Friday, 10 March 2017

Me and My Thigh Gap

This article was originally posted as a video on my YouTube channel.

In January 2016, I attended a friend’s birthday party; we were supposed to bring different teas and crafts to share (I brought a Christmas cake-flavour tea and a pattern to make cards). One of my friends had found a pattern to make a stuffed cat out of old socks, and so we were all trying to make that at one point. One of the other girls commented that her stuffed cat was going to “have a bigger thigh gap than she’ll ever have”. I don’t remember what I’d said in reply to that, but another girl (who was several years older than me) said something to me along the lines of “you have a thigh gap, you’re skinny”.

It’s not the first time that I’ve been told that I have a thigh gap (a space between your inner thighs when you stand with your feet together), and could be considered to be “skinny”. A few years ago at another birthday party, two girls who were nearly 2 years younger than me also made a comment about my thigh gap and how I would look good wearing jeans.

Yes, it’s true that I have a thigh gap. At its widest part, I think I can stick two fingers through it. If I am sitting on a chair with my knees hugged to my chest, I could easily drop my phone through my thigh gap (this has happened before). I also have quite thick thighs and I definitely don’t have a flat stomach. Whenever I have a huge meal, my tummy sticks out and I feel super-full and I get scared of gaining weight. For the past 8 years of my life (since I was about 13), I have been told by a family member that I should “watch my weight and BMI” (body mass index), have been questioned whether or not I should eat that ice cream, and as a 13 year old on a school trip in the USA, had peers asking me if I wanted to look like a “beached whale” (a term associated with being overweight) when visiting beaches in Los Angeles when I was eating the croutons that accompanied my salad. I weighed myself every day and I dreaded gaining weight.

I first heard of thigh gaps when I was about 16 years old. I didn’t think I had one at the time and had searched online for steps on how achieve this seemingly celebrated thigh gap (probably a combination of weight loss and specific exercises, sometimes including extreme and unhealthy weight loss), but at the age of 18 or 19, I did realise that I do indeed have a thigh gap and I often just wonder why it’s there.

In Everyday Sexism (Laura Bates, 2014), the section called "Girls" is headed by the quote "If you don't have a thigh gap, you NEED to get a thigh gap" which was apparently said by a 14 year old schoolgirl interviewee. On the next page, the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on body image report (2012) says that "by the age of 14, half of girls have been on a diet to change their shape".

Horrifying as I found these quotes, they rang true to me. By the age of 14, I was already weighing myself all the time, dreaded gaining weight, and was skipping my school lunch sandwich every day – habits that stayed with me for over 6 years.

When I originally read this, one of my female second cousins on my mum’s side of the family was 14 years old. Around the same time, my dad had received a Fitbit for his birthday to aid his efforts to lose weight, and he was already going everywhere and talking about his Fitbit, exercises and weight loss. I had never told him about my history of anxiety about my body and weight, and so he wasn’t going to make any adjustments to his behaviour to accommodate how I felt about it (now that I have mentioned it, he still hasn’t made any adjustments). A short time after that, we were due to attend a family party with my mum’s mum’s side of the family. I genuinely felt like I needed to protect my second cousin (now nearly16 years old) from the negativity that my dad’s discussion of weight loss would bring to the party. I don’t want her to ever have to go through what I felt, and I don’t want my younger female second cousins (ages 4 years, and 6 months old) to go through that either when they reach their teenage years.

Hopefully, we will have created a world by then (2026-2030) where body diversity will be celebrated, and diet culture, thigh gaps and the media’s obsession with our bodies will be a thing of the past.

This is why I’m now wary of having a thigh gap as a 21 year old woman. I feel like I don’t deserve one. I’ve not acquired a thigh gap through weight loss or dieting and exercising. I weigh the same now as I did when I was 14 years old. Me having a thigh gap is probably more attributed to my bone structure. I have wide hips (therefore I am never going to be able to fit into UK size 10 jeans or whatever) and my knees meet in the middle, but this is my body and I’m learning to be ok with it.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Anxiety Bites: Fear Talking

I originally shared this with my friends on Facebook, but I have edited it slightly for posting here.

PSA: It's really not funny to make fun of ANYONE's phobias, no matter how much of a small deal it may seem to you. We know how irrational our fears may seem to you, but that knowledge doesn't stop them.

