Have You Been Body-Shamed By The High Street?

Fashion, Uncategorized

Sifting through the racks in your favourite high street store, you feel that buzz of excitement at laying your hands on what appears to be the perfect garment. There’s an instant connection. It’s love at first sight. The elation, however, is short-lived – you get to the changing rooms only to discover that you can barely get the item over one limb. Yes, it is definitely your usual size, you’ve checked the label three times by this point. You wrestle with it for a bit before giving up, broken-hearted and half the woman you were when you walked in. I can assure you, you haven’t gained two stone over night, you are not fat, you are yet another shopper who has been body-shamed by the high street. It’s not you, it’s them.

As a human, who occasionally buys clothes, you’ll probably be familiar with the situation I am referring to and if you read the news or have a Facebook account, you’ll probably have heard of student, Ruth Clemens, who became a social media celebrity last week when her Facebook post to high street store H&M went viral. Ruth shared a photo of herself trying on a pair of supposedly size 16 jeans in the Manchester store, but despite only usually being a size 14, the photo clearly shows that the jeans barely make it over her hips. She posted the photo on the company’s Facebook page, alongside a strongly worded comment addressed to the store, bringing a number of issues to light, when she asks, “Am I too fat for your every day range?” and “Why are you making your jeans that are unrealistically small?”

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/student-slams-hm-sizes-jeans-11477647

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Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It seems that being body-shamed by the high street is a regular occurrence for women everywhere, as Ruth’s post was met with messages of support from high-street shoppers across the globe.

Hollie Wilson replied saying, “I’ve had the same problem. I am a size 10 (sometimes a 12 on the bottom, usually in Topshop) and couldn’t get their size 10.”

Emma Hall wrote, “I’ve had the same trouble in H&M. I’m a size 14-16 and can never find anything that fits. Their size 16 is like a size 10!! X.”

While Louise Fairbrass hit the nail on the head, writing, “So glad it’s not just me. I don’t ever buy bottoms from H&M as they are TINY sizes!!!!! It’s quite disheartening to fail fitting into a pair of trousers 2 sizes above what you normally wear. Such a shame H&M because some of your clothes are really nice….. i guess you only want single figure sizes wearing them?!”

I can wholly relate to these frustrations, as I’m sure many can. This post went viral just as I had returned from my own shopping trip, on which I found myself on the verge of tears in the changing rooms of Topshop, when the struggle to get a tank top (in my usual size 10) over my head left me in a rather compromising position. I will also admit to owning a pair of size 10 H&M jeans, which only make it out of the wardrobe on very slim days.

While I understand that sizing can vary depending on style, fabric and cut – the very excuse that H&M offered in their half-hearted apology to Ruth – it seems that this is an ongoing issue with certain stores, making their clothes in unrealistically small sizes. As the average women’s dress size in the UK is a 14, a hell of a lot of women are being persecuted, however unintentional it may be.

What saddens me is that it seems a lot of us have readily accepted the fact that in some stores, such as H&M (although they’re not alone in this,) the sizes are renowned for being too small and simply choose not to shop there. While some may think that this loss of custom is the comeuppance the store deserves, what I can’t help thinking is, why should we accept this? We should be able to enjoy the pleasure that shopping and clothes can bring, in any store, confident that when we head into the changing rooms with that great pair of jeans the sizing will be accurate and realistic. We shouldn’t have to forgo our favourite stores because the sizes are so ridiculously small. The high street is supposed to be the go-to place for real women of real dress sizes, affordable and accessible to all – sort it out please.

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Weight Is Just A Number

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No one likes stepping on the scales to be faced with the horrible reality that they probably ate too many slices of cake last week. The chances are you’ve had your suspicions about those extra couple of pounds for a while but have been in a firm state of denial with yourself. Finally, you pluck up the courage to see for certain and can deny it no longer – the numbers don’t lie after all. While to most, a little weight gain is a minor confidence blip, an inconvenience, for me it’s a minefield. No matter what size I am, I spend my life both dreading it and trying to avoid it, in equal measure.

