is having this effect on a number of children, I can’t honestly say that I believe Disney alone is a root cause for this worrying trend of body image issues developing at increasingly young ages.

My serious body image issues were formed over years of bullying. Consistently being singled out and told you’re fat, ugly and not worthy of anybody’s time or respect because of the way you look understandably destroys any positive feelings you have about yourself. But looking back further than that to my childhood I never thought about how I looked. I never compared myself to others, never considered that I may not be ‘pretty’ or ‘normal’. I was busy being a child – playing with my mates, going to dance classes, messing about in the garden playing with frogs and snails. I loved Disney – and never compared myself to the bodies and appearances of the princesses – in fact I don’t even think I noticed them. I didn’t become aware of my appearance until it was pointed out to me at school.

A wider issue of how women are presented to the world and how we as women form our opinions of who we are and how we ‘should be’ in society certainly incorporates Disney and Barbie and all these other toys and forms of media which demonstrate women’s place in the world in a very singular way. But concentrating on body image alone I think this has to be a wake up call for society on many different levels. This is just Frozen. Imagine if we were to conduct a general study taking into account all the negative media influences our children are exposed to.

This is the thing. The issue for me with this study is that it doesn’t take into account all the other negative influences we place upon young girls in terms of body image. Increasingly they’re exposed to and look up to celebrities, encouraged by our society-wide obsession with image as adults. Aside from the likes of Megan Trainor and Adele who do we see in the mainstream media aimed at kids who represents anything near ‘normal’ (or at least that isn’t ‘perfect’ or ‘skinny’)? Pop stars all look the same – glowing tanned skin, slim curves, long thick hair extensions, piles of make-up. This manufactured, ‘one size fits all’, ‘there’s only one way to be’ kind of beauty trend has been around for ages. But now it’s influencing our children, because they’re much more aware of other people’s appearance and their own at a much younger age.

The problem with today’s ‘beauty’ is that it’s increasingly manufactured. Whether it’s with wigs, make-up, surgery or photoshop, what we’re seeing is hardly ever real. Yet so many adult women I speak to think it is. They scroll through Instagram and feel bad about themselves. They have absolutely no idea that images are doctored – that the women we see have had lip fillers, implants, veneers. We’re powerless to change who we are – so what’s the point of endlessly looking at and comparing ourselves to other people? When I stopped using social media in a personal capacity and reading magazines my body image anxiety became noticeably better – and this is definitely something I’d pass onto my own children. But as mothers if we are unaware and practice this behaviour then we normalise it for our children. If we are aware that society is set up to make us feel bad (and spend money on diets, make-up and surgery to ‘make ourselves better’) we can explain this to them and warn them. We can demonstrate the difference between photoshopped and natural, filtered and unfiltered, surgery and no surgery. We can emphasise health and happiness over ruining our bodies or starving ourselves to conform and look a certain way.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are also encouraging girls below the age of ten to become obsessed (whether that’s unhealthy or not) with image – with taking photos of themselves and each other. I never really knew how I looked at that age – I rarely even looked in the mirror. Now we’re seeing girls taking selfies aged 8 looking 18. Music videos are over-sexualised, with beautiful young women placed on pedestals. Subliminally all of these things are going to have a devastating effect on the mental health of the next generation of women.

Already we’re seeing an increase in mental health issues amongst children at earlier ages. This isn’t confined to body image issues or eating disorders – but I definitely think that this focus on image and presenting your own personal brand to the world for all to see (and to judge) isn’t healthy mentally.

I know that as well as the constant bullying I experienced media at the time had a role to play in my developing Anorexia, too. The unwavering focus on dieting and body shape and weight and what celebrities were eating (and what we ‘should’ eat) gave me this belief that dieting was normal – it was what I should be doing – especially when I was being called fat. Add to that a raft of celebrities all with sinewy long legs, washboard abs and tiny waists and I didn’t stand a chance. But that was at a time without social media – without 24 hour TV – without the internet in all its glory. No smartphones, no selfies. I wasn’t always watching TV or reading magazines – but minimal exposure had a profound affect on me and my perception of my body and food. So how do these girls stand any chance at all of having a normal relationship with themselves?

