The body dilemma………love/hate

#bodyimage #bodygoals #strongnotskinny #celebrateyourcurves #bodypositivity……so…..many…..hashtags…….its everywhere with social media being the main advocate of all things body positive.

I have long wanted to write a blog on body image and what it means to me. However, for me personally, its a sensitive subject and weight and body issues have been on my radar for 20 or more years now.

When I’ve spoken to many friends about this, their story is usually that they have always had issues with controlling their weight, many spanning over decades right back to childhood. Mine was a different ‘road’ to weight gain and not the conventional route. Up until I was 18, I was a size 8, had a 27 inch waist and was one of those annoying people who could eat anything I wanted (and I mean huge portions of chips, sweets, takeaways etc) and NEVER put on weight. My body and my weight were not even on my radar – I just took it for granted to be the size I was without fluctuations, never weighed myself and my clothes always fit. I had a washboard flat stomach, no stomach rolls, no wobble or cellulite – I did always however have an arse, inherited from my Dad’s side of the family thank mainly to our Spanish heritage back in the day! Something I am thankful for 🙂

Then I was hit with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes when I was 18 and that was the start of the slippery slope of body issues. I knew from reading articles on diabetes that your metabolism is basically screwed and many diabetics struggle with losing and maintaining weight. But of course I naively thought, sure I’ll be grand and kept eating the way I had before. Big, big mistake! Between trying to cope with a life changing illness, a shitty breakup with one of the most horrible human beings I have ever met and being partially in denial about what was happening, I managed to be slightly aware but also ignore the pounds and stone which kept increasing on the scale. The result being I went from a size 8 to a size 18 in a year, which was a massive shock to me and my system. Still to this day, I HATE the fact that diabetes affected my body like that and often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had ‘stayed slim’ – as if being slimmer would be the key to a better life !!

Both my reaction and other peoples reactions were surprising and sometimes hurtful. I was very aware of having to bring larger sizes into the changing room, how awful and unhealthy I looked and reactions from some friends and the shitty ex just solidified the crippling self esteem issues I still suffer with now. Being highly aware and embarrassed of the ‘surprised’ looks from people I had last seen when I was slimmer, slightly smug looks from bitchy girls who couldn’t hide their glee that I was now a ‘fat girl’ and ‘horrible ex’ as I will dub him (he doesn’t deserve to be named) screaming at me on a night out that I was so fat and ugly, no one would ever find me attractive again……..and a few random strangers not taking rejection well and saying they were only chatting me up for a dare anyway as I was such a fat bitch……….which chipped away and stamped my self esteem into the ground…….fun times!

Over the past 20 years I would get sporadic months where I would exercise, eat clean and feel so much better in how I looked which resulted in me losing weight and having a rare confidence boost. I have lost 2-3 stone over the years and gotten down to an average size 12-14 (ish) but the struggle is constant. I hate to hang all of my self worth on a scales and how I feel in clothes and how I look. Ironically I am more comfortable with who I am on the inside than how I look outside and that pisses me off as I am defining myself almost solely by how I look. I know I have a great brain which has the ability to retain an insane amount of information, I can be funny, quick witted, analytical, compassionate, kind, loyal and everything else in between! But yet when I look in the mirror, all I can do is pick apart all the bits I don’t like……….

Living in London is amazing but sometimes it can be soul destroying for those of us like myself who do not fit the cookie cutter standard of attractive. I step out the door thinking, I don’t look too bad today……and that gets crushed within a few minutes.

You see literally hundreds of girls a day, on the tube, on the street, in work…..everywhere, who look like they have stepped off a catwalk. So flawless I literally cant stop staring and being envious. Not jealous though……jealousy can be an ugly trait and to be honest, someone can look perfect on the outside but we don’t know battles people may face under the surface so I tend to try and err on the side of envy instead, which is more of a longing to look like them but not hating them because they look seemingly ‘perfect’ and seem to have their lives all figured out and together. Nobody is ever perfect……..

