What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?

What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?Today’s article is one I’ve been trying to write for some time, as it comes in response to a question I was sent a while ago from a reader.

The question she asked me was “What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?”

I won’t go into the specifics of her situation, but this is a situation that many women face around the world every day.

Imagine you’ve spent your whole life feeling beautiful and womanly, you love your curves and every time you look in the mirror you connect with your body and how feminine it feels.

Then one day you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.

You have only once choice, to have a mastectomy, in order to save your life.

Thankfully, you recover, but the life that has been saved from death has been changed forever.

When you look in the mirror you no longer recognise yourself.

You wonder where the woman who used to look back at you has gone.

Wearing the clothes that used to make you feel good, now makes you feel self conscious.

Feeling good is no longer associated with feeling like a woman…it’s more about covering up and protecting the body that has changed so much.

Hiding from the world a body that no longer feels like your own…a body that no longer feels feminine.

I read, hear and watch stories like this all the time. The details might change…it could be relating to hair loss, an hysterectomy, or the loss of a limb that means that you’re no longer able to dance…but the essence is the same.

What if one of the things that made you feel most feminine is taken away from you? …or worse what if the thing that made you feel most feminine BECOMES the very thing that makes you feel anything but?

Well, I’m very lucky that I’ve never been through a situation like this personally, but I have shared the experience of many people who have.

So what do you do if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?

Well the first thing to do is to allow yourself to grieve.

Losing a part of ourselves that was tied to our identity is a big deal, and something that people don’t give enough recognition to.

It’s important to allow yourself to embrace, feel and experience the grieving process with regard to this aspect of yourself, and not deny your feelings around it.

You are likely to go through denial, anger, bargaining (or the “if only” phase), depression and finally acceptance. Sometimes we’re in so much of a hurry to get to the final phase that we don’t allow ourselves what we need in order to get there.

This has had a significant affect on your life, and it’s important to both acknowledge that and allow yourself to process it.

With regard to femininity specifically, it’s important to remember that (as I’ve always said) femininity has nothing to do with anything physical.

It’s not about your shape, your size, the colour or amount of your hair, what you wear, your makeup, your accessories, what you say or what you do.

It’s about who you are…and how you feel. It can be hard to recover from a knock to an important aspect of yourself…but it can be done.

This is a moment in your life where you get to play with and explore what connects you to your own feeling of femininity. Have some fun with it…try different things. It could be taking a walk in nature, a yoga class, spending time with animals or small children. There are a whole range of articles on the site that can give you a starting point to begin playing.

The key is to ask yourself the question, “What opens my heart?” …when you find the answer to that question, you’re deeply connected to your femininity in a way that a lot of women don’t usually discover.

All though it may not seem like it, this relates very much to a conversation that I’ve had on a regular basis with gay, lesbian and transgender friends.

As hard as this may be to understand when you’re going through something difficult, the fact that you’re going through it can put you at a huge advantage to most people who aren’t going through it.

For example, when you’re put in a situation where you are forced to face questions about your own personal feelings of femininity and masculinity (such as being gay in a society where it’s not always accepted, or losing something that connected you to your feelings of femininity) it brings this whole topic to the forefront of your mind.

It means you’re conscious of it, and when you’re conscious of it you can make the choices around it that are right for you. The vast majority of people walking the planet have never and will never stop to question what masculinity or femininity mean to them…which means they will never make conscious choices about them…and they will never get to experience what life can be like when you do.

I had an email a while back from a guy who was very upset because it had taken him 30 years to become comfortable with who he was as a gay man, and coming to term with masculinity and femininity and what it meant to him. The gift of his situation is that he had been figuring this out for 25 of those years…for me personally, I’ve only had the last 4 or 5 years to figure it out…and there are a lot of people who never will.

As hard as they are, these situations can be a gift…if you want them to be.

When you’ve gone through the grieving process and reached the point of acceptance with your situation, it can help to look back on what’s happened and see if you can find anything good that’s come out of it. Has there been an unexpected gift in your experience? What has it brought you? What have you realised about yourself? Who is in your life as a result of it? How could you use your experience to help or inspire others?

…and I’ll leave you finally with this fantastic quote by Jackie Morgan MacDougall which I think sums it up beautifully:

“I remember being asked shortly after my double mastectomy, “How does it feel losing everything that makes you a woman?” Funny, I didn’t know I had. My breasts didn’t define me before they were removed. My breasts don’t define me now. But every scar and imperfection does serve as a daily reminder of the strong, unstoppable force I am; ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes for the people I love. If that doesn’t make me a woman, I don’t know what does.” – Jackie Morgan MacDougall

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x

This Week’s Fabulous Friday Female is Iris Higgins

Fabulous Friday Female Iris HigginsAs someone who has had issues with her own body image in the past, I’ve been on more than my fair share of diets.

