Protein Pills, Beach Bodies and Mixed Messages #eachbodysready

The sun is out (sometimes) and the summer holidays are booked (or being booked/dreamed about). Consequently, it’s that time of the year again; time to really drill the “your body is not good enough for a bikini” message home to the 99.999%  of women who don’t look like a post-airbrushed Victoria’s Secret model. Magazines will be laying on 8-page spreads about the latest in juicing cleanses, or how to get killer abs whilst sitting at your desk. Woo frickin hoo.

At times like these there are a number of options open to the 99.999%:

a) proceed to engage in the latest 5-2/Atkins/’you are what you eat’ dieting craze (preferably this will involve a few purchases of books/supplements/juicing machines).

b) take up the latest in Insanity/bums tums and thighs/Boxercise exercise regimes (preferably this will also involve buying DVDs, subscribing to YouTube channels, or at least forking out for some over-sized inflatable balls).

c) Starve yourself (it’s not funny cos it’s true).

d) All of the the above.

e) Rise up and smash the bloody patriarchy.

f) Vigorously complain about the pressure women face to maintain largely unachievable body shapes/sizes whilst eating chocolate and secretly wishing you had arms like Jennifer Anniston.

I’ll let you guess which option I’ve plumped for this year. Sigh.

Whilst wading through the whole I-know-that-society-has-given-me-a-completely-unattainable-ideal-body-image-but-I-still-want-a-flat-stomach-and-a-gravity-defying-bosom quagmire It was nice to see a stick-it-to-the-man story doing the rounds last week. I discovered it on the Huff Post with this super-strong headline:

Irate commuters have been defacing this lovely little ‘beach body’ advert:

*screams into pillow with incandescent rage*

I mean where do you begin? With the fact that this brand is tying to sell us MEAL REPLACEMENTS of pills and powder that cost £62 (SIXTY TWO POUNDS?? From what I can surmise that’s only a two week supply) and contain caffeine? That the implication of the advert is that you have to lose weight to have access to the beach? Or that the company who sells the protein pills posts tweets like these: Um, yeah, because you either look like the (gorgeous, healthy and probably very nice) model in those ads or you are “fat and out of shape”: you’re sort of proving the point here guys! The truth is that there are a lot of fit and healthy women who would never look like that in a bikini. Some of us have little boobs, some of us have big bums, some of us have stretch marks. You get the picture.

(For more on beach body bullshit hop along to The Artist Formerly Known As Sisterhood and All That for a peek at this splendid post)

A weird but largely unchallenged perfectionism seems to hang around body image. Either we are the paradigm of vigorous exercise and strict diet or we aren’t good enough. Either we’re at the lowest end of a healthy BMI or we’re ‘fat’ and need to lose weight/tone up/drop a dress size.  It’s more than slightly infuriating.

But hurrah for the angry commuting public of London! They have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate just how they feel about these adverts. There are various approaches from giving the finger in a twitter pic:


to a simple yet effective post-it note,

to grander (and slightly less legal) gestures

If you didn’t know, Dear Reader, this particular form of graffiti is know as ‘subvertising’. Like, subverting advertising, clever huh? Indeed the #eachbodysready campaign has grown apace! Hence the coverage from the Huff Post, BBC, and all them lot. There’s a petition and everything, though I’m not sure I want the adverts to be taken down, I’d rather every single one of them were subvertised. How cool would that be?

Huzzah! Up the sisterhood.

Yes, it was all going so well, my feminist hopes were lifted and my body image demons quieted for a moment as I revelled in the civil disobedience that was taking place on the London underground. If only I hadn’t scrolled down.

Never. Scroll. Down.

Because when I did I found that despite running an article on such an empowering topic, the Huffington Post had also run a body-shaming link at the bottom of this very same page.

That’s right. “Twelve celebs whose weight gain you won’t believe!”* Seriously? Is the actually happening? We are just staring at strangers who have gained weight and judging them. Epic fail, Huffington, epic fail.

Just FYI, this was the picture they used for fat Britney. WTF.

Just FYI, this was the picture they used for fat (ie gorgeous and healthy) Britney. WTF.

It’s no wonder that even the bolshiest of us have underlying body issues. Most of the celeb ‘before’ pictures were taken in their teens. But then we are all supposed to look like adolescent girls accord to most high fashion magazines. Either that or Marylin Monroe (in her ’60s corset and pointy boob bra).

Sigh again.

A few years back on Radio Four there was a show called the People’s Manifesto, hosted by Mark Thomas. Totes hilares and now a book (google it). The basic idea was that the audience proposed new laws, some bizarre, some bloody genius. One of my all time favourites is that all models have be chosen at random from the electoral register. Isn’t that the most brilliant thing you’ve ever heard? How much would everyone love that advert if it was Mavis Brown, 62, from Scunthorpe in the bright yellow bikini? Suddenly we would get a much more representative idea of what bodies actually look like and stop being told over and over again how they should look. Oh how I would love my son to grow up surrounded by normal images of normal bodies, rather than spirit-crushing ideals that make us mere mortals feel like utter crap.

Okay, the whole models-by-ballot thing is almost certainly an unachievable dream, but maybe next time you see an image that makes you want to shrivel into a ball and repeat the mantra ‘I will not eat a Mars bar” over and over, you could just picture our Mavis in the same pose. Failing that, have a look at the pic of me and my thigh in an old post on body image. Laughter is the best medicine, after all, and it seems mockery is a pretty excellent protest.

What do you think of it all? Would you deface one of the ads if you had the chance? Or do you think it’s no big deal? Comment below or tweet me @aafew. Oh and if you like this please do:


Tots100 MAD Blog Awards


*this link isn’t on the page anymore, but it was all day yesterday.


It’s my vote and I’ll “waste it” if I want to!!

