Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Building an Adult: Body Image

I'm twelve years old and I'm staring in the mirror, tracing my hands over my new, quite flabby frame. I have different sized breasts, hips that stop me fitting in my favourite purple jeans and it's all mildly distressing. I'm convinced that I am fat, and I am compared to my stick thin prepubescent friends, so I walk over to the toilet and make myself sick. 

It's grim. Everything about it feels wrong but I am so focused and determined to get my 11-12 (years) sized frame back that I cause myself to gag again. Tears sting my eyes, my throat feels raw and my fingers are sticky but at least that salt and vinegar packet of crisps is out of my system. I stand up and look in the mirror but just feel worse about myself, so I flush the toilet, spray Febreze and go and eat a banana because I deserve those calories. 

This was just the start of hours spent calorie counting, hour long gym sessions fuelled by almost nothing and binge eating before coming face to face with that toilet bowl. Although you may be convinced that I have some sort of eating disorder I don't. I was just struggling to come to terms with my new body and the only ways that I knew how to lose weight were diet pills or the methods listed above.

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Everything began, as it must do for many girls, after I started my period and piled on the pounds. This happened at quite an early age - I was around 11 - and no one else in my year was in the same situation. Crop tops (those weird bras that 10 year olds wear) would no longer support my breasts and the school trousers would fit weirdly around my body. I thought this was because I was fat, not because I was going through puberty and no one bothered to tell me otherwise. 

My earliest method of 'weight control' happened when I was 11 when I began to document everything I ate with the equivalent calories next to it before summing my daily amount at the end of the page. Each day I would try and get that intake lower. Thankfully I don't tend to obsess over things like this because otherwise it may have turned into an eating disorder (as it does for so many girls and boys). This kind of behaviour needs to be a flag - anyone counting calories at a young age is at risk of developing an eating disorder.   

After a while I grew out of this body size hating phase and just decided to accept my weight. But it wasn't easy. At one point (around three years ago) I decided to weigh myself and found out that I weighed over 13 stone at the age of 14. This caused me to have a bit of a break down and led to me staring at the contents of my stomach a few times so I ruled out weighing myself again and so far I have stuck to that rule. If I eliminate numbers then I don't obsess and it can't become unhealthy. I would advise every young person to do the same - ignore those digits and focus on how you feel. Do you feel healthy? No? Go for a run and eat bananas and kiwis and dragon fruit and spinach just don't, please don't, jab your fingers down your throat until it's cut and raw. You will only feel worse.

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I have grown up in a household where there is a blanket ban on tacky magazines with unskilled writers writing articles about how a size 8 celebrity is 'fat and frumpy' and for that I am thankful. I never felt the pressure that the press put on young women to look thin and always perfect. Today though it takes me about 2 seconds to go to gossip websites and be flooded with pictures of size 2 celebrities with double d breasts. They all are labeled 'naturally flawless' despite the fact that every photo is posed with fantastic artificial lighting and a team of photoshopping experts on hand. All these women are stunning already, but not quite enough for the every day standards of the press.

But who are they doing this editing for - it's certainly not for you as it will only make you feel flawed and ugly. Not for the model who has to live with the fact that they aren't beautiful enough, not for the men who rush home from work every day to go and meet their perfectly flawed wife. It's not realistic but realism isn't often accepted by society despite the fact that it is the norm. The majority of women do not have naturally equally sized, plump DD breasts but heaven forbid a company use someone with their imperfect, completely natural breasts. It would cause outcry as people are living in denial and do not want to be faced with the fact that people do not look perfect in their underwear, do not have perfect six packs nor perfect skin. 

The majority of people want to live in this digitally edited fake world and I don't know why. Maybe they've grow up around images of 'perfect' women and men or maybe they are just too insecure about their own body to accept themselves.

I encourage everyone to take a look around at the real world next time they feel low about their body image (it will happen). Look at Kim Kardashian and remember that she actually has a team of people to take her selfies and yes her bum is fantastically large but it isn't natural and would be damn-near impossible for you to achieve. When boys are looking at those rather annoying Calvin Klein adverts remember that they altered David Beckham so his muscles looked more defined and they made Justin Bieber's penis look bigger. 

If our generation continues this movement of self love and acceptance for all body types there will be fewer '12 year old Emily's' on their knees in tears because their body isn't what they want. There will be a reduction in boys buying dodgy steroids in a backstreet as they know that those celebrities six pack probably aren't so defined and perfect in real life. Why are we okay living in a world where things like these are a regular occurrence due to the medias desire to make ourselves feel bad so we buy their products? 

 The moment that people stop focusing on the airbrushed adverts, the diet pills, the shaving products and muscle powders they will become much happier. I promise. Focusing on making oneself happy should be everyones priority and if that means facing reality then so be it. Accepting your flaws and knowing that someone will love you despite them (even for them) is much more fulfilling than any drop on the scale. 

