There’s a lot of buzz about body positivity at the moment across social media, but what exactly does being body positive mean? Is it all just about staring into a mirror awkwardly telling yourself that you love your body and walking around in a bubble of flowers and fairy farts?
Erm.. well no not exactly. Let me just rewind a minute and open up about why and where I discovered the whole movement and why I fell in love with it.
Growing up 30 years ago as one of the only non white people in our Cheshire village I was very aware of the body I lived in from a young age. On the whole I laughed it off, tried to ignore the nasty comments but it definitely took its toll growing up and I did begin to gain weight which didn’t help my confidence. As I progressed through high school I started altering my appearance to fit in and the hurtful comments subsided slightly so in my young mind this evidence just ingrained the idea that I must change a lot about the way I looked in order to be liked.
I got to college and got into the punk scene and pierced, dyed and tattooed as much as I could afford – I’d found my people FINALLY! Fast forward to university, I entered university with a massive purple mohawk and doc martens and I loved it! I was doing a Fine Art Degree and fell totally in love with everything about it, the quirky people, fashions, ideas, basement raves and how the weeks and weekends all just blurred into one massive party.
There was still one thing bugging me though. Despite my confident appearance I had a major case of imposters syndrome, to me I was still the chubby kid at the back of the class finding soul destroying notes scribbled on ripped up notebook paper about the way she looked written by small minded classmates. I was in the Art School part of the Uni but the University I went to is well known for being a sports university so I was surrounded by a certain type of person- athletic and sporty people with a big focus on looks. The slimmer people on our course seemed to move between social circles easily. Yet here I was hungover, still a little tipsy from the night before eating a chinese takeaway with my best mate and flat mate and changing the channel by clumsily poking the tv with a mop handle because neither of us could be bothered to get up and change the channel (I’ve no idea what happened to the remote!).
Thats when I thought ‘thats it! I’m getting some scales, joining a diet club, sorting my life out and losing this weight as quickly as is humanly possible’. So thats what I did, except the student life was too poor for joining gyms and clubs. In my naive mind I thought ‘running and not eating much is free and I’m surely going to lose weight doing that!’ . And yes I did but I didn’t realise the cost to my health. I got up at 5am every morning to go running before anyone could see me, no matter the weather and after a few months I was running 10km ( about 6.2miles) every morning then I’d get back to my tiny university room and do two more hours of exercise dvds. I’d survive on porridge, some horrible but super healthy Gillian Mckeith mung bean stew (remember her?!) and then I’d make my way to university in some kind of knackered hazy grey state to attempt to do some work.
It worked. I lost around 4 stone in less than a year at uni dropping to under 8 stone, I’d grown out my mohawk and kept it black , bought a new wardrobe and I finally fitted in but I felt hollow both physically and emotionally. I was undereating so much that if I stood up too fast I blacked out, having just a glass of wine meant I paid for it the next day, it was definitely not very punk rock . It was ridiculous. I had so many rules , no wheat, no dairy, nothing with more than 5 ingredients, each with the aim of losing weight. If I was eating out and felt full I had to soak my meal with something horrible like vinegar in order to not eat past the bear minimum. I had so many black outs it got really out of hand , ending in passing out on a bus on my way to work and waking up on the floor in the middle of Hanley with little old ladies peering over me offering me water next to a shop assistant offering to ring an ambulance. It was incredibly embarrassing and I knew I had to start eating properly again.
Fast forward a few years and I had my first baby. I gained a lot of weight while pregnant ( I think I was making up for all those missed meals at university but I was also recovering from the emotional trauma of my uncle’s murder the day before Christmas Eve in 2013 ). I had an emergency C-Section and this was swiftly followed by another baby the next year also by Csection.
So my body went from normal to chubby, then tiny to huge, back to normal, back to huge settling on big. My body took me through ALL that, the abuse and hunger I gave it yet it still gave me two beautiful babies and fed them . It healed from all the trauma and surgery and yet I hated it more than ever.