In the past I tried all sorts to have the body I wanted…or rather the body I had convinced myself that I should have based on a lifetime assault of ‘thin-obssessed’ media.

I did slim fast, I did atkins, I did slimming world, you name it I tried it.

…and I’ve become increasingly concerned by the conveyor belt of new ‘diet fads’ that have been hitting the market in the last few years, from pills that stop you absorbing fat (and cause all kinds of nasty side effects) to the newest brand of meal-replacement shakes and the latest diet-in-a-can ready meals that have so few fresh ingredients that they can be stored for weeks without so much as looking at a fridge.

So with the past I have with food and body image, when I read this open apology from Iris Higgins (featured on YourFairyAngel.com and HuffingtonPost.com), an ex-weight-loss consultant for a large weight-loss company, it spoke to me.

I won’t say any more about it…I’ll let Iris’s words speak for themselves…but if you’ve ever had any questions about your body or your eating, trust me, this is one to read.

I worked at a popular weight loss company for 3 years. I loved my job there. I LOVED my clients. I loved making a connection and sharing my knowledge. And I learned a lot about nutrition, about dieting and weight loss and what works and what doesn’t. My job was to be a weight loss consultant, and I learned that job very well. I can design a 1200 calorie meal plan, tell you which activities are most likely to make the number on the scale go down, and how many carbs are in a cup of rice. I can talk the diet game like it’s my business…because it was. Volumize with vegetables. Don’t go too long in between meals. Start with a bowl of broth-based soup. Are you drinking enough water? Did you exercise enough? Did you exercise too much? Let’s look at your food journal…

This is not an anti-weight loss company post (although I could write that too). It’s a letter to each and every woman that I unknowingly wronged. My heart is beating a little bit faster as I write this, and so I know this needs to be said. The words have been playing in my head for months. Sometimes it just takes time for me to get up the courage to say the right thing.

So here goes:

Dear Former Weight Loss Clients (you know who you are): 

I’m sorry. 

I’m sorry because I put you on a 1200 calorie diet and told you that was healthy. I’m sorry because when you were running 5x a week, I encouraged you to switch from a 1200 calorie diet to a 1500 calorie diet, instead of telling you that you should be eating a hell of a lot more than that. I’m sorry because you were breastfeeding and there’s no way eating those 1700 calories a day could have been enough for both you and your baby. I’m sorry because you were gluten intolerant and so desperate to lose weight that you didn’t put that on your intake form. But you mentioned it to me later, and I had no idea the damage you were doing to your body. I’m sorry because I think I should have known. I think I should have been educated better before I began to tell all of you what was right or wrong for your body. 

I’m sorry because I made you feel like a failure and so you deliberately left a message after the center had closed, telling me you were quitting. I thought you were awesome and gorgeous, and I’m sorry because I never told you that. I’m sorry because you came in telling me you liked to eat organic and weren’t sure about all the chemicals in the food, and I made up some BS about how it was a “stepping stone.” I’m sorry because many of you had thyroid issues and the LAST thing you should have been doing was eating a gluten-filled, chemically-laden starvation diet. I’m sorry because by the time I stopped working there, I wouldn’t touch that food, yet I still sold it to you. 

I’m sorry because it’s only years later that I realize just how unhealthy a 1200 calorie diet was. I stayed on a 1200-1500 calorie diet for years, so I have the proof in myself. Thyroid issues, mood swings, depression, headaches…oh and gluten intolerance that seemed to “kick in” after about a month of eating the pre-packaged food. Was it a coincidence? Maybe. 

I’m sorry because you had body dysmorphic disorder, and it was so painful to hear the things you said about yourself. You looked like a model, and all of my other clients were intimidated by you, asked me why you were there because clearly you didn’t need to lose weight. And yet you would sit in my office and cry, appalled that a man might see you naked and be disturbed by the fat that didn’t actually exist. I’m sorry because you should have been seeing a therapist, not a weight loss consultant. 

I’m sorry because you were young and so beautiful and only there because your mother thought you needed to lose weight. And because there were too many of you like that. Girls who knew you were fine, but whose mothers pushed that belief out of you until you thought like she did. Until you thought there was something wrong with you. And the one time I confronted your mother, you simply got switched to a different consultant. I think I should have made more of a stink, but I didn’t. I’m sorry because you were in high school and an athlete, and I pray that you weren’t screwed up by that 1500 calorie diet. Seriously, world? Seriously? A teenage girl walks in with no visible body fat and lots of muscle tone, tells you she’s a runner and is happy with her weight…but her mother says she’s fat and has to lose weight and so we help her do just that. As an individual, as women, as a company, hell, as a nation, we don’t stand up for that girl? What is wrong with us? There ain’t nothing right about that. Nothing. 

