Body Love 101

Dig yourselfHey chickens,

Apologies for the lack of postage of late. Work has been insane, so I’ve been coming home most nights with a brain like runny mashed potato (ew), and pretty much just flopping on the couch and staring blindly at Youtube. I’ve had no shortage of ideas for posts, just no energy. Thanks for your patience. And, howdy to all the new readers I’ve gathered over the last couple of weeks. ūüôā

This blog is a very belated follow up to this post¬†on breaking the habit of negative body talk. In my previous post, I pledged to say no to body bashing.¬†Other people pledge to cut out full-fat milk and cheese toasties, but me, I’m on a self-abuse diet – no I’m uglys, no I look awfuls, no my thighs/stomach/butt looks gross in thats, no ew I’ve got eye-bagses, no I look like shit from this angles, no I’m a fat disgusting pigs. If anyone else is trying the same approach, I’d love to know how it’s going. For this post, I’m taking it one step further – replacing the hateful words with loving words, and caring for oneself when hit with an attack of the body blues.

Last time, I talked about treating your body as a best friend – and best friends don’t generally call each ugly and fat and repulsive. Best friends *do*, however (or, at least, they should…), call each other fabulous and brilliant and lovable and awesome, and give each other big hugs and tonnes of chocolate when they’re going through shit. Why should it not be the same with our bodies? Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic¬†put it the best: “Sometimes, we all need to be shown a little kindness.” Especially, if you ask me, by ourselves.

The following are eight tips for battling the body blues, steering clear of the Self Loathing Pit of Despair, and showing your body the kindness it deserves. For it is awesome.

1) First of all, when the body blues hit,¬†it’s okay to feel like crap. Of course, it’s great to have strategies to use and weapons to wield when the Self Loathing Pit of Despair threatens to swallow you up, but it really is okay just to stop, rest and allow yourself to feel how ever you feel. Sometimes, fighting against negative emotions and willing them away only makes you feel shittier. So, just stop. Dive under the blankets and have a good bawl. Cuddle up on the couch with a blanket and heaps of cushions, and watch bad TV. Fill up the basin, dunk your head in and scream underwater. Spend hours staring into space popping bubble wrap. Whatever works.

2)¬†Practice kindness. ¬†When our friends and loved ones are down, we do nice things for them. So…when the body blues rear their ugly heads, show yourself the same benevolence and do something nice for you.¬†Paint your nails, faff about with your curling iron, put on your favourite skirt and twirl around, snuggle up with your beloved/the kids/the cat, go to the park and sit under your favourite tree, take yourself out, order a big filthy cappuccino and scribble away in your journal and pretend you’re a famous writer in a cafe in Paris…whatever takes your fancy.

3) If there’s anything going on around you that’s triggering the body blues, walk the fuck away. Sometimes this will not always be possible but,¬†if there’s material around you that’s making you feel less than brilliant about your body, just squash it. Got magazines full of unrealistic beauty bullshit? Haul ’em on down to your local Sallie Army store, or to the nearest kindy for kids to cut up. Biggest Loser or any other weightloss propaganda on TV? Change the channel. Article full of fat hatred online? Close the tab and look at cute kitties/puppies/pandas on Youtube instead (which I need to do more often). If it ain’t in the house, it can’t make you feel shit about yourself.

4) Surround yourself with positive people. This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, really. As the pastor from old church put it, “If you want to soar with eagles, why are you hanging around with turkeys?” So true. Hang out with those people whose support you can count on, and who you know will give you a much needed boost when the Self Loathing Pit of Despair caves in. Don’t hang out with those people who make disparaging comments, however “helpful” they think they’re being.

5) Make lists. I’ve been practising the art of saying loving things about my body out loud…but I’m also finding practising self-affirmation in written form really helps. That way, you’ve got a list of lovely things to crank out when the body blues come around.

I wrote a list about what I like about my body just the other day. I wrote all the basic stuff, like my blue eyes, and the way my hair goes ringlet-y after it’s been washed, and my ski-jump nose ¬†and the fact I do have big boobs and big hips and a butt that sticks out (hey, who needs a bustle? ;)) and a small waist. I wrote some random things as well, like how I scrunch up my nose when I smile, my loud laugh, and my skinny ankles – which I think are cute. And, some slightly sexy stuff, like how full my lips feel when Pumpkin kisses me, and how soft and sensuous and sumptuous I feel when we’re naked together – and that’s without him needing to tell me. ūüėČ To be able to see my body in that way feels like a huge victory, and it feels damn good to see it written down.

