Holding my breath

I’ve been thinking about how good I feel in myself at the moment and comparing it to all the other times that I’ve felt similarly free, happy in myself and able to eat moderately instead of experiencing low self-esteem and using food as a comfort when I feel sad/angry/frustrated/tired.

I always felt scared with my good fortune when I felt well in myself and when my eating was not disordered. I rarely shared what was going on for me when I felt as well as I currently do, because I feared it was only a matter of time before the penny would drop and I would return to my usual pattern of feeling unhappy in my skin and ashamed of myself.

The only way I can describe how I felt is like the experience of holding my breath under water. The pressure building and building until I have no option but to return to how I was before.

Disliking my body and eating to comfort myself.

But it feels different this time.

I’m asking myself what has changed…

How am I able to share my good fortune without feeling like I’m going to break?

What leads me to feel that things are different this time?

Here are my thoughts…

I accept who I am

I am quiet, thoughtful, assuming, gentle, fierce, loving, competitive, stubborn, talented, respectful, impatient, sharp, faithful, strong, playful, determined and so much more.

I prefer to be with small numbers of people instead of a large crowd.

I hate small talk and love heart-to-heart conversations.

A good time for me is being in a bath and reading, having a coffee and chat with a close friend, walking in nature or playing with my son and my husband.

I love time alone and need it to be at my best.

I love sleep and I need enough of it to function well.

As I accept who I am, I put myself in situations in which I can thrive.

I’m proud of who I am

This goes further than accepting myself. I actively allow myself to enjoy and be confident in who I am.

I’m rejecting the rhetoric that states I should be modest and not believe in myself, because I think that I’m good, kind, hardworking and am proud of who I am.

I was brought up hearing that ‘no one likes a show off’ and, while I don’t plan on marching down the street with a banner proclaiming how fan-f*cking-tastic I am, I see that the message I internalised was ‘don’t think highly of yourself’.

I focused on what was ‘wrong’ with me and didn’t speak kindly to myself, celebrating what I was good at.

But now I speak kindly to myself and think highly of myself.

I’ve battled and overcome an eating disorder which has claimed the lives of many.

I’ve created a career for myself which is meaningful and enjoyable.

I have a loving family and have people around me who care for me because of who I am.

I’m talented.

I’m proud of who I am.

I’m grateful

Brené Brown writes about the fear we can often feel when life is going well – like when I’m basking in love for my son and all of a sudden an image of him falling down a flight of steps pops into my mind.

She says the antidote to this is gratitude.

Likewise, in the past when I was feeling happy in myself, I’d have a thought pop into my head of ‘this is never going to last’. And I’d listen to this voice – I lived in fear for when my good luck would come crashing down.

But now I’m practicing gratitude.

I’m thankful for my body which is strong and beautiful.

It shows marks of my time on this earth – the laughter lines, the grey hairs and the freckles that come out in the sun.

I’m thankful for this time where I’m able to eat with balance and where I feel attuned to myself.

I’m grateful for being able to speak up and ask for what I want and need from other people.

My anger

I used to be angry with myself for being who I was.

How could I be so weak? Why was I so sensitive? Why couldn’t I get grip?!

But now I’m more angry at our society which paints beauty and how women should be in a certain way which is so black-and-white.

Woman should be strong but not threateningly so. Women should be easy going and always up for a laugh. Women should be beautifully turned out but not through any effort. Women should be slender and toned or voluptuously hourglass-like.

And now that I see this for the bullshit that it is.

I don’t know how I can be a part of a movement of change which redefines women as the individuals they are apart from breaking the societal conventions which put non-perfect women in their place.

Going running with just my crop top on when it’s hot outside, even though it shows my stomach.

Not hiding the bits of me that don’t fit with convention.

Celebrating that I’ve donated all my high heels to charity and never want to wear them again.

Refusing to push my true self down. Being a disruptively strong woman, allowing myself to be less ‘easy breezy’.

Expressing myself

I was in bed last night and was asking the universe for guidance about how to expel the emotions I feel so strongly – anger, sadness, disappointment, anxiety.

I know it’s when I don’t have a way to release them that things unravel for me.

I wish I could cry, but this is something that doesn’t come very easily.

This morning I spent an hour dancing around my living room with Jenson to angry songs, joyful songs, sad songs…a real mix of different emotions.

And it felt good to have a physical experience of jumping and dancing and swinging and singing. An outlet for everything going on for me.

I think this might be my way of expressing what is going on. It feels good to discover this.

Taking care of myself

In the past when I felt at peace with myself and balanced in how I was eating, I would only eat exactly what I needed.

Worried that one bite too many might make me free fall into a cycle of eating too much again.

But this time I’m feeling able to treat myself with more generosity and kindness.

I’m eating enough food. I’m having treats. If I’m still hungry after a meal, I know I can always eat more.

