An Honest Chat: Body Image

Hey, loves. I was inspired to write today’s post as I was watching the Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out documentary, and one I feel like I’ve written, re-written and edited so many times. If you haven’t seen the documentary and are based in the UK, you can catch it here. I’m not sure if it’s being shown worldwide, but you may also be able to catch it on YouTube. Matt and I watched the documentary with his parents on the night it aired and we were all so moved by the stories told; I cried and felt so much empathy towards Jesy, and I also related so much to many of the things she and the other people said throughout the documnetary.

Jesy Nelson is one fourth of Little Mix; the UK’s biggest girl band right now; and she is someone that you just see everywhere. She is a household name with a large social media presence along with the other three members of the band. Her face is on the side of buses and billboards around the world, and Little Mix’s songs are played in pretty much every store you walk into. They have a high presence in the charts, so are always played on the radio, and their songs are super catchy. They’re often on TV, taking part in interviews and, from an outsider’s perspective, it looks like they’re all living their best lives. I wouldn’t say I am necessarily a fan of Little Mix’s music, but I’ve always admired what they have achieved and how much girl power they bring to a historically male dominated industry.

As a young girl watching their original X Factor auditions back in 2011, I would say that at times I might have felt a little jealous throughout their success! All four girls always looked so happy, they were travelling all over the world and their lives completely changed overnight, which should have been the dream. That’s literally what little girls dream of; it was like a real life version of the Cheetah Girls, hah! Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out shone a new light on this time, and the experience that Jesy herself had in her sudden fame. All of those times that she looked so happy, she wasn’t. All of the times that she looked like she was living her best life, she wasn’t. The main reason being that she was bullied, victimized and trolled over her weight and her body. She saw messages every single day calling her ‘fat’ and telling her to lose weight. She began to pick herself apart more and more, then sadly when she did lose weight (which she didn’t need to) she was still trolled for being ‘fat’.

It was disgusting to hear just a handful of things that Jesy was told every single day, and she shared in the documentary that she wanted to commit suicide to get away from everything. That is heartbreaking; a young girl who should have been living her dream felt like she was living her nightmare, all because of how other people made her feel. She began to hate her own body and therefore tried to hide it away, and now she struggles to watch any video of herself at the start of her career because of the way she looked then. But, Jesy’s documentary was so powerful because she rose above it. She shared her story. She came out the other side. SHE MOVED ON. Jesy was never overweight; she looked like a healthy, normal girl then and she looks like a healthy, normal girl now. So many young girls of all shapes, sizes and builds looked up to her then and still do, and I can’t help but wonder how they’re feeling right now. Jesy met with many young people on the documentary who had experienced a similar thing; they had all been bullied because of the way they look and began to hate their own bodies.

Bullying is a whole different topic that is not really what I want to dive into in this post, but it did make me think about the way we talk about body image in general, and why people think it’s okay to comment on how others look. Magazines use photos of celebrities, just like Jesy, who have often been photographed unknowingly, sometimes in unflattering positions, with headlines like “is *insert name* eating for two?” Or “*insert name*’s crash diet has taken a nose dive” (Yep, they’re genuine articles). Even if a celebrity – or anybody else – has put weight on, it’s nobody else’s business and should never be topic of conversation! The media are known for being harsh, critical, unfair, unjust and downright rude in many circumstances. They want to sell their magazines and newspapers and they never once thought about how those people may feel reading that. This kind of culture has then led to regular people thinking those kind of comments are okay in everyday life. They are not. Whether we’re gossiping with our friends, writing it on social media or even thinking it in our head; it is wrong. It’s time that we took a stand; for each other and for ourselves.

I was thirteen years old when I first looked in the mirror and thought “I look fat”. I don’t know where it came from, thankfully it had not come from someone else, but from then I began to look at my body in a different way. When I started high school in year nine, many of the girls already had boobs and hips, and I didn’t really have either. At some point during that school year, I developed hips that I then began to loathe for the next twelve years. Up until I’m writing this post, to be honest. After growing up in an oversaturated media-filled world, I thought you were either one body type or the other: ‘skinny’ or ‘fat’. I felt ‘fat’ because my hips were wide and stuck out awkwardly, and it made me have a big bum which I’d never had before. But, I didn’t have boobs. In my head, I was ‘skinny’ on the top, and ‘fat’ on the bottom. How crazy is that for a thirteen year old?! Or to be honest, any age.