If you’re struggling to come up with things you like about your body, write a list of what you think are your best qualities. Write down a whole bunch of positive adjectives – Strong, Talented, Kind, Caring, Loyal, Encouraging, Lovable. Rewrite them with flouro-coloured felt pens on a huge-ass piece of paper, and stick them somewhere prominent, or else write them out on a smaller bit of card, and stick it in your wallet for you to stumble over when you pay for your morning coffee. Like a Business Card of Awesomeness.

6) Pick a theme tune. Sounds naff, but I’m serious. When I’m feeling down, I have my little selection of pick-me-up-songs, but there’s a select few I crank out when then body blues arrive. My ultimate Body Blues Be Gone song would have to be Skyscraper, by Demi Lovato.¬†¬†Yeah, yeah. I’m a music snob from way back. But, this is the song I blast at full version when the self-hate sets in, when I think back on the people that made fun of my weight, and when all that fat hate online reaches through and throttles me through the screen. Because, people can try to tear me (us) down, but I’m a tall, strong, steely building, so I’d like to see you try. So, if it helps, pick a song – something with empowering, no bull-shit and preferably body-positive lyrics.

7) Visualise victory. This is one of my new favourites. Reader Grace made a comment on my last post about beating the body blues, and one of the strategies she put in place was drawing herself as a kick-ass superhero punching out all her body gremlins, and standing tall over the cowering, snivelling monsters once they’d been defeated. I did the same when I was feeling like donkey poop last weekend: I drew myself, in my wedding dress, with long flowing hair and a crown on my head, brandishing a sword at a troll (a super ugly one, with horns and sharp teeth!), doing my best “You shall not pass” expression. I cannot draw for shit, and the picture looked fucking ridiculous. But envisioning myself as a powerful figure fighting off the haters made me feel…well, awesome, actually. So give it a try.

8) And finally, go to your power place. Think back to those times where you felt amazing in yourself. Like having a playlist of “go-to” songs on your iPod, build up a “playlist” of awesome body love memories you can tap into and draw strength from. Think of those moments where you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, and thought “I’d do me”. Think back on the times you first tried on *that* outfit that made your confidence soar right off the charts, or when you just got your hair done and you couldn’t stop checking yourself out in every shop window on the way home.

My ultimate body confidence power place comes from my wedding day. I really struggled with my self-image leading up to our wedding but, on the day, I felt like a rockstar. I had my emerald green dress, and my knitted flowers, and my feathery fascinator, and my hair and makeup all done, and my French manicure and my toenails painted to match my dress – and I felt genuinely drop-dead gorgeous. Here I am:

E&M 411

So, build a memory bank of the times where you felt completely and utterly comfortable in your own skin and 100% smokin’ hot, no matter what your body was doing at the time. And, as those moments crop up again, take note of them. Keep a journal – record the moment, date it, praise yourself for yet another victory and go back to the journal when you need a lift.

So, those are my tips: it’s okay to feel like crap (and have a REST), practice kindness, step away from any triggering or negative material, surround yourself with positive people, make affirming and loving lists, pick a theme tune, visualise victory and go to your power place. Bear in mind, this is what’s working the best for me at the moment. You may have a completely different set of tips, and that’s totally fine (and, if you do, I’d love to hear some of them).

Some of them may sound a little naff, so you can take or leave them. Some of them may seem difficult or even strange at first – and, trust me, some of them still feel foreign and bizarre to me. But, however you choose to practice body love, I recommend it – because it’s one hell of a l0t better than the opposite.

Big fat hugs,

Honey Bunny.

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On fat lovin’, Grade A Bullplop and Pumpkin

Everyone, I’d like you introduce you to Pumpkin. He’s my husband of almost 18 months, and is, says I, The Best Person In The World, Ever.

Here we are! (As part of a wedding party, not our own wedding)

Most gorgeous pic

He’ll feature in quite a few of my posts. You’ll like him – he loves gaming, going for runs and big, philosophical discussions, has impeccable taste in music and movies, has more pairs of shoes and prettier hair than his wife, makes mean omelettes and French toast, cuddles like a demon, and is generally the kindest, gentlest, most loving man I’ve ever met. Yeah, I’m biased.

