Am I Normal?

“I don’t have many friends… am I normal?”

“I don’t like pop music… am I normal?”

“I’m much shorter than my friends… am I normal?”

“I get picked on at school… am I normal?”

“I think I might be gay… am I normal?”

“I don’t look like the other kids in my class… am I normal?”

Lots of people have been asking Ditch the Label, “Am I normal?” So, we thought we’d answer all your questions with this nifty normality quiz.

Answer 16 questions and let us determine whether or not you’re normal for sure. Go on…we dare you 😉


10 Things You Should Never Say To A Plus Size Person

1. You’re not that fat!
Aww thanks for being so totally disingenuous! What a wonderful backhanded compliment! Who are you? Regina George?

2. You look nice, have you lost weight?
Actually no, I’ve gained a couple of pounds in fact. It’s probs my new eyeshadow.

3. You probably shouldn’t be eating that slice of pizza/chocolate bar/ice cream.
And you probably shouldn’t provide a real-time commentary on my eating habits. I don’t have to ask your permission to eat certain foods – plus, you don’t want me to get hangry do you? You won’t like me when I’m hangry…

4. Ugh, I feel so fat today.
Usually said by a very slim friend who has just eaten a small bowl of pasta or a panini and cannot cope with the tiny, little wheat baby that has formed inside their stomach. The repulsion you are expressing towards your temporarily carb-filled belly is making me feel really good about myself babes.

5. Do you really think you should be wearing that? It’s not very flattering on your body shape…
Do you really think you should be saying that? It’s not very flattering on your personality…

6. When are you due?
Oh, the 3rd of…never! Save yourself the awkward convo and like, never, ever assume someone is ‘with child’.

7. Oh sorry, we don’t go up to that size.
Reportedly 45% of British women are dress size 16 or more, so you might want to broaden the diversity of your stock before *cough* you business goes into administration *cough*

8. There’s just more of you to love.
This sentence creeps. Me. Out. I am not your plus-size adventure.

9. I know this really good diet – you should try it!
Please don’t assume I need ‘fixing’. I’m actually perfectly happy with my weight. *Sees people faint with shock* Astonished Face on Apple  Astonished Face on Apple  Astonished Face on Apple

10. I’m just thinking about your health! 
Thanks Doc! Oh wait, you’re not my doctor? In that case, I could probably do without your amateur medical assessment.

Recently awarded “Emerging Leader” at the Australian Government Positive Body Image Awards, former Paralympian Jessica Smith has emerged as one of Australia’s most avid advocates for positive body image

Jessica Smith is not only one of Australia’s most sought after motivational speakers & presenters, she has also been internationally recognised as one of the most influential role models of this generation and is on a mission to create much needed awareness within society about the importance of positive body image. In 2015 Jessica was a state finalist for Young Australian of the Year and has also won a Pride of Australia Medal. We sat down with her to find out what inspires her activism.

DtL: Hi Jessica, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your story so far?
Jessica: I was born missing my left forearm, then as a toddler, I suffered horrific third degree burns to 15% of my body after accidentally knocking a kettle of boiling water on myself. I didn’t exactly have an easy start to life. In a world where so much emphasis is placed on appearance, growing up I felt as though I simply wasn’t good enough and didn’t fit in. Low self esteem and an inability to accept myself unfortunately led to a decade long struggle with bulimia, anorexia and depression – desperately searching for perfection in a world where I felt so isolated & alone. While all of this was going on behind closed doors, to the rest of the world I was a high achiever, having excelled at school and University and also being a prominent athlete representing Australia in the sport of swimming from the age of 13 to 20. I successfully represented Australia at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, however my elation soon turned to devastation when the reality of my eating disorder took hold – I didn’t swim as expected. I returned to Australia, was admitted to a rehab facility and forced into early retirement. I’ve been in recovery for many years now and I have made it my mission to work tirelessly and proactively to promote positive body image and raise awareness about the seriousness of eating disorders & mental illness.

“Low self esteem and an inability to accept myself unfortunately led to a decade long struggle with bulimia, anorexia and depression”


DtL: You are very open about how you struggled with an eating disorder. Could you tell us how this impacted you and why you think it important to raise awareness?
Jessica: My eating disorder was destructive; It destroyed my youth and ruined so many wonderful opportunities, including my international swimming career which ended abruptly when I was just 20. I have many regrets about how I treated my body when I was younger, but today I’m so grateful that I am in recovery, and I have a responsibility to be a voice for others that are struggling and I also have a responsibility to give back to the people who formed part of my support network – my way of showing gratitude is to pay it forward and generate more awareness. The more we talk about body image issues, the easier it is to make an impact within society. We all have a responsibility to be part of the conversation.

“We can’t continue to blame the media industry if we buy the magazines and watch the shows that directly target our insecurities”


DtL: Do you think that the media has a negative impact on young people in terms of body image and self-confidence?
Jessica: The media certainly has a powerful way of influencing our thoughts and behaviour and I do believe that with the introduction of social media, young people in particular are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them they aren’t good enough and that they need to change in order to be beautiful or accepted within society. However, I think we need to avoid blaming the media and instead take proactive action by educating ourselves. We can’t continue to blame the media industry if we buy the magazines and watch the shows that directly target our insecurities. We have a responsibility to develop a critical eye and educate ourselves about how and why the media target our body image and self confidence – they do this because they are trying to sell us something. So it’s essentially up to us, to say NO and to take a positive stance by not allowing the negative messaging to impact our lives. We do this through more open and honest communication with those close to us.

