Boobs, body image and barriers to exercise

When I was growing up I hated my body. 

I, like lots of other girls, carried a few extra pounds (still do now), and used to hide under baggy jeans and t shirts. I was a tomboy. Backwards caps, BMXing and big baggy clothes were the norm (not much has changed actually, apart from swapping BMXing for mountain biking). 

I avoided PE like the plague and only wore skirts and dresses when made to by my mum. I hated having my photo taken, so used to pull stupid faces – which of course made me look far worse than I ever could had I just smiled. 

I lived in hoodies and jeans, even in the height of summer. If I took my hoodie or coat off, I’d sit with it laid across my legs, hiding my tummy, because I couldn’t let anyone see my belly. I didn’t ever wear flipflops or sandals until I was in my mid 20s because I hated my feet. 

Basically, me and my body weren’t mates.

Reading Festival 2002: we got the train up straight after picking up our GCSE results. You will never know how hot I was sat there in a fucking hoodie and jeans in that heat. 

Every now and then I’d get angry with myself and embark on a new ‘fat plan’ – often setting myself really unrealistic fitness goals and daily exercises, only to fail after a couple of days.

Click here to see one of the many ‘fat plans’ I  

scrawled in an old diary…

Before I carry on – don’t get me wrong – I’m not telling you any of this for sympathy – I had a brilliant childhood and great teenage years. I had lots of fun, made loads of friends and did well at school.

I just had massive hangups with my body, as I’m sure lots of women and girls still do right now, and if we can talk about them openly and try to help those going through the same thing that can only be a good thing, right?

The big issue: B( . )( . )BS

It’s still going on, too.

New research completed by the University of Portsmouth has found that almost half of teenage girls are avoiding exercise because of body worries and ill-fitting bras that cause pain and embarrassment. 

More than 2,000 school girls aged 11 to 17 years took part in the study, which found that over half of them never wore a sports bra and were embarrassed about getting changed for sport, breast bounce during exercise and breast pain.  

I totally get this – I used to hate getting changed for PE at school – 

so I stopped going. 

Professor Joanna Scurr, who leads the research group, said: “Previous studies of adult women have shown time and again that the same concerns are directly responsible for women no longer taking part in sport or exercise.”

With 90% of 14-year old girls in the UK not doing enough exercise to meet government recommended guidelines, it’s time to start talking about our bodies, getting the right kit and education into breast health, and encouraging more young women into sport.

We need sports bra fittings and more education on the correct kit to exercise in – like a gait analysis for breasts. Never underestimate the power of feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Because, really:

True story…

Live on BBC Sussex Breakfast

On Friday morning I was invited onto BBC Sussex to discuss the issue and share my own personal experiences.

As This Girl Can Ambassador for Sussex, it’s something I feel really strongly about as I know that if only I saw my body then like I do now – a machine to do the things I love to do – run, cycle, swim, box – rather than be so preoccupied with how I looked, I might’ve got into running and sport a lot younger. 

You can find out more about the research here and listen again to my interview on BBC Sussex for the next 27 days by clicking the radio player below – skip to 2hr43

I’d really love to know your thoughts and experiences on this so please come back and share in the comments!


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