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Scars. Body image. And not really dealing with it. 

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last op and slowly, my wounds and scars are healing.  It’s yet another big scar, though it has gone through the scar site of previous surgeries.

Just a warning that there will be some graphic images of my wounds in this post, so if you have problems with that, perhaps click away now.

Part of my scar opened up after having the staples removed and so I’m cleaning it daily and trying to encourage to to heal from the inside out.  This means I have a little hole in my tummy just above my belly button. Inside my belly button is also very slow to heal, so it’s a case of keeping both wounds clean and dry and letting time take its course.

Cleaning the sites is a little tricky as I can’t quite see, so I am doing it in the mirror. I have this magnifying make up mirror on my dressing table and that helps for me to see inside the wounds as I wash them.

Unfortunately it also gives me this close up, well lit, view of my stomach and all it’s many scars, marks and bruises. This morning, it all got a bit much and I got really upset looking at the state of my body.  I have always dealt with my scars quite well, I see them as war wounds and have always been quite proud of them.

Yet after surgery number 5, it is getting harder and harder to see the bright side. My stomach is covered in scars, my ostomy bag and currently lots of little marks and bruises as I’m injecting myself with blood thinners to counteract DVT and blood clots. (I’m not very good at it and keep hitting blood vessels!!)

I have to admit that I’ve sat and had a big cry. I just felt so sorry for myself and I hate that I’m moping but fucking hell, my body is a mess!  I saw myself with fresh eyes today and recognised just how battered my stomach looks.  It made me wonder how Timm could ever find me attractive again?! He’s loving and sweet and I know he’d never say anything unkind to me, but it must be tough for him to see how awful my body looks right now.

I’m sorry this is such a ‘woe is me’ post, I know I’m usually banging on about empowerment and loving your body but right now, I’m finding it tough.

Saying that, I still do respect my body and think I’m a total badass! I love that I’m still standing (well mostly sitting or laying) after everything that’s been thrown at me. I’m in awe that my body is doing such a great job of healing itself after surgery.  I feel tough and strong knowing that I’ve been through a lot and I’m here.


But I think I’m allowed a whinge. I’m allowed to feel shit. I’m allowed to complain and cry. So here it is.

It’s not fucking fair. This isn’t fair, I don’t want this, I’m sick of having operations, I’m so fucking fed up of not being well and ok. I hate looking in the mirror at my scars, these open wounds make me feel queasy.  I am fed up, angry and heartbroken that 3 years after the first surgery that I thought would solve all my problems that I’m still struggling.

I feel hopeless. And that’s the hardest feeling. It’s like I can’t feel optimistic because optimism hasn’t faired me well so far. There’s no point in believing this will be my last surgery as I’ve thought that every time and it got me nowhere but disappointed. So it’s probably easier to assume the worst and then at least I’ll be proved right.


Fuck, I hate that I’ve just written all of that. I read it back and it’s not me. I’m not a pessimist, I should be sticking rhinestones on myself and celebrating the silver linings but right now I just can’t.

I read back at my older posts and wonder what has changed. Why don’t I feel hopeful and optimistic now when I have in the past?  I’m now aware just how annoying it must have been to read my jolly posts whilst you were struggling.  Sorry about that!

People say I’ve inspired them. I find that hard to say because it sounds big headed. But I am proud that in sharing my journey that I have helped people. I just hope people can find comfort in the rough posts too. I’m sorry I can’t be rainbows and kittens for you today, but I hope anyone who is having a tough time can read this and know they aren’t alone.

Sam XX

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

 

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.

alexa chung

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.

ileostomy bag bikini swimwear beachwear holiday

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

Fat is not sexy…

These are the words of Steve Miller, do you remember him? He did a show called Fat Families where he basically bullied people into exercise and eating salad by calling them “massive fatties” at every opportunity in order to motivate them to lose weight.

