health at every size

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Dear Jamie, on Food Revolution Day, it’s not just about food.

Published May 16, 2014 by Crystal

Oh Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.

I do love you.  I love your passion.  I love your drive and enthusiasm to educate the world on food.  (Read about his goals here;

The thing is Jamie, much as I do love your enthusiasm, and believe schools can do more in inspiring children to cook wonderful things from scratch, I’m in a quandary about the language you are using and the way schools are already dealing with the need for healthy eating.  My youngest son returned home from a day during a Healthy Eating Week telling me he could eat pasta “because it’s healthy”.  The quantity was irrelevant.  The message was that pasta was healthy and that’s all that stuck.  Oh, and “I’ll get fat if I eat other stuff”.  My youngest is a little bean.  Nay an ounce of extra fat upon him, but I’m a large lady.  With food and body issues as far back as I can remember.  I have worked hard to give my children a healthy attitude to food, and importantly alongside that, a healthy body image and balanced self esteem.  Their diet is fairly balanced, admittedly sometimes more heavy with chocolate and sweets than other times, but they see an apple and a chocolate bar equally, and will choose a piece of fruit over a chocolate biscuit when they want to.  They are active children.  Yes the XBOX sometimes takes up too much of the day, but it’s balanced with days out scooting, cycling, walking and so on.  Importantly they are assured that they are fine as they are.  Their bodies are good and functional, they’re at a healthy weight.  Food is a fuel predominantly but also to be enjoyed.  I made a conscious effort when they were babies and toddlers to not hush them with food when we were out and about.  From their birth, I have been conscious of helping them create a healthy relationship with food.  I carried toys and crayons and paper, and as many distractions as I could so that they and I did not establish a pattern of comforting with food.  We have children of similar ages, you and I, and I know this because I remember following Jools throughout her pregnancies and post birth.  You know, one thing that sticks with me, and it was probably a throw away comment for lovely Jools, but she said that she was having to fold her post baby tummy into her jeans in the months after giving birth.  And she looked so confident.  I thought here’s a sensible woman, not rushing back on to the treadmill, not living on the maple syrup diet to achieve her pre-pregnancy size and weight.  A “normal” mum that we can relate to.  Someone with a healthy relationship with food, and importantly a healthy body image. So take it in all honesty when I say I really do admire you and yours.

Your idea is honourable. Many families do struggle to give their children balanced meals.  BUT where will you be when the taunting starts in those food education classes?  When Jack starts to comment on Rae’s family and eating style and general body image?  Because it will happen.  That competition between the kids that eat better than the others.  The kids that know a carrot from a cucumber and more crucially (to you) from a chocolate cookie.  Where will you be when the child goes home and relays to the parent that the parents are responsible for them being fat, and need to change their cooking habits?  Have you assumed every outcome to that will be a happy one?

I honestly do admire your drive.  But my worry is that you are sending a very top heavy message.  A message that kids are getting fatter and they need to learn to cook, because their parents can’t do it, because on their own they cannot be trusted, because they cannot rely on their parents to look after and nurture them, because it is important to be thinner.  Because you are driving this forward for health, and I appreciate that, but unfortunately the message is there that fat is unacceptable and thin is desirable and achievable.  And that children need to educate their parents, because their parents are ignorant of what their children need.  I accept that you alone can only do so much, and you’re a man with life experiences that are your own.  You can’t place yourself in every child’s frame of reference.  You can’t possibly visit every family you’re trying to help.  I know that.  But you surely know that the issue of obesity isn’t purely based on food and whether people can cook or not?  You do know that, don’t you?  You do understand that children develop complex relationships with food through their experiences with those close to them?  That those patterns are established early on?  You do understand that positive body image and self esteem can actually play a huge part in whether a child reaches for the chocolate bar or two?  And if you do understand this, then does it not worry you, even a little, that all your work will be in vain if the curriculum you’re helping to change doesn’t put forward a more balanced message to children?