So when I started to return to health after an illness that saw me shrink to just under 8 stone, the joy and relief of recovery was tainted by the fact that I would inevitably gain weight. I knew it was something that needed to happen – I was the thinnest I’ve ever been, even when in the throws of an eating disorder, I just wasn’t prepared for how horrific it would be when it started to become physically noticeable.

I didn’t notice for a while, I was too busy thinking about what I was going to eat next, high on the excitement of being able to enjoy food again and while I was aware that the food I was shovelling into me wasn’t particularly good for me, I was powerless to my appetite. White bread, smothered with Lurpak became the staple of my diet, I would go to bed dreaming about McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and my boyfriend watched in awe as I devoured sticky toffee puddings every weekend at dinner. Concerned by these new eating habits, I broached the subject with my dietician and of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. My body was starving. I should point out that by this point I had been ill for a considerable amount of time, struggling to eat barely anything most days and what I did manage to eat, my body wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from. It turns out the human body is a pretty intelligent organism and it knows what it needs. I was craving these calorific foods, high in fat and carbohydrates, because my body was severely lacking the nutrients that they provide. The dietician reassured me that once my health and weight began to return to normal these cravings would stop and my diet would stabilise and she was right. Now that my body is nourished again, the bizarre cravings have stopped and I’m back to eating the balanced diet I had before, I’m back to myself again.

What isn’t quite as simple however, is accepting myself. As much as I know that gaining weight is a good thing, I can’t help but be disgusted every time I look in the mirror. When I step on the scales and the dial inches up a few more notches, my heart sinks a little bit more. Each time I’m offered a well-meaning compliment along the lines of,  “You’ve gained weight,” I die a little bit inside.

My arms – the only part of me I have ever considered as slim enough – now appear twice the size they used to be, my collarbone is no longer protruding and the gap between my thighs is getting smaller by the day. While all of these are positive signs, physical indicators of good health, I hate each and every one of them and I also hate the fact that I hate them. I’m happy my body is healthy again, yet I can’t accept it in its healthy form.

The worst part is not knowing if what I’m seeing in the mirror is as it really is or if my mind is lying to me, distorting my view with it’s dysmorphic tendencies. I might feel bigger than I’ve ever been, but the scales say I’m no heavier than I was before I fell ill – a healthy weight – and the numbers never lie, right?

I may be healthy physically, but mentally there’s still some work to be done. I need to listen to my body and to trust it, if I’m craving that slice of cake it’s not because I’m fat and greedy as the voice in my head would have me believe, it’s because my body needs sugar. I need to train my mind to work with my body rather than against it so that the dinner table is no longer a battlefield. I need to learn to love my body and to look after it, because it is healthy and for that I am grateful. For me gaining weight is the first hurdle, but the real recovery begins after.

Too Fat or Too Thin, Stop Body-Shaming Full Stop

Opinion

I can honestly say that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (or Cole, if you prefer) is not a figure who has ever been of particular interest to me. I have never disliked her, but equally I have never liked her enough to care. Sure, I have found her accent mildly irritating at times and have experienced the occasional hair envy, but until now that’s about as far as it went. Recently however, I have found that I am not indifferent to Cheryl’s extremely high profile media persona any longer. I have found myself standing quite firmly alongside the rest of Team Cheryl, I am even cheering from the sidelines.

What could have possibly brought on this sudden shift in opinion? For that, we need to talk about body-shaming. You’re probably used to hearing the term quite often by now, because we live in a culture obsessed with doing exactly that, body-shaming. Society does it, the media does it, even we as individuals do it – whether we share this outwardly or keep our guilty, intrusive thoughts to ourselves. For some reason, which is utterly lost to me, we live in a society which is obsessed with slagging others off, and our favourite genre is the body, particularly – but not exclusively – the female body.