I want to eat well. I want to nourish myself. I want space for cakes and treats as well as vegetables and salads and fruit. I want to be able to have my favourite drink at the pub – currently alcoholic ginger beer – instead of opting for the ‘healthier’ G&T.

It feels like I’m taking good care of myself and, with this level of self-care, it feels like I could eat this way forever.


So these are my thoughts and I hope they’ve been helpful to you, dear friend.

The truth is that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring – I may well have other periods of time where I feel like I’m holding my breath under water. But I’m grateful for the current reprieve and the beauty of loving myself, being proud of who I am and taking as much care of myself as I take care of my son.

If you like this blog, please consider supporting my writing.

ctl-logo-01

My beautiful body

I wrote a few days ago about how I’ve experienced a shift in myself. An influx of love and a grounding in myself as I feel well in my skin, full of love for who I am physically and as a spiritual being.

Since this shift, I’ve experienced an acceptance for by body.

I’d go even further than that actually.

I like who I am physically.

I find myself looking in the mirror and, instead of listing all the things that I’d like to change, – the extra fat on my sides and stomach, the grey hairs on my head, my chubby cheeks and dimply bottom – I find myself looking at myself with pleasure. IMG-0062

And instead of pinching the bits of fat on my body, sucking them in or hiding them away, I find myself stroking them, showering them with love, getting them out on display.

Getting into a swimming costume at the beach as I’m on holiday in Wales, I’m fine with not being ‘body perfect’ because I find my body perfect as it is.IMG_0048

I don’t mind when my tummy wobbles as I jump into the waves.

I don’t mind when I sit down on the sand with my son and my stomach bunches up.

I notice a curious echo of the past as I’m in the moment which says ‘you would have sucked your stomach up as this point‘ or ‘you’d have sat back to make your stomach flatter‘ but that’s not me anymore.

I feel the same wonder with my body that I did straight after I gave birth to my son but it feels different.

I don’t feel wonder for it because of how capable it is of creating another human being (although that is an amazingly spectacular super power!).

I feel wonder for it because it’s the house for my self. The vessel for the inherently precious and imperfectly perfect individual that I am.

And I find it to be enough.

More than enough. I find it to be beautiful.

I look back on the Christian messages I received about my body ‘your body is a temple’ and feel sadness for the Amy who read these words and felt that I was failing at another area in my life – not treating my body as a holy temple and instead of feeding it ‘good’, nourishing food, stuffing it full of cakes and sweets that weren’t ‘good’ for me.

For me, knowing my body is a temple is nothing about what I should do. It’s a fact that it is holy, whatever I do to it.

As I sit in a cafe tucking into almond butter, banana and maple syrup on toast, it is holy.

As I run along the beach in Abersoch, it is sacred.

As it brings my son comfort and enables me to show love for my husband, it is perfect.

And the irony is that as I shower my body with love, knowing it is enough just as it is, I feel fewer impulses to gorge myself with sweets.

I’m able to take or leave food if I’m not hungry.

I find myself wanting to nurture my body with nourishing food alongside the delicious desserts that I also enjoy.

With no ‘shoulds’ about what I need to do, but out of love and kindness and respect for it.

My body is beautiful and so is yours, dear friend. No matter whether it is fat or thin, wrinkly or smooth, short or tall, disfigured or untarnished.

It is perfect.


Thanks to Jess, who supported my writing and paid for the chai latte I enjoyed whilst writing this post. IMG_0065.jpg

ctl-logo-01

Taking up space

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I made myself small in the past.

How I focused on being ‘likeable’ to all and felt uncomfortable with the few relationships which were less than glowing.

How I moderated a lot of what I said with disqualifiers – words like ‘just’ or ‘possibly’ or ‘I don’t know but…’

How I bent over backwards to accommodate others to the detriment of myself.

And although these are still behaviours that are my go-to positions when I feel tired or not at my best, I can see that I’ve started to take up more space in my life.

And I love it!

I love how I ask for what I need – whether it be time alone away from the demands of motherhood or asking for a glass of water from staff in a cafe.

I allow myself to take up space.

I love how I’ve embraced who I am and all the brilliant things I have to offer to this world – as someone who has a brilliant career ahead of them and the ability to do incredible things in this world.

I believe that I’m deserving of the space and recognition of all that I am.

I love how, more and more, I also delight in the sides of me that I used to hide away. How I’m stubborn, make vast assumptions about things, can be selfish and can hold on too tight to my views. Because they are the flip-side of my greatest assets – my stubborness is also my tenacity, my assumptions allow me to take in huge amounts of data and make quick sense of them, my selfishness allows me to self-protect and by holding tight to what is dear to me, I am dedicated to things like veganism, living as ecologically as possible and living out my belief that nuclear family should come first.

I believe that my shadow self should be allowed space.

