How Lockdown has Impacted my Body Image

I’ve given up, friends – after seven months of this shit, I’m making a COVID times post. So yeah, let’s talk about this clusterfuck of a year as it pertains to body image.

TW: Body struggles, weight (no numbers), fitness, mental health, COVID-19 lockdown, calorie counting (no numbers)

Did any of us think, back in February and early March, that this pandemic was going to impact pretty much every aspect of our lives? Yet here we are. October, and still no end to any of this in sight.

A lot of things in my life have changed this year, most of them directly or tangentially COVID-influenced. And in a world where a lot of things are complicated right now, one of the things that is consistently complicated is my relationship with my body image.

Based on what I’ve read, I’m far from the only person struggling with this. I speak only for myself, but if any of this resonates with you, I want you to know you’re not alone.

The COVID weight gain

My relationship with my weight is a very uneven and complicated thing. I say this with the awareness that I possess rather a lot of thin privilege compared to many folks in larger bodies. Still, I’ve also noticed a drastic change in the way the world responds to me in this body, than the way it responded to me in the (far smaller) body I had in my early 20s.

Prior to COVID hitting, I’d lost a pretty significant amount of weight and was feeling great about it. I’ve put back on…. well, not all of it, but a significant amount. And I know this is Bad Feminist and Not Body Positive of me, but I’m not really okay with it.

The reasons are obvious. No longer walking miles every day across a sprawling University campus. No pole (more on that in a minute). Comfort eating and comfort drinking and honestly, probably just the sheer body-altering impacts of living under chronic stress and low-key terror for seven months.

Breaking up with monitoring

Prior to COVID, I spent c. 4 years dipping in and out of obsessive monitoring phases where I’d track my exercise, my food, my calories, forever chasing the damned green line that said my intake/output balance was “right” that day.

I’ve completely stopped that since lockdown began. I haven’t charged my fitness tracker in months (honestly I’m not even sure where it is at this point). I no longer weigh my food

Strangely, I’ve started to find my way back to a place of equilibrium. I came into lockdown monitoring and tracking and counting, which wasn’t good for me. That gave way to comfort-consuming whatever gave me a momentary break from the SHEER FUCKING HORROR of it all. Thing is, this wasn’t good for me either.

Cake tastes better when I eat it because I actually want it, rather than because I’ve barely slept in three days and a jolt of sugar might help me keep going. I like a G&T as much as the next person, but drinking alone night after night after night in front of a screen doesn’t make you miss your friends and your family and your fucking life any more. It just makes the loneliness worse when the inevitable crash sets in.

Through all this, I seem to have – almost accidentally – hit something approaching balance. I definitely eat more of the things I want than I did when I was counting and tracking everything. And I think that’s a good thing. But I also eat what I actually want and what my body is craving, rather than using sugar and alcohol as a coping strategy.

Goddess knows I am still far from fixing my broken relationship with food. I don’t want to imply for a second that I’ve hit some magical end point. To be honest, I suspect this will be a lifelong journey. All of us, especially women and AFAB people, live in a world that polices our bodies and our food constantly. Finding balance amidst all that? Well, it’s not just a battle you win once.

I’m trying to learn to be more gentle with myself over it all. To accept that I’ll have days when I deal with food guilt and start to slide back into my old obsessive ways. To accept that I’ll also have days where my depression tells me to just lie on the couch and eat my body weight in candy. Both are okay. Both are things I can learn to recognise and work with.

Finding ways to keep fit that feel good

When I found pole dancing in early 2019, I knew I’d finally found a means of exercise that was not only bearable, but brought me joy every time I did it. Of course, I haven’t been able to go dancing since early March (the studio only reopened a couple weeks ago, and my partner and I both feel it’s not sufficiently COVID-safe right now.)

In a world where I can’t do that, I kind of lost motivation to keep fit. It took me a while to even want to do anything else. I tried a few online workouts and didn’t really get on with any of them. The wrong level, absurdly punishing even when labelled as “for beginners”, or just accompanied by too much casual body-shaming commentary.

I was perhaps the last trying-to-keep-fit-on-the-internet person in the entire world to discover Yoga with Adriene. I’ve been working my way through her 30 day challenge for beginners. I’m certainly not going to become a “yoga fixes all things” devotee anytime soon, but I definitely feel physically stronger and mentally more grounded after doing sessions most days for the last few weeks.