I’m sorry because every time you ate something you “shouldn’t” or ate more than you “should,” I talked about “getting back on the bandwagon.” I cringe now every time someone uses that phrase. When did the way we eat become a bandwagon? When did everyone stop eating and become professional dieters? I’m sorry because I get it now. If you’re trying to starve your body by eating fewer calories than it needs, of course it’s going to fight back. I used to tell you that then, when you wanted to eat less than 1200 calories a day. The problem was, I thought 1200 was enough. I thought that was plenty to support a healthy body. Why did I believe that for so long? I’m sorry because I wasn’t trying to trick you or play games to get your money. I believed the lies we were fed as much as you did. 

And it wasn’t just the company feeding them to me. It was the doctors and registered dietitians on the medical advisory board. It was the media and magazines confirming what I was telling my clients. A palm-sized portion of lean chicken with half a sweet potato and a salad was PLENTY. No matter that you had “cravings” afterward. Cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Yeah, sure they are. I’m a hypnotherapist with a past history of binge eating disorder. I KNOW cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues. Except when they’re not. Except when they’re a sign that your body needs more food and you’re ignoring it. Then they’re a sign that your 1200 calorie diet is horseshit. Then they’re a sign that you’ve been played. 

And that’s mostly why I’m sorry. Because I’ve been played for years, and so have you, and inadvertently, I fed into the lies you’ve been told your whole life. The lies that say that being healthy means nothing unless you are also thin. The lies that say that you are never enough, that your body is not a beautiful work of art, but rather a piece of clay to be molded by society’s norms until it becomes a certain type of sculpture. And even then, it is still a work in progress. 

I owe you an apology, my former client and now friend, who I helped to lose too much weight. Who I watched gain the weight back, plus some. Because that’s what happens when you put someone on a 1200 calorie diet. But I didn’t know. If you’re reading this, then I want you to know that you have always been beautiful. And that all these fad diets are crap meant to screw with your metabolism so that you have to keep buying into them. I think now that I was a really good weight loss consultant. Because I did exactly what the company wanted (but would never dare say). I helped you lose weight and then gain it back, so that you thought we were the solution and you were the failure. You became a repeat client and we kept you in the game. I guess I did my job really well.  

And now I wonder, did I do more harm than good? When I left, you all wrote me cards and sent me flowers. I still have those cards, the ones that tell me how much I helped you, how much I cared. But I’m friends with some of you on Facebook now, and I look at your photos and you look happy. And beautiful. And not because you lost weight since I saw you last. But because I see YOU now. You. Not a client sitting in my chair, asking for my assistance in becoming what society wants. But you, a smart and lovely woman, who really doesn’t need some random company telling her there’s something wrong with her. 
So I’m sorry because when you walked in to get your meal plan, I should have told you that you were beautiful. I should have asked you how you FELT. Were you happy? Did you feel physically fit? Were you able to play with your kids? There were so many of you who never needed to lose a pound, and some of you who could have gained some. And maybe sometimes I told you that. But not enough. Not emphatically. Because it was my job to let you believe that making the scale go down was your top priority. And I did my job well.  

I am sorry because many of you walked in healthy and walked out with disordered eating, disordered body image, and the feeling that you were a “failure.” None of you ever failed. Ever. I failed you. The weight loss company failed you. Our society is failing you. 

Just eat food. Eat real food, be active, and live your life. Forget all the diet and weight loss nonsense. It’s really just that. Nonsense. 

And I can’t stop it. But I can stop my part in it. I won’t play the weight loss game anymore. I won’t do it to my body, and I won’t help you do it to yours. That’s it. End game.  

Luckily in the last few years I have come to love my body, and have learned that as with all things in life, balance is key, and listening to what my body says it wants and needs is the best path for me personally.  But not every woman has got to this place yet, so I hope that Iris’s open apology speaks to you in the way it spoke to me.

…and today I would like you to join me in acknowledging and celebrating Iris and her courageous and powerful message to women everywhere.

You are beautiful.


As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women and men who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female (or Fellow!), then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow? (Her / his name and location in the world)
  • Why is she / he a Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow to YOU? (How do you know her / him? What does she / he do? In what way is she / he inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her / him online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women and men who inspire YOU.

…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Jade Beall

Fabulous Friday Female Jade BeallMany women are left with scars, stretch marks, and loose skin after giving birth. It’s a reality that women themselves often try to hide and the media never wants to show. But one photographer is on a mission to redefine the idea of the beautiful woman’s body.