I can’t write this blog without referring to the media and social media – both are culprits for celebrating all bodies but also tearing women down and opening up a forum for trolls and people with severe issues to spew and project all their own hatred and projections onto other people. The messages I love to see are that no body is perfect and to celebrate all of our differences, our perfect imperfections and what makes us unique and ‘me’.

No matter how much I read online, I always find it shocking when people on social media call girls fat who are blatantly not. Or the most jaw dropping comments, which are also deeply disturbing come when I see pregnant celebrities being called pigs or fat or disgusting for ‘letting themselves go’. What the actual fuck?? She is pregnant and housing a tiny human which is going to change her body shape. She has a million hormones in her body going crazy and sometimes medical conditions from the pregnancy, but no, lets concentrate on calling her a fat cow…….because she doesn’t fit the body standard for pregnancy, whatever the hell that is supposed to be!

We see Instagram posts with filter after filter after filter, until people are so unrecognisable you have to double check their account to see if its them. I for one, am guilty of filtering the colouring of pics to try and minimise the dark circles under my eyes (hate), to brighten up jaded sun starved skin, to add more sparkle to my eyes when I’m tired……you get the picture. I ask myself why is it so bad to just post the normal picture which captured a beautiful moment? Because it may not be ‘attractive’ enough, because you can see my flaws? Because people will see the real unfiltered me (god forbid!) or secretly because I probably wont get as many ‘likes’. Its all about the likes…..the validation from other people that you are attractive. I hate the fact I get a buzz from other peoples comments, even though I constantly give the same compliments myself to other people, when what I really want to say is, yes you look great but you are such an amazing person too and you are so much more……and should not be defined by your looks.

I remember reading a study about the power of peoples words in relation to compliments about weight loss which really said it all. Subjects were put into an MRI machine and different phrases would be read out to them and doctors would see certain parts of the brain lighting up in reaction to the spoken words – sometimes words of love, sometimes anger, fear, sadness and so on. Ironically the part of the brain which lit up when people were told ‘I love you’ by a loved one, was the exact same part of the brain lighting up like a Christmas tree for another three words…….’You’ve lost weight’. Think about that for a minute and realise how insane that is!? We put so much weight (excuse the pun) on being told we look slimmer that we equate it with the same area of the brain which controls the ‘love’ hormones and endorphins.

I realise I could go on forever about this subject and have had numerous debates with both guys and girls when it inevitably crops up in conversation. Usually the most heated debates are with my guy friends who take the piss out of ‘fat girls’ or are too embarrassed to bring out the girl they are dating because she isn’t a ’10’, for fear their friends will take the piss secretly. In my mind, if you are not proud of who you are with, then you don’t really deserve to be with that person…….but that’s just me!

I swing between championing myself and my differences and usually listening to the ‘sensible’ voice in my head regarding my body image and self esteem issues relating to this. Unfortunately the little devil on my shoulder is a noisy little bastard for most of the time and always shouts the sensible voice down.

On a good day, I can pick out the bits of me I like – my big dark brown eyes, my smile, my boobs (!), my small waist and my bum (but only in jeans!) – see, even now, I am slightly tweaking one of the things I ‘like’ and cant say it fully with confidence and own my curvy arse! I actually love my curves and the softness of my body and I certainly do not want to be skinny. On bad days, which happen far more often than I would like, I literally loathe to even look at myself in the mirror and feel hideously unattractive and I then pick out a million things I hate about myself. It affects my mood, my mental health, friendships, it has inched its way into past relationships with feelings of not being attractive enough and bad insecurities which I project onto the other person… seeps into everything like a poison.

How do I get out of this mindset and change the behaviour of a lifetime and try and fight off the unconscious conditioning from the world defining what is a ‘great body’ and what is attractive. Somebody’s self worth, importance in this world or how we choose to treat them should never be based on how they look or whether their body fits the ‘acceptable’ body type. It takes a complete asshole to treat someone like shit because of how they look and says a lot more about them that it does about the person they are targeting. Well adjusted ‘normal’ people do not go around destroying other human beings for their own gain.