Well I unfortunately stumbled upon his twitter feed yesterday and unsurprisingly it is filled with fat shaming posts.  What does surprise me is how far he is willing to push his condemnation of overweight people.  His feed is filled with venomous statements labelling people “fat” “lazy” and stating that they aren’t curvy, just fat.

steve miller twitter fat shaming

Here’s the charmer himself telling the world about the “reality” and “truth” that fat people are unattractive and aren’t able to be in a loving relationship.

steve miller twitter fat shaming

Also fat people don’t have sex.  It’s the truth, it must be!!! This vile Alan Carr wannabe said so!!  All I can think is that he has been taking a leaf out of the Katie Hopkins school of fame and hopes that if he can be as offensive as possible then he will gain fame.  He extolls himself as ‘the Simon Cowell of the slimming world’ with his Mr Nasty character and believes that fat shaming helps to motivate people to lose weight.

What a dick.

I really want to post an intelligent and reasoned argument as to why this vile toad is wrong, but I only have expletives!  How very fucking dare he?  His ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ is bullshit.  He doesn’t get to judge others on their outward appearance and assume that his fucked up, warped view of the world is the truth.

“The reality is; most men don’t want an overweight lover so as soon as they begin to get heavier their partner begins to look elsewhere. After all, who wants a fat woman on top of them in the bedroom?”

What world is he living in? His assumption that all women want to be a size 6 and all men would baulk at the sight of a woman larger than a supermodel is fucking ridiculous.

You know what is sexy? Confidence.  There is nothing hotter than a person who glows with self love, who is happy, joyous and loving life.  You know that person who lights up a room when they enter, who is interesting and clever and witty and you are drawn to them.  And they may be a size 6 or a size 26, the outer shell doesn’t matter when you are in the presence of someone awesome.

You know what isn’t sexy? A person who tries to make money from shaming people into feeling bad about themselves, who name-calls and belittles others.  Somebody who takes their own hurt and pain and puts it onto others.

Worry not, because they amazing world of twitter has responded with vigour.  Awesome blogger and fat activist Daisy replied.

steve miller twitter fat shaming

Whilst I pissed myself at Fat Becky‘s response…

steve miller fat shaming

Yeah, yeah I know lowering ourselves to mocking his appearance isn’t the most adult thing to do, but sometimes, some people are so vile that they kind of deserve it…

There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, get fitter or change your lifestyle, but how many really believe that someone bullying them will help? No one should lose weight because someone else makes them feel bad about themselves, weight loss and getting fitter should be a personal choice and one that is emotionally healthy for them.

And that personal choice goes both ways, a friend told me recently that she had been dieting for years and had started a new regime, her husband sighed heavily and told her that he would rather her gain another 5 stone than him have to see her punish herself any longer.  Not everyone wants to be thin, nor does every partner care what size their loved one is.

After my surgeries I was a little shy in front of my husband, I wore long vests in the bedroom to hide my changed body, this became a habit that I eventually tired of.  I realised I wasn’t fooling him, he didn’t think I was a size 0 under my size 16 vest!!! And so I rid myself of the garments and shook what my momma gave me… The result? An honest conversation where he told me that when I covered up it made him worry that I didn’t trust him to love me, it also made him think I couldn’t be enjoying myself if I was thinking about my stomach.

This vile man, Steve Miller, would like you all to believe that if you are fat, no one will love you.  I call bullshit.  If the people around you only care about the number in the back of your dress then dump those fuckers NOW.  True friends, partners, lovers care about you as a whole package and your size and shape pales into insignificance when it comes to your self esteem, confidence, joy and character.

Sex and love are about respect, trust, fun and excitement.  These things come through self esteem and a great relationship not through salads and treadmills.

Fat is not sexy? What a load of shit!!!

IMG_3648-0.JPG

No make up, no photoshop, size 16 and in the words of the amazing Amy Schumer, I can catch a dick any time I want…

Steve Miller, go fuck yourself!

 

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!

love your body mummy tummy body confidence

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!

ibd body confidence colostomy bag ileostomy women self esteem chronic illness

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

So Bad Ass talk at Seven Hills WI

I did a talk at the marvellous Seven Hills WI in Sheffield last month about self esteem and body confidence.    It was fantastic to get to talk to such wonderful women and it was filmed so please do take a look.  I am a little bit sweary so not suitable for younger viewers.  It is 45 minutes long, so grab a brew and take a listen.

If you would like to book me to talk at your event, get in touch now.

 

 

Love Sam xx

My beautiful scars

I have a lot of scars, and with another surgery planned in the next few weeks, I will have a few more too…  I am not ashamed of them, they are the signs of my IBD journey, the battle scars of my fight of the last ten years.