We’ve been celebrating, because on Sunday, 30 June 2013, it was our fifth birthday. As in, it’s been five whole years since we’ve been a couple. We met a dating site (thank God for the internet ;)) in about January 2008, we finally met over Queen’s Birthday (in late May), he asked me to be his girlfriend after our fourth date about a month later on 30 June, and we’ve been just about inseparable ever since! And, it’s fitting that I mention our fifth birthday on here, because he has been a HUGE part of my Body Love journey these past five years.

In my pre-Pumpkin days, I was pretty convinced (though I longed for it) that couplehood was not for me. Cos, I was fat, y’see. And not just fat, but physically deficient overall. As far as I was concerned, my eyes and maybe my legs at a pinch were the only things going for me. My friends who had boyfriends or were consistently getting laid were gorgeous – “regulation hotties” as they say in Mean Girls – and thin. And if they were carrying any weight, they were carrying it in the right place. (Looking back on it, my mates who were coupling off came in all different shapes and sizes – but, my self-image was so shite back then, I was pretty sure the Hunchback of Notre Dame had a better chance of landing a date than I). Yup, I was a walking Janis Ian song.

So, I believed that, in order to bag me a bloke, I had to get thin. But, since getting thin had eluded me so many times, the best I could hope for was a partner that *accepted* my ¬†body. A parter who could see past all my lumpy bits and be able to appreciate me for my wonderful, dazzling personality, my sharp wit and my big heart (cos, y’know, hearts are allowed to be “big”). Someone like the little kids in the old stories – who went to the toyshop and chose the teddy bear one eye, no legs and bald patches because they “saw with their hearts” and were much kinder and lovelier than the other children. For that, I knew I needed a *really nice guy*.

I met Pumpkin on a blind date, and he was a really nice guy. Really nice. And cute. ūüėČ And pretty much ticked all my boxes. And, eventually, we fell in love. But, what I came to realise was that Pumpkin fell in love with me not *in spite* of my body but *because* of it. Yes, he fell in love with my wonderful, dazzling personality, sharp wit and big heart. But, he was pretty hot for me physically as well. ūüėČ I remember one time when we were first together, when we were making out and getting all amorous, and I (TMI alert…) ended up losing my top along the way…and his eyes lit up, he said to me, all husky and jagged, “My God, you’re gorgeous,” and kissed me harder. “Bullshit,” I thought. “I’m pale, I”m flabby, I’ve got rolls and love handles everywhere, I’m wearing my worst bra and he’s going to get turned off.” But, he didn’t. He truly loved (loves) my fat body. He loved my voluminous bosom (duh ;)), my generous thighs, my round bottom, my chubby face and bountiful belly – he generally had a very high regard for my wobbly bits, to quote the Colin Firth in “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”. He loved my hair, eyes, nose, lips, smile, gap in my front teeth – pretty much everything. I was beautiful to him – and not just on the inside.

Now, I’m a feminist from way back – so I’ve always felt a little uneasy about relying on a man to improve my self image. And, even with a wonderful partner like Pumpkin, I still struggled. All those years of self-loathing had well and truly done their damage – and, if I’m honest, to hear such loving, tender words spoken about my body from a man was…weird. Not just because of the voices in my head constantly ripping me apart, but because I’d spent a great deal of my life on the receiving end of words that were *anything but* loving and tender, some of which from some of the strongest male figures in my life (and a former partner). So, it was hard to take in at first. But, Pumpkin was undeterred, and still he called me his beautiful girl, his gorgeous woman, his hot bride, stunning, glorious and magnificent. And, little by little, I began to believe it. So, like it or not, Pumpkin’s love has gone a long way to helping me like myself just that little bit more.

If I’m honest, I do hope Pumpkin and I can be some kind of inspiration to people who despair of finding a relationship because our society has told them that their bodies are not worthy of love and respect. These days, we live in a culture that is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of fat people, like myself, finding love. In fact, our culture is so disgusted by fat people that it cannot bear the thought of those of us outside the beauty norm having anything remotely resembling a romantic relationship. We see it splashed all over the internet ¬†– those stupid slogans like “guys don’t make passes at girls with fat asses”, those horrendous No Fat Chicks posters, all those idiotic and fat-shaming memes. We’ve got people like Samantha Brick, proudly declaring that her husband has threatened to divorce her if she gains weight, and that the only way to land a date is dieting to the point where you pass out, and Mariella Frostrup¬†telling us it’s okay not to date fat men because their fat is a sign they’ve got serious issues, and won’t be a suitable partner (uh, yeah).