I am fully aware I will never shake this feeling and it will be part of my life forever, which I have become slightly more accepting of as the years go on. The only thing I can do is talk it out with friends (two of whom I live with and provide the most amazing support system), family or just in general. Speaking out the thoughts which are rattling around in my mind can be more cathartic than you think – saying the words out loud makes it more real and makes me take responsibility and address some of the issues I have. Also, you will find you will come across more and more people who will empathise with you and have similar experiences and this can also help.

In the meantime its about celebrating the times when I feel good about myself, not buying into other peoples horrible words, being proud of not being perfect and realising I have a lot more to offer than just how I look. For the bad days, its about acknowledging it but not wallowing in it – and also realising that it will be just a few ‘down’ days and that I will come out the other side and to recognise that.

I know I will never ever lose the issues I have with confidence and self esteem and these will always be part of my life…..which on one hand pisses me off, but on the other hand I need to accept this part of my life will always be knocking around my head. Its about managing it and putting things in perspective. There are more important things in life than how you look. You only have one body to live in and one life, so its about making the best of it, even if you limp through sometimes and feel like your world is crashing down. Its about surrounding yourself with people who see you for far more than the shell you inhabit and appreciate you for the amazing person you are !!


Daily Pin Cushion

I remember it being my first year in college – I was 18 years old, all excited about starting my course and obviously the party life which accompanied it.

But my pancreas had other ideas.

I had been feeling run down, looked and felt tired all the time and generally did not look well. Keeping in mind that at 18, you should basically still look as young and fresh as a foetus, I had instead started to look gaunt.

At the time I was about a size 8 (I certainly ain’t that now!), didn’t think about dieting or food and just ate what I wanted when I wanted. However losing around 1.5 stone in about 4 weeks, despite eating like a locust and adding to that, a catalogue of other weird symptoms such as drinking gallons of water on a daily basis, getting up to the bathroom up to 10 times a night to name but a few, told me something was wrong.

I remember randomly reading a magazine article, reading the symptoms the girl had and thinking, shit……I have every one of those symptoms – and to my dread I saw they all pointed towards Type 1 Diabetes.

So I took myself off to the doctor and explained the rapid weight loss, despite eating twice what I normally ate, the thirst, the frequent bathroom trips and waited for the doctor to confirm my suspicions……..but she didnt.

Instead I got a grilling, asking why I was so determined to lose weight and be skinny. As an 18 year old with little experience of doctors before then, I was wondering what the hell she was on about. Hadnt I made myself clear as I carefully listed all my symptoms? But no…..instead of looking at the list using her Doctor Cap, she jumped to the conclusion I had an eating disorder, even though I had told her I was really worried about how skinny I looked. So she did a quick blood test and sent me home feeling embarrassed that I had caused a fuss.

Luckily I am pretty stubborn (ask my family), so after a few days, I thought, screw this, I am going back to a different doc. I could see the moment she clicked and the lightbulb went off as I listed my long list of very obvious symptoms. She did another test and told me to go straight to the hospital immediately as I was in what they call DKA which is Diabetic Ketoacidosis. DKA, for short, is when your blood sugars are so off the charts that you are in danger of going into a coma. Once I got to the hospital, they confirmed her suspicions and told me my blood sugars were 10 times normal and I was on the cusp of coma/stroke.

I remember calmly listening to them as they talked me through the very basics of diabetes and what they had planned for me over the next few days regarding ‘training’ to live with the condition. For those of you who may not be familiar with Diabetes, there are two types – Type 1 which is what I have (along with only 10% of the worlds population) where your pancreas literally stops working due to an autoimmune episode. This is when your body essentially attacks itself and your immune system and your pancreas ends up being the casualty. It means I have to artificially inject insulin into myself 4 times a day. Type 2 is the one everyone is most familiar with, and is usually associated with older, obese people who have a ‘poor lifestyle’ – their pancreas is still semi operational and can be controlled by diet or pills. Neither are good, trust me!