Last week, YouTuber and pretty awesome human being, Saffron Kershaw-Mee, posted a video in which they discussed their experiences with anxiety and depression, including about how they've been feeling recently.  The part of this video that stood out to me the most was where they spoke about suffering from emetophobia (fear of vomiting).  They spoke about how this fear could stop them from enjoying themselves, that their whole outlook can change (including not being able to eat or leave their bed) if they believe that they've been near someone who has been sick.  To me, vomiting can be a way of ridding your body of a toxin (like something you have eaten) or a symptom of another illness. Personally, I generally hate vomiting and would do anything to avoid it. I'll be regularly swallowing or sipping at water, and trying to keep as still as possible.   A couple of days ago while going down windy roads down a mountain and a few weeks ago while at the cinema, I was feeling a bit motion sick, and I was just sitting there taking deep breaths and wanting it to stop soon.  I've also been sick in public several times in the past 10 years, including in a shop, in a theatre toilet, in a hotel public toilet, and twice on long-haul flights (which I was then teased about). Feeling really bad stomach pains therefore makes me nervous about being sick during a flight, which then adds to other issues I have with flying (I've learned to deal with taking off, landing and walking around on a plane, but I'm terrified of turbulence or anything else happening). But vomiting is not something that I fear every day.

While I've been on holiday, I've been struggling with a couple of fears that I have been teased a bit for, and I think I should explain those fears and why it is not ok to make fun of me or anyone else for them.  Since sharing this on Facebook, I received some comments from friends who understood what I was feeling from their own personal experiences, so I finally know that I am not alone in the latter of the two fears I am about to discuss: needles and dogs (and other animals).

That sounds really silly, right?

Needles are so important in vaccinations for protecting against infectious diseases, they can be used to apply anaesthetic to reduce the feeling of pain (including for dental use), and they can be used in blood tests to find out if you're A-ok or if there's something wrong with you. Needles can be used to gather blood or other cells for donation, and for giving those to the recipient. But needles are one of the things that I'm terrified of. I'd love to be able to give blood, but every time I think about it, it makes my feet start to tingle. Once when I was 14, I was simply being spoken to about an upcoming vaccination, and I started to feel dizzy and like I was going to faint. When I had injections at school, I'd be so scared beforehand and I was just glad that I had a couple of friends around nearby. Last year, I started considering the possibility of if I needed to have any injections at uni and who I'd ask to come with me in case anything happened (such as if I fainted). When I was 17, I needed an injection and I was so anxious and couldn't stop thinking about it beforehand, and while the nurse was talking to me about the jab, I suddenly fainted and woke up on the floor with no memory of how it happened. Following almost fainting at the dentist after being given local anaesthetic, and then stopping having my mum in the room with me when I'm seeing the dentist, I've stopped having numbing injections for fillings because they're just so painful and I can't deal with that on my own. The most recent occasion that I had an injection, I was teased about if I fainted afterwards (I'm assuming this person thought I had fainted because of the injection), even though I'd actually fainted beforehand that time. No, I'd actually fainted because of the pure anxiety I felt about that injection and every day about the idea of any time I will need an injection.

The second fear of mine which I will discuss here (I have many fears) is dogs. I know that most of you will find dogs really cute. When I'm near a dog, I'll be hyper-conscious, I'll be scared about them coming any closer to me, my eyes will be darting around to see where they are, I'll be really hoping that something catches their attention and makes them walk away from me, if they're under a table I'm sitting at, I'll be really scared. I'm terrified of being bitten or scratched by a dog, even more so when I'm wearing shorts or cropped trousers. That kinda seems ridiculous to most people, because most dogs are nice and friendly and you might even try to use a type of "Not All Dogs" argument with me. Well, my brain doesn't care if it's "Not All Dogs" and it believes that I'm in danger any time a dog comes near me. I'm also scared of cats, but I think I could learn to be ok with cats, in a controlled environment. To me, being followed by a dog is like being chased by a bear (or something else that could be very dangerous).

Something that has been exacerbating this fear has been encountering a LOT of stray dogs while on holiday in Sri Lanka.  There was one morning when I'd been on the beach before 7am to go dolphin-watching, and two dogs had been coming towards me, and then about 4 other dogs joined them to play on the beach.  There were been other times when I saw at least 6 stray dogs in one go while in Sri Lanka, and even if they were sleeping, I'd be constantly checking to make sure that they hadn't woken up and come closer towards me. 

There is a history of rabies in dogs and other animals in Sri Lanka (read this article).  When my grandma was young, she was bitten by a dog and had to go through several weeks of anti-rabies injections to prevent the disease.  I can barely deal with a single injection every few years because I get so stressed about the pain and seeing the needle and everything, so I can't go through daily injections for this (although I would have to if needed).  Therefore, even though I'm really cautious about dogs while at home in the UK, I am even more terrified of being near stray dogs while wearing shorts or cropped-trousers (i.e. not having my legs covered) because I am so scared of being bitten or scratched.

A few days ago, my eyes were darting around to keep an eye on the cats that were behind me while I was eating my dinner, but the second that a dog came towards where I was and got too close, I got up and ran to several metres away until I felt safe to return. I've been told "It's just a dog" or "It's just a puppy", and I've even been told "Katie, there's a dog behind you" as a joke even when there wasn't, just to see if I reacted and looked behind me.

