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On Balance

On Balance

Picture the scene: me, alone, after midnight, on the floor in tracksuit bottoms and an old band t-shirt, hair essentially one matted lump by this point, twitching occasionally, a little red-wine-drunk, arm-deep in a pack of Doritos (see also: orange smudge on chin, crumbs in […]

You Are Here

You Are Here

“You know what?” “What?” “I’m actually feeling kind of normal again. Like, happy.” That’s how this post ends, which is good – because the route there is kind of winding, and not exactly cheery. It’s not even really that interesting, or dramatic, in the wider scheme […]

Eating Yourself Well; or, Punching Depression in the Face with Sweet Potatoes and Stuff

Eating Yourself Well; or, Punching Depression in the Face with Sweet Potatoes and Stuff

So as I mentioned in the last post, I’m doing the whole pick-yo’-ass-up-off-the-ground thing that follows a period of not-so-great physical and mental health.

Having been freakin’ miserable for a while, I decided at the start of this month to try to approach things a little differently. I decided to try thinking of food not just as sustenance or a mood-flattener, but as a kind of medicine.

This, in theory, is ok – but in practice, it seems kinda cheesy. I put the hashtag #healingwithfood on an Instagram post and then almost deleted the entire post, because… Well, it’s corny. I’m British. I can’t.

But my doc had told me I’ve got some kind of underlying issue that’s making my immune system go haywire, not helped by the fact that I am The Worst Coeliac Of All Time – which in turn may have been contributing to the fact that I’ve been suffering with the kind of low mood that makes the thought of getting out of bed in the morning seem about as doable as climbing Mt. Everest in a bikini, in a blizzard, with a downright furious and somewhat overweight Great Dane strapped to my back.

(Still bad with metaphors, y’all. Some things never change.)

So I did some research.

Unfortunately, everything I read/watched/listened to on the subject was written with in a way that made me all but cringe myself inside out with over-the-top enthusiasm and a mildly embarrassing cure-all approach – so I decided to take myself shopping, without thinking too much about what I’d read – but with the sole purpose of buying food that I knew would make me feel good.

No plan, no rules, no bans on anything in particular – just food that, when I looked at it, made my body go “yuh-huh – that’ll be nice.”

I imagine it’ll come as a surprise to precisely no-one that by the time I got to the checkout, I had a basket full of fresh fish, meats, avocados, mangoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and a whole bunch of other things my body was apparently after. I am not saying there’s anything new in the fact that bodies like delicious, nutrient-rich foods. This ain’t news.

Almost two weeks later, however, and I’ll admit – even as the ol’ clean eatin’, gym-goin’, fat-girl-representin’ blogger I’d very nearly forgotten I was – I’m surprised at how much better I feel. I have less pain and more energy. No migraines. No nausea.

And also, my skin and hair are lookin’ healthier than they have in ages. I am practically Beyoncé with the hairflips and glow right now.

The big change, however, has happened in my head.

I can confidently say that, in my experience, having had five knee surgeries, severe obesity, a not-all-that-mild addiction to prescription painkillers, and various other physical illnesses in my time, that nothing has knocked me for six quite like a period of real, dark, long-lasting depression. In my experience – and it’s different for everyone, obviously – it’s been like having all reason and sense and logic sucked out of me, in favour of an overwhelmingly self-destructive and quite frankly, kinda bitter mood, on a near constant basis. For months.

The upshot of that is that this last few weeks – since I made the decision to make some kind of peace with my body, which itself is a sign things were getting better – have been like coming up for air. I had completely forgotten what it was like to be me, and the relief of remembering – of that awesome life I had, of fitness, and health, and downright joy in things like a sunny autumn morning – has been hands-down one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

And that makes me think there’s something in this whole food-as-medicine thing. I mean, obviously there is. But, y’know, more so than before.

Now, let me be clear: I am not for a moment suggesting that you abandon or ignore any medical advice given to you in favour of sweet potatoes and salmon. If you’re on medication (which I’ve certainly been in the past), don’t change that without a doctor’s advice. You know this.

But I do think – more so than ever before – that supporting your body with food that you enjoy, and that does you good, can have a profound effect on how well you are, both physically and mentally.

The reasons for this are twofold. First up, good food = good nutrition = happy body, and blah blah blah. I’m not going to bang on too much about that, because it’s been said repeatedly before.