In it’s simplest form;


I know your intentions are wonderful, but I worry this lopsided learning will do very little, and not even hit your 5% target of reduced obesity if you don’t address the healthy self esteem issues that need addressing

So I am thinking.  You want food health.  Didn’t Gok Wan wants self image health?  The two need to go together.  They’re two halves of a missing whole.  Can’t you start to work together?  Or at least start to meet with people that deal with food and body issues every single day, and come from a new place of understanding?

You’re so very nearly there.  You really are so close to impacting such a positive change.

Yours Sincerely

Little Miss Cackle.




11 Years of dieting and not dieting. Honest me.

Published August 23, 2013 by Crystal

I’ve had a rocky journey over the last 11 years, which has brought me to where I am now.  Thought maybe if I could share, in pictures, the tumultuous journey I had with body image and dieting, you may be able to understand why I have hated “diets” with a passion, but am now working to a more balanced life!

2002On the right, me in 2002.  A new mum, exhausted with my new role, and desperately wanting to lose the weight I’d gained in pregnancy.  My now husband had proposed, and I had just over a year to lose the best part of 6 stone, at least that was my aim.


2003 left, having lost around 3 stone.  Wearing baggy clothes and not feeling the point of wearing nice clothes.  I suffered with PND when my first born arrived.  That and dieting was an evil combination.  The weight was coming off slowly, but I wasn’t celebrating it.  And I was obsessed with it, when really I should have been enjoying my son.

Well we hit 2004, the year I got married.  I hadn’t hit my target, but I had got into the top end of the BMI chart for my height.  All power to the BMI chart, stressing people out since it’s creation.  I had used Slimming World to get to target, but left one group with a bitter taste in my mouth, after the class leader, knowing I hadn’t hit target, said loudly to the whole group “No one wants to be fat on their wedding day!”  I was far from fat, but I still felt like a failure.  On a happier note, I got pregnant with child number two below right, a honeymoon baby, and while I didn’t gain as much as first pregnancy, I gained a bit.  I was paranoid about being fat, but thankfully it was summer, an opportunity to enjoy my sarongs. Fat?  No.  Pregnant.  Yes.  And I look back and think.  You look fine woman, why did you worry?2004

20052005 on the left.  I’m actually hiding a cigarette behind the chair because I wanted to pretend I didn’t smoke.  This was the most relaxed year out of my whole time!  My body found it’s own natural weight without me worrying about any dieting of any sort.  I was too busy looking after two young children and enjoying my family!   I wish I’d remained in that mindset.  I wish I could have kept it for the next 2 years at the very least.  Because this is the laid back, chilled out thought process that we should all have, surely?  “Am I hungry? Yes!  Time to eat.  Have I had enough?  Yes.  Time to stop!”  It sounds so simple now, but what followed was years of paranoia and anxiety.

2006 below right, the day my third child came into the world.  I remained slim all the way through this pregnancy, with little effort.  I wasn’t worrying at all about how I ate.  It was all so instinctive.  I didn’t worry, and just lived.

And here, still in 2006, feeding my little man.  I mix fed, because I couldn’t keep breastfeeding all by myself.



Somewhere here it all started to change again, and paranoia started to sweep back in. Maybe it was the desire to be the perfect, all things to all people type mother. Still wanting to be a yummy mummy? Maybe it was the PND affecting me. But I started to worry about my weight.

2007During our late Summer holiday I had crept back up to, wait for it, it’s shocking, a 12-14.  I was letting myself go!  And by January 2007 I was a solid size 14.  I felt horrendous.  Out of control and so desperate.  I couldn’t work out what had happened.  But I was obsessed that I needed to lose weight.  I had become a monster! That woman on the right, hideously huge, don’t you think?   No?  No, neither do I. 😦


And so arrived the year of INTENSE dieting, and a very real food issue. The start of Weight Watchers, of bingeing and purging, of being so paranoid about weight that I ate nothing a lot of the time, was running on empty and suffered dizziness and fainting a few times.