One day early last year, Jade Beall – a new mother based in Tucson, Arizona – went into her studio with her five-week-old baby, stripped off, and took a series of photos.

It was a body she wasn’t really familiar with. There were bumps and lumps that she had never had before her pregnancy. And she didn’t much like what she saw.

But she decided to post the pictures on her photography blog – keen to share with others a side of motherhood that tends to be kept out of view.

The media is full of images of women’s bodies. But not these kinds of bodies.

“So many people tell me, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen a body like that,'” says Beall.

“I want people not to have to react as ‘You’re gross,’ but instead ‘Oh, that’s a woman who is incredibly human, or that’s a woman who has scars and lines with stories to tell.’

“My goal is to help these mothers feel worthy of being called beautiful.”

Soon after, Beall posted a photo on Facebook of the softly dimpled stomach of a friend of hers, with her two young children nestling up to her lovingly.

It went viral. Emails started flooding in, and hundreds of women wrote in to say they too wanted pictures taken of their post-pregnancy bodies.

Beall has now photographed more than 70 mothers who will appear in an forthcoming book, A Beautiful Body, due out in January. She uses no make-up artists, and there’s no touching up or airbrushing.

“When she sent me the first pictures via email after the shoot, I remember getting this cold, sweaty feeling,” says Nicole Meade, one of the women who volunteered to be photographed.

Most women who have taken part are deeply self-conscious about their bodies, and Nicole is no exception.

Ever since having her first child, she has tried to hide her stomach. A bikini on the beach would be out of the question.

Terrified, but determined to take up the challenge, Meade took her three sons to the photo shoot, and wanted them to be part of it too.

“I asked the boys, and they were like, ‘Um, well what’s the point of it?’ And I told them you would be doing this for all your female cousins, and the girls you might one day date or marry, and your own daughters – because there is nothing like this out there for us,” she says.

“I like the idea that my children will have a real sense of what their wives might look like when they are done having children.

“There should be nothing shocking or disturbing about a picture like that,” she says.

Jade says many of her clients don’t like the images at first, and focus on what they see as blemishes or problem areas – a roll of fat, a wrinkle, a stretch mark.

But she says the more they look, the more they start to see the beauty in the images.

Christina Berry, who took part in the book, says she has always struggled to embrace her body, but the shoot left her filled with a new confidence.

“It’s still a work in progress. I’m not going to say that every day I 100% feel the sexiest and the most confident,” she says.

“But I remember what I did and I go and look at my pictures and I say ‘Wow, I am beautiful!'”

Her husband Chris says men tend to have only the most superficial conversations among themselves about the way their partners’ bodies have, or might, change after pregnancy – and are largely unprepared for the reality.

“Seeing the pictures and then also seeing other women’s pictures, it led me to think, ‘Man, I’m kind of an ass for not recognising what the real, important things are when it comes to her physical appearance.’

“It’s what she’s done, and why she has those scars. I don’t have to bear any of that – and she does.

“I think these women are powerful. I think my wife is incredible, and I think that was something that I needed to see and needed to understand. And I hope the pictures continue to do that for other men.”

Jade was delighted when she googled “beautiful body” the other day and she saw what popped up.

“My black and white images are sprawled through all these airbrushed photographs.

“And I took such delight. It was like, ‘Oh gosh, it’s happening!'”

Check out A Beautiful Body Project here:

So today I would like you to join me in honouring and celebrating Jade and the powerful work she is doing for herself and other women around the world, helping them to see the beauty in their bodies…to see that the airbrushed images we are force-fed in the media are as fictional as Santa Claus…and that a real woman in all her glory is more beautiful by far.

Original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23276432


As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women and men who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female (or Fellow!), then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow? (Her / his name and location in the world)
  • Why is she / he a Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow to YOU? (How do you know her / him? What does she / he do? In what way is she / he inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her / him online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women and men who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

Do you see your body like a reflection in a hall of mirrors?

Do you see your body like a reflection in a hall of mirrors?I’ve written several articles on body image, and how we see ourselves over the last couple of years.

(If you want to check some of them out then have a look at the links below:

We know it’s an issue, we know that the media is playing a huge part in how we view ourselves, but we’re still not seeing clearly.

How do you see your body?

There are organisations and companies who are doing their bit to help women break the illusion that our bodies don’t look the way that they are supposed to…but ultimately the only thing that will make a difference is the eyes with which we view ourselves.

It’s like we have a pair of distorted glasses that are reserved only for looking at ourselves.  We see the bits that wobble, those that are bigger than we’d like, and those we’d tweak a little here or there if we could.

I’ve had a couple of experiences recently which really opened my eyes in respect to my own body image…and I wanted to share them with you, to help you take off your own distorted glasses and begin to see yourself clearly.

