plus size women underwear sam cleasby blogger so bad ass

Not thin enough for mainstream, too thin for plus size? 

I am a size 16, despite years of dieting and exercise, I always end up at a 16. For 15 years I have been somewhere between a 14 and an 18. I am open about this and often tell people my size, you kind of feel the need to when you are shaking your ta-ta’s in photo shoots.

There’s this odd phenomenon though where though I know I’m bigger than many, if I ever use the hashtag #plussize, I tend to get a couple of different responses.  One is that I “don’t look like a size 16” and the other tends to be from other plus size women who seem to think I’m not big enough to class myself as plus size.

Someone once told me that I’m the “clothes designer’s idea of a 16” and I don’t think it was a compliment!  That I am too mainstream and don’t represent ‘real’ plus size women.  As I’m tall I “carry it well”, I apparently “hide it” and “don’t help out genuinely plus size women” as I look slimmer than I am.  WTF?

I had similar comments when I showed my stoma, ostomy bag and scars with responses from some stating that “it’s ok” for me as my “stomach is flat”.   Comments from some thinking that I’m showing an unachievable image as others have hernias (I’ve had 2!), terrible scarring (hands up here for keloids!) and fat, wobbly bits. (Yup! Got those too!). I’m also covered in stretchmarks from having 28lbs worth of baby over three kids and four and a half years!!!

woman with scars on stomach ibd blogger sam cleasby

I know I come across as super confident but I tell you now, it takes a lot of courage to put up images of myself!  I’m 34, I’ve had 3 children and 3 surgeries, I’ve been chronically ill for 12 years and my body has taken such a pasting.  I have days where I feel shit about myself like we all do, there are times when I just want to hide away from the world.

I choose to tell my story through images, mainly because I run a photography company and so it is a normal part of my life, but also because often photos are so much more powerful than words.  When I was going through my surgeries, I desperately wanted to see other people with stomas, ostomy bags and scars.  This blog has always been about raising awareness and helping others and I desperately wanted to promote a positive body image despite everything I had been through.  Through these decisions I have been accused of sexualising disability and had comments about my weight and size.  From those taking the piss and letting me know I am “hardly a model” (NO SHIT SHERLOCK!) through to those who just want me to cover up!

I know that when you put yourself out into the public arena, that you open yourself up to judgement and I fully accept that.  Worry not, I am not weeping into my pillow at night, I remind myself of the Beyonce rule… 

“Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is… say, Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off. ”

beyonce rule


It often feels that the negative comments I get come from other women rather than men.  And I sometimes feel trapped in this weight and size limbo where I am obviously bigger than a lot of women and struggle to buy clothes when I go shopping, but I’m on the smaller end of the plus size ranges and sometimes feel judged for not being big enough!!

All the writing I do about self esteem and body confidence is about love and acceptance for what you have.  Through the past two years I learnt to celebrate that I’m just still here standing!  That my body, though it has disease, scars and illness, carries me through life and is a miracle.  I wish we could all gain a bit more self love, that we could see ourselves in a way that is joyous and filled with love.

We are ever fighting against a tide of social pressure to look a certain way.  We are told we must be thin, young and sexy (though not too sexy or we are asking for it!).  It’s crazy and we need to stop the judgement of other women. We can complain about the media all we want but it can start with us.  We all need to be more accepting of other people, to treat them in a way we would want to be treated.

ostomy photoshoot sexy ileostomy 50s pin up photo shoot so bad ass sam cleasby

And we need to be strong in ourselves and have the confidence to just be ourselves, whatever our size and shape.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this.  As with everything I write, it’s my personal opinions based on my experiences. And our personal opinions are alway skewed so let me know!  Is this something other people feel? Are you plus size and have judged others or are you petite and have an opinion on those larger than yourself?

Sam x

13 replies
  1. Samantha McDOnnell
    Samantha McDOnnell says:

    Sam, I think you are so right that we should love ourselves a little bit more and ignore what others think of us. What is important is how we and our loved ones view ourselves and our outward appearance is the shell of us, what comes through in our personality and how we treat others is important. I have had Breast cancer, mastectomy and have scars all over my front and have no shame is displaying them. They are no different than showing of different hair colour, tattoos etc. My cancer has changed my body shape for ever but more importantly it has changed the shape of my mind and how i now live my life. I am a size 16-18 also and am happy in my skin. Long live all of us middle sized, slightly wonky but secure in out lives girls. love from another Sam xx

  2. Sue
    Sue says:

    Muchos admiration Sam. Yeah I would love to be a 16 if only for health reasons but I’m heartened to see so many bikini clad ladies on holiday saying ‘fuck you’ to those who dare to judge. We are all beautiful and perfect just as we are. Xx

  3. Fionnuala Mallaghan
    Fionnuala Mallaghan says:

    Sam you look great and truly are an inspiration to all suffering from IBD.
    If we were all the same the world would be a very boring place.
    Nuala x

  4. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I’m a size 12, but short, and all my fat is crowded on my tummy, so I look like a jelly on legs. No matter how much I diet, it never comes off. I agonized about it until I got UC. At first, I admit, I was overjoyed the weight was melting off – until I ended up in hospital with malnutrition. That’s when I realised it didn’t matter what my body looked like, as long as it worked. Now, I vary between 16 and 10, depending on my medication and health, but I try not to worry, I eat right and exercise as much as possible, and I have pretty dresses for every dress size. No matter how big I am, I WILL be well dressed! I’ve come to realise my dress size doesn’t matter, it’s what’s happening inside me that’s important. Doesn’t matter if I’m 16 or 10, as long as I’m pooping right!

  5. Mai-ana
    Mai-ana says:

    I have always admired your body shape/figure. It is lovely. I also admire the fact that you do post pictures of yourself like you do. I wish I had the confidence to do that.
    It seems such a shame that it is mostly women who pull down other women. 🙁
    If we don’t support each other who will?

    Much love to you

  6. Angie
    Angie says:

    I love this!! Love, love, love this… how impossible to be not thin enough and not fat enough… and just “never enough”.
    If I can teach my kids ONE thing, it would be acceptance. What right do we have to judge others?

  7. Dave Pawson
    Dave Pawson says:

    I’m sure one or two people accept you as you are, warts and all. Even like you. Certainly your penmanship is v.well regarded. Think of them next time you’re getting slagged off Sam, then move on.

  8. Mrs TeePot
    Mrs TeePot says:

    Sadly have to agree with you, while I have experienced men passing judgement on my looks, it is so often women who attack other women. I think it comes from a place of self-hatred, a projection of the things they dislike about themselves and a jealousy of what you or other women have. That, of course, doesn’t make it OK, and we need to stop it, to teach women to build each other up instead.

  9. Donald
    Donald says:

    Hi Sam I’m a man if you look at models on tv they are so skinny their bones are sticking out of there bodies .
    You are beautiful just the way you are and you fell well about yourself .
    And who as the right to pass judgement on others F….. Them


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