I was finally the skinniest I had ever been.  I celebrated my size 10 jeans.  I loved being able to buy the smallest sizes I had ever purchased.  But unfortunately, all I really remember about that year is the fainting, the obsession, and the delight in being skinny.  I can’t remember much else besides diet clubs and salads.  Oh wait, I remember one week, Gloucester flooded spectacularly and we lost water for a week.  I remember the sheer joy of washing our clothes in the garden, using rainwater.


I kept the weight off for several months, and in 2008 I was still slim, in a gorgeous Whistles coat.  I felt chic.  But the effort of maintaining this weight loss was starting to take its toll.  I needed to eat more so as not to pass out, but I felt so smug and pious about people who hadn’t lost weight.  Those people just weren’t trying hard enough.  I was starting to hate the way I thought about other people, and was miserable and tired. This was the start of 2008 on the right, on the left the picture is the Christmas of 2008.


In one year I had gone from a size 10 to a size 14.  I now considered myself obese, but didn’t know how to stop myself.  I was miserably trying to diet but only ever getting bigger.  One month later and I was a size 16.

2009January 2009, now a size 16 after a Christmas of indulgence.  I was celebrating my anniversary and my 30th birthday in London with my gorgeous husband.   I was determined to enjoy it, but still had to hop in the scales in our hotel bathroom every so often.  I’d let myself go.  How could I be so fat for my anniversary?  How had it come to this, and why couldn’t I diet to lose weight?  I felt more and more out of control, and nothing was working.  But this was also the year of change, because thankfully I discovered Intuitive Eating.



Above photos show left, 2009, and right 2010. I was progressively getting bigger, though weight gain had slowed down. I went from a 16 to an 18, but then stayed around 18. But finally, though slowly, I was beginning to make peace with myself and my body. To make peace with foods, and to start to undo all the years of damage that dieting had done. Looking back I think I can safely say that 2007 was the most damaging of all years. I couldn’t think of anything else but weight loss and being thin. I had created such a powerful emotion of self loathing that there was a lot of work to be undone, and a lot of peace to be made.

The photos now don’t change too much, because of my pretty much constant weight.

Right in 2011, at Weston, having a nice family day.

Left, having bought a wetsuit and braving the cornish waters. Something I had never considered before. No way I could wear a wetsuit and body board! But intuitive eating taught me to love and appreciate my body. So I made a start!

And finally

DSCF4386The most recent photo I have.  I gained a little while on prozac, but it’s coming off in the easiest kindest way.

So there we have it.  11 years of monstrous body hate and diets, intuitive eating without realising, and a body reacting to a strict diet in a spectacular way.  I would love to be slim again, to be able to move my body more easily and to feel far more healthy.  But my body deserves to be treated with love and kindness, and that’s the route we’re taking!

Resharing on 30/04/2015, 2 and a half stone lighter than first published in 2013, still equally as passionate about self acceptance, body acceptance, and self care.

Post holiday or post prozac blues?

Published July 29, 2013 by Crystal

Durdle DoorRecently back from a lovely holiday in Dorset, I am finding that even my loosest jeans no longer fit.

For many weeks, it’s been so hot and sunny I’ve gotten away with flowing dresses, and tunics and leggings.  Everything is forgiving and hides all those bumps and lumps.  But on Sunday I had to pop to the supermarket and squeeeeeezed into my jeans.   My inner hater voice saw the perfect moment to attack;

 “You’re so fat.  This is the fattest you have ever been.  You’re lazy.  And fat.  You need to diet.  Honestly.  You have no self control and you’re fat.”

Fortunately I have a lovely group of ladies to reach out to in moments like this, thanks you those Beyond Chocolate sisters!  I know when my gremlin strikes, I can go share my experiences with others who have their own noisy spiteful voices, and I can look at the deeper issues.  I think there are a few things going on at the moment.  One is that I stopped taking prozac a few weeks ago, having started a course in January.  In that time I have gained about a stone, and am now at my heaviest I have ever been.   The knee jerk reaction is to start looking to the diet clubs.  I want to lose this weight fast!  Horrid extra weight.  Horrid fat.  Horrid me.  Should I take some milkshake of some sort?  That aways shows a nice quick loss after all…..or maybe some juicing, it’s summer after all.  Some juice might be nice.  But then what diet haven’t I tried?  Maybe there’s something out there that will work the way nothing else has?