I spent a week in hospital learning how to be a good diabetic, test blood sugars through multiple finger pricks every day and the big one – injecting your insulin. Luckily I am fine with needles – although you dont really have an option being Type 1 (or T1 for short) – its inject or die and thats no exaggeration. I had instructions to test my blood sugars 6-8 times a day to start and told to inject myself 4 times a day – before breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed. Simple right?

Then I was given a follow up appointment, given supplies and released out into the wild like some sort of wide eyed Bambi, thinking it would be easy enough and I could handle it……………..

I wont bore you with a medical lesson or a detailed timeline of the last 19 years bringing me up to my present youthful age (ahem….), but I can clearly remember the ‘marker points’ on this shitty journey.

I always think that knowledge is power, so even at 18, my Mum and I bought some books on diabetes and we did our research. However, as with most things, the theory rarely matches the practice. You can read all the books in the world but I can promise you, the reality is NOTHING like the well written chapters in medical books.

Unfortunately, your body isn’t a machine where you just inject the required amount for what your blood sugar says and everything is straight forward. Having to take note of your readings, how many grams of carbs you are going to eat, what activities you may be doing, what the weather is like (too hot & insulin zips through your system, too cold and it does the opposite), whether you are feeling ill and may have a low level infection along with several other factors turns you into Walter from Breaking Bad, trying to get the calculations right and measuring everything out. It can be a guessing game on occasion which results in a very low blood sugar or an extremely high one – both of which can result in a coma.

Over the course of the last 19 years I have landed myself in hospital and been seriously ill more times than I dare to count. My first was roughly a year into being diabetic – I had my first experience of a full blown gastric bug, which I didn’t really realise was life threatening for a diabetic if not treated. True to form with the luck that I have, I was abroad when it happened on my first post college holiday, living it up in Munich. What started out as a mild stomach bug escalated to the point where I was losing consciousness and my blood sugars were off the charts. Luckily I have a weird in built ‘survival system’ where I know when something is serious, so I carted myself off to the nearest hospital and promptly passed out in front of them. Fast forward to two days later, when I wake up to the exhausted looking faces of my friends, who told me I had been unconscious for 48 hours straight……being released to go back to Ireland a few days later was a massive relief and I swore I would never end up in hospital again.

Yeah, it didn’t quite work out like that. Through various different gastric issues and otherwise, I have ended up in hospital several times over the years. If you take anything away from this blog, note that what is ok for a ‘normal’ person can be life threatening for a diabetic and events can go seriously downhill in a very short amount of time. Have a simple stomach bug means your whole system goes out of whack – the chemicals in your brain and in your body will either sky rocket or plummet, all of which can have disasterous consequences if not recognised or dealt with. An example would be, if your blood sugars go out of range, your potassium levels soar, which can lead to a cardiac arrest or stroke…….which is as frightening and serious as you can get.

One of the biggest and most serious episodes occured in 2010 a few months after I moved to London. I wont go into epic detail for the weak stomached amongst you, but it was the most life threatening illness to happen in all my years as a diabetic. To make a long story short, an injection site got infected, the hospital didnt treat it seriously or correctly and sent me home. I of course, knowing something was seriously wrong, dragged myself back into the hospital, only to be told the infection had turned into necrotising fasciitis – a flesh eating bacteria…….yes, an actual bloody flesh eating bacteria. What were the chances of that happening ? Apparently 500 cases in the whole of the UK every year……let that sink in. Two hours of emergency surgery and a tonne of medication later, I was left with an 18 lb weight loss (in 5 days – not a diet I would recommend) and was left with what is now a three inch scar on my stomach. Nec Fas (for short) has a 20% survival rate and for a diabetic I was a few hours from full out septic shock. Being stubborn and instinctively listening to your body pays off sometimes !

That’s probably enough stories of multiple hospital stays for the moment. On the ‘lighter’ side of diabetes, you then have the misconceptions, myths and judgements which come from other people. This can be one of the most frustrating parts of being a diabetic. In fairness I knew nothing about diabetes before I was diagnosed but I would never make assumptions of knowledge about a persons illness. I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard the following:

‘You dont look like a diabetic!’ – Am I supposed to have two heads or look ill ?