Well, it's not funny. It's never funny to do something like that to someone with any type of irrational phobia.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Chocolate Soy Ice Cream

It was quite hot over the past week (possibly over 30 degrees Celsius just after 5pm last Tuesday), so it was decided this morning that we were going to make a batch of ice cream at work today (amongst everything else that we're doing, and it also doesn't take that long to prepare the ice cream to freeze).  The coffee machine that we have used is the Gaggia Gelatiera, which is available to purchase from here, and we have used Maison Routin 1883 chocolate syrup, Alpro Soya Original milk and Alpro Soya single cream to make the ice cream.  This batch turned out to feel a bit watery and was so solid after being left in the freezer until the next day that I needed a knife to remove it.  The ice cream is completely dairy-free and vegan-friendly.  I've included a comparison below of the nutritional content of both the soya milk and the semi-skimmed milk we normally use.  I think that the soya milk turned out to be healthier overall and also cuts out the cruelty to animals, and I hope to experiment with other plant-based, dairy-free milks (i.e. almond, hazelnut or coconut milk) and maybe even make the switch permanently in the future!

Alpro Original Soya milk (per 100ml)
Energy - 161kJ / 39kcal
Fat - 1.8g (of which 0.3g is saturated fat)
Carbohydrate - 2.5g (of which 2.5 is sugars)
Fibre - 0.5g
Protein - 3.0g
Salt - 0.06g
Vitamin D - 0.75µg
Riboflavin (B2) - 0.21mg
Vitamin B12 - 0.38µg
Calcium - 120mg

Morrisons British Semi Skimmed milk (per 100ml)
Energy - 206kJ / 49kcal
Fat - 1.7g (of which 1g is saturated fat)
Carbohydrates - 4.8g (of which 4.8g is sugars)
Fibre - 0g
Protein - 3.6g
Salt - 0.1g


300ml soy single cream
300ml soy/plant-based milk
100ml chocolate syrup


  1. Pre-freeze the ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Pour the soy single cream and soy/other plant-based milk into a large jug.
  3. Add chocolate syrup to the jug of milk and cream and mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture into the ice cream machine, and freeze-churn for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours until the ice cream is cold, smooth and creamy before serving.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Vegan Sausages and Mash

Last Friday night, my dad and I were left to cook for ourselves (as opposed to me just cooking for myself), and we had 4 leftover Linda McCartney red onion and rosemary sausages from when I'd cooked myself a veggie hot dog the previous night.  Dad had suggested making mashed potatoes, so I looked up how to make vegan-friendly mashed potatoes, with a preference of a recipe that didn't involve using a milk alternative, and I found this recipe from the Minimalist Baker that is completely vegan and doesn't use a milk alternative.  These mashed potatoes were actually pretty tasty, and to preserve how they should look, I've taken pictures of the meal.  When put together, the sausages and mashed potato make a really easy vegan meal (apart from the fact that I really struggled with peeling the potatoes with a really rubbish peeler!

Ingredients (serves 4)

6 Linda McCartney Red Onion and Rosemary Sausages
6-8 potatoes
3 tablespoons vegan-friendly margarine, such as Pure or the new dairy-free Flora
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Cook the sausages according to packet instructions, adjusting the temperature and time of cooking in accordance with whether you are using an oven, a fan-assisted oven or a grill.
  2. Peel the potatoes, and if they're large, cut them into halves.  Bring them to a light boil over a medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until very tender.
  3. Once tender, drain the potatoes of water and transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Using a potato masher or a hand-mixer, mash the potatoes until fluffy.  Be careful not to overmix to the potatoes when using a hand-mixer.
  5. Add the margarine, salt and pepper and mix into the mashed potatoes well.
  6. Serve mashed potatoes with the sausages and lettuce.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Veggie Hot Dogs

In Rent (one of my favourite musicals), during the song La Vie Boheme, in which the characters have gathered in the Life Café for dinner following Maureen Johnson's protest and are mocking Benny's idea that "Bohemia is dead" and celebrating the bohemian lifestyle with mention of ideals, trends, icons, symbols of bohemianism.  Their dinner order is "5 miso soup, 4 seaweed salad, 3 soy burger dinner, 2 tofu dog platter and one pasta with meatless balls" (and wine and beer), so when I had to make dinner for one (myself) last night,  I decided to make veggie hot dogs (inspired by the 2 tofu dog platters)!

Ingredients (serves 3)

6 Linda McCartney Red Onion and Rosemary Sausages
3 bread buns or 6 bread finger rolls
3 salad tomatoes, cut into slices
tomato ketchup


  1. Cook the sausages according to packet instructions, adjusting the temperature and time of cooking in accordance with whether you are using an oven, a fan-assisted oven or a grill.
  2. Cut each bread bun or finger roll in half, and add slices of tomatoes and lettuce on the base half.
  3. Once the sausages are cooked, divide them between the bread buns or finger rolls, using 2 sausages per bread bun or 1 sausage per finger rolls.  Squirt tomato ketchup along the sausages to serve!