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*
MY MANIFESTO BY MICHELLE THOMAS (aged 30).
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 BEFORE PIC: Badly lit, in an unflattering outfit. Perhaps in an ill-fitting bikini or (my personal favourite) struggling through a tough work out in skimpy gym gear (“LOOK AT THAT FAT IDIOT! TRYING TO IMPROVE THEMSELVES! LOOK AT THEM SWEAT AND TURN RED AS THEY PERFORM CARDIOVASCULAR EXCERSIE TO IMPROVE BLOOD PRESSURE, SPEED UP THEIR METABOLISM AND IMPROVE THEIR OVERALL PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WELLBEING! WHAT A DISGUSTING LOSER! HAHAHAHAHA!)
STANDARD AFTER PIC: Groomed. Glamorous. Gorgeous (with a hint of wistfulness for the lost years in Club Fatty-Boom-Batty).
BALLS. TO. THAT.
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.