‘Do you have the good one or the bad one?’ – They are both shite, end of.

‘Did you cause it yourself?’ –  This is a tricky one as when I was diagnosed I was tiny and healthy looking. I have inevitably put on weight since then due to meds and my metabolism being messed up……and as most people are familiar with Type 2 (usually over 40, caused by obesity and bad life style), they see my size 14 arse and assume I caused it. My pancreas basically packed it in when I was 18 but I just dont bother explaining that to people who make assumptions……which may be a bit of a negative attitude but there we go……weight is a sensitive issue for me, but thats a whole other blog……

‘Should you be eating that?’ –  Never, ever, ever, ever say this to a diabetic… is the one comment which seriously pisses us off massively and makes us feel judged. If I am eating something sweet, I will give myself an extra few units to pick up the slack of my dead pancreas…….I have been doing this for years, so I kind of know what I am doing but cheers for your input.

Instead, just ask any questions you may have and show interest. I am always more than happy to chat to people and answer any questions they may be afraid to ask. Even if they get the information wrong or even ask one or two of the questions I listed above, if you honestly want to know about how it all works, I will never be smart arsed or mean – I will answer them honestly. The majority of people have a family member with diabetes and sometimes the information they have is somewhat incorrect, but the teacher in me wants to educate people as much as I can in simple language.

Reading back on this post, I do realise it can sound negative and a great portion of living with diabetes is that changes your life beyond all understanding. There are times when you hate your body for not working properly or for getting a low blood sugar at the WORST possible times. However it quickly makes you grow up and become cautious and less of a risk taker at times – something I am slowly trying to offset with ‘safe risks’ so I can live a good life which isnt boring. The one trait it does give you though is strength and an ability to cope with anything life throws at you. I use inner resources I never even knew I had and I have gained massive perspective on life and I tend to let the stupid unimportant things slide………

I have been thinking of how to wrap up this post and being honest its impossible to do so without bluntly cutting off this entire stream of consciousness. I can safely say this will not be the last in many chapters I will publish about the life of a diabetic. However I have always said I would never solely blog about diabetes – yes it is a massive part of daily life for me, but it does not define me. I am a thousand greater things more than this illness………all of which I intend to celebrate ! Pen


Online Dating – BRB

To an outsider, London is the best city in the world to be single, right? There are millions of hot singles and every opportunity to bump into Mr Right.


Its a minefield people.

My Irish experience of dating is somewhat different to the London way of dating. For one, before I came to London I had never really been out on a ‘date’ with someone I had never spoken to before. You would meet your friends for a night out, they would have a bigger group of friends……you would click with someone in the same crowd, have a cheeky kiss and then probably meet up again and eventually fall into boyfriend/girlfriend category.

Here you fall in love or lust at least a few times a day on the tube, only for them to disappear into oblivion at the next stop. The unspoken rules of tube etiquette means if someone makes eye contact with you more than twice, they are practically stalking you or you them and no one makes a move……

So you think to yourself, I’ll try something a bit different……lets give online dating a go – everyone is doing it and it sounds fun.However, it is a shallow world where, lets face it, the initial judgement is on how you look in your profile pics. If that piques someones interest, then the next hurdle is your little self promoting ‘sales’ piece which can be either completely cringe for many different reasons or can make you laugh out loud. I will always go with the latter – no one likes someone who takes themselves too seriously, but you also do not wish to have a man with the mindset of a teenager either……

So I decided to sign up to a few free sites to test the water – rookie error. The free sites attract every freak you can imagine. Guys who think the way to start a conversation is to tell you all their darkest desires or make a very personal comment to you…..and then wonder why you don’t respond. So I binned the free sites.

Go to plan B. I’ll try one of the biggest paid dating websites which you see advertised all over tube posters and TV, where they match you to your ‘perfect partner’ according to the 10,000 questions they ask you when you sign up. Filling in the questionnaires is tantamount to the process of applying for planning permission for an extension on your house – its never ending. Yet you still persevere and try to come up with your wittiest comments and pics so you can stand out from the sea of pouting duck faces you are up against in the line up.

And then you wait…….and its a bit of a bust. Yes you get lots of guys matching with you and wanting to speak to you which is great. This is where it gets tricky for me. I love humour and banter and they are deal breakers for me. Texting or Whats App can be slow and tedious and talking on the phone can be worse if you have someone pretty silent the other end. It doesn’t help that I have this need to fill silences, which is where the babbling starts………bum clenchingly awkward situations ensue.

However, even getting to the talking stage can be tricky and there are a lot of components (for me anyway) which make me swipe left or right. Lets talk profile pics & bio’s. Online dating is a fickle, judgemental world. There are several identifiers you will see as you scroll through hundreds of profiles on a bored Thursday night……….and yes I am a judgemental person sometimes, but in the world of online dating its kind of a given.

Welcome to the Online Dating Site museum………..

Exhibit A: The guy who has 4 pictures……and they are all group shots….with several of the same friends in each. Am I supposed to be psychic and know which one you are? Seriously? Swipe Left.

Exhibit B: The guy who is surrounded by a bevy of hot chicks in each shot. We get it… are a regular Casanova, fending off the advances of hundreds of girls every night you are out…….way too try hard…….and a bit creepy. Swipe Left.

Exhibit C: The Traveller/Lad pics/Car Pics/Topless Pics: Contains lots of shots of you posing with a drugged up tiger on your travels/at the Full Moon Party/Doing ‘mad’ stuff with your mates….but your profile says you are 41………Man Child. Oh and dont forget the posing by a flash car which probably isnt yours, or 20 topless mirror selfies which would give Kim Kardashian a run for her money. Swipe Left

Exhibit D: This is a cousin on Exhibit A. Lots of shots of you in the distance with some amazing scenery. Even if I zoom in I can just about make out you are human. Swipe Left for fear of accidentally being matched with a distant cousin or someone you know and desperately want to avoid. Yes London is a big place, but as lots of matches are done geographically, you would be surprised how many friends you see on dating sites. Declan in Accounts…..oh sh*t, I accidentally swiped right……..*never goes to work again*.

Exhibit E: The Guy Who Seems Normal & Turns Into A Sleaze. His pics look great, witty cleverly written bio. All seems normal and then he sends you something. You may think its enticing  to send an unsolicited pic, but let me tell you, doing that is the human equivalent of a cat bringing you a dead mouse as a ‘gift’………..

Finally you connect with someone who is normal, doesnt look like Quasimodo on Acid and there is the initial convo and awkwardly arranging some sort of date which is equidistant for both of you and doesn’t involve travelling to Zone 6 for someone who may not even look like their profile pic…….

Exhausted yet? Then there is the date. There are nerves, anticipation, fear and every other feeling thrown in the mix. Will he look like his profile pic or will I have to keep drinking until he does? Will his voice be high pitched as we have only texted and I havent actually heard him speak? Will he stand up and be up to my shoulder? Then you turn things on yourself. Do I look like my profile pic? Have I put on weight since the last pic I put online? What if he doesn’t get my humour……..

And then it all goes well and is surprisingly easy and normal. Then you are at the post date stage………Do I message him or leave it a few days. Do I respond immediately to his message? What emoticon do I use 😉  Mmmmm, he has read my Whats App but hasnt responded in a few days………and the cycle begins all over again.

Reading back on this, I realise I make the online dating world sound so overcomplicated, and it can be. However, I know people who actively go on 4 dates in one week and love dating sites – its a law of averages really. The more dates you go on the more likely you are to meet someone who could be great. I am slowly but surely starting to change my mindset somewhat, as it can be a way of meeting great people and it can also be exciting to step into the unknown.

Plus, lets face it, if all comes to all and it does go to sh*t, then at least I will have some witty stories for the pub…..and that in itself is worth its weight in gold!