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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Understanding Body Dysmorphia – should there be an age limit on surgery?

I’ve spoken before about vetting people psychologically for surgery before they go ahead and go under the knife – because I think that age and psychological welfare are important things to be considered when offering surgery to anyone. I say this because I was one of those vulnerable people – and I’m so glad that the surgeon who saw me had the sense to turn me down – a devastating blow at the time, but one that I am so thankful for now.

When I was 16 or 17, my Body Dysmorphia took over massively (before I even knew what it was or that I had it). I got to the point where I was fixated on two things – my boobs and my ‘acne’ (I did have acne, but it was very isolated and I had a very small amount of it compared to others my age).

I was in another stressful, quite important transitional period in my life, moving from school to college. I was convinced that the college I’d picked would be best for me, academically and socially, and it’d been a nightmare to get in, but once there I found myself just as isolated as I had been at Secondary School. Here, everyone stayed in cliques so it felt impossible to make new friends outside of the people I knew before – the opposite of what I wanted. I felt all wrong in so many ways – just as I had done at school. I wanted a certain look – thick curly blonde hair – but my dark mousy brown hair was still thin just two years after my eating disorder and although I dyed it blonde it never lightened to what I wanted it to be.

I don’t know how or why my boobs became such an issue for me. They just were so small and I saw the popular girls at college tended to have big boobs. Where I’m from, at school and at college, sex and who you were having it with (and how much you were having) was everything. Nobody wanted to even kiss me, let alone have sex with me, and this was a marker of how attractive and acceptable I felt I was. These girls oozed confidence and were full of jokes and banter – a persona which I just didn’t feel able to adopt myself. But these were the popular girls – the girls that chatted endlessly and went out all the time and I think that, more than how they looked, made them attractive to lads more than their boobs – I just didn’t see that at the time. Ironically, when I look back and picture those girls in my mind, I really wouldn’t want to look like them now.

Every girl or woman I looked at, my eyes were drawn straight to their chest, like a randy 13 year old boy. I analysed their size against my own, almost always insignificant in comparison. I purchased numerous push up bras and chicken fillets and on nights out I always wore low-cut tops with a ridiculous amount of padding and scaffolding underneath them, almost to convince myself and others that I did in fact have the boobs I wished I had.  I was labelled a ‘slut’ and my friends and family all used to make fun of me ‘always having my boobs out.’ Ironically, they saw it as a display of over-confidence rather than a manifestation of my deepest insecurity. I spent almost every waking hour of every day contemplating how I would ‘sort out’ my boobs. I constantly imagined life with my new boobs, surrounded by admirers – lads queueing up to have sex with me, too many party invites to cope with, loads of envious friends. Of course, that was all rubbish. A new set of boobs would certainly not make that sort of impact on my life. And looking back now, all of those things are so trivial and unimportant – of course they’re not trivial or unimportant in a teenage mind.

I set about working out how I could get a boob job. As with most cases of Body Dysmorphia, I became fixated on them and couldn’t rest until I had them ‘fixed’. I researched the NHS criteria, which I didn’t fit. I had too few savings – my life savings – to afford the op – and obviously my part-time job at John Lewis would not be accepted for the 0% finance offer so many of the companies offer. Despite this, undeterred I scheduled an appointment at MIA for a consultation with a surgeon. My parents were horrified and my Mum insisted on coming with me to the appointment.

The sales consultant (dressed up as an ‘assessor’, all perfectly-coiffed hair and boobs herself) was very keen to get me through the door to the surgeon – pound-signs glinting in her eyes. I filled out a form and waited to be called in by the surgeon. As my name was called, my mum shot up and came in behind me – something which at the time I was angry about but now, I am so glad that she did.

The surgeon asked me why I wanted the surgery. I didn’t tell him I thought it’d change my life. I just told him I wanted to feel more confident – what woman doesn’t? We weighed up size and he measured my current size and showed me the implants. As I held them in my hand they felt so big – I couldn’t imagine them actually being under my skin. He explained the procedure and the choice of under or over muscle and my mum grimaced. He expressed a little concern at my young age and then he asked me if I had any mental health problems. My heart dropped as I smiled and said I’d had an eating disorder a few years ago (ages ago in my 17 year old head!) but I was fine now. I was on anti-depressants but I was feeling better (another lie).

From behind me I heard my mum say ‘Well, no, you have had a lot of problems recently too.’ She went on to voice her concerns about my mental health, to talk about how I was very down about how I looked and how it hadn’t actually been that long since I’d recovered from Anorexia.

The surgeon shook his head and said ‘There’s no way I can operate on you.’

