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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

To make up or not to make up

I sometimes find make up an odd thing, it’s the social expectation that women will wear make up that I find a little weird. Men have no such pressure to daily paint their faces yet for many women, they wouldn’t leave the house without wearing at least some sort of cosmetics.

I don’t wear make up day to day but I wouldn’t go for an evening out with a bare face. And having no idea why got me thinking. The feminist part of me feels like it’s totally unnecessary, that wearing lipstick that is supposed to make my mouth look more enticing is ridiculous, or putting on fake eyelashes that supposedly make my eyes wider and more attractive is a joke.

But the reality is that I don’t wear make up FOR other people. I wear make up partly as a security blanket, a safety net of habit. My mother wears little make up but my earliest memories are of her dressing table filled with these lotions, potions and paints that seemed to hold the mysteries of being a woman.

I also feel that on a night out I want to transform myself from daytime work Sam and mum to party loving Sam. It’s the reason I wear different clothes on a night out than to what Id wear for work or home. That transformation makes me feel more confident.

I hadn’t really thought too much about the reasons why I wear make up before. I suppose I just thought it made me look better. But on Saturday night after an evening out I was taking my slap off, and for some reason just removed half.

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I was really surprised by the results, I found I was no happier with my made up face than my natural face and it got me thinking about why I wear it and if it matters.

Like many women, I have a make up bag filled with foundation, powder, mascara and all manner of powders and pastes. But why? It is for me but I suppose it’s also about wanting to project a certain image out into the world. Does that sound shallow? In writing this I feel I may sound vain, that I should be entirely happy with my looks and not feel the need to wear a mask. But isn’t most of our image some sort of mask?

Makeup can be a form of self-expression and a way to show your personality and character. And if it makes you feel better then what is the problem? The sexist assumption that women only wear make up for male attention is unhelpful. As is the idea that without makeup we feel unattractive. The reality is that through make up, clothes and hair I want to express myself in a way that shows who I am and then have others see that form of self-expression.

Shallow or not our image is the outward, immediate way we tell people who we are. It’s said you judge a person when you meet them within 10 seconds, that first impression means so much. And perhaps that is why I don’t feel the need to wear any make up and wear joggers and a vest in the house because the people I see already know and love me, they don’t judge me on my external appearance. Whereas out of the house in a work or social environment I know I will be meeting people and want to put across a certain image.

Whether that is in a meeting where I want to show my professionalism, personality and that I’m a mother f**king adult. Or at a party where I want my fun, giddy and party side to come out. It’s all a mask, a costume, an external show of my internal personality.

So to make up or not to make up? Tell me what you think!

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

Young women, you are beautiful

Young women, teenage girls, tweens, can I just take moment to tell you how beautiful you are?

Yes you, I’m talking to you, the one who says you don’t like your nose, or that your thighs are too big, your tummy too round or you have spots on your face.

You who thinks you aren’t good enough because you don’t look like the girls on tv.

You who look like the girls on tv but still deep inside feel a sadness that you aren’t enough.

All of you, this is for you.

You are beautiful and amazing young women. Society may tell you different but please remember that the only point of advertising is to make you feel that you aren’t good enough. For how on earth would they sell their latest product if you thought you were wonderful?

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Not enough people will say this to you in your life because it’s not the done thing. But ladies, you are awesome. What a wonderful, unique and fantastic human being you are! To quote a certain Dr Seuss, “Ohhh the places you’ll go”

I want you to take a moment and look in the mirror. Look past what size your waist is, or whether you have blemishes on your skin, look past the style of your hair and your choice of clothes and say “I am amazing”

It feels wrong in some way doesn’t it? So immodest and not the done thing. But you know, your life will be easier if you can learn to love who you are. To accept your shape and face because baby, it’s what is inside that matters and goodness, kindness, loyalty, weirdness, love, joy and confidence shine through whatever you look like.

The most beautiful person in a room is one who is confident and happy. It’s not about being the centre of attention, more about a calm and happy acceptance of who you are.

teaching teenage girls self esteem and body confidence

So keep trying, shake off the cringe and take a long hard look at yourself and tell yourself your good points. Now don’t say you don’t have any… Yes, I can read your mind! Ok, Ill go first…

I like my legs, they are shapely and long. I adore the love heart shaped birth mark on the sole of my foot. I think I have sparkly, happy eyes. I am a great mum, an honest and loyal friend and an awesome wife. I’m a good writer and I work hard to spread a little bit of cheer in the world.

