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She conquered her demons and wore her scars like wings

I saw this quote today and it felt very apt. It’s been a rough old road at times but I finally feel like I’m conquering those demons and feeling pride in my scarred body.

Conquered demons scars like wings

 

Chronic illness has taken it’s toll on me over the years, there are times when I just feel so defeated. I have this happy and positive online persona and in real life I always try and see the best in any situation but sometimes my heart breaks at the life that has been thrust upon me.

I was once asked at an event, if I could wave a wand and make my illness all go away, would I?

I felt a huge pressure to say no, that I would keep the life I have, but in reality, I would do it in a heartbeat.

sam cleasby so bad ass IBD blogger and writer

I know that my illness and what I’ve gone through has made me the person I am, it’s shown me I’m stronger than I ever imagined, it’s brought a bond with friends and family that can’t be surpassed and it’s also shown me other people’s true colours.

Its led me to having a blog that’s been read almost 3 million times (!) and has given me some amazing opportunities to be on TV, the radio anc in newspapers and magazines all over the world. I’ve spoken at events the length and breadth of the UK and travelled to Spain and soon Germany.

sam cleasby public speaker

Its brought new people into my life who I’d never have met otherwise. I’ve been to parliament. It led me to a job with Scope that I adore. I’ve met Philip Schofield for Christ’s sake!!!

But it has stolen so much from me.

It robbed me of precious hours, days and weeks with my babies. It’s taken it’s toll on my relationship. It forced me into missing days out, nights with the girls, holidays, events. It took my career.

It made me weak and fearful and exhausted. It stole a part of me, both physically and emotionally. It hardened me to the fuckwittery of others (wait, that’s actually a good thing!) but it also toughened my armour and made me push people away.

sam cleasby ibd and children

 

It caused my babies to be stressed and scared, making them fearful yet far too familiar with hospitals. It made them into young carers and forced them to face worries way beyond their tender years.

But we are here and we still stand strong.

Those feelings of guilt, fear, depression, anxiety, anger and a deep sadness that took a tight grip on my soul, all those feelings still linger yet they don’t have a hold over me.

My body that changed so much bears the scars of multiple surgeries but you know, I kind of love it. My scars show my journey, they are the proof that I survived. My ostomy bag is not worn with shame but pride and love and hope.

My demons will be waiting in the shadows for the rest of my life, but I’m finally feeling strong enough to face them, to fight them and to win.

Much love

 

Sam xx

Why I’m a proud flasher

Don’t worry, I don’t have a mac and follow people around at night flashing my boobies. But I am a very proud flasher of my osteomy bag and here’s why…

I have had many comments about the images I share of my ileostomy bag, most of them are positive but I get the occasional one that says ‘why are you doing this? We don’t want to see it! Is nothing private any more? Won’t somebody think of the children?!!!’

OK, I may have made the last one up! But the point is that people do seem offended by the fact that I happily flash my bag, and these comments always seem to come from a person in the position of priviledge who have never had to face the scary event of surgery to remove your bowel and being fitted with a colostomy or ileostomy bag.

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

So why do I do it?

I remember sitting in a hospital bed, having just been told that I had to have surgery and they were going to remove my entire large intestine and I would have a stoma, they were going to give me an ileostomy bag and I was in tears.  I was terrified, I couldn’t imagine how my life would be afterwards and though I was in part relieved to see an end to the severe and excrutiating pain, diarrhoea, accidents and misery of ulcerative colitis, I was also devastated.

I thought my life would be over, how would I ever feel beautiful or sexy again? What would my husband think of my new body? Would I ever wear a bikini again? Would my new body inspire disgust from others? Would I be able to love myself?  I sat in bed weeping and I felt so lonely.

I googled ostomy bags and it came up with frightening, medical images of sick, old people in bed wearing huge bags on their stomachs looking sad and frail.  And I felt numb.  Was this the end of life as I knew it?  This was in 2013 and there were no UK bloggers talking about this, no one sharing their images of a happy life, no positive, joyful photos, just misery and illness.