This is not news of course, it has been happening forever – or at least since the Daily Mail was let loose on society – but I’m bringing it to attention now because of two instances which in my eyes, highlight just how ridiculous this body-shaming thing really is.

Example one: newlywed Jennifer Aniston returns from her honeymoon, positively glowing and presumably still on a high – as you would be if you had just married Justin Theroux and spent the last few weeks at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora – only to be publicly body-shamed, ridiculed and humiliated by everyone’s favourite newspaper tabloid. What did she do to deserve this? Supposedly ‘over-doing the dinners’ and relaxing her diet whilst on honeymoon, heaven forbid. Apparently we live in a world where people, or rather those people over at the Daily Mail who actually consider this to be a work of journalism, are more comfortable criticising someone for their body (what happens to actually be an extremely enviable body, I feel I must add) instead of just being happy for them. Sorry Jen, we can no longer label you the poor, jilted women, we’ll just have to call you fat instead.
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Then at the other end of the scale there’s Cheryl, who has also fallen victim to the body-shaming culture. Her crime? She’s far too thin. Cheryl’s noticeably slim figure has had tongues and tabloids wagging non-stop since the start of the X-Factor, accusing her of being ‘too thin’ a ‘bag of bones’ and even a negative influence on young girls. Even though Cheryl had already spoken out honestly about her weight loss, putting it down to illness and stress caused by a recent personal trauma, the skinny-shaming was so insistent that Simon Cowell jumped to her defence, reassuring us that Cheryl was in fact eating properly.

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As I have also lost weight recently due to illness, I too, have of course found myself at the receiving end of body-shaming comments (whether these are intentional and malicious or not, the end result is the same) you’ll now understand why I am completely resonating with Cheryl on this one. It is equally as hurtful and frustrating to be labelled as “too thin” and constantly told to eat more and gain some weight, as it is to be told the exact opposite. So if no one can win, why can’t we just stop the body-shaming full stop? Public shaming, in the cases of Jen and Cheryl are not just one-off media assaults on individuals, they are attacks on all women, proving to us that no matter what we do or perhaps more importantly, what size we are, we will never be good enough. At least not in the eyes of the Daily Mail anyway.

13 Things No One Tells You About Depression

Features

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1. It physically hurts.
Although depression is a mental illness it can cause physical pain too. From muscle ache and joint pain to stabbing sensations and that physical dull ache you feel in your gut when totally overcome with misery.

2. You literally feel like you are going insane.
Depression manifests in various different ways, including panic attacks, irrational thoughts and social anxiety. It can make you feel like you are crazy, you’re not you’re just sick.

3. You can’t differentiate between which thoughts are rational and which are the depression speaking.
Suddenly your head is filled with intrusive, depressive thoughts. Identifying these against your rational thoughts is tough and confusing, but an important step towards recovery.

4. Depression often makes you feel nothing at all.
People assume that depression means you are sad or “down” but it can actually mean not feeling anything at all. Feeling numb and emotionally exhausted is a definite a symptom of depression.

5. Except guilt, you feel guilty all the time.
If suffering from depression isn’t bad enough, imagine feeling guilty for suffering from depression. The guilt is a depressive emotion that makes you feel selfish, ungrateful and a failure, but the illness is out of your control, it’s not your fault.

6. The future is the most terrifying thing out there.
The future is a huge black, meaningless void that you cannot bear to even think about.

7. No matter how much outsiders try, they will always lose an argument with depression.
However much they reassure and argue with you, your people will never be any match for the arsehole that is depression. “You ARE worthless, useless etc…”

8. Most things people will say to you are not just not helpful, but categorically unhelpful.
Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand depression which is why we so often here things like “just cheer up” or “don’t be so depressed.” This is not only completely pointless advice but it can also be detrimental to how the sufferer feels.

9. It doesn’t make you sad all the time.
Believe it or not, depression doesn’t have to mean lying, weeping in bed in the dark for months on end. Many people living with depression go out, carry on working and even make jokes. Stereotypes don’t allow for this.