More than that, though, it’s a mindfulness thing. Mindful shopping, mindful cooking, mindful eating – regardless of what you’re eating, even (and especially) if it’s cake – is a form of control that, when you’re suffering with the chronic, painful blues, can seem almost impossible… But which, if you can make it work, can give you something of yourself back from the apathetic and downright miserable ol’ black dog that’s gnawing at your coat tails.

They might sound like small, even obvious, things, but trust me: when you’re depressed, stuff like this is the Big Fight. It’s hard. But even attempting to do it is a hella brave, hard-as-nails kind of thing to do (even if I do say so myself.)

I know what your big question will be here: aside from sweet potatoes (gawd, woman, stop going on about sweet potatoes) – what did I eat? What’s the miracle cure?

And quite frankly, I’m kinda loathe to answer that.

Because there is so much conflicting information out there already. I did some research and discovered I should go vegan, go paleo, quit carbs, eat more carbs, juice, avoid juices, and… Yeah. You get the picture. Not one person needs me to put another whole bunch of ideas based purely on my own personal experiences and no scientific evidence out there, because the internet is full of it, and a lot of it is… Fluff.

Not just fluff, in fact, but kind of mean, even if written with the best of intentions. To my mind, the worst thing you could say to someone who’s struggling to even get out of bed in the morning is that they’ve gotta follow some kind of ludicrously strict, complicated, rule-ridden diet that’s going to put a bunch of additional pressure on them.

What I will say, though, is that I’m currently eating real foods, most of which I’m preparing myself, when I want them (like that burger at the top – which was one of the best things I’ve ever made.)

I’m listening to my body. I’m being mindful. And it’s helping. I’m also not ruling out cake, because I know there will also be times when cake is going to give my mindful self actual honest-to-god joy.

What I’m getting at here – and what I guess I’ve been getting at since I started this blog in 2012, even if I did kinda forget it for the last few months – is that you know your body better than anyone else. You know what makes you feel good. And making the decision to listen to that, even when things are about as bleak as they can get, is one of the bravest things you can do.

So, the conclusion of this tale.

First up: if you’re struggling at the moment – if things are dark, or bleak, or grim, or any of the other words I’d have used to describe my recent mental state – it will get better. Things will improve.

But also, believe in the little things you can do to help yourself.

Even if that’s just making one meal that your body craves, buying some fresh fruit, even taking a couple of steps out the door when you really, really don’t want to – these things, cumulatively, will make a difference, because they’ll show you exactly what you’re capable of.

And trust me: you’re capable of pretty much anything.

So, godspeed team – and if you’re in the dark right now, I wish you all the best of luck.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: or, Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

Don’t Call It A Comeback: or, Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

(See that? Two nineties R&B/hip-hop references in one blog title. Anyway…) Picture the scene: me, with a sick bug. Me, feeling really sorry for myself, lying on the bathroom floor, trying my level best not to die (or at least tweet what I’d like inscribed on […]

When It Comes to Health, Who The Hell Do You Trust?

When It Comes to Health, Who The Hell Do You Trust?

Up until a couple o’weeks ago, I’d never heard of the Food Babe. But I’ve been watching the recent spat between she and another blogger, Science Babe, with interest – not least because I bloody love watching good ol’ fight for exactly the same reason I enjoy […]

In Which Our Heroine Has a Revelation or Two

In Which Our Heroine Has a Revelation or Two

It’s been a while, huh?

I’d like to say I’ve been away because I’ve been on a rollercoaster of endless fun stuff, but if I’m totally honest, it’s been a weird few months. A weird year, in fact.

Y’all might remember last year, when I ran the Bupa 10k in May – resulting in a stress fracture in my foot. And then, in August, I ended up in the hospital after a weird heart thing that meant I had to take a break from exercise for a couple o’months.

What you won’t remember (’cause I didn’t write about it) was that, over Christmas, I got a bit blue – through a combination of burning the candle at both ends on a few projects both at and outside of work, the absence of regular exercise in my life, repeated bouts of ill health, and the general negative feeling that can only follow a year that was mediocre at best.

So, I booked a holiday. A solo holiday, to a spa in Marrakech. It might’ve eaten up all my hard-earned bonus for the year, but hell, it was my first holiday since 2010 – and the only thing I could imagine helping me out was getting as far away from my regular life as possible for a lil’ bit.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I have incredible friends and family, I love my job, and objectively, I have nothing to complain about. But when you’re depressed – and I’d say, lookin’ back, that was probably the appropriate word for where I found myself for a pretty substantial part of 2014 – none of that really makes a difference.

