2017… A Style Review

2017 was undoubtedly a year of many many firsts for me. It was a year spent discovering who I actually am, what I really care about, and what I want to do with my life. 

A big part of that was discovering my personal style. After years of wearing what “flattered” me as opposed to what felt like me, I finally managed to break free of those shackles and experiment with style in a way I had never done before. This is one of my favourite things about being body positive, finally having the freedom to wear what I want to wear and ditching all of the style rules I had been taught in years gone by (dressing for your shape, wearing distracting prints to hide lumps and bumps etc) for my own ones that actually reflect who I am. It’s been fun! 

I was thinking about this last night and decided to pop into my Google Photos folder to relive some of my favourites #ootd’s from the past twelve months. My first crop top, my first pencil skirt, my first bodycon dress… It’s all there. So here’s a little selection of some of my favourites! 

I think one thing that I’ve learned this year has been that style really does have no size. There’s absolutely no reason why a size 24 girl can’t wear the same clothes as a size 10 girl, especially now that brands like Asos, Boohoo, Forever21, River Island, H&M, New Look and others are producing such great plus size ranges at last. Yes it’s true that rewiring your mind to overcome years of body shame is a difficult thing to do. And the same is true of rewiring how you think about your personal style. But making small changes regularly such as choosing to wear your first pair of high waisted boyfriend jeans, and a month later choosing to tuck your t shirt into them for the first time, can lead to huge change over the course of a year. 

Three Things I Wish Thin People Understood 

I’m not one for ‘thin bashing’. In fact if I’ve learned anything at all from body positivity its that all bodies are subject to impossible beauty stanards. Buuuuut… As a fat person, I have experienced discrimination at the hands of thin people, a lot. So I’ve put together this post to highlight the top three things I wish thin people understood about fat people. 

1. Fat People Deserve Respect

I can’t speak for every single fat person on the planet. But I can say that through the body positivity community I’ve met and formed friendships with a lot of fat chicks, and we all have one thing in common; the experience of being disrespected because of our size. 

If I had a euro for every time someone has  made a disrespectful comment about my weight, well let’s just say my wardrobe would be a lot fuller. Everyone from so called friends to parents, colleagues and even complete strangers have made snide comments to my face in the past. 

I was once in a River Island store, perusing for a present for a friend, when a snooty sales assistant marched right over to me, intentionally looked me up and down and said ‘we don’t have your size’. 

On another occasion I was in the smoking area of a nightclub when a lad started shouting ‘heffer’ at me at the top of his voice. 

These are just two examples taken from well over a dozen that come to mind when I think of being humiliated and disrespected in public places. There are so many more I could choose from.

But I want to know at what point in history did mankind make the apparently unanimous decision that fat people didn’t deserve respect? When did our thinking shift from the idea that all people deserved a basic level of respect, to one which was based on size? And also – where were all the fat people when that decision was being made? Why was it made by thin people? When did thin people decide it was acceptable to treat fat people this way? And why is it still an acceptable form of discrimination when almost all other forms have been outlawed? 

Thin person – you don’t need to think I’m beautiful or want to get in my pants. You don’t need to approve of my choices or my life style. But I demand you’re respect, because you have always had mine even though you can be a real asshole! 

2. Our Health is None of Your Business 

This really gets my goat. Do I walk around with a sign on my head that says, ‘please question me aggressively about my health’? No I bloody well don’t, but it seems that I may as well have one. 

There is something about fatness that makes thin people think they have the right to cross a line, a line that they wouldn’t dream of crossing with another thin person. Have you ever heard a thin person ask another thin person if they’re worried about diabetes, or high blood pressure? I certainly haven’t. But these are questions I face regularly. 

If you’re answer to this is that the health of fat people costs the state millions every year in hospital care etc., then why don’t we ask thin people about osteoporosis (a very common result of lifelong thinness) or the wide scale and long term joint damage caused by regular running? We don’t question rugby players about the constant trauma they are causing their bodies, do we? We don’t interrogate people as they walk into their local gym about whether or not they’re taking necessary precautions to avoid injury, do we? 