On one of my usual late night obsessive sessions of thinking of the next fad to try to lose weight I stumbled across Megan Jayne Crabbe’s Body Positive Power on Amazon. Firstly I thought wow this woman looks incredible, she had amazing pink purple and blue hair, she radiated this happiness and vibrance that I cant quite put my finger on but I was totally in awe. Having not read a book since uni but so intrigued that i instantly downloaded the kindle version as I needed to know who the hell this woman was and why she was so happy considering she had no plans to lose weight ever again. I was desperate to get out of the horrible cycle of wasting money and energy on different diets then feeling like I’d failed when I put the weight back on plus more every single time. As I’m sure you can guess I’m not the only one, the world has more diet plans than ever before and the population is bigger than ever – I actually felt like if I started another diet I’d come out the other side even more unhappy, with an even worse relationship with food and most likely bigger than ever. I just couldn’t do it to myself.
Body Positive Power is the most life changing book I’ve ever read. Written by Megan Jayne Crabbe who is a recovered anorexic she talks about her journey but also about how the beauty industry is destroying lives to make money. Companies literally invent a ‘flaw’ in order to sell you the ‘cure’ (stretchmarks, cellulite, short eyelashes – you name it, they’ve got a cure, but what is actually wrong with these ‘flaws’ anyway? Nothing , literally nothing). She is totally down to earth and not airy fairy at all, yet she leaves you with that happy feeling like when you bump into an old friend you havent seen in years and you realise how much you’ve missed them except the person you’ve bumped into is yourself before you got bogged down with self awareness and criticism . If you google her you will probably find and maybe recognise her famous dancing video which proves you don’t have to conform to society’s ‘normal’ beauty standards in order to be utterly captivating . Her instagram page ‘Bodyposipanda’ is full of colour and inspiration.
In her book she reminds you that your world is what you make it and encourages you to delete any negative/diet related social media pages and to instead flood your news feed with different bodies, different abilities, different genders and to find inspirational people who are changing the world and perceptions. The whole point about body positivity is about changing your attitude to other peoples bodies and to judge a person based on the way that they look. Someone who looks different to the ‘norm’ is not any less worthy of respect or love solely based on their appearance or how attractive you personally find them. It is important to notice that body positivity is different to body confidence which is related only to your own body.
So through this amazing woman I found lots of inspirational people to follow . The more looked the more my eyes were opened. Being an artist I felt these people needed to be celebrated for breaking from the mould by being true to themselves and teaching others to do the same so this is where my Body Positive Willow Mug came to life. It features lots of women who inspire me and inside the mug there is a reminder that ‘you are a limited edition, an absolute masterpiece EXACTLY as you are’. I know that most people have insecurities that arise around what they consume so for me this is the start of a range of tableware that I plan to develop which reminds the user that life is too short to spend all your energy trying to change yourself. Body Positivity isn’t just for women though it’s for all genders, races and abilities.
One figure on the mug is inspired by Harnaam Kaur. She is a fantastic British model, anti-bullying activist, body positive activist, life coach, and motivational speaker who lives in London, UK . It just so happens that she’s also the first woman with a beard to walk at London Fashion Week. The way society works the beauty industry would have most likely written those facts in a totally different order putting the focus on the way she looks rather than the things she has achieved. She has some of my body positive willow mugs and recorded me and my daughter a sweet little video on her instagram stories when she received it. She recently appeared on The house of Extraordinary People on Channel 5 which I recommend watching too as its full of inspirational people.
Other illustrations on the mug include inspirations from Tess Holliday , Michelle Elman, Frida Kahlo , Grace Victory, Chidera Eggerue (aka Slumflower) , breast cancer survivors, and several differently abled models. Theres also a nod to yoga (the bridge) to remind you to take care of yourself.
I personally want to thank these people for breaking down my own body issues and this mug is my way to spread their word and get the conversation going. Its all a learning curve and like with any journey there are sometimes days where I dont feel so great about my appearance but I’d rather have an off day every 6 months than waste all that mental space and energy worrying and criticising myself every minute of every day which is how my life was before body positivity. I’ve got better things to do like getting creative and keeping my little humans alive! I do still enjoy running and exercise when I get chance but I’m doing it for totally different reasons such as feeling that inner glow from raising my heart rate.I am starting to cut back on meat again and some dairy but again its for different reasons other than losing weight and how I look (like looking after the planet and my health). I might be vegan one week, vegetarian the week after and flying pink unicorn the next! That’s life. Everyone’s path is different but if you spend a lot of your time worrying about the way you look and find yourself judging other peoples appearances then I really do urge you to look into body positivity. Set yourself free from wasting all your precious mental space on trying to change a body that has been with you every step of the way fighting to keep you here. You won’t regret it.
Here’s some links to my favourite people in the movement: