Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Dear Nicole Arbour.

This article appeared in The Independent this morning. Below is the unabridged version. 

Hi Nicole,

I recently went viral because of a blog I wrote about being rejected by a Tinder date for being too fat. I'm now running a campaign against bullying and bodyshaming called Healthy Happy Hot.  I want to address couple of points you made in your video, “Dear Fat People”.

Fat-shaming is not a thing”

It definitely is. It's when people bully and undermine others for being overweight. Like, for example, making a video expressing your disgust at an overweight young man who does nothing more than sit next to you on the plane.

If I offend you so much that you lose weight, I'm happy”....“I hope this truth bomb works...”

Oh, Nicole. It really doesn't work that way. After my blog went viral, I was contacted by people all over the world sharing their stories. Check out the comments under my blog, on my instagram, on my Facebook page from people who've been affected by bodyshaming. I've had emails from people in their seventies who were bullied in their youth and have never recovered. One man broke my heart telling me how a girl was sat next to him on a train texting her friend with her phone tilted up towards him that she was “sat next to someone FAT”. Out of the thousands – and I mean T.H.O.U.S.A.N.D.S. - of the messages I've received, not one was from someone who'd been bullied into making positive, healthy changes. Not one. Quite the opposite. In most cases it either leads to people developing eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, or the people hiding themselves away to eat, and eat, and eat, putting on more weight because they're too frightened or embarrassed or ashamed to change. Even when an overweight person tries to make a positive change, the knives are out. Overweight people are too intimidated to go running because of the abuse they suffer like Lindsey Swift (whose kick-ass response made me jiggle my jello with joy). The amazing This Girl Can campaign started because so many women are afraid or ashamed of the way their natural bodies move. So no, Nicole. You're not helping. You're hurting.

You don't need body positivity. Just eat well and exercise”

It's true that obesity is an epidemic in the West. But if losing weight were just a question of eating less and moving more, do you think 35% of American and 25% of Brits would still be overweight?
The concept of #bodypositivity came about to encourage women of all shapes and sizes to love, respect and care for their bodies. Eating well and exercise is an important factor in that, but the key thing is loving your body whatever it looks like, so that you WANT to care for it. I've had emails from 16/14/12-year-old girls telling me their terrified that they might be overweight when they're older. They're not terrified of breast cancer. They're not terrified of heart disease. They've been inspired to write to a stranger because they're terrified of becoming fat because they'll be shunned by their friends, they won't get boyfriends, and they'll be judged, criticised and bullied by the ignorant, the shallow and the unkind. #BodyPositivity promotes health and happiness for everyone. What kind of sociopath takes against that?

Plus size means plus heart disease.”

Which nutritionist did you get these fact from, Nicole? Which dietician? Because I spoke to Lucy Aphramor, a former NHS dietician who, disillusioned with the one-size-fits-all ideal that weight-loss automatically equals better health, founded her own practice Health At Every Size which focuses on improving individuals' self-esteem to inspire them to make sustainable changes in eating and exercise behaviours without focusing on weight or size, and has produced spectacular results in some of the country's poorest and unhealthiest areas.
I also spoke to nutritionist Sophie Pelham Burn, who expressed concern that so many of her clients “assume body weight to be a proxy indicator for health, which is simply not true. Skinny does not equal healthy, neither does athleticism.”
In the UK anyone from a size 12 up is considered plus size. Which means that the average British and American woman, is plus size. You can't judge someone's blood pressure by their size. Or their cholesterol level. Or their metabolic profile. “Plus-size” is a concept invented by high street fashion chains so that they can charge women an extra £2 for an extra inch of fabric. It has no meaning outside of Topshop.

Fat family at the airport....”

I found this portion of your video particularly grotesque. There's nothing “kind” or “encouraging” about this story. It's irredeemably, eye-wateringly cruel. You're bullying a disabled family. Yes, it's likely that they're disabled because they're overweight. Yes, it's likely that they're overweight because they live unhealthy lifestyles. But that doesn't change the fact that they're disabled, and entitled to and deserving of additional support. You think they don't know that they're fat? You think they can't feel the waves of disgust radiating from you? You don't say how old the son was, but do you think he doesn't know how his family is judged by people like you? How do you think that makes him feel?

According to Wiki, you started dancing when you were three. That probably wasn't your decision. You were born into a family that priorities health and physical activity and that was ingrained in you from a young age. Great. But not everyone has that. This boy didn't have that. How dare you attack him for it?

I'm not saying it to be an asshole”.

This video is ignorant and cruel at best. At worst it could be dangerous. Here's why:
At the beginning of this video you name check the singer Kesha. Kesha spent the best part of last year in rehab recovering from anorexia and bulimia, which had been brought on in part by industry pressure to look skinny, and constant degrading comments from her then-manager who told her she looked “like a fat fucking refrigerator”.She wrote on the subject:

I felt like part of my job was to be as skinny as possible, and to make that happen, I had been abusing my body. I just wasn’t giving it the energy it needed to keep me healthy and strong. My brain told me to just suck it up and press on, but in my heart I knew that something had to change.... I had to learn to treat my body with respect.”

In this video, you personify the worst of the internet. As I watched, I expected you to rip off a mask, Scooby-Doo style, to reveal an unmoderated Reddit page, overrun by trolls, meninists and health concern fascists. Of course, being so abrasive about such an emotive issue is going to garner you attention. It's cheap, but obviously very effective. And the fact that you relabelled the video MOST OFFENSIVE VIDEO EVER means you know that. You call it satire. But it's not. Because you didn't make this video for the 35%. You didn't make it for that family at the airport, who I hope don't recognise you and realise it's them you're talking about. You made it for others like you. The girls who text their friends that they're “sat next to someone FAT”, the men on Tinder who criticise a woman's body if she won't send him nudes. It's not satire, Nicole. It's bullying. It's hate-speech. You're attempting to empower yourself by undermining and demonising another group of people who are different from you. In short – yes, you ARE being an asshole.

I agree with you about one thing you tweeted in the wake of all this, though. “If I were a guy people would've lol'd and moved on”. It's true that a male comedian wouldn't have met so much negativity for being a bully. As a female who's made a mistake, you will take much more flak than a man would have for the same mistake. The internet is a dangerous place for a woman with opinions, Nicole, and although our opinions are clearly very different, I still hate to see a woman get publicly skinned alive. If you want to talk about that, email me at . However, if you choose to rectify that mistake by apologising, the positive impact could be enormous. It might make someone reconsider before they say or do something hurtful that they can't take back. Make it good, Nicole. Make it something positive. Maybe even #bodypositive.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Empathetic Honesty (or Don't be a Bad Human).

Apparently, Socrates* said it. Before you say something, ask yourself – is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true? If what you're about to say doesn't meet at least two of those criteria, don't say it. Pretty good rule of thumb if you ask me.
The value of honesty is often perverted and warped in defence of unkindness. “But I'm only being HONEST!” screeches the wide-eyed bully after undermining and belittling someone because of the way they look or speak, or where they're from, or how much money they earn. Honesty is important – of course it is – but so is kindness. So is compassion. So is empathy.
A few months ago, after going on a few dates with a very nice man, I received the following text:
“I've just been asked by another date if we can be exclusive, and I'd like to see where it goes so I'm really sorry but I'm going to have to stop seeing you. I had a lot of fun, thank you lovely and good luck xx”
Naturally, I was a little disappointed. He was a great guy and I was hoping I'd get to know him better. But what a lovely way to be let down. He's absolutely truthful – there's no fey talk of “slowing things down”, he's not “really busy at work”, he's not “confused about what he wants”. I won't be seeing him again because he's met someone who he prefers to spent his time with. He conveys the honest truth, directly and kindly. What more can anyone ask?
Empathetic honesty doesn't mean being evasive. It doesn't mean being selective with the truth. You can communicate sensitive information while treating the recipient with dignity and compassion.
Be Kind to Everyone (yes, that means everyone).
I was in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, during the festival. In a busy bar at 3am, a vicious-eyed man with poison in his voice and chemical violence in his veins screamed obscenities at me for some perceived slight. And I mean screamed - his blood-red face inches from mine, until his spittle flew and his eyes bulged with frenzied hatred. My friends flanked me and drove him away but, deeply shaken, I went home.
The next day, Edinburgh being Edinburgh, I saw that man's face on a poster for his comedy show. Then I found him on Twitter. His most recent tweet was a picture of himself posing proudly with his family, sweetly captioned with an expression of his love for them. As I looked at the picture, he looked like an utterly different man to the creature who'd abused me in the bar. I feared and hated this man, and it seethed like a snake pit in my belly. The next day as I left Edinburgh, I tweeted him and asked how his family would feel if they knew that a few hours after that photo was taken he'd be shrieking obscene insults, over and over again, at a woman he didn't know in a bar (I waited until I was long gone, of course. I didn't want to meet him again).
A few hours later he sent me an email offering the sincerest and most genuine apology I've ever received. He told me he'd been frightened by what he could remember of his own behaviour that night. He'd been trying to find me to apologise. A sequence of terrible events – stolen money, a bereavement, a friend in hospital – had befallen him all at once. And while he stressed that these events didn't excuse his behaviour, he admitted that he was terribly, terribly hurt, and that his actioned reflected his sorrow and his rage and his loneliness. He answered my question – he told me his family wouldn't recognise him, would be afraid of his behaviour, would see he was hurting and try to help. Even as I read the email the hatred in my heart evaporated. I was surprised by the physical sensation – it felt like the exhalation of a long-held breathe. Turns out that hating someone is EXHAUSTING. It takes as much effort to hate a human as it does to love, with none of the rewards. Buddha* nailed it – bearing a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
I immediately accepted his apology. I deleted my tweet. I asked him to please not let it happen again, repeated to him exactly what he'd said to me that night, not to labour the point or to make him feel more remorseful than he evidently already did, but to make sure that he knew what he'd done and that, regardless of circumstance, it was unacceptable.
Although my manner of contacting him was admittedly confrontational and spiteful, I'm so glad he responded the way he did. He was clearly enduring a horribly challenging time. I honestly hope things get better for him.
“Be kind to everyone, for each of us is fighting our own battles”. Google can't decided whether this is from Plato, Philo or Dolly Parton*. Whoever said it, if we all spoke and acted with compassion and empathy, we'd all live nicer lives.
*Sources: Pinterest, Facebook and InstaQuotes. If you know the correct origin of the ideals mentioned and feel compelled to share, knock yourself out. But remember – I'm not an academic. I'm just a lady trying to discourage people from acting like tools.
Like what you read? Please pledge for Healthy Happy Hot - a guide to modern manners for all Good Humans. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

If You Think I'm Making It Up, You're Focusing on the Wrong Issue.

I get it.
I totally get it.
Aspiring writer writes blog about an unverifiable text from an unidentifiable man. Blog goes viral, receiving the kind of attention that marketing folk throw cash at by the fistful. Then - oh look! - it turns out that she has a book to sell. How convenient.

I totally understand why some called the blog “obvious nonsense” andzeitgeisty clickbait”. Some offered open admiration at my effective promotion of myself and my writing – I wrote for The Stylist and Standard Issue in the week after the blog went viral (more plugging).

According to one publication, further evidence of the fallacy I created is found in that I am “extremely media savvy” and “know how to handle journalists”. Read: I have the social skills and vocabulary to be able to respond to a direct question without crying, hyperventilating or overuse of the words “like”, “literally” or “basically”.

Of course there is the indisputable fact that “no man would ever write that after just one date”. A friend of mine stumbled upon a Reddit thread about me (she made me promise not to ever search for it, so I haven't). Apparently one helpful MRA (men's rights activist) ran “Simon's” letter through an online “gender guesser” which concluded that – yes! - the writer of the letter is, in fact, female. Dammit. I would have gotten away with it too, if I'd spelt “hun” properly.

As I say, I can understand healthy cynicism. Especially because I can't prove that I really did receive THAT text from a man I went on just one date with. I can't verify that it's true without revealing his identity, and that of this thirteen-year-old daughter – something I'll never, ever do. I know I received that message. A few of my close friends have seen it. My publishers have seen it. And the producers of the national TV show I was on last week have seen it, on the insistence of their lawyers. There's not much more I can offer, I'm afraid. I could print a screen grab, but I could easily have faked one, so I'm not going to bother.

So. Let's assume I'm lying. Let's assume that I am an all-knowing-evil-marketing-genius, who's just been biding her time as a café manager until the right moment to draw attention to a 12-month-old crowdfunding campaign for a book which is entirely unrelated to the blog which she JUST KNEW would be read by 220,000 people worldwide. An evil-marketing genius who has to ask her Instagram followers how to receive direct messages, and who didn't know she'd been given the nod of approval by Zooey Deschannel until three days after the fact. Let's do that. Let's assume that all of the above is more likely than a man sending a woman he barely knows an abusive message.

Because that's what happened. By imposing his views about my body upon me uninvited, that man tried to manipulate me. To control me. To assert power over me using the most effective weapon he had in his arsenal – the power of shame. His message wasn't just about telling me there would be no second date. Sending that meticulously-crafted, 400 word message which twists and turns between such tenderness (baby....honey...I adore you”) and such stark brutality (“I don't want to be lying there next to you, and you asking me why I'm not hard”) was an act of cruelty. It said “I could love you thiiiiiiiiiiiis much...if only you were slightly different”. It's a widely-used strategy of dominance used by some individuals to corrode the self esteem of their partners until they are utterly, utterly powerless. And this strategy will continue to be used, very effectively, by individuals and by corporations out to profit from our insecurities, until we challenge it, until we stop being ashamed of our bodies because we're too fat, too thin, too short, too scarred, or too different.

I just felt like folding into myself and never coming out again.”

He said I looked fat in our wedding photos. He'd say “Just trying to help, babe” I was a size 10 (UK)”

...during our time together he manipulated me into believing the way he was treating me was my fault. That it was because I was ugly and undesirable. He had me to believe that I was being treated in accordance with my worth and that other boyfriends didn’t do these things to their girlfriends simply because they looked a damn sight better than I did. I tried to change the way I looked so things would stop. At 5 ft 5, I was a healthy 8 ½ stone when I met him. I’ve lost a hell of a lot of weight since then. An unhealthy amount.”

Have you ever thought about committing suicide? The reason I ask is because I have. I wonder if I just DIE, would I save myself the 'name calling' 'bullying' and other forms of offensive language and action. Am I crazy to think that?”

These are a few extracts from the thousands of messages, comments and emails I've received from women and men from all over the world. Thousands of voices saying “me too”. I've received too many messages from women and men battling anorexia, bulimia, and addiction to overexercise. I've also heard from too many women and men who are so paralysed by shame because they are overweight or obese, that they don't know what to do other than hide themselves away and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. In both extremes these people discuss learning this behaviour from parents, older siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends. Each of these people cites an occasion where they were bullied and shamed for the way their body looked – sometimes from the ages of 7, 9, 13 - long before their illnesses took hold. I've received messages from too many people who are afraid to go for that job, that date, that holiday, because they're ashamed of their bodies. I've received too many messages from men saying they're afraid to start a relationship with a girl they really like, because she's bigger than them and they're worried what their mates will think. I've heard too many catfishing stories (from both sides, both equally heartbreaking). I've received too many messages from 12 year old girls, expressing displeasure, disgust and concern about what their bodies look like now, and what they may look like in the future.

So. Let's assume I'm lying. But if that's your main concern, you're focussing on the wrong issue. And if you think there IS no issue, after reading these comments and others comments my blog, on my facebook page, on my instagram pictures – you're either very lucky, or very ignorant.

So. Here comes another plug.

We need to have a frank and honest conversation about our bodies – our relationship with our own, and with other people's.

We need prominent, positive examples of all the different ways a healthy body can look.

We need to remove the poison from the statement “I'm overweight” to inspire the one in four of us who are overweight (myself included) to make healthy, lasting changes.

We need to invest in developing positive body image in our young people, so that when they feel vulnerable and insecure, they have the tools to withstand and recover from any underhanded shaming tactics.

We need to do all of the above with integrity, compassion and (Heaven forbid) humour.

I'm launching a campaign to raise awareness of the effects of bodyshaming and to encourage readers to aim for health and happiness, whatever their shape or size. It's an ambitious project, which is why I will be seeking advice from dieticians, nutritionists, psychologists and health and fitness experts, as well talking to gamers, comedians, models, soldiers, triathletes, Mums, Dads and others who are all in different stages in their journeys towards health and happiness.

Speaking of which, the campaign is called Healthy. Happy. Hot. Because if you aim for the first two, the third takes care of itself.

You can support the campaign by pledging for the book at Unbound. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015


Last week I was rejected by a man after one date for not being “a slip of a girl”. I threw together a blog responding to the horrible things he said before heading to the pub.
That blog has now been viewed 220K times.
I've gone from having 70 instagram followers to almost 27k.
I'm getting 1000s of messages from all over the world from women and men desperate to talk about their bodies, about shame, about bullying, and about recovery.
It's overwhelming, but incredibly galvanising. I've got my big-girl knick-knicks on, and my sturdy boots. My sleeves are rolled up and I'm ready to work to keep the conversation going.
*stands on a soapbox, clears throat*
1) Don't be a bad human. 
In particular in relation bodyshaming – a regrettably widely-used lexical term for the act of bullying and belittling someone due to their physical appearance. Too fat, too thin, too hairy, not hairy enough, too short, too tall......ENOUGH. I've been using the term a lot recently as I had to grab the nearest one to hand when it all kicked off (give me a break, I've never gone viral before). But I'm coming around to thinking it might be superfluous. "Bullying" is a perfectly acceptable term for this type of behaviour. As is "being a bumhole". But yeah, let's keep it PG. Let's keep it at “don't be a bad human”.
2a) It's fine to have a physical preference....
We all do. That's biology. It's great to fancy someone of a particular physical manifestation. And it's fine not to fancy someone regardless of how well put together they are. We all have our weaknesses (myself? I love a pretty face). However....
2b) It's not fine to make your physical preference someone else's problem.
Looking at a platonic friend and secretly thinking "if only they were taller / slimmer / hairier / younger...." is fine. It's a cruel biological trick, but hey, the species won't continue itself.
Did you spot the key word there?
When you tell someone "You're lovely! But I'd love it if you were taller / slimmer / hairier / younger....", you are making your (perhaps limited) physical preferences their problem. You are imposing your values on them, unsolicited. It's passive-aggressive. It's manipulative. At its worst, this behaviour is known as “negging” - a shamefull prevalent "dating strategy" (YUCK) which involves methodically chipping away at a person's self-esteem until they are utterly under your control. This behaviour is in breach of manifesto item 1. Don't do it.
3) Be honest with yourself and others about your body.
This is a tricky one. This one may hurt.
According to the NHS, one in four of us is overweight.
I am one of the four, being roughly 20 pounds overweight.
I've already lost 15, and am making good, slow, steady progress.
I want to be fitter and care for my body. I want to finish the NHS Couch25K podcast instead of giving up in the 5th week.But that's not to say that I don't love and enjoy my body right now. Here. Today.
I'm not ashamed of being overweight. I'm not embarrassed to share that I'm working to lose weight.
The feeling of shame in relation to weight is evident by the (well-meaning) messages I've received claiming I "can't be" overweight (well, my doctor says I am), I “don't look overweight” (I do, because I am) and in one bewildering instance, "fat is just a state of mind" (what?! No. It's really not).
We need to take the poison out of the statement "I'm overweight". That doesn't mean accepting being overweight as happy and healthy, it just means being unabashedly clear and honest a s/when you're moving towards change.
In order to cast out shame, w e need to start being honest about our bodies. P ost honest pics on your dating profiles, ladies and gents. I f you arrive and you're not the person your date thought you were, you're setting yourself up for rejection, because you have already sent the message that your true self isn't good enough.
Which brings me to manifesto item:
4) Before/After Culture is Evil.
You know the pictures I mean: the ones that reinforce the idea if you're overweight you must be depressed, reclusive, sexless, lonely and unattractive.
STANDARD AFTER PIC: Groomed. Glamorous. Gorgeous (with a hint of wistfulness for the lost years in Club Fatty-Boom-Batty).
My "before" pics are the swimsuit ones you might have seen online. They were taken on my 30th birthday to mark the occasion. In those picture I'm horribly hungover after a heavy night-before which involved my mates spoiling me rotten with delicious food and booze. On that day my gorgeous friend Zoe and I went to my favourite park, where we cackled like crones as she chased me around with a camera, yelling “STICK YOUR BUM OUT! STICK YOUR TITS OUT!” (to the bewilderment of many a dogwalker)
Yes. I'm overweight in those pictures. But did that make that day any less joyous? Less memorable? Less important? Hells No.
I don't know what my after shots will look like but if they're as fun as the before....? Mate. I can't wait. Nor should you.
Enjoy all the amazing things you can do with your body right now. Do things. Look at stuff. Talk to people. Walk around a bit. Use that joy as a propeller aimed at health and happiness.
Which brings me to my final point, and the nub of our campaign strategy – its title.
Healthy. Happy. Hot.
Aim for the first two. The third will take care of itself. 
Thank you!

Monday, 13 July 2015

A Response to Peter Lloyd of The Daily Mail.

Peter Lloyd of The Daily Mail wrote this today. Here's my response. 

Hello Peter!

I hope you're well. I'm fine. Thank you.

Just a few teeny weeny notes on that there article you wrote in response to my blog:

1) Michelle Thomas was hailed a feminist hero for criticising a Tinder date who rejected her because of her size.

The thing is, I didn't. I criticised him for sending me a 400 word text after one date, detailing, in forensic detail, that he didn't fine me sexually attractive because of my figure (I'm a size 14). As I write in the blog, it's fine to have a physical preference. That's biology. What's not fine is to make your physical preference someone else's problem. Sending that meticulously crafted, 400 word message (read here) which twisted and turned between condescending tenderness (“baby....honey...I adore you”) and breathtaking brutality (“my mind gets turned on my someone slimmer....I'd marry you like a shot if you were a slip of a girl”) is an act of cruelty. It's an assertion of power. It says “I could love you thiiiiiiiiiiiis much...if only you were different”.

I wrote the blog to redress that imbalance of power which he asserted by imposing his views about my body upon me uninvited. To let him and readers know that I know that the language he used - of manipulation, of control – was transparent in its intention to wound. And to let them all know, while it worked briefly, it never will again.

2) ...her response reinforced the odd, unwritten rule that women can say whatever they want about sexual desire and attraction, but men can't.

Pretty sure that men have had quite a large say in shaping the rules of sexual desire and attraction over the last 1000 years or so, Pete mate. You know? Artists. Filmmakers. CEOs for multi-national companies that profit from constantly, covertly and overtly telling women that they are physically inadequate. I don't want to patronise you, but you might want to Google that one.

3)….she claimed his behaviour was somehow 'body shaming' and 'objectifying' the female form, but, sorry sisters, I disagree...

You disagree? Really? Because I think that sketching out a detailed hypothetical situation where I'm lying naked in bed next to him, pleading with him to make love to me, it pretty objectifying.

4) In fact, the only thing he's truly guilty of is having an honest opinion about women - one that isn't deemed 'on message' by the sisterhood - and actually voicing it. Something women have long done to modern men.

This is wrong. The examples you give (especially the John Prescott one) are horrible.
It's not. It's just not. Bur progress is slow. And decades of objectification (I mentioned that earlier Peter, it'll still be up there near the top of the article if you need to refresh your memory) are going to provoke a response. First of all, simply YONKS back, we didn't know we were oppressed. Then we DID know we were oppressed (and we were, rightly, quite cross about it). Now we're slowing, slowly moving into knowing we're not oppressed. We should aim for not knowing we're not oppressed. And this won't happen unless until everyone treats everyone else with respects, kindness and compassion. (N.B. I concur with Ms. Allen. Her songs are about specific men, so it's not hypocritical. I'm sure she's written songs about how lovely specific men are too, and how excellent they are at the old biblical. Balance, Peter. It's important)

5) It's hypocritical. You know, like when we're told strip clubs are harmful and degrading - by women thumbing a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey while in the cinema queue for Magic Mike XXL.

Peter. I can't wait to see Magic Mike XXL. I haven't seen the first one, but someone posted a trailer on my social media page and OH. EM. G-STRING. It was as sexy as a sexy number of sexy things having a sex-off is Sexville, Sexylvania. And yes, in the trailer I saw, you could argue that the two gentlemen performers are being objectified. That their bodies (their beautiful, beautiful bodies) are being used as a commodity, with no consideration for their personalities, their strengths, their weaknesses, their hopes, dreams and aspirations. BUT. The difference, Peter love. THE MASSIVE GLARING, DIFFERENCE. THE DIFFERENCE BIGGER THAN CHANNING TATUM'S GLORIOUSLY BITEABLE BICEPS – is that men who DON'T look like Channing Tatum have been and are fairly widely represented in the fields of politics, medicine, science, culture, sports, arts and literature. Men who don't look like Channing Tatum haven't had to endure watching teen movies about boys their age who don't look like Channing Tatum, taking off their glasses, getting a haircut, miraculously BECOMING Channing Tatum, then landing a rich girlfriend, rending any academic or social qualifications superfluous. Men who look like Channing Tatum are not the most widely-documented definition of male power and male success that young boys have as a role models. Men who don't look like Channing Tatum – as well as men who do in fact - aren't paid £100 per week less than women, irrespective of whether they look like Charlize Theron (God I love that woman).

Do you understand that now, Peter? Do you?

Now the thing is, I know that you think you've got something in your artillery (or at least you would have if you'd read the blog, something I can't see much evidence of.)


P.P.S. You're not 5”11”.


This comment was made to highlight to this chap that while he was happy to criticise my body (which, by the way, I had been upfront and honest about on my dating profile with full body pictures), he had fibbed about his own. His profile said he was 5”11. He wasn't. I even (very gently) broached this with him on the date. He needn't have lied because I didn't agree to go on a date with him because of his height (in fact, most of my boyfriends have been 5”9 or shorter). However, without that background information, I can understand how that comment could be misinterpreted. Please forgive me, Peter. I've never gone viral before. If I'd known the blog was going to be read over 170,000 times all over the world, I would have made that bit extra clear.

If you'd like to read the blog, thar she blows:

If you'd like to know more my campaign against bodyshaming and bullying please visit my website for  Healthy. Happy. Hot. 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Tinder Date.

On Monday I went on a first date with a man I met on Tinder. We met in a pub. After a couple of drinks we moved on to a restaurant. He bought me dinner. We strolled arm in arm on the South Bank. He walked me to the train station, where we kissed. It wasn't earth-shattering, but all in all it was a fairly standard Pleasant Evening.

The next day, I received the following message from him (be warned, it gets pretty nasty).

Hey Michelle, sorry been super busy at work today hun.

Thanks for a wonderful evening last night. I really enjoyed your company and actually adore you. You're cheeky and funny and just the sort of girl I would love to go out with if only my body and mind would let me. But I fear it won't.

I'm not going to bull***t you... I f***ing adore you Michelle and I think you're the prettiest looking girl I've ever met. But my mind gets turned on my someone slimmer.

Shallow? It's not meant to be. It's the same reaction you get when you read a great author or see an amazing image, or listen to a piece of music you love, it has that instant reaction in you that makes you crave more.

So whilst I am hugely turned on by your mind, your face, your personality (and God...I really, really am), I can't say the same about your figure. So I can sit there and flirt and have the most incredibly fun evening, but I have this awful feeling that when we got undressed my body would let me down. I don't want that to happen baby. I don't want to be lying there next to you, and you asking me why I'm not hard.