You get through, or you do your best to; and that’s why I wound down pretty much everything outside of work. I stopped writing – I pretty much stopped tweeting, even. I did the bare minimum – I’d get up, drag my butt to work, and then go home and go straight to bed.  At weekends, I’d do all of nothing – just eat, sleep, and repeat.

February rolled around, and come the 20th, I was on a plane to Marrakech, to literally get away from it all. I had a half-bottle of champagne on the flight at 6:30am, because I was on holiday, and I’d be damned if I didn’t make the very most of it.

And trust me – it was heaven. Marrakech, the hotel, hell, the waiters – all gorgeous. Exactly what I needed. For about five days.

After that time, though, I found myself starting to realise that the whole “grass is greener” schtick?

Turns out it’s true.

A world of glorious sunshine, all-you-can-eat (and drink), regular massages, no schedule, and no demands on my time was exactly what I thought I’d want on a permanent basis – and yet, after five days… I missed my life. My crazy-busy, often stressful, regularly tiring life that I was 99.9% certain I was fed up of… Was exactly where I wanted to be.

Now, I’m not suggesting y’all take a solo holiday – because I know I’m really, ridiculously lucky to finally be in a position where I can afford one (and trust me, it wasn’t without significant “should I actually spend this money?” deliberation… A girl’s still gotta hustle, if you know what I mean).

You don’t need to do that to think about all the things you love about your life, because let me tell you: I got on a plane and went all the way to another continent, only to realise that all the stuff I really wanted was right here at home. When it comes down to it, I’d wager that there’s a strong possibility you’d find the same.

So that’s revelation no. 1.

For no. 2, I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I spent quite a lot of last year unwell – and, for various reasons, not able or allowed to exercise. Y’all know exercise for me is a form of therapy – so it doesn’t take a genius to see how physical and emotional well-being for me are totally linked.

Even for a badass fitness blogger like m’self, it’s ridiculously easy to fall out of good habits. The treadmill, for me, is the absolute cornerstone of my healthy lifestyle. Without exercise, I struggle to motivate myself to eat well; without eating well, I struggle to motivate myself to prevent one glass of wine from turning into a weekend-long party; and with a hangover, I struggle to motivate myself to do… Well, anything.

So being banned from exercise for a big part of last year threw everything else outta the window.

This, from a woman who oughta know better: you never, ever, really know better. And even when you do, it’s hella easy not to listen to your own good advice.

Now, I’m still having to be careful about a dodgy knee, and I know I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon – but I can get back on that treadmill and carefully put one foot in front of the other. I may not be takin’ on any Olympic weight lifters, but I can take some lil’ dumbbells and start working those muscles again. I might not be as fit or good as I was a year ago, but I’m still me – and I can go out and kick butt if I decide that’s what I want to do.

(Clue: it is.)

Having good health out of my life for a while has really brought home the fact that being able to exercise, and having the tools at your disposal to be a moderately well person, whether that’s just access to a gym, a yoga mat, or a decent food shop – that’s a privilege. It’s one of life’s great joys (even if it doesn’t feel that way when you’re dragging your tired ass there after a long day at work) – and the decision to make the most of that is one of the best, and sometimes hardest, things you can do.

What I’m getting at, I guess, is that life sometimes falls apart a bit, and it can seem near enough impossible to put it back together. Be kind to yourself when this happens, and do exactly what you need to do to get through it. I’m very lucky to have excellent friends and family that gave me that advice, even when I couldn’t imagine it being true.

Because even if there are days, weeks, even months where you don’t feel up to it, and where the world doesn’t seem to be working in your favour, eventually there will come a time where the sky’s a lil’ brighter, and the path to your own version of good stuff suddenly seems possible again.

At that point, you’ll suddenly find the things you love in life – for me, that’s having a job that’s as heart-glowingly rewarding as it is demanding, and friends and family that I love in the smooshy, come-‘ere-you-big-lug kinda way – and be mindful of them. You’ll remember that your life choices got you where you are, and you’ll be aware of the reasons you made those choices in the first place – and you’ll have clarity on the things you can change, and the steps you can take to move on.

Trust a girl who knows: it’s not always easy, and life does get in the way.

But the upside of darkness is that it makes light magical – and when that light comes, hell… It’s a beautiful thing.

Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Diet in January; or, 30 Days of Good Stuff is Back (Again!)

Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Diet in January; or, 30 Days of Good Stuff is Back (Again!)

Damn it, I  freakin’ love Christmas. I love the music, I love the twinkly lights, I love time spent with friends and family… And I really, really love the food and drink. My Mum’s cooking is better than anyone else’s (sorry ’bout it – there’s […]

This is Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read; or, Cease and Desist, Asshats

This is Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read; or, Cease and Desist, Asshats

Following yesterday’s post about why it’s a good idea to be critical around supposedly body-positive advertising and the like, I awoke on this fine morning to find the following photo sent to me by my very lovely Twitter follower: Apparently, I’m so savvy I discovered […]

Not At All Surprising Study Shows Fat Shaming is Bad; or, You Too Can Fight Shame Culture

Not At All Surprising Study Shows Fat Shaming is Bad; or, You Too Can Fight Shame Culture

Now, I’m not inclined to say “I told you so.”

Actually, that’s a load of crap. I’m definitely going to say I told you so, because I did: here, and here, and here (and various other places – but hell, I’ve made my point. Consider me done.)

Yesterday, a University College London study published in the journal Obesity suggested that “fat shaming doesn’t encourage weight loss.”

To let the experts explain, Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) said “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain.

“Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.”

Hell – I know I’m not the only person who’s been told I’m fat/ugly/somehow not good enough and responded by spending the evening in the company of my good friends Ben and Jerry. For me, personally, every time I’d have an insult thrown at me – and bearing in mind I worked in customer service on the high street for 9 years, was depressingly often – my instinctive reaction would be one of two things.

More often than not, I’d just go straight for the inevitable – taking a tour around the supermarket to pick up a bag of cookies, a sandwich, some sweets, ice cream, hell – whatever I thought would numb it for that day.

But sometimes, I’d decide “I’m not going to be a fat girl any more,” and starve myself for a couple o’days.

Eventually, I’d go crazy with hunger and end up – you guessed it – back in the supermarket with a basket of carbs. Either way, it’s destructive, unhealthy, and pretty much guarantees weight gain, in the end.

And that’s not all. The doc continues: “Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it.”

Again, I’m talking from experience here. I lived across the road from my gym for three whole months before eventually wandering in, because I figured I’d be laughed out of there quicker than you can say “I need help.” Although for what it’s worth, in four years of being resident in various gyms, never have I experienced anyone calling me fat whilst exercising – presumably because hell, what are they going to say? “Get some exercise, fatty”? Shhh. I’m on it.

Now, I’m totally behind this study. I’m all for things about body shaming being proven by science, because it makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about, and gives me numbers and studies to refer people to when pulling ’em up on bad behaviour. But let’s face it – it’s not a shocker.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with a soul that saying something mean to someone is likely to make them miserable – and that comfort comes in many forms, one of which is food. But I think it’s a tad narrow to say fat shaming is a free-standing issue, all by itself.

We live in a culture that’s relentlessly, ruthlessly focused on how women (and men) look. We judge health, attractiveness and, often, ability, on looks alone – with fat/thin being just one dichotomy on which we figure out a person’s value. We’re constantly in pursuit of perfection, a Photoshopped ideal that just doesn’t exist in the real world – and we beat ourselves and each other down when we fall short. That’s the world we’re in.

This study suggests that “everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment” – but personally, I think that’s only one part of the wider issue. What we really need to do is move away from shaming on a wider scale, and stop perpetuating the myth that how you look is what defines you.

But that’s not something that other people can change. It’s something every last one of us needs to take responsibility for, by thinking about what you say. We may never eradicate the Samantha Bricks, Linda Kelseys, and Katie Hopkinses (who I’m pretty sure the Daily Mail are incubating in some kind of evil laboratory); and women’s mags will no doubt continue to perpetuate endless bitchy comments (although I will continue to cross them out like so.)

But we can make the decision not to perpetuate it in our own lives. We can decide not to snark, or bitch, or shame – and we can make the choice to be one of those people who has a positive impact on the way other people feel about ourselves.

That kind of attitude has a knock-on effect on the way you feel about yourself, because when you see shame culture and negativity as the shallow, flimsy, bullsh*t construct that it is – and when you choose not to engage with it in your relationships with other people – it becomes much easier to negate it in your own life.