Or I could tune in to myself.

What is bothering me?  Besides my jeans not fitting?

Well, I’m anxious about speeding up my power walking times to get ready for the Cheltenham Half Marathon.  I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even done it.  But to address that I’ve committed myself to walking every evening and invited friends to join me. One walk at a time!

I veered away from my mostly vegan diet for a time, and noticed I felt less healthy.  I felt I was constantly letting myself down…..have now ordered several staples for the cupboards and can eat better for myself.

I am anxious about how the prozac has affected me physically.  Has it messed up my metabolism?  Only time will tell on this one, but I know one thing; googling does NOT help.  For every positive message there are 10 messages of despair!  Hopefully moving my body and eating foods that nurture will help me feel grrrrrreat!

And finally, yep, it’s the end of our family holiday.  For the next 4 weeks it’s me, and my kids, and the animals.  How will I keep them entertained?  How will I keep sane?  How will I get any housework done?  I downloaded the Flylady app before we went away on holiday.  I shall be putting it to good use in these coming weeks and developing healthy habits in more ways than food and movement!

So there you have it.  Inner hater voice silenced.  For now.  She’ll be back.  But for now I have the upper hand!

beautifully broken

Oops the diet brigade got me!

Published June 26, 2013 by Crystal

Feeling good today. Amazing what magic the sun can do! Got a maxi dress, covering a multitude of bumps! It is not, however, covering a multitude of sins. My lumps and bumps do not determine me to be a bad person. The naughty things I think and do will determine that ;-).
When you surround yourself with positive people and language, it has a positive effect on your life. If you surround yourself with people obsessed with the superficial, with those who believe your worth is based in how you look, what you wear, how you exercise and how you eat, you will be knocked down, and have your self worth depleted all those times you don’t fit into their ideals.

But since February things have been very up and down.  I was training for the Moonwalk (completed it, and have signed up to attempt to run a half marathon!), I was believing I should concentrate on my food a bit, and got sucked in to the belief that Weight Watchers would work this time!  Damn it I would make it work!

A few monetary pounds shorter, but no pounds lighter, I realised that yet again I’d been sucked in to the delusion that life would be so much better if only I were thinner!

Truth is, life is pretty darn good.  I have a beautiful family.  I now surround myself with people that support each other and love each other, and trust each other.  I am taking the plunge and going for a college course.  I am coming out of another well of depression, and I am learning to run on my terms, without some fit bod breathing down my neck.  Food and drink aren’t the big issue they become when I follow those diet plans.  And I’m not measuring my self worth by the reaction of someone next to a set of scales. We choose what we focus on in life.  When we succumb to the media portrayal of the “ideal”, we can start to attempt changing ourselves.  The magazines that tell you how “Michelle lost 2 stone and now has the ideal bikini body” aren’t showing you the real life activity of those people.  You’re not seeing the highs and lows of their day to day life.  My favourite quote at this moment is;

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” —Steve Furtick

Those magazines aren’t celebrating the very human differences that our bodies have.  An hourglass woman is never going to lose her bum and bust.  She is beautiful in her shape and should embrace it!   The woman fretting she has no bum and little bust has assets all of her own, she can achieve looks and activities that the other lady can’t.  Neither is the superior shape.  Neither is more desirable to humanity.  Why are we looking to what the media says is the right way to look?  Why are we giving our power away to a mostly male profession of fashion “leaders and creators”?

Step away from the negative voices.  The ones telling you what to eat, how to exercise, who to follow.  Take time to ask yourself what you want in life.  If you can, avoid the celebrity gossip that is making you question yourself.  Look for literature and groups that support women in all their forms.  Not because you’re “giving up”  but because you’re not putting up with the lies anymore.  You are wonderful.

