Thursday, 27 January 2022

The Workplace is no place for Body Shaming...

There is no place for body shaming.

January is always a frustrating time for me with the narrow talk of 'New Year, New You' (, ill-considered resolutions around exercise regimes (not bad in itself but...), and back to work chat about losing weight post-Christmas. I recognise there is a marketing benefit to this time for many including image consultants, and it's a relevant perspective to think of the fresh and new. I however tend to let the bandwagon pass me by, and this year that's been even more pointed for me as I've openly talked about needing to ease into 2022 proper. 

And yet, here we are because I just needed to put down on 'paper' my thoughts on some public, workplace body shaming that's just happened, and on the response to it. 

That it happens at all is bad. That it happened in Parliament is, somehow,  especially infuriating - they're meant to be a pinnacle, no?! That some people have responded with a 'so what' attitude and judgment reinforcing the negative (grrr) is sad. That it was passed off as acceptable banter because of the relationship between the belittler and the belitted is why I'm screaming... It is not ok, irrespective. 

None of it is ok. At all. (As I've referred to before:

But, sadly, it is deemed so. 
Let's face it - body shaming happens in the street, in restaurants, in media, in entertainment (one for another day) and in the office. It happens within family and friendship groups. It happens in brash, and subtle ways. With an openness that would not be tolerated for other groups.  And so it is too often passed off as banter, without a care for the person it is directed at. 

What's 'good' in this instance is that it was recognised and called out by many. 

Maybe the tide is turning. Maybe someone will think twice about doing it. Maybe it can (re)start the conversation. And so here I am, and with an offer. 

There are plenty of qualified people and expert organisations who are on this issue, but I've been talking about the issue of body image and weight stigma in the context of the workplace in my HR and diversity roles for a bit now so this is my zone. 

Workplaces should not be toxic. Our colleagues should not be subjected to harm. And make no mistake body shaming is damaging to the person and also to the workplace - it's culture, reputation and the bottom line.

My offer is therefore to help in this space... Are you someone who wants to know how to navigate or raise this issue at work - a manager or HR professional, coach or wellbeing lead? I can work with you to tackle this form of workplace bullying, (and yes, that's what it is) so please do get in touch. It doesn't have to be a battle. It isn't an issue that stands alone. So let's challenge this, as many are now doing with the aforementioned January narratives and, say goodbye to this shaming being acceptable anywhere. 

Like I said, this is a workplace issue - Parliament is a place of work.

Thanks for coming to my TedTalk!!!
Look after yourself and be kind to others.
Denise x

PS - responding by fat shaming the shamer (who will themselves be reflecting what society deems acceptable) is not the way to go, it is damaging and reinforcing. A persons performance should not be conflated with their body. 

I: bodyconfidencecards_db
T: @_BodyConfidence
F: Body Confidence Card Club

Monday, 22 March 2021

10 Reasons why Body Confidence is like Water!

 World Water Day

World water day is a reminder to us all to appreciate the gift of water - a precious natural commodity, just as we are! We should not take water for granted and it really is a first-world privilege for many of us. For others, it does not come so easy.

Today, reminded me to be thankful. Then I started thinking! And then linking... and here we are:

Does any of this resonate for you?

Keep it flowing,
Denise x

I: bodyconfidencecards_db
T: @_BodyConfidence
F: Body Confidence Card Club

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Hair today, Gone tomorrow?

No hair? No fear?

I've seen several posts, and had some conversations, about the first thing people will do after lockdown ends (again, this time, for a time?). For me, second only to seeing my family and friends is a trip to the hairdressers.

It may seem vain but my hair is not just about a look for me - it's a real marker of health and wellbeing. 

Some years ago after a particularly stressful time, my hair started falling out in clumps. And all these years later, I still have a notable, impacting bald patch. Stress is still a factor. I suspect a likely lack of vitamin D will play its part and for others, there will be other reasons too. It is an annoyance and a frustration because I can't just do what I want with my hair. It's bigger than my personal perspective too because society prizes hair... and lots of it. Again, it's often that hair is linked to health as well as to society's narrative of beauty. Don't believe me... just look at TV ads and magazines! 

