Limit #16: fat girls shouldn’t wear stripes.

This limit never really bothered me before, because I don’t like stripes. Horizontal, vertival, thick, thin; doesn’t matter. I do not like them.

But then I was out shopping, and I spotted this:


It’s totally stripey. About as stripey as they come. And yet, I instantly wanted it.

After years of being told fat people shouldn’t wear stripes I was sure it would look awful. But being stubborn and contrary as I am, I picked it up and tried it on anyway.


The reaction wasn’t even “well it’s nice, but see how it makes your hips/bum/chest/arms/other random body part look. Ugh.” – I tried it on, looked myself up and down, and thought “heck, yes!”.  Then I bought it.

Now I don’t really want to take it off.

I'm eating ice cream, in case you're wondering.
I’m eating ice cream, in case you’re wondering.


Wet hair. Don’t care.

I think you’ll find I can wear stripes. I’m actually finding it quite difficult to stop!


All change (or not)

Shop changing rooms. They’re tricksy little beasties, somehow highlighting every ‘flaw’ you have while making new clothes look amazing. I’ve always wondered how they do it. Sorcery, probably.

I would hate to count up the cumulative hours I’ve spent in those cubicles, cataloguing the parts of my body I hate most. What a horrible, sad waste of my life.

But since jumping feet-first into body positivity, I thought I had left that changing room self-hate behind me. I’ve completely turned some of my most hated parts into my favourites. I love my body now, so how much better would it be to see it in full, lit up, in shiny new clothes? Surely it would be fun!

Turns out, no.

I went in to try on the most beautiful dress in the world, and some other fairly nice dresses, and the inner snark started from the second I closed the door. It went for my socks, the size and shape of my feet, my thighs, my hips, my stomach, my arms, my overall size, my hair, my stretch marks, the clothes I was wearing that day, and the clothes I had taken in to try on.

Honestly, it nearly overwhelmed me at first. It’s been so long since I faced such a tirade from my inner Nasty Voice that I couldn’t remember how to defend myself. My eyes filled up, and I was on the brink of a major meltdown.

Then up popped the Body Pos voice I’ve been working on for months.

“Excuse me? You seriously think it’s okay to speak like that? Would you say that to your friends? Would you let your friends, or anyone for that matter, say those things to you?

No. No you wouldn’t. So what makes you think it’s okay to speak to yourself that way?”

*Nasty Voice mumbles something incoherent*

“You can shut up now. We have, in fact, noticed that we’ve become bigger recently; you don’t need to point it out. We also decided that size/weight/body fat percentage have no effect whatsoever on our inherent value and self-worth, remember that?

You know only 5% of the population can achieve that shape you’re comparing us against. You know we are not in that 5%, never have been, never will be, no matter what. And you know that doesn’t stop us being hella sexy and downright fabulous.”

At which point the Nasty Voice died a violent death and vanished, leaving me and Body Pos voice to live in peace forever more!

Except this is real life, and I’m only human.

I silenced the Nasty Voice long enough to not cry, and to try on the clothes I had picked up. But when I tried on the most beautiful dress in the world it pointed out that a size 12 would have fitted me 6 months ago. I tried another and it sniped at the way the material lay over my hips and bum. A third and it laughed at the sag in the chest area that I can never quite fill.

The difference this time was that the comments slid over the surface instead of cutting in deep. They flitted across my mind and then they were gone.

Then I tried on a jumper dress. It’s the kind of thing I would never normally go for, but I tried it on anyway and Body Pos voice said “Heck yes!”.

This is what progress looks like, I suppose. I am changing. I am kinder to myself now than I ever have been before. But when the simple act of walking into a changing room can cause a meltdown, I clearly still have a lot of work to do.

8, 10, 12

I was in New Look today, and across the store I spotted the most beautiful dress I have seen all year: skater style, black mesh with deep blue velvet roses, that shimmered in the light like an oil slick.

I had to have it.

I went through the rack and picked out the biggest size they had in stock, a 12, knowing it wouldn’t fit well but would give me an idea of whether I liked it.

Into the changing rooms, and I didn’t just like it. I completely loved it. But I was right; I needed a size 14. So I gave the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world  back and decided to order the right size online when I got chance.

Skip forward a few hours and I’m shouting at my laptop in disbelief.