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot #stomaselfie sam cleasby

And that is why I started this blog. And that is why I am proud to flash my bag.

You see, though life can still be tough now, my ostomy bag changed my life for the better in so many ways, it gave me back a sense of control over my body, it made me feel well again, it stopped the pain and the isolation that 9 years of ulcerative colitis had caused.  And once I had the surgery, I realised that rather than fear and sadness, when I looked at my bag and my body I felt pride! I felt strong and powerful, I felt like I had dealt with a huge surgery and my body was still standing.

I realised that I never wanted another person to sit alone, frightened and crying in a hospital bed, wondering what their life would hold for them with a stoma.  I wanted to be the image that came up when they googled that showed them happiness, a fresh start, a normal life, damn it an EXTRAORDINARY life!

sam cleasby blogger ostomy ibd woman with a colostomy ileostomy bag stoma

I wanted to be a small ray of light in an otherwise frightening time that could show someone that life with an ostomy bag is a positive and wonderful thing.  That they could be what they wanted to be with their bag, that it wasn’t something to be feared or disgusted by, but to be proud of.

I wanted to show the world that my ostomy bag saved my life and that I am proud of it and myself.

I wanted to show that I can feel beautiful, sexy, strong, powerful and like ME.

I will never stop flashing my bag because every time I do, I get messages from people thanking me, saying that it helps to see others with a bag, that it inspires them to be proud of their bodies, that even if they don’t want to show their own bag, that they share my images to explain to their friends and family what they have.

ileostomy bag and fashion swimwear

Should everyone flash their bag?

No, of course not! It is a totally private and personal decision, I am happy to flash my bag but that doesn’t mean that everyone should.  I hope that showing my bag off will help those people who want to wear a bikini on a beach to do it with pride, to show them not to be scared of being themselves.  But some people are very private and don’t want to have their ostomy bag on show and their privacy is as important as my desire to flash mine.

sam cleasby chicken keeping allotments kiveton sheffield

The stigma around talking about poo is part of day to day life, generally if we talk about toilet habits, it is done by making fun about it.  We find it hard to have an honest and open conversation about our bowels and that needs to change.  This fear of talking bums stops people from accessing medical help when they have bowel issues, it stops them from asking for help and that can have a hugely negative effect on our health.

The aim of my blog has always been to help others, to stop poo being taboo and to raise awareness of IBD, Crohns, Colitis, Ostomy bags and invisible impairments as a whole.  If I have to continue flashing this scarred body of mine and showing off my ostomy bag to keep the conversation going then I will do this till the day I die.

Sam Cleasby blogger ostomy ileostomy colostomy stoma

I am a flasher and proud!

 

Love Sam xx

Every now and then I fall apart…

If you aren’t singing Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler after reading that heading then what are you doing with your life? 

Ok, enough 80s awesomeness. I’m not feeling awesome. And that pisses me off. 

After 3 1/2 years of surgeries, scars and ostomies I have gotten used to this body of mine. More than used to it, I’ve learnt to feel proud and brave and strong. I’ve learnt to love it. 

Yet every now and then I fall apart. It’s a weird one as I do genuinely love this body of mine, fucking hell I talk about it enough. I blog, vlog, Instagram and tweet about it. I get paid to stand in rooms full of other humans and talk about it for fucks sake. But sometimes, just sometimes it catches me off guard and I feel shit. 

I was listening to the Guilty Feminist podcast (you should all go listen to this IMMEDIATELY!) and one of the women was saying that sometimes when she hears people telling her she should love her body she thinks ‘Fuck you! You don’t know my body, it’s a right bitch!’ and along with making me laugh, it made me think about how it’s ok for me to sometimes be thoroughly fucked off with my body. 

It let me down! It got sick. And this stupid kind of sick where it’s hurting itself! Auto immune disease means my body is literally attacking itself. It’s like when your older sibling takes your hand and slaps you with it shouting ‘stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself’ but there’s no old, mean brother or sister. You’re just slapping your own face. Stupid body. 

