I feel like throwing my hands up in the air…

I have been catching up with And just like that & I’m having a lot of feelings. I know, I know, it’s a tv show. These people aren’t real. Except, they kind of are. A little bit.

S&TC caught me at just the right time. I started watching right before leaving home & starting uni. I continued through 18 to 24, prime discovering yourself, life & love years. I re-watched again & again, Carrie & the gals my trusted companions. It hasn’t all aged well, there’s some really dodgy shit. Plus sometime I don’t even like them; Carrie could be truly toxic things. But, I still love them. There was nothing else talking about the kind of female sexuality I was exploring in the late 90’s. There were little bits of myself & my friends in all of the fab four. I could relate to their sexual & romantic adventures. I knew the unbreakable bond of female friendship. Carrie was a writer with a penchant for the older man for goodness sake. Then of course it was all so much more glamorous than my life. They were running around Manhattan in Manolos, whilst I could barely afford Malboro lights & rent on my dodgy student flats. We were both hiding our broken hearts in a haze of smoke & high heels, though. Fantasy wrapped up in just enough reality to capture my heart.

So, I loved them. I felt like I knew them inside out. Both the characters & the all the fragments of real people I saw in them. I have twenty odd years invested in these tv people. That’s crying on the sofa, drinking cocktails with the girls, hungover Sundays, hours of explaining to stupid boyfriends why Aidan wasn’t right & so much more. I want them to be happy. Real life is perilous on the happy ending front, but when last we saw Carrie & Co is was as close to a fairy tale as you get in NYC.

Miranda, Carrie, Charlotte & Samantha in coats walking in the street

I awaited this re boot with trepidation. There was never any chance of me not partaking, but I was worried. I feared they’d mess it all up. Successful drama needs conflict and I didn’t want my middle aged babes involved in any of that. They almost killed me with that first episode. I was always rooting for Big, even when he was a total fuckwit. I wanted Carrie & John to grow old together in harmony. Given what we found out about Chris Noth, it’s just as well they killed him off (but I can still mourn the character, right?). We also had Samantha’s absence to deal with. That empty chair at the restaurant. Those flowers at the funeral. It’s heartbreaking. I’m 41 now, I know those female bonds aren’t always so indestructible, but this is fantasy. Samantha would never have had such a silly huff. Two hard blows right from the kick off. The rest are good. I can take it.

Then comes Che and all bets are off. All of sudden I’m supposed to believe that Steve can’t make Miranda cum? The Steve that knew how to get her off from night one? They make him some lame guy who can’t finger his wife. Now Miranda is running off to surprise Che, who will almost certainly be screwing someone else when she gets there. I don’t want this. I want my loyal cynical Miranda with her sweet, loving Steve. I’m taking this betrayal personally.

That’s before I even touch on how they handled Stanford’s exit. Carrie going on dates or that hideous new apartment. Thank god for Charlotte & Harry. I hope. I may be a bit more jaded and lot less likely to fall head over heels, but I can’t take it if all those happily ever afters fall apart. Make believe is supposed to offer some escapism. Will no one think of the ageing romantics?

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New year, New lingerie…

What better way to start the year than in some gorgeous new knickers?

I can never have enough lingerie , so I’m always excited to get some for Xmas. I’m loving all the lace detail especially since the fabric is super soft. I adore the shape the bra is giving me. The whimsy of the French knickeresque pants is delightful.

ly is standing with her hands on her hips wearing deep red lingerie set wth kace. i
Bra & Pants – Figleaves Curve

You know your knickers are making you feeling yourself when you have the urge to snap a booty mirror selfie.

ly is taking a pic of herself over her shoulder in a mirror wearing burgndy pants

Blue eyes & attitude…

Boxing Day is my Mum’s birthday, so I took advantage of a nice family lunch to try out one of my Xmas gifts.

This dress is from my Mum & it’s a cracker. Super soft & comfy, fits like glove. It is my first from In the Style and it’s getting a big thumbs up.

ly is standing against blurred background with her hands on her hips wearing a pale blue button up jumper dress n
Dress – In the Style
Tights – Snag
Glasses – Where Light

I felt so good in this dress. Plus it was so easy to wear. I like that go up to a 28 (not perfect, but much more inclusive than many). I also like that most of their styles are available in their full size range instead of a just a small selection in a plus range. All in all I’m loving this brand.

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We go together…

I received an early Xmas present today. If I get a present early, I open it because delayed gratification is not my jam. However, I had permission to get into this one. In any case, I am utterly in love with it & the person who gave it.