My face must have visibly fallen and he went on to explain why – it was a massive risk for him, but it was also not perhaps the best thing for me. Because I wasn’t ‘stable’ emotionally speaking, I could change my mind once the surgery had been done, and as a prominent surgeon the professional repercussions for him posed a risk to his career, in addition to being ethically questionable given my current and previous mental health issues.

As soon as we left the building I began sobbing uncontrollably. I’d been working up to this day for months, contemplating my illusion of an ‘amazing life’ and my increased popularity, all of which was now shattered and completely out of reach. Mum consoled me and apologised but said: ‘I had to tell him; I couldn’t not have him know how fragile you are.’ I was angry with her but I knew she was trying to do the right thing to help me. After a while, I realised that she was completely right (always humbling to have to admit that your mum was in fact right!). But she was.

Looking back now, I’m so glad that surgeon turned me down, and so glad that my Mum intervened as she did. My boobs are not the best, they’re nothing special, they really are pretty small. But I quite like them. I am petite and if they were even one cup size bigger, I’d be looking a bit top-heavy.

I’m not criticising anyone who has had surgery here – a lot of my friends have had boob jobs. But they did so with clarity of mind and went in knowing what they wanted to do. When asked, they don’t regret it and are pleased with their new boobs. They had their surgery in their early twenties, when they could make an informed decision about it.

Please, if you are under 20, and are reading this desperately wanting to change who you are and how you look, hold on. It seems like the most important thing right now – being liked, being popular, being attractive to your peers. But those things aren’t really that important – what’s important is you! Hang on a few more years, and see what they bring. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Did you like this post? There’s more on Understanding Body Dysmorphia here.

Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Understanding Body Dysmorphia – Agoraphobia and Body Dysmorphia 

UNDERSTANDINGBDAGORAPHOBIA

These two are intrinsically linked, yet it doesn’t appear to be widely recognised that they are. Mostly, women who say they can’t leave the house without make-up are just popped into the ‘vain’ or ‘shallow’ category. But what if you really can’t leave the house because you are so shamed and self-conscious about your (probably imaginary) ‘defect’?

Even now there are several times each week that I have to effectively ‘force’ myself out of the house. Some of those reasons are related to anxiety – others are related to my Body Dysmorphia, even now after all this time when I consider myself to have largely conquered it. I avoid lots of situations in order to protect myself and evade the panic attacks and physical symptoms I feel when I expose myself to certain situations.

When my Body Dysmorphia was very very bad, and not affected by anxiety, I felt so shamed leaving the house even though I was dressed up and made up to the nines. I’d try on so many outfits but none of them looked right; others I felt ‘fat’ in. I walked with my head down, my face hidden, made journeys as quick as possible. I was 16/17, I couldn’t drive, I had to walk everywhere or get the bus.  I felt eyes on me wherever I went, even though it was highly unlikely that anyone (let alone everyone) was looking at me, and even less likely that they were scrutinising me.

Going out into the public domain is a very scary prospect for anyone with Body Dysmorphia. Your own criticism is crippling – so imagine the weight of the perceived criticism you feel you’ll expose yourself to by going outside.

At that time, I was fixated on my acne and my boobs – yet as I walked down the main road feeling sick because I felt every car that went past was analysing my face and chest size, it never crossed my mind that it would be impossible for them to be able to even see my face as it pointed down to the floor, or that they would be looking at my modest chest whilst they were driving past at 40 mph. Body Dysmorphia is irrational – and that’s why your friends and family are unlikely to be understanding about how you’re feeling.

Please know that even if your friends and family don’t understand, so many others do! Body Dysmorphia is more common than people think – and it’s a spectrum disorder which means that it has varying levels and of course everybody is different – everyone has different things they hate about themselves, different triggers, different stories and different lives and reasons they are feeling the way they do.

If they are open to it, show this blog to family and friends to help them to understand – that’s part of what it’s there for!

And as always, I love to hear your thoughts, comments and stories.

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More on Understanding Body Dysmorphia here…

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Should we have nutrition advice in our schools?

 

I talk about this in the book and include a section on basic nutrition – that’s how important I think this is! Largely because I lacked this rather simple education when I was younger and instead my head became filled with ridiculous harmful advice peddled by diet companies and magazines. In light of the recent funding which is being pumped into the NHS to help tackle Eating Disorders, I wanted to see if anybody else agrees with me when I say I feel that some of the money should go into prevention as well as treatment.

Perhaps the budget is so tight that it cannot afford for any portion of it to be siphoned off for preventative causes like nutrition advice, but in an ideal world where we had plenty of money to spare I’m certain that at least a quarter of it should be invested into better education and preventative measures to bring the number of actual cases down before they get to a critical point in an already strung-out NHS, not to mention a massively under pressure mental health structure.