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I'm 17 years old and I'm staring in the mirror tracing my hands over my quite flabby frame. I have large but different sized breasts, hips that won't quit and I'm happy. I'm convinced that I am slightly fat, yet I know that I'm beautiful but most of all I'm happy and that's all that matters.



Monday, 30 May 2016

Brilliant Pre-teen Novels


I haven't been a pre-teen for a very long time; however I kept all my novels from this strange time to give to my brother to read when his time came. Sadly that time came and it turned out that my brother was a 'reluctant' reader to say the least so if we managed to get him to read a book everyone felt like throwing a party. 

Around 30% of my readers fall into the '10-13' age category; however I can imagine that a number of my other readers may want to try these books themselves or they may consider buying them for a relative or a friend. Some people may have wanted me to split these up to 'boys' and 'girls' books but I believe that there is no gender for novels and they can be enjoyed by people of all ages and sexes. 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 

This book is short but deals with such difficult topics that I think it is best suited for 13 year olds. It's not very difficult to read nor is it graphic by any means; however I think older children will understand it better. It follows the story of Merlinda Sordino during her first year at her high school after an eventful summer that caused her to lose all of her friends and to leave her as an outcast. Throughout the novel you learn what happened during that summer for this to happen and the reactions of friends and family. The author writes it in a thoughtful, careful way which poses many questions to the reader and the novel will stay with you for a while as it is so realistic. Also, if you enjoy it there is a film based on the novel but I have never watched it.  

Holes by Louis Sachar

If you haven't heard of holes you obviously never went to an English secondary school as everyone has sat through the film at the end of term or studied to novel in depth for the entire year. The novel follows Stanley Yelnat during his time at Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre where him and the other boys have to dig a hole five foot wide and five foot deep every single day and the have to report every single thing they find to the camp owner. They claim that it is character building but is that the only reason? 

This novel will take you on a journey with all the boys at the camp and will keep you interested with the many twists and turns along with added humour. There is also a fantastic film adaption which is almost as good as the book and is a must watch movie (also it's probably free as it has been out for years).

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur 

Gosh I loved this book. I read it several times (you may be able to tell by the state of the spin) when I was in year six and it was my favourite book for about a year. It is the story of Aubrey who is abandoned by her depressed mother and she moves in with her gran (no spoilers, this happens in the first 20 pages or so). It is an incredibly moving novel about friendship, family and coping after awful events occur. I think I cried every time I read it. I don't want to say too much as it will give it away but I think that this is the perfect book to introduce someone to teenage fiction (it doesn't have swearing or sex scenes in but deals with 'adult' issues - I would recommend this to every pre-teen).

When I was Joe by Keren David 

I gave this to my brother when he was 12 and the next week he sat down and said that it was the best book he had ever read and could he have another (it's a trilogy). Although I wouldn't say that it is the best novel that I have ever read I can understand why he enjoyed it so much. It's fast paced, gripping and humorous in places. It is also not suitable for people below 12 as I can remember there being a interesting scene in a park. 

The book is about a boy called Ty who goes into a witness protection program after witnessing a stabbing and naming those involved. He starts a new life as Joe and all is a okay for a bit until his mum begins to crumble and the gang begin doing everything they can to find Ty and his mum. This novel is shocking but brilliant.

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichills

Do you remember the teen-cancer phase of 2012 after the release of The Fault in Our Stars, well this book precedes this and this has made it slightly more original than the others. This novel is slightly like 'Before I Die' but for younger reads (no sex or drugs here, I promise). Sam is 11 years old and has terminal cancer so writes a list of questions that he seeks to find the answer to before he dies. I can't promise that you will cry but I did as it is a very moving novel (I mean, he has terminal cancer) but it is quite funny in places and not as depressing as it sounds. 

Skulduggery Pleasent by Derek Landly

I don't know if other countries went through a Skulduggery but the UK did and I am so glad. These books are fantastic, they are dark, funny, fast pasted, moving - basically they are everything that you can look for in a book. It is suitable for 10 year olds but I assure you that 40 year olds have read the books. This is one of the books that you will reread and tell everyone about for years. When I was reading them I had to wait years for the next book to be released but for all the lucky new readers, the series has finished so you can binge read the entire series (that is something that I am jealous of). I don't want to give too much away but it is about a young girl and a DEAD detective fighting evil. Seriously, they are amazing.

Just Henry by Michelle Magorian

First of all this book is long (720 pages long), but is brilliantly written and has so many twists and turns that it is almost as if it is several very fluid novels in one. It is set post World War Two and is about a young boy called Henry who takes an interest in cinematography to distract him from his grief as a result of his dad dying a war hero. But soon his life begins to unravel and Henry is left trying to pick up all the pieces - often leaving him in dangerous situations with a mystery to solve. It is a fantastic novel for confident or just determined readers - you will not regret reading this book. At all.