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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

 

 

Why I'm giving up the razor

I have an almost 12 year old daughter, she is reaching the age where the usual puberty changes are happening, there are boobs and hormonal mood swings and there is the hair… Sprouting from armpits, legs and you know, everywhere.

And so it got me thinking about the relationship between young women and their body hair.  It is such an odd thing when you think that though teens are desperate to grow into adults, they also want to remove the body hair that shows their maturity.

We live in a society where the norm is to remove every inch of hair from our legs, armpits and fannies and though I have no issue with women who choose to do this, it concerns me that the vast majority of images we see are of hairless women.

I watched The Devil Inside recently, a movie about demonic possession, there is a scene in this ‘docu-film’ (you know the whole film shown as a real documentary thing) where a woman has been locked in a basement, chained to a bed, she has dislocated her own shoulders and has the devil living inside her… Yet she seemed to have found the time to have shaved her armpits.  What the fuck?

the devil inside armpits

 

I’m a fan of The Walking Dead and it is noteworthy that all the female characters are totally smooth in the pit department.  They are years into apocalypse, zombies are walking the earth, their days are spent killing monsters yet all the women have the time to make sure they have no body hair that could be deemed unattractive?

And so I come back to my own family, my eldest child is a boy and so the only shaving we have discussed is about the whiskers on his chin but now I come to my daughter and I suddenly feel so protective over her body as she has so much more pressure to deal with as she grows up.  She has started to mention that other girls at school shave their legs and though she hasn’t outright asked yet, we have talked about it a little bit.  I have told her that some women shave, some don’t.  Either way her body hair is natural and she is a beautiful young woman and removing the hair or not won’t change that.

Then I look down at my hairless legs and armpits and think, oh snap… I grew up in a house of women with two sisters both a lot older than me and so I have always shaved.  It was just the norm, it was what women DID.  When I actually thought about WHY I shave I can’t really say why I do it.  I care little either way, I don’t have a strong preference yet it is a habit that I have done for over 20 years!

And so I decided to ditch the razors for a while, my body is au naturel at the minute and it honestly has made no difference to my life.  I am not making a big deal about it, we actually haven’t discussed that I now have hair on my body where it previously wasn’t, and that’s how I want it to be, not a big deal.  I am not encouraging her NOT to shave, more silently showing her that some women don’t and the world doesn’t stop turning.

I think the legs and armpit shaving leads onto a trend that worries me more which is the pubic hair thing… In a study by Indiana University, it showed that two-thirds of women aged 18-24, had totally or partially removed their pubic hair during the past month, and a fifth had been hairless during that entire period.  I talked to male friends and two had NEVER slept with a woman who had pubic hair.

It is all about personal choice, for sure, but more women remove the hair than those who don’t, making a hairy fanny a rare breed these days.  Most of my friends remove the vast majority or all of their pubic hair and it got me wondering why, some say they hate the way they look with hair, others cite cleanliness and fashion as the reason they go smooth down below.

As adults we have the ability to make that choice ourselves, I am seriously not judging those who do shave or wax.  But it does concern me that pre teens and teens see a very hairless society that tells them that hair removal for women is not only the norm, but that women with hair on their body are ugly, dirty or the punchline of a joke.

Some say the trend began in the pornographic industry, the vast majority of pornographic images show no hair at all and I suppose that is what concerns me, that pornographic imagery has seeped into mainstream life so far that our young teen girls are mimicking the looks of porn stars.

Perhaps it is simply a trend, one that is going to change with the times.  Either way I feel really protective over the daughter and her body hair! Maybe that is daft and I need to calm down, but I have this feminist voice screaming in my ear that I need to show my daughter that her body hair isn’t ugly or something to be ashamed of, that many beautiful, smart, wonderful women have body hair and it makes not a jot of difference.  I feel like I need to show her some sort of antidote to the barrage of hairless images and the messages she sees constantly that hair = ugly.