*NB: If it’s after midnight on 20th April you can skip the first paragraph*

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 48 hours, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that the deadline for registering to vote in at midnight tonight. TONIGHT PEOPLE! Have you done it? Have you??? If you haven’t then I forbid you from reading the rest of this post, go to the website now and register (then come back and read this post, obvs). Do it or relinquish all rights to complain about anything for the next 5 years. That’s right, no moaning about schools or hospitals or roadworks or buses or whichever smug git lives in Number 10. A life without moaning, ask yourself, is it really worth living?? Speaking of which…

Now that the public service announcement is out of the way I can get back to my regularly scheduled programme of malcontentedness. So, the election campaign, are you bored of it yet? If like me you tuned in to the first 10 minutes of the leaders’ debates, thought “yeah, that’s about what I expected” and then switched it off, then you may well be sick of all the posturing and blaming and general non-answering of questions that characterises electioneering. I am sort of sick of it too, though I’m finding this election more engaging than usual. Maybe that’s because it’s a bit more unpredictable or because there are some women front-and-centre (or should I say front-and-left *self-satisfied chuckle*) for a change. Whatever it is, I can generally deal with the politics of it all. What I am really earth-shatteringly bored – and what I have been angry about for a long time now – is the way that every major party wants me to believe that only a vote for them ‘counts’.

My constituency was Labour until 2005 but for the past 10 years it’s been Lib Dem (sorry guys, I didn’t know what I was doing!!). Consequently its hard fought turf this time around. I haven’t seen so much as a leaflet from another candidate, whilst I’m practically getting junk-mailed to death by Lab and Lib alike. That’s a shame in itself, but it’s not surprising given the fact that both parties would like us all to believe that any other vote is a wasted vote.

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The Five Stages of Toddler Discipline!

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You’ve probably heard of  the ‘five stages of grief’. It is an actual really useful and sensitive theory coined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. But for me they were made immortal by the inimitable Homer Simpson.*

As I observe Bubs’ transition into the ‘terrible twos’ (yes, he’s one and half, but the name is false advertising, trust me) it strikes me that my coping-mechanisms for all his wobblies fit eerily well with these ‘stages’. Sometimes I’m pretty Zen about it all, whilst in other moments a baby-shaped strop can bring on the mists of deep self-loathing (#dramaqueen).

When I say ‘stages’, I don’t mean that there’s a clear progression. No ‘from denial to acceptance in five easy steps’ here I’m afraid, and I know that you discerning readers wouldn’t buy that kind of crap any way. It’s more of a cycle, not a vicious one, more a sort of normal-and-slighty-annoying cycle. Let’s see if it rings true for you…

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Money money money: how do you feel equal with your partner when they earn all the cash?


Hello Dear Reader, I’ve gone and done the whole writing-on-another-website thing again. So neglectful, I know! But if you’d like to read about the topic above you can click THIS LINK, which will take to the lovely Mumsnet website. Oh yeah, I is down with the mums. #MumsnetForLife

Recovering from PND: A Kind of Resurrection

I like Easter. I like the whole flow of Holy Week and how it takes in so much of the human experience. I like that the women are always there with Jesus and that when I think about his mother Mary’s story (whether or not you think it’s ‘true’) it teaches me about motherhood; all of it’s pain and love. This blog is usually a place for railing against the things that pin us mothers down, or casting a sarcastic glance at the silliness of our over eager advice culture. I’d like to think, though, it’s also a bit about hope and reassurance.

Today I don’t have much to say, but the sunshine and the Easter story have made me feel grateful, and I notice how far I have come this year. From the stomach-churning fear of anything birth and newborn related to a real relishing of motherhood. From a feeling of love masked by constant self-doubt to a security in my own ability to be a parent. I just love my son so much. And I can feel that love. But more than this, I like him. I really like him.

This is a kind of resurrection.

I want to attempt not to stray into cheesy territory and also be careful not to strike those who are still struggling with any sense of inadequacy or failure. But the on the day that the most powerful story that I know is being celebrated across the world, I want to offer my little piece of hope for all those who are in the midst of postnatal depression. You fear that you will not love; will never enjoy; are not able to cope. But you will love and will enjoy and you are coping. Right now, you’re coping. I have felt all of those things, I have some of them today but not with the same heart-breaking power that they once had. I have had so much help to get here, and I hope you’ll have the same.

Healing comes. Hope springs.

Happy Easter.


Supply and Demand: When the ‘let down’ is a let down.

Hello Dear Reader, today I was all important and stuff and went on the actual radio! (I know riiiiiight?)
I was talking about the messages all the ‘breast is best’ stuff send to new mums in the context of a local news story about a hospital in Luton to stop providing formula to mums who’ve made an ‘informed choice’ not to breast-feed.
If you’d like to listen you can do so here:
The segment starts about 1.08 in and I’m on at 1.19 for about 10 mins (I don’t come back after the news headlines, just fyi)
Seeing as it’s the subject of my day, I thought I’d reblog this post about supply issues – it’s new and improved!
Peace out homies.

The (mal)Contented Mother

Wowza, turns out A LOT of you have had similarly frustrating experiences with breast-feeding. Thanks so much for the response. So, time to get specific and talk about the issue that particularly effected me: supply.

When Bubs was a newborn he screamed. A lot. Yes, I know they all do that, but, phew, not quite like this. Honestly, nurses on a post-natal mental health ward were wide-eyed at his fits. When my Health Visitor heard him bawling directly after a feed she just turned to me and said. “Yes, that’s a hungry baby.” Up to that point I hadn’t really grasped the idea that there just might not be enough juice available to fill him up. The thing is that there was definitely some milk there. I didn’t know that it was supposed to be squirting out by now. I didn’t know that he cried more than most. He’s a baby…

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