How Easy Is It To Actually Love Your Body?

Do you love your body? I wonder how many people would answer yes to that question. Most of us have bits we like, bits we don’t like, bits we hate. Body image is such a multi-layered issue and we have so many elements tied into it – confidence, insecurities, stuff that goes right back to our teenage years and childhood, conversations over coffee with friends, images we see in the media, awful moments in shop changing rooms when that zip just won’t do up.

For me, I knew from a young age that slim was the ideal. I can’t quite remember how I knew that, but it was probably a combination of seeing beautifully proportioned women and girls in adverts and on my favourite TV shows (Dynasty and Saved By The Bell, obvs) and seeing my mum, and all my friends’ mums, on various diets for the entirety of the 80s.

I remember comparing thighs with my friends, when I was around eight years old. “Mine are so fat,” I wailed. I don’t even think I meant it, I just said it because my friends were saying the same. But somehow I went from being an eight-year-old who was fine with her body, even if she did pretend otherwise, to being a teenager who felt chubby in her size 14 clothes and covered up in loose fitting t-shirts and baggy jeans.

Fast-forward to my 20s and I spent the best part of ten years on a diet and forcing myself to go to exercise classes. I genuinely thought that happiness could be found on a size 12 hanger in Topshop. For a while, I managed it, but not without months of depriving myself from eating the things I loved, going to bed feeling hungry, drinking pints of water to fill myself up, going to endless Weight Watchers weigh-ins (is there anything more depressing in life than paying to queue up and stand on some scales with some strangers?) only to feel gutted that I’d put on half a pound, despite only having salad for lunch ALL WEEK.

It’s only in my 30s that I’ve had a bit of a “Stuff it!” attitude towards my body. But between you and me, I still don’t love my body. It’s so easy to scream “LOVE YOUR BODY!” and talk about accepting your lumps and bumps, but how easy is it to actually do it?

It’s so ingrained in most of us to look in the mirror and be critical about what we see. We’ve all heard that little voice in our heads, haven’t we? The one that points out your flaws, gently criticising your belly or mocking your boobs. It’s not surprising, given the fact we grew up in the 80s and 90s, when fast food and extreme diets were all the rage. But I think another major factor behind the way we view our bodies is how we’re represented, as women, in the media and on social media.

As a size 16 woman, I don’t see people who look like me in magazines or in adverts. I see gorgeously slim models wearing outfits that look amazing, and I’m left wondering whether it would look as good on someone with a flabby belly that’s never quite recovered from pregnancy. But it’s not just my body shape that’s under represented by the media – there are loads of us who feel we don’t measure up because we’re bombarded by images of ‘perfection’ by fashion editors and retailers.

But that’s where bloggers come in, right? The whole beauty of blogging is that we get to see ‘real’ people doing stuff – whether that’s cooking food or talking about beauty routines or showing off outfits – and we’re not restricted to what the mainstream media want to show us.

Except lots of people in the blogging world – myself included – have fallen into this trap of taking photos from a flattering angle, whacking on a few filters to make ourselves look better and presenting a fairly unrealistic version of ourselves to the world. So last week, spurred on by some Instagram posts from Clemmie Hooper and Natalie Lee, I decided to take some photos of myself in a swimming costume – no flattering angle, no slimming filter, just me in my swimming costume (and the six-year-old in her matching Next cozzie too).

Because if I’m frustrated by the lack of people who look like me showing what their bodies actually look like, then why don’t I do something about it?

The response to the Instagram post was huge with hundreds of comments from women who worry about how their body looks – in summer outfits or swimwear – and felt encouraged by my photos.

“I’m struggling a lot with the thought of swimwear on my holiday and this has inspired me to think sod it, my mum tum is what it is!”

“The anxiety I have getting into my swimmers this Friday when I go away on a girls weekend is too much. GO YOU.”

“Thank you for posting this. You look fab and so great to know I’m not alone.”

“Body positive!! I talk about this so much and love how you do too! Lets hope that the next generation are more self compassionate and that we can teach them to love themselves for who they are and not whether they are a size 10! You are an inspiration!!”

“You look great, and also so happy. I am definitely guilty of only posting pictures from flattering angles and disregarding the many photos that don’t fit that bill.”

“I’m same size as you and although I’ve vowed every single January to not have a wobbly tummy/thighs/arse by holiday season it hasn’t happened yet. The pressure to not ‘wobble’ is on us constantly. This is such a great picture and I have to say you have great legs! Wobbly or not! Here’s to the wobblers.”

“You look flipping amazing! I am absolutely LOVING all these posts about body image post baby. After my first I felt so much pressure to slim down despite my body just not being able too (I’m naturally curvy) I even tried to starve myself whilst looking after a newborn baby… now I’m pregnant second time round I want to cut myself some slack and embrace…. thank you for this xxx”

“We need to inspire our daughters to look and love themselves for what they are and not for what they haven’t got ! Beauty must be about what’s inside us as well as what we see on the outside! Like you I am a curvy size 14/16 and have 2 young daughters. They see all of me!”