I spent my teens trying out fad diets, comparing my figure to my friends and celebrities, restricting what I ate, hiding my body sometimes, showing it off other times and finding a love of yoga that’s grown with me. I took every opportunity to whinge to my friends, and to myself, about how I didn’t look good in *insert clothing item*. They did the same, and I think that’s a large part of how we bonded back then. It was just normal to be unhappy with how you looked and I never realised how damaging it is to your happiness. In my opinion social media played a huge part in this; comparing ourselves to other girls was just part of a regular day. I grew up in a time where social media was just finding its feet; I had Piczo and Bebo, then opened Facebook and Twitter accounts, before finally jumping onto the Instagram bandwagon. We competed for likes and other people’s validation that we looked good, and for many of us it was, and maybe still is, an unhealthy place to be. Social media does not have to be a dangerous or unsafe place; I personally love to use Instagram to connect with people, to see new places, to admire photography, to find other bloggers and so much more. Social media can be a happy place, you just have to learn to protect yourself.

I didn’t actually realise how obsessed I was with my body image until I started to put on weight in my twenties. By the time I had turned seventeen, I was ‘skinny’ but still had big hips and no boobs, which I had to just take some kind of pride in. I felt validated when people told me I looked “so skinny” or “tiny” and it stayed like that for a long time, but as soon as I started to notice weight gain last year I freaked out. I started to have conversations all the time with Matt and my mum about how gross I felt, and constantly compared pictures from when I was ‘skinny’. I knew why my body was changing; I changed my pill and my hormones went crazy. I also have got older and I’m sure my metabolism is changing. My diet isn’t always the greatest and if I want ice cream, cookies, chocolate or gummy bears, you can bet I’m going to eat them! Recently I just changed my pill again and was half expecting to wake up one morning with my old body, but that’s just not how life works. Or hormones.

I might not look like I did in my late teens and early twenties but right now, today, I’m proud of my body. No, I don’t always love every part of it. No, I don’t always treat it how I should. No, I don’t always feed it how I should. But, my body allows me to live; I get to spend time with my boyfriend, family and friends, I get to drive my car, I get to go to work, I get to go shopping, I get to do yoga, I get to travel. My body is healthy. And from gaining a little weight I’ve suddenly developed actual boobs, which is always a bonus, right? Matt tells me every day that he thinks I’m beautiful and instead of thinking about something I dislike about myself, I’ve started to accept his compliments. I’m even starting to believe them!

It’s time we change the dialogue we use, and we need to start from within. Body image and body confidence go hand in hand. Let’s stop paying attention to the size of our clothes. Let’s stop finding validation from what society thinks is acceptable. Let’s stop beating ourselves up. Let’s start loving and accepting ourselves. Let’s start dressing for ourselves. Let’s start empowering other women and complimenting each other. You are beautiful, and I hope sharing my story has made you feel somewhat comfortable with your story. Did you ever feel so critical of your body? Maybe you still are, but I hope you find your way to self acceptance and love so soon, we’re all in this together.

-G x

What’s The Deal With Fast Fashion?

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week! This week Matt and I been cooking new recipes and spending our evening’s watching our new Netflix love, Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons. It’s such an interesting show, we’re genuinely shocked at 99% of each episode! I’m so excited for this weekend; Matt and I are spending it attending an NUFC game (our win yesterday made us very happy campers!), having dinner and drinks at our favourite restaurant in the city centre, and hopefully squeezing in a nice long walk down by the beach on Sunday! We’re hoping to KonMari our lives a little more too, it’s a never-ending task! Matt is at a work event on Sunday evening so I’m going to spend a few hours having a serious pamper night before I pick him up, I can’t wait! (Let’s hope the snow forecast is wrong… anyone else terrified at the thought of driving in it or getting stuck? Just me?!) What are you looking forward to this weekend?

*Vanilla chai lattes and vegan Biscoff donuts highly encouraged as the perfect snacks to get you through this post*

Please know I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, and I’m still learning every single day. This post is written based on opinion yet includes facts, all with good intentions, to inform and encourage people to research for themselves.

I have to begin this post by saying a huge thank you to Niomi Smart, Venetia Falconer, Stacey Dooley and Emma Hill for inspiring me to learn about fast fashion, and for setting an amazing example in their everyday lives. One of my favourite Instagram hashtags to search through is #OOOTD (Old Outfit Of The Day) which is something Venetia started to encourage people to shop their wardrobes, and to advocate slow fashion. I’ve shared an OOOTD in this post – Matt took this photo last weekend when we were on our way to brunch!

