Body Stories: Laura

September 09, 2021

Body Stories: Laura

Content warning: the following Body Story contains reference to an eating disorder. If you're not in the right head space for this right now, feel free to give it a miss.

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In our new series of Body Stories we speak with remarkable D&B customers from around the UK who tell us about their relationships with their bodies.

We kick off our new series with Laura, the Founder of The Zest Life: an award winning Yoga & Wellness retreat based here in the UK.

Tell us a bit about you

At the moment my main role is as a single mum to three children who are aged 4, 3 and 1. They’re my driving force at the moment and everything I do comes down to making their lives happy. You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child, as they say. So the happier they are, the happier I am!

I run a yoga and wellness company called The Zest Life. Yoga is a huge part of my life. I would probably be dead without it! It’s amazing how it’s transformed my mental and physical wellbeing. The retreats I run are there to help others feel the way I do about life, through interaction with nature, eating good food, practicing yoga and being around positive people. I believe that these things can affect your whole balance in life.

We’re based in North Wales by the coast. I grew up in the countryside and in my teens couldn’t think of anything worse than living remotely – I desperately wanted to be in the City - but now I really appreciate nature, the countryside and being able to walk to the beach.

 

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

What is your earliest memory of your body image?

I’m one of four children and I always used to think I was the fat one compared to my three siblings. I guess I was just a bit chubby. I remember my brothers’ friends passing the odd comment and making me feel a bit self-conscious. At a young age I also became aware of my grandmother always being on Daily Mail diets; she had a little book called ‘The Businessman’s Guide to Calorie Counting’ and I read it and then just started to do the maths: energy in, energy out. At around 11 I established some control around eating and my body image, thinking that through this control I could change my body.

This continued for a long time and still does to this day. It escalated and spiralled in my teens as anorexia. Then there was a period in my life when I turned to bulimia. It was really quite debilitating. I remember when I was about to start an Art Foundation course at college. I put on a pair of jeans at the beginning of September and they felt tight. I remember thinking ‘I can’t go to college now, I should stay at home and hide. I’m far too fat.’

All those negative thoughts; negative stories that we tell ourselves. It doesn’t matter what other people say or how others say you look. It’s about how you feel. I have battled with it: some days it’s still a little struggle that I have and other days I’m dancing with it – I feel fantastic. Over the years I’ve realised that it’s not the external stuff, it’s how you feel inside, and then when you look in the mirror what talks back to you is good or bad depending on where your mind is, rather than what’s going on externally.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

The most amazing I’ve felt about my body was when I was heavily pregnant. I felt like a goddess. It didn’t matter what I looked like, what I wore. I felt amazing.

These days I love feeling strong. For me it’s about the energy that I can bring to each day rather than how thin I am or how fast I can run. Have I got the energy in the tank to do the things with my children so we all have a great day? If I’d have binged the night before or had a couple of wines then how am I going to show up when my child wakes up at 5am? Not very well. I want to be the best version of myself. Eating well, feeling better, working better and being a good person. I don’t set out each day to look a certain way, I just want to feel good.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

How did you come to practicing yoga?

When I was 19 I was travelling around the world. I was involved in a boating accident in Australia and spent six weeks laying in hospital with a broken back. I was on the other side of the world not knowing if I would ever walk again. I remember the doctors telling me ‘when you get up it might not work’. Being in hospital put everything in perspective. ‘I don’t care what I look like or how fat I am. I just have to get out of this situation and be able to walk again.’ It was a huge event for me: a life changing moment and realisation.

I had a choice: an operation or a longer-term rehabilitation programme. I chose the latter and spent six weeks in a brace. As part of my rehabilitation the doctors prescribed yoga which was completely new to me. I was told it would help me to get fit and strong again. Initially I was cynical about the yoga and I poo-pooed it. But I came to really love it. Looking back I can see I needed physical, mental and emotional recovery - which yoga was able to give me.

I carried on with my trip. I sent my original backpack home and bought a bag with wheels. Travelled on to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands then home.

It’s a lesson for life I think: how you react to situations you find yourself in. This was a traumatic accident but good came of it. You can wallow in the darkness and wonder ‘why has this happened to me?’ or you can think ‘this has happened, now what can I do with it?’ 