10. Likewise, even people with a happy disposition can be depressed.
It is a medical illness, individual to the sufferer and it can affect anyone.

11. Everything that ever meant something, suddenly means nothing.
In a depressive state, you lose sight of everything that you ever loved or enjoyed previously – hobbies, interests and relationships. It’s like you never even existed before the illness.

12. You can’t just take a pill to make it all go away.
Doctors are pretty quick to prescribe antidepressants these days, but while they can help some people with depression to live a more normal life, they are not a long term or permanent solution. Getting better is a long and complex process.

13. It’s a lonely place.
Depression is a seriously lonely illness. It feels like no one in the world understands, and it’s no wonder, because a lot of people don’t. What’s important is that some people do and some are willing to try. Surround yourself with these people or be one of these people. They’re the ones who matter.

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How Hannah Altman is Glitterbombing Beauty Standards

Features

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“Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”

Not according to Hannah Altman, a 20 year old photography student from Pittsburgh, who is, to put it bluntly, glitterbombing, beauty standards through her thought-provoking, poignant exhibition of feminist art. Hannah’s photo series, titled “And Everything Nice” is a distinct expression of the pressures on women to look a certain way. In the photos, of which her best friends are the models, Hannah substitutes glitter for various body fluids, including blood, vomit and tears to draw attention to societies instinct to sanitise and ornament women’s bodies. Hannah has used glitter visualise the pressure women feel to be attractive regardless of anything else, despite what might actually be going on.The result is a striking and haunting look at today’s beauty standards.

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http://hannahaltmanphoto.tumblr.com

7 Ways to Make Sure Your Easter Isn’t Ruined by Your Eating Disorder

Uncategorized

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If were being honest, for most of us Easter is about one thing, chocolate. It is for this reason, that after Christmas, Easter comes in a close second as the most difficult time of year for people with an eating disorder. For some, Easter means overindulging on chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, or sitting down to catch up with family over a traditional holiday meal, for those with eating disorders, Easter often means guilt, anxiety and fear. There is no avoiding the fact that holidays are stressful – I mean, they do involve family and food, at the same time –  but there are some ways to take control and make sure your Easter isn’t ruined by your eating disorder.

  • Talk to someone close to you and that you trust, about your concerns. It’s easy to get trapped in your own head, getting an outside perspective can make a huge difference. A problem shared and all that.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be seeing family and friends who haven’t seen you for a while, be prepared for any questions that might come and think of your responses in advance. This way you don’t feel unprepared or put on the spot.
  • Be Mindful. Practice some Mindful Eating techniques throughout the day to help you stay in control. For example: eat small or moderate amounts every few hours, before eating ask yourself, am I hungry? Am I thirsty? What type of food or drink do I want? Eat slowly and think about the taste, texture, smell and sound of the food. Check in with your hunger signals every few minutes. Stop eating just before you feel full, and wait at least 20 minutes before eating again if you are still hungry.
  • Relax. Whatever your plans are over the weekend, make sure you allow some time for yourself. Take time out to do something you enjoy, and something that doesn’t revolve around food. Go for a walk, listen to music, read a book – it is supposed to be a holiday after all.
  • Remember that holidays were made for overeating. People will eat too much chocolate and then they will talk about eating too much chocolate. Remind yourself that these comments are not aimed at you.
  • Remember also, that all eyes aren’t on you. Although it feels like it everyone is watching you, judging how much – or how little – you are eating, this is not the case. Most people are actually too preoccupied with their own food – humans are pretty self-involved, especially at meal times.
  • Enjoy the fact that it is totally acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and at various intervals in between if you so desire. Guilt is inevitable, but keep it under control by being aware of how you feel, you know better than anyone what your limits are. Easter or not, it’s your body and your mind, you decide what they can cope with.

Happy Easter!

6 Reasons Why We Should ‘Drop The Plus’

Fashion, Opinion

STEFANIA

“I am a model FULL STOP.” Says the face of Dita Von Teese’s lingerie line, Stefania Ferrario.

