June 10, 2020

The Impact of Lockdown Life On Body Confidence

How to love your body during lockdown.

I hope everyone has been surviving lockdown and managing to keep well. I am sure I’m not the only that has found this experience to be a real rollercoaster of emotions but what I hadn’t anticipated was the effect it would have on my body confidence.

In normal circumstances I consider myself to be very body confident, it’s something I’ve worked hard on and I guess it’s become part of my personal branding. I’ve modelled swimwear with Ashely Graham and represented older women in several lingerie campaigns, so I’d like to think I had the body confidence issue covered!

During the first few weeks I found myself joining every online exercise class that was thrown at me, some of which I really enjoyed, others began to feel like a chore. After a few weeks, life settled into a new normal routine and I’ve thrown myself into working on projects and recording Out of the Bubble podcasts, so I've had less time available. That’s when the guilt set in, I started feeling bad about myself because I wasn’t doing as much exercise or healthy living as friends and others on social media seemed to be. The saying “Comparison is the thief of joy’ is so true and this was another reminder of that.

I’ve continued to shoot from home and recently completed my first paid home shoot since lockdown began, for a lingerie brand. Whilst I am really happy with the final images it took much longer to shoot as I found myself being super critical and really harsh about my body and the fact that I’d put a few pounds on. For the first time in years I even weighed myself. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t have stressed about this but during lockdown it’s caught me off guard and I admit to having a small meltdown about it. I quickly remembered it's ok not to love your body every single day but you have to accept it, that's much more manageable and realistic.

I am happy to say this blip didn’t last long and I managed to get myself out of those negative thoughts, but it did stop me in my tracks and make me analyse why I reacted this way.

We have been bombarded by social media posts and advertising selling exercise classes and telling us that we should be all improving our lives during lockdown. How many times have you heard someone tell you’ve they’re learning a new language or attending every yoga class they can find? Whilst all this self-improvement is amazing if that is right for you how about those people that are just trying to survive and get through each day in their own way. There is no right or wrong way. Add this to the glib remarks added to articles and posts about weight gain it’s no wonder peoples' body confidence can be knocked.

Here are some tips that have helped me.

Unfollow/Mute accounts that have made you feel negative about yourself. Social media can be such a positive place if you carefully curate it to suit you and can be changed depending on your own state of mind.

If you are wanting to be more active, make sure you do the activities that you genuinely enjoy. I’ve started dance classes with The School of Strutt which I love and it doesn’t feel like exercise.

Don’t be camera shy. Start taking selfies and really look at yourself. Look at your face and recognise the person looking back at you. I found this really therapeutic and it was like reuniting with a stranger. It makes you stop and remember who you are and what you’ve achieved to get to this point, it helps put life and body insecurities into perspective.

Start a gratitude diary. I’ve used this lots of times over the years and began it again during lockdown, it helps remind you of all the positive, often small things each day to be grateful for.

Start the day thinking of one thing that you like about your body and make it your daily mantra, one of mine is ‘I love my smile’ other examples could be “I love how strong my legs feel’ or “I love the colour of my eyes’.

Keep repeating it to yourself throughout the day and you will be surprised how quickly it can make a positive difference. Once it becomes a routine you can then add more body parts and keep adding to your list.

Lastly, be kind to yourself and accept that your body is a vessel that has carried you through so many different experiences in life and is always there for you, so it deserves your love. We don't have to love our bodies every single moment of the day but body acceptance is much more important and realistic. Once we gain acceptance it frees up space in our minds to get on with life and keeps everything in perspective.

Keep being fabulous x

 

 

January 29, 2020

The Vagina Museum

I'd heard about the new Vagina Museum in Camden over on the Naked Podcast before Christmas so knew I wanted to go check it out. Camden market is one of my favourite spots to lose a few hours alone in London but it is like a maze and I certainly raised a few eyebrows as I asked people if they knew where the museum was. So what is it about the word Vagina that still seems to cause some people embarrassment or fits of giggles?

The Vagina Museum is the world’s first bricks and mortar museum dedicated to vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy. The project began in 2017 with pop ups across the county and opened its' doors in Camden in 2019.

I don't know about you but sex education classes in the late 70's and early 80's was pretty limited. For starters, girls and boys were separated so there was no chance for open discussions between both sexes which I always thought was bizarre. It's certainly refreshing to have a much more healthy and open conversation about our bodies. The small museum has informative straight talking facts about the vagina and helps dispel some of those myths women are often led to believe. It certainly left me thinking about a few things. Like why women are made to feel unkempt if we don't have tidy trimmed public hair all the time? By the way, did anyone watch CH4's Bring Back The Bush it's worth a watch and reminded me how much women's bodies have been policed over the years.