Does that all sound big headed? Well tough! I give myself positive reinforcement and think about the things I like about myself. Because though I have parts of my body I’m not wild about and parts of my character that could definitely be improved upon, what good will it do me to be always thinking about my bad points? Looking for the positive puts me in a better mood and makes me feel more positive.

teenage girls self esteem body image love yourself

 

Ladies you are growing up in an age where the pressure to look a certain way has never been higher. I feel for you as you are worrying about your looks at a younger and younger age and it scares me. Please listen to my little voice, I know I am but a whisper against the fashion and beauty industries that pump billions into making you feel like shit, but my voice is honest and true.

Young women, you are beautiful and perfect just the way you are.

Love Sam x

 

All photography courtesy of the wonderfully talented Timm Cleasby of The Picture Foundry

So Bad Ass – what I do and why

I have had Ulcerative Colitis for over ten years now, and when my health took a real turn for the worse last year and I was facing surgery, I scoured the internet for support and help.  There were a lot of medical websites with confusing terminology and terrifying pictures and there were forums dedicated to IBD patients, but I found these difficult to interact with and like they had no relevance to my life.

I found one amazing blog called Inflamed and Untamed run by the ever inspiring Sara Ringer, her blog was the thing that inspired me to start So Bad Ass.  She was young and happy to talk honesty about her health, I fell in love with her blog and still follow her now.  But as she is based in the US I found some of what she spoke about just not right for the UK.

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Over a year later I am so proud of what I have achieved here.  I get thousands and thousands of people a week reading my little blog and so many emails and messages both of support and asking for my help or telling me that this site makes a difference.

I have spoken at International Women’s Day and been booked to do talks at Women’s Institute events and hospital charity events.  I have written for charities, blogs and magazines.  I am devoting myself to raising awareness off Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, ileostomies, colostomies and j pouches! But more than that, I want to use my experiences to help women deal with issues around self esteem, body confidence and learning to be so bad ass and awesome.

Over the past couple of weeks there have been so much media attention given to ileostomies and it is amazing!!! It is the reason that I journaled my experience and have shown my photographs for the last year.  I think the more we see ileostomy and colostomy bags, the less taboo, the less scary and the less shocking they become.

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

Im so proud of my IBD brothers and sisters for sharing the stories and photographs and getting IBD into mainstream media.  I did a story last year about how frustrating I was finding it to be hitting a brick wall when contacting (A LOT) of newspapers, magazines and media outlets and being turned away.  So to finally see stories and images hitting the headlines I am over the moon.

I just wanted to thank all my readers for staying with me on this journey, for reading, liking, sharing and tweeting.  I can’t tell you how much it means to know that I have amazing audience who support this blog and share it all over the world.

 

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It may take more time, but slowly and surely the message is getting out there.  I hope this blog and all the other blogs that are appearing now continue to raise awareness, spread a positive message and make a difference to the 260,000 people in the UK living with these diseases.

Hooray for us!!!

 

 

Love Sam xxx

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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’.

 

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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

 

Why I have stopped buying women’s magazines

This year I made a decision to stop buying ‘women’s’ magazines and I feel so much happier for doing it.  Here’s why…

Im not a massive magazine buyer, I don’t buy them regularly but now and then I will pick up a few and every time I did, I ended up either feeling rubbish about myself or pissed off at the world we live in.  When I did buy them I would flick through this dross and seethe at the three little pigs debate on women, this celebrity is too fat, this celebrity is too thin, this celebrity is jusssssssst right.

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Look at these ‘shocking’ bodies they scream, let’s join together and shame these women, for how dare they go out in public with any sight of wobbly flesh, a rounded stomach or stretch marks.  Lose weight you disgusting creatures.  But hang on, don’t lose too much weight, because look over here at these women, they must be anorexic or on drugs!! Look at the vile bitch whose ribs we can see…

 

Why the fuck was I buying these things?  I honestly can’t answer that, perhaps it was habit or boredom.  I can tell you I just don’t enjoy reading this shit.  I don’t care how big a Kardashian’s arse is, I don’t want to see that Madonna is too thin or Chantelle is too fat.  Seeing these women, big or small just made me feel angry.  It didn’t make me feel good about myself seeing someone bigger than me though it did at times make me feel shit to see a thin celeb being mocked for gaining a few pounds.  When they are publicly mocking a woman for being fat and she weighs 2 stone less than you it does make to question how society sees you.

 

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These magazines are not interesting, they’re not journalism and they aren’t even amusing.  They are shite and ladies, we need to stop buying into this crap.  Since stopping buying any magazine that’s purpose is to shame women I can honestly say I feel miles better and I have more money in my pocket!

When I look at the magazines my husband buys, there are no images of a celebrity male with a step by step crucifixion of their looks, National Geographic doesn’t fat shame scientists or tell us that Obama has lost/gained a stone.  I know there are magazines such as Mens Fitness that feature toned and muscly men but that is more about health and exercise, it isn’t about how big Brad Pitt’s arse is.