When you do that, it’s easier to place value on your own body for how it feels, rather than how it looks. For what it can do, rather than what it weighs; for the value it really has, rather than the semblance of value shame culture places on it.

The impact of that is twofold.

Firstly, you’ll feel better about yourself generally. You’ll stop internalising shame, and your internal monologue will move from one of negativity, to one that’s generally pretty positive.

And secondly, if you’re looking at your body as something with a real worth for you, and you alone, it’s easier to make healthy, positive decisions. To make good choices, to choose to eat real food because it makes you feel great, and to exercise because it brings you joy. Good health, as a reward in itself, will follow, and even if you don’t achieve the desperately impossible ideal of perfection – even if, like me, you find yourself stretch marked and saggy (but still god damn gorgeous) – you’ll have that happiness and security deep down that makes your experience of living a positive one.

It won’t solve the problem entirely – up against the junk food industry, the media, and the fact that some people are, and always will be, asshats, shaming will continue to happen.

But hell – fight the good fight. Do the good thing. Fight shaming, fat or otherwise, by being one of the awesome people who takes responsibility for it. Be a person that lives a good life that results in good health – and help others in the process.

Vive la god damn revolution, and thanks to science for giving me the opportunity to say…

Just kidding. Y’all know I’m right.

A Trip to the Hospital; or, a Lesson in Respecting My Elders

A Trip to the Hospital; or, a Lesson in Respecting My Elders

A week or so ago, thanks to some smooth moves (read: a very embarrassing public fainting situation) on my part – I found myself stuck, for a couple of days, in hospital. Yep – your resident health blogger got stuck in a hospital ward, feeling very […]

It’s Not Your Fault: Depression, Kindness, and the Death of a Funny Man

It’s Not Your Fault: Depression, Kindness, and the Death of a Funny Man

I’m not normally one for eulogising a celebrity death. I find it all a bit awkward, if I’m honest – so for fear of saying the wrong thing, I tend to stick to nothing. Robin Williams, though? That damn near broke my heart. It’s rare […]

Calling a Fat Girl a Fat Girl; or, Why Don’t You Come Over Here and Say That?

Calling a Fat Girl a Fat Girl; or, Why Don’t You Come Over Here and Say That?

Is that headline a tad too aggressive?

Screw it. Let’s do this.

A week or so ago, the Daily Mail published another of their regular “Let’s Give an Offensive Person a Platform for their Horrible Opinion” piece – this time by a woman I hadn’t encountered before, called Linda Kelsey, who proudly took the opportunity to display her credentials (?) with the passion and vigour of someone who’s just realised how ridiculously fun being a troll can be.

The piece was entitled “Why are today’s young women so unashamed about being fat? Horrified by the rolls of flesh she’s witnessed on show this summer, Linda Kelsey takes no prisoners.”

She’s horrified. Poor Linda.

In short, her piece was about obesity, and the fact that if you’re fat, you should probably be miserable. She pointed out an example of a bunch of young girls heading on holiday, who had the audacity to be having fun, despite being – brace yourselves – a bit fat.

Linda, understandably, was shocked at what she saw – presumably, she’d been under the impression that fat people a) don’t have fun, except when they’re a token fat caricature on TV, and b) shouldn’t have fun in summer, because it’s inconsiderate to those who have to witness such a display.

I hate to break it to you, Linda – but the internet thinks you’re an asshat.

While my Twitter timeline seemed to erupt into endless comments about her own appearance – I’m not going to go down that road, tempting as it may be. I mean, I think her opinions are hideous, and wrong – but I don’t believe two wrongs make a right. I don’t believe tearing her apart because she, also, doesn’t look like the media ideal, will do anyone any good here.

(That said, Linda – if you’d like to see what I do think of people like you, please click here for an example from last year. Although be warned – my body’s on there, and you’re likely to find it horrifying. And so we’re clear, although I’m not going to say anything about your appearance, I reserve every right to pull out any other insult I choose, because I can.)

Anyway – Linda is a gross example of body shaming in the media – but to her credit, at least she’s up front about the fact that she’s a fat-shaming turd trumpet. What you see is what you get, with Linda – and from reading her article, I see a click-baiting grinch with a chip on her shoulder and an axe to grind.