When you look at your body, do you love or hate your wobbly bits?

I’m quite lucky, I’ve done a lot of soul searching and work over the last few years with respect to how I view my own body.

At one point I had no body confidence at all.  I saw myself as plain, unattractive and I only noticed the bits that wobbled.

Now I love the wobbly bits! After all, I’m a woman, I’ve got a fabulous hourglass figure and without the bits that wobble, the hourglass wouldn’t be very shapely.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to look after my body, inside and out…but I also see it for the beautiful shape that it is…and I don’t want to change that.

I’ve gone on a journey with my own body to get to this point that has been a revelation.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll have shared my experiences with doing a full nude portrait shoot and my first visit to an all natural hot springs in California, clothing optional.

The path hasn’t been easy…but I’m grateful for where it’s brought me.

Do you see your body the way that other people do?

Then earlier this week I was at a local spa enjoying the hydrotherapy pool when I saw a woman who I thought had a gorgeous figure.

I couldn’t see a single thing about her body that couldn’t be complimented.

…and I became curious as to whether she saw herself in the same way.

So, as random as it seemed at the time, when we were sat alone in the steam room together, my curiosity took over, and I asked her the question…

“Is there anything about your body that you don’t like…anything that when you look in the mirror that you wish was different”

“Yes”, she said, “my thighs are a bit too big”.

I was amazed.  Even someone who had a figure that I imagine a lot of women would be quite envious of, could find a fault…something that wasn’t quite ‘right’.

…and it reminded me of a conversation I’d had with friend I’ve known since school just recently.

To put the conversation into context, this friend of mine was always known as being one of the most popular and attractive girls at my school.  She got a lot of attention from the boys, she was someone all the girls wanted to be friends with and she was referred to for years by my own Grandmother as “Claire’s pretty friend” (…as opposed to what I’m not entirely sure!)

When we were at school I’d always wished I could look like her with her beautiful curly hair and lovely figure.

A few years later when boys were a much bigger part of our lives the guy who I’d had a crush on for the longest time told me how gorgeous he thought she was and wanted to know if she was seeing anyone, which just reinforced my belief that she was prettier than me.

It’s now many years later, we’re both a lot older, and in some ways much wiser too…so when she came round for dinner recently and the topic of conversation came up, I wanted to share my experience from when we were at school.

She was amazed to hear how I’d spent so many years wishing I could look more like her and thinking that she was so much prettier than me…

…because at the exact same time she’d been wishing she could look more like me!

We’d both spent much of our teenage years looking at the other and wishing that could be us…and not appreciating the natural beauty that we BOTH had.

Neither one of us is better or worse looking than the other…we’re just different, and beautifully so.

How dull would this world be if we all looked like Kate Moss or Beyonce or Eva Longoria?

It’s about time that we begin to celebrate our own unique brand of beauty.  Our own innate gorgeousness, in all of its glory.

We and we alone have the ability to change how we look at ourselves…so this week I invite you to take of your distortion glasses, and see yourself clearly for the first time.

Every morning this week I’d like you to look in the mirror and rather than focusing on the blemishes, the scars, or the bits that you’d rather didn’t wobble so much….this time focus on what’s beautiful.  Find what you’re proud of.  Look for what you like about yourself.

It could be that you have nice eyes, or a great smile….or it might be that you love some of the bits that wobble! 🙂

Look for your beauty, look for your uniqueness, look for what you love about yourself.

Take of the glasses…and allow yourself to see how beautiful you really are.

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Females are the Women from the Dove Real Beauty Sketches

FFF Dove real beauty sketchesDid you know that only 4% of women from around the world consider themselves beautiful?

If you’ve been with me for a little while now, you’ll know that women’s body image, and more importantly our perception of our own body image is something that is very close to my heart.

Some time ago I shared the spoof “Fotoshop by Adobe” video and the Dove Evolution videos to illustrate how important it is for us to embrace our innate realness, to celebrate who and what we are and to understand that the perceptions of beauty that are perpetuated by the media are at best warped and at worst dangerous.

So when I saw the latest offering from Dove, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, I instantly fell in love with it…and felt a real admiration for the women who were brave enough to be a part of it.

The concept is simple. The message is powerful.

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches shows several women who walk into a room where a man is sat at a sketching table.

She is seated in a position where they are unable to see each other.

He asks her to describe herself as he translates her words into an image on the paper.

A short time later a different person comes in, someone who is a stranger to the woman being sketched, but who has spent a short amount of time with her.

This person then describes the same woman from their perspective.

The man is a forensic sketch artist who worked for the FBI taking people’s descriptions and creating a visual image that can be used to identify others.