Then doctors fixed me by taking my bowel out and sewing up my arse hole.  Man, I miss farting.  My ileostomy is the end of my small intestine pulled out through the wall of my abdomen. On good days I say it looks like a rose bud. On bad days, I think of it as a scary leech face. 


I wear this bag 24 hours a day. And it’s literally the butt of every joke about something old, smelly or disgusting. Society thinks of colostomy bags (they’re usually not well informed enough to know about ileostomy bags) are gross, hilarious or downright disgusting. And that hurts. It hurts that most people see my illness as an insult. 

Even in the most well meaning of places I hear negativity. I heard someone saying that if they were about to be sexually attacked, they’d shit themselves. Because that makes you gross, disgusting and definitely not sexy.  As a woman who shits in a bag on my belly I can tell you that one knocked my confidence. 

I mean she’s right, shit isn’t sexy. (I suppose it is if you have a fetish in that!) but it made me think about how someone like me can be seen as sexual when every romantic liaison comes with an ostomy bag thrown in? 

Usually I cope well. Mainly because I’m fucking awesome. But every now and then I fall apart. 

Tonight I got out of the bath and changed my bag. I looked down and it caught me off guard. I cried. A lot. I sat in the bathroom wishing I had a pretty and perfect body. I’m a feminist but… (you’ll get this when you’ve listened to the guilty feminist podcast!) I wished my body looked like a woman from a magazine. 

Worry not, I’ve pulled myself together and reminded myself that even the women in the magazines don’t look like women in magazines in real life. I’ve reminded myself that there’s no point wasting time wishing this away, this is my lot now. I have no bum hole people! It’s not going to change!!! And if I ever get abducted by aliens then at least they won’t be able to probe me… 


I suppose this is why I do what I do. Why I speak openly about my illness and my body. Because though sometimes I fall apart, I have also learnt to live, thrive and kick ass with my body. 

I know how it feels to be let down by your body. How isolating and soul crushing it can be.  The road to self love isn’t all sweetness and light, no Kardashian is going to hand you a can of pop and make your world better. It takes time, work, sharing and looking hard at what you want. But you can get to a place of self worth and celebration. 

You just have to accept that even the most badass of people have times when every now and then they fall apart.

How we look and how we feel

Before 2013, I didn’t have the best body confidence.  I was a size 16 with stretch marks and wobbly bits, I had carried, birthed and fed three big babies (9lb9oz, 8lb1oz, 11lb) with one c-section to boot.  Before I had kids, I was a size 8, after my first I was a size 16 and that weight never really shifted.

I was constantly dieting, I would lose weight but then gain it all back again plus a little more.  I hated my body, I thought it was flabby and ugly, it wibbled and wobbled and definitely didn’t look like the women in magazines.  After years of this, it started to piss me off and I sort to find better role models, I stopped buying crappy women’s weekly mags whose aim in life is to point out the flaws of women, I started to think about the qualities that were important in life, rather than the physical appearance of a person.

But it was hard, and mainly I just felt a bit sad and disappointed in my body.  I have been a size 16 for 15 years now and I have learnt that society views me as fat.   I can’t always buy clothes I want as shops either don’t go up to a 16 or they don’t have them in stock.  I know that on the BMI scale I am in the upper part of overweight and when I go out in town, I see people judging me.  But I carried on, with the ever changing diet and dreams of skinniness.

And then in September 2013, I got so ill with Ulcerative Colitis that I had to have surgery to remove my colon and give me an ileostomy bag and everything changed. All of a sudden my focus wasn’t on the number in the back of my dress, or the size of my backside, it was on survival and recovery, of getting over the surgery and learning to live with a bag of poo on my tummy.  All of a sudden, all those worries over calories and cellulite, fat bits and wobbly arses seemed silly.