There are certain triggers that fire my imagination into life and your wit and intelligence are the beginning of that process which would inevitably end up in the bedroom. With just one result....

I'm so disappointed in myself Michelle because I've genuinely not felt this way about anyone in ages, but I'm trying to be honest with you without sounding like a total knobhead.

We could be amazing friends, we could flirt and joke and adore each other and.... f*** me... I would marry you like a shot if you were a slip of a girl because what you have in that mind of yours is utterly unique, and I really really love it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm trying to avoid bigger pain in the future by telling you now so we don't have to go through that embarrassment. I'm a man... With all the red hot lusts of a man and all the failings of a man and I'm sure of my own body and its needs.

Please try and forgive me. I adore you xx

It's taken me a few days to sit down and respond. I've been busy.

Dear Man I Met On Tinder.

I was on another date when I received your message. He returned from the loo to find me in a flood of tears. He was lovely, but baffled, and hasn't been in touch since, funnily enough.

You don't have to fancy me. We all have a good friend who we look at ruefully and think “you're lovely, but you just don't tickle my pickle”. We wish we were attracted to them, but our bodies and our brains don't work like that. And that's fine.

What isn't fine is the fact that, after a few hours in my company, you took the time to write this utterly uncalled-for message. It's nothing short of sadistic. Your tone is saccharine and condescending, but the forensic detail in which you express your disgust at my body is truly grotesque. The only possible objective for writing it is to wound me.

And I'm ashamed to say, for a few moments, it worked. You stirred a dormant fear that every woman who was ever a teenage girl has – that it doesn't matter how funny you are, how clever, how kind, how passionate, how loyal, how determined or adventurous or vibrant – if you're a stone overweight, no one will ever find you desirable.

I like the way I look. I don't look like Charlize Theron, and that's fine - I look like me, and I like myself (I'm sure I'd like Charlize Theron, too if I ever met her. I hear good things).

You may think are all my profile pictures are "FGASs" (That's Fat Girl Angle Shots – pictures from angles that slim and flatter the girl. Because men only ever use candid, brutally-lit, unfiltered pics). But I think they're a fair representation. And I'm pretty upfront about who I am: I describe myself as a woman who loves pizza, and include links to myInstagram page, where I have the #everybodysready bikini shots I took on my 30th birthday. I like to think I come across as a confident, happy woman. But could this be the very reason you have targeted me? Did you see me and think “She has far too high an opinion of herself, she needs bringing down a peg or two”? I have to ask - we all know the internet is a dangerous place to be a woman with opinions (I discovered this first hand when I ventured a response to those obnoxious bloody adverts).

I showed your message to friends who expressed shock, horror, embarrassment on your behalf, and a desire to cause you actual physical harm. One male friend told me I have a lovely bottom “if unmarriageable”. I laughed with them. Then I cried in my Slimming World group. That's right! Slimming World! You see, I already KNOW that I'm overweight. I can tell you exactly how overweight I am – 20 pounds. I've already lost 15, and I've a stone and a half to go. I'm happy with that. I will get rid of it, safely and healthily. Does that mean that I can't love and enjoy my body now? F*** no.

I'll never see or hear from you again (you may feel the need to respond to this blog. Please don't. There's nothing you can say that will make me think that you're not a disgrace to your gender).

What truly concerns me, the real reason I'm responding so publicly, is the fact that you have a 13 year old daughter. A talented illustrator, who collects Manga comics and wants to visit Japan as soon as possible.

I want you to encourage your daughter to love, enjoy, and care for her body. It belongs to her and only her. Praise her intellect, and her creativity. Push her to push herself and to be fearless. Give her the tools to develop a bomb-proof sense of self-esteem so that if (I'll be kind. I'll say “if”.) the time comes that a small, unhappy man attempts to corrode it, she can respond as I do now.


P.S. “Slip of a girl”? CHRIST ALIVE, that's creepy.

P.P.S. You're not 5'11