The bottom line here is that we all have a responsibility. It can’t just be down to parents – because as a parent you’re up against the world and you can’t protect your child from every outside influence – especially in a society which is now set up this way. For me as an Anorexia survivor one of the most worrying findings from the study was the way in which the girls’ concerns over how they looked (and how they compared to Elsa) affected their eating habits. Are we going to wait for an epidemic of eating disorders, malnourishment and a generation hooked on yo-yo dieting? Or are we going to do something about this, set an example, campaign against the brainwashing we are exposed to day in, day out by the media?

I still struggle now so I avoid my triggers- and that’s as someone who is completely aware of photoshop and this mental manipulation. None of us are completely immune to this as adults. So how can we expect our children to be?

I don’t focus Tough Cookie on children. But actually what I want to do is to share my knowledge and change the perspective of my own generation as well as those before and after – because we are the ones with the power to change things. Armed with knowledge we can educate children and explain why this mentality is so wrong. Together, we can really make a difference.

 

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Why I don’t say I’m ‘better’

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Most people in the public eye who discuss past/previous difficulties like to paint themselves as ‘great now’. Gurus (especially those who release self-help videos and books) tend to portray themselves as ‘the solution’ in a fairly patronising way, talking about the ‘past’ and discussing their rosy life as it is now, and telling you how you can be like them (for a fee). The problem with this is that NOBODY’s life is perfect – and many of these people run the risk of being ‘outed’ when it turns out they shouted at a parking warden, or had a momentary lapse in their ‘strict vegan diet’ as they’re snapped tucking into a McDonald’s. This of course is all pretty embarrassing and undermining – but the main reason I tell the truth about who I am and how I feel is because that’s the only way I feel I can help people – by being honest, and by sharing my journey as I go.

I overcame Anorexia – but my root beliefs were never addressed

I was lucky enough to be able to recover fully from Anorexia without relapse. But that doesn’t mean that since that time I’ve been issue-free. Unfortunately I didn’t have psychological support before, during or after my eating disorder – so the core beliefs which caused it were never addressed or treated. If I’d had that support then I honestly believe I may have been able to get away with a life without mental illness – as I was still young. However those beliefs were left to exacerbate silently over the course of a few years, and I developed several difficult mental health conditions in the years that followed. Each time I never had adequate support, so the thoughts and feelings I have about myself deep down have been allowed to compact and strengthen to a point where they’re hard to just ‘undo’. The complicated belief system behind it all has never changed – instead it has manifested itself in different ways over the years that have followed since my recovery. I think it’s important to be honest about this, not to scaremonger people who are embarking on their own recovery, but to emphasise the importance of proper therapy and psychological care for people going through an eating disorder. I also want to be clear that I am not an idol and I still deal with my own struggles each and every day – as all of us do.

I share what I learn as I go, or I discuss my previous experiences in a positive and open way

I do what I do because I want to use my own experiences to help people. So I can talk about previous experiences and how I overcame them, but I can also discuss the things I still struggle with now and the things I do which help me to live with myself day to day and more than that to live my life to the full. I’m different because I never make out as though this isn’t the case, and I always make sure I’m positive and helpful rather than just being ‘doom and gloom’ or sensationalistic.

For more on eating disorders, body image or nutrition, take a look at my books or related blogs here.

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A reminder that an eating disorder isn’t a choice

Girl with Tape over Mouth --- Image by © Corbis
Girl with Tape over Mouth — Image by © Corbis

Recently comments were made by broadcaster Joan Bakewell, who outrageously claimed that ‘you don’t find people with Anorexia and Bulimia in Syria’ and went on to say that they are caused by ‘narcissism’ as people are now very self-concerned and self-absorbed, meaning these self-inflicted, self-indulgent eating disorders are inevitably now a ‘modern day’ illness. She’s since apologised after plenty of backlash from sufferers and those who have been through an eating disorder like me, who kindly pointed out to her that she was way, way off the mark with these wildly inconsiderate allegations.

