Today I wanted to talk a little about body acceptance, and body positivity...it's a broad subject and there's loads I want to say but for today I'm going to keep it simple, a bit of a mind dump - on how I'm feeling currently about my body, and what I've been doing to improve my confidence, and feel more positive about what I see in the mirror.
Firstly, a little back story for those who aren't familiar with my history. All through my childhood I was overweight - food was always a comfort, a celebration, a treat, a consolation: whatever emotion I was feeling, food was my crutch. In my teens and for most of my twenties, I weighed around 17 stone, and wore a UK size 20. I felt unfit, self conscious and was obsessed with food, portion size and did little exercise. On my exterior I was confident - your token funny fat girl; an actress, a performer, but inside I was far from confident, I would berate myself for my appearance, my weight, the lumps and bumps, and pretty much without exception I hated everything I wore. I felt quite out of control and the negativity swamped me on a daily basis.
Liam and I in 2010
Skip forward a few years to my late twenties - and I managed to drop a few stones in time for my wedding day - I felt a lot better, much fitter and healthier, happier and more confident - and I had got down to a UK size 16 - the smallest I'd ever been as an adult. Then I suffered a miscarriage on my honeymoon, and I turned to food once more - piling on a stone or so, before finally falling pregnant with my son Bert, who is now 5.
On our wedding day
Pregnant with Bert in 2013
A few months (yes, really) after Bert was born.
After Bert was born, I found I had ballooned back up to 17 stone, and was again feeling lethargic, unhealthy and very unhappy about my body. My husband Liam had also piled on a lot of weight, so together we embarked on a massive life overhaul - calorie counting every mouthful of food, learning about portion control, healthy choices, adding in exercise to our daily routine, and arming ourselves with a whole new repertoire of healthy from scratch recipes. Over the course of 2.5 years we shed over 11 stone between us (6st 9lbs from me alone) and I slimmed down to 10 st 6lbs and a small UK size 12.
At my lowest weight in April 2015
11 stone shifted and feeling great!
I maintained that lowest weight for a few weeks, and then found my 'happy weight' at around 11 stone - although this might be a big weight for some, for me I felt confident, happy, sexy, curvy and I fitted perfectly into my new size 12 wardrobe. A few months later I fell pregnant with my daughter Connie, who is now 2. Throughout that pregnancy I gained just over two stones - and two years later, I still haven't shifted them!
That's not to say I haven't tried to shift them - I've been making a consistent effort to stay on track with my food and exercise, I've been mostly eating well and keeping up my twice weekly gym sessions, I've been fitting in lots of power walks with my mummy friends and I have worked hard at keeping my portions controlled. I still mostly cook great food from scratch - but I haven't been calorie counting, I decided to stop in a bid to step away from that obsessive way of controlling food, and trying to apply what I learnt through those two years of obsessive calorie counting to everyday life, without crunching the numbers.
I have been enjoying treats, snacks and 'little extras' frequently enough that although I haven't piled on any more weight since Connie's birth, I haven't lost any either. It's frustrating, but I know why and I know if I pushed harder, cut the frequency of snacks and treats, that it would start to come off. I've moved up a dress size to a size 14, although I can still wear a fair amount of my size 12 wardrobe too, but my goal is to get back down to my happy weight, where I can confidently fit back into 100% of wardrobe of lovely clothes, and feel my healthiest/happiest and most confident - it also puts me at a much healthier BMI, which although many don't agree with, is something medical professionals still use - and 11st is a weight I have been at before and I know 'works' for me.
That being said, I don't hate what I see in the mirror anymore, which means that desperation and determination I used to feel when I looked at my body is nowhere near as strong - perhaps another reason why the weight isn't coming off like it did previously? I am slowly learning to embrace, accept and be more positive about my changing body. Over the years it's been fat, thin, birthed two babies, miscarried a very wanted baby, had broken bones, scars, tiger stripes, and a little loose skin from weight loss. I have also suffered injuries that have over the years really affected how I exercise and what I am capable of, I had a bad back injury back in 2012 (3 slipped discs) which is an ongoing issue I deal with still to this day, and more recently, in January this year I injured my shoulder. This has put a dampener on a lot of my weight-based exercise and training, and also the regular swimming I was doing, but it is slowly improving with physiotherapy and a rest from lifting weights in the gym and swimming for a few months (boo!!!). Our bodies are a bloody marvel really - and we are all far too quick to flog them to death with negativity - picking apart our reflections and focussing on every negative part we perceive.