No, we do not. And this is because those people aren’t fat. We only feel we have the right to invade a persons privacy and demand extremely personal information about their bodies if they’re fat. But the truth is that my health is none of your business, and yours is none of mine. 

Thin person – please stop asking me about my health. Have I ever asked you about yours? Can we just establish some boundaries for Christ’s sake? Or would you like me to start asking how regular your poos are? 

3. Don’t Assume We Want Advice 

If you’re a fat person, you’ve probably learned to do the smile and nod and raised eyebrows thing every time a person offers you some ‘friendly’ diet advice. It’s a skill we all learn at one point or another, how to appear interested and grateful when a thin person starts preaching to you about how to lose that weight. 

The ironic thing is, the thin person usually thinks they’re doing us a massive favour. Because after all, we’re fat so we’re probably stupid and the advice to eat less and move more (on which every single diet/weight loss plan in history is based) will be revolutionary to our poor uneducated and ignorant minds. My eyes are hurting from rolling so much. But the truth is that when this thin person (and let’s face it, only thin people preach about diets) starts raving to us about this diet or that diet, what they’re actually saying is that we need to be different, we need to be more like them. 

The person offering the advice does not have our backs. They are not interested in our happiness. They are not concerned about our health (otherwise they’d be asking us about our sleeping pattern, stress level, bowl movements, etc) (also see point 2 – our health is none of their business!!). They are simply telling us to conform. 

Advice should only be given when asked for. Is that not a universally known truth? Surely everybody gets that? Apparently not. 

Thin person – please stop advising me. I neither want nor need nor appreciate it. And with every piece of unsolicited advice you offer I am edging closer and closer to punching you in the face. 

OOTD 

Today’s ootd is this gorgeous top from Penny’s. Is it red? Is it orange? I’ve settled on coral. Unfortunately Pennys is possibly the only clothing brand that still doesn’t sell online, so I can’t give you a link. Get your act together Pennys!!! 

The jeans are from Asos, grab them here! They’re the most comfy mom jeans I’ve ever owned! 

The trainers and headband are also Penny’s, sorry

Body Positivity 101

A lot of people have been asking me what I did to become body positive. They’ve been asking for  specific, concrete steps that I’ve taken to boost my self love. So I’ve decided to put together a list of six tips for the bopo beginner here. I hope it helps! 

Tip 1. Instagram

The first thing I did to learn more about body positivity was to find body positive accounts on Instagram. There are a few good accounts on Facebook, but Instagram is where it’s at for all things bopo. I searched in my discover page using hashtags like; bodypositive, bodypositivity, bopo, bopowarrior, effyourbeautystandards, celebratemysize, and donthatetheshake. 

By using these hashtags I quickly discovered dozens of accounts run by incredibly inspirational women worldwide. As a fat person, I was more drawn to accounts that were run by fat women, but there are just as many accounts run by thin women. The range of body positive accounts on Instagram is so diverse that no matter who you are, you’re bound to find some that you can really relate to. 

By following the accounts of bopo fat women, I began the admittedly uncomfortable but absolutely crucial task of desensitizing myselg to images of fat bodies. I gradually stopped seeing them as grotesque and started seeing them as completely normal. This was the first step in changing the way I saw my own body. 

I’m sure it’s possible, but I think it would be infinitely more difficult to begin a body positive journey without having an Instagram account. I can’t emphasise enough how central the platform has been to my own experience. Even if you don’t have an Instagram account, it would be hugely worthwhile for you to set one up. You don’t need to start posting or be active in that way, but following some bopo accounts will really kick start your body positive journey! 

Tip 2. Get Reading

Once you’ve found a few accounts to follow on Instagram it’s time to start digging a little deeper. Looking at pictures is a fantastic way to desensitize yourself to non-airbrushed bodies, but it’s important to start reading the captions under those pictures too. 

Many of the big bopo accounts are run by wonderfully gifted writers, and their captions can provide insight and help you gain understanding of body positivity. They can also challenge what you thought you knew about the world, which is extremely useful in breaking down old patterns and creating space for new ones to grow. A lot of these women will also have websites and blogs, just like this one, where they may write in even more detail about issues relating to body positivity. 