The problem with this is that people with eating disorders already face plenty of backlash from ignorant people in their day-to-day lives. This ‘well you could just eat so don’t be so bloody selfish/ungrateful’ mentality is unfortunately shared by lots of people, young and old, who don’t properly understand what an eating disorder is like and how it affects someone. In fact, many mental illnesses are misunderstood in this way, because people think there is an element of choice involved. I often was told to ‘just eat’ or that I was being ‘selfish’ or ‘self-obsessed’.

Although Bakewell has since apologised and says she recognises that actually the things she said were hurtful, false and far from reality, the damage has already been done. What public comments (made by prominent people) like this do is reinforce the mistaken beliefs people hold about Anorexia and Bulimia, so they believe they’re justified then to try and ‘guilt’ a person into recovery by saying things like ‘you’ve got lots of food here, but they have nothing in third world countries, don’t be so wasteful’, or ‘you could eat and you choose not to, but think about all the people who can’t’ ‘people are so concerned with how they look these days’. The saddest thing for me is that her opinion mirrors that of many of a certain generation who inadvertently make recovery very difficult for someone really struggling with Anorexia or Bulimia.

Why is an eating disorder not a choice?

These mistaken opinions all come from one root cause – ignorance. And where eating disorders are concerned ignorance often manifests itself in the form of people assuming an eating disorder is a choice, or that the person involved has a choice in the matter and therefore wilfully decides not to eat – much to the inconvenience and frustration of everyone round them. And then they go taking up resources on the NHS and make themselves incredibly poorly. How selfish.

An eating disorder, like any other mental or physical health issue, is not contracted through choice. Nobody decides to get an eating disorder. They’re deadly and they’re a horrendous thing to go through – with lasting consequences for many. The idea that people are ‘playing up’ or ‘being selfish’ is just plain wrong – and it’s not something that should be publicly voiced to a large audience by someone who knows absolutely nothing about what it’s like to go through an eating disorder first-hand.

Anorexia and Bulimia aren’t ‘new’. Like many mental illnesses, learning difficulties and conditions such as Autism and ADHD, eating disorders are often made out to be ‘new’, when in fact they’ve afflicted people for hundreds of years, yet back then they weren’t recognised officially or treated appropriately. Years ago people with acute mental illness were packed off to asylums and concealed from the outside world, and those who could hide it did so for fear of being ostracised. And I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of people in refugee camps struggling with all sorts of mental illnesses, including eating disorders, as a consequence of the trauma they have been through and the dire living conditions and situation they are in.

So a little more consideration and sensitivity please Ms Bakewell. And a reminder that when you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s best not to open your mouth at all.

 

If you liked this blog, take a look at When will people realise eating disorders aren’t aesthetic?

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Responsible reporting

news anorexia

news anorexia

Why I never share pictures of myself or my lowest weight

One thing I publicly discuss quite often is my positive perspective on eating disorders, body image, self-esteem and mental health in general. That means a lot of things, but where eating disorders are concerned in particular it means being responsible.

We don’t need to sensationalise eating disorders to raise awareness

I campaign for responsible reporting because most press coverage of Anorexia we are exposed to is negative in some way. Headlines screaming ‘I was left to die’ or ‘I ate an apple a day’ or ‘I was 4 stone’ are not designed to help people – they’re designed to sell newspapers. The worst thing about this (other than fuelling the fire of confusion surrounding eating disorders) is that many vulnerable people find inspiration in these articles. I did when I was developing an eating disorder. I saw the numbers and the competitive Anorexic mind within me latched on to them – ‘you’re not thin enough.’ I saw the pictures and thought ‘your bones don’t show enough’. I saw the ‘shocking’ ‘one apple a day’ headlines as tips.

They’re unhelpful for a number of reasons aside from this – including their omission of any tangible useful information for sufferers to use to inspire hope, and the negative reviews of EDUs and the NHS with no alternative offered – which seemingly gives people no option but not to bother with recovery. Whilst they think these ‘recovery’ stories featuring people who now live ‘wonderful lives’ are inspiring and positive, in fact they’re never a true representation with a wholesome message behind them. People with Anorexia already understand what’s contained within these articles – it’s nothing new. It’s time some were written with them in mind.