I have been looking back at photographs of myself and I realise that the things I look at aren’t how big my thighs are, or my stretch marks but that I am healthy and happy.  Even though these images were taken during the 10 years I had with Ulcerative Colitis, they were also during remission periods.  I look at these now compared to my scarred and stoma’d stomach now and wish I had appreciated my body a little more!

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy

 

The next photos were taken whilst I had my first ostomy, it had been a huge shock to me but I was happy to be feeling well.  I went travelling three months after surgery to Vietnam and Australia, it was hard work but it was so important to me to take control of my life and not let my stoma stop me.

During this time in my life I just felt so happy to be alive! I started to love my body, I celebrated that my body had survived the surgery and began to love myself.  I stopped giving a shit about my cellulite and I wasn’t concerned about my stretch marks, I was just grateful to have a body that worked.

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy

 

The next shots are from after my reversal, I no longer had my ileostomy and had my jpouch, but the jpouch wasn’t working so well.  I started to feel panic about my body failing me again.  Thinking about my body physically stopped being about the parts society tells me are wrong, my weight, my scars, it was about my health.  My concern was that my pouch wasn’t working, that I was having accidents and that I was going to have to have more surgery.

Honestly, it was a sad time and I think you can see that in these photos.  I had accepted my body for it’s physical appearance but my health worries were a very difficult and heartbreaking time.  I regretted my decision to have the jpouch and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy jpouch

nude beach stone balancing so bad ass sam cleasby

 

And we come to now… I am 6 weeks post op and I now have a permanent ileostomy, I have a bag for life!  How do I feel now? To be honest, I think it is just too early to say, I am relieved to not have pouchitis any more, I am happy that I don’t shit myself, but the bag is something I still need to get used to.

ileostomy bag stoma ostomy permanent ostomy after jpouch removal

I am being careful not to put my stress and unhappiness onto my stoma.

The past few months have been the hardest of my whole life, I had rejection over my book, I am moving house and have had 6 months of stress regarding this move, my grandfather passed away in January, I am feeling insecure in my writing and work and then I had major surgery!!!

I have so much on right now and life is very overwhelming, I take on so much and I think I need to step back from some things that aren’t vital.  I am a parent governor, I run the South Yorkshire Crohns and Colitis group, I work for lots of different people as a freelance writer and life is hectic.  My family is going through everything I am and my kids are stressed out, I am a swan, I am calm on the surface but paddling like fuck under the water.

So with all of this going on, I don’t want to put my emotional state solely on my stoma.  I am struggling, I feel anxious, overwhelmed and ever so sad, but with so much going on, I think I need to give myself a break.

What I refuse to do now though is to berate my body, to feel bad about it. I refuse to diet, I refuse to conform to how society wants me to look.  Everything I do regarding my body is going to be what I want, fuck everyone else.  This is MY body and it has gone through a lot, I am going to celebrate the fact that despite 4 surgeries in 3 years, I am still standing.

So #effyourbeautystandards and rejoice that we are here, we are unique, we are beautiful.  And I don’t need to be a white, size 6, able bodied 20 year old to be fucking awesome.

sam cleasby body positive plus size ostomy ileostomy colostomy

 

Screw your New Year diet

In 2015, I decided to stop dieting. I’d been on a diet for 10 years. 10 YEARS!!!! And it was the shittest diet ever because year on year, I started January heavier than the year before.

I went through cycles of starving and binging, salad obsessions and chocolate gorging.  I’d lose weight, lose interest and gain the weight back along with a few more pounds.

Well last year, I decided my poor old body had had just about enough. I’d had 3 surgeries in 18 months, a Stoma, a Jpouch, 2 hernias and a lot of meds and treatment. I decided that it was pretty wonderful that I was even still standing and so I should give it a break from messing with food.

Diets don’t work. You follow the rules and lose weight, but any short term food deprivation only leads to temporary weight loss.  If you loosen the reins and return back to your former ways, you will gain it all back.

I started thinking about why I was dieting. Did I want to be thinner, or was it just what is expected of me as a woman?  The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I’m actually very happy in my skin.  I like my big body, I think I’m soft and beautiful and hella sexy.


