Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Christmas Rant

I should be writing a piece for the Independent right now. That’s what I should be doing. But I had to stop what I was doing because I’ve had an epiphany. And as you all know, epiphanies should always be paid attention to and, preferably, blogged about.

On those days when I’m working from home I like to enjoy the audio-company of a rather remarkable radio broadcaster called James O’Brien. For those unfamiliar with his work, James presents the mid-morning show on LBC 97.3. Far from the usual blatant political agenda-pushing, passive aggressive huffer-puffery and people ringing in to say there are too many immigrants with plasma TVs, James’ show represents his genuine desire to gain a greater understanding of a social issue, using the thoughts and experiences of callers with something valuable to contribute. I love him a bit.

Anyway, today in response to the news that 40% of 13 year old girls are worried about becoming fat, James asked parents to call in and answer honestly this simple question:

Would you rather have a teenage daughter who was fat, or one who was obsessed with not putting on weight?

The natural instinct is to say “I’d rather she was fat” of course, but then as James pointed out what most parents want is for their children to be happy and so the real question is which of these paths is more likely to lead to genuine happiness and the answer is probably neither. Why we seem hell bent as a society on making fat people feel as miserable and apologetic as possible is a question for another blog.

By 12.55, five minutes before the show’s conclusion, James had (rightly, in my humble) identified that the problem is there are less and less opportunities for children to be physically active, both in and outside of school. As a result they are becoming larger and more sedentary. Rather than ask why the government has removed funding for huge swathes of community sports centres throughout the UK and refused to raise the minimum requirement for physical education lessons beyond a paltry average of one hour a week in state schools, our reaction has been to have school nurses weighing and measuring children as young as five, giving nutrition lessons to primary school children and having ‘experts’ write for the Daily Fail advising parents to tell their kids they are fat.

Cue seven year olds, who have not yet developed cerebral critical facility and therefore do not really understand what they are being told, coming home and ticking off their parents for giving them a cereal bar and speaking in dark, portentous undertones about how ‘bad food makes you die’ and ‘being fat is wrong’. Then we wonder why, by the time they are thirteen, young people are not only unduly concerned about their weight but also intent on judging each other bodies and subjecting each other to body image related bullying in the playground.

We have, in essence, made our children overweight, blamed them for it then robbed them of a carefree childhood by bombarding them with unnecessary information, in an action that might as well have been designed to give them life-long self-esteem and body image issues. Bravo, society. Well done.

Anyway, none of that is the point. Anyone who has ever seen me on TV or read anything I have ever written knows my feelings on this issue (it’s always good to reiterate, though. As my Mum says – “I’m not nagging I’m reiterating”).

So, back to James’ show. At 12.55pm the inevitable ‘obesity statistic quoting person’ rang in to inform us all, Katie Hopkins style, that we had been pussy-footing around the issue and that if we allow children to be fat they are going to DIE immediately if not sooner and therefore it’s our DUTY to intervene by whatever means possible and tell them in no uncertain terms that fatness is NOT OKAY. I can’t remember her name, but since she was talking absolute arse I think it’s probably irrelevant.

That’s when I realised something.

….Because whilst it is true to say there are some health risks associated with being morbidly obese, there are none to suggest you WILL get type two diabetes, have a heart attack and snuff it if you’re a little bit chubby. And since the term ‘obese’ is applied to anyone with a BMI over 23 (which is slightly chubby/a tad curvy in most cases) the statistics aren’t accurate.

When we think of an ‘obese’ person we think of someone in an American documentary who’s confined to their bed. Yet I could show you hundreds of pictures of women as small as a size eight or ten whom YOU wouldn’t term obese but the medical community WOULD. This has to do with BMI not taking into account bone and muscle density (I refer you to my blog ‘the B in BMI stands for Bollocks’ for further info).

So what the Hopkinses and Brickses and people who are ironically raising their own blood pressure and making it more likely they will die of stress (the REAL number one killer in the UK) are doing is this:

Taking the statistics about the health risks associated with being morbidly obese, applying it to anyone who has ever been termed ‘obese’ and concluding that 1/3 of the country are going to die.

It’s fine for them to work themselves up into a frenzy pontificating about such nonsense (as long as we treat it with the contempt it deserves) but please, let’s not pass this burden down to our kids. They were healthier when we just let them be.

Merry Christmas.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Imagine....