If you’re a regular reader here on my blog, you’ve definitely seen the words ‘fast fashion’ mentioned a fair few times in recent posts. Fast fashion is quite literal; it’s a term that means clothing pieces created – usually from Designer catwalk inspiration – to be made in large quantities, generally for very little money. On NYE I posted on my Instagram story that I was shopping my wardrobe not the high street for my outfit this year, and that’s a mindset I’m so happy to now have.

Fast fashion is all around us, and us millennials buy in our droves on a daily basis. We’re of course not the only ones to blame for the incredible rise in fast fashion brands’ popularity over the past few years, but we’re certainly not helping the situation. There has been a lot of controversy regarding fast fashion over the past year, which was only heightened by Stacey Dooley’s Fashion’s Dirty Secrets documentary that aired on BBC2 in September 2018. It’s currently unavailable on BBC iPlayer but if you can find it, it’s so worth a watch. As any regular readers will already know, I adore Stacey! She is brilliant at investigating varying topics around the world, and shedding light onto just how serious these topics are. I learned many things from the FDS documentary, and aside from the people directly affected by pollution one of the biggest shocks was that a whole sea in Kazakhstan has almost completely dried up due to the amount of waste produced by surrounding cotton mills. The documentary is eye opening and jaw dropping for us as consumers to watch, and I guarantee it will leave you shocked at your hand in this epidemic too.

So, what is the deal with fast fashion? Is epidemic too strong of a word? Why are we all boycotting it? Basically, it’s killing our planet. It has a detrimental affect on so many factors of life; human rights due to low wages and long hours, water systems due to dye being dumped into rivers and lakes, and the waste and pollution caused by it is getting larger by the day, among many other things. Not only is the process to make the clothes causing pollution on another scale, but the clothes are generally very cheaply made, and they don’t last very long, even if you take care of them. This means often once we are ‘finished’ with these clothing items, they are not able to be passed on – to friends, family or charity – and end up in landfill.

Many brands are now branching into sustainable materials and ethical trading, which includes being able to trace the origins of clothing items right back to where they first started. These companies ensure staff are paid fair wages, have better working conditions and are taking as many procedures as possible to reduce their pollution. Sounds like a great thing, right? Well it is, but those costs have to be passed onto the consumer, and the reality is for most of us we cannot afford to pay X amount of money for everyday items, such as a t-shirt. There’s a weird lull at the moment, in my opinion, as shops seem to be either steered towards fast fashion and the current trend(s) of the season with little to no care for the environment or it’s people, or they’re doing everything they can to be a more ethical brand, and therefore becoming slightly less accessible to customers with higher prices, and less stock available. 

I am a lover of retail therapy, an advocate even, so what am I supposed to do now shopping is considered ‘bad’ for the environment? Well, I can change the way I shop. I covered a lot of the reasons behind why I’m changing the way I shop in this post, but now I’m more determined than ever to be the change I want to see in the world. That’s how all of this starts, right? Some of these tips and ideas will possibly be repeated from previous posts, but they are so important, and if I can bring awareness to just one more person that makes me extremely happy. So, here’s a few things I’m doing, and you can do them too! This applies to all different budgets, and hey if you have the budget to shop only sustainable fashion brands, then more power to you! (And, are there any jobs going at your place?! HAHA).

#OOOTD (LOL posing for photos makes my toes curl, the only one I could include was one of me looking away from the camera, mid hair tuck!)

Donate and shop second hand. I’m very good at the donating part, but I’m yet to shop second hand. Buying from the likes of charity shops, eBay and Depop are a great start as you’re getting new (to you) clothing items at cheaper prices, and it prevents one more ‘new’ garment out finding it’s way out into the world. I sell mine and Matt’s unwanted/unused clothes on eBay fairly often, and since The Great Wardrobe Declutter of 2018 I’ve decluttered several more times. (Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show has encouraged Matt and I to re-assess not just our wardrobes but our whole lives LOL!) Another great alternative would be to gather a few friends and encourage them to go through their clothing, seeing what items they can pass on. Then, you could all get together and exchange a few pieces, giving them a new home and a whole new way to be worn. I’d love to do this!