They don’t make the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world in my size. In fact, they only make it in size 8, 10, and 12.

Three different sizes. When people exist from size 6 to 26 and beyond, New Look have decided to stock an item of clothing in only three different sizes. All of which are below the average female dress size in the UK (16, if you’re wondering).

So there’s £30 they’ve missed out on because I can’t buy that dress. Multiply that by the thousands and thousands of women who are also not size 8, 10, or 12 and there’s a bucketload of money they’ve lost.

It’s kind of frightening that fat-shaming is so pervasive that companies are willing to lose business by contributing to it.

But here’s the thing. Even after a mini-meltdown in the changing rooms (post about that coming up later), I’m not bursting into tears and hating my body for not fitting this dress.

I am raging that New Look dare to think my size-14 body isn’t worthy of it.

Their message is loud and clear: only small bodies deserve the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world.

So I’m going to send them a message back, telling them that I deserve every beautiful thing they sell, and so does every body. That fat-shaming is not even a little bit okay. That their dress, although it may be the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world, is contributing to fat-shaming. And that this kind of message needs to stop. Right now.

Excuses, excuses

So this little nugget has started making the rounds again


and somebody asked me to give my response to it. Check me out, I do requests now!

Here follows my response:


I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What’s my excuse for what?

For not having three children under 5?  Well I’m a bit too busy with Voicebeat and Salsa4Water and Madrigirls and Shapenote and spontaneously staying out til 3 o’clock on a Saturday morning and all the creative hobbies I’ve picked up and running and kettlebells and…you get the point.

Plus I’ve not found anyone worth reproducing yet.

For not being a fitness professional? My brain runs naturally toward admin. I don’t take admin jobs just because they’re all I can get; I enjoy this stuff. Shuffling a bunch of random information into a coherent report, or slotting the final piece of paperwork into a personnel file so it’s ready for audit is really satisfying to me.

There’s also the fact that I’m an introvert. Just the thought of my entire job consisting of one-on-one sessions with people I don’t know very well or standing in front of a whole class of people, is exhausting.

Or are you actually, seriously asking what’s my excuse for not looking like you?


Let’s start with the fact that we don’t have the same parents. Or grandparents. Or any familial link whatsoever. My genes are not your genes, your body is not my body, we process and distribute fat in different ways, we have different metabolisms and gut bacteria, and muscles. Basically, we’re different people.

You do understand that different people are…different? Right? You don’t actually think the shelf of identically-shaped Barbie dolls is a realistic goal for society, do you?

Has it even occurred to you that maybe some people don’t need an excuse because they wouldn’t want to look like you?

Yeah you fit the shape that the media tells us everyone must fit into (even though only about 5% of people can achieve it) but, honestly, I like my shape better. You’re kinda straight up and down, and I like curves.

But even if none of this were true; if there actually were a ‘healthy size’ or a ‘correct shape’ for people to be; if it were physically possible for everyone to become exactly the same size and shape as you if they just tried hard enough, do you really think shame is the way to get people to do that?

People have been fat-shaming at least as long as I have been alive. That’s 27 years – more than enough time for everyone to ‘move more and eat less’ their way into your body shape. But there are still fat people in the world (hi there!) and not everybody looks like you. It’s time to consider the possibility that fat-shaming is no use as a weight loss tool.

And why would it be? Why on earth would we spend time and money looking after something we hate? There’s a botanical analogy I quite like:

If a flower is a weed, you kill it.

If you like a flower, you pick it.

If you love a flower, you nurture it.

When you fat shame me (and yes, that photo is fat-shaming), you’re trying to tell me that my body is a weed. It doesn’t matter that you believe this weed can be transformed into a lovely flower; you’re telling me that my body, as it is right now, is bad.

That’s reeeeeally not going to make me take care of it. At all. I’m actually more likely to go eat a double cheeseburger with fries because my weed-body doesn’t deserve good food, while telling myself repeatedly what a sack of wasted oxygen I am. Yah, that’ll get me losing weight in no time.

Thankfully, I no longer derive my self-confidence from my outward appearance. You can try to fat shame me but I am just not listening.

But, for the sake of people still stuck in the trap of the diet industry, please stop. They are amazing, beautiful people just as they are but because they believe people like you, they can’t see that. You’re destroying them.

What’s my excuse?