Imagine a world where your friend says
“I can’t eat that, I’ll get fat”

and you’re natural response was not

“no, you won’t”

But

“so what?”…………………………

Imagine if we acknowledged that there are worse things than being fat. That being crippled by self-loathing, depriving yourself of the nutrients you need to survive, spending time and energy that could be better expended on living your life counting calories or locking yourself in a germ ridden, windowless cell to huff and puff on a running machine to nowhere for hours of your week in the vain hope of looking like some arbitrary, socially constructed beauty ideal is in fact a lot worse than being ‘fat’.

Imagine if you gave yourself permission to eat whatever you liked.

Imagine if you understood that a big part of the reason we overeat is because we’ve spent so long restricting ourselves and reading about the latest ‘celeb craze’ for cutting out food groups according to colour or carb content or listening to the advice of other equally confused people that we’ve forgotten to listen to our bodies, which have always known, innately, what we need.

Imagine if we didn’t wheel out the body extremes – the sixty three stone man whose confined to his bed or woman so thin she is incapable of reproducing or the deformed genitals or the cosmetic surgery gone-wrong and recreate the Victorian freak show on the small screens of our nation every single night so that we can laugh and point and ridicule the vulnerable and disillusioned, being neither educated nor encouraged to show compassion but instead sending silent thanks to the heavens that we aren’t them.

Imagine if society hadn’t made the naturally curvaceous feel so apologetic for the fact that they take up space that they feel compelled to lambast and bully the naturally slender, endlessly using the term ‘real women’ to spitefully imply an imaged sexual advantage.

Imagine if advertisers admitted that they deal in fantasy, that they’ve hijacked the ‘real woman’ label and used it to describe women who have spent seven hours in hair and makeup, had their clothes chosen by a stylist and placed under lighting strategically designed to make them look effortlessly gorgeous in a bid to persuade us that they ‘aren’t airbrushed’ and therefore we are represented.

Imagine if we didn’t spend hours of our lives pouring over pictures of famous people devoid of their slap, delighting that they too have a blemish, or scrutinising bikini pictures to search for that inch of cellulite in a bid to reassure ourselves that it is, in fact, okay to be a human being whilst at the same time being told in no uncertain terms that to be in the outside world without makeup on or wear a bikini if not anatomically ‘perfect’ will expose us to ridicule.

Imagine if the muscle wasn’t a motif of manliness. Imagine if boys were allowed to be boys and take joy in simply playing sports for the fun of it, rather than being sold lurid powders and shakes by the’ personal trainer’ they don’t need who is earning commission out of their desire to look like the digitally beefed-up images on the front of so-called ‘health’ magazines.

Imagine if we were able to grasp that teenagers today have grown up in a world where the internet invades their consciousness and bombards them with ever more-explicit information every minute of their waking life. Imagine if we spoke honestly about pornography and rather than hiding our concerns under a veneer of faux-respectability left-over from a long-gone Victorian-style sense of repression we simply said “not every woman is a size six with pneumatic implants and delights in anal sex in just the same way that not every man has a ten inch dick”.

Imagine if we were able to grasp that different races are predisposed to different body types and that if we continue to endlessly criticise men and women for not conforming to an increasingly polar and unrealistic blu-print we are, by default, racists.

Imagine if we didn’t use the term ‘disabled’ – if body difference was seen as simply that and we could comprehend the notion that someone might move, think or live in a different way and using different means to us but that does not render them inferior.

Imagine if we didn’t fear ageing. Imagine if we celebrated the wrinkle as a sign of wisdom, maturity and experience. Imagine if we didn’t pour our disposable income into injecting poison into our faces to freeze the muscles so that we can visually reclaim a time when we knew less than we did now. Imagine what it might be like for a whole generation of middle-aged women if they didn’t feel suddenly invisible and if we valued their thoughts, opinions and physical forms in the same way we did their male counterparts.

Imagine if young girls weren’t terrified into starvation at the point of entering womanhood because their stretch marks, hips and breasts were a sign of becoming a grown up and that was actually perceived as a positive thing.

Imagine if we didn’t constantly tell young girls they were ‘princesses’, thus romanticising the idea of a life spent anaesthetised against the realities of life so that they spend years fantasising about the one day they’ll spend money they can’t afford to be trussed up like a Disney character in a room full of fairy lights being told how wonderful they look all day when in fact they are making the most important legal commitment of their lives. Imagine if on that day they were actually allowed to look like the person whoever they’re committing to fell in love with, rather than the ‘princess’ they were always told they were.