It’s great how I give myself time to listen to my instincts more and more in life. When asked if someone can crash at our place for a night, I don’t feel obliged to say ‘yes’ straight away. I think about whether it will be something that will stretch me beyond my means and, if that’s the case, I say ‘no’.

I listen to what I need and, while I want to help people out, I want my own happiness more.

I’m moving away from the long-held belief that others should come first and that I intrinsically owe something to them. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in kindness, empathy, being generous with what I have. The difference is that I don’t believe I should give away more than I can – my time, my integrity, my self – for others.

And with this comes such a capacity for generosity, love, abundance as I allow myself the space I need and, where I want to, I give out of choice instead of obligation.


When I think about where I am now and where I was when I first started writing this blog of mine (268 posts to date!), I couldn’t have ever imagined that I’d be here, happier in my own skin, kinder with my stumbles, confident in who I am, accepting of my whole self.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster – full of times where I’ve wept with sorrow and brimmed over with joy – but I am so grateful for where I am and for all the space that I’m allowing myself to take up in my life.

ctl-logo-01

Magazines

My relationship with magazines was one of love when I was younger. I subscribed to ‘Bunty’ magazine and how I loved all the stories and imagination inside. One of my strongest memories from being a child was going on holiday with my family for two weeks (three weekends) and the delight of coming home to discover that I had three (yes, three!) Bunty magazines to read. To pour over, cover to cover and feast upon. I loved it so dearly and I look back on this period of innocence with such fondness.

After Bunty came Mizz. I can still remember stories from its ‘cringe’ section – most prominently a girl who went swimming in a river with a boy she fancied and had a 💩 float into her mouth. It wasn’t the most enlightening read, mostly fashion, gossip and a whole host of quizzes you could do with your friends. On consideration, Mizz was not that bad! A bit like eating a chocolate bar – it had limited nutritional value for the soul – but was nice to consume.

There have been several other magazines that have my love and a fond place in my heart – vegan life which I get monthly and inspires/challenges/provides me with inspiration as I aim to live a life of greater love for the planet and less cruelty towards animals. It’s not a ranty vegan publication but has articles about art, interesting recipes (I recently learnt you can use chickpea flour to create a vegan omelette from its pages and Jenson loves it!) and interesting articles about social affairs.

Positive news is another magazine I’ve recently found. It shares the positive stories that so often get overlooked with the mass media of doom and gloom. Desert wasteland that is becoming green, zero waste pioneers, how the majority of UK voters want to see politicians of different parties collaborating more to solve the issues the UK faces instead of seeing division and fighting between different parties. I don’t subscribe myself to the magazine because of my shopping ban but the few I’ve bought for myself over the years have brought sunshine to my soul.

And then there’s the French magazines I bought in my university years to improve my linguistic skills. Femme Actuelle was the cheapest (and aimed at a very different market of middle-aged housewives!) and so it was the one I bought weekly as a student. It had recipes, articles about cleaning and fashion that I’d never want to wear, but it was harmless and a nice way to learn French.

I started this blog post off wanting to rant at the body-shaming, product-pushing, patriarchy-promoting sham that is female magazines…but I’ve enjoyed remembering that there is some good in the media I’ve consumed.

It just needs to be chosen carefully.

You see, I feel myself have a visceral reaction when I see the magazines left in my work lunchroom. I hate them so much for so many reasons. The gossip they hold about who has gained shocking weight, whose husband is leaving whom, which celebrity looked the best on the red carpet. A different scandal each week.

It makes me so sad that we women are consuming something which breeds hatred to women. That we are judging others with the same judgements that will then boomerang back onto us. How we aren’t thin enough, not rich enough, not good enough at sex, not young enough.

When the truth is that we are all enough. Full stop. We just are.

I’m not writing this to judge anyone who reads these magazines (although it might sound like it!). I understand wanting to get away from the world for a few moments, loving the fashion, enjoying a bit of schadenfreude, pleasure at someone else’s misfortune.

I feel angry at their very existence.

So there you are, my thoughts about magazines. They can be good, they can be bad, a lot of them are ugly to the core. I wish we would collectively stop buying the mean, women-hating, product-pushing ones so they would cease to exist. But all I can do is my part…not buying them, ignoring them and instead send out love into the world.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

Radical

I’ve been writing a few blog posts recently but they’ve not been flowing as they usually do so I’ve taken a bit of time out and hope you will forgive me, friend, for my lack of presence here.

I’ve got a window of time to myself as Gregg and Jenson play in the front room together and so wanted to quickly write about ‘Dietland’, a programme I’ve been watching in the evenings and have thoroughly enjoyed. It’s an adaptation of a book about a story of an overweight woman who finds her voice and acceptance of the body she is in as she awakens to the patriarchal messages which has caused her body shame – the need to be thin to be desirable.

