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When I hated my body

Before I had kids I was a size 8. After I was anywhere from a 12 to an 18. It was a shock to see my body change so much and I hated it. 

When I hated my body, I thought fat couldn’t be sexy, or beautiful, or attractive. I’d been taught that fat people were disgusting, or shameful, or ugly. 

When I hated my body, I thought fat couldn’t be clever, or professional, or respected. I’d been taught fat people were the butt of the joke, they were the low paid staff in a dirty polo shirt. 

When I hated my body, I thought fat couldn’t be loved, or celebrated, or rejoiced. I’d been taught that fat people were the funny friend, the sad spinster, never, ever the leading lady. 

When I hated my body, I called myself horrible names. I said I was vile, disgusting, wobbly, ugly. I’d been taught that this is how fat women talk about themselves. 

When I hated my body, I thought weight loss was the answer to everything. If only I could be a little slimmer, I’d be happier, smarter, sexier, prettier, more confident. If I could fit in a size 10 then all the shit things in my life would be better. 

When I hated my body, I used it as an excuse for all the things that went wrong. If I were thinner, it would all be fine. 

When I hated my body, I pushed my husband away. How could he possibly fancy me when my thighs touched, my flesh hung down, my boobs flopped. I had learnt that men only fancy thin women, that beauty looked one way and that way was thin, toned, perfect. 

When I hated my body, I hated myself. 

Then I got really ill. Medication couldn’t control my IBD and I went into hospital. I was shitting 30 times a day and had a constant flow of blood pouring from my arse. The options were laid in front of me and surgery was my choice. I was cut open and my colon removed, my ileostomy was formed. I was broken, scarred and had to wear a bag of shit on my stomach at all times. 

More and more surgeries came and more and more scars. My poor battered broken body looked so sad, it was scarred beyond belief and so weak. 

It should have cemented my hatred for my body, but oddly something else happened. I felt pride. I felt that my body had been through so much and I was still standing! Slowly, I learnt a lot about myself, I learnt that I’d hated my fat body for so long and it was entirely unfair and unnecessary. 

I learnt to love my body. 

Now I love my body, I accept it for what it is, I like its solidness, I like my thighs, I think my scars are interesting and oddly beautiful. 

Now I love my body, I realise that anyone shallow enough to dislike me for my size is not someone I want to spend time with. But generally I realised that no one gave a shit!

Now I love my body I know that my size has no relevance to my intelligence, my character, my humour, my awesomeness. 

Now I love my body, I celebrate it. It’s brilliant, look at it dance, look at it swim, look at my belly rolls, they’re super cute. Look at my scars, they show that I’m a fucking badass. Look at my big arse, it is amazing!

Now I love my body, I can trust it to my husband. Who, by the way, it turns out never gave a shit what size it was. 

Now I love my body, I can speak honestly about it. Yes, it’s a bit fat. I’m a size 16-18 and I’m not embarrassed by that. Sometimes I think I should lose a bit of weight, I worry about my hernia and know that if I was a little lighter it would be easier on the repairs they already did. I can say this from a practical and straightforward place, not one of shame. 


Now I love my body, it makes me sad to see people around me hating theirs. I wish I could flick that switch and show them that they are brilliant and awesome and beautiful and their weight and shape has no bearing on who they are. 

Now I love my body. 

And that’s a great sentence to be able to write. 
Love

Sam xxx

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

'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

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

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

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

 

 

Please like, comment and share these images with anyone you think they could make a difference with.
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

My brave body is no less beautiful because of its scars

My ileostomy is part of me and my scars , stoma and bag make my body no less beautiful than a body without.

If you have an ostomy, be proud of it, own it, love it. It probably wasn’t part of your life plan but it’s here now and you need to accept it and know it is saving your life.

My ileostomy bag is not unattractive, it’s not scary looking or disgusting.  I love the softness and femininity of these images, the lines of my body and lines of my bag become one.

I’m proud of my body and it’s strength, I celebrate my ostomy by showing the world that beauty is not about perfection, beauty is in everything, if only we can have a mind that is open to it.

woman with ileostomy bag beauty art empowerment confidence

woman with ileostomy bag beauty art empowerment confidence

woman with ileostomy bag beauty art empowerment confidence

Love Sam x