What I like about Adriene is the way that she totally decouples the practice of yoga from being about changing your body. Her catchphrase/rallying cry is “find what feels good”. Even her “Yoga for Weight Loss,” which I will admit is how I first found her channel, isn’t really about weight loss.

I also stumbled across a Youtube video that convinced me of the joys of hula-hooping. I bought a hoop and have been doing 15 minutes a day in front of the TV. It’s silly and it’s playful and it’s easy to work up a sweat and feel awesome while my mind is focused on something else (in this case, reruns of Crazy Ex Girlfriend.)

All this to say that finding ways to keep fit in lockdown has been challenging, frustrating, but ultimately pretty rewarding.

Though I’ll still be much happier when I can hang upside down from a pole in just my underwear surrounded by badass women again.

Not having to get dressed up is a mixed blessing

Clothing and appearance and dressing up has always been a bit of a minefield for me. As your friendly resident #Sparklefemme, I love all things fancy and glittery and just that little bit extra. However, the combination of not having a body shape that mainstream fashion really understands, coupled with eclectic tastes and being basically broke until I was 26, means that shopping for clothes is… complex, at best.

Honestly, not having to think so much about what I’m going to wear every day has been freeing. I have pretty much worked in some combination of pyjamas, yoga pants, and oversized t-shirts every day since March, and I’m not sorry. Being able to prioritise comfort over dressing “acceptably” has been a blessing during an incredibly stressful time.

On the other hand, not having any real opportunity to get dressed up and sparkle has made me realise how much I miss it. Sure, I could don glitter at home, but it’s not worth the effort if it’s for no occasion. I’ve thought about wearing the catsuit on a Zoom call, but it just doesn’t feel joyful in the same way when it’s just me, my home office, and a grainy camera. I could put on a tight skirt, but where’s the fun if I can’t flirt with a stranger?

I like valuing my body and physicality as far more than a decoration… but sometimes I want to be fucking decorative, damnit! I’ve been kinda dealing with this by playing with nudes and taking more lingerie selfies.

One of the little but powerful self-care rituals I’ve cultivated in lockdown has been to start dying my hair again. For the last several years in jobs in which any non-natural colour was considered “unprofessional,” I’d often look in the mirror and long for my luscious purple locks of old. When I finally did it again, watching the gorgeous, vibrant colour emerge in all its glory as I blow-dried my hair, I felt like me again.

We have to find small joys and small ways to love ourselves in these times. It just happens that one of my small joys lives in a bottle of violet hair dye. I might not love my shape or my fitness level right now, but at least I can love this one little thing.

What I’m trying to say is… it’s complicated

It’s complicated and it’s many-faceted and it’s a work in progress. I have mostly come to terms, at this point, with the idea that it’s probably always going to be kind of complicated, and it’s always going to be a work in progress.

I can’t wake up one morning like “wahey, I love my body now!” If only it were that simple. Instead, it’s more likely to be a lifetime of steps forward and slips back, of progress and challenges, of days where it feels easy and days where it feels hard.

If lockdown taught me one thing about body image, it’s that body image isn’t static and it isn’t a one way journey.

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Quote Quest: Feeling the Fear and Posting It Anyway

“Right on the edge of fear was where trust could grow.”
― Cherise Sinclair

Content warning: this post contains frank discussion of body-shaming, body image issues, sexual violence, and imposter syndrome. Take care of yourselves, loves.

People ask me how I can do what I do.

“How do you write about your sex life on the internet? Share your innermost feelings so openly and honestly? Post naked and scantily clad pictures? Aren’t you afraid? Aren’t you scared what people will THINK!?”

Of course I’m scared. I’m fucking terrified.

Every time I post a picture of my body, I worry someone is going to shame my round belly or chubby waistline or pubic hair. Of course, I worry that when I take my clothes off at kink events, as well. (Remember those?)

And you know what? Occasionally they do. Just a few weeks ago, a guy on a fetish site fat-shamed me when I said I wasn’t interested in playing with him. Every discussion of body hair eventually attracts at least one person talking about how “disgusting” it is. Every time someone says something cruel about my body specifically or the bodies of people that look like me, I want to retreat. I want to go away and make myself small and hide and apologise.

But I don’t, because it is not their fucking right to tell me that I am wrong.