So why do women feel the need to buy magazines that demean and shame other women.  I’d like to think that most of us don’t judge our peers by the size of the bodies so why do we enjoy seeing celebrities judged so harshly? Is it car crash media? Or something more?

I can’t answer that question but what I can say is that buying magazines like Now and Heat does NOTHING good for your self esteem, ask yourself, do you really want to be funding the ridiculous judgement of celebrities, do you want to be part of a society that treats people so poorly and pushes an unrealistic and unattainable perfect body image.  Do you want your daughters, nieces and young women to be surrounded by images and harsh words, cementing the idea that if you aren’t perfect, you are fair game to me mocked and bullied?

I dont. And so I took a stand, its only a tiny stand but if we all stopped buying into this crap then perhaps the editors of these magazines will take a look at themselves… Magazines circulation is dropping year on year, the rise of the internet and smart phones mean that most people can get the celeb gossip fixes at the touch of a button.  So think about your hard earned cash next time your hand wanders thoughtlessly over to the shame section in the newsagents.  What could you be reading in that time that would actually teach you something or just make you feel good?

I didn’t want to bring that sort of message into my home where my kids could see it, especially my 11 year old daughter.  Id never tell her that Susie is so fat that she should NEVER wear a bikini, or that Jane is so skinny, she is definitely starving herself and seeing her bony ribs makes me sick.  I wouldn’t allow people around her to negatively affect her self esteem by telling her that unless she weighs the exact right weight, has the perfect sized tits and an arse that can’t be too small or too big that she is not good enough.  So why would I allow these magazines to be around her?

I found a magazine last year called Psychologies, now I have seen this before but due to the title I assumed it was a health mag or maybe a professional magazine, it isn’t! And despite the terrible name it is actually a really good magazine (so much so that I just bought myself a subscription) It has womens lifestyle articles, fashion, home, work, family etc but there is no celeb shaming, no telling you how to lose 300lb in 20 minutes by juicing your own shoes or any such crap.  It has really interesting and fun pieces that make you feel good.  Fancy that!

I get the desire for celeb gossip, I really do.  I don’t know WHY I want to know what Angelina and Brad’s home looks like but now and then I do.  Im not sure why I care if Richard and Judy fell out but occasionally I like that knowledge.  My (VERY) guilty pleasure is the occasional glance down the Daily Mail website seeing who fell out with who and which celeb got drunk at which party.

But seriously put down the crap mag that’s sole purpose is to bully, mock and shame other women.  Make a stand and think about your fellow woman.

I talk about self esteem a lot these days and it is because facing surgery, scars and having to wear an ileostomy bag 24 hours a day makes to reassess how you look at your body.  I could have gone the other way and felt saddened or ashamed of my body, but instead I just gained a massive respect for it.  My body confidence is higher than it has ever been! I am so proud of my strong body, the battering it has taken, my scars are like battle wounds, they are a huge part of me and I love them.  My bag is there, its on show and I could resent it and despise it, but it wouldn’t change the fact that it is there.  So I have learnt to accept it, and I have used it as a tool to teach other women that no matter what we go through, we are strong and we are beautiful.

Beauty comes in so many different packages, my package has extra bits, its a bit crumpled and torn but it is so filled with joy, happiness, fun, kindness and laughter that it is JUST as beautiful as anyone else’s.

The message in these mags is if you aren’t perfect then it is perfectly acceptable to mock you.  This isn’t true, it isn’t how life is and reading that shit made me feel bad.  Reading that shit when I was an impressionable teenager may have had a really terrible affect on me and so I will protect my daughter from it for as long as possible, life isn’t about Mean Girls judging one another, its about love and kindness, fun and laughter, experience and being brave enough to love yourself and pave your own way, being proud of the person you are, not your dress size, and knowing that true beauty is so far away from the measurement of your waist.

And that, dear reader is why I have stopped buying ‘women’s’ magazines.

 

Love Sam x

 

Are you ever embarrassed to talk about your illness?

This is the question my daughter just asked me. My answer was yes. Sometimes.

But I talk about it anyway to stop the embarrassment for other people. The more we talk about ulcerative colitis, crohns, stomas, pouches and just poo in general, the less it will be a taboo or something to be embarrassed about.

People don’t like discussing matters of the arse do they? And this is the reason that people will suffer needlessly in silence when they begin with symptoms of the bum variety.

keep calm and talk shit ulcerative colitis and ibd

I understand those feelings but want to fight against them. Sometimes a mum at the school gate will say she’s read my blog. My mind works furiously thinking about what I’ve written about the past few days! And then I smile and thank them, for every person who reads may just have learnt something. Maybe I changed their thinking about something? Maybe I have taught them a way to have a discussion with someone else who has a chronic illness. Or maybe I just made them laugh.