Anyway, what with it being summer time, the backing band to Linda’s up-front body shaming comes in the form of the usual suspects – the vile, fundamentally offensive women’s magazines like Reveal, Now, and Heat – who spend every summer comparing ‘beach bodies,’ using words like ‘thinspiration,’ and (I kid you not) ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ to describe women who are just trying to have a nice time on their jollies. Women who, I might add, have the ‘enviable’ bodies that they’re supposed to ‘flaunt provocatively’ on the beach, according to the aforementioned source of all that is shaming, the Daily Mail.

Turns out, as women – we can’t win.

There is no perfect body, because some asshat with a long-lens camera and a poor grasp of the concept of proof-reading may be lurking in the bushes, waiting for you to bend in an unflattering way – and there’s no acceptable way to have fun if you’re overweight, because there’s always the risk of a nearby columnist with a stick up her arse waiting for something new to be offended by.

But why? Why is this kind of stranger-shaming acceptable, even in magazines and newspapers with circulation figures in the millions?

I mean – I’m a fat girl. And I’ve met, spoken to, and had genuinely a-ok conversations with journalists from across the board, both online and face-to-face – and as far as I’m aware, nobody’s yet come out and called me a repulsive fatty with a hideous bikini body. Yet.

(Just so we’re clear – I don’t think that about myself. I don’t own a bikini, but hell, if I did – Beyoncé’d rapidly be outta business through my booty confidence alone.)

So if it’s not a conversation they’d have with someone face-to-face – what makes it OK to put it on paper?

Why is it acceptable to say cruel, offensive things about people you don’t know, just for clicks? And at what point do you start putting one of these articles together without thinking ‘wait a minute – is this hurtful?’ Because hell, if you’re putting things out there without considering the implications – particularly if you’re doing it in the faux-concerned sneering way so common in discussions around obesity and women’s bodies – then you’re not a journalist. You’re a troll.

And nowhere is that clearer than in Linda Kelsey’s Daily Mail piece, in which she couches being downright offensive with a sprinkling of facts.

“The proportion of overweight and obese women has increased by 10  per cent in less than a decade,” she writes, alongside “bulging bellies and billowing pillows of back and shoulder stuffing, punctured by flabby arms and lardy legs that no amount of fake-tan could disguise.”

“Type 2 diabetes, linked to being overweight, is on the increase and more children are suffering from it,” she says, a couple of paragraphs after her nasty-ass descriptions of “young fatties confidently flashing their flesh.”

According to Linda, there isn’t a cross-over with women struggling with ‘real’ eating disorders like anorexia, and women who engage in disordered eating habits which cause them to be overweight. By the same token, being both fat and happy is a crime – and presumably, that one time when Linda saw them in the airport is wholly representative of the way these women feel about themselves all the time, making them serial offenders against the Fat Girl Acceptability Code.

It’s just opinion dressed up as journalism – and it’s a big, ugly example of what’s become acceptable in a world of body shaming that completely misunderstands what the human body does.

Because it changes. Bodies fluctuate between different weights, and how you feel about your body will change from day to day. Saying that fat people are all the same, all the time, is like saying blondes are dumb, buying into bullshit stereotypes that get nobody anywhere.

And not only that – but it shows a god damned lack of empathy and human understanding, which – in a world where that’s sorely lacking anyway, given the amount of times I’ve seen dead children on the news over the last few weeks – means you need to do some thinking about what’s really worth writing about.

It seems to me that one of the great truths of life is thus: be kind to people, even if you don’t know them.

You’ve only got so much time on this planet to do something worthwhile – and if the sum of your achievements is getting a rise out of someone like me, or a stranger you’ll never get to meet, by writing hurtful, nasty diatribes that stereotype and shame – then I’d say your time’s been sorely wasted. If you’ve got the capacity to do good, and make positive things happen, even if that’s just paying someone a compliment, or opening a door, or just plain being patient – why would you do anything else?

In other words: stop shaming. Be nice. Do good things, and leave the world a lil’ nicer than you found it.

‘Cause I can absolutely guarantee you’ll feel better for it. Even you, Linda.

Recovery; or, Harder Than You Think

Recovery; or, Harder Than You Think

I know, I know. I’ve been off the radar for a solid month, following the overwhelming high of running my very first 10k at the end of May. Man, that was a good day. A really good day. And I don’t regret it, even though […]

How You, Too, Can Be Just Like Jessica Ennis-Hill (No, Really)

How You, Too, Can Be Just Like Jessica Ennis-Hill (No, Really)

Last week, I had the huge, overwhelming privilege of meeting the one and only Jessica Ennis-Hill – Olympic gold medallist, world champion athlete, and one of my personal heroes, not just for her incredible feats of athletic performance, but her all-round excellent attitude to body […]

The Things We Tell Our Girls

The Things We Tell Our Girls

I was really lucky growing up.