I’m aware that it’s not a perfect show – the cast are mostly model-esque and it gets a bit ridiculous as the show progresses. But I really and truly enjoyed how it made me question so many parts of our society that so often go unquestioned. Why we make judgements based on woman’s looks. Patriarchal power and what it would take to have a balanced share of power. How women (have to/choose to?) alter their behaviour to be more palatable to men. All areas that interest me.

And this quote (or at least it went something like this), oh, how I love it:

“What’s more radical than a woman who accepts her body”

I’m aware that I have quite a conventional, slender body. A few curvy areas and a body that has been marked by motherhood, but as UK size 12, I’m quite ‘acceptable’. And I’ve done so much work to love and accept myself and my body exactly as I am. But I still get doubts when I look at myself at times and find myself lacking. I still tend to base part of my worth on my size. I still for some reason feel more desirable when I’m smaller.

Is it because I was told (by society/myself/peers) that my body is what matters over everything else?

Is my worth as a woman judged primarily by what I look like?

Could I radically accept my body? And if so, what would that look like? It might lead to less waxing and shaving and tweezing (a topic that made me pause and think when a friend blogged about it herself recently). It might lead to letting my grey hair grow instead of covering them up with dye. And it might lead to me getting rid of some clothes that fit me but are uncomfy.

But it’s so hard to unravel what I do for me (I like my hait a uniform colour, but is that because I’ve received the message that ‘grey=ugly’ externally? Many men don’t dye their hair when going grey) and what I do because of external messages I’ve received?

So I’m left loving considering what it would be like to radically accept my body as it is. I’ve got a cobbled together, mostly functioning acceptance of my body and so I have experience of the freedom it is to love myself unconditionally. Living like this but ramped up – fully accepting, fully loving, never doubting – sounds like bliss.

And so while I’m not able to totally unravel what that looks like, I’ll sit with the idea, ponder on these thoughts and see where it takes me.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

My personal mean girl

I have a mean girl voice inside me. I think we all have a version of a mean girl, although many of us don’t listen to her much.

I’ve been a bit poorly over the last couple of days. Nothing major, just bunged up with cold and with a bit of a cough. And coupled up with broken baby sleep (albeit around 7 hours a night), my usual defences against my mean girl had been lowered.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a puffy face, eyes without their usual shine and then my gaze lowered and I saw my post-pregnant body through mean girl eyes. I don’t want to share what went through my mind, but my thoughts were less than kind about how I looked.

In the past these thoughts would have sent me on a spiral down a rabbit hole of promises ‘I won’t eat any sweets today’ that I would most probably break because it was a promise made out of meanness, not kindness. And then the cycle would continue – promises (broken) and overeating followed by such shame and guilt.

I would perhaps look at myself through the day, pinching any excess fat, or would desperately avoid looking in the mirror so I wouldn’t have to see myself through these mean girl eyes.

But today I saw my mean girl for what she was – mostly tiredness, perhaps a distraction from the reality of being dog-tired and a habitual way of thinking which no longer serves me.

And with this knowledge, I was able to say ‘thank you, mean girl, for your input, but I don’t need you today’.

And instead I showed myself kindness.

It’s taken me over 30 years to get to this point – able to show myself kindness in moments of stress and when I’m a bit low – but now that I’m here I couldn’t be more thankful.

Knowing myself

I’ve been thinking a lot about what truly matters to me. I think it’s to do with the changes of becoming a mum and finding myself with different priorities. But it’s more than that.

It’s to do with me starting to know what I want from life and being clearer in my resolve to go after it. I know this is possible for me only because I’ve started to fully accept who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. Before I used to feel that I was too much. Too bossy, too headstrong, too headstrong, too different.

But now I am able to accept myself as I am with less judgement. I know I don’t need to base my decisions on whether I’ll please other people or whether my actions will make me seem less bossy/intense/headstrong. I accept me and know that’s enough. I’m enough.

It’s so exciting to feel this way; able to go after what I truly want. I feel able to follow what feels right to me and go after what I truly want.

But what does this mean in concrete terms? Well, an example of what I’m talking about is with my coaching.

Some of you may have seen my coaching pages on my website. For those of you who haven’t looked, they explain who I am as a coach and detail what types of coaching I do.

When I first started out coaching, I worked with people on every type of coaching under the sun and advertised all the coaching I did – coaching for those starting a business, looking for a change career, people wanting to improve relationships, increase their self-esteem or overcome comfort eating. Technically, I can coach on all these areas…but I realised recently that I don’t want to do all these types of coaching. Instead I want to coach in the areas which really light me up and where I know I can make a real, deep and profound impact in other peoples lives:

And so that’s what I’m going to do – coach in these areas and, if someone contacts me wanting career coaching, for example, I’ll refer them onto some great coaches who specialise in these areas.

It feels so good to know myself and to go after what I really want in life.