I posted a nude to Twitter last night. I don’t do this particularly often but enjoy it once in a while. My followers on Twitter are absurdly kind and every comment I received was genuinely lovely and made me smile and blush. Does that mean that every time my phone pings with a notification for 48 hours or so after a new pic goes up, I don’t flinch with fear at what horrible thing someone might have said? Of course not.

It goes a step further, too. I’m afraid of getting sexually assaulted again, of course – find me a woman, female-read or AFAB person who isn’t. But more specifically than that, I’m afraid that if I do, my pictures and my blog will be used against me. That I’ll be the slut who was asking for it because there’s tens of thousands of words about my sex life and more than a few pictures of my naked body floating around on the internet.

It’s not just about the pictures either, though a lot of my insecurities are centred around my body image so that’s where a lot of the fear congregates.

Almost every time I post a piece of fiction, I’m worried someone is going to tell me I’m a shit writer and should just pack it in. Every time I submit to a client, there’s a little voice in the back of my head saying “who the fuck are you that you think this is worth someone paying for?” If I post a negative review of a product, I worry I’ll be met with slander and threats from the company.

When I speak out about transphobia or rape culture or mental health, I fear the trolls and the bigots and the doxxers coming for me. When I speak up about the abuse I’ve suffered, I fear my abuser finding it and recognising himself and raining hellfire down on me in retribution.

So no, I don’t do this because I’m fearless. Truth is, I’m often afraid. I do this because I love it, and I don’t want fear to rule me. I do this because, despite everything, I still believe we all have the power to make the world a little bit brighter if we choose to.

I’m not brave. I just feel the fear and publish it anyway.

The Quote Quest badge, for a post about feeling the fear and posting anyway

This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Plus-Size Lingerie and Body Love [A Review, of Sorts]

This post contains frank descriptions of body image issues and weight loss (no numbers) and discusses external and internalised fatphobia. Please look after yourselves and skip this one if this is likely to be difficult for you. This one is quite vulnerable for me – please be kind. Thank you.

[Update: the red set in this piece has since been discontinued. I’ve left links in to the rest of the range for reference.]

A pretty curvy woman in the Rendezvous plus-size lingerie set from LovehoneyI am currently fatter than I have ever been in my life. And I am not, truth be told, okay with this.

To be honest, I feel bad even writing that. I don’t know if I am allowed to complain that I experience fatphobia at this size – where I never have before. Plenty of people who are bigger than me experience far worse. But there we are. These things exist on a spectrum. And many people, from men who might want to fuck me to service staff, treat me noticeably worse now than they did 50lb ago.

A pretty curvy woman in the Belle Amour plus-size lingerie bra set from LovehoneyEven though I’m frequently attracted to gorgeous babes of all sizes, fat and thin and everywhere in between, I really struggle with seeing my body like this. I have to be in a lot of photos at my day job, and I’ve often ended up going to the loos to have a sneaky cry after seeing a photo of myself. It’s probably fair to say I currently hate my body most of the time.

I’m on a long journey right now of getting back to the weight where I felt good about my body, while also trying to love it as it is on the way. Part of the problem is that a lot of my clothes, and especially a lot of the clothes I used to feel good in, don’t fit me at the moment. This includes all the gorgeous lingerie I’ve accrued in two years of sex blogging. (Small mercies, I can still get into the catsuit of joy, but just barely.)

So when my pals at Lovehoney announced they were launching two new lines of plus-size lingerie, I agreed to try it out. Still at a place of being reluctant to call myself “plus-size,” I nervously selected a couple of pieces and waited for them to arrive. They then sat on the sofa for several days, staring at me. Making me feel guilty for not trying them and scared to try them in equal measure. What if they looked awful? If they didn’t fit? If I ended up just hating my body even more?

Eventually I did try them, when I was alone in the house and there was no-one but me and the mirror to judge me. (Not that my sweethearts would ever negatively judge me, but internalised fatphobia is strong, y’all).

Meet Belle Amour & Rendezvous

Belle Amour and Rendezvous are Lovehoney’s two new lines of plus-size lingerie. Unlike their other offerings, these ranges are exclusive to Plus and cover sizes 18-28 (that’s UK sizes).

“Belle Amour” is a red-themed range (two of the sets also have black accents) which is bright, bold and sexy as hell. The two “Rendezvous” pieces are inspired by fetishwear and characterised by black fabrics, gold studded collar and belt, and fishnet lace. Woof.

