Baring All

I plonked my wibbly wobbly stretch-marked belly (maybe NSFW, features underboob) on Instagram last night. It came off the back of a conversation with a gorgeous, sexy friend who mentioned that she had issues with her tummy. It’s a common one, especially for mums.

I spent a long time hung up on my stomach. I’ve had stretch marks (all over) for as long as I can remember but during pregnancy they multiplied by the dozen. I have weird bits of skin from where it was stretched to the obscene and didn’t quite recover. I have some lines that look as wide as they are long. I’d been with Gaz for close to two years before I stopped flinching every time his hand brushed past my stomach; before I stopped pushing it away, swallowing hard and holding my breath until he was out of the ‘danger zone’.

It’s so easy to look down at myself and see this ‘mess’ and then compare it to instagram models and “just bounced back” celebs and wonder where I went wrong. But comparison is the thief of joy (according to Theodore Roosevelt) and although he probably wasn’t talking about bellies, I can see his point. When we compare our untouched naked skin to the Photoshopped elite we stop seeing the things these soft, squishy, wondrous tummies have done for us. For those of us who are lucky enough to have been able to grow babies, they have protected new life, shielding it from the elements, giving it space to grow.

When I had my little self-love epiphany after my gallbladder issues, I promised myself that come what may I would not slip back into the habit of negative self-talk, of filtering out my flaws and avoiding the scars and marks that cover my skin. I told myself that I would use my platform & my confidence & my ‘fuck you’ attitude to normalise the wobbles and bulges, dips and bumps and lines. Despite this, despite finding comfort in my jiggles, I still hesitated before sharing. That familiar deep breath, hard swallow. Why is it hard? It shouldn’t be hard.

There is beauty in imperfection, in vulnerability, in accepting who we are and how we got there. If that means baring all and shouting “I LOVE MYSELF” from the rooftops so as to reiterate that and encourage other people to do the same? So be it.

Insta fitness and chasing tiny

(This post doesn’t have an image attached to it because the search for “thinspiration” to demonstrate what I am getting at turned up some fucking horrific images and I don’t want to contribute to that.)

Despite being a late adopter to Instagram (as per usual; I only downloaded snapchat this week) it is easily my favourite social network for procrastination. As well as engaging with the people I follow multiple times a day, I also frequently make use of their ‘discover’ feed and randomly like/comment on other people’s photos. It’s actually a good way to find new people with similar interests (which I guess is the whole point).

Unfortunately, because I use Instagram as a half-hearted fitness log, and as such follow other fitness folk, my insta discovery feed is absolutely rammed with weight loss posts and “transformations”: picture after picture after picture of women — always women — before their “magical transformation” and after. The before pictures usually feature someone obese or significantly overweight, and the after can be anything up to and including skeletal women (that quite possibly have an eating disorder).

Sometimes the women are even the same person & it’s hilarious how bad some of the fakes are, but that’s another post for another day…

And people LOVE it. They lap it up. Thousands of likes and comments applauding the desire to shrink, to be smaller, to better fit into society’s normal. “Thinspiration!” they cry. Lots of supportive comments, but as is the norm on the Internet, a whole fuckton of fat shaming too.

Why? Why do we — women — strive to take up less space in a world that tries so hard to keep us small and meek and fearful? And I don’t mean the act of weight loss in itself: I am happy to support anyone that wants to lose weight if they so desire, whatever their motivation for doing so. I have obviously pursued my own weight loss goals to better fit the way I feel most comfortable and confident… but chasing “tiny” just for the sake of being tiny?

In a world that has us fighting to exist on an equal footing for pay, for health care, and in some countries for access to basic human rights; in a world that is led by men who brag openly about sexual assault so that we know our place? Deliberately shrinking ourselves seems so counter-productive.

Where are my insta-fitness shots of growth: growing muscles? Growing more confident? Growing competence in a discipline that pleases you? Growing more secure, or growing capacity for fitness? Growing the distance you run or the friends you make through a mutual enjoyment of a sport?

Fuck, grow your plate of cookies for all I care – just demand more. Be MORE. Not less. Never less.

The F-word

f-a-tYesterday I was high-fiving the blogosphere as I read @NomadMomDiary‘s post “Not all F words are created equal“. It appealed to me for two reasons:

  1. Because I (controversially) swear in front of my kids
  2. Because the “F” word — that is, FAT — is not allowed in my house

My tweet to this effect raised a mostly positive reaction but Aisling asked a great question:

It was a valid criticism of the idea of banning words and how it might have undesired consequences (which is relevant to why I swear in front of my kids) but, through lack of explanation on my side, missed the point behind my banning of the F-word in my house. It’s not that I’ve sat my kids down and said “we don’t say fat, it’s bad”, it’s just something not discussed:

  • I don’t refer to people as “fat”
  • I don’t refer to myself as fat (within earshot, my blog doesn’t count. No it doesn’t, shut up.)
  • I don’t talk about dieting or losing weight
  • I never force my kids into finishing a meal; I trust them to know when they’re full
  • I talk about food positively, emphasising good nutrition as a baseline but enjoying everything in moderation
  • I talk about exercise from a health and strength point of view

Despite this “avoidance” of the word fat, and general attempts at body positivity and emphasising fitness over perceived fatness, Isabel told me on Tuesday morning that I am fat. I was genuinely shocked to hear the words fall out of her mouth. Not because it bothers me if she thinks I’m fat (I don’t need validation from a little girl) but because I thought I was doing a good job on avoiding what feels like a slippery slope into the world of fad diets, image-obsession and social pressure to look a certain way. I’m not ready to have to discuss these issues with a 5 year old and I don’t think she’s ready either.

I don’t have an answer to dealing with this, although I told Izzy that I didn’t want to hear her call someone fat again because it might hurt their feelings; that there are more important things to people than how much they weigh.

Still, it just goes to show that you can avoid what you like at home, the moment they’re in school they pick up things from their peers you might not like, including the F-word.