The NHS has been investing in preventative medicine and preventative education for some time; campaigns and adverts in newspapers or on television you see such as Stop Smoking, Dry January and Change 4 Life are examples of this. They’re usually educative or encouraging people to make positive choices in their lives which should mean that the NHS has to spend less later because people are generally healthier than they would have been had they not been given that advice.

With the NHS budget under massive strain, I think it would be intelligent and financially sensible to look to schools to administer education to young people at grassroots level, when so many of them are developing important ideas about themselves, about life and about food.

A lot of Eating Disorders tend to manifest themselves in these early years of our lives and that was especially true in my case. When I speak to others who are going through an Eating Disorder or who have poor body image many also talk of being bullied at school for being fat or ugly or not fitting in, and as a consequence turning to fad diets to improve the way they looked and developing an Eating Disorder further down the line.

I’m certainly not saying that diets and the media are wholly responsible for Eating Disorders. They’re complex mental illnesses with their roots in many facets of our lives and personalities. Many sufferers know that what they think and feel about food isn’t fact but they of course are compelled to continue anyway. I know this more than anyone.

However cases seem to be emerging at younger and younger ages. These children cannot have a proper understanding of food and how it works in our bodies; and any education they do have tends to be confusing and incorrect because it comes from their exposure to the diet industry, who as you know I think are a pretty irresponsible bunch.

I’m not saying that education of this kind would stop all cases, but certainly a few might be halted by a better understanding of our bodies, coupled with advice on self-confidence and self-care.

What do you think? Should we look at introducing nutrition education into schools at Secondary level to help them to understand their bodies and make more informed choices?

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Plastic Surgery – Before and Afters

These photos make me so sad. Just by looking at these people, both famous and unknown, I think it’s clear that they have serious issues when it comes to how they look. Just a browse on the internet of before and afters, or what can go wrong, should be enough to strike fear into the most image-obsessed. What is even more worrying is that even when money and ‘expertise’ is involved, things can still go horrifically wrong.

I’ve included a few below – celebrities who sadly rather than being advised to invest in therapy for their issues have instead been encouraged to spend money on countless cosmetic procedures – resulting in what you can see here.

The worst, for me, is those who are not in the public eye. Those whose obsessions and illnesses are fed by others, and funded by the most unlikely of people. The glamour models whose parents save just to give them a breast enlargement and the subsequent ‘necessary surgery’ to be able to pursue their chosen career. The women whose husbands pay for them to be ‘perfected’ into somebody they would rather be with. For me, this is the worst crime of all.

carlabruni images (4) Pete-Burns-plastic-surgery-before-after

 

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Plastic Surgery and Body Dysmorphia – should everyone be screened before having plastic surgery?

When I was 17, I wanted a boob job desperately. I was transfixed on their size and shape, to me they were so terrible that I hated even looking at them in the mirror. I’d constantly compare mine with others, on television, in magazines, in the supermarket or at college. I must have looked crazy staring at other girls’ boobs. Eventually I booked a consultation at a cosmetic surgery clinic in Manchester, against my parents’ wishes. I was planning to use my life savings for the operation, lovingly stowed away for me by them for a deposit on a house, travelling, emergencies. My mum came with me to the clinic, and I allowed her to come into my meeting with the surgeon. To my surprise he asked me if I’d had any mental health problems or eating disorders. At this point I hesitated, and as I considered saying ‘no’, my Mum blurted out that I had. She added that I was on Anti-Depressants and he shook his head at me. “I’m sorry, I can’t perform any sort of cosmetic surgery on you.”

That night I cried uncontrollably; I felt like my world had collapsed. I was so upset for months; then finally with the help of friends and family I started to love myself the way I already was.

Looking back now, I am so glad that the surgeon refused to operate. I’m absolutely happy with my boobs now – I don’t want to change them. In the 4 years since that appointment my body has changed; as I was promised it would by my family. The sales lady was understandably disappointed. This begs the question; is it really acceptable for the Cosmetic Surgery industry to make money out of vulnerable patients? Girls with Body Dysmorphia will never be satisfied. They are pre-disposed to become addicted to treatments and surgeries, striving for an unachievable goal.

Glamour model Alicia Douvall is famed for having surgery time and time again, despite admitting she has Body Dysmorphia and wanting to stop to set a good example to her daughters. This once again shows the grip Body Dysmorphia can have on an individual, over a long period of time, despite the desire to recover for loved ones.

What are your thoughts on this? Should all young applicants for surgery be psychologically vetted before continuing to treatment?

Rose xx

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