Get comfortable in your own skin, you may be here some time.

Published January 19, 2013 by Crystal




We’re 19 days in to the New Year.  Did you resolve to lose a stone?  Did you tell yourself you were disgustingly greedy over Christmas and now need to make up for it?  Have you been cooking up soups and berating yourself every time you look in a mirror?

I haven’t.  And I’m not telling you this to be smug or to put you off any goals you have.  I haven’t lost 2 stone by not dieting, and I haven’t dropped a dress size.  

What I have dropped is the self criticism and self loathing when I look at myself.  What I have lost is the feeling of anger at “letting myself go”.  In fact, I’ve spent time getting comfortable in my own skin.  I’ve not said something mean about my full tummy, or substantial thighs, and I can honestly say, the positive talk, the encouraging comments are really starting to have an impact!

I’ve been large for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember I’ve hankered after a different size and a different shape.  I’ve spent many an hour looking down on myself for not being the size 10, got it all together, perfectly flawless woman that is portrayed on tv and in the magazines. For a few years I’ve tried to talk positive, but there’s always been a “but” somewhere in the conversations with myself and the parts of me I don’t like. “I accept my belly, but I would love it a bit more if it were smaller/more toned/less scarred” is not self acceptance.  Acceptance (to me at least) means knowing that if this is the size and shape I am to have for the rest of my life I will be ok with that.  If my full tummy remains full until I am laying on my death bed, I will have lived a long and happy life with it.  Those parts of me I found unacceptable are becoming parts of me that are respected and loved. 

This may sound like utter madness to you; “The woman is talking about loving her belly, she’s crazily talking about accepting and respecting her thighs!”  but how many of you, on a bad day, look at your body in the mirror, and grab disparagingly your flesh around your middle?  Or slap your bum or your leg and look with disgust as they wobble?  We grow up thinking it’s personally normal to assault parts of our body when we look in the mirror on a bad day.  Our body becomes the focal point for all the stress, tension, hurt and anger we amass in a day.  Ask yourself, have you ever said something like “I wouldn’t be feeling this way if I were thinner”, or “I’d be more confident if I had bigger boobs”, or “My body is that of a boy, I don’t feel womanly.”?  

And where has it got you over the years?  There will be a few who will have changed their diet, and will have created an exercise regime and have created their ideal selves.  But there will be others, a majority, for whom even the dieting and exercising didn’t change a thing.  You still disliked your body.  It didn’t lose weight from the right places, or your muscles don’t show up like you thought they would.  You thought that a “new you” would be the answers to your problems, but it didn’t.  You still come home and look in the mirror and look at yourself with disgust and loathing.

So I’d like to suggest to you a little experiment;  

For 3 weeks, avoid the fashion and gossip magazines, skip the self improvement programmes such as weight loss, or looking better (except maybe Gok Wan, because he inspires!), and turn off the cereal and yoghurt adverts suggesting a “New You for Summer!”.

For the same 3 weeks, pay attention to how you talk about yourself.  When you feel that self criticism start to rise from your lips stop it and simply say “I’m beautiful” out loud, or in your head.  Don’t grab the bits of your body you don’t like, instead, take extra care of yourself, moisturise or massage, if you can afford it, book yourself in somewhere for a pamper.  Just treat your body well.

And finally, for the 3 weeks, avoid diet talk, or conversation with other people who are self criticising and focussing on their faults. 

I’m pretty sure how much you’ll see a difference if you take yourself out of the media bombardment, and if you can say nice things about yourself enough times, it will start to sink in.

It is hard, it’s taken me years to get to this point now where I actually am liking my body and feeling honestly comfortable in it, where I can actually say I love my round, scarred, soft belly!  

It’s taken me a long long long time to be actually able to step out of the diet rat race, and say “I’m really truly accepting my body, and I’m no longer dieting”.

It’s finally sinking in that health really can be at every size.