The pieces I chose & my experience

I decided to go for one basque and one bra set, to get the best overall sense of the range. I chose the Rendezvous Studded Fishnet Basque and the Belle Amour Longline Bra Set.

When I first got lingerie from Lovehoney, I was really pleasantly surprised at the quality. Unlike what you get from a lot of sex shops and online retailers, this stuff is fantastically made and uses real high-quality materials. These pieces were no exception. The satin looks anything but cheap, and the lace is unbelievably soft.

I tried on the Rendezvous set first. I’m a big fan of fishnet and I love the floral pattern interspersed with the netting – it gives the set a gorgeous kinky/femme edge. The studded belt is my favourite part, though. I love how it accentuates the curve of my waist.

Sexy lingerie, including plus-size lingerie, is not designed for comfort, so I won’t pretend it was the most comfy thing in the world. But the material is soft and non-scratchy enough that I could wear it for a few hours at an event without too much trouble.

I think this one is coming out at the next kink event we go to…

Next up was the Belle Amour set. I was initially less sure about this one. For starters, it shows off my stomach which isn’t a part of my body I am particularly fond of.

But the longer I wore it, the more I loved the shape it gives to my breasts and the way the garter belt hugs the curve of my hips. I also think the long line bra style, which hits just at the top of my waist, is a super flattering cut for me. The whole aesthetic is delightfully femme.

This is definitely the more comfortable of the two – again, I cannot overestimate how soft this lace is!

Now I just need to get me some wonderful stockings to complete the look…!

Some reactions:

I think it’s safe to say the reactions from my partners and sexy friends were overwhelmingly positive.

“Woof!” – anonymous friend

“*heart eyes emoji*” – other anonymous friend

“So ridiculously hot.” – the Artist

*Drags me into the bedroom for immediate sex* – Mr CK

A note on sizing

As ever, femme clothing sizing continues to be a mystery. Lovehoney’s plus-size lingerie comes in three sizes: 18/20, 22/24, and 26/28. However, each basque and bra has three rows of hooks-and-eyes and some stretch, making them adjustable to a reasonable degree.

Regardless of what size I’ve been at, I have always had disproportionately large boobs compared to the rest of my body. I don’t normally do bras so I haven’t had a measurement done in years. But at a guess I’m probably an E or F cup right now. This means I often have to go a size up in tops and anything with a built-in bra.

I requested these pieces in size 18/20. I’m wearing a 16 in most things at the moment, occasionally an 18 on top thanks to the aforementioned tits. However, on the tightest hook setting these pieces fitted like a dream. Even the cups were a perfect size and actually covered my nipples properly! All the straps are adjustable, from the bra straps to the pieces that attach the collar to the basque. The collar, though not adjustable, is stretchy enough that I can pull it over my head so it will fit the vast majority of neck sizes.

The knickers on both pieces were very, very slightly big on me but really nowhere near enough as to be problematic.

Care and Cleaning

Unfortunately, these pieces – as with most sexy lingerie – are hand-wash only. We actually do put them through the washing machine, in a net bag on the most gentle cycle and they’ve been absolutely fine, but your mileage may vary.

The Verdict

I love both of these sets, and these whole ranges! Interestingly, both my partners agreed that the red set was their favourite, but the black feels like more “me” when I wear them. Perhaps I’m just not very used to bright colours! Black feels much more comfortable, much more… safe?

More than anything, I want to emphasise how goddamn sexy I feel in these pieces. I cried when I’d finished trying them. The whole experience reminded me how it feels to love what I see in the mirror. That’s been… a while.

So what now?

Whatever size you are, if you’re struggling with how you see your body, I recommend getting something to wear that you feel absolutely gorgeous in. This might be lingerie or it might not – what makes us feel good is very personal.

This experience has not cured my body-image issues by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure that’s entirely possible. Body image is more complex than the availability of plus-size lingerie. We live in a society that hates fat bodies, that encourages women to hate themselves, and that profits off insecurities and imperfections the media has convinced us we have.

But putting on this this gorgeous plus-size lingerie, taking photos and letting my lovers tell me how sexy I am, has reminded me that my body can still be hot and desirable and perfect, exactly as it is right now. And that has to be worth something.

Thanks to Lovehoney for providing me with these pieces to try. As ever, all opinions are my own. If you purchase through my affiliate links, you send a small commission my way at no extra cost to you. Professional product photos are property of Lovehoney and used with permission. Other images are mine – do not steal them.