This post is not about stigmatising women who remove their hair, it is about a conversation that we often don’t speak of, if you have ever winced at the sight of a woman with hairy legs, think about WHY? What is it that you think is offensive or ugly.  Women’s bodies are constantly being judged on weight, size, shape, colour and body hair is another way to marginalise women, to make them feel ashamed of the natural state of themselves.

I realise I do sound anti shaving and I am genuinely not.  As with everything, personal choice is key but I like to think now that I am the mother of a young woman that I can do a little something to show her a different image to the ones that she sees everywhere else.

And so I am ditching the razor for the time being.  So far my husband hasn’t mistaken me for an overweight, bearded man,  but thanks Veet…

 

Love Sam x

IBD and body image – Sunday Assembly Film

I was thrilled to be invited to talk at Sunday Assembly in London at Conway Hall, their theme for the day was ‘I’m alright, me!’ and so my talk on Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Ostomies and body image fit in perfectly.

 

 

sunday assembly london conway hall

 

Sunday Assembly is a “godless congregation that celebrates life”, basically a ‘church’ without a deity, a weekly meeting of atheists who live by the motto of Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.  Conway Hall is a great venue and home of the Ethical Society and so it was great to talk poo in such a fantastic surrounding with a group of lovely chaps!

sunday assembly conway hall london sam cleasby

 

I had a great day with Sunday Assembly and look forward to working with them again in the future!

Here is the film of my talk, enjoy!

 

 

 

sunday assembly conway hall london sam cleasby

 

To book me to speak at your event, get in touch.

 

Love Sam x

Speaking

I did a talk at the Crohns and Colitis UK South Yorkshire Autumn lecture, I joined Mr Brown, consultant and surgeon at Sheffield Hallamshire and Northern General hospitals and we gave a patient/surgeon take on Ulcerative Colitis, surgery and treatment.  I had a brilliant time, the talk was filmed and I will share that with you when I get hold of the final cut.

I received this from Sandra Capewell, Chair of the South Yorkshire Crohns and Colitis group and was blown away.  I work hard to make a difference to the lives of people with IBD and to hear that I am helping just means so much.

 

“I discovered Sam Cleasby in an accidental kinda way and boy am I glad I did!  She’s an extraordinary woman… mother, homemaker, photographer, writer, public speaker, blogger… is there no end to Sam’s talents?  I first started reading Sam’s blog earlier this year and was blown away by her honest, open writing style (it does become addictive!).  She shares everything with her reader – all the ups and downs of her health along with stories of her loving family and views on self esteem – her words take you on a roller coaster ride in your own armchair.  You start to believe you know everything about her!  Sam has such a positive outlook on life – there’s glass half empty people and glass half full people but Sam is in a different league altogether… she’s the glass overflowing person.
Sometimes when you discover something good you want to keep it for yourself but I would have been doing a disservice to many if I had not shared Sam with others…  I asked Sam to give the lecture at the South Yorkshire Crohn’s and Colitis UK (CCUK) Autumn 2014 meeting and she was more than happy to oblige.  The old girl didn’t let me down.  The lecture covered her operations, positive body image and, as always, the continued support of her husband.  Her energy is boundless and her positivity is infectious – it gave people hope, even those experiencing different problems.  Just by being in a room Sam makes people feel happier.  And it wasn’t just me who was impressed with her lecture – here are a few comments from CCUK members:
“Very inspirational”
“The lady advocate for acceptance, self reliance and not giving up was the best speaker on positive behaviour and attitudes I’ve ever heard in my experience of 20+ years of IBD.”
“Interesting and informative”
@so_bad_ass you were brilliant!  You made me and another girl get teary (in a good positive way).  Poo shouldn’t be taboo!  Thank you.”
Read her blog.  Arrange for her to speak to your group.  Follow her story.  You won’t be disappointed!”
– Sandra Capewell (Chair – South Yorkshire Crohn’s and Colitis UK)
If you would like me to speak at your event, get in touch now
Sam x

A love letter to myself

Dear Sam,

This is a little awkward but here we go, this is a love letter to you because you need to hear this.  Society tells us that it is immodest to love yourself and the marketing people of the world don’t want you to love yourself but after a really shitty year, let’s just go for it.