“As someone who was anorexic in my teens and is now a size 16 with endless dreams/pressure to be a size 10 I’m honestly delighted by your posts – thanks so much for being honest and making me feel ‘normal’ and more than that.”

I also had loads of private messages and was tagged in lots of photos and posts from women who had seen my post and decided “Sod it”, putting on a dress/skirt/pair of shorts/bikini that they’d previously felt too uncomfortable to wear. Brilliantly, more women shared photos of their bods (big up to Giovanna Fletcher, Clemmie TelfordLaura Rutherford, Katrina West, Amber Allen, Sammi-Jo, and also to Sarah Turner who posted this photo of her cellulite!)

It’s clear that many of us – probably 99% of us – suffer from body confidence issues. And it’s not just a fat/thin thing – I know women who are a size 8 but still have real problems with their appearance. It’s something I’m determined not to pass down to my daughter and her generation – I want her to be proud of her body and happy to wear the clothes she wants to wear, not the clothes that cover up her lumps and bumps.

But as someone who looks in the mirror and doesn’t love what she sees, how do I ensure that I don’t pass on my insecurities to my six-year-old? I think it’s all about faking it. Pretending I love my body – both in conversations with my daughter and to myself when I look in the mirror. “You’ve got a big tummy!” she said to me a few weeks ago. “YEP!” I replied with a smile, wobbling my stomach with my hand. “It’s great, isn’t it? People have different shapes and sizes of bodies!” I also never talk about diets or losing weight in front of her (not that I have tried to do either of those things in a long time) but instead talk about health and balance.

If we all fake some body confidence, look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we like what we see, that it’s OK to have wobbly bits, knobbly bits, big bits, small bits, that we don’t have to look like those ‘perfect’ images we see all over the media and social media, and tell our kids this too, then maybe we’ll actually start to believe it ourselves.

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22 Comments

  1. June 6, 2017 / 11:06 am

    Really interesting post Alison. I love that photo of you and Grace. When I see it I see a happy mother and daughter – that’s it. It doesn’t matter, I don’t think, that you might be faking how you feel about your body in it. Grace certainly won’t see that. I have a pretty miserable relationship with my body – and the last thing I want is to pass those ideas/feelings on to Jasmin. It’s hard to fake it though, isn’t it? We went away for half-term and I went in the pool once and sea once in seven days – I couldn’t bring myself to take off my cover-up more than that. I’d have loved to have gone in with the kids every day – but I guess sometimes just by faking it, we’re putting more pressure on ourselves too. It’s rubbish isn’t it – definitely not how I want me daughter to feel. xxx

    • Alison Perry
      June 6, 2017 / 11:09 am

      Ach Kiran, that makes me so sad to hear that from you (I think you look FAB, promise I’m not just saying that). And it’s such a good point about putting pressure on ourselves. It’s such a complex issue, isn’t it?

  2. June 6, 2017 / 11:26 am

    I LOVE this current body positivity on Instagram. I’m an 8 but have such an issue with my stomach, and reading that it’s not just me has seriously made me feel like I’m among friends. It’s also made me realise that I look at other bodies and think wholly positive things – I think you look amazing in these pics and I’m envious of how your boobs look! 🙂 So the chances of anyone judging me in my cossie as harshly as I judge myself are pretty slim. Thank you for posting this and for being such a part of the movement xx
    Alice recently posted…Work That Works: Kate Porter, Founder of Harbour Elements. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      June 6, 2017 / 11:34 am

      Yes I think we are our own harshest critic, aren’t we? And in the spirit of being positive, I like how my boobs look here too – this Next swimming costume has great padding and uplift!!

  3. June 6, 2017 / 11:28 am

    Oh I love this post and I know you didn’t write it for this reason but I have to say- you look bloody amazing! In real life we all have such different types of bodies and we definitely need to embrace it more. I am the mum who gets in the pool and the sea and splashes around with her kids but take a photo of me doing this and I will usually delete it! Not anymore, these happy memories, even of our wobbly bits in a swim suit, should be treasured xxx

    • Alison Perry
      June 6, 2017 / 11:37 am

      Yay that’s so good to hear Claire! And it’s funny isn’t it? I don’t think I look great in these pics – I see wobbly flabby bits!

  4. June 6, 2017 / 11:47 am

    Yes yes yesss!

    I was lucky enough to avoid most of the pressure to have a “perfect body” as a kid / young teen because it just wasn’t something that came up in my house… my mum had a very much “give no f*cks” attitude and didn’t really watch TV or buy magazines, so I didn’t even see what society was pushing on women.