“Unfortunately in the modelling industry if you’re above a US size 4 you are considered plus size… I do not find this empowering… I am not proud to be called ‘plus’ but I am proud to be called a ‘model'”.

Stefania is one of a group of models, alongside Australian TV presenter, Ajay Rochester, who are campaigning to get the fashion industry to #DropThePlus – as in ‘plus size’ and stop classifying models by their size. The campaign is now widely trending on Twitter, with women worldwide tweeting their support and sharing selfies like Stefania’s.

There have been objections, of course, with many in the industry saying ‘plus size’ is a term simply used to differentiate. How is it any different from petite? But whereas petite describes a certain body ratio, ‘plus size’ doesn’t describe anything. Plus what? What is normal? Is normal the industry standard size 10? That’s ridiculous, right? That is the message that the fashion industry is currently sending out.

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Here’s why we need to ‘Drop The Plus’:

1. ‘Plus size’ is a pointless classification, when we already have a very successful, numerical system of differentiating between sizes e.g. 10, 12, 14

2. The term implies that anyone who is larger than a size 10 is not normal, or too big. This is extremely damaging and leaves women wondering “If she is a plus size, what the hell am I?” A perfect example of this is the Calvin Klein model, Myla Dalbesio, who was labelled as plus size, causing outrage.

3. Fashion is about empowering people to express themselves and be confident, it shouldn’t be about excluding people because of their size and making them feel insecure and inferior.

4. ‘Pus size’ is not just negative for the consumers of fashion, it is damaging for the models themselves. It stigmatises all size 12 and above models as “not real” or “not normal models”, just as the label of “real women” with “curves” excludes those models who are smaller, as if they are not real women.

5. Yes, ‘plus size’ did serve a purpose when women over size 10 had completely separate divisions within model agencies and were so rarely seen in campaigns and editorials that it genuinely shocked us to see them in Vogue. ‘Plus size’ was a fashion movement and it worked. Yes this is great, but the real success is when fashion rejects the plus label and starts accepting these models as an industry standard.

6. Language matters. Contrary to popular belief (we are all familiar with the rhyme – sticks and stones may break my bones….) words have an exceptional effect and can be irreparably damaging. As Stefania says “I am a model FULL STOP.” Just we are all women FULL STOP.

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#droptheplus

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@ajayrochester

@droptheplus

Are Shop Mannequins Glamourising Eating Disorders?

Fashion

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It’s not the first time a fashion retailer has sparked controversy, and it certainly won’t be the last. Karen Millen is the latest high street brand to hit the headlines for using, what can only be described as, dangerous mannequins to display one of its new season dresses. If you haven’t already seen the photo which swept across Twitter last week, the mannequin – which is reportedly an industry standard size 10 – quite clearly shows protruding collar bones and very visible ribs. Much like the model who wears the dress on the Karen Millen website, funnily enough.

Of course the image has sparked outrage from many Twitter users, including mental health campaigner Laur Evans, who was first to spot the mannequin in the West Quay store in Southampton and brought it to the unforgivable attention of social media.
However on the flip side, I have seen some responses from people questioning why this is even an issue. Having visible collar bones is not uncommon if you’re a slim size 10, and besides, doesn’t everyone knows that mannequins aren’t a realistic representation of women?

There are two things that bother me about instances such as this when they crop up on our Twitter feeds every too often. Firstly, is the fact that shop mannequins do not normally have bones on show – if they did we wouldn’t be shocked when confronted with it – but lets not even go there. This mannequin would have to be specially made, meaning the company has made a conscious decision to portray this. I can only speculate on the reasons behind this, does it make the dress look more appealing? Does it encourage more people to buy it?
I can’t answer these questions for sure, but say both answers are yes, it is ignorant and irresponsible that a respected brand would resort to these measures in the marketing of a dress, particularly given the much increased awareness of eating disorders triggered by the fashion industry.