That affection got me thinking about something I saw discussed on Twitter. The old ‘internet friends aren’t real friends’ debate. Obviously I don’t agree. This thoughtful, beautiful gift from a dear friend who I originally met online drove me to elaborate on that. I definitely think it is possible to be catfished (deliberately or not) into friendship online. You can ‘meet’ people with whom you have one thing in common & so can maintain an online relationship with, but it likely wouldn’t sustain an actual in person friendship. You can find people who purposely deceive or folk who are just able to portray a persona online that they can’t quite manage in life. Of course there are dodgy folk, lonely folk & even dangerous people who can use the internet to their advantage (& your disadvantage). I accept that’s all true. However, the flip side is all the wonderful people you might not ever have the chance to meet. This is were I come in.

Due to mental illness, chronic illness and working from home I have been perhaps more online than most folk. Or at least I’ve been more online for longer than a lot of people. As a result of that I have made genuinely good friends via the internet. I found understanding & acceptance from strangers on my computer when no one in real life really got my self harm. I’ve connected with a fat community that I would never have had access to outside of the web. Both of those groups changed my life. Networking with other freelancers has led to friendships along with work opportunities. I have been able to work with editors, organisations and publications via social media connections that have progressed my career. Beyond that I have met & built real relationships with people I have met through appreciating their art, respecting their activism or just firing them amusing online.

Those connection points have grown into really meaningful friendships. People I have gone on to meet and cherish. I have friends I consider an integral part of my life who started out as anonymous screen names. I think social media and the internet in general can generate valuable relationships. I also believe that the notion that those friendships aren’t real is inherently ableist and othering. Disabled and chronically ill people often rely on the internet for many things that others can access by leaving their home. In addition people who for whatever reason find themselves outside the norm can find like minded communities much easier online. The ability to do that is crucial.

All of which brings me back to that gift. My super talented friend Sarah created this wonderful digital portrait. It’s taken from my sister’s wedding and I feel so lucky to have it. I would never have met Sarah in real life. She lived far far away when we met (& even further now). Nevertheless, we have a shared history and understand of each other that is very special. So, thank you internet for bringing this woman into my life. And, thank you Sarah for this gift.

Digital portrait of Ly wearing green swing dress. Standing with her hands on her hips

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Not to blame…

As this pandemic continues to wreak havoc there is an increasing need for a scapegoat. Predictably, fat people have become a convenient target. Navigating this strange new world is hard enough without all the finger pointing.

Magnified image of covid virus

If you’re feeling hounded, I get it. I’m fiercely fat positive & always prepared to fly the body liberation flag. Even I am finding the constant barrage of fat phobia exhausting. With our feckless PM giving credence to a BMI/Covid link and the tabloids eating it up it is understandable that we feel attacked. When the government makes weight stigma policy it absolutely feeds the trolls.

For the record, losing 5lbs will not make you less likely to contract covid nor will it effect the severity of the virus if you do. Like much of the Tories covid 19 response it is not rooted in science. In fact, it is too early for any studies to provide reliable data on the impact of covid on fat bodies. Especially when the intersections with poverty, disability, poor medical care etc are often not factored into research.

Fat phobic newspaper headlines

You are not irresponsible for living in a fat body. You are not a burden on the NHS. You are deserving of the same care & respect as anyone else. If you need help reinforcing these facts or dealing with others who refuse to accept them I highly recommend checking out the resources below. I have linked to their Instagram accounts from which you can find all their links/books.

Jess Campbell (haes_studentdoctor) is as her insta implies a student doctor with a Health at Every Size approach. She shares excellent information in a really straightforward manner.

Dr Natasha Larmie (fatdruk) is a GP in the UK who campaigns to end medical weight stigma. She shares her own experience along with insightful analysis. Definitely a must follow.

If you aren’t already aware of Dr Joshua Wolrich where have you been? He is an NHS surgical doctor who promotes HAES, debunks junk weight loss science & has a much anticipated book due very soon.

Lindo Bacon is a body liberation author, speaker & researcher. Their first book, Health at Every Size completely changed my understanding of how my body works & the effect of dieting. I cannot recommend their work enough.

Image of book,  health at every size lindo bacon

I only recently discovered HPWAS (Health Professionals Against Weight Stigma) and I am so glad. As a fat person it can be difficult to deal with the medical community. It is therefore very reassuring to know there are professionals trying to change things from within. They are currently collecting lived experiences of medical fat phobia. Please do consider sharing if you feel able.

Big fat love to everyone struggling.

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New year, Same me…

I am preparing for the onslaught of new year, new you bullshit. I suspect a global pandemic will make no dent in the diet industries’ shame tactics. I am starting the year as I intend to go on; as part of the fat positive fanfare.

