"What do you think pretty is?" This was the question a teacher at my daughter's school asked during a PSHE lesson last week. The responses from the group of 13 year olds were varied but the one that provoked the greatest reaction was "Blonde hair, clear skin, a thigh gap and a flat stomach!"
It wasn't easy to write and when I think back to a few years ago, I know there is no way I would have written this. However, I've come a long way since then, mentally and physically and I now realise the importance of sharing this.
It is truly about time that today's society included all females of any age and any size. What a fantastic message to send to young girls that it's fine to be curvy, it's acceptable to have a rolly tummy and it's amazing to have grey hair. Love your self, Believe in your self, we are all unique.
The problem is not that we appreciate beauty but that the definition of beauty is so narrow, too narrow to include afro textured hair, so while society is waking up to the damaging effects of its narrow definition of beauty, advocating for body acceptance, even skin colour acceptance, hair discrimination still goes largely unopposed.
I wish this was a positive letter but I'm afraid it isn't. I'm going to have to be blunt with you. You made most of my 23 years of life a misery. You denied me food, the most important source of energy. You made me sit through hunger pangs for hours, even days.
I am in a rather unique position of having grown up on television in a time when people really didn't go on television. A time when people didn't really have Sky TV and access to thousands of channels, with unlimited choice, in the way we do now.
The media, and its constant preoccupation with passing judgement on the aesthetics of female bodies, has found its way into the subconscious impulses of men and boys everywhere.
There's very little advice out there that speaks directly to women of my age. And when you do stumble across a blog or magazine that's supposedly aimed at you, they can be quite patronising - suggesting ranges that have been designed with the more mature lady in mind.
Statistically, 97% of dieters are as big or bigger one year after starting a diet. When the majority fail, there must be more to it than simply lack of willpower. So what is it that happens in our bodies when we drastically restrict food intake?
Now, since having my first child when I was 18, I feel as though as soon as I gave birth there was an instant pressure to be a completely different person. Don't get me wrong, I felt different, my outlook on life totally changed and I had a whole host of new emotions and feelings that I hadn't experienced before.
I'd like to tell you about tall women and the mighty problems we face. As a card carrying 6ft tall member of the Tall Women Brigade I want to share my own experiences of an above average view on life.
Working out seems like it's the only thing to do if you want to build muscle and get a ripped physique, but what a lot of people don't realise is that exercise is just a small part of the process, and that the bulk of the work comes down to your nutrition!
I wanted to share with you some of the words of the young people who took part. They spoke about the pressures from society, school, celebrities, the media and their families. Alongside dealing with the challenges of just growing up, one area which was mentioned frequently was the sheer relentless of the body image pressures they faced:
Only when you let yourself go do you truly become yourself. You find the freedom your body has always craved and you learn to tune into your intuition. This might come with a few extra pounds or an extra belly roll or two but so what? Is that really the worst thing that could happen in your life?
It is beyond doubt that for young people in this country today, who are caught up in an increasingly celebrity-idealised culture with 24-7 social media connectivity, that the impact of body image anxiety is incredibly worrying.
As a culture we have this obsession with being thin and having the perfect body. When I first started my fitness journey I had this idea that only if I had abs would I be considered "fit". Ask everyone in the gym and 90% of women will tell you they work out to be lean and have abs...