There are plenty of people rocking it in larger bodies, living full and happy lives. And to show you that you don’t have to be a certain size or shape to live a life you love and feel good in your body, I’ve got some interviews with some lovely ladies that I’ll be sharing over the coming weeks.
My first one is with the fab Rachel Gee Bee. Rachel Gee Bee is a plus size fashion and lifestyle commentator. When she isn’t posting about her style on Instagram she is running her own social media agency, walking her dog or arguing with people on the internet about being kinder to themselves and others. You can find her @rachelgeebee on Instagram or her Facebook page or blog.
Tell us a bit about your body image background. Have you always been body positive or have you had your struggles?
I was lucky to grow up in a home where appearance just didn’t come into the equation so it wasn’t until I was around 12 years old and starting to go through puberty that things changed for me. Other people were scrutinizing my body and things as innocuous as infomercials about weight loss and exercise equipment were beginning to influence how I should feel about my body…. and teenage girls I think begin that strange habit of praising how someone looks in comparison to their own body…. putting themselves down to praise a friend, which started around that time as well. So all this noise centred on my body and appearance and how it could be improved didn’t really contribute to a body positive mindset.
Personality wise I am a bit of a non conformist so while I never felt overly comfortable in my body once I got to young adulthood I didn’t really care too much about what people thought about it either. Regardless of whatever messaging I was receiving about my body from media or well meaning friends I have always loved expressing myself through fashion so it was really when I began shopping online and connecting with women from all over the world who wanted to talk about what clothes I was wearing that I really found a body positive mindset. When you are interacting and creating friendships online with women of all shapes and sizes, and you are celebrating women who look a lot like you do, it makes it a lot easier to celebrate yourself, as you are. If you can see their beauty, you can see your own.
What made you ditch the pressure to reach the ‘ideal body’ portrayed by society?
Intellectually what is the ideal body anyway… a sample size that is cost effective for clothing manufacturers to make? Seems like a silly thing to base an ideal on when you think about it like that.
But also I just don’t have mental energy to give a competition that we as women are automatically signed up for, where there is no winner.
I want to spend my time and energy on growing my business, loving my family, cherishing my friends. And if I am focused on that, there simply is no time to dedicate to chasing ideals that are really setup purely to make money from consumers – if they can convince you something is wrong, then they can sell you the antidote to your problem.
What’s changed for you since you’ve become more body positive?
As a perfectionist I’ve had to learn to be more gracious and kind to myself and that includes recognizing that some days are still a challenge when it comes to changing my thoughts about my body. I may catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window and automatically think something disparaging about my appearance… but the change is that I stop and correct myself.
It will be a constant battle to re-wire my brain of the messages it receives every day about women’s bodies. It doesn’t make me a body positive failure, it is simply recognition of what we are up against when we stop subscribing to ideals.
How do you cope with those negative thoughts we all sometimes get about how we look?
Firstly I make sure the clothes I wear are ones that make me feel good, it’s much harder to have a down day when you love your wardrobe. And in the early days I spent a lot of time exploring what parts of my body I really liked. So I would try really hard to replace negative thoughts with good ones – don’t like how round my tummy looks in this skirt? But look at my legs. But look at my bum. But look at my smile.
But sometimes we have to acknowledge that we’re just having a shit day and be ok with the temporary feeling of negativity and work through it – are you tired? are you hungry? do you need water? did someone say something that made you feel bad about yourself? Most feelings have a root cause – sometimes just staying hydrated and away from people who say stupid things is a great antidote to feeling crappy.
What would be your top three tips for embracing the body you have?
- Figure out what you love about your body – and bonus points if they aren’t related to appearance!
- Find other women who inspire you, who look like you. If you can see the beauty in someone else who looks like you, then you have to be able to recognize it in yourself
- Stop buying women’s magazines – they don’t help anyone except advertisers.
Who would you recommend to follow on social media for body positivity?
My body positivity journey came about via plus size fashion – so there are all women who are unique and who don’t see their body as a challenge to overcome which resonates with me
- Georgina Cox from @fullerfigurefullerbust
- Chastity Garner Valentine @garnerstyle
- Fat Yoga NZ @fatyoganz
- Meagan Kerr from @thisismeagankerr
- Fran Robertson @frantasy_Island
- Sarah Chiwaya from @curvily