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

What do you love about your body today?

I love that it can move, can run, can still pick up my nearly 5 year old son and swing him around over my head. I love to feel that strength. As a mother I often envisage the danger scenario: having to carry three children miles across the desert, out of a burning fire or getting them all out of the sea. This is a driving force for me. I want to be strong so that I could do anything I might need to save them. I love my strength.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

As someone with a history of body dysmorphia, do you think consciously about how you treat your body in front of your children?

My children look at different parts of my body and see it differently to me. They often squidge my tummy and ask ‘mummy are you having another baby?’ I try to never say anything negative about my body in front of them, instead teaching them about the importance of a positive relationship with your body. We massage each others’ feet and tummies and I try to create a positive body awareness for them.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

Have you always been a swimmer?

We swam as kids and I would always swim a bit during the summer but I first got into cold water swimming about 6 or 7 years ago. A friend of mine is a real swimming enthusiast and we were on a bike ride once when she said ‘let’s jump in the sea’. It was April. We got freezing cold, got out and had tea and toast. I felt amazing. And that was it! The lightbulb moment. Having someone to go with at first made a big difference, it was a sort of hand holding.

We’re inundated with beautiful lakes in Snowdonia so I started to go by myself. When I was feeling in a bit of a funk I would get in the water and it was like a reboot. I think of baptism, that ritual that was created, the submersion in water is so cleansing. We spend so much time on our devices but in the water we can’t be on the phone so no one can contact me. It’s complete nature immersion and escapism for me.

I’ve done a couple of triathlons. Before kids I would wear wetsuits to keep my body temperature as warm as possible. But getting in and out of a wetsuit takes about 20 minutes and then you need to get dry and there is a screaming baby. So since my first baby was born I have never worn a wetsuit! I get my cossie on, get in, get out, feed the baby. For me the beauty has come from feeling the cold, being in a swimsuit, being naked, I love that. I love the feel of the water on my skin. So much of the time we live a very moderated, beige life – central heating and aircon, not feeling the extremes. But I love the extremes of cold water swimming and the rush of all the feel good hormones.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Zest Life - Wellness - Yoga - Health & Fitness - Eating Disorder - Bulimia - Anorexia - Family - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming

What do you like most about Deakin and Blue?

As a brand I feel D&B really care about women’s body image. When I put on my D&B bikini I feel nurtured; it feels like someone has paid proper attention and thought carefully about how I might feel when I'm virtually naked. Especially as someone who is small chested - I'm used to trying on swimsuits and bikinis that are designed to highlight cleavage, which doesn't work for my body shape and bust size. So it's brilliant to wear something that suits my particular shape and celebrates it, too. I love the way that the three size silhouettes are adapted to different versions of the female form - rather than just assuming that women all come in the same shape or size. It's really special. Really lovely to know, when I am putting my D&B swimwear on, that somebody has really thought about how I look and feel when I'm going for a swim.

And also - the prints! It's great to have those bold choices if wearing bright, show-stopping prints is your thing. I love the amazing Liberty Zoo print and know lots of women who would love making a statement in that kind of print too. These aren't 'slink down to the pool covered up in a sarong and quickly slip into the background' pieces. It's great that as well as thinking about comfort and support in the designs, you're also allowing women to be bold, bright and confident - if they want to be.

What advice would you give to your younger self to help her develop a good relationship with her body?

I would tell my younger self to get in touch with her feelings. Learn how you feel and that it’s okay to feel sad or lonely. Try and share those feelings as much as possible with the people who care for you, with the grown-ups around you – so that they can help you. Instead I turned to food for comfort and developed a long term complicated relationship with food and my body. But it’s really okay to feel a certain way and it’s better to feel the feelings than to suppress them – the more you suppress, the faster it comes to bite you on the bum later!

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Laura wears the Swimcrop Bikini in Teal in a size 12 Hepburn

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The Zest Life are an award-winning wellness company running seasonal retreats throughout the year. Follow them on Instagram.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Wellness - Health - Yoga - Sustainable Swimwear - Wild Swimming - Anorexia

 



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