Instead of fixating too much on numbers on the scale, I'm trying to focus on making healthy choices, exercising regularly and practising moderation in all things. I'm keeping an eye on the scale just once a month to ensure I'm moving in the right direction, and apart from that I'm trying to embrace my curves, accentuate my best-bits and celebrate how far I've come... I'm still a long way from my 17 stone/size 20 body, and for that I should be proud.
One of the best ways I've found to help boost my confidence when I'm struggling is to dress in something that makes me feel great - for me that is usually something that fits really well, flatters my curves and cinches me in at the waist, which is my smallest part.
Great swimwear can be particularly difficult to find for midsize women like me - I don't feel confident or supported in flimsy bikinis or one pieces without added boob support or tummy control - but I also don't fit into plus size swimwear which usually start the size above me at a size 16. So I was thrilled when UK Swimwear asked if they could send me one of their beautiful Skirtinis to try out.
They sent me their Gottex Profile Cruise Tutti Frutti Swimdress priced at £109.95 to try, and I was blown away but not only how beautiful it is, but how supportive and comfortable it is to wear, and how confident I felt in it.
Gottex Profile Cruise Tutti Frutti Swimdress £109.95
* Soft cups
* Loose fit skirt
* Tummy control
* Removable straps
Profile provides the most unbeatable sculpting technology in Gottex's range, and the Cruise collection is the pinnacle of luxury. Here they meet in a flattering and stunning piece of swimwear. This swimdress is a homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, with the bandeau and twist front, and the wavy skirt, all of which you might have seen a starlet from the '50s wear. But the outer skirt section is added over a tummy control swimsuit, as you can see from the sheer material that makes up the skirt. The result is a classic piece of swimwear fashion, and a figure sculpting interior part. This swimdress is soft cupped and has removable straps.
I wear a size 14 and found it true to size.
I love the shape of this swimming costume - the way the sheer material floats over your tummy and thighs, and the way it moves and sways with you as you move about. It feels very supportive of the boob area, even without the straps, and I had no issue keeping it up - I didn't need to keep pulling at it or readjusting it. I think the bust bandeau section is really pretty, I love the wave and bunching of the fabric as it sweeps across your chest, it's a lovely detail and makes it feel very feminine, and even quite sexy.
I teamed it with an old favourite beach cover up from New Look in a size 12, to add a pop of colour and some much needed warmth, as it was a pretty chilly day when we headed to our local splash park last week to celebrate my little boy's 5th birthday (which was when we took these photos).
It felt great to feel confident in my own skin, and not get bogged down worrying what people thought of me, or how I looked with more skin exposed than normal.
I think my age has a lot to do with my change in perspective when it come to my body image. Do I go around judging all and sundry on what they wear, how much they weigh or whether they have cellulite? Hell no! I'm too busy living my own life and worrying about what they think of me, it's so silly really! What has become of paramount importance as I've gotten older, and since I've become a mum, is being present in the moment, enjoying the little things - watching my kids splashing in the water, and running in to join them, rather than covering up and sitting it out in case someone was to see the rolls on my tummy or the dimples in my thighs.
Is this swimsuit magic? No. Do you absolutely need one in order to feel confident? NO! It's lovely and well made, a great fit and flattering - but it's got a hefty price tag too, and so it won't be within everyone's price range, but there will be a swimsuit, bikini, tankini, swimdress or skirtini out there which will flatter your shape (whatever that shape might be) and will make you feel fabulous - whether it's this one, or one that is more budget friendly - and it is worth shopping around until you find 'the one'.
So, the plan is to keep on keeping on - life is busy and crazy, and I've worked hard in the past three years to build my freelance business, which takes up a lot of my time and energy. As well as, of course, looking after both our brilliant kids (Connie full time/Bert goes to school) and I even attempt to find time to blog when I've get a moment too - so I don't have the luxury of time or the headspace available to obsess over my weight anymore, or to worry about how long it might take me to reach my goal, but as long as I'm taking small steps in the right direction health & fitness wise, then I'm happy!
I am so excited at the prospect of getting back into every item of clothing in my wardrobe, it is such a motivator for me. I'm also excited to improve even more on my fitness levels, challenge myself and build the strength back up in my slowly recovering shoulder. I can't tell you how thrilled I will be to get back to my brilliant personal training classes with my ace PT Matt.
In the meantime, I will not be berating myself for enjoying a treat here and there, I will not pick apart my reflection (especially in front of my children) I will celebrate my brilliant body, accentuate the bits of my body I love and flatter those bits that challenge my confidence. I will live life, and will not let my shape, weight, size, or perceived imperfections cut me off from embracing life.
I was gifted the above swimsuit in return for my honest opinion of it, which I have shared in the above post.