I would definitely recommend any parents to take their children to the museum, I wish this kind of information was made available to schools nationwide as I am sure it would really help young girls with their body confidence and mental well being as they navigate there way through puberty. It's actually surprising that it has taken so long for a museum like this to open when you consider the Phallological museum in Iceland has been open for years.

The museum will be holding two exhibitions a year and is currently running the "Muff busters: Vagina myths and how to fight them".with lots of other events throughout the year. My favourite display has to be the giant tampon all its' bloody, glittery glory.

Could you name all your body parts around the vagina?

 

Since I have been peri-menopausal and now entering the menopause, I have become more aware of what's going on with my body in this area and it has to be said it's not much fun! Why doesn't anyone warn you about vaginal dryness (or as I've now learnt is officially called Vaginal atrophy) and the consequential links to cystitis and thrush during hormonal changes. Why is it still so hard to talk about as if it's something we should hide and not make a fuss about even at the age of 50? Apparently research shows more than 50% will suffer with this, although it is likely to be much higher as only 7-10% visit the doctor.

I think this museum is a great idea. If it gets people talking more openly and sharing our experiences about our own bodies then perhaps we will all become a little less hard on ourselves.

Maybe we need a Menopause museum in the world too!

''We have a vision of a world where no one is ashamed of their bodies, everyone has bodily autonomy and all of humanity works together to build a society that is free and equal.''

The museum is free and can be found at Unit 17 & 18, The Stables, Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AH.

 

August 28, 2019

Body confidence after 40

Let them stare

I spent so many years dreading the summer holidays, stressing myself out months before with fad diets and manic exercise to reach the unobtainable perfect bikini body. I can't tell you how liberating it is to be free from this now and I really want to inspire other women, particularly over 40 to stop worrying and start enjoying the summer more, just as they are.

What better way to make that statement and continue to challenge my own body confidence by doing a shoot in a lingerie shop window!

Rachel Peru, wearing Empriente swimwear, photographed by Silverymoon Photography

If we saw more women over represented with swimwear brands in advertising perhaps we would all feel a lot more positive about our own bodies. One lady recently left a comment on my social media saying, "I will be 45 soon and I don't feel represented in anyway. I feel women in their forties are invisible". I hear these kind of comments from women all the time and it drives me mad that advertising is making us feel this way. That's my driving force in doing what I am doing.

River Island swimwear, model Rachel Peru, Silverymoon Photography

I think it's important to acknowledge I wasn't always this body confident, infact it has taken me until I reached my forties to feel this way. It's been a gradual process, gained by constantly challenging my insecurities and it's ongoing.

A massive thank you to Debbie at The Fitting Rooms, Ilkley for letting me take over her shop window for the afternoon. https://www.facebook.com/TheFittingRoomIlkley

Boo Hoo swimsuit, Rachel Peru, Trudy Beau Stylist, Silverymoon Photography.

Let them stare, it's time to stop worrying about what other people think and enjoy life right now.

Pour Moi bikini, Rachel Peru, SilveryMoon photography

"Despite knowing they won't be here for long, they still choose to live their brightest lives"

#rupikaur This sums up my thought on life perfectly, no more wasting time on worrying about my imperfections and lumps and bumps. This is me!

Top New Look, Bottoms Miss.Guided, Rachel Peru, Trudy Beau Stylist, Silverymoon Photography
I can't thank the team that worked on this with me enough #dreamteam

Photographer Mya Fawcett https://www.silverymoonphotography.co.uk/about.html

Videographer https://en-gb.facebook.com/aFletcherFilm/

Stylist https://www.facebook.com/trudybeaustylist/

Pour Moi bikini. Rachel Peru, Fletcher Films

"I alone can not change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples" #mothertheresa

March 28, 2019

I’m Right This Way, Ulla Popken Campaign Spring 2019

I loved working on the latest Ulla Popken campaign, it's one of the most inclusive positive shoots I've been involved in so far. A true celebration of women in all our different shapes and sizes but all confident and happy in our bodies.

Such a fun week working with these two beauties. Carina Behrens and Tanya Gouraige. My translators for the week too!! xx

The campaign including models, well-loved German body confident influencers and women from behind the scenes within the Ulla Popken brand.