Why are these articles so unhelpful?

I find it so upsetting and frustrating to constantly see articles in prominent publications featuring ‘before and after’ images. They’re sensationalistic and even though they and their subjects often claim to be sharing the story to help people, they’re doing anything but. In fact it shows ignorance and an absolute disregard for anyone vulnerable or currently suffering with an eating disorder who may see that and feel ‘inspired’ or ‘driven’ – and not in a positive way.

This is exactly what happened to me – and many people currently battling an eating disorder agree with me and message me to tell me they find these articles frustrating too as they exacerbate the thoughts they’re trying to get rid of. These articles make a battle which is already difficult worse – and they’re certainly not helpful.

I do what I do to help people – and sharing photos and certain details of my illness isn’t helpful

Everybody who has or has had Anorexia understands all too well how horrendous it is. How emaciated and horrific you look, how empty you feel. How shocking your appearance is to others. Most know that their weight has plummeted far below what is healthy or acceptable – to a figure which lots of people will find equally shocking. So sharing photographs and weights only serves one purpose at best – to satisfy the sick curiosity of people who’ve never had an eating disorder, and to sell more papers. At worst it encourages vulnerable people in the early stages of an eating disorder to continue when the right sort of publicity could deter and strengthen them, improving their mental wellbeing rather than continuing to destroy it and encouraging the types of thoughts which harmful and negative behaviour feeds off. Often Anorexia and Bulimia become an internal competition – constantly feeling as though you’re not ‘thin’ enough or your weight isn’t low enough.

Aside from that they’re not a helpful representation of eating disorders or recovery.   (‘everything’s better now’ don’t often go into detail about how the person recovered , or consistently negative about the NHS ‘I was left to die’ . The message this gives to people struggling right now is that they might as well not bother – give up now, because there’s nothing out there to help you – without offering the tools or an alternative they can take hope and inspiration from. That’s why I’m careful about how I share my story – because often ignorant publicity can be so harmful.

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Why I am against diets and dieting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s a bold step to come out and denounce the diet industry like I do – partly because they are huge and very popular, with lots of money and a hell of a lot of influence. But I genuinely believe that they are damaging us mentally and physically – almost as much as junk food, which has been shown recently to be contributing to early deaths in human beings more than smoking.  

In all of my books, I talk about my hatred of diets. So for the benefit of anybody who hasn’t read them yet, I wanted to write a short post to explain why it is never a good idea to tell me you are on a diet!

Why do I disagree with diets?

When I was at secondary school, I was carrying a lot of ‘puppy fat’ (and some extra fat, too). I was small and round and podgy with greasy mousy brown hair, a blazer that was too big for me and a skirt hoisted up to my chest. It’s hardly surprising that I was bullied relentlessly – because even though it wasn’t deserved, I was undoubtedly an easy target.  So I started to think of ways to be liked. I tried everything. Eventually, I came to the conclusion (forgivably) that I was mainly disliked because I was fat – after all, this was one of the bullies’ favourite jibes. So I started to consume dieting advice like a sponge – absorbing information rapidly and soaking up every last little nugget of crappy information until I thought I had it right. Of course, I didn’t.

I went on a popular diet which involves counting points. I calculated my ‘daily allowance’ and vowed to undercut it consistently so that I would lose weight more quickly. I combined this with all the ‘useful’ information I’d gathered from celeb magazines, and my OCD 12 year old self soon became obsessed with counting points and calories – and more to the point, reducing them. It became addictive – feeling hungry, seeing the numbers reduced. I’d never liked maths, and I’d never been good at it – but suddenly adding and subtracting wasn’t a problem for me if it involved points and food. It wasn’t long before I developed anorexia – which nearly killed me. So you see, I have a very good reason for loathing diets – and a unique perspective when I talk to others about diets and their concerning motives.

A ruined relationship with food

As human beings, we’re not programmed to calculate our food intake to the nth degree. In actual fact, our bodies are designed to live in the wild, to hunt, gather and eat as and when we were able to. They are complex and intricate machines hosting a great number of processes every millisecond. And when you go on a diet, you fuck that up.

