A little bit of Luxury – Navabi

A little bit of Luxury – Navabi

So it’s been a while since I’ve written any blog posts here – over a year, in fact! Sorry for the radio silence – I’ve been super busy with other projects, including starting my own exercise classes after qualifying as an instructor earlier this year! But when the lovely folks at Navabi offered the opportunity to select a dress from their current collections, I couldn’t resist!

I’ve been a big fan of Navabi since I saw them at Curve Fashion Festival a few years ago – it was great to see a plus size retailer offering more luxurious, high quality, classic pieces for women above a size 18 (they stock uk sizes 14-32). It’s fair to say they’re a little more expensive than some of the fast-fashion brands, I expect to pay a little extra for quality, and it’s worth it if you are investing in something that will last.

I was very fortunate to be gifted an item from their collection so I decided to choose something a little different. I’m usually all about bright colours, vintage styles or kawaii cuteness, so I thought I’d try something a little more on-trend, classic and grown up, for a change! They have such a wide variety of dresses in my size, it took me ages to choose but eventually I settled on this grey/taupe dress – I thought it would be super versatile, I could dress it up or down, wear it for work, around the house or out to dinner! I love a good quality Jersey fabric so hoped it would be super comfy!

I’ve had the dress for a few weeks now and I’ve worn it absolutely loads (although forgotten to take any photos, apparently)! It’s so comfortable, the fabric is so soft, and the dress has functional pockets!!! This dress looks great whether it’s teamed with tights and pumps for work, or leggings and trainers for a day of running errands! Here’s a very relaxed, miminal “mum on the run” look for a day with the kids:

Have you tried Navabi yet? They’re having a SALE right now so go check them out! ❤️

An open letter to a narrow minded PT

Dear Mr Personal Trainer,

Today I saw your Facebook post about the sales assistant in the plus size retailer Yours and your response. For those who didn’t see it, here it is:

I just wanted to let you know that I think you (and possibly) the sales assistant are making assumptions about the people who shop at Yours and fat women in general. I’m a size 26-28 and as you so kindly put it: “so fat I need to go to a special shop” and apparently an abnormal size from your perspective. I’m also currently training to be a fitness instructor, after spending the last 5 or so years feeling out of place at the gym because of people like you and the Yours sales assistant making judgements about me, my body and my “progress”. I am still a size 26-28 after 5 years of regular high-intensity exercise, making progress and feeling my personal “gains” – personally, I am not there to lose weight! I completely agree with your closing paragraph about the benefits of exercise beyond the physical. You and I both know, through our training as exercise professionals that total fitness is made up of a number of factors, which impact on each other. Perhaps you remember these from your own studies:

Finding the right balance across these factors is an important part of fitness and finding a joy in exercise. Comments like the ones you made in your post and the constant obsession with weightloss amongst most fitness professionals have a negative impact on my emotional, social and spiritual fitness. For someone with less confidence or motivation to exercise, your words could cause significant damage or actually prevent someone from considering exercise as an option for them. The fear of judgement – particularly from an instructor – is a barrier to exercise for so many. So nice work there! Not everyone wants to exercise, but whether someone chooses to exercise or not, an individual should be able to do so without this kind of judgement!

In answer to your question – yes, it is OK to be fat. Being fat is not the single worst thing a human can be. Striving for health, beauty or taking up less space is not the only way to have worth as a human or the only route to self-acceptance or happiness. I wonder if you’d have had a similar scathing tone about your potential customers if the shop had sold straight (or “normal” as you so eloquently put it) size clothes or if you’d have targeted an old people’s home (there are benefits for the elderly to engage in exercise but you don’t see social media being quite so hard on them to get moving!).

What I’m trying to say here is perhaps the woman in the clothes shop was wrong to make the judgement she made about her customers – assuming you have quoted her accurately. Or perhaps (as the lovely Kathryn pointed out) she was doing the right thing by creating a safe place for her customers, free from judgement and unsolicited advertising about a product and industry that perpetuates the myth that weightloss is the key to happiness. Perhaps she just didn’t like you or the gym you promoted – maybe she too has had a negative experience at the hands of a judgemental fitness bod?!. But you were certainly wrong – your reasons for challenging her decision and your sweeping judgements about fat women are unhelpful and inaccurate. They also go against your own training.

Fat women (in fact most women) don’t want to be shamed into going to the gym. The ones who want to exercise want to feel comfortable, encouraged and welcomed. They want to have fun!

