© Astrid Longhurst 2017

Plus sized model

Feeling happy and in love with my life I became one of the first generation of plus sized models.

I loved it! There was something quite thrilling about being able to put across a positive image no matter what size or shape you were! This boosted my own body confidence too!

My story begins with the death of my father

He was only 35 years old and died from a heart attack. I was only little but knew that something had changed forever the day he died and that our lives would never be the same again.

He had always battled with his weight – a legacy that I inherited and a “story” I carried with me into my adult years. My early experience of a happy carefree house full of love and safety was suddenly turned into a house full of pain and grief.

My mother never got over the loss. I turned to food for comfort and weighed six stone at the age of six and sixteen stone at the age of sixteen, gaining a stone with every year. I hated myself with a vengeance and was terrified of dying like my father did. My mother tried her best to help but I just couldn’t stop eating! I was in utter despair over my appearance. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror and was desperately unhappy. I just didn’t want to be me.

My Body Story

Too fat to dance! 

I remember when this photo was taken. I had just passed my ballet exam and was six years old. I loved to dance and dreamed of being a dancer. And yet I was always told that I was too fat to dance. Dancers had to be skinny.

Instead of feeling overjoyed I had passed my exam I was self conscious of the size of my body. This is when I started my first diet

Bullied!

I was 12/13 when these photos was taken and deeply miserable! I was being bullied at school and yet I still held onto my dreams of dancing. Every day was a struggle with my weight.

I dieted, starved, binged and ate compulsively. I just didn’t seem to be in control around food. If I ate the slightest thing that I thought was “wrong” then my entire day was ruined and descended into one massive binge.

Come back when you’ve lost weight

At 17 years old I had failed my dance audition at the college of my dreams and was told that I needed to come back when I’d lost weight.

After a lifetime of being bullied about my weight and never feeling good enough, this felt like the final straw! However, something inside of me rose up and I went on a strict diet, exercising all hours to try and drop the weight

Finally accepted into dance college!

After all the hard work, I was finally accepted into dance college. This should have been my happiest time but I was terrified of regaining the weight I had lost and food was still such a battleground for me.

 

Slimcea girl – the Television advert!

Having lost over six stone I was thrilled to be chosen to become the Slimcea girl on TV. I was runner up in slimming magazine’s slimmer of the year contest and was flown out to Barbados to film the TV commercial. And if this was a fairy story of happy endings and triumph over struggle it would have ended here however the story was only just beginning.

                                                         

Fabulous, Fit and Fun

Following my passion for dance and fitness I opened up my own workout classes, which were a huge success. I loved every moment!  I am still so grateful to all of the wonderful ladies (and a few men) who turned up every week and sweated it out with me! I had found my place in my world and had accepted my body. Not a size 8 but a real and curvy size 16 -18!

The UK’s first plus size fitness presenter on GMTV

The word got around and I was booked out with my Body Confident workouts. I was fortunate enough to present the number one fitness slot on National television and loved every minute of it!

I was also training to become a qualified psychotherapist/counselor at the same time.


I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by my first appearance on Television – it really was a dream come true. I had always wanted to dance on TV but had never imagined that I would be a size 20 and feeling absolutely great about myself! It was one of the greatest moments of my life– to stand there in front of the nation and do what I love and being proud of who I was!

The ABC workout and Body Confidence – the Book!

Working with the fabulous Big shot production company, I launched my own workout video which was a great success going to number four in the fitness charts! My deepest thanks go to Jayne and Dave for all their belief and passion! And after finishing my contract with GMTV, I focused on writing my book “Body Confidence” (Published by Penguin/Michael Joseph). A fabulous life changing book on how to transform negative body image and turn body doubt into body delight in a practical, do-able and motivational way.

The body wars are back!

It’s amazing how our lives continue to teach us and invite us to evolve who we are. I was feeling happy and confident in my body, however shortly after writing my book Body Confidence I developed chronic arthritis in my fingers, feet, ankles and knees. My joints were so swollen that I had difficulty in walking let alone exercising!