Which leads me nicely on to my second point. The mannequin is extremely triggering. Collarbones and ribs are a core theme of the “thinspiration” sites that plague the internet and ruin lives, yet here it is so blatantly and unashamedly on display in a high street store. It is also not just in terms of eating disorders that this mannequin is damaging, it is aesthetics such as this which fuel the negative body image that dominates our culture. Sure, we may know deep down that mannequins aren’t what real women are supposed to look like but imagery like this affects people and ends in many women feeling insecure and inferior.

As a brand who describe themselves as ‘for the confident, uncompromising woman of today,’ Karen Millen really do have some explaining to do.
This mannequin is not about celebrating different body shapes, it is simply using bones to sell clothes.

Meet the Models Who Are Changing the Face of Fashion

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While Cara Delevinge and Jordan Dunn are busy holding their own against Carole White’s comments that British models are “shit,” aren’t driven enough, and eat too much, there’s a selection of models who are making their own movements in the fashion industry, changing the way we see models for good.

Personally, I hate the term “plus-size”, with its negative implications and stereotypes. This is what the five models featured in Bust Magazine’s photoshoot are branded because their body types differ from that of the average size 0 models we are used to seeing up and down the catwalk. The magazine portrays five up and coming models all with athletic and curvy silhouettes, but more importantly with confidence and self-assurance.

This is why I admire these women and why these are the women young girls should be looking to for role models, not because of they are “plus-size.” In fact, not because of their looks at all – although they are all undoubtably gorgeous – they are role models because they are comfortable in their own skin. They are happy, the most attractive quality of all.

“I’ve been called a plus-size model for 15 years, I don’t have any shame in it; I don’t really care. If you want to call me plus, that’s fine, but at the end of the day I know I’m a model. My name is Ashley Graham and I am a model.” – Ashley Graham

Meet some of the models who are changing the face of the fashion industry.

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Ashley Graham

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Julie Henderson

Inga Eiriksdottir

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Marquita Pring

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Danielle Redman

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Candice Huffine

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Myla Dalbesio

Myla Dalbesio

If This Girl Can, so can you

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Sport, a word that instantly fills me with dread and conjures up uncomfortable flash backs of desperate attempts to get out of P.E lessons, which involved disgusting maroon hockey socks, chin pads and the girls changing room. This changing room has made such an impression in my memory that despite not being subjected to it for at least seven years, thinking about it now I can almost smell the sweat and mud as we peeled those hockey socks off our legs. I can practically feel the shame and embarrassment sweep over me as I wrestled to change my shirt in the corner without anyone catching a glimpse of my stomach or my M&S AA-cup. Obviously I know now that these feelings were much exaggerated by puberty and the fact I was a 13 year old girl in a room packed with other 13 year old girls. The shame I felt then was totally unnecessary, but due to my severe lack of self-confidence I spent six years of my school life not just dreading, but going to extreme lengths to avoid sport.

For this reason, I am not at all surprised to hear that there are 2 million fewer women partaking in sport than men in the UK. I am finally free of it, why would I put my self through that again by choice? And for enjoyment?

Although my issues with sport are deeply rooted, most women are familiar with the fear of judgement that comes hand in hand with exercising. Whether it’s when getting changed at the gym, making the walk from the changing rooms to the poolside or your thighs jiggling when you run past someone in the park.

The “fitspiration” that plagues the internet is just as damaging as the “thinspiration” found on Pro-Ana sites and has made exercising about being thin, ripped, tanned and flawless. It might not be perfect, but Sport England have done their research and recognise that something positive needs to be done. The campaign is their attempt to encourage women to get involved with sport – and it works.

Playing sport is about teamwork, friendship, stress-relief and enjoyment, which is why I think the This Girl Can campaign is great. It does exactly what it claims to – watching it made me
want to get active, it made me want to play sport, a feat which I never thought possible. The women in the advert look happy, healthy and they’re doing it because they love their body, not because they hate it. They look like women I know and if they’re doing it, why can’t I?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toH4GcPQXpc