H for Hidden in the Body Confidence Card deck was inspired by this thinking. Hairloss is something we try to hide, are encouraged to. Something I've tried to deny and ignore.

I'm fortunate that I've had some great stylists over the years, and these days wigs and weaves are not exactly news, so it's by no means all doom and drama for me. I'm grateful for the headwear I've had during the lockdown. And I'm bolder and more open about my bald patch now anyway. However, that trip to the hairdressers will be my moment of truth... will I have lost more hair through anxiety or will less toxicity (due to less travel) and more home cooking turn the tide? Who knows!

What I do know is that after this lockdown, much like the previous ones, many of us will be seeking a treat(ment) that will appear to be pure pampering but will be so much more. 

What, if anything, is it going to be for you? - A manicure, facial, massage, body scrub, replacing skincare, or treating yourself to a new lippy? Whatever your answer, why and what can you do now while you wait are really the questions! 

If there's an underlying reason for your treats, don't lose sight of what it is and do what you can not to let it slide too far. It's important we note our health markers and do what we can to maintain our bodies and minds. Eat happy. Keep moving. Sleep well. Home spa. Think positive!

However, just a little reminder - if what you're thinking of doing is to suit a narrow societal narrative, think twice. We're still in a pandemic, health is wealth and other people's opinions about your body are just that - their opinions.

See you on the other side, where it'll be nice to have less health-fear even if it is with less hair in my case!

Stay well,
Denise πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

I: bodyconfidencecards_db
T: @_BodyConfidence
F: Body Confidence Card Club 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020 BC - Reflections

Body Confidence 2020 - My reflections

Well, what a year it's been. Reflecting over the last 12 months has made me both smile and shudder over how my Body Confidence (Cards) journey has been, especially in the context of the wider BC stories that have been playing out through this challenging year.

January got off to a great start as I attended the Anti-Diet RiotFest and it continued positively (despite the storms - remember them?) in February with my Q&A sessions after the brilliant Helen of Troy play. 

And then came 'you know what'.

Along with being galvanised to get active with Joe Wicks in March, the sound of birds and lots of acts of kindness, we were bombarded with messages about how we shouldn't eat too much (shudder 1) despite the fact that we were locked in our homes and the comfort that food legit brings in such times. I was well aware of the impact of the memes and negative messaging, especially in possibly triggering disordered eating and so my "say no" narrative started.

Like many, I tried to make the most of lockdown and in April I pushed myself to do a few videos and started a card related Instagram account (@BodyConfidenceCards_db). It was good to do something to challenge the narrative (shudder 2) that was ramping up, no thanks for Boris Johnson, around weight and covid-19. 

May was dark in many ways but a personal positive was being featured on Charlotte Markay's list of social media accounts to follow in Psychology Today.

In Summer I made the most of the weather we were blessed with but still found time to do a few bits - In June, I joined the You@Yours body confidence challenge. In July, I had a massive response to a blog on nude shoes, and in August I was inspired by a package I received to get some merchandise to improve how the cards were presented. Sadly, a wider argument was also hovering around during the summer with the frankly crap idea about weighing children on their return to school (big shudder 4)

Several months in the development, my website was finally launched in September but the real highlight of the month was that I experienced my first Body Happy Kids workshop. Beyond me, September also saw a Parliamentary discussion on Body Confidence.

With October being Black History Month, and given the discussions around race in 2020 (shudder 5), I spent time considering on how the cards reflected blackness and started planning a second edition which resulted in a new deck in November. In October, as the weather changed and I needed a boost, I also let my faith into my body confidence space by expanding my A-Z thoughts, one a day, into a Christian companion which I was grateful to be able to share. with a friend

An InstaLive with Merv of You@Yours (another first for me) wrapped up my Body Confidence year brilliantly. Sadly, this December we are also hearing about that an impact of the pandemic is an increase in cases of eating disorders (massive shudder 6). And so, as with the rest of the year I am mindful that what I do matters.