You have been through so much and I am really proud of you, you battled so hard and I am amazed that you have come through this experience a stronger person.  Though at times you are frightened, angry and distressed, you have taken it all on board and made something amazing from a terrible situation.

I know you feel you have to always have a smile on your face, that you created this public face of positivity that sometimes makes it difficult to admit when you are struggling.  But you have had to learn let yourself be sad, let yourself cry, let yourself be angry.

I love that you love your friends, that you care about them and try to be there, your kindness has been repaid 100 times over during your recovery and you are lucky to have such wonderful mates around you.  I love that you want everyone to be happy but you know that sometimes you need to take some time for yourself.

You have learnt that you need to look after yourself, that your body is the only place you have to live, that means accepting it’s weaknesses and recognising when you need to stop and rest.  You realise how important you are, and that you can’t help others if you are broken yourself.

I love that you have learnt to love your body, that you have accepted your new shape, your scars and your modified self with pride and joy.  It hasn’t been an easy path but your new found happiness has not only benefitted yourself but has become a role model for others.

I love that after a long time of feeling that your career path was lost in the woods, that you have cleared the trees and discovered these strengths that you didn’t know you had.  Your childhood dream of being a writer that you thought was a silly fantasy is coming true through your own hard work and you are carving your own career and making your own opportunities.

I love that you are silly. That you are ok with playing the fool and know that your laughter is far sexier than any pout.  I love that you did a ropy poly across a dance floor just to see the look on all the “beautiful people’s” faces.  I love that as you grow older and relax more, your humour grows without shame.

I love that you are learning that you can’t fix everyone and that sometimes, no matter how hard it feels, you need to cut people from your day to day life who don’t bring you anything positive.  I love that you are learning that you shouldn’t be a doormat and that ‘no’ is a full sentence.

I love your interests in penguins, dinosaurs, collecting found shopping lists, learning about obscure, random things, knitting, reading and whatever else takes your fancy.  I love that you like these things despite others mocking you for them.  You know your interests should make you happy, not anyone else.

I love that you adore your children.  That you accept that being a mother means constant adapting and learning, you know you aren’t a perfect mum but you try your best and know that is enough.  I love that your children haven’t been scarred by your illness but it has taught them to be more empathetic, caring and open.

I love that you have found a man who makes every part of your life better.  Though you have had really tough times over the last 16 years, the past year that would have broke some people has just brought you so much closer together.  You are a lucky woman to have a person in your life who sees through everything and loves your soul.

I love that you are learning that the hard shell you put up for years didn’t just keep out the hurtful words but it kept out some good people and so you have learnt to drop the shield.  Your path hasn’t always been easy and I know you have anger and hurt when you think of your youth but I love that you are learning to deal with that.  You have been rough on yourself but you are learning to be kinder.  I know you didn’t always feel like you had people to guide you towards making healthy decisions, but that has made you the person you are and I forgive you for all the mistakes you have made along the way.

Your decision to take the last difficult year of illness and recovery and make something positive of it is a real achievement.  This love letter is just one way that you are hoping to teach others to love themselves and I hope you continue and make a difference to the lives of other people.  I love that you blog your journey without shame or embarrassment in the hope that it will help others.

So here we come to the end of this awkward letter of self love, all I can finish with are the words of the great Dory.

Just keep swimming…

 

Love Sam xx

Scars – How I overcame my insecurities by going naked

Hellooooo it is good to be back! Timm and I have been on our second honeymoon, a week in Lanzarote and we had a blummin’ brilliant time!

The weather was amazing and so I had to deal with the insecurities of going on the beach and having my scars on display.  Now if you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I am not a wallflower when it comes to showing off my scars and ostomy from all the photo shoots I have done.