Since I am a very lucky girl I received the perfect ‘flaunt it’ lingerie for Xmas. I am so happy to finally get my butt into this fabulous set. Body Liberation is about so much more than just self love, but feeling good is really important. Battling fat phobia is a tough, high stakes business. Feeling upbeat about your body helps fuel the fight.

Large bum in pale blue mesh pants with sel love brings beauty embroidered in pink

I want to start the ‘21 by recapping some easy ways to leave internalised fat phobia behind. Self love doesn’t happen overnight, but anyone can learn to appreciate their body. Aim towards acceptance & take it from there.

Step One

Stop consuming anything that makes you feel bad. No, I do not mean food. You eat whatever your body needs. What you must cut is magazines, social media, films etc that give you the idea that you’re not enough. I cannot articulate how big a difference this made to my self esteem. When you are constantly bombarded with the message that there is something wrong with your size, it sinks in.

Step Two

Replace all that negative chatter with joyful body positive content. Fill your feeds with happy fat people living their lives to the Max. Educate yourself on fat politics. Learning how wrong the things we’re taught about fat are is a revelation. As is witnessing people with bodies like yours succeeding.

Large boobs in pale blue harness bra with self loves brings beauty embroidered in pink

Step Three

Explore your body. Look at yourself. Discover how you look in different clothes, in your undies, naked. Let yourself see what you like. Question what bothers you about the parts that you don’t. Practise being kind to yourself. Appreciate the magic of all that your body allows you to do. Touch yourself. Get comfortable with your softness. You will be amazed at how many aspects of your body you already already value.

This is not a route to complete body liberation, but these are tried & tested first steps. You are more than enough. Go forth & love yourself.

ly is posing with her arms above her head wearing pale blue bra & knickers
Bra & Knickers – Playful Promises x Felicity Hayward

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Not your pin up girl…

I recently received delightfully BoPo gifts that instantly inspired an idea. Since the presents in question are a hat & socks, they seemed perfect for a cute top to tail photo.

As I put my vision into action I became frustrated. My attempts to capture a simple, joyful picture of my fat body were complicated by the reaction I knew it would receive. No matter how carefully one covers provocative areas or unseductive the pose female presenting bodies are sexualised. Marginalised bodies receive even more pressure to up the sexy in order to be perceived as worthy of viewing.

Nudity isn’t inherently sexual on green and purple swirly background

As a fat woman I know from experience that any picture I put in the public domain will be insulted & ogled. No matter the context or reason for my showing the world the image I can predict a portion of the responses. Some creepy men will always make creepy remarks and fat phobic comments will appear. It can feel like I am being asked to either apologise for or eroticise my form to make it acceptable.

I’ll never apologise. I won’t forever play the sexy fatty either. My body is just as worthy as any other. I am attractive, I can be alluring. I’m also just a person. I like myself in jammies & unwashed bun. I like myself with hairy legs and tired eyes. I’m worthy when I’m limping along with my walking stick. I can find pleasure in my body just as it is.

Plus sizesd naked women sitting on floor one arm across her breasts and one leg crossed to cover pubic area.Wearing a hat & socks
Riots not Diets Beanie – The Spark Company
Socks – Crudely Drawn
Glasses – Where.light

Naked doesn’t equal sexual. All bodies are glorious and remarkable. I Iove the idea of embracing the normal. I want to celebrate all the different incarnations of me. I want others to see that they are enough.

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When you take you gotta give…

I’m going to begin this post with a disclaimer; my brain fog is currently set to victorian horror film. The covid has made my thoughts oh so murky. Please try to factor than in if I don’t reach my usual standards.

As a fat positive activist I am naturally drawn to lots of bopo & fat spaces. Unfortunately I have increasingly noticed a slide away from the radical in some of. I’ve been mulling this topic over for a while and I really want to talk about it.

We all know that the body positive movement has been corrupted by brands & individuals trying to cash in. The centring of slim, white bodies has neutered the original message. Body image issues are not the same as the same as the systemic discrimination of fat bodies face. It is infuriating to see people in socially acceptable bodies play at being fat by contorting themselves to make rolls. However, at least that problem is acknowledged & challenged.

I find the move away from the origins of body positivity much more upsetting when it occurs in supposedly fat friendly places. Body Positivity was created by fat (mostly black) women. It’s purpose was to fight the stigma & discrimination that fat people experience in all aspects of life. Self love & positive body image have been an offshoot of that. Personally, I am very much in favour of those ‘spin offs’. I think learning to accept & eventually love your body can be revolutionary. I champion breaking down the toxic things society has taught us about our bodies, but I still recognise that body liberation is not solely about loving our bellies.