But we aren’t meant to say that are we? Especially not if we are ‘plus size’. We’re meant to be ashamed and apologetic. We’re meant to strive to be ‘better’. But what if ‘better’ has fuck all to do with the number in the back of your dress?  What if ‘better’ isn’t about being a size 6?

Humans are all different sizes and shapes, yet we strive to be like a very narrow, Western ideal of beauty that comes from fashion and media. It comes from air brushing, the use of very young models, the use of extremely thin models.  The pressure on women to conform is HUGE.  To look more like a tiny percentage of women. Isn’t that silly?

The funny thing is that my lack of dieting last year, means I start this year lighter than I was at the start of 2015.  It’s the first year that my weight hasn’t gone up and I truly believe this is because I took the pressure off myself, I refused to diet but that doesn’t mean that I decided to eat everything in sight!

When I diet, I am constantly thinking about food. I think about calories and my next meal, I dream of food and look longingly at cheese boards.  This year my focus was on other things, I don’t want to waste time thinking about food when there is a whole world of awesome to be thinking about!  My lack of dieting made me more in touch with my body, eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Never denying myself of food but enjoying it and savouring it.

sam cleasby the poo lady

I’m learning all the time to love my body. It’s not easy, I do cave in sometimes and see photos of myself where I’m surprised by my size. But that’s usually because I’m viewing myself through someone else’s eyes. My confidence is dented when I think that someone else is looking at me and thinking about my shape.  In my head, I am Beyoncé. And Zooey Dechanelle. And Thandie Newton. And Superwoman. And Marilyn Monroe.

I’m a bad ass version of all those women blended into one shit hot mega babe.

And so it surprises me sometimes when I see a fat, 34 year old mum in gardening gear.

But you know, I do love my body. Are there things I would change? Yes. Do I want to be healthier? Yes. Will I diet ever again? No fucking way!

Healthy eating and exercise are wonderful, I think we should all eat delicious, unprocessed, bright, colourful, mouth watering food.  I think we should all move our bodies and take part in exercise that is fun and makes us happy.

We only have this one body and so it is really important that we take care of it by giving it the fuel it needs and working our muscles to keep us mobile.  Our physical health is vital.

But so is our emotional health, so take a moment and think about making your mind and spirit healthy too.  Acceptance and self love.  Celebrating not demonising. Give yourself the affirmation that you are beautiful.  Because beauty isn’t about looking the same as a 14 year old size 0 fashion model, it’s about your unique and bloody brilliant self. It’s about kindness and humour and confidence and love whether you’re a size 0 or a size 32+!!

This new year, you will be bombarded by adverts telling you that you aren’t enough. That you need to buy their products to change yourself to fit in.

Fuck fitting in.

sam cleasby the poo lady plus size eff your beauty standards

If you want to make a healthy change to your lifestyle, then go for it! But think about the long term lifestyle changes you might want to make, be aware that short term diets DONT WORK LONGTERM.  Find a physical activity that you want to do, do it with friends, make it fun, enjoy it!

If you don’t want to diet, don’t be led to believe that you must.  Enjoy your body, celebrate your brilliance and love yourself.

Sam X

When XL is not big enough

Are you a size 12? You are EXTRAAAAAA LAAARRRRRGGGGEEEEEEEE…

16? Give up all hope.  20? Get in the fucking sea.

I am clothes shopping for the party season at the minute and having to shop online as I don’t feel well enough to go out.  I hate internet clothes shopping as I know even in a shop, I can take 10 items into a changing room and not find anything that suits and so buying online when I can only look at a skinny model, lit beautifully in a studio and shot by a great photographer is far from ideal.

I am convinced nothing will fit me and so decided I had better check my sizing with this online store.  It turns out that their size XL is a 12.  A fucking 12!

blogger sam cleasby plus size

I’m XXL yo…

45% of UK women are a size 16 or over so why is it that so many shops are refusing to cater for the market?