So next time, please think before you speak. And like my Mam always told me – if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all!

Curly Girl: If you don’t do it properly, you can’t expect it to work! 

Curly Girl: If you don’t do it properly, you can’t expect it to work! 

I’ve just stumbled across this Mumsnet post about the Curly Girl method and how it didn’t work for her…

I find it really frustrating when people don’t actually follow the correct method or use the right products then post negative stuff saying the method didn’t work!!

I’m now over 3 years into my curly journey… Here’s a quick reminder of my first few months (I haven’t taken any recent hair pictures!)

Sure, the The Curly Girl method isn’t going to work for everyone but the original post made some pretty obvious mistakes – so she never gave it a chance to succeed:

Mistake #1 The wrong products: the lady had removed the sulphates from her routine (which is good) but was using Frizz Ease. Frizz Ease contains silicones which coats the hair but it can’t be removed effectively without sulphates (found in shampoo). So her washing method wasn’t able to cleanse her hair and remove the silicone. She was doomed before she even got started!

Mistake #2 More wrong products: the lady was using a Boots curl cream that isn’t curly girl approved as it contains drying alcohols which could actually make her hair more frizzy! Some non-purist curly girls use this curl cream occasionally (the drying alcohol content is low) but it’s not recommended and shouldn’t really be part of a day to day routine. With the Curly Girl method, less is more – finding just 1 conditioner you can use as a co-wash and for styling (and watered down to refresh) is the simplest way to start. Then you can add other curly girl approved products later.

Mistake #3 Expecting an overnight miracle: the original post says she tried the method for 2 weeks. That’s just not long enough to give the method time to work! When you stop using sulphate shampoo your hair stops being stripped of its natural oils after every wash. It can take a few weeks (for some it’s 6+ weeks) for the oils to settle down. During this period you’ve really just got to persevere. I co-washed more frequently during this time and wore my hair up for work. Find a good time to transition!

Mistake #4 Preparation: the original post doesn’t mention whether she did a final (sulphate) wash to remove all of the silicone built up from styling products, but as she was still using Frizz Ease, she definitely needed to ditch the Frizz Ease and do a final wash. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is with hand soap or washing up liquid (just check it has no silicones in it!). If you don’t make sure all of the silicones have been removed then the method won’t work! The foundations have to be right. I occasionally wash my hair with washing up liquid if it’s been styled with hairspray (I do dance shows and a bit of amateur modelling so my hair has to be styled a particular way!) but I’ve managed to go 2 years between ‘final’ washes and just co-washed in between.

Those of us who follow the method have all developed slightly different routines but these basics are pretty much the same for every one of us. If you get these right you have the best possible chance of success! There are some excellent support groups on Facebook too who can give you excellent (and accurate) advice! 

I think the lady on Mumsnet has already made her decision to bin off the Curly Girl method, which is a shame. But hopefully if you are reading this, you can make sure you get it right! 

Navabi Plus Size Blog Awards 2017

If you follow my  Instagram  or Facebook  you may have noticed I’ve been asking for your votes for the Navabi Plus Size Blog Awards I don’t have a hope in Hell of winning the “Best Blog Award” because I don’t believe I have the best blog…! There are some awesome ladies in there – some of whom were my inspirations to start blogging myself… Or even before that, helped me to accept and then love my fat body then adorn it with things that I love! These are my top 10 bloggers for the Best Blog award:

1. Pamper and Curves – I’ve been following Perelandra online for years – since she was known as Betty Pamper. (Apart from being totally jealous of her beautiful pink kitchen) I have loved her fashion blog posts. They have encouraged me to try things the old “me” wouldn’t have done – I hadn’t worn a dress in years before I read Perelandra’s blog! She opened my eyes to the possibility that a plus size mum could look and feel stylish. Her vegan make-up reviews have also helped to improve the ethics of my make-up bag! She absolutely gets my vote! 

2. Lottie L’Amour – Lottie’s style is something pretty special – she always seems to be ahead of the trend or doing her own thing. I look to her for inspiration if I want to try something fresh. Her writing style is relaxed and honest it feels like she’s cracking jokes as if she’s writing a letter to her best mate! She also takes time to big up other women on social media. She always has a kind uplifting message. She’s definitely deserving of the award!

3. Fatty Boom Tatty – Another incredibly stylish lass! She’s not afraid to try something bold and I’ve never seen her wear an outfit that didn’t look bangin’! I am in awe of her natural beauty and fabulous make-up skills. I’ve followed her online for a long time and I always look forward to seeing what she’s going to be wearing next. That’s why she gets my vote!