    Later on I realised I was fatter than average, but circumstances meant that it wouldn’t be an issue until well into my adult years, by which point I could do something about it sensibly – for my health. Or in theory, anyway.

    Which takes us to now…

    I was ill in May with gallbladder issues and having unintentionally lost a ton of weight quite quickly I found myself looking in the mirror at my body and not recognising it. Yes, I was closer to a goal I’d set myself at the start of the year, but my belly was shrivelled and loose, and I felt weak and tired. Part of that was just by virtue of being ill, but feeling so uncomfortable with myself for the sake of 10lbs off a number I knew to be meaningless anyway? It wasn’t worth it. I wanted to be back to the ‘normal’ heavier me, being strong enough to lift weights and run races without training because I’m big and fit and strong. I wanted to feel as empowered as I did when I gave birth to my children; when I sustained human life with just my lumpy, saggy boobs; I wanted to feel like me.

    I inevitably put the weight back on as soon as I was well and so I posted on instagram declaring how much I love my body. It was somewhat of an epiphany, actually. I have never felt as comfortable as I do right now (even today, with pre-period bloating and wanting ALL THE FOOD) and I think I needed that shock of “this is what you have to lose” to truly get here. I don’t know if it’ll last, but I can only try and be my authentic, wibbly wobbly self in the mean time.

    And you look great, btw.

    • Alison Perry
      June 6, 2017 / 11:51 am

      I think that is such a great story of how being slimmer/smaller/lighter doesn’t actually necessarily make you happier! (I feel sad for you though that you grew up without Saved By The Bell 😉 )

  5. June 6, 2017 / 11:49 am

    I’m really not sure what the answer is. I think you’re right that nearly everyone has a confidence issue with their body – it’s always been the case as far as I know. Even my grandmother, with no TV and not too much in the way of glossy magazines, was obsessed with having her girdle on to prevent bulges showing. What I think is really positive these days is the focus we are all putting on health and variety. I never talk about weight and size with my family. And in fact I never even think about in with my food choices for us. I talk about moderation, and eating what makes us feel good, whether that’s a glass of wine and treacle pudding on a miserable cold day, or a chickpea salad zingy with coriander and lime to wake up our taste buds and fuel our bodies with vitamins and healthy carbs. I really hope that carries forward in my kids.

    And by the way, when I think of you, I never think of the size or shape of your body. I think of your hair, and lipstick, and colourful accessories, and great taste in clothes. I think all of us could learn from people like you that covering up and hiding isn’t the answer – finding a personal style that makes you look amazing whatever your size is much more satisfying!

    • Alison Perry
      June 6, 2017 / 11:53 am

      Love how you describe the way you talk about food with your kids (appreciate things are a bit more complicated with Maddie and food too, due to her diabetes). And what you said about how you think of me made me really smile! That’s so cool! I need to think of myself like that more…

  6. Sarah
    June 6, 2017 / 3:16 pm

    I think for me part of the problem is that I don’t feel inside as old as I am so I get surprised that my body isn’t the same as it was 10 or 15 or 20 years ago when I don’t always feel like the grown up I am now supposed to be having clocked up nearer 40 years than I’d like – forgetting that in a period of 5 of those years I grew three real life people inside me so of course things will be different. I still have dreams of shifting the last stone of baby weight (the “baby” is three and a half…..) but I think more important for me is learning how to dress what I have So I feel c confident and not keeping the wardrobe of pre-#3 clothes that I may never fit in again even if I do lose some weight due to body shapes changing. I love your swimsuit you look fab and I love that it’s not black! For me, my kids arguing over which side of me they get to snuggle due to their favoured breastfeeding boob being “comfier for heads” (read a different cup size) has always been a great leveller…..

  7. Kate
    June 7, 2017 / 6:41 am

    I have been thinking about this a lot since all the body positive posts on Insta (which were fab). I am a size 14, I have been smaller but I have also dieted on and off most of my adult life. Now I have two kids, I want them to grow up feeling good about themselves but I also want to feel good about myself. I want to be body positive and love who I am but I find it really hard. I’m getting there, last year I wore a bikini on holiday because my daughter wanted me to but no way would I have posted pics. I want to love my body but it is hard !

  8. June 7, 2017 / 10:11 am

    I would not have believed you being a size 16! So nice to see ‘normal’ bodies. I truly believe the lines are so blurred with the internet and reality that we are struggling to tell the difference! Apps like ‘Facetune’, generally using filters, air brushing in magazines. I even saw a make up product that claimed to make you ‘selfie perfect’. It was a white powder that was supposed to reduce shine and pores! It’s become so normal that people forget it actually isn’t normal for the general public! I’m a size 20 and was going to take the plunge to wear a bikini on my Ibiza holiday this year! Lumps, bumps and all! I was pondering whether to do a body positive blog post and subject the world to me in a bikini!! Your post has given me the confidence to just do it! (Possibly after the excitement of Blogtacular though!).

