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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

Fitness and Health

Blog every day in May, day 5: What do you do to stay fit or be a healthy individual? Share any useful tips and advice. Or tell us about your plans to get healthier.

When I was young, I was fed a very messed up attitude to food and body image. I was taught that thin was good and that food was the enemy. As a result, I grew up hating how I looked. I grew up missing out on opportunities because I was ashamed of my body. I avoided, at all costs, any social situation where someone, somehow, might *see* me. I grew up hiding. I grew up torturing myself with cycles of starvation and secret binging. I grew up thinking that how I looked was more important than who I was, thinking that I was weak and repulsive. I grew up thinking that anyone who ever said I was pretty was either mocking me or feeling sorry for me.

It has taken me until now, until the age of nearly 37, to finally start repairing that damage. Deep down, I have always known that beauty is more than skin deep and that it comes in all shapes and sizes, but now I will say it out loud. BEAUTY COMES IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES! From the flat-chested, to the curvy, from the no hips to the big hips, from the skinny to the voluptuous… “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely” (Roald Dahl).

I have begun to accept that I will never be a Naomi Campbell or a Kate Moss. That’s just not the way I was made. But that’s ok. I still do crave the smaller size (I would be lying to say otherwise – some ills take a lifetime to heal), but I am also more accepting and more forgiving of my body now. My body is amazing. Not because my legs are super long or my waist super tiny (they’re not), not because my hip bones jut out or because my boobs are pert and bouncy. But because my body is healthy. It has got me this far in life despite how badly I have treated it and all the horrible things I’ve said about it. It hasn’t held a grudge. It has carried and nurtured two beautiful children and it can carry them still. It can run and tumble and get up again.

My body is healthy. Healthy isn’t a shape. It isn’t a BMI number. BMI – or body mass index – is based on your height and weight alone. It doesn’t take into account muscle mass (and since muscle is heavier than fat, that’s kind of a big thing to omit). It doesn’t differentiate between men and women. And women, shock horror, have two things that tend to weigh a bit. For most of my life, I have been healthy, but for most of my life my BMI has told me, quite categorically, that I am overweight. Even now, it thinks I am closer to being overweight than underweight. No, healthy isn’t a BMI number. It’s something else. It’s being able to chase your daughter across the park, it’s being able to pick up your two year old son and spin him round while he giggles, it’s being able to touch your toes, or dance like crazy with the curtains closed, it’s about feeling good and happy and strong.

And that is how I feel right now. I feed good and happy and strong, for the first time in my life. My weight might not be a skinny weight. My BMI might not be that of a model. My tummy might not be completely flat. My thighs might not be entirely smooth. But that’s alright. Because I am healthy. And for the first time in my life, I am realizing that that is more important than being the perfect shape or size. And I hope – more than almost anything else in life – that my children will grow up knowing that too.

Talking of my children, please let me share a little of my daughter’s wisdom (imparted as she watched me get dressed at the weekend): “mummy, I think you should stop running because your boobs are disappearing and if you have another baby – you never know mum! – you won’t be able to feed it”. BMI, eat your heart out! I’ll be using the WAT (what Amélie thinks) index from now on.

6 May 2013 - 11:00 PM erin - I am so glad, Cass.. that from now on- you will not waste one more beautiful day not loving your every bit. That your energy is spent loving life, loving yourself, befriended to yourself. You are an incredible woman.

6 May 2013 - 11:06 PM erin - the world already has a naomi campbell, and a kate moss.. and, the world already has a cass dottridge, the one and only that ever has been, and ever will be. that's pretty incredible, right?! she is so fabulously unique, creative, beautiful, smart. she is so wonderfully the one and only.

7 May 2013 - 1:03 AM Ingrid - Your posts always speak to me. They really do and this one screamed out. I'm so happy there is you and not another anyone else duplicate. You are beautiful inside and out and I do believe the Dahl's quote reflects in you and your spirit. xxoo I know how the things we hear as children affect us..and how it makes it scary when you are raising your own children, because you want to make sure they blossom and are never wilted with your words. Yes, yes yes..it's what's on the inside always.

7 May 2013 - 1:09 AM Angie - Whilst it manifested itself differently with me I can totally relate to the whole screwed-up relationship with food and body image thing. I'm glad you don't listen to those voices any more and that you've got Amélie there to give you some home truths. Ignore the numbers, you're hot!

8 May 2013 - 7:33 PM tara - you are just magic.

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