I really don’t understand why some stores are just ignoring the needs of so many, even if you forget all about shitting on women’s self esteem, surely it is just good business sense to ensure you have products that almost half your market can use?

It does make me feel like crap when I realise that I am classed as abnormally large in the eyes of some.  I am a size 16 and cannot shop in some places as they just don’t have ranges in my size.  If you are larger than a 16, you are basically ignored!

Talking to the world of twitter, I can see it is not just me who is struggling with this.  Many companies are classing XL as either a 12 or a 14.  Lots of athletic wear simply do not go up to larger sizes meaning those who are gym bunnies or runners are really struggling to find appropriate training clothes.

I’m a big fan of Simply Be who do a range between sizes 12-32.  Their clothes aren’t your ‘typical’ plus size wear, in the past anything aimed at women a 16 and over have been old fashioned, frumpy or basically ugly tents.  Simply Be have an amazing range that is no different to any other great fashion store apart from that they actually fit!

It is simply shit business sense to alienate your market, so why do women’s fashion stores do it? Women are all different shapes and sizes so why leave out a big chunk of those women by not giving them the clothes they want to wear?

sam cleasby so bad ass parliament ibd blogger

You see it in store, there are always tons of size 6’s and 8’s left on the hangers whilst the bigger sizes fly out.  Does this not tell you something? They seem to stock far more of the smaller sizes when the statistics show that many women are larger, and get larger with age.  Where is the money? It is with older women in their 30’s and 40’s, who are more likely to be a size 12 or over.

This isn’t about fat vs thin.  We should cater for ALL women, whether they are a size 6 or a size 26 (and beyond!!!), this is about making a vast proportion of women feel shit about themselves because they can’t shop in the average store.

Let’s hope that shops start to realise this and begin to stock clothes for all.  And stop with the ridiculous sizing charts.  A size 12 should never be classed as Extra Large, ever.

And for the record, one size does not fit all.

 

Sam x

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

That time I was the same size as Alexa Chung. Or maybe not.

You know the whole One Size Fits All thing? Well, it turns out that a size 16 mother of 3 is not the same size and shape as model and all round tiny, gorgeous woman Alexa Chung

How do I know this? Well apart from physics, common sense and having a pair of working eyes, I once ended up in a spa with the lovely Chung in New York and what followed was so awful that I can only now laugh about it, years later.

I had gone to New York to see my husband who was working at the time for Arctic Monkeys and Alexa was dating the singer.  We had met and hung out a few times and being the thoroughly lovely and welcoming person she is, she invited me on a girly day out with one of her friends.

After a fab morning shopping at Bloomingdales, we met for brunch and I felt like I was in a film, though to be fair, I always feel like I’m on a movie set when I am in America.  I am just a normal girl from Sheffield, there was no coolness from me, I was like a giddy kipper.  Anyway the plan was to go get our nails done, but when we arrived it was mentioned about going to the day spa.  Neither Alexa or I had any swimwear but the receptionist assured us they could supply bikinis, I wasn’t super hyped about this but thought I would go along with it as I DO love a spa.

So we pay and then this smug faced receptionist hands us two small bags, the size of the bag immediately worries me as inside were our swimmers.

“Whose is whose?” I asked.  “Oh they are one size fits all!” she chirpily replies.

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I looked to my left at the tall, model-like stature of my pal and then down at my chunky arse and wider than average tummy and then back to the receptionist, “You are fucking kidding, right?”

“No” she replies as she shoos us down towards the changing room, “believe me, they’ll fit!”

Before I could even think I am in a changing room looking down at the smallest pair of paper pants and bikini top imaginable.  I am considering just doing a runner when I see Alexa’s face is as aghast as mine.  “It’ll be fine!” she says with a fake cheer.

We undress.  In an open changing room, because seriously, who needs privacy here?! I put on the pants and am relieved they go over my hips but realise that I must walk with my knees together so they don’t rip up the sides and I don’t get arrested for public indecency.  The paper bikini top covers my nipples.  That’s it.  Just nips.  I want to fall into a deep hole and die.