  9. June 7, 2017 / 11:21 am

    Aaah chickie — that picture of you and Grace was such a catalyst for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That fact that I wasn’t even brave enough to share a pic of myself FULLY CLOTHED was shameful. Why on earth are we so hard on ourselves?

    As I said in my posts, I don’t have daughters but I DO have sons. I want them to see that ‘normal’ is normal. It’s NOT normal to be a perfect size 8, have no cellulite, have plumped up lips, drawn on eyebrows, no wrinkles and extended eyelashes. And it certainly shouldn’t be seen as ‘perfection’. I want to be a good role model for them and for them to see a woman who’s comfortable in her ‘normal’ body. Thanks so much for sharing your photos on IG — it really made me think xx
    Caro | The Twinkle Diaries recently posted…Bringing Up Men and Positive Body Image. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  10. June 18, 2017 / 7:48 am

    Well you just look ace in your swimsuit and you are damn right with the message of body positivity. We all worry about what we look like in a swimsuit on holiday and I know I was constantly thinking why haven’t I lost that extra bit of weight before my hols? Why am I eating cake and drinking wine when I want to look good when I’m away? It is true about the self deprivation and yes, I can feel great at nine stone but not without being a bit miserable too!! We need bloggers to show us what real women look like. You go girl! xxxx PS love the cozzies!

  11. June 27, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Love this! and you look bloody great by the way! I went to a summer BBQ this weekend and finally found a flattering dress to fit my empty baby belly, everyone said I looked I lovely, but I was sooo conscious of the slightly higher than I thought side cuts that showed my saggy knees and cellulite! I really need to get over this body dislike and trust people when they say I look alright!!!! Thank you!

  12. June 30, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    I love this post. You have an amazing body and you look great

  13. September 7, 2017 / 6:48 am

    Absolutely loved this post, Alison. I am currently undertaking a social initiative for a university assignment, which aims to create awareness of body dissatisfaction among mothers. In my latest blog post, I researched how general practitioners are not checking and or providing information about body dissatisfaction during routine health care checks for women before, during and after pregnancy. I would love any help or feedback as to how you think we can achieve this! I think you’re a great role model for mothers, and your message of body positivity is one that needs to be heard by many! Feel free to check out my blog here: https://themumbodsquad.wordpress.com/blog/ as well as follow my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter journey @TheMumBodSquad. Keep spreading the message, I’ll be following it every step of the way. XO The Mum Bod Squad

  14. October 21, 2017 / 4:00 am

    I think that you look absolutely beautiful and I am really inspired to myself inspire my daughters from reading this. I have been trying to tackle my Mum Tum and recently, tentatively, put out a blog and would love a professional opinion if you have the time/inclination to give it a quick read please? Thank you so much (and if you absolutely don’t have the inclination, delete my comment as quick as you can, no offense taken whatsoever!) It’s https://tryingtomumblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/squeezing-back-into-my-gym-clothes/ Thank you for your time and for writing this blog, so worthwhile to lift up other Mummies x

  15. October 29, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    It’s amazing how we are all ingrained with the image of what it means to be the perfect! I salute you for your bravery and wow you look fantastic! I hate the fact that I regularly loathe some pictures that have been taken with me and my kids, because I have a double chin, or my boobs look too big! My eyes immediately scrutinize what I look like, not the fact that my kids are beaming with delight because they’re having their picture taken with Mummy! We all need blogs like this to shake us into action! After all, what are our kids going to remember? That Mummy didn’t fit into a perfect size 12? Or that we ran round the beach, dived around the swimming pool and played tag in the park and loved them endlessly! Thank you for your honest approach! x

  16. October 29, 2017 / 4:21 pm

    It’s amazing how we are all ingrained with the image of what it means to be the perfect! I salute you for your bravery and wow you look fantastic! I hate the fact that I regularly loathe some pictures that have been taken with me and my kids, because I have a double chin, or my boobs look too big! My eyes immediately scrutinize what I look like, not the fact that my kids are beaming with delight because they’re having their picture taken with Mummy! We all need blogs like this to shake us into action! After all, what are our kids going to remember? That Mummy didn’t fit into a perfect size 12? Or that we ran round the beach, dived around the swimming pool and played tag in the park and loved them endlessly! Thank you for your honest approach! x

  17. November 12, 2017 / 4:58 pm

    This is amazing, and you look amazing too! I am very big, especially since my pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage, but I think attitudes definitely need to change and we need to celebrate different sizes and shapes! Because you can be the healthiest of people and still never reach those ‘perfections’ because your body just isn’t built that way — and that’s beautiful. If we were all the same it would be very boring! xx

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