Ulla Madels, Ulla Girls with Carina Behrens, Verena Prechti and Charlotte Kurht

I could get used to having the length of hair and am now on a mission to grow it longer. I had it cut shorter before Christmas , partly because I wanted a change but mostly because it wasn't in great condition and it needed some tlc.

The more women share their individual body confidence stories the quicker we will all realise that we ALL share the similar insecurities with our body image at some stage in life and that it's time to stop. I've wasted so many years worrying about the number on the scales or the dress size. I used to weigh myself everyday and the number on those scales would invariably dictate the mood of the rest of my day. I can't remember the last time I weighed myself now and it's liberating. This campaign is about you saying and recognising that you are enough just as you are right now.

https://www.ullapopken.co.uk/iamrightthisway/stories.html

Put some Beyonce on in a room full of women and you get a lot of fun, dancing, sass and smiles.

BEAUTY

is what you make of it

Can bodies be right or wrong? We believe the answer is: No. They all deserve to be loved – no matter how much or little they resemble the supposed ideals. Learning to look at our body with love can change our lives. It means seeing beauty and feeling self-love.

Ulla Popken 2019

Thank you Ulla Popken for being so inclusive and showcasing women at their best, happy, confident and supporting one another x

https://www.ullapopken.co.uk

March 20, 2019

Out of the Bubble podcast with Zoe McNulty from School of Strut

Episode 2 of Out Of The Bubble podcast is out and this weeks guest is Zoe McNulty, body activist and headmistress of The School Of Strut. We talk about body confidence and the importance of unleashing your inner Beyonce. Here are some of the best bits!

Zoe McNulty, headmistress of the School of Strut.

How would you describe yourself?

I'm an international dance fitness presenter, body positive activist, champion of curves and Headmistress of School of Strut. Really all a fancy way of saying I teach dance! I help women feel good about themselves what ever their shape or size. As a curvy dancer, not that I've been that much judged and a fitness instructor, that's had an effect on my career. In fact I've had to forge my own path through the fitness industry because many doors were closed to me and I didn't have the body that brands were looking for so I made my own brand up.

Have you always had this passion for dance?

Yes, I think I probably danced my way out of the womb. I stopped for a couple of years whilst doing my A'levels but then went back to it. I hadn't realised how much I had missed it, the buzz that I felt and I was on such a high after that first class back. I thought there is something special about this, why am I not doing this as a career? I want it in my life and I want it be something I pass on.

Whilst I was a student I couldn't afford the gym fees so I offered my services and volunteered and they put me in there exercise to music classes, that's aerobics to you and me. That's where I thought , ooh I think I've found what I'm meant to be doing.

Zoe McNulty, The School of Strut

 

I read somewhere that you wanted to be a backing dancer on Top of the Pops, how true is that?

Yes throughout my life really, my best friends at the time were doing it so I was moving in those circles. I avoided the commercial dance world because I didn't want to be told daily that I can't do this because you're too big. I didn't want to be told to lose weight continually, I thought I'm going to develop an eating disorder that's not healthy. I stepped away from that dream knowing that actually that dream would be bad for me.

Have you always been quite self aware of your body confidence?

I kind of thought about that over the years and thought yeah was it really a very wise decision or was I just a bit lazy. Other people went for their dreams and never stopped until they got there and I didn't have it In me. I think it has to do with laziness to be honest. But in hind sight, you know I'm a christian, I believe in God, maybe god put that in my mind, don't worry , that's not for you, crack on and you'll find your path.

Where did the idea for School of Strut come from?

Regardless of travelling and working all over the world I have still always done my weekly dance classes in London. About 12 years ago there was a lovely forward thinking chain of gyms that asked me if I could do a dance class in heels. They'd seen an American concept of a class in heels where the people were doing squats and lunges in heels, trying to sell the benefits. To me that was all wrong. If anyone was going to be in heels it's got to be a dance class. The first session the women came in all timid and unsure and by the end of the 45 minute. class they were swinging their hips, heads held high, the transformation was incredible.

What's your average age in the classes?

I'd say roughly 35 to 55. My ideal client would be starting from 18, actually younger than that to be honest. The younger generation really need help with their body positivity, its definitely on my radar.

It's tends to be the mums who have forgotten who they are because they've spent the last two decades being mum, being a wife and they've forgotten what it's like just to be feminine.

What kind of feedback do you get from women that come to your classes? Have you any stories you can share?