But I do these for a reason, I want to raise awareness of IBD and lessen the stigma of having an ostomy or lots of scars from surgeries.  Being photographed by talented husband Timm and then editing the images and sharing online reduces the panic in showing the world my entirely imperfect body as it is not a face to face interaction.

And so I do still have insecurities about my body and the scars that criss cross my stomach, that might be hard to believe as I promote loving your body and having self confidence.  But I am only human, the reason I can talk about having body confidence and coping strategies to deal with having your ostomy or scars on show is because I have all those fears, I just work hard to overcome them in the hope that I can help others with the same worries.

silhouette of a couple dancing

For my first jaunt out on the sands I wore a bikini on the family beach, my scars that reach from my sternum right down into my groin, plus two more scars on either side of my abdomen, were all on show.  I saw the odd glance that turned into a double take, one nudge and whisper and quite a few children have a good old gawk.  None of those looks were offensive in their nature, there was no malice, just curiosity.  That is natural but it did make me feel like I was on display, I felt watched and a little uncomfortable, perhaps some of this was in my head, but it was still how I felt.

Our next beach trip was a little different, we went to a naturist beach… It is one of those things that was on my bucket list, something I wanted to try before I died.  I had been to one once before but there was no one else on the beach and so this time, going on to a busy nudist beach was a challenge.  I was really nervous, Timm and I went to a corner and slipped off our clothes and laid down quickly, giggling like kids.  We put on our sunglasses and had a look around to see lots of nude people, some sunbathing, some sat chatting, some walking or swimming.

It was odd at first, I felt extremely self conscious, but after a while I realised there was such a nice atmosphere, no one was staring at one another, I felt no judgment, totally comfortable and really relaxed.

stone heart shape on beach

The beach was filled with men and women of all shapes and sizes and though you got the odd glance and smile, everyone kept to themselves and there was no judgement.  A totally different feeling to being on a normal beach.  Perhaps it is the fact that without clothes, we are all a little vulnerable.  Or perhaps it is that being nude is a great leveller.  Either way we loved the day and for the first time I felt great in my own skin and didn’t worry about the sight of my scars.  Isn’t that a weird thing, I felt more comfortable with no clothes on, than with a swimsuit or bikini.

As a woman who is a size 14-16 with lumps, bumps and jiggly bits, a naturist beach wouldn’t usually be somewhere I would think of as relaxing, but it really was.  My size wasn’t even a thought and my scars were soon forgotten about, the most attention I got was for my tattoos!

I wouldn’t call myself a naturist now, I don’t feel the need to be naked all the time and nor would I go out of my way to find naturist beaches, but I can say that a good chunk of the good feeling on our holiday came from our visits to the nudist beaches and I’m really happy to say that the experience has helped me on my way to accepting and loving my scars.

nude beach stone balancing so bad ass sam cleasby

So what do you think? Is it something you have done or something you would try?

Let me know in the comments below.

Love Sam xx

Talking to children about their weight

We all want the very best for our kids, we want them to be happy and healthy. But what about if you have a child who gains weight easily? How do you best broach the subject without making their weight an issue?

One of my three kids gains weight easily, all three eat the same things and live similar lives yet two of them are beanpoles who don’t have an ounce of body fat and one is bigger and puts on weight quickly and easily. I’ve googled and asked around and can’t find an answer to how to deal with this.

I don’t want weight to become something they think about but equally I don’t want them to be overweight and have to deal with all the issues that surround being overweight, both health wise and socially. As part of my blog I am all about loving your body whatever size you are, but I do feel it’s my job as a mum to make sure that while their eating and exercise habits are under my control that they are as healthy as possible.

But the line is a difficult one to tread. I want my children to love themselves, to be happy, healthy and live good lives. And as hypocritical as this may seem coming from an overweight woman, I don’t want them to have weight issues. So how do you talk about weight without making it an emotional and mental issue?