My family is half Indian, and so unfortunately I have some issues with keloid scarring.  When you have damage to the skin, in healing itself the body produces more of a protein called collagen.  Collagen gathers around the damage and builds up to help the wound seal over in a scar.

However, some scars don’t stop growing. They “invade” the surrounding healthy skin and become bigger than the original wound. These are known as keloid scars. Keloids affect around 10-15% of all wounds and is more common in people with darker skin particularly African, African Caribbean and Indian people.  (This information comes from the NHS website, take a look for more info and if you are concerned, then go see your GP)

For some people, scars can be associated with poor self esteem and negative body image.  They can be an external sign of their internal struggles and people may feel embarrassed or ashamed of them.  I get this, occasionally I feel self conscious if I see people staring at my scars, this only happens at the swimming pool or beach as I am well past wearing crop tops!

But I have always found scars quite appealing, they suggest a story, something interesting that happened to that person.  My husband is covered in scars from years of skateboarding and snowboarding and we always say that chicks dig scars… Turns out dudes dig scars too!

I have done a few photo shoots before to show my stoma and ileostomy bag before, and so I thought I would have a few of my post j pouch body.

I have been through a lot in the past couple of years, a lot of difficult times, embarrassing and upsetting events, yet I am pleased to say that through it all, my scars are one thing that I haven’t struggled with.  I know they are large, and some would say unsightly, I know they are really visible and somewhat shocking.  But I had three kids before these surgeries and so I already had a lot of stretch marks and a caesarian scar.  Perhaps having these before made the transition to more noticeable scars easier for me to deal with?

After my first son, I went from a size 6 to a size 16… I gained a lot of weight and was COVERED in stretch marks.  I was embarrassed and upset by them, when a family friend told me that I should rejoice in those marks.  They were my tiger stripes, my war wounds, the sign that my body had created another human being!!! Those marks, she told me, were beautiful and something to be proud of.

These scars are a similar thing, they are the marks that show the struggle I have been through.  They remind me of my bravery, my fight, my winning.  They tell a story and they make me smile.

My scars are beautiful.

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All photographs are by Timm Cleasby from the Picture Foundry and cannot be used without permission.  Take a look at The Picture Foundry website, it is the photography company I run with my husband.

 

Sam xx

Too Ugly For Love? Why this isn't ok…

The people who brought you Katie Hopkins show My Fat Story have outdone themselves with their latest show “Too Ugly For Love?” a show about… well let me directly quote the TV channel for you.

“For most people looking for love can be daunting. But for singles with a secret physical affliction the search to find ‘the one’ can seem almost impossible.

This series follows 10 unique singletons,ordinary people living with extraordinary medical conditions, on their quest to find love. All these conditions can be kept secret during a date,and with that comes a whole world of dilemmas.  From alopecia, missing limbs and colostomy bags to medical anomalies such as hyperhidrosis (profuse sweating) and pyoderma gangrenosum (a rare form of skin ulcers), the singletons are agonising over the problems that these conditions are causing in their love lives.

How can you find love when you are hiding your true self? Where do you find the confidence to play the field? When should you reveal the truth to someone that you really like? And how will they react?

The longer you leave the truth, the harder it can be to come clean and the more dramatic the revelation. Follow the singletons through the ups and downs of the dating game as they adopt different strategies to hide their conditions.”

oh no she didn't

There are so many things wrong with this that I barely know where to start! So let’s begin with the title.

Too Ugly For Love? When I saw this yesterday and spluttered and swore profusely all over Facebook and twitter about it, a few people responded saying ‘Ahhh but see the question mark? They aren’t calling them ugly, they are just questioning it!’  Ohhhhh that’s ok then!! They are just asking whether the audience thinks these people are too ugly…

As I read the the biographies of the people on the show (all of whom I have no doubt are lovely, genuine people who I have NO beef with at all) I was just appalled.  There is a lady with alopecia, two gents with amputated limbs, two with ostomy bags (the biog of the show calls them colostomies but as we know, the media refuse to accept the existence of ileostomies and so who knows which they are!), a woman with keloid scarring, one with a disease that causes excessive sweating and a woman who was burnt badly.  As you read through that list, is there any part of you that would question their beauty based on their circumstances?