We then get to see the two pictures being revealed to the women…one described by themselves, one described by a stranger who has spent a short time with them.

The contrast is amazing.

The impact it has on these women is beautiful.

We spend a lot of time as women analysing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite ‘right’ and we should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like.

Our perception of our own beauty is so distorted, and these beautiful women have had the courage to be vulnerable – taking part in a video where they didn’t really know what was going to happen, and allowed that vulnerability to be shown to the world, to help other women to see the reality of their beauty…rather than the perception they have in their own minds.

I know I said this last week, but I hope every single woman gets to watch this video.

…and I would like to ask you a favour.

Please share this video with any women that you know. I guarantee she’ll see some of herself in it, from some point in her life.

The Stranger’s was a little more gentle

That’s pretty different….which is very strange. [Looking at her self-described image] She looks closed off and fatter, kind of shut down, sadder too. [Looking at her stranger-described image] The second one is more beautiful. She looks more open and friendly and….happy.

I’ve come a long way in how I see myself, but I think I still have some way to go…

So today I would like you to join me in celebrating Olivia, Florence, Kela and the other women from the Dove Real Beauty Sketches…and hope that they inspire you to realise that you’re more beautiful than you think…and to start to look at yourself with new eyes, the way the world sees you, in all of your natural beauty.

Chloe’s perception was so clearly different. Her picture looked like somebody I tought I would want to talk to and be friends with, like a happy light much younger much brighter person.

It’s troubling.

I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices in the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.


As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too! Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Sheila Kelley

Fabulous Friday Female Sheila KelleyIf you are a woman who has ever had any negative thoughts about her body, then you need to read this post and watch this video.

So, in reality, I could have just said “If you are a woman, you need to read this post and watch this video”.

Because I don’t know any woman who has not had a negative thought about her body at some point in her life…most of the women I know and have worked with have experienced this as a lifelong challenge.

Normally I would share here my own views on the woman of the day, but I’m going to keep my words to a minimum today, because the only thing I want you to do is to take 20 minutes out of your day to watch the video of Sheila Kelley’s TEDx talk called “Let’s get naked”.

Her words say it all, and I don’t believe I could do it justice in text.

Every woman should watch this video.

In it, Sheila shares about getting naked.

Naked to the heart, naked to the soul and naked to the truth.

…and she also shares how a strippers pole is the key to the next step in feminist and feminine evolution.


Do yourself a favour.

Go and make a cup of tea.

Close down facebook.

Put your phone on silent.

Take this time for you, and watch this video.  You’ll be glad you did…

So today I would like you to join me in celebrating Sheila, and her beautiful message to every woman on the planet to get in touch with her body, to get in touch with her sexuality, to get in touch with her feminine essence, to get in touch with her sensual self.  I hope that you are inspired to discover and awaken your own erotic creature, to bring your feminine power to your own life and the lives of all of the people whose lives you touch.


As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too! Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is the person behind the ‘normal’ size mannequins!

FFF Normal Size Swedish MannequinsThis week’s Fabulous Friday Female is unknown to me…but her impact on the world is definitely being felt.

Now I would like to start today’s post with a small caveat.  I am making an assumption in today’s post that the person responsible for what I feel is a fantastic move in the world of fashion retail is female.

My intuition tells me that this decision was made by a woman, as a woman would understand the pressure and impact that being subjected to unrealistic body images can have on other women.

However, I am fully prepared to be proven wrong on this, and I will gladly make this post the first heroing a “Fabulous Friday Fellow” if the initiative turns out to be that of an incredibly courageous and forward thinking man who has stepped out of the mould to do something different.  Male or female, this initiative needs to be celebrated.

Caveat over, I’m sure that if you spend any time on news sites, Facebook or Twitter you’re bound to have seen the images of the mannequins that were installed in a Swedish department store a couple of years ago have resurfaced and are going viral.

The normal size swedish mannequins are inspiring people…

Although the average woman in the UK is a size 16, and globally is a size 12, the standard mannequin size used in stores is between 8-10.  Although the average woman in the UK is only 5’4″, and globally is 5’7″, the average mannequin height is 5’10”.

It’s no wonder our perception of average and how we compare to it is warped!

So the decision by a store in Sweden, Ahlens, to bring in mannequins of sizes 12 and 16 for use in their womenswear departments I think is a fantastic step in the right direction.

Women are continuously bombarded with images in the media, many deliberately doctored and manipulated, of women who’s bodies represent a lack of healthy nourishment or physically impossible ideals.  If you read my article on being “Perfectly Imperfect” you know that this is an issue which is very close to my heart, and I think this move is a small step in the right direction.