My parents were always focused on our learning, our happiness and on making ourselves the best we could be – and we had plenty of opportunities to do whatever we wanted. I had violin lessons, but was terrible at sports; my sister hated to be taught music, but had an incredible talent for teaching herself to play. We were really lucky.

So for most of my life, I was pretty comfortably shielded from a lot of bullshit. I mean, I was a fat girl, with braces, spots and bad hair – so moving schools wasn’t exactly easy, and I didn’t have all that many friends. But generally, I didn’t doubt that I could do anything, and it never really occurred to me that I’d be any worse off as a result of my gender – because, in my Dad’s words, “there’s no reason my daughters shouldn’t have the same opportunities as someone else’s sons.”

(Yes, my Dad is awesome.)

So, having come to feminism pretty late – and only, really, because my body had changed so much as to make certain men treat me differently thanks to being more “conventionally” attractive – I was a tad behind on the whole issue of privilege, and the spectrum of shame, abuse and misogyny that surrounds online conversations today.

This week, however, the varying degrees of these things have been illustrated almost in order across my various online timelines.

There’s been the usual fare: models photoshopped out of all reality; and the Daily Mail, Now Magazine, and Perez Hilton all continuing to snark, because that’s what they do. Even the broadsheets got involved in the language of shame – with a female opera singer described as “unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing” by the Times, “dumpy” by the Independent and the Telegraph and “chubby” by the Financial Times.

Just concern, gossip, and critique, right? ‘Fair game,’ right?

Unfortunately, this week, those things – those instances of shaming, of snarking, and of downright abuse that consistently piss me off – fell at the lighter, gentler, and more innocuous end of the spectrum.

Somewhere in the middle, there lay the continuous stream of abuse that women face online. My amazing literary agent and good friend Juliet, for instance, faced this:

And at the time of writing, despite several reports to Twitter, the tweet in question still stands – as do thousands of others, racking up wherever women say something ‘unacceptable’ to misogynistic ears. I mean, hell – I get death threats at least a couple of times a week thanks to the fact that back in January, I said something to the effect that internet trolls are moronic asshats with no understanding of what it means to be a person.

As a vaguely outspoken woman online, that’s my normal. I have come to accept it as ‘a thing I have to put up with.’

And the extreme?

That came in the form of a gunman who murdered six people because he couldn’t find a woman to have sex with him. A man whose ego was bruised by rejection, and whose name I won’t repeat here, because he deserves forgetting. This was a man who came to the conclusion that:

“women are flawed. There is something mentally wrong with the way their brains are wired, as if they haven’t evolved from animal-like thinking. They are incapable of reason or thinking rationally. They are like animals, completely controlled by their primal, depraved emotions and impulses. That is why they are attracted to barbaric, animal-like men. They are beasts themselves. Beasts should not be able to have rights in a civilized society.”

This is misogyny, pure and simple. As is this, via @MyAvonHeart:

Quotes - via MyAvonHeart

There is no way – no way – that this should be acceptable thinking or behaviour, whether on or offline. But it’s the logical conclusion of a cultural discourse which is consistently, violently abusive, shaming and demeaning to women. It’s a language we use around women now, and one which will continue to be spoken to our future girls if we don’t choose to change it in this crucial moment.

In short, it’s not ‘just a thing we should put up with.’

For a long time, it took me a long time to want to use the word “misogyny” for fear of causing offence, or of opening myself up to abuse or the “not all men” retorts. Being British, I’m allowing for a lil’ bit of that fear of offence coming as a result of that – but really, it’s entrenched in the way we talk about gendered positions online.

In fact, misogyny and shame culture go hand in hand, because they both perpetuate an idea that women have to look and behave a certain way – to perform a certain role – in order to play their part in society. It’s misogyny that makes rapists think their actions are justified, and shame culture that blames the victim. It’s misogyny that calls women sluts, and demeans them for ugliness – and shame culture that makes young women feel they have to spend hours worrying about how they look, and whether it’s attractive.

We have to make changes across the scope of our experience, and our interactions with each other, in order to make any progress whatsoever.