And here we are. New Years Eve. A traditional time to reflect. 

In summary, I had a body confidence cards year worth smiling about, but many of my activities were a reaction to things that made me shudder. Next year, I hope to be more proactive and up my game. Starting tomorrow.

New Years Day. A traditional time to plan! (But not the only time).

Wishing you a healthy, happy, body confident 2021!
Denise πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

I: bodyconfidencecards_db
T: @_BodyConfidence
F: Body Confidence Card Club 

Friday, 30 October 2020

Blackness and Body Image

The Body Confidence Cards HoMe(dition)!

Whether you find value in awareness days and months, they certainly inspire discussion and sometimes reflection. October is the power house of awareness events for me - World Mental Health Day, Breast Cancer Awareness and Black History Month.

A focus on Breast Cancer was a big part of my journey to Body Confidence and Black History Month has been a massive focus for me in 2020 at work and with the cards. 

One of the things I was keen on with the deck was that it be as diverse as possible, in terms of the design eg the font's readability, the images (given what images I could find/afford!) and the language. So, the original deck represented a broad range of people and left space for others to tell a story. Also, the 'Facilitator' (teacher) guide has a section on how to use the cards to amplify a diversity discussion, however...

...As I was reflecting through BHM, I started to consider what it would mean to do a High on Melanin (HoM)edition of the cards - not for BHM alone but beyond. I considered the challenges associated with blackness and image/body confidence that I and others experience everyday. Some experiences are universal but others are more pointed to the black experience.

What is different in the body image space is that black bodies have largely been considered: 

  1. less valuable (eg in the US a black person was considered less than 1, 3/5th to be precise), 
  2. more resistant to mistreatment (beatings and brutality in general, historically: medical experiments on black women, currently: data on death in childbirth) and 
  3. less beautiful re our natural features - see the powerful video below.

There is already much written on the subjects above and how blackness underpins issues like fatness*, the need for a "Crown Act" and how black women were the founders of the Body Positivity movement (which has now been highjacked into the mainstream), and I wanted to reflect some of this in the cards. *see Sabrina Strings: "Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia".

With this in mind, the HoMe(dition) features all black and brown bodies, shows different hair and skintones (though more could be done I know), has three different alphabet cards on our hair, lookism and the Western ideal and sets out to challenge a few stereotypes such as showing a softer side to black men. 

Once again, the exercise highlighted an issue with access to images (, and I don't claim to have represented everyone, but I do hope the new deck starts a conversation about specific issues. 

The cards will be printed soon and I can't wait to hold the new deck and be part of the discussion beyond Black History Month 2020.
Message on SM or Email me at to pre-order!

I see you!
Denise πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

I: bodyconfidencecards_db
T: @_BodyConfidence
F: Body Confidence Card Club

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Hair, part one!

Hair there? A poem - of sorts!  

Last month was #NationalAlopeciaMonth but I wasn't ready. Today, is #National PoetryDay. It's given me a nudge to share this - it's part of a bigger story and has been sitting on my phone for a bit.

Here goes...

Could it be?
There's something coming through
Where smooth and empty once was.
No, don't begin to believe Denise.
We've been here before.
The not really promises.
But the maybes 'this product will work'
There'll be some growth
There is some growth
But, sigh. Oh no,
Then and again, it was a brief, false hope
No real change, not for long anyway
Back undercover - a new wig or piece
And then, a new place
Heard a new maybe 
Not really a promise but a confident "you'll see"
That where there once was liitle or no growth
There might possibly be some
Where there was nothing
There might now be something
Progress, could it be?
Shoots, like stubble
Not getting too excited, but a quiet yippee
Some hair, my hair
Covering where the bald patch used to be.
It seems true, it seems real,
Maybe. This time. Just maybe.
Maybe it will grow
Really grow
Into a crown
Recreate the beauty that society sees
We're beautiful with or without it right?
But how most of us long to be, 
with A full head of hair
Flowing or big
Eyelashes, eyebrows, hair - our own
Not that it should matter, but it does
Either way, we're beautiful
Aren't we?
It shouldn't define me.
Whatever happens, hair today or none tomorrow
I won't let it define me, I'll be. I am.