So today I would like you to join me in celebrating the woman (or man!) responsible for this decision, I hope it inspires many others around the world to begin to represent women in a way that more of us can relate to…and reduce the pressure on women everywhere to aspire to an image which is totally unrealistic.


As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too! Claire x

To shave or not to shave…that is the question…

Claire Brummell, Feminine 1stI remember a couple of years ago opening up the newspaper one morning and seeing a quite extraordinary debate playing out.  To shave or not to shave.

There were two women arguing the case for the two options…both vehemently defending their side and explaining why their way is ‘the right way’.

…and then a while ago someone asked me the question, which is more feminine…clean shaven, or the natural look?

Well to me there was only one answer.  Watch the video to see my answer:

…and for me personally my preferences are different depending on what region of the body we’re speaking about…silky smooth for some, more natural for others – so it doesn’t have to be definitively one or the other.

It’s so important to shift the focus from what’s happening on the outside to what’s happening on the inside…as that’s what counts when it comes to femininity.

So what do you think?  To shave, or not to shave…which is more feminine for you?

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

So, what was my naked truth?

The Naked TruthSo last week, I began to share my naked truth…prompted by a trip to the hot springs out here in San Francisco….and today I reveal all (pun intended) about my experience…

When I first arrived at the hot springs I was very aware of how naked everyone was. Walking into a co-ed dressing room with numerous other people…both some that I knew and some that I didn’t, I realised how conscious I was of it.

…and how much I didn’t want to acknowledge or look at anyone’s bodies…including my own.

For the first hour or so at the springs I felt like a floating head. I was totally avoiding acknowledging anything that existed from the neck down. It wasn’t that I had any particular issue with it…it was just such an unusual experience that it took a bit of adjusting.

Then one of the friends that I was with suggested that we do ‘the hot and cold pools’.

Now, the hot and cold pools at Harbin are VERY VERY hot and VERY VERY cold. The idea is for you to first submerge yourself in the very very hot pool…then when you feel it’s time to get out submerge yourself in the very very cold pool…to stimulate the blood flow to the whole body….and repeat this process 7 times.

It sounded good to me, so I thought let’s give it a go.

Now, I’ve always struggled a bit with extremes of temperature…so it would have been reasonable to believe that this could have presented a challenge for me. …and it did.

I was advised before we entered the pools that the trick with the hot pool is to move very, very slowly…and with the cold pool to get your shoulders under the water as quickly as possible.

No problem.

Or so I thought.

When I started descending the steps to the hot pool, at first it seemed fine. Step one was OK…step 2 was quite warm…and step 3 felt like my feet were on fire.

Just walk slowly I kept reminding myself.

It was quite an unusual experience and by the time I got fully into the pool I could feel my skin prickling.

I’ve no idea how long I stayed in that first time, but I doubt it was longer than a minute.

So with the time in the hot pool done, it was time for the cold plunge pool.

…and it was COLD.

If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m normally on the chilly side (to put it mildly!) so the idea of submerging myself in extremely cold water didn’t exactly appeal…but I knew it was all part of the process so I gave it a go.


I don’t think I’ve ever known what cold was before!

After the hot pool the cold pool felt like it was only a few degrees above freezing (I believe it’s actually in the low 60s)…and it was a real shock to the body.

But sure enough, once shoulders were in and I began to relax into it…it began to feel very refreshing. My skin was tingling and I felt incredibly alive.

…and then very cold again…so it was time to revisit the hot.

I’m not sure exactly where in the 7 cycles through the hot and cold pools the change happened…but it was sudden, and it was powerful.

I went through a period of time where it no longer felt like my body and mind were connected. My body was going through the process in the water but my mind felt like it was floating somewhere else….and then it happened.

I was in the hot pool when I suddenly felt the culmination of all of the hot and cold plunges together and my skin felt like it was buzzing. As I came out of the water I felt like some sort of mythical goddess emerging from the heat…(I think that the heat might have gone to my head!)

As much as this might sound a little ‘la la’ or ‘hippy happy clappy’ to coin a term that I affectionately use for experiences that are a little outside of the norm, one thing was very clear.

I felt very empowered and totally connected to my body.

Not only that but I felt very comfortable with my body…and appreciative of it. I felt proud of it.

Every hint of resistance regarding being naked in public had gone, and I allowed myself to just enjoy the experience.

Shortly after completing our hot and cold experience we decided to indulge in the steam room with a sugar scrub…and got chatting to a couple of the other people in there.

At that point I saw just how natural it was for everyone else at the springs. I realised that since I’d arrived, not once had I felt leered at or uncomfortable with anyone there.

We all chatted in the same way we would if we’d all been in there fully clothed (although we’d have all been significantly warmer!)

The rest of the day was a real eye-opening experience….literally.

