Five Truths I Think All Women Should Know

  1. It’s normal to poo more when you’re on your period- prostaglandins are chemicals which simulate the muscle in your uterus to help it contract and shed it’s lining (hello cramps) – the increase of prostaglandins can have a similar effect of other muscles such as your bowel, hence the need to poo more often during your time of the month.
  2. Period stigma is still a thing.  As much as we live in a much more open society these days (at least in the UK) it’s normal for people to refer to periods by euphemisms, hide taking a tampon or towel to the toilet and keep the symptoms to themselves, largely because we’ve all had the ‘time of the month’ or ‘too much information’ comments and generally people can still feel uncomfortable talking about them.
  3. When you have your smear test you can ask for them to use a smaller speculum, which may be more comfortable (especially if you get tense during smears due to nerves).  The option isn’t normally offered in my experience, but the nurse is normally fine with it if you ask.
  4. Detoxing isn’t a thing.  Your liver does a pretty good job at helping your body detoxing and beats any juice, pill or fast out there.  Of course not over eating, smoking or drinking too much can help the body maintain it’s best condition.
  5. Loose skin and stretch marks are normal.  Whilst most of us know that having a baby or dramatic weight loss can cause stretch marks and loose skin, in actual fact most of us have stretch marks and as we get older and skin loses a bit of elasticity looser skin is also quite common, even though most of us feel like we’re the only one when we look at others (we always tend to judge ourselves more harshly).

How short are those shorts?

This morning I saw a post on Facebook about someone concerned about stretch marks ad loose skin that could come with the weight loss they wanted to achieve.

This bought about a lot of comments about loving your body, accepting these things and learning to be OK with them, and there’s a lot of merit in this. We should all accept our bodies as is and if it’s not causing us actual harm then our bodies should be nobody else’s business.

But as much as the change in outlook that women should not be expected to meet a certain criteria and can be whatever shape / size they wish we still spend an awful lot of time judging women.

Look at the Olympics. There’s been news articles where female athletes have been told their shorts are too short and then others where they’ve been told they’re too long. Even alongside the body confidence / acceptance movement there are still judgements made on women based on appearance. Whilst we may have more choice now the choices are still judged.

So back to stretch marks. They are normal and yes part of life, we almost all have them. But if a person wants to look to reduce them why should they be judged for that or told they should just love their body as is?

Because if you are about to embark on a weight loss journey there are things you can do to reduce the chances of loose skin or stretch marks. Steady weight loss, keeping skin hydrated, incorporating strength training amongst other things can have an effect on how your skin shrinks with you. Nothing can be avoided completely of course, but if you want to try there are things you can do.

And why shouldn’t you? Just like if you have loose skin or stretch marks there are things you can do to make you feel better in yourself. Whilst it’s an ideal that we all feel confident in our bodies and embrace the changes as we go through life I think it’s really OK that alongside that we shouldn’t feel bad or vain for wanting to do things that make us feel good in ourselves.

Because it comes back to choice- we should not only be allowed to have that choice but also be allowed to not be judged for them. If you want to make changes for a purely cosmetic reason that’s ok, just as wanting t make changes for health reasons is.

And whilst we’re at it can we not just let women train in what they want to train in, whether that be at the gym or the Olympics.

Stretch Marks

Do you have stretch marks?  If you don’t you’re in the minority as an estimated 80% of people have some sort of stretch marks.

Pregnancy and puberty are two of the biggest causes, as both situations cause rapid growth, as the skin stretches to accommodate this growth slight indentations / discolored streaks can appear.  Recently formed stretch marks will often be red and glossy but overtime they can become silver in colour and take on a scar like appearance.  Most commonly they appear on the thighs, belly, breasts, hips and bum and whilst more common in women also affect many men.

Stretch marks are almost anticipated in some circumstances, such as pregnancy, and many women will use oils etc. to try and reduce the effect once they discover they are pregnant.  We are often more surprised by stretch marks which occur as part of a fitness programme.

It feels somewhat unfair that making an effort to improve your fitness can lead to stretch marks but rapid weight gain (and even rapid weight loss) can cause stretch marks, so if you are working to build muscle you may see the odd mark form (I recently noticed some stretchmarks on my bicep as my arms have become more defined), and if you find yourself yo yo dieting (rapidly loosing and then gaining weight) you again could find yourself with new stretch marks.

So actually stretch marks are something that is fitness related.  Especially if you’ve had some form of body transformation and changed your appearance dramatically it can be a shock to reach your goal but then find unexpected body changes such as loose skin and stretch marks.

It is of course another good reason to encourage slow and steady change over the dramatic but even then lots of people will still find themselves with a couple of stretch marks.

To be fair, many will fade over time, some might fade so much that they are barely visible and there are things you can use (bio oil, moisterisers) which can help reduce their visibility, and if you want to do that why not- we are all entitled to do anything which help boost our confidence.

However, equally, they should be something we are able to embrace and accept about our body.  Much like periods, which are discussed openly more often now but this is a recent change, many people are ashamed and try and hide their stretch marks (sarongs on the beach, long sleeve tops covering your arms and so on).  The most bonkers thing is, that not only do most people have stretch marks but they affect both sexes so it’s a bit bonkers that we are so embarrassed about them – most of us have them but try and disguise the fact we do.

I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching.  I remember the first time I found stretch marks on my thighs as a teenager, and my distress when my mum told me that there was nothing I could do to get rid of them but they would probably fade over time.  When you are a fourteen year old girl being told the big red streaks on your legs are there to stay knocks your confidence and I rarely wore skirts without tights after that. 

Equally, I know I’ve been really lucky as I’ve gained significant weight and then lost that much and more over my adult life and in more recent years gained a fair bit of muscle (growth) and have managed to pick up only a few small stretch marks (which have also faded quite well over time and are now more like little fine purple lines), so me saying be more accepting about them is easy enough, I understand when any kind of marking is more visible it naturally will affect self confidence more.

So I’m not suggesting everyone should walk around half naked to display them (well unless they want to, and even then you probably shouldn’t go to work in a bikini) but if you have some and they make you feel self conscious remember that for every 10 people you work with or talk to today, 8 will have stretch marks too.  It’s often said that if you got stretch marks from pregnancy to think of them like a badge of pride (which you should) but equally if you have them on your arms and legs because you lost lots of weight or gained more muscle they are still marks showing you achievement.

There’s a lot more emphasis on social media about being more accepting of your body, it’s imperfections and being OK with not being perfect – stretch marks are really just another thing to accept as a normal part of your body doing what it does and serving you a purpose across your life.

Whilst I’m here by the way- cellulite.  You know 80-90% of women have that too… I’d take a picture of that but it’s really hard to take a photo of the back of your own legs…