Chung puts on her bikini and we stand side by side looking in the mirror.  Her pants are pulled up to her chest and the bra is hanging off.  For a moment, there is a stunned silence.  Then we burst out laughing.  We look fucking ridiculous and there is no way around it but to hysterically laugh.

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Inside I am dying a little, I am stood next to a gorgeous model, fit to burst in a paper bikini with my stretch marks, big boobs and cellulite hanging out.  Then she says to me “my tits look ridiculous in this, yours look amazing”.  And I realise that we judge ourselves, we are always so harsh on our own looks that we don’t actually bother thinking about other people.  I was scared she would laugh at me when actually, like most women, she was simply concentrating on her own image.

We ended up using both of our paper bras to fashion one mega bikini top to hold my puppies in place whilst she went in her own bra.  (Why on earth we both didn’t just wear our own knickers and bras I have no idea!)

As we hung out in the spa in what turned out to be a lovely day, we talked about our sizes and how difficult it was to be in the public eye.  She has been slated time and time again for her size, and it made me think about how hung up we are on a woman’s size and shape.  You can’t win, you are either too fat or too thin, too wobbly or too muscly.  Judging women based entirely on their shape is a tool to shut us up, it is a way to objectify us and discredit our worth.

I am far more than the size of my arse, the number in the back of my dress bears no relevance to my character.  Body shaming is everywhere these days and even as I go around the UK talking to women about self esteem and body confidence, the response I get back is often negative towards thinner women.  The term ‘real women’ pisses me right off, as if those under a size 10 are some robotic alien dolls sent back from the future to make all other women feel shit about themselves.

And ladies, we have to take responsibility for this because we are our own worst enemy.  Don’t judge and shame the woman next to you, don’t assume anything about her because of the shape of her body or size of her ass.  Don’t be so free and easy with the ‘skinny bitch’ comments.  (Most) people wouldn’t dream of telling me to get a salad, yet more will happily tell a slimmer woman to eat a pie!

Let’s just start on loving ourselves.  Even when you are in a paper bikini stood next to a model.

 

Sam x

 

 

Sam x

'Mummy Tummy' F**k that!

Firstly, yuk, ‘mummy tummy’?? Are we 6?

I came across this story on twitter about the Queen’s eldest grandchild Zara Phillips and how she had attended an event and been photographed wearing a dress that showed she was carrying some weight around her middle, the media speculated that she was ‘up to 5 months pregnant’ and the womankind sighed a big sigh and realised that she was a woman who gave birth 18 months ago and now her body has changed.

They used this cringe inducing term ‘mummy tummy’ as if leading with a cutesy term negates from the fact they are shaming a woman for her body shape in a national newspaper and propagating ideals of negative body image for women.

The fact that this is news at all says a lot about the times we live in.  There are children fleeing murder and drowning in our oceans, tens of thousands of animals being slaughtered and sacrificed, people in the UK living in poverty and using food banks, people with disabilities being failed by the government, yet the news in our papers tells of a woman whose body looks different post birth.

They compare her to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge who was pictured 6 weeks after the birth of her daughter looking pretty much as she had before pregnancy and speculated on whether Zara had a medical condition where her stomach muscles had split.

Because what every woman wants is to be asked if she is pregnant and then compared to someone slimmer than them!  Zara was forced to make an official announcement to tell the world she isn’t pregnant. Pregnancy, labour, childbirth and those first years of your child’s life are bloody tough on the body, you gain weight, your body changes more than you could imagine, you become the perfect incubator for your baby, then you push a human being out of your vagina. Perhaps you then feed them from your breasts, your sleep pattern changed wildly and frankly, everything that you thought was important before pales into insignificance when you look at your wonderful offspring.  Ladies, give yourself a break!