4. Love Leah – Leah doesn’t suffer fools gladly! Her ballsy attitude, opinionated rants (in a good way!) and rock chick vibe make her a positive force for plus size women in a body shaming world. She isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right! She also blogs about more than just plus size fashion – her posts about mental health issues and being a spoonie are informative and inspiring too! She’s absolutely got my vote!
5. Secret Plus Size Goddess –  I’m in love with Tanya’s vintage style – so much so, I think I’d sell my soul to the devil for a rummage in her wardrobe! Her outfits are beautifully presented with amazing classic style dresses and beautiful accessories. She’s also a really lovely, kind lady – beautiful inside and out! Definitely worthy of a vote!

6. Kat Henry – This lass is a natural in front of the camera! She really know how to strike a pose (she taught me a thing or two!). Her smile and positive attitude are infectious. She also gives excellent advice. I love her pageant and exercise posts too! Certainly worthy of our votes!
7. Wannabe Princess – Debz was another trail blazer for me! Through her blog I began to understand so much more about challenging the notion that “fat=bad”. She managed to change my views with her eloquent posts. Her attitude to her body made me question (and eventually change) my attitude to mine. She’s had a huge influence on me and that’s why she’s got my vote!
8. Mog Plus – Kat is more than just a talented blogger – she’s a fab artist too! She uses her artwork to promote the body positive movement and the plus size community. Her artwork is beautiful, intelligent and inspiring – I loved her campaign that challenges the concept of being “brave” if you’re fat and wear a bikini! She has totally got my vote!
9. Kitty Rambles – Another multi-talented blogger! Kitty is also an incredible photographer (she took the photo of me on the Navabi awards page!). I’d love to have a shoot with her! Her blog and Instagram is full of bright colours – she’s not afraid to stand out in a crowd. She has a breathtaking smile and she’s a fellow Curly Girl! I just had to give her my vote!

10. U Can’t Wear That – (which has been misspelled on the Navabi site to “U Can Wear That”). This girl’s beauty and style was one of the first to make me challenge my own self-hate and body shaming views. I’d grown up to believe fat couldn’t be beautiful and Lucia simply proved me wrong without saying a word! I’m sure there are 100s if not 1000s more, like me, who had this illusion shattered by this beautiful lady. For that reason alone she deserves this award! 

For me personally, I’ve been trying hard to step out of my comfort zone and start putting myself out there. In the past I’ve felt embarrassed calling myself a blogger and was always a little self deprecating to protect myself. This year I’ve got to a point where I believe in myself a bit more and recognise the value of our message to encourage others to be comfortable and confident in their own skin. I feel less embarrassed talking about it in real life and less worried about any failure along the way. As a result I’ve put myself forward for opportunities more frequently, I’ve applied to be a This Girl Can Ambassador, entered a local modelling competition (6 winners and I was 7th!) and I talk about my blog more often to friends, colleagues and even passers by who comment on my dresses! I may not be the best blogger but even seeing my face listed amongst them, with a few votes of my own makes me feel pretty proud of how far I’ve come. 

If you haven’t voted yet, there isn’t much time (votes close today or tomorrow!) so please make sure you pop over to cast your vote before the deadline: www.navabi.co.uk/plus-size-blog-award-2017/

ASOS Curve chinos

Since I discovered the joys of vintage inspired dresses about 5 years ago, I’ve barely worn trousers, like ever! Up until last week I had literally no pairs of trousers or jeans in my wardrobe, beyond leggings, active wear and pyjamas! 

So when I realised I was going to need trousers for a costume for a dance show I’m in later in the year I started browsing my favourite plus retailers for possible options… My character is a male, old style gangster and the brief was ‘black trousers’ so I wanted something that would be suitable for the show (and comfortable to dance in!) as well as being a new addition to my wardrobe. (I couldn’t afford to buy something to be worn once and EBay wasn’t offering up any cheapy options!).

When I stumbled across these ASOS Curve chinos I thought I’d found exactly what I was after! They’d pass as men’s trousers for the show and I’d be happy to wear them as part of my regular day wear. I’m never quite sure on ASOS sizing (sometimes I find they come up small) so I ordered a UK size 28. I think I would have been better off with a 26 but was worried they’d be too tight for dancing!