Diet companies encourage us to have a poor relationship with food by nature. It is the enemy to be controlled, monitored and reduced – with an end goal of being ‘slim’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘happy’. Of course we all know that this rarely follows – but we are so compelled by clever marketing (brainwashed, almost) to believe that by dieting, we are doing the right thing.

Healthy eating should be for life

Diets are not sustainable. Your body is not designed to live on sugary skimmed milk shake food replacements. Your body is not designed to be starved for hours on end. Your body is not designed to live on paltry offerings of dry toast and crackers to then be doused in alcohol at the weekend. Dieting for a short period of time damages your body in the long-term – especially if you go to the extreme. Adopting a healthy lifestyle for life however is different. And by healthy, I don’t mean eating diet food and living off low-calorie meals! I mean eating proper, wholesome food regularly when your body requires it. Plenty of fruit and veg, plenty of water, carbs, fat, the works.

It’s often too late that we realise we have forsaken what’s on the inside for how we look on the outside. I will always live with the consequences of anorexia – and whilst I don’t lay the blame solely at the door of diet companies and magazines, they played a huge part. I don’t want to see anybody else develop an eating disorder as a consequence of this misinformation – because I know I am lucky to have survived.

So please if you are unhappy with your weight, on a constant diet, have children or family members who care about you and depend on you – please take this post seriously and don’t diet. If you need any more convincing or would like to learn more about my story and how I eat now, you can read more about diets in my books, Tough Cookie, Tough Love, Nutrition in a Nutshell and Recipes for Recovery. 

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Pure FM Interview

A couple of weeks ago I was honoured to be asked to help with a special programme on Stockport’s local radio station Pure FM’s evening talk show. The aim was to raise awareness of the rise in eating disorders in the UK generally, and to share my own experience and advice with people in the local area. If you fancy having a listen then please click play below or follow the link – like the interview with That’s Manchester it allows me to reach more people to share my message of hope and positivity, and allows you to hear me chatting about what I do and why I do it.

http://podcast.pureradio.org.uk/index.php?id=2661

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How to be kind to yourself

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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.

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Interview with That’s Manchester

Now vloggers and YouTube stars are all the rage, I am conscious that I’ve not jumped on the ‘video’ bandwagon and I’ve concentrated my efforts into writing to help people rather than ‘putting myself out there’ in the flesh. Part of the reason for this is that I’m only just starting to promote what I do properly now I have released all of the books – and secondly, I still have body dysmorphia and anxiety, which means I can understandably be fairly pedantic and more than a little self-critical when it comes to appearing on camera!

I’ve been doing a lot more keynotes, talks and presentations lately and I’m used to standing up and talking to people about my experiences, but going on the telly is a whole new kettle of fish. But when brand new local channel That’s Manchester dropped me a line and asked me to come in and share my thoughts with them I took the opportunity with both hands. It’s really important to me to be able to share my message of positivity with as many people as possible – and this was a fantastic way to do it and something which I hope I will be able to do more!

So here it is – this aired last week but in case you missed it or live in another part of the UK (or the world!) you can take a look now:

 

That’s Manchester

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Local Press Coverage for Tough Cookie

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I was so pleased and proud to be featured in a local newspaper here in Manchester to spread my message of positivity around anorexia and better body image.

It’s really important for me to be able to get my message out there, because I feel that in general press don’t really share truly inspirational recovery stories in the way that they should. Instead, they focus on the lowest weight of the person, post emaciated photographs, include detailed (and unhelpful) descriptions of what they did and didn’t eat. What newspapers and magazines who share this type of content don’t see (or perhaps do see, but don’t care about) is the effect this has on people who are vulnerable to developing anorexia – or those in the early stages. These articles actively encourage them and even hand them tips to ‘help them’ to become poorly. I’m passionate about changing this because these types of articles definitely influenced me when I was developing anorexia.

Local press coverage for Tough Cookie is just as important as national and international exposure – so a big thank you to the Manchester Evening News and Stockport Express for sharing my positive perspective on anorexia – and hopefully allowing me to reach more people to show them that there are people out there who want to help and support them.

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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.

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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.

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

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