Hair all lost, hidden, all yours, I see you!
Denise πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

Monday, 17 August 2020

The Seven Stages of Body Confidence

Our bodies - the Home of a lifetime.

In 2012, I published "Seven Stages of Style" ( and it remains one of my most read blogs to date. I've recently reflected on how this might apply to Body Image and so I've adapted it into the blog below!

According to Shakespeare in “As you like it”, there are several stages of 'man' – infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloons, and second childhood.  

Here’s my take on how Shakespeare’s stages might relate to body image, not literally but as a seven-stage principle that we may work through. These stages are not solely about age in years! - you may skip some stages entirely, rattle through others, and some may merge.

Here are some things to consider as you go through this:

1. Warning: As I type this I'm sad at how much negativity is 'forced' on us at various stages, and you may be too reading this. However, at every stage, there is always an up-side so focus on and amplify that... and it ends well (see what I did there?!)

2. Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion/reflection; not a scientific study. 

3. Note: This is fairly general. I recognise that there are factors that aren't detailed here like race, disability, trauma, family history. I'd encourage you to think about that in case it helps your reflections. 

4. Reminder: Your body is ALWAYS worthy... of care, at the very least. Take care.

5. Read '4' again and keep it in mind as you read on...

  • Stage one – Infancy:
Image: Pixabay

Technically this term covers up to the age of two. At this stage, it is unlikely that body image issues will show up in 'us' as the focus is on having our basic human needs met. However, those around us may already be describing and relating to us in ways that link to personal and societal perceptions based on our looks. This may in turn impact our parents and how they 'see' themselves and us. The current sad trend of showing an 'ugly' baby to get a shocked reaction is proof of this.

🌞The bright side: People are generally nice to babies and toddlers. They themselves are usually focused on learning to walk and talk, and discover how their bodies work over how they look. We are also usually well shielded at this stage. And parents: (you) have a miracle to focus on!

  • Stage two – Childhood:
And boom, here it starts. Whilst kids should be focused on play, friendship, learning, growth at this time, some studies suggest children as young as three are starting to think about their bodies, negatively. I'd suggest that school and family have a vital role to play at this stage, as social media and peer factors probably come into play more strongly later on. Having said that Molly Forbes points out that the 'baddie' in Disney films, for example, is portrayed as fat and/ ugly so managing what children watch, as well as the language they hear around them is important.

And as if low self esteems and poor body image were not enough, evidence suggests that actual eating disorders are on the rise in this age group, though small mercies it's still not 'common':

As adults we mustn't start to perpetuate the negatives and that we actively challenge the stereotypes. We need to watch what we do to our kids, who we let in/influence them, and watch what we say and do around children. 

How do you show up around the children around you?

🌞The bright side: We can catch it early, and there is plenty around to help us navigate body image at this age. You can still (largely) influence and redirect children, eg chose the things to watch, what they are read. Most children will still be more interested in how their bodies work and are quite fearless and playful for much of childhood. Harness that. Damn it grown-ups - be childlike in this respect!

2016 -
2019 - 

Image: Cottonbro, Pexels

  • Stage three – Our teenage years:
By this stage, a young adult may have been carrying around body confidence issues for nearly a decade. If you know/remember, or have read, anything about the teen years you'll know this is a tough time to navigate for many reasons (and backed by science about a teenager's brain development). Social media and peer pressure, puberty, hormones will all play a part in amplifying body image issues even if these haven't been present before. Often, but not always, eating disorders rear up at this stage.  In my experience (sadly) whilst bullying may have been an issue before now, teens can be pretty mean to each other, and it can be the worst time for bullying with the number one thing people will target inevitably being appearance. 