Whatever their thoughts I am grateful that my website has delivered a message to so many people. It means so much to know I’ve had over 40,000 views in the last few months.  I get emails from all over the world from people telling me I helped them.

And so when the embarrassment begins to creep hotly onto my chest and face, I think about the people I have helped and that embarrassment becomes pride.

talk about poop ulcerative colitis ibd stoma pouch

This blog, my writing and public appearances, the photographs and the hours I put into developing programmes to help kids with body confidence and self esteem, all of that stuff gives my illness a purpose. And that makes things a little easier when I’m ill, exhausted, taking meds, having surgery or recovering.

I hope if nothing else I am teaching my kids to never be ashamed of their bodies. To embrace all parts of themselves and to be proud of themselves no matter what journey their bodies take them on.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share this and join me in the fight to stop poo being taboo.

Love Sam

How to love yourself

Im doing more and more writing about self esteem and body image and was asked to talk about ways to feel better about yourself.  This is part of my Love Yourself – You’re So Bad Ass work.

My guilty pleasure TV is Ru Paul’s Drag Race, it’s like America’s Next Top Model but for drag queens and its AMAZING.  Totally trashy but addictive.  Ru Paul has this saying at the end of every episode

ru paul if you can't love yourself

Totally right, we all need to love ourselves a little more.  And so here are my tips on how to love yourself.

STOP BUYING CRAP WOMENS MAGAZINES – any magazine that sells it’s rag by speculating about womens weight can go to hell.  Is she too fat? Too skinny? She’s got cellulite??? BURN HERRRRRRR!!!  No.  Stop buying and reading crap judgements of other women, its bad for the soul.

TELL YOURSELF YOU ARE AWESOME – you might feel stupid at first, but positive affirmations are a great way to start to think about the good things about yourself.  Say it out loud and say it proudly.  Remember that your body is listening to the words you say, so make them nice ones.

ACCEPT YOURSELF – I know this is easier said than done, but being accepting of yourself is the start of all things good.  Last year I realised I had been on a diet for 12 years and it depressed the hell out of me, for 12 years of being on a diet is 12 years of telling myself I wasn’t good enough.  I know I am overweight and I am actually losing weight right now for surgery, but in accepting that my body is beautiful just the way it is, weight loss becomes so much less of a big deal and therefore it becomes a little easier to lose the weight as I just don’t think it is the be all and end all.

Accepting how your amazing body is made will make you feel better.  That fold on your side is a beautiful and delicious imperfection that makes you unique, those wrinkles show your path through life, your scars are like the hieroglyphs of your story.  Learn to accept these things and learn to love them.

READ THIS QUOTE – “You are not fat.You have fat. You also have fingernails, but you aren’t fingernails”

GIVE AND ACCEPT COMPLIMENTS – Make a point of telling people when you think they look good, or you like their clothes, hair, perfume, anything.  And be accepting of compliments, I used to deny compliments all the time… “I love your dress!” “Really? This was from Primark and Im wearing spanx to fit it it!”  Nowadays I make a point of holding those denials back and saying “Thank you, thats really kind!”

GET OUT AND GET MOVING – Exercise really does help mood, getting out walking and breathe in that fresh air.  When I am feeling crap, I know the best thing for me is to grab the dogs lead, put on a big coat and get out walking.  It clears my mind, gives me perspective and gives me time alone.  I don’t always feel like it and sometimes have to force myself to do it, but I always ALWAYS feel better afterwards.

PERFECTION IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD – Perfection is unattainable, insisting on perfection often results in no improvement at all.  Accept that humans are all imperfect, and that is what makes us unique and beautiful.

perfect is the enemy of good

USE THE FOUR QUESTIONS – If you have a bad thought about yourself or your body, use the four questions of Byron Katie.  There is a Judge Your Body worksheet, fill it in and then use the four questions.

“In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and turnarounds. For example, your statement might be “[Name] doesn’t listen to me.” Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought. Then take that statement and put it up against the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

Step 1 Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)

Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)

Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

 Who would you be without the thought?

Turn the thought around. Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.”

It is about re thinking the way we automatically think things through habit and creating new thought processes.

THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU THINK ARE BEAUTIFUL – and realise that beauty is about so much more that how we look externally.  Beauty is about kindness, love, wonder.  Beauty is different all over the world, the very narrow western ideal of beauty in magazines is not true beauty.

RECOGNISE WHEN YOU NEED HELP AND ASK FOR IT – Sometimes negative feelings are more than feeling a bit down, if bad thoughts are something that affects your life daily then perhaps it is time to ask for help.  Whether that is in speaking to your partner, family or friends or seeing a therapist or taking medication.  Your best port of call is your GP.  There is no shame in asking for help, it does not signify weakness.  Recognising when you need help shows strength and courage.  If you need it, ask for help.

Love Sam xxx