We have tried talking in general terms about health. About eating healthy, colourful and tasty foods and limiting sweeties. We have talked about how we need energy to move around and be fit and that if we take on more energy than we burn that it is turned to fat stores. But this hasn’t sunk in to a child who will eat half a packet of biscuits when I’m not looking. Or the child who only wants to sit and watch tv and play on a DS. A child who is classed as overweight.

Tonight it came to a head after my child ate a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to himself. I had said they could have a little bit each which two of them did, the third ate the rest and when I saw the tub had all gone, I admit I was annoyed and the awful words came out of my mouth “this is why you’re getting fat”

The child’s face crumpled and I felt like shit. I sat and cuddled and told them I loved them more than anything. That they were beautiful and awesome and I thought they were fantastic. I said that I was sorry if I’d made them feel bad and that my intention was only to make sure they grew up healthy. I feel terrible. I feel like I have scarred my child and given him a weight issue.

Am I a total hypocrite to write about loving the body you are in whilst not wanting my kids to be overweight?!

The reality is that being overweight isn’t healthy, it causes health and social problems and I would rather my children not have to deal with those things through their lives. If there is a way to ensure they are the fittest they can be then that is what I want. But am I causing problems by bringing it up?

We talked tonight about how everyone needs to eat yummy healthy food and that exercise is about doing the fun things you enjoy and getting moving. We talked about starting swimming again weekly, something we stopped with my surgery and we made a plan that we would walk the dog together every day and it would be ‘our thing’.

You see some children who are very overweight and I wonder whether parents need to be a little harder on diet and exercise. Is it mean to discuss the child’s weight and risk them feeling sad, or is it worse to say nothing and allow them to gain weight?

After my almighty gaff, my child and I had a chat and lots of hugs. I used lots of positive words and we talked about all the fabulous qualities. Then tonight my kid came in and said “mum I’ve made a plan!” I was shown a list of all the fun things that could be done instead of sitting on a DS ( which we agreed should be limited to one hour a day) including den building, walking the dog, playing with lego, swimming and writing stories. There was also a discussion on what healthy meals we could all eat together. I’m hoping that our chat has made a positive impact and that my awful comment can be forgotten.

So dear readers, have I screwed up my amazingly awesome son by using the f word?

Do you agree that we are responsible for our children’s weight? Or should we allow our kids to settle at their own desired weight?

Is discussing weight going to cause problems with self esteem and confidence?

Please comment and let me know what you think because I am at a total loss and feel like the worst mum ever. I’m so confused as to the best way to deal with this situation and would appreciate any advice or comments.

I’m aware this is an emotional and contentious issue and hope I haven’t offended anyone as that was never my goal. Equally please be kind and know that though I have messed up tonight, I’m just a mum trying to do her best.

Love Sam x

Loving your baby body

This is a post I did for Motherhood Journeys about self esteem and loving your baby body.

I started So Bad Ass last June and began blogging about my experiences, suddenly a lot of people were reading about my journey and the messages I started to receive weren’t just from people with the same problems as me, they were from teenage girls with anorexia, grandmothers who had cancer, mothers who felt they had lost themselves, people going through divorces… All had the same problem at the root and it came down to self-esteem.

And so more and more, I write about positivity, body confidence, happiness and image. And that leads me to my post today.

Before I had children I was a size 8, roll forward nine months and I was a size 16. It was a blow for me and I suddenly felt lost, I felt that the person I was had disappeared under layers of fat and milk filled breasts. I know I had grown and housed a human being for 40 weeks but I was shocked at how my body now looked.

new mother body image love your baby body

Another two children followed in the next four years and I never lost the weight I had gained. It made me feel guilty; I saw images of celebrity mothers who ‘snapped’ right back into shape and the fat shaming of those who didn’t. I was a happy mother, I loved being pregnant, I loved being a mother but I felt a tinge of sadness when I saw photographs of me before, almost a grief or bereavement of the person I once was.