Shop less, and always with a purpose. I’m embarrassed to admit I used to be that girl that bought a new outfit, or at least a new top, for every social occasion. I mean, I don’t go out that often, but I still purchased way more items than required for my lifestyle. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed to for myself, but I did think other people would notice. The reality is nobody cares if you take photos wearing the same pieces, and my boyfriend certainly doesn’t take into account what top I’m wearing for date night! (Nine times out of ten he didn’t even know I was wearing a new top until I told him – “oh, but the black shirt you wore last time looks the same?”) Buying new clothes for each event you go to, whether it’s a wedding or a night down your local pub is unnecessary, and it can also be pretty hard on your bank account. Instead, I highly encourage you to buy (sometimes higher priced) sustainable clothing pieces that you can wear over and over again. The main aim of stopping fast fashion in it’s tracks is to simply buy less clothing, and love/wear what you have.

Buy items with minimal (or no) man-made fabric content. Have you ever been shopping and seen a fairly suspicious girl snooping through the rail of jumpers, reading the labels tucked inside? No? Well you haven’t seen me shopping! It may seem a little strange at first, but looking at clothing tags to see what an item is made of is so eye-opening, and I can guarantee you’ll be shocked at how many items are made out of 100% polyester. *More than 70 billion barrels of oil are used worldwide each year to manufacture polyester, which is then processed into low quality clothing items. Polyester clothing items are then not bio-degradable, and even washing these pieces causes huge pollution. It’s thought that items made with man-made fabrics, such as polyester and acrylic, are the biggest cause of microplastic pollution in our oceans today. That means it’s bigger than pollution caused by plastic bags, plastic packaging and plastic straws!
*Information from EcoCult – this article is a great read.

Aim to buy items of clothing that already go with items you own, and can be re-worn for years to come. I read (possibly in a magazine article, or another blog?) that we should be aiming to buy items we can wear at least thirty times, but I think we can do even better than that. Generally speaking we all have favourite items in our wardrobes – whether it’s a pair of jeans, a snuggly jumper or a silk slip dress – so we should be buying with intentions of working with what we already have. If you’re already shopping with a purpose like I mentioned above, this will begin to come naturally, and you start to keep yourself in check whilst you’re browsing the rails. Next time you feel the need to shop, I’d encourage you to analyse your wardrobe, and see what (if anything) you require to get more wear out of your favourite pieces. Everyone’s basics and essentials are different, so tailor this towards your own wardrobe and needs. Make time every now and then to try on different pieces together and create new outfits, I guarantee there are so many outfit options in your current wardrobe you’ve never even thought to put together before.

Take care of your clothing. Washing your clothes less frequently (especially anything made with man-made fabrics) reduces wastage going into oceans. I’m not saying you have to put the same stinky gym leggings on four days in a row, but hear me out. Lots of clothes do not require washing after just one wear; for example, jeans can be worn at least half a dozen times! This is something I have to admit was new to me last year, I would wear a t-shirt for an hour or so whilst doing our grocery shop, then put it straight into the laundry basket when I took it off. Being more eco-friendly does not compromise cleanliness! It’s also much more beneficial for the environment to hang your clothes (or lay flat) to dry, instead of using a tumble drier. I’d recommend investing in a cashmere comb – it may be the most boring yet best thing I’ve ever bought – as you can de-bobble your old jumpers in an instant. Fixing clothes that are damaged, eg sewing buttons back on or mending holes, is something I think we all need to be held more accountable for.

Research, research and research. Are you feeling intrigued and want to know more? To begin, I’d recommend reading articles, scouring Instagram, watching documentaries and looking at your own current habits. I unsubscribed from all fast fashion websites that were sending me daily emails, and I downloaded an app called Good On You, which has changed how I see brands! (It rates clothing and accessories companies on three areas – Labour, Environment and Animal. Matt and I check their information on brands whenever we’re shopping!) One thing that surprised me a little is that the more I’ve read, and the more people I’ve found who think similarly to me, my need for change has filtered through to beauty products and food. I’ve vowed to buy only makeup and skincare from cruelty-free brands moving forward, I’m beginning to explore natural and organic beauty products, and I’m enjoying experimenting with vegetarian/vegan food options more and more. I’m so excited to see where I can go on my journey to sustainability!

Thank you so much for reading, I’m so excited to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are you on your own journey to living more sustainably? Did you find this post helpful, or do you feel inspired to change? Who inspires you? I can’t wait to share some of my tips and opinions on being sustainable in all aspects of our lives over the next few weeks!

 -G x