The One With The Anti-Diet Riot Fest


If you've been anywhere in my vicinity over the past year or so then you'll know that I've been getting on my high horse good and proper regarding one particular thing.


Body positivity.


As a female. A white, binary, cisgender, post-babies female to boot, I am the ultimate target audience for the diet industry. Slimmish with ripples, tall with plump parts, lanky with soft edges. Why would I not want to tone, reduce, prune, taper, pinch, tighten, condense, deplete and generally 'improve'? That 'ideal me' is just within grasping distance if I go on this diet or join that gym or drink this tea . . .


Surely that's worth a buck or two of my heard earned cash?



Erm, no.


I'll tell you what's worth a buck or two. A festival that shits on all of that. From a great height.


So even though it's January, and even though my overdraft is reaching new and previously unexplored depths of despair, I somehow found the (very reasonable) cash to go to said festival organised by Body Positivity activists, Anti-Diet Riot Club. And bearing in mind that January is THE month we are made to feel shit about ourselves, and that we should somehow be uncovering a 'new you' or a 'better version', then actually, it's the perfect time to rage against the machine.


I found a buddy to go with (Hayley from Sparkles and Stretchmarks fame), we sorted a hotel, navigated the complexities of South West Rail, organised an elaborate and impenetrable childcare rota (only just short of a Powerpoint presentation) packed our bags and I bought a new t-shirt off t'internet.


Nobody can ever tell me I'm not organised

Yes, I'll admit, I did have a t-shirt-clinging crisis before I left for London. Yes, it was my favourite shade of purple, and yes, it was emblazoned with the slogan 'Riots Not Diets' so was ridiculously apt for my atypical time off to romp through all things body-lovin'. But hey, I'm just a human who's been brainwashed by the media to believe my body will never be good enough and it just seemed to cling in all the wrong places.


However, after a couple of strong-worded, but well-meaning texts from Hayley (who is my body positivity guru these days and she could be yours too, check her out at @hayley.is), I was reminded that there are no wrong places where something can cling AND it is the clothes' job to fit me, not my job to fit the clothes. Nuff said. The scissors were in my hand within seconds and I came up with something to rival anything Stella McCartney could whack on the catwalk.



Forgive the clothes drying on the radiator. Not so Stella Mccartney

So having landed in fancy London town with Hayley, and on that Sunday morning feeling suitably comfy and sparkly in my customised t-shirt and Superdrug sequins clutching my ample cheeks, we Ubered our way on over to that festival like it was the last one we were going to escape to ever (which, us having mothered five kids between us, it probably was).


At the entrance to the venue (the epicentre of British trendiness that was Colours Hoxton), we were met with a banner that I was tempted to pinch just so I could display it at the door to my own home, or maybe wear on my back wherever I went. Then I realised it would just be easier to absorb the ethos over the course of the day so much so that it would be in my very bones.




And what better way to start than dive into a 'Strutology' workshop lead by the rather fabulous Zoe McNulty, otherwise known as the headmistress of School of Strut? Yes it was ten o'clock in the morning, but that didn't stop me and a whole gang of other women of all shapes and sizes from dimming the lights, turning on the glitter ball, cranking up the beats and strutting our stuff as if we were performing for an audience made up exclusively of diet industry bigwigs.


(Now there's an idea.)


Seriously though, a whole hour of swaying hips, contorting torsos and draping your fingers all over your body to smooth, sassy beats, can honestly do wonders for the soul. I almost didn't care that I'd forgotten to stick a deodorant in my handbag as my endorphins started their own little house party. Every day should start like that, don't you think?


What's not to love about THAT?

And as if that wasn't enough, Hayley and I spent the rest of the day in talks and panels focused on not just body positivity, but I would say, more aptly, body liberation. I learned about the politics of ugliness, lookism, colonialism, intersectional feminism, gentrification, sexual activism, transgender politics . . . and so much more that went far beyond how I might feel about my t-shirt clinging in the 'wrong' places.


Particularly wonderful people I would recommend seeking out, if you're interested in these things are: Joeley Bishop, Heather Widdows, Michelle Elman, Imogen Fox, Ericka Hart, Artikah Gunathasan, and Dinah Gibbons. And if you want to join the anti-diet riot movement, get on to the wonderful Harri Rose and Becky Amoi Young.


It was worth subjecting my kids to a rigorous childcare routine for two days!

This past year has been - among other things - my chance to work out how I feel about my body now that I know I've been misled and lied to by previously trusted sources regarding things like health, size, fatness, beauty and wellness. It's been a long, hard slog and I've danced with some demons that needed to be danced with. Including feeling my body had let me down big time as I suffered my third miscarriage to date.


But, I had to start somewhere, and my somewhere has dragged me right through some pain and some grief for the woman I could have been if I hadn't focused all my energies on feeling inadequate and yearning to 'improve'.


But, as mindfulness has taught me, I'm here now and it's no use pining. I'm ready to be happy and grateful for a body that works, a body that runs, jumps, twists and turns, a body that tastes and feels and smells and sees and hears. A body I can decorate, a body I can celebrate. A body I can recognise as being largely accepted and therefore privileged and now I want to know what my body (and heart) can do to help lift up those who aren't so privileged.


Because come on guys, surely compassion has got to be at the root of all of this.


We're all human, right?


And I'm bound to make some mistakes along the way. I'm not an authority on the subject and as rough a ride as I might have had getting to a place of body-acceptance, it is certainly nothing compared to what marginalised groups of people have to endure day after day. I fully expect to say some massively ignorant things and I ask for your patience when this happens. But I want to learn, and we can't learn anything without fucking up from time to time, can we?


So, as ever, you have me in my full-on imperfect glory, rolls and ripples included.


Watch this space.


Go well,


Abi

xxx



Recommended Reading:


You Are Enough by Harri Rose

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen

Body Positive Power by Megan Crabbe

Am I Ugly by Michelle Elman

Love Your Lady Landscape by Lisa Lister


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