Find their websites, read their blogs, comment with thoughts or questions, engage in the discussion. Even if you’re not sure what you think about something you’ve read, leave a comment saying just that! The body positive community is a very welcoming place, and the vast majority of women will be happy to chat with you and help you in any way that they can. 

Tip 3. Write your thoughts 

Now before you start panicking and thinking that you have to be a wordsmith to be body positive, relax! Under no circumstances do you need to set up a blog to be body positive. Buuuut, I do advise you to pop down to your local shop and pick up a notebook type thing. 

Because like it or not, journalling is a proven tactic for dealing with emotional issues. And baby, body positivity brings up a lot of emotional issues. You’re gonna be forced to remember all the snide comments your Mum made that made you feel fat, all the ex boyfriends who made you feel undesirable, all the times bitches said things to hurt you, all the clothes that didn’t fit. This is unfortunate, uncomfortable and unavoidable. I’m sorry.

But there is good news! Writing really does help. There’s something about forming words in your mind and getting them onto paper that helps us make sense of our thoughts and emotions. So when you’re reliving some previously buried memory from the past, get your notebook out. When you’re feeling uncomfortable with something you’ve seen or read, get your notebook out. When you’re mind is swirling with unarticulated questions and concerns, get your notebook out. Nobody ever has to see it but you. But I promise, its an invaluable tool. 

Tip 4. Question Everything 

After just a couple of weeks of following bopo accounts, reading and writing, you’ll probably find yourself beginning to question things that you took for granted previously. For example, I remember one day seeing an article online about how to dress for your body shape. In the past I wouldn’t have blinked an eye, but this time I realised I was uncomfortable with the idea that women are obliged to ‘flatter’ their body shape. What did flatter mean? Improve? Manipulate? Hide? This is the first time I started questioning the world around me. 

Don’t be alarmed when this happens. It can be a little exhausting, emotionally, to realise that you are going to have reform the vast majority of your previously held opinions. What a daunting task! But taking it day by day, you’ll figure out how you feel about things soon enough, and in no time you’ll marvel at how blind you had been in the past. 

Don’t be afraid to question what you see and read on Instagram too. Remember that body positivity means very different things to different people. So there are a variety of strands/schools of thought that may not be apparent at first, but that you’ll begin to recognise as you strengthen your bopo muscles. Pick and choose what accounts speak to you most, which ones promote the version of body positivity that you connect with, and unfollow the rest. 

Tip 5. Experiment 

To me, nothing shows body positive progress as much as clothing does. Clothes may seem frivolous and unimportant, and I don’t mean to imply that you’ve got to be a fashionista to be body positive. But there are few things that express how we feel about ourselves and our bodies as much as our clothes do. 

I can still remember the first time I bought ripped boyfriend jeans. I had always lusted after them, wishing that I had the body to pull them off. The first time I bought a pair I was terrified that people would point and laugh at me in the street, but I just kept reminding myself that my body was beautiful just the way it was, and that if the girls who I followed on Instagram could post pictires of their half naked bodies on the internet I could surely muster the courage to wear a pair of jeans. By the end of that day I was strutting around like Beyonce, checking my reflection at every opportunity, feeling like the sexiest bitch that ever lived. 

As your feelings towards your body begin to change, try experimenting with your clothes a little bit. Wear something you would never have worn before. After all, you will by now have started to realise that your body isn’t the most shameful thing on the planet after all, and your sole focus can shift from hiding it to enjoying it. 

In less than six months I’ve gone from hating my body, feeling a deep sense of shame and guilt around my body, and feeling completely unworthy of love and respect, to truly loving my body just as it is, and finally seeing my beauty and value for the first time. It’s been without a doubt the single most liberating thing I’ve ever done in my life. Now I’m committed to helping others experience that same transition. With that in mind, I really hope these tips help you on your body positive journey! Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments, or get in touch with me privately via the contact page in the menu.