The title of the show is just to grab headlines, and I am not that surprised coming from a company who works with a woman who feeds off negative publicity like a grotesque leech, but I am so offended by it.

My blog is all about celebrating our inner awesomeness, about loving our amazing bodies whatever they look like and however poorly, wounded or damaged they have become.  It is about trying to show my audience that my scars, my ileostomy bag, my illness never defined me, I have openly written about my journey and how I learnt not only to accept the changes I went through, but to embrace and love my brave, heroic body that keeps going despite illness and surgery.

too ugly for love ostomy bag sam cleasby so bad ass

The idea of a show that labels people with an ostomy ‘too ugly’ is just heartbreaking.  We all have that horrid little voice in our heads, you know the one that tells you that you’re too ugly, too fat, too stupid, too (insert shit feeling here)… Seeing a TV show like this just makes me feel like everyone thinks that about me too.  The idea that it is a question makes me think “Do people think I am too ugly for love??”

As someone who had an ileostomy bag and now has a lot of scarring including large keloid scars, I hit two of their categories.  A little voice inside me thought ‘Blimey, am I doubly ugly?’

And that is when the anger struck… I am a confident woman who does this for a living, I write about body confidence, self esteem and chronic illness and so I KNOW there are so many people out there who feel crap about themselves because of illness, scarring, surgery and more.  I am so furious that there will be people out there now questioning YET AGAIN (because believe me, we do it ALL THE TIME) how people judge them.

I haven’t watched the show and I won’t be.  I know some people will argue that I shouldn’t judge a show that I haven’t seen.  But really, I can’t bring myself to watch it, I know for a fact that when they were asking people to apply they didn’t say “Do you want to be on a show called Too Ugly For Love?”  It just feels like a way to point at the people different to you, it is that sympathy porn of The Undateables, making struggling people easy fodder for the masses and it doesn’t sit well with me.

This line in the TV show’s bumpf gets me straight away…

“follow the singletons through the ups and downs of the dating game as they adopt different strategies to hide their conditions.”

I understand the feeling of wanting to hide your illness/disability away, but that is a negative thing.  To hide something means to be ashamed of it and not want the world to see.  Surely we should be helping others to learnt to accept the thing they want to hide, as a society shouldn’t we be saying ‘we are all different and that is a wonderful thing’ not watching people adopting strategies to hide their conditions!

And so I wanted to write about it, I have had so many messages on Facebook, twitter, instagram and email from people who are just disgusted by TLC UK.  I hope TLC will take on board the comments from people all over the UK who they have upset and offended by the title of this show.

And my message to anyone reading this who is less than perfect (that would be all of you!) is this…

We are all so different, some of us slim, some muscly, some obese, some carrying a few extra pounds.  There are those of us who have had surgeries that alter us in some way, who take medication that changes the way we look, there are those of us in wheelchairs, with ostomy bags, with scars.  Some of us have very visible diseases and illnesses and some have ones that are entirely invisible but make our heads and hearts hurt with the struggle…

Beauty is not perfection.  Ugly is not imperfection.

Our bodies are the only ones we have and they are with us for life, we need to learn to accept, love and celebrate the body we are in, no matter how poorly or broken it is.  I always think of my scars as the hieroglyphs of my journey, they don’t show weakness, they show what I battled through and that I came through the other side a lot stronger, wiser and filled with so much more empathy and kindness for others.

If you are surrounding yourself with people who question your physical appearance, or there are people in your life who believe you are ugly, it is not yourself you need to change, it is the people around you.

Nice, kind, good people won’t judge you for your difference.  Your true friends will love you for being you, your physical appearance means fuck all to the right people.

The person you want to fall in love with is out there, and they don’t care about whether your body is perfect, they care about whether your heart is true, your laughter genuine, your nature kind and your soul happy.  If you have to hide away who you really are, they aren’t the one.

We are all amazing beings and we need to learn to celebrate and love one another not point fingers and question their perfection.

If you are looking for perfection, you will have a long wait.  Every one of us has so many delicious imperfections that make us the person we are.

Fuck perfection.  Let’s celebrate the best parts of us and know that we are all a little broken.

I would LOVE to hear your opinion on all this, please leave comments.

 

Peace and Love

 

Sam x