I started looking at the bodies around me…including my own. It was plain to see that every single body in there had something about it that was beautiful….and every single body had something that could be seen as a flaw, or an area that could be improved in some small way.

It was also clear to me in that moment how what those areas of beauty or improvement are is completely subjective. What I might think of as an area that could be changed or improved, could be the very area that someone else might see as beautiful and perfect….and vice versa.

One of the friends I was at the hot springs with described them as walking talking works of art…which I think summed it up beautifully.

I got to experience the elements…sun, water, wind and earth first hand…without any compromise or restriction…and it was great.

Some time to just be.

No masks, no costumes, nothing to hide behind.

All of me.

Complete. Whole. Perfectly Imperfect.

My naked truth was that I realise now that I was quite disassociated from my body, and I wasn’t really comfortable owning it in public.

My experience at the hot springs really provided the perfect opportunity to embrace every single part of it. Allowing me to love and appreciate every single curve, just the way that it is.

So this week I invite you to explore your own naked truth. See where it is now, and where you might like it to be.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to whip your kit off at the nearest public venue (depending on your location the authorities may have something to say about that!)…but I do invite you to see what experiences might help you to connect deeper with your own body…and to accept it more completely, just the way that it is.

Because as with everyone at the hot springs…all bodies are beautiful, all bodies are flawed, and that’s what makes them perfectly imperfect.

Stay Fabulous (whether you’re naked or fully clothed!),

Claire x

What’s your naked truth?






Birthday Suit.

Au Naturel.

In the Buff.

Skin to the wind.

There are so many words and phrases that we have to describe being completely free of any clothing or covering.

…and as soon as the topic of nudity comes up, there are also a whole lot of other words and phrases that come immediately to people’s minds. Depending on you and your life’s experiences these words can be very different.













These are just a handful of the many and varied reactions that people can have to the thought of being naked….either in private or in public.

For some people the idea of being completely and totally naked is exhilarating.

For others they would rather die than face being naked in public.

I was somewhere in between.

If you’ve been following the recent newsletters and blog posts, you’ll know that this is a topic that has been very present for me in the last few months.

During my photo shoot with Samjhana I took the opportunity to get completely back to nature by braving the elements and posing for a full nude.

…and for me it was liberating…but on that occasion it was also quite safe.

At the time there was only myself, Samjhana and one other person on the very deserted beach on the South coast of England…and my time in full nude probably only lasted around 20 minutes or so (before my toes began turning blue from being sat in the English Channel for too long!)

…and as a good friend of mine always says, when you think you’ve had some sort of breakthrough or learned a significant lesson, then shortly after there will always come a test to see if you’ve really got it.

…and boy, did my test come.

During my time here in San Francisco there were a few things that were on my ‘must do’ list. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge (as the last time I visited, 10 years ago, I used up two rolls of film trying to get a single image of it in the dense fog that heralded my arrival (yes that was film, way before the time that I got my first digital camera!), spending time with my dear friend Christina and getting to hang out with the women from Tribal Truth (the women’s community that I’m a part of) that live in the San Francisco area were my top 3.

I’m happy to report that it has been glorious sunshine since I arrived here in San Fran…and that I actually have a crystal clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge as I’m typing this article. Number one on my list….check.

Christina and I have enjoyed spending the last couple of weeks indulging in various adventures in and around the San Francisco area….number two on my list…check.

…and the ladies from Tribal Truth proposed that we spend a day connecting and relaxing up at a local hot springs….number 3 on my list…check.

Little did I know that number 3 on my list was my test…in disguise.

So I made all the arrangements to meet the girls and a couple of days before our planned day of rest and relaxation I was finalizing a few details on the phone with one of them. I asked her what I needed to bring…towel, sun cream etc…and the conversation went something like this:

Me: “So what do I need to bring with me?”

Friend: “Well I can bring a towel for you, and we’ll have sunscreen with us and food for lunch. Apart from that there’s nothing I can think of. Oh…the girls did tell you it was clothing optional, right?”

Me: “Um…nope…that wasn’t mentioned…but I’ve done a full nude in the English Channel…I think I can handle a hot spring!”

It wasn’t until long after this conversation that I realised that the challenge for me wouldn’t be the temperature of the water…it would be the numerous people that I would be sharing the hot spring with.

You see, I’ve always been quite reserved when it comes to nudity. Don’t get me wrong, in the right time and place I’m all for it…but I’ve definitely been one to prefer being covered to uncovered when surrounded with other people.

But I’d moved past this, right?

I’d done a full nude on a beach in England, right?

This would be easy, right?


It wasn’t easy at all…but it was a revelation.

Check back next week to read the rest of my naked truth…and in the meantime I invite you to think about your own…

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x