Fat activism should put the most marginalised front & centre. We must make room for those who are least often seen or heard. We should focus on making sure that those individuals feel comfortable discussing the issues they face, sharing pictures & asking for help. Sadly, this is not always what happens. Many groups in the fat world are so intent on being all inclusive that they do not realise who they are excluding.

A drawing of a medicine bottle labelled cure with the text ‘self love can’t cure fat phobia’

I see too much time spent on body confidence. Straight sized people taking up space in fat groups because they feel bad about their bodies. Brands whose sizes stop at a 20 are praised & promoted. Descriptors commonly used in fat activism ( super fat, small fat) are labelled insensitive. Bigger people are sidelined. When they try to discuss how they are being pushed out they met with hurt feelings and all the reasons less marginalised people have it hard too. It’s beyond disappointing.

It seems the fight for fat equality has been forgotten. Body liberation is not about making everyone feel great about themselves. It’s about ensuring access to medical treatment, housing, employment for fat people. Challenging inaccurate measurements of health, sizism in public spaces and fat politics should be prime discussion points. We should be listening when people tell us they feel pushed out of a place that is supposed to be for them.

I believe that too many in the fat community are taking their eye off prize. We have become consumed with being welcoming & positive. Both great traits, but we have to prioritise. If straight sized and smaller fats want to be part of the movement we have to accept our privilege. Our voices should not be the loudest. We can be welcoming to allies. Those who are respectful and want to learn can included. We all have blind spots. It is ok to make a mistake or not to know something. It isn’t ok to not want to learn. If your response to uncomfortable truths is to play the victim, there isn’t any room for you in fat activism.

Graffitied wall with poster saying ‘acknowledge your privilege ‘

There are so many amazing resources available for anyone who wand to educate themselves. Instagram accounts with bite size information. Books, podcasts & blogs for every stage of learning. It isn’t fair to rely on the emotional labour of fat people who may not always have the energy to teach. It is especially unjust to plead ignorance and then object to the manner in which you are provided information. Discomfort is part of the process.

Plus sized woman faces a sandstone wall wearing top with multi coloured fringe. Text says  ‘growing is supposed to feel uncomfortable’

I know I have lots to learn. I step on toes without intending to. I hope I listen when I’m told I’ve caused pain. I am trying to be better. I am happy to acknowledge the privilege I hold and I aim to fight alongside those with less. I want a better world. The middle of the road is not the way to get there.

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It feels like I’m in love…

I am often asked how I learned to feel good in my body. Whilst the answer to that question is long & winding there is one thing I always suggest. I’ve noticed tonnes of folk in the Bopo community offer the same advice; immerse yourself in fat positive content.

It’s an easy starting place. You can follow social media accounts, read articles & watch shows without having to make deep commitments to changes. Removing messages that make you feel bad and replacing them with joyous fat imaging works. It was my first step into accepting my body as it is. It remains something I expand upon.

Red  gallery wall with various feminist pieces of art

This is how I came to create my sexy self love wall. The deep red wall in my bedroom long hankered for some art, but I could never decide on what I wanted up there. When I commissioned my first Spunk Rock piece a vision began. I decided to create a kinky, feminist ode to myself. If that sounds conceited, I don’t care. It’s a private part of my house. My bold proclamation is for me.

Mirror selfie of women in knickers

Which leads me to my newest pretty. This gorgeous water colour is by Mia Macauley . She reproduced one of my all time favourite selfies. I am in love. Hot curves, delicious rolls & leopard print knickers too. I cannot wait to get me up on the wall.

water colour back view of plus size womsn in leopard print knickers

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You keep making me ill…

Body Positivity has crept into the public conversation. On the surface it seems body diversity is gaining ground. We see larger models in ad campaigns. The high street is beginning to pay a little more attention to fat customers. Social Media is awash with bopo content. However, if you scratch the surface virulent fat phobia still thrives. Any progress is good, but the dangerous aspects of weight stigma remains strong. Medical bias against fat bodies wreaks havoc. As a chronically ill fat woman I frequently face this issue. In ten years of battling illness and the medical community, I have seen little improvement.