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DtL: What has been your proudest moment so far?
Jessica: Becoming a mother.

DtL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?
Jessica: To be completely honest, my disability has never really been a challenge that I’ve had to overcome, rather I see it as an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things. Throughout my life some physical activities have been more difficult than others, for example learning to tie my shoe laces, or doing hand stands at school. But I’ve always found my own way of doing things. Since becoming a mother (I have a one year old daughter) my disability has been more profound in my life due to the fact that I have to do everything while holding a child. Even still, I have always had the mindset that I can do anything, I just have to be patient with myself and allow myself to find a way of doing things that I’m comfortable with.

“My disability has never really been a challenge that I’ve had to overcome, rather I see it as an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things”


DtL: Our research found 63% of those with a physical disability are likely to experience extreme bullying and social exclusion. Have you ever experienced bullying and if so how did you combat it? 
Jessica: I have definitely experienced name-calling and people pointing and staring, but what hurt me the most when I was growing up was being excluded. Exclusion isn’t offered considered a type of bullying, however in my experience being ‘left out’ or deliberately excluded hurt more than any verbal or physical attack. Feeling rejected by my peers had a profound negative impact on my social interactions, I was often withdrawn and referred to as shy, but this was due to my fear of being left out – it was a very vicious cycle. It wasn’t always easy, but I forced myself to ignore this behaviour and instead surround myself with people who did value me and people who did want to be in my presence. It was also important for me to talk to people that I could trust, family members and close friends. I found that talking to people about my experiences made the heavy burden seem much lighter. Of course with age and experience I have learnt not to let anyone else’s actions impact my feelings. I’ve learnt that no one else can take away the power of my own feelings.

“In my experience being ‘left out’ or deliberately excluded hurt more than any verbal or physical attack”


DtL: You have written a children’s book entitled “Little Miss Jessica” which is about a little girl with one hand, on her first day at school. What inspired you to write the book?
Jessica: When I found out that I was having a daughter I felt an immense about of pressure to ensure that I ‘practiced what I preached’ – I knew that I had to lead by example, which for me meant showing her through my every day actions the benefits of living a positive life by being respectful to yourself as well as being tolerant of others. After years working with youth I recognised that my message about positive body image needed to be conveyed to a much younger audience through education. So I decided to get creative and write a children’s book. When I asked myself what it was that I really wanted to achieve by writing a book, the answer was simple — prevention, and leaving a legacy for my daughter. I looked back to my own childhood and realised that there was a complete lack of diversity in characters from books I had read. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with characters such as Barbie, Cinderella, Batman or Superman; these are the characters that ignite our imagination and encourage us to fantasise.

“Children also need to see and read about characters that represent what they see in real life”


However, children also need to see and read about characters that represent what they see in real life. They need to see characters with imperfections and characters with differences. Little Miss Jessica Goes to School; follows the journey of Jessica, a little girl with one hand, on her first day at school. This can be a daunting experience for any child, especially when they look different. But the book isn’t simply about a young girl with a disability; it is so much more than that. It’s about her journey in discovering that we are all different. In the story she meets other characters all who have a different appearance to her, and together they learn to appreciate who they and how they look, in spite of their differences. It’s a beautiful story that tackles issues such as self esteem, disability, body image, friendship, acceptance, tolerance and social connection and ultimately delivers a fundamental message for younger generations about self acceptance – a message that reminds us all that being different is OK.

DtL: What does the future hold for Jessica Smith?
Jessica: I’m in the process of writing two more books that will follow Little Miss Jessica’s journey through exciting new adventures, so watch this space and please follow me on social media so that you can stay updated!



Appearance, bullying, changing faces

10 things not to say to someone who has an unusual appearance

1. What’s wrong with your nose (or whatever)?
If a person wants to speak to you about their face, hair, skin, hands or any other aspect of their body, they will. If they haven’t mentioned it, the chances are that they don’t want to talk about it. This could be because it makes them feel embarrassed, anxious, sad, depressed…or maybe they just have other things to talk about. You may well be curious but be sensitive and wait for them to mention it first, if at all.

2. Is it a contagious disease?
Not only is the answer to this almost always “no”, this is a question which will only make a person feel more self-conscious and alienated. For example, a congenital condition such as Treacher Collins Syndrome is hereditary but is in no way contagious.

3. Do you look like that because you live an unhealthy lifestyle?
No. Never “blame” a person for the way that they look. Aside from the (most important) fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking different, having a visible difference such as a cleft palate or eczema is something that is out of a person’s control.

4. Have you tried changing your diet? Or taking steroids? Or having an operation?
However well-intentioned your advice is, the person just does not need it. They probably have a doctor for that. Your job is to react to them in the same way as you would to anyone else; with kindness and respect.