I get loads of women messaging me afterwards saying they've braved wearing a bikini for the first time after coming to the class which is always great to hear.

One lady had saved for years and years for a tummy tuck, she'd had three kids and had been unhappy with her tummy and saved up for about ten years to have the operation. She came to one of my Strutology classes and realised she was perfect as she was, she didn't need it. Literally it was eye opening for her and she stopped the plans and went holiday instead. She went on to meet a handsome, young gentleman who loves her curves. That's pretty incredible to me.

On the surface it looks like we're just prancing around in heels. but there's so much more going on under the surface.

How did you get involved with Taryn Brumfitt and The Body Image movement and become an ambassador?

It was through my friend Nicola who is also in the fitness industry and the only other person that gets it in the industry, she's become my confidante. She told me abut the Body Image Movement so I looked in to to it and realised this lady was doing some great stuff. I filled a lengthy questionnaire in about myself and was accepted as an ambassador. I hosted a screening of the documentary Embrace at Streatham Odeon and it was a great evening, it had sparked some deep thinking in people.I met Taryn and she really wants to do one of my classes as well, she loves the concept.

Taryn. Brumfitt, Embrace documentary

What changes would you like to see in the industry?

There's a long way to go.

Diversity across all the media platforms, more diverse body shapes and sizes and abilities. Ban diets, educate people on health at every size. Everyone can be healthy at any size. Making body positivity compulsory in education for primary and secondary schools. Getting the kids to talk about their insecurities and if you're a mum listening the best thing you can do is stop putting yourself down in front of your kids. That's only going to create problems in your children.

What made you join the Real Catwalk, organised by American model Khrystyana last Summer and were you scared to do it?

I didn't sleep very much the night before and that's not like me. I've been challenging myself to be more body confident and I was concerned about showing my midriff as I'd never done that before.

Everyone smashed the catwalk on a busy Saturday in Trafalgar Square, London. Zoe looking fabulous with Khrystyana, the organiser of The Real Catwalk.

Zoe clearly loved taking part in this event as she was there again this year, owning that. catwalk and full of confidence. It was an amazing day.

 

What's one of your favourite songs that really gets you motivated?

'Chandelier' by Sia

What book has inspired you?

I would recommend 'Health At Every Size' by Linda Brown

Who inspires you?

Taryn Brumfitt, founder of 'The Body Image Movement'. www.bodyimagemovement.com

You can follow Zoe over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @schoolofstrut or her website www.schoolofstrut.com

Zoe has inspired me so much and I love watching her motivated so many women. I am excited to be working on a possible collaboration event in the future with Zoe so watch this space!!

To listen to the audible podcast please click on the podcast link or visit

In the meantime... keep being fabulous x

February 27, 2019

A Golden Age of Positivity, Front Cover Goldie Magazine Jan 2019

I was so excited and honoured when I found out that I was going to be on the front cover of Goldie January 2019 edition. To have a platform like Goldie magazine to share my views about body confidence and the lack of over 40+ models represented in the fashion industry is something I am very grateful for. I really do feel part of the growing change in attitudes towards ageing in the fashion industry and love any opportunity to challenge the industry and help break down some barriers. Goldie magazine is fabulous, it celebrates everything positive about the over forties and above, for both men and women. Celebrating our diversity, not shy to tackle difficult conversations around ageing and it's packed full of great articles.

If you haven't discovered it yet then I can definitely recommend it!

www.goldiemag.co.uk

 

Front cover Goldie magazine, Jan 2019.

"So what is it that causes us to shy away from embracing our older bodies? The lack of representation in the media must be a contributing factor, because women over forty are rarely used in lingerie or swimwear adverts, sending a very negative message that no one wants to see them"

"You're worth more than Gold'. Photographer Steve Cockram, MUA Rachel O'Dell, Stylist Trudy Fielding

AUREATE adjective Made of or having the colour of gold

"As someone who lacked body confidence until my forties I can appreciate the journey I have been on with every part of my body, We are a team and something to be cherished"

"With a depth of beauty that only comes in later years, we are redefining what middle age looks like. So next time you look in the mirror, remind yourself that your body s like gold: precious and beautiful"

Photographer: Steve Cockram

www.brusselstreetstudio.com

Stylist: Trudy Fielding

MUA/Hair: Rachel O'Dell

Words and Images as featured in Jan 2019 Goldie magazine

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Out of the Bubble champions women who are embracing life and leaving a trail of inspiration along the way. Inspiring others to become more confident in body and mind.

We all have a story to tell.
 

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