My weight increased to over twenty one stone and I was at an all time low. At this time I also suffered from a prolapsed disc in my neck, which meant that I spent a lot of time in bed as walking made me feel faint and dizzy.

After consulting with a Rheumatologist and being put on some pretty toxic medication, which caused my hair to fall out I decided that I would have to take action myself!

The journey “home"

Coming home for me means coming back to my body – where I live. It is a process of reconnection, love, compassion and acceptance. All through my life my body had been my greatest source of struggle, pain and unhappiness. Ironically it was also the place where I experienced so much joy as a dancer. Now, after all of my earlier body wars – my body really needed me. I realised that this wasn’t about losing weight or going on another diet. This was about finding out what my body needed in order to be well, fit, happy and full of energy and vitality. This wasn’t about my weight or my size - it was about my health! I had always been so well, healthy and active, even at a size 24 but this was different – I was ill and I needed to show my body that I cared – I needed to love myself and find where my body felt fabulous fit and full of life!

Loving my body Well, Healthy & Fabulous!

Every day teaches me more about what I truly need. Arthritis and all of my health issues have been the milestones along the way – sign posts that helped point me in the right direction. I began to make changes based on loving my body and a desire to be well, fit and healthy. I devised a coaching programme that would help me change my old “body story” and write a new more empowering one. I researched how different foods affect my body and put together a movement plan that was based on loving meaningful movements that combined energy medicine with body awareness. www.chakranetics.com  

 

And the results were extraordinary! I lost seven stone in just under a year reducing my weight from 21 stone to 14 stone! However, it wasn’t really the weight that was the most remarkable thing. It was how I felt! There was an inner peace within me that felt so safe, supportive and loving. I knew how to befriend my body and had learned how to really “listen” to and understand the subtle whispers of my body’s voice. I learned how to manage my pain to the point that I no longer needed pain-killers. 

 

I had thought that I had done well when I overcame Bulimia and learned to love me no matter what – but this was just the best feeling in the world. It’s not about the weight loss, it’s about what the weight loss means… it’s about loving my body into health and wellness again. It’s about taking action because I care about me and I showing my body how much I care. Essentially it’s about love…loving me, loving my body, loving my life and loving the learning that all of this brings!

 

My own journey is the springboard from which all of my work has evolved. I love spending my life helping others to make their own transformational changes. And because I have been through the body journey – I know just how much this matters and how wonderful we ALL can feel when we have the tools and support to change our life experience

Body Whisperer

Through my personal battle with weight and health I know that it is the emotional weight that needs to be addressed first. Until you can stop using food as a way to cope with life, your emotions, feelings, fears or anything else - it doesn’t matter how many diets you follow – the emotional weight remains. Emotional weight is the heaviest weight you can carry. It manifests itself in your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, your health, your joints and the way that you engage with your life and the world. Once you begin to forge a strong loving relationship with YOU, you are on the pathway to transformational change. Once you make the connection with who you really are and begin to love and look after all of you – then life shows up in the most miraculous of ways. The greatest healing occurs when we are happy and in love with our bodies, our lives and this experience called living.

 

I loved this quote by Emily Hancock

“Many women today feel a sadness that we cannot name. Though we accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense that something is missing in our lives and – fruitlessly – search “out there” for the answers. What’s often wrong is that we are disconnected from an authentic sense of self.”    

A loved body is the soul made visible

I realised that much of my own sadness was that I missed the woman I was meant to be. I covered her up and refused to let her out until my body “forced” me to change. I cannot thank my body enough for that because without the journey, the learning and the listening I would not have become the woman that I was always meant to be: the woman that I am today. The souls whispers are heard through the callings of the body. It whispers softly, so listen closely.

 

I am passionate about helping others to love their body: to feel fabulous, well, fit and healthy and full of LIFE! If I can help you please just get in touch. I would love to hear from you and it would be an honour to work with you.