My excuse is I don’t care how you think I should look. My excuse is I don’t need to alter my body to fit your ideal, because it’s perfect just the way it is. My excuse is I don’t need an excuse.

If you want to do whatever it takes to look the way you do then fine, do you.

But don’t you dare try to manipulate me and steal my happiness by making me feel like my body is made of excuses. Like the one and only reason I look the way I do is because I’m too busy ‘making excuses’ to take care of my body.

There’s enough rubbish in the world without people sticking narrow-minded bullying like that up on the internet. It’s time to stop it.

The “Thin Woman Inside” Lie

“People are allowed to believe whatever they want about manipulating body size. People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including attempting to manipulate their bodies to look a certain way for whatever reason they want. What’s not ok is anyone who suggests that the choice to try to lose weight, or any success someone might have makes those people or their bodies, better than people who make difference choices or get different results. What’s not ok is people who suggest that anyone who doesn’t pursue thinness is wrong, inferior, or “making excuses.”

What’s wrong is telling fat people that we should think of ourselves as thin people covered in fat, a before picture, a perpetual potential future thin person, anything but a fully realized authentic person. I’m not a thin person covered in fat, just like I’m not a blonde covered in brown, or straight-haired person covered in curls, or a green eyed person covered in hazel, or clinically under-tall – I’m a brunette, curly-haired, hazel-eyed, short, fat woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

A million times yes. Ragen nails it again.

Dances With Fat

You Forgot Your BullshitThis picture has been making the rounds on Facebook again (thanks Natasha for bringing it to my attention!)  It’s an extra-disturbing iteration of the idea that there is a thin person inside every fat person. In this case it used to advertise someone’s fitness/weight loss business with the quote “Your TRUE potential is hidden deep within. It takes a lot of hard work and diligence to sculpt a masterpiece. But once you unmask it, it will last forever…” There are a number of ways in which this is super disturbing (I’ve intentionally made the image small, you can click to enlarge it or just skip over it.)

Disturbing statue

First, any fitness professional who suggests that they can guarantee you a body of a certain size, or a body that looks a certain way is straight up lying to you.  Body size, type, musculature, and even athletic potential are all complicated things, multifaceted, and not entirely…

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You have got to stop.

When you tell me “No, you’re not fat.” maybe you think you’re paying me a compliment. Maybe you’re trying to make me feel better (in which case you can stop, because fat is not an insult), or in some weird way trying to make yourself feel better. Or maybe you’re just an egomaniac who is incapable of understanding that your opinion is not the only opinion. I don’t know.

What I do know is that you have got to stop. Whatever the reasons, no matter how many you have or how valid you think they are, you have got to stop.

Because this is what you’re actually saying to me when you say “No, you’re not fat.”:

“Your body is up for debate.”

I am not an ethical issue. I am not a political idea. I am not Marmite. There is no debate or argument to be had here. Dictatorship, remember? What I say, goes.

“I have more right to define your body than you do.”

In primary school we had to fill in a sheet describing ourselves physically. ‘My eyes are blue/brown/grey’ ‘I am short/tall’ and so on. When it came to hair colour, I said brown. When my teacher saw this, she said “no, no it’s not brown. It’s black.” and changed my sheet.

This memory has stuck with me for maybe 20 years because it’s the first time I remember being angry with a teacher, although at the time I couldn’t articulate exactly why. Now I get it – even then I knew that it’s wrong for somebody else to think they can define my body better than I can.

I got angry when my teacher tried to define me as black-haired, I got angry when a man tried to define me as a girl and then as a lady, and I get angry when people try to define me as skinny or thin or ‘normal’ or however they word it. The words don’t matter; the subtext is always saying they can define me and I cannot.

“I experience your reality better than you do.”

I live in my body. I experience my body. Only me. Nobody else can, does, or will ever see my body through my eyes and process that image with my brain. And my experience of it is of a fat body.

Of course that’s not the only way I see it. It’s a strong, flexible, rhythmic, tuneful, brave, brown-haired, stretch-marked, short(ish), creative, loving, hopeful, fat body.

If I wrote a post about how creative I am, nobody would dream of telling me “No, you’re not creative.” and I wouldn’t accept it if they did. I know I am creative because that is my experience of living in this body.

I don’t accept people telling me I’m not fat, I know I am because that is my experience of living in this body.