Men: when we talk about instances of misogyny – assume the “not all men” is implicit. Take it as read. Because I, for one, know that the people committing abuses of any size are the minority – but they do exist, and when we don’t talk about them for fear of causing offence, we’re only giving them more power.

And when we talk about personal instances of shame, or widespread cultural myths, these things are worth calling out for what they are – damaging, cruel bullshit with no place in a society of people who really ought to know better.

Because this is the environment we’re creating for them, and the world we’ll leave behind. This is something we can – and should – be changing, with every choice of words or every call-out of sexism, misogyny, shaming or abuse both online and offline.

We’re better than narrow definitions, simple categorisations and easy targets – but some things are wrong in black and white. In a week where we’ve seen every instance of cruelty, we have to decide, now, to change our words, our thoughts, and our actions – so that we can leave a better language for our girls.

The Journey; or, That Time I Ran 10k and Learned an Important Thing About Living

The Journey; or, That Time I Ran 10k and Learned an Important Thing About Living

I’m an emotional wreck. And I have been for a solid 24 hours, following the amazing Bupa 10k yesterday, which I ran for my favourite charity, the Willow Foundation – who give special days to young adults suffering from serious or terminal illnesses. Y’all know […]

Meal Plan, Round 2: The Tricked Out Clean Eatin’ Ass Kickin’ Edition

Meal Plan, Round 2: The Tricked Out Clean Eatin’ Ass Kickin’ Edition

Due to very popular demand, I’m delighted to share a brand new version of the Meal Plan with y’all – hoorah! This follows me doing a whole bunch of studying on the personal training and nutrition front – with feedback from some of my current […]

Recipe: The Easiest Egg Muffins You’ll Ever Make

Recipe: The Easiest Egg Muffins You’ll Ever Make

I posted this photo on Twitter earlier, and had a few requests for the recipe – presumably because they just look SO DAMNED CUTE.

They really are the easiest breakfast around (and I’m pretty sure the polka dot cases are at least 30% of the reason they’re so adorable) – so here’s the recipe. This makes 6:

1/2 a large Onion
1/2 tsp Very Lazy chopped garlic (although obviously fresh garlic would be fine, too)
1/3 a strong Red Chilli (optional)
1/2 Handful of Frozen Chopped Carrots
1/2 Handful of Frozen Petits Pois
1/2 Handful of Frozen Sweetcorn
8 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
4-5 leaves of Fresh Basil
1 tsp Total Greek Yogurt
6 medium Eggs

I’m almost embarrassed at how little effort went into these, but:

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, or Gas Mark 4.

Fry up the onion, garlic and chilli in a tsp of coconut or olive oil (I don’t have much of a preference – but I’m working my way through a huge vat of coconut oil, so that’s what I used.) Once they’re soft, add in the carrots, peas and sweetcorn, and simmer until they’re cooked through.

Throw the basil and tomatoes into the pan and heat until soft, then take them off the hob and leave to cool for a few minutes.

While they’re cooling, break the eggs into a jug, throw in the Greek yogurt and mix. Don’t worry about getting the lumps out – just give ’em a good stir with a fork until the eggs are beaten.

Set up your polka dot muffin cups (they must be polka dot) into an appropriate tray. Fill them half way with the egg mixture, and then distribute your veggies across the batch. Top with the rest of the egg mixture until the cups are very nearly full (just leave a tiny bit of space as they will expand when heating.)

Pop them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, regularly piercing with a fork to prevent them bursting and to check the texture. You’ll be able to tell when they’re cooked when they don’t leak any more liquid, and when they feel relatively solid on the bottom.

Leave to cool for a few minutes – and then enjoy for breakfast. I suggest a little avocado, and maybe some rye toast if you’re extra hungry.

Bon appétit!


Making Every Day Special: The Year of New Things, Part II

Making Every Day Special: The Year of New Things, Part II

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I don’t get tired of the fact I’m able to walk these days. I mean, don’t get me wrong – there are definitely days when I’m not exactly mindful. I don’t believe there’s anyone in […]

Anatomy of a Shame Campaign; or, Weight Watchers, You Suck

Anatomy of a Shame Campaign; or, Weight Watchers, You Suck

Ah, Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers, Weight Watchers, Weight Watchers. Your ex-Finance Director said your customers were as likely to succeed as they were to win the lottery. One of your original spokeswomen, Bernice Weston, said “when it comes to food, fat people are basically very stupid.” […]