5. I’m sure it will get better soon.
You’re not sure. So don’t say it. An empty platitude for someone with a chronic health condition which causes them to have an unusual appearance, such as cerebral palsy, is distinctly frustrating, irritating and unhelpful. Also, for some people, there is actually nothing to “get better”. An unusually shaped ear or a birthmark on the cheek is a visible difference but does not necessarily impact on a person’s health.

6. I know how you feel-I have an awful spot on my chin.
Trying to comfort someone by telling them that you know how they feel can actually isolate them further. The comparison shows that you don’t actually understand and are underestimating what they are going through. Also, calling your spot “awful” will make the other person wonder what on earth you are thinking about their own unusual physical feature.

7. You’re so brave and inspirational.
Having a unique appearance does not make a person brave and inspirational. They may well be a brave and inspirational person but they would be whether they looked different or not. A visible difference does not put a person in a different category to everyone else.

8. Oh you look different? I didn’t notice.
You mean well but the other person will know you are being dishonest. If someone has an unusual appearance, they are aware that other people can see it. If you say you didn’t notice that they look different, it can make a person feel patronised and unsupported.

9. At least it’s just the way you look, it could be much worse.
Please don’t try and measure another person’s feelings. Looking different can be difficult at times. It is not “just” appearance. Unfortunately, in today’s society, people are judged and treated differently on the basis of how they look. A survey by Changing Faces found that 9 out of 10 people unwittingly judge people who have disfigurements to be less attractive, less likely to succeed and less easy to work with. In many cases, living with an unusual appearance can have a significant psychological impact on a person and their family too. And anyway, being told “it could be much worse” is not exactly the most uplifting thing to hear.

10. I’m sorry. Yes, living with a visible difference can be a challenge but it is not a life sentence.
The person does not need your condolence or pity. Instead, just as you would do with any other friend, make sure they know that you are there for them if they ever want to talk.
So, what are you going to do when you next meet someone who looks different to you and probably to most of your friends too? Hopefully you’ll treat them like you would anyone else.



Plus size style & lifestyle blogger Stephanie Yeboah on how she turned self-hate into self-love

The 25th of July 2012 is a day I’ll never forget.

I was alone, doubled-over in a hospital in Barcelona, violently trying to throw up the remnants of some diet pills that I’d bought online in the hopes that I’d lose a substantial amount of weight. I was 23-years-old and obsessed with staying thin; what was important to me at the time, was that my tummy was flat and I could buy clothes from the main ranges of high street stores. Yet, even though I was the smallest I had ever been, I was suffering from severe depression, low self-esteem and had virtually no self-confidence.

Growing up I’d always been chubby, and up until the age of 10 I was pretty okay with that; I was confident and happy in myself and never gave my size a second thought. It wasn’t until I started secondary school aged 11, that my perception of myself started to change, and the bullying began.

Over the years I would have to endure both verbal and physical abuse from a group of boys at my school. I was beaten up, spat on, chemically burned, sexually harassed and assaulted – all of which resulted in many broken bones, bruises and more significantly, a complete loss of confidence and self-belief. I was told every day at school that I was ‘worthless’ and that no one would ever want to be in a relationship with me, because I was fat and dark skinned. They told me I deserved to be raped, because ‘no one else would take me’ and that I should end my own life because I was a waste of space.

Stephanie now

It was at this point that I first tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful.

School left me resentful of who I was; in my eyes I was fat and grotesque and I honestly thought that no one would ever want, or love me. I thought my size was punishment for something bad I had done in a previous life. I envied girls my age who were smaller than me and having those first-time teenage experiences that I thought I would never have because of my weight. The self-hatred was unbearable. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I saw an ugly, dark-skinned girl who was going nowhere in life. I saw the person that the people that bullied me, had me believe I was.

This not only had impact on my mental wellbeing, but it also affected my ability to communicate with people; I became quiet, withdrawn and socially awkward in the company of others.

I decided enough was enough; I was sick of being held prisoner in such a body, so I tried to lose weight any way I could by dieting, starving myself, throwing up food I had eaten, taking diet pills and binging on laxatives. I lost four stone, and while I physically looked ‘socially acceptable’, inside I felt disgusting.

The experience in Barcelona was the final straw. I realised that being slim wasn’t everything and that I was damaging my body just like the people that bullied me had done once upon a time. In a sense, I was letting them win. I vowed, that from that day forward I would try my best to be strong, to mend my self-esteem and rebuild my confidence. Of course, it wasn’t easy, and I had help along the way; I saw a therapist and talked about how I was feeling and I was also prescribed anti-depressants to help me through, but eventually, I reached a place where I could finally say I was in love with my body.

I still have days – just like everyone else on this planet – where I am not 100% confident in myself but if you had told me four years ago that I would be comfortable posing in nothing more than a bikini I would have laughed at you. I never, ever thought it possible that I could come to terms with my body, let alone love it and have someone else love it. But I have, and I do and someone else does too!

Yes, I’m fat. Yes, I may not have what society regards as the ‘ideal’ physique but in my eyes, I am good enough.

I am me.

Written by Stephanie Yeboah