“Your experience of reality does not exist.”

Like I said, my reality comes from experiencing my body with my interpretation of it. When you say I’m wrong about being fat, you’re telling me that my reality is not actually real. In abuse terms this is called gaslighting. Please, stop abusing me.

“The way you define yourself is offensive to me”

Several people have got really worked up about me calling myself fat. I know what it’s like, I’ve been speechless with irritation before when someone smaller than me has repeatedly complained about being fat. Saying they’re fat must mean they think I’m enormous!!

It’s taken me many years to realise that saying they’re fat actually means they…are just saying they’re fat.

People are incredibly self-centred, if they are commenting on their own fat-ness it has nothing to do with you. They are either a) fishing for comments on their thinness (I am not this one) or b) actually experiencing their body as a fat body (this is me). Comparison to and comments on your body are so not the point.

I am not commenting on your size by defining mine. Why would I? Your body is your business, just as my body is mine.

Of course if you want to keep thinking “No, you’re not fat” then I can’t stop you. But do not say it, type it, write it, or text it to me. This is not up for debate and I am not taking any more comments on it. Just stop. Now.

What’s in a word?

I am fat.

No, I am.

This is not an epiphany; I’ve known it for some time. The clues have always been there.

Chunky arms SAM_3027

Junk in the trunk

Hey, it's this photo again!
Hey, it’s this photo again!

Portable insulation


There’s no two ways about it, I am fat.

But I am not lazy. Or mean. I’m not stupid, greedy, selfish, weak, ugly, dishonest, or any other insult that has come to be associated with the word ‘fat’.

For years (and YEARS) various people have told me that I’m not fat; I’m curvy. I’m not fat; I’m beautiful. I’m not fat; I’m sexy. I’m not fat; I’m strong.

I used to take it as a compliment, but now I’m beginning to wonder…why can I not be both?

I refuse to accept ‘fat’ and ‘beautiful’ as mutually exclusive terms. I know it’s possible to be both because I am both. I’m strong and fit, happy, giving, far too loving, and none of those are hindered, or even affected in the slightest, by the fact that I am also fat.

Fat AND sexy. I can even dance as well.
Fat AND sexy. I can even dance as well.

When I say I’m fat (and I’m going to keep doing that, by the way) I’m not insulting myself or putting myself down, I’m just stating a fact. Saying my hair is brown is not an insult, it’s a fact. And extrapolating my personality from my body fat percentage is as ridiculous as using my hair colour to guess my favourite cheese*.

So I’m joining the fight to knock ‘fat’ back down to just another word. If I ever hear “you’re not fat; you’re (insert compliment here)” my instant and vehement response will be “I am both!”. I will keep using the word as often as I can, and explaining that it’s not an insult as often as I need to. I imagine that will be quite often.

I’m not sure how much difference I can make as just one person, but I know it’s more than none. And if I can get one other person to even think about the way they use the word ‘fat’, I will consider that a victory.

Here goes the revolution!

*Brie. If you were wondering.

Let’s see how many times I can say ‘tartan’ in one blog

Limit #1: women with big hips and bums shouldn’t wear pleated skirts.

Pleated skirt in repose. Yeah, I used the word 'repose' about a skirt.
Pleated skirt in repose. Yeah, I used the word ‘repose’ about a skirt.

I love kilts and tartan skirts (tartan anything, really) and they generally only come in one style; pleated. So I could spend my life being sad that I ‘can’t’ wear these beautiful clothes that make me happy.  Or I could just wear the heck out of them.

I’m gonna go with ‘wear the heck out of it’.

This was a fairly easy limit to break. My love of tartan cannot be overestimated. I was so happy to be wearing my favourite pattern that it overwhelmed the self-consciousness I was expecting to feel. There was just one moment in the morning, when I looked in the mirror and tried to rearrange the pleats so they didn’t sit directly on my hips. Because maybe if the material lies flat then people will think I’m a size 8 rather than a 14. That’s how it works, right?

Does this skirt make my bum look big? No, the fact that it's big makes my bum look big.
Does this skirt make my bum look big? No, the fact that it’s big makes my bum look big.

Honestly I think I would have been fine even without the tartan to help me out. Skirts are pretty and I look good in this one. Plus they do this when you spin:

I am so ready for salsa!
I am so ready for salsa!

Bring on limit #2!