 

My youngest is now 9. I still haven’t regained my pre baby body, and you know what? I couldn’t care less! You see when I had surgery last year, they cut me from just under my chest bone down to my pelvis, they removed my large bowel and made a hole for a small piece of my small intestine to poke out of, then the sewed and stapled me back together. I came out of the surgery feeling horrified at the state of my body. It felt mutilated and ruined.

During the last six months of cathartic writing on my blog I have learnt not only to accept my body, but to rejoice in it. My body is AMAZING. It keeps going despite illness and surgery. It looks after me and it is SO bad ass…

It got me thinking about my post baby body and how I wish I had thought more of my body then. I grew three human beings. My body made a home for them; my blood pumped through them and nourished them. My womb filled with fluids to keep them safe. My vagina pushed them into this world. My breasts fed them.  How dare I have hated my body??

As women, we give ourselves such a hard time; we rarely congratulate ourselves or make positive comments about our own appearance. Why is that? Are we so brain washed that we really believe that only size 0 women with rock hard abs and pert breasts are beautiful?

This is in no way against slim women, it is about celebrating and loving our bodies whatever our size or shape.

Last year I photographed Corinne with baby Arthur and was over the moon when she asked me to take a few images of her post natal body. She looked beautiful. I was able to look at her in a detached way, thinking from a photographer’s point of view. I saw her full breasts that became the perfect pillow for her baby’s head, the softness of her waist and gentle lines of the stretch marks were lit beautifully. The width of her hips made me think of the journey her newborn baby had taken from her womb.

new mother body image love your baby body

At first she was a little self conscious, but after relaxing, she stopped thinking about her body and the look of pure love in her eyes as she watched Arthur was stunning.

We need to stop using such negative language about our bodies and start rejoicing. How many times have you said to yourself “I’m so fat” “My belly is disgusting” “My stretch marks are GROSS!”

That is not ok.

You wouldn’t hear someone say that to your best friend, so why is it ok to say it to yourself?

We are all different shapes and sizes, not one of us is perfect, we are all deliciously imperfect.

new mother body image love your baby body

If you are a mum reading this who berates your body I want you to just remember the magic that your body performs. You made a human being. You are a goddess… you brought life into this world. That takes a lot of doing, so don’t be down on your poor tummy, that sag is because it made way for those awesome little beings you call children. Don’t be sad when your breasts sit a little lower, all that milk making can take its toll.

Be kind to your body, it’s the only one you get.

 

Get a summer body (and other such crap)

Wait, what the fuck is a summer body? Is it better than an Autumn body?

That big glowing ball of light and warmth is warming up the air temperature slightly and so it is time for every magazine and website to start telling us to get ‘beach ready’, get a ‘bikini body’ and starve, scrub, wax and our disgusting Spring bodies to achieve the almighty SUMMER BODY!

Do you know the best way to get a bikini body? It is to put a bikini upon your body… And whether that body is fat or slim, muscly or bony, whether you have scars, stretch marks, a stoma, big boobs, little boobs, no boobs, a big bum, a flat bum, thighs that are tiny or thighs that have some meat on them… Your bikini body will always be better if you feel happy and confident.

bikini body funny

Choose swimwear that makes you feel comfortable and happy.  If that is a thong and nothing else, then hooray! And if it it a vest and shorts then bloody well go for it.

How hard do you have to work to afford a holiday? That one or two weeks should be about relaxing, having fun and enjoying yourself.  With all the pressures we have in day to day life, why the fuck should we be spending time, money and emotional stress on dieting, exercising, exfoliating, waxing, shaving, buffing and primping? Go on your holiday and enjoy it!

There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight or to get fit.  But do it because you want to be healthier or fitter, or because you would feel better dropping a few pounds.  Don’t do it because the multi billion pound beauty industry use a season of the year to sell extra products by making you feel bad about yourself!

how to wear a bikini body confidence so bad ass

The phrase “are you beach ready?” is being used regularly at the moment, and by that they mean have you poured hot wax onto your skin and then torn the hair from your body, or have you used a sharp blade to scrape every inch of hair from your legs, fanny and armpits… Newsflash! Human bodies are covered in hair! Choosing not to remove it has no relevance to whether you are ready to go on a beach.