Imagine if we stopped muddying the waters of conversations about body image rights with misguided notions about 'health'. Imagine if we stopped saying things like 'you shouldn't be allowed to buy a size 24 dress because you aren't healthy!' and realised that we have no idea how 'healthy' someone is based on a perfunctory visual assessment and even if we did, this would have no relevance to and therefore no impact on their right to wear stylish clothes.

Imagine if we starved of metaphorical oxygen the public figures who have made a lucrative living out of trolling the nation with their vile, elitist opinions on the sole and right way to live. Imagine if we didn’t watch them on our TV screens or tweet about our outrage and simply treated them with the contemptuous silence they deserved.

Imagine if we celebrated everyone for their uniqueness and individuality.

Imagine if we gave everyone the right to inhabit their body.

Imagine how much more we’d get done.

Imagine how liberated we’d feel.

Imagine how many of the issues which blight the lives and curtail the potential of millions of British people would magically disappear.

Yeah, I think I’d like to live in a world like that.

Friday, 3 May 2013

My Body is Freaking Awesome. FACT

Body Gossip now officially have what I believe is colloquially referred to as ‘merch’ (my much cooler younger brother who does things like go to gigs to see obscure indie bands I’ve never heard of and buy their ‘merch’ told me that so I could be ‘down with the kids’……. which I thought was very kind of him).

At the end of last year we launched our range of t-shirts, which feature four slogans:
BeYOUtiful
Body Gossip Says Relax
What’s So Great about Perfect Anyway? And
‘My Body is Freaking Awesome. FACT’.

Here's me modelling one (centre) with the finalists of Curvy Kate's 'Star in a Bra' 2013 competition:



The t-shirts have gone down a storm, especially now the sun has FINALLY got his proverbial hat on and Body Gossipers all over Britain are tweeting us pics of themselves proudly bearing the BG brand (alliteration!).

But guess which slogan has sold the least? Yep, it’s ‘My Body is Freaking Awesome. FACT’. Although people love the sentiment in THEORY, it seems they’re reticent to undertake what could be perceived as a bit of body boasting.

I find that a little sad. There are a thousand reasons why your body can be ‘freaking awesome’ other than it happening to conform to our constructed social beauty paradigms and that was the spirit with which the t-shirt was created .

So, in honour of that, I’m going to share with you why MY body is freaking awesome. FACT:

One blustery February night I was enjoying a wee tipple with a man person (I believe this is what the trendy people refer to as a ‘date’) when I was suddenly struck by an extreme, almost debilitating pain in my abdomen.
Being female, I immediately blamed my ovaries and assumed I was in the grips of the most painful period I’d ever had the displeasure to experience. I excused myself and went home, taking a couple of paracetamol and hoping I’d feel better in the morning.

Twelve hours later I was in A & E, doubled over, unable to breathe without making this noise – ‘owey owey owey OW!!’.
The doctors scanned the usual suspects – my gall bladder and appendix – which were fine. They then suggested it might be ‘indigestion’. I (to my immense credit) resisted the urge to punch them in the head. I was declared a medical mystery and placed under ‘observation’.

Two and a half days after that I was taken into the operating theatre for what I thought was a routine diagnostic procedure. More than a litre of internal bleeding was found in my abdomen. The surgeons had to slash me right up the middle, like a pirate would, to determine the source of the bleeding. The operation took five hours and I was anaesthetised for eight.

Turns out, dear Blog Reader, that I had a ruptured spleen and prior to emergency surgery was about twenty four hours away from death. (Dude. I know. Hardcore).

The recommended recovery time for an emergency laparotomy, which is the name of the procedure I underwent, is around eight to twelve weeks. I was back to work in three.

A few weeks later I posed for a photo shoot in Curvy Kate lingerie to declare to the world that, despite having a 30cm massive fuck-off scar down the centre of my abdomen my body is FREAKING AWESOME. Here's a behind-the-scenes snap of that shoot:



My body is strong, resilient, clever for healing itself. But most crucially it is ALIVE. It survived the ordeal and allowed me to get back to the life I love, promoting body confidence all over Britain and teaching self-esteem classes to UK teenagers.

So, this summer, I’ll be wearing my ‘awesome’ t-shirt with pride, because our bodies are more amazing than we often give them credit for and the odd perceived ‘imperfection’ is nothing compared with being alive to tell the tale.

Buy your t-shirt at www.bodygossipshop.com