When I began having health issues, I accepted the consensus that was fat was bad and thin was good. I was in the process of some seriously unhealthy dieting when I initially experienced quite serious gastric pain. There were other symptoms, vomiting & difficulty eating, but pain was the standout. I progressed from short bursts to hour long stints of excruciating pain. My GP said it was most likely indigestion and/or heart burn. They could be surprisingly painful, I was told. Change my diet, lose some weight and things will improve. I tightened up my already drastic diet and continued to lose weight. My symptoms did not improve. In fact, they worsened. I began to have prolonged periods of pain. It would last for days at a time, leaving me unable to eat or move or sleep. It felt torturous. By this time, I was being sent to A&E by my GP and attending myself when the pain become unbearable. Drs continued to tell me it was heartburn/indigestion. They all said the same thing, change your diet and lose weight. I was prescribed omeprazole but had no investigation. No one listened when I told then I was hardly eating. No one cared that I was losing lots of weight. All the DR’s were dismissive of my pain. Most were patronising. Some were hostile. No one helped. This continued for over a year. On my penultimate visit to A&E I was in so much pain I could barely talk. I had thrown up so much that I was only bringing up bile & blood. I saw a deeply unpleasant man who vacillated between me being an hysterical woman and being convinced I was an addict seeking drugs. He gave me a cup of peptac (which I promptly threw up) and sent me home. I felt utterly beaten that night. I knew something was very wrong.There was no way I could feel this bad and there not be problem. But no one would listen. I was tired of being judged and looked down upon. I went home and cried.

Luckily, my mum visited me a few hours later. She was shocked when she saw the state I was in and insisted we return to A&E. With someone fighting (& I do mean fighting) fit to advocate for me I was finally taken seriously. A Dr finally ordered the simple blood test that would diagnose me with pancreatitis. By the time those bloods results came back my body had gone into shock. Had I not returned to the hospital that night I would have likely died. I spent 7 days in HDU. I was catheterised. Fed only fluids via drip and given a morphine pump. I don’t even recall that first week in hospital.

Afterwards I discovered that although I didn’t fit the usual profile for pancreatitis (often older men, big meat eaters, heavy drinkers), I did have classic symptoms. The pain I had been describing was textbook. The onset and progression of symptoms was exactly what was to be expected of pancreatitis. Had someone taken a minute to listen to me I could have been diagnosed on my first trip to A&E. I really believe if I hadn’t been a fat woman, that’s probably what would have happened.

I had several more bouts of pancreatitis and a number of gallbladder issues were diagnosed in the subsequent months. Ironically, I was to discover that my weight was not the problem. The most likely culprit was spending my 20’s yo-yo dieting. The fad dieting & resultant weight loss that Dr’s had always encouraged made me ill.

Almost dying because medical professionals wouldn’t look past the size of my belly wasn’t horror enough, I have also since been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A condition I did not suffer from before all the trouble with my pancreas. Pain specialists have told me that the physical and emotional trauma of such a prolonged period of undiagnosed severe illness is likely to have caused the fibro. So, I not only had to suffer multiple times with acute pancreatitis, I will now deal with chronic pain for the rest of my life. I wonder how different my story would if I were a size 10.

Near death experiences aside, almost every medical interaction I have involves some discussion about my weight. With multiple chronic conditions I am a complicated case. Every new symptom no matter how unconnected involves answering questions and listening to lectures about how fat I am. I must push for investigations & interventions because the first advice is always ‘lose weight’. Often, I must identify possible problems via my own research. You would be shocked at the number of times professionals have dismissed my concerns only for my theory to be confirmed when they finally do the necessary tests. I have my cholesterol, blood sugar and pressure tested an inordinate number of times and am usually met with shock that they all measure within ideal levels. When I tell medical professionals that I do not wish to discuss weight loss, my request is usually ignored. Explaining that I endured years of disordered eating and misery related to trying to reduce my size has no impact. My mental wellbeing seems entirely unimportant. Even when I am brutally honest about the fact the I used to starve myself, purge & use appetite suppressants Dr’s still advise diet plans. When my eating was at its most disordered, I was never dangerously thin. So, I was never considered at risk. The sizest attitude towards eating disorders is a whole safety issue in itself. For the record I am vegan with digestive issues that limit my diet. It would be difficult for me substantially change what I eat even if I was inclined to. All this falls on deaf ears. Weight loss remains a priority for almost every Dr I see. When I have stomach flares and lose weight because I can’t eat, I am congratulated. When I am in hospital unable to stop vomiting nurses will joke, they wish they couldn’t eat for a while. It is relentless and exhausting.

*

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy. Even for those who would benefit from lifestyle changes will not be motivated by harsh judgement. The impact on mental health of all this fat shaming is enormous. We know that diets do not work. Most people regain all the weight they lose and more within a year. We also know that yo-yo dieting damages our bodies. Medical weight stigma makes people less inclined to seek medical advice. If you know you will be shamed and belittled and ultimately get no help anyway, you stop asking. This bias against fat patients is dangerous on so many levels. It’s a risk to our mental health, to our physical wellbeing and to our very lives.

* health-and-the-fat-girl.tumblr.com

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