In the movies and on tele, we very rarely see larger people, and especially larger *women*, involved in romantic storylines. ¬†At this moment, the only larger actresses that spring to mind that have had their own romance plots are¬†Melissa McCarthy¬†in¬†Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly,¬†Sara Ramirez¬†in Grey’s Anatomy,¬†Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray¬†Nia Vardalos¬†(and she’s lost *a lot* of weight recently) in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. (Of course, there was Bridget Jones,¬†as I mentioned up top – but, instead of finding a bigger actress to play that role, they got Renee Zellweger to gain weight and praised her for “suffering” for her art). Nope, fat women on screen are either the Mums or Aunties, the comic fall-guys or class clowns, or the bullied outcasts who eat their feelings, not the girlfriends or the lovers. And if they are the girlfriend of the lover, fashion magazines get their undies in a knot and say they’d be grossed out to see fat people making out on TV.

And, well, too many times have I seen the trope of “fat-chick-as-funny-fall-guy-and-can’t-get-a-date” splashed about by companies trying to sell weight loss products. Weight Watchers did a doozy several years back, with a TV ad featuring a fat woman in party hat on New Year’s Eve, sitting alone and mopey at the bar, while all these happy couples making out around her. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight once and for all was the theme, but of course. The worst one, however, is an ad for weight loss surgery which appears time and time again in our major daily newspaper here in Wellington – which has, in the centre, an overweight young lass, sitting with her head in her hands, starting at one of those traditional bride-and-groom wedding toppers, looking wistful and defeated both at once. The tagline? “Obesity’s not much fun. Can we help?” Yup, that’s right. Get your stomach amputated, get skinny, get the bloke, get the dream wedding. Vomit.

Honestly, it all comes down to the basic *dehumanisation* of fat people. Our culture can’t allow us love, because we’re subhuman. Heather Kolaya, model, fat activist and writer of the brilliant blog Fat Girl Posing, spoke about the dehumanising and desexualisation of fat people, in which she wrote:

Be prepared to be stripped of your entire identity as a fat person and especially as a fat woman. Not only are you not a sexual being, but you don’t even register as anything other than a genderless blob. This is because fat people are so gross that people don’t want to think of them as sexual beings. Much like old people or disabled people, or, god, you can think about the conservative’s ick reaction to gay sex (you can think about the ageism, ableism, and homophobia that go along with those as well). People just think, ick! and so reduce you to a thing. It’s the ultimate in dehumanization. To have your sexuality taken from you just because someone else can’t stand the thought of it.

Yes, it’s disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. And I bought into it. I believed that love, relationships, sex and marriage were not for the likes of me. Those were for thin girls. Me, I was nothing more than a meme to be laughed at, a cautionary tale from a columnist, the fat friend, a tacky “before” picture and, as Heather put it, a sexless blob. But, with the help of my amazing husband and the Fat Acceptance movement, I saw that it was all, in the words of Homer Simpson, Grade A Bullplop.

I was fat when Pumpkin and I had our first blind date, when he asked me to be his girlfriend, when we had our first kiss and first slept together. I was fat when we moved in together, and on the night he proposed. I was fat on our wedding day and, you betcha, I’m still fat, after a year and a half of marriage. And, y’know, he’s a big lad, too. But, we’re still in love, rolls and bumps and dimples and all. Our bodies are beautiful, and we won’t hear anything different about each other. We’re sexual beings, we’re loving beings, we’re awesome beings. Human beings. We’re not a meme, or a cautionary tale, or a before pic, or a pair of blobs. Just two people, who are crazy about each other, who happen to be on the tubby side.

Through the Fat Acceptance movement, I learned that my body was, in fact, worthy of love. Wondorous, glorious, unapologetic love. To those people, like me, who grew up believing that their bodies are the ultimate barrier to finding a soulmate – that’s a lie, sent to you with love from Hollywood and the internet and diet companies. Your bodies are worthy of dignity, care respect – and of romance, partnership, marriage and really great sex. And love. Loads and loads of love. Do not settle for anything less. ¬†Fat, or thin, you are worthy.

Me, I stand for Love At Every Size. And, I have a fabulous husband who stands with me.