During the teen years, though, people often 'come into their own' - brain growth stabilises and how a person looks at 13 can change significantly by 19, along with their lifestyle moving through school to higher education or work. 
(* remember the reminder)

🌞The bright side: This is perhaps the age where energy most goes into addressing body confidence issues, with targeted resources and PHSE a key (although not mandatory) part of the national curriculum. Also, in the teen years, there is access to social media - whilst it is often seen as part of the problem, SM gives you choice: you can choose/be directed to a wider range of bodies and views than can be presented in the mainstream media. 

If you're a teacher or someone who works with young people, you should check out this workshop

  • Stage four – The (early) work years: 
Even here, body image &/ confidence plays a part, though by now we may have learned to mask it a bit. Again, there is evidence to suggest that society's stereotypes have an impact. Our looks such as facial features and weight affect our careers - what we go for, get, what we are paid and how we progress. If we have always had a challenging perception of ourselves, the chances are that these are deeply internalised by now and only serve to further hold us back/down. 

However, we probably have a more honed group of friends by now, more money, more choice,, and more voice (if we can find it and use it). The challenge is how we use the likely 'more' we have and how much of our 'rebellious teen spirit' we've held on to. 

🌞The bright side: All the 'more' mentioned above whereby we're at least faking it on our way to making it. Hopefully too, we're simply focused more on life itself than the body we're living that life in... 

                 What's the bright side of this stage in your opinion?

  • Stage five – Settled lifestyle time:
In my experience, we are a little less focused on our own bodies now – maybe because as partners or parents, we focus more on how others (eg our kids) feel rather than ourselves. It may also be a time when we are more sidetracked by practicalities like bills, home, and work. This doesn't mean that our body image issues have gone, that they no longer have an impact on us... just that they are less likely to be front stage.

However, based on a number of conversations, I also think this is the time when past/latent issues are most likely to creep up. It's possibly when we get frustrated about what we settled for... the 'midlife crisis' stage. We've time to think, ruminate, ask 'what if' and 'why'. Like our teen years, we can go for the 'easy target' - ourselves and what we look like (compared to what we think we should/could look like). It can also be when others start 'preaching' about their changes and try to dictate what you should do too, often under the guise of advice, care, help, concern. 
TIP: Do you. You are not a teenager anymore!

🌞The bright side: If you're in the settled phase of your life, we can turn that rumination into reflection - now might be the time to reflect, discuss body image with less fear/need/care, embrace who you, get on the road towards better self-care/self-esteem, challenge what you've held that is no longer serving you. Just a thought!

Image: Marcus Aurelius, Pexels

  • Stage six – Body Confidence Maturity?
It's not just about what we do now, it's why we do it. It's the time when we are hopefully freer-thinking, and not just doing things because work, society, partner, parent, other is telling us what to think, feel, do about/with our bodies. 

This is the one where we peak, wherever that means or needs to be for us. Not everyone will need/get to self-love, for example, body appreciation may be the place that represents our maturity. As I said at the beginning, our bodies have always been worthy. Maturity is when we embrace that. And remember, this 'maturity' is not purely about age... if it was, this is also the stage I'd most likely have to be talking about peri/menopause. (But that's for another time!)

🌞The bright side - reaching and maintaining a fairly even keel at this stage is the brightest of the bright sides. 

  • Stage seven – Old age/second childhood:
Oh to reach this stage - I'd say if you've come 'this' far I hope you're able to embrace your body for all it has done and still does despite what you may have done to it over the years. Better yet, perhaps you're more than grateful and a total 'Baddie'+!* It's brilliant to see older bodies increasingly celebrated in the media. This stage doesn't mean that long-held body issues have all gone, but it is likely your perspective/focus has changed. 

🌞The bright side:  See above. 

Image from 'Advanced Style' google search

So does this resonate or ring true for you (or someone you know), what stage are you at, and... Are you happy there?*

Wherever you are, I see you!
Denise πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

*Please let my cards help you through the stages.