Recently, I was in Topshop looking for a pair of jeans. In a classic Topshop move however, only sizes six to ten were on display. I asked the sales assistant if they had any in a size twelve, and her reply really got to me: "Sorry, we don't have any big sizes".
Now I know I'm not small. I'm 5 foot 9, have 40 inch hips, and hair with its own orbit. I know I don't look like a Victoria's Secret model (although considering the wonders of airbrushing, hours of full body make-up and push-up bras, I highly doubt Victoria's Secret models look like Victoria's Secret models either). But referring to a woman my size as "big", when the national average for women in the UK is to be 5 foot 5 and a size 14, seems a bit of a stretch.
I could easily dissect why I saw being called "big" an insult, but I won't; someone on the internet has probably already done it much better than I could. The fact is I've spent 23 years living in a society where referring to a woman as "big" is generally not a compliment. To the sales assistant it was probably nothing more than an off-hand comment, and fortunately I was able to brush it off. Had she said it to someone else - someone suffering from an eating disorder, someone with lower self-esteem, someone in the middle of a weight loss plan - the impact could have been much worse.
I don't think it's bold to say that every woman struggles with her body from time to time. It's been reported that only 20% of British women consider themselves "body confident". Girls as young as five worry about their size. Off-hand comments like the one made to me can result in insecurities that last a lifetime. I used to hate my height, because my brother once told me that I should "stop growing because boys don't like tall girls". I didn't wear halter neck tops for years, purely because in Mean Girls Regina George says she can't wear them because of her "man-shoulders". Seriously. When I was at my thinnest, it was because severe anxiety had literally panicked two stone off my body. I was scared to be mentally well again, because people kept saying "you look so good!", even though I felt like shit on the inside.
Put all this in the context of a world that scrutinises everything about women's appearances, right down to our vaginas (you heard that right kids, labiaplasty is now one of the fastest growing surgeries among young women), and you've got a huge ticking time-bomb of insecurities, ready to go off at the drop of a hat.
Christmas is a time when women's relationships with our bodies can become particularly strained. One side of us is saying to eat our body weight in pigs in blankets, the other telling us we'll regret it when we don't look like Gigi Hadid come summer. In January, the onslaught of "new year, new me" pressure will arrive, brainwashing us into joining an overpriced gym and juicing all our food. This is the festive dilemma for women everywhere. One minute we're immersed in this wonderful world of food and alcohol and lovely things, the next we're bombarded with images of "perfect" bodies and "clean eating" and courgetti. It just doesn't match up. I don't even own a spiralizer.
I know there's nothing anyone can say to cancel out years of society pressuring women to look a certain way, and forcing women to spend money they don't have on products that make them fit a completely invented standard of beauty. But I would like to make a request to women everywhere. This Christmas, I would like to ask you to simply not give a fuck about what anyone thinks about your body.
Give yourself a day off worrying about your cellulite, the little roll on your tummy, that one boob that's slightly smaller than the other. If you can't manage a whole day, even a couple of hours where you don't give a fuck is better than nothing. Every minute that you refuse to care what people think represents a massive middle finger to the world that's made billions by putting you down.
Eat the chocolate coins. Finish the roast potatoes. Don't think about macros. If eating loads of avocados on rye bread genuinely does float your boat, then do that. Spend all day in your pyjamas. Wear that dress you love but aren't 100% sure if it's "flattering". Don't wear any make-up. Wear all the make-up you can get your hands on. WHY NOT. The point I'm trying to make, is to just let yourself live.
Besides the birth of a little someone called Jesus, Christmas is about love and forgiveness (and treating yo'self). This year, give yourself the ultimate gift and do whatever you want without giving a single hoot about it. At the very least, as body positive activist and all-round good egg Ruby Tandoh recently put it: "Don't let a Hemsley + Hemsley ruin your Christmas". Of course, the ideal would be to love your body for life, not just for Christmas, but you have to start somewhere. Because I think I speak for a lot of women out there when I say that worrying about our bodies is exhausting, and babes - you deserve a break.