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A friend of mine is pregnant with twins and I visited her along with another pal, the three of us have been friends for over 20 years.  Preggers friend asked the two of us (5 kids between us) how long it takes for your tummy to go back.  My pal answered ‘about 6 weeks’, my answer? ’14 years and counting…’

Because we are all so different, my friend isn’t any better than I am for losing weight straight away, genetics and lifestyle make the difference and I don’t feel any shame for not looking the way I did before I gave birth to a total of 28 pounds of (three) children over 4 and a half years.

Society assumes that we all give a shit.  That we all are dreaming of a size 6 body.  Dudes, I was a size 8 before the bambinos, I am now a 16 and despite years of dieting, always stay around this size.  Could I lose weight? Yes, probably. But I love food, eat too big portions and spend a good proportion of my days sat on my bum writing stuff for blogs/magazines/books.  I also really like booze.  Beer, wine, cocktails… Yup! And I love food and booze more than I care about being thin.

My family are mostly all big women, I honestly think I am predisposed to be chunkier, we tend to be slim till mid twenties/early thirties and then gain weight.  Sometimes I think I would like to be smaller, generally when I see a ton of women body shaming or when I go shopping and can’t find my size.  Right now I am a mum of three and run a photography business, I’m starting a new career and working for the bloody awesome Responsible Fishing as an artist/writer.  Life is pretty full and I like to enjoy big dinners with awesome family and friends.  These aren’t excuses, I fully accept that it is because of these things (too many calories and too little exercise) that I stay the weight I am.

My body has been through so much in the past 18 months (not to mention the ten years of medication previously), three surgeries and two hernias in 18 months make exercise difficult, I felt like I was always waiting to be out of recovery mode!

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But mentally and emotionally, I am learning so much.  After everything I have been through I have a new respect and love for my body.  Yes, it has stretch marks, scars and illness but it has carried me through these battles and still holds me strong.

There is so much pressure on women, especially once you have had children and I just wish there was more love and positivity shown towards post natal women.  Mamas you are wonderful! You made a human being!!! You are goddesses!

When you see your stretch marks, know that your wonderful body got bigger to enclose and home your baby, your stomach may be softer because it’s missing the 9 months it held that baby inside.  When your breasts change shape (and nipples, no one tells you about the nipple changes do they?! Yes, they are huge now!) it is because of the milk your body created and the hormones that make your body baby ready.

Your body may have changed, but so has everything else! Aren’t you more filled with love? Don’t you feel different in your head than before you had children? Don’t your priorities change? We accept all these mental and emotional changes for the better yet assume that physical changes are for the worse.

Some women naturally just ping back into the same shape as they were pre pregnancy, some change completely.  Neither is right or wrong, it is just nature.

We need to band together and refuse to see our fellow woman shamed for being ‘too’ anything.  Too thin, too fat, too muscly, too wobbly.

No one gets to tell you that you are ‘too’ anything.

You are more than your dress size.  More than the size of your waist.  More than your stretch marks.  More than your scars.

You are an awesome human being and those who judge you for your physical appearance are not the folk to be listening to.

I judge on kindness, on humour, loyalty, love.  The people I want around me are ones who are interesting, loving, awesome, funny, wonderful, caring.  And I don’t give a fuck what dress size they are.

 

Love Sam xxxx

Pelican Healthcare Live Your Life roadshow – Birmingham

I’m thrilled to let you know that I will be at the Pelican Healthcare Live Your Life roadshow this Saturday in Birmingham.

From 10.00 until 3.00pm at Millichip Suite, West Bromwich Albion Football Club

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B71 4LF

I will be doing a talk in the morning and afternoon about self esteem, body confidence and ostomies.

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There will be tons of support and information and other interesting talks through the day.
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Feel free to drop by with your family and friends, anytime between 10am and 3pm. If you have any queries, or would like to confirm your attendance, you can contact us by:

Email – ku.oc1524220921.erac1524220921htlae1524220921hnaci1524220921lep@g1524220921nitek1524220921ram1524220921

Freephone – 0800 318 282

Register now to receive a free goody bag on entry!

I look forward to seeing you there! If you live too far away do check out the Pelican website for details of other roadshows.

Sam