Top: Evans – past season, Chinos: ASOS, Pumps: Primark

These trousers are super comfortable (I was worried as I hadn’t worn trousers for over 2 years!) with belt loops (although the waistline is low on the hips so none of my belts actually fit to do up!) and fully functional front + bum pockets. They sit on my ankle – so I’m hoping that will prevent me slipping over on them mid moon-walk during the show! 

I’m absolutely head over heels in love with these trousers and had loads of comments about them when I wore them to work. I think they’re excellent value too, for £22! I might buy myself a second pair in a smaller size if I find myself wearing them often enough.

Now I need to find myself some more tops to wear with them!

6 Reasons I Exercise (that are absolutely NOT about weight loss!!)

Some of you may be aware that I’ve recently been selected as one of this year’s This Girl Can Essex ambassadors as part of the local drive to get the women and girls of Essex moving and shaking! 

In the This Girl Can spirit, I wanted to share some of my personal reasons and motivators for exercising – which are absolutely not about weight loss! just incase you weren’t aware **NEWSFLASH** Fat People Don’t Just Exercise To Lose Weight! Over the past 3 or 4 years since I recognised these motivators, my enjoyment and approach to exercise has changed completely!

(In fact, in the preceeding 15+ years before I discovered this revelation for myself – when weight loss was, sadly my ONLY motivation to exercise – I would get to a point where my weight would plateau and I would eventually give up… The cycle ultimately made me miserable and unmotivated…).

Why Exercise Then?! Here’s why:

1. To improve my wellbeing 

This is about looking after my body AND mind – and not in a self-righteous “holier than thou” way! I experience less stress and depression when I exercise. I sleep better. My knees and ankles cause me less pain. I’ve finally found exercise (mainly dance based group classes) that I love – so much so, I sometimes find my cheeks ache from smiling so much during a class! 😄 Knowing it will make me feel good keeps me going back!

2. To see progress 

I love seeing my strength and stamina improve – particularly when I started circuit training and managed to do a burpee over that sodding little bar!! I’d kicked it off weeks and weeks! But then I managed one, then a couple, then a few more! I had a similar experience with planking. Now, I go through it on an almost weekly basis as I’ve joined SOS Dance “crew” training so I’m being pushed to learn more complicated choreography. I start off thinking “I’ll NEVER do that” and then hours, days or weeks later I’m doing it! It’s basically competing with myself over and over. Recognising the progresses really keeps me motivated and looking to see what I can try and achieve next! 

3. Excellent instructors

I’ve been very lucky to find instructors who choreograph amazing routines – particularly zumba and street dance (with SOS Dance). I’ve generally found the instructors at Colchester Leisure World to be positively encouraging without pushing me too far (except the spin instructor – I couldn’t stand her! But I know other people who love her). Not one of the class instructors made me feel like I wouldn’t be able to manage their class or was patronising. Having a membership for a while meant I could choose lots of different things while I sussed out what and who I liked. Through this trial and error I discovered I was as motivated by who was running the session as much as having a class preference. I’ve had more than one situation when I was tempted to walk out of a class because I didn’t like the cover instructor! Find the right people – it makes a huge difference! 

4. To spend time with people

Writing “make friends” seemed a bit of a cliché but basically that’s what it is. Sometimes I guess it’s making acquaintances – for example: there’s a purple haired lady I see at lots of zumba classes. We chat regularly, I know she commutes home from London but I don’t know her name! I enjoy chatting to her and the other regulars. I like dancing together, laughing when we get it wrong or when we have to do a cringey ‘freestyle’ bit! Joining “crew” and being part of a mini dance family with 15 other dancers (who’s names I do know!) is a lovely experience. I’m a people person so being able to let my hair down and shake my bootie with a lovely bunch of ladies brings me joy.

5. To keep dancing

I have always loved dancing and the way it feels to move in my body. I did ballet, tap and modern as a child and gave them up as a young teen as my peers were going ‘en pointe’ and I was embarrassed to be left behind (I didn’t see the point in messing up my feet and ankles for something that would only ever be a hobby). I did Performing Arts A-level and danced throughout. My uni days were spent on the dance floors of the bars and clubs. I returned to adult tap and ballet and tried a bit of street dance in my mid-twenties before I had kids. Dancing just for the sake of dancing has always brought me joy! Having that as part of my regular routine is a just brilliant!