Can you imagine a world where it was socially unacceptable for a man to be in public with hair on his legs, armpits or genitals?  No, me neither.  Yet society tells women that it is abhorrent to have hair anywhere but on our heads! If you choose to remove your hair then that is up to you, but if you choose not to then you are open to ridicule and insults.  Remember when Julia Roberts showed her armpit hair and the photos went around the world.  How bloody bizarre!!! Imagine the same thing with a fella? Nope, just wouldn’t happen.

julia roberts armpit hair                           brad pitt naked

 

Not ok…                                                                                                             Ok…

 

I came across a particularly vile theme whilst researching this post called #bikinibridge – the aim being to be so thin that your bikini bottoms bridge across your hip bones… Wow! Now some women are naturally thin and this is nothing against them, but to be aiming to lose so much weight that your stomach sits concave to your hips is both unhealthy and terrifying.

bikini bridge

How bloody sad that women will waste their time worrying about how much of a gap their is between their hips and stomach? Man, go learn a language or attend a lecture, go spend time with your friends or read a book.  Ladies, don’t waste your time worrying about making your body look like an underweight child.

Im a size 16 with pubic hair, scars, stretch marks and imperfections.  Do I look like a supermodel on the beach? Hell no! But I tell you, I am grateful for this body, this body that holds me up and keep going despite disease, surgery and missing organs.  This amazing human body is so strong and adaptable, it is a wonder.  So when I go on the beach this year I will be celebrating what a lucky woman I am to be alive and well.  I guarantee I won’t be worrying whether it is ‘beach ready’ or the ‘perfect summer body’.

 

bikini body so bad ass

It is my body and I am proud! The next time I am in a bikini, I will be having fun and worrying not about whether other people can see my scars, whether other people don’t like the shape of my stomach or the wobble of my ass.

Don’t get sucked in by this annual tripe, it is simply a lazy, easy way to sell magazines and products.  If you are lucky enough to be going on your hols this year, then invest your time and money into something worthwhile.  You are so much more than the size of your thighs or the hairiness of your fanny… The fact that you are well enough to travel, that you have enough spare money to be going on holiday mean you are in a better position than millions of people.  Relish in that and go have fun in your beautiful spring/summer/autumn/winter body.

 

Sam xxx

 

Ostomy photoshoot – 50s pin up

There is a lot of negativity when it comes to ostomies, I have heard many a time things like “Id rather die than wear a colostomy/ileostomy bag” “I don’t want to look like a freak” “Im not normal if I have a bag” etc etc

It is absolutely gutting to hear comments like this being made in public, the fact is that these bags save lives, we aren’t choosing to have them as a fashion accessory, they are there because the people who have them have been so sick and battled so hard that they now have to live with an ostomy.

As you may know I have done a couple of photoshoots before in order to demystify the whole process, to show how small a part of me my bag is.

I decided to do one last shoot before my pouch surgery next week and the theme was 50s pin up.  I wanted to show that people living with an ostomy can be sexy, fun and cheeky… That this little bag doesn’t define who I am, it is just a small add on to my body that allows me to function in a way I have been unable to for 10 years.

Im a bit nervous at putting these up so please be kind, I do this because I want to make a difference, I want to show people what an ileostomy bag is like, and that it doesn’t stop my femininity, sexuality or sense of humour because when I had my surgery I was so terrified that I would lose those things.

Enjoy x

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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Thanks so much for looking

Remember that you can make a difference, to donate to Crohns and Colitis UK you can text CCUK14 and your donation amount to 70070
e.g. If you wanted to donate £5 you would text: CCUK14 £5 and send it to 70070.

Or online through Just Giving

 

Thank you so much to my husband Timm for The Picture Foundry for photographing me for this shoot.

 

Sam xxx