6. As an act of self-love 

Rather than a grueling regime to “work off” something I’ve eaten, I now view my exercise routine as a kindness to myself and my body. It has taken me an awfully long time to begin to love myself and my body and now that I have I want to treat it with kindness. It’s a bit of breathing space away from my job and my kids. A time to focus my mind and let go of my inhibitions. Be a little bit free. It’s my own weird kind of indulgence!

I’d love to hear about what your body positive (i.e. not weight loss related!) motivations are! Or is there is something that worries you or prevents you from exercising? I’d love to know more about your experiences.

Tomorrow night I’m off to a celebration event to meet some of my fellow ambassadors – I’m bound to be sharing a photo or two on my Instagram

An Easter Operation, Pregnancies and Body Shaming

An Easter Operation, Pregnancies and Body Shaming

On Easter Sunday 7 years ago I spent the night in hospital awaiting an operation. I had been suffering with abdominal pains and sickness throughout the day and we were beginning to worry… I was 13 weeks pregnant at the time and had been told in no uncertain terms that there was a potential risk to my baby – and no option but to operate. They couldn’t be certain that it was appendicitis but said they would have to look inside to be sure. They explained that as the baby wasn’t yet ‘viable’ it wouldn’t be monitored during the operation. It was terrifying to think we could lose our baby just as we’d reached the milestone when you’re finally able to announce the news to the world. It felt like our future literally sat on a knife edge. I was numb. So numb in fact that I’d refused the (pre-op) pain relief I’d been offered as I didn’t want to harm the baby. The situation was way out of my control – I think I subconsciously maintained the only sliver of control I had left!

I lay there that night imagining the worst. Playing the scenarios out in my head. I was in limbo. I felt guilty. Guilty for my body failing us.

The operation went ahead on Easter Monday and was a success. Fortunately it was an inflamed appendix and they were able to remove it through keyhole surgery without disturbing anything else. But we had to wait a few more hours after the surgery before a midwife was able to check for a heartbeat. When she found it I was so overwhelmed I burst into tears! Despite the odds being stacked against our baby, she had held fast! We were so incredibly lucky that day.

1st pregnancy – on a camping trip with friends

The rest of my pregnancy was relatively drama-free… Our beautiful baby girl was born just after her due date. 

1st born – still in the labour ward!

But within a week she was back in hospital again due to poor weight gain. They suspected meningitis. We’d been parents for 7 days and were having to make parental decisions we never dreamed of. I felt the same feelings of guilt, fear and helplessness. Fortunately she responded well to her treatment and we were able to go home a week later. And so far (touch wood) she hasn’t had to go back!

We were incredibly lucky that, on both occasions things turned out to be OK. I know it doesn’t always work out like that. I know several parents who have had to say goodbye to their children too soon, or have cared for them during long term illnesses. I am incredibly fortunate that I am not one of them. What I learned from these experiences (and from watching others going through their own experiences) is that even when things feel grim you can find some comfort in the love and kindness of others. My husband and I had eachother (I would have been lost without him) and our friends and family to keep us strong. Positivity may not change the final outcome but no good is likely to come from negativity.
So why am I telling you this? It doesn’t exactly fit in with the theme of my blog… Or does it?!

During both of my pregnancies I experienced a significant amount of body shaming for being ‘obese’ – even before we’d conceived. I was told that my weight would make it harder to fall pregnant and that I’d be at risk of complications such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. As a result of being ‘high risk’ I was not allowed to consider a home birth or water birth – even though the water birth could have been in hospital. During my second pregnancy I was still considered high risk. 

2nd pregnancy – camping again!

I understand that the risks may be statistically higher and that I would always want the best care for my babies and myself but I would think there would be some consideration of personal history. Sadly not. 
I was even made to feel bad about my body during labour because the heart monitor wouldn’t stay in the right place and the midwife was very clear that this was due to my weight. It’s not like I could do much about it in that moment! Within the previous 9 months I’d undergone surgery, stayed in work full time (and carry on going to tap dancing classes) up until 3 weeks before my due date! Other than the (unrelated) appendicitis, I had no health complications – weight related or otherwise. 

When I was trying to conceive and during my pregnancies I don’t recall reading much online about healthy fat pregnancies – even though there were definitely some out there. There was even less about pregnant women having successful operations under general anaesthetic during their second trimester (and I Googled it a lot that night!). Yes there are higher risks of complications – but the constant negativity and body shaming of fat women is really not helpful. A few anecdotal positive stories here and there might bring someone a bit of comfort and that’s why I have chosen to share my experience.