My Crazy Adventure with Protein World…

Well… this past week has been a little strange. If you’ve been following me on twitter or Facebook then you’ve probably seen a lot of this already, but I thought it would be a good idea to give you my version of events, and what I think about everything that’s happened since…

It started nearly two weeks ago, when I was on my way home from a hospital appointment (in everything that’s followed, I never mentioned my various health problems, as frankly, that has nothing to do with what happened. However, it does lend some context to how this all started for me). I was sitting opposite the Beach Body Ready advert, and to be honest, feeling a little bit crap about myself. The poster asks, provocatively, ‘Are you beach body ready?’ The answer the company no doubt wants is “no! I look crap! Quick, lets buy these dietary supplements to fix that!!!” My reaction was not that. The ad made me miserable. Having Postural Tachycardia Syndrome severely limits the amount of exercise I can do, and for me, causes excessive levels of fatigue. Coming to terms with this life-changing, chronic and incurable illness has not been easy. And I sat across from this ad for nearly an hour on the Northern line, on my way home to Edgware, feeling slowly more angry and wretched.

So when the train pulled in, once everyone had left the carriage, I went up to the advert and wrote “none of your effing business” in the yellow space provided:

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Not easy to see, but its definitely there!

I felt pretty good about what I had done. And to be honest, didn’t think much more of it after that!

I didn’t go on the tube for a few days, but when I did, I found myself sitting opposite the poster once more, and by this time, I felt pretty confident in what I was doing. A few people had shared the last photo, and I’d spoken to a lot of people about the ad. We all agreed that it was offensive and made us angry. So I did this:

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If my body is on a beach, then it is ready. Thank you very much.

This picture got picked up by the Vagenda people on twitter and made it into a Buzzfeed article. I became Buzzfeed famous!!! You can read the article HERE.

From this article, a producer from the Stephen Nolan show on BBC 5 Live got in touch and asked me to appear on the late night programme, discussing the advert with the head marketing honcho and guy behind the twitter account. I decided to prepare for this interview by consuming a rather large portion of chips:

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You can listen to the debate here:

 

Nothing much happened for the rest of the weekend, but then on Monday, IT ALL KICKED OFF!!!

Tweets happened, threats happened, and pretty much all of Monday was spent watching my timeline tick over with repeated demands for me to be arrested, followed by Protein World themselves referring to me as a “criminal” and an “extemist” and later, a “terrorist”.

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When one anonymous tweeter tried to shame me because I decided to put “criminal extremist” in my twitter profile description, I pointed out that just because someone calls me a unicorn, it doesn’t mean that I’m a unicorn. And then, so thrilled by my own sense of logic, I added ‘part-time unicorn’ to my twitter profile too. IMG_4355

And then this guy reported me to the police! I’m still waiting for them to come and knock on my door. But let me take this opportunity to say, publicly, that if I am arrested and fined (which is the worst thing that could happen here) then I’d ask for public contributions to pay, and then I’d donate anything and everything leftover to charities that deal principally in eating disorders and body dysmorphic issues. I hope that it does’t come to that, but there we are.

I’d like to say here, that I know that I have broken the law and committed vandalism, but I am proud of what I have done and would do it again in a heartbeat.

And yes I know that Protein World’s profits are substantially up, no doubt helped by my viral efforts. The fact is that I couldn’t care less about this company or how much money they make. All I wanted to do was to stop the next woman sitting across from that advert from feeling miserable. I wanted them to see the advert, and then see my comment, and then maybe, they’d think that they were OK. That’s it. No biggie.

Have I played right into the hands of this company? Maybe. I strongly suspect that they were hoping for this kind of outrage and viral attention, and I know that they’re now laughing all the way to the bank. Look at what they got out of it: mentions on the national news, in national newspapers, and discussions on radio programmes. You can’t buy that kind of publicity! To which I say, again, I don’t care. This company’s profits will go down as well as up. Customers will soon realise that the product is useless an unnecessarily expensive. That has nothing to do with me. What I did, twice, was to potentially make somebody’s day a little brighter, and to reinforce their sense of self and wellbeing.

To the people on twitter who have called me out for ‘fit-shaming’ (I know, I didn’t think it was a thing either!) I would say that never once have I drawn attention to anybody’s figure – mine nor the model’s. Thinking that this is all about being jealous of the way someone looks is wrong. You can feel body-negative whether you are a supermodel or not. Everybody has bad days, and you know what, it has nothing to do with what you look like.

The advert’s intention was to shame women into using their product. To which I have the following to say:

  1. Shame has never been a conducive way to get fit and lose weight. If you’re feeling bad about yourself, you’re much more likely to buy a bar of chocolate than join a gym. It’s a simple fact.
  2. The way to make women (or anyone!) get fitter and healthier is to inspire them, to appeal to their intelligence and sense of wellbeing. All carrots, no stick. When you feel good about yourself – no matter what you look like – you will want to look after yourself better.
  3. How Protein World thinks that their product is the key to health and fitness mystifies me. Eating less and doing more exercise is key – not investing in vitamin pills or other dietary supplements. In fact, vitamin pills and dietary supplements have recently come under fire for possibly increasing risk of cancer and heart disease. You can read about that HERE.

All of you reading this – we all have our flaws. Regardless of whether we are a swim-wear model or not. We are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, and fooled into thinking that the airbrushed images we see are somehow attainable or aspirational. The truth is that many of us could do with an improved lifestyle. I have an illness that severely limits what I can do right now, but I am working on it with doctors and other specialists. But just because I’m not at the best place I can be physically does not mean that I am ashamed of my body. This is how I look. It’s not going to be changing any time soon, much to my annoyance. If I want to go on the beach, all I need to be ready is a swimsuit and sunscreen. There is no magic pill that will make me better, which is what Protein World would have you believe.

I’m OK. And you are too.

The rest of them can deal with it.

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Why I Write…

I write because I find it nearly impossible to truly articulate my feelings in any other way.

I write because nothing compares to the satisfaction of other people reading and liking my work.

I write because love is far more elusive than the movies would have you believe.

I write because the real world is far too small and never good enough.

I write because I don’t believe in magic, or gods, or the soul. But in stories, all these things can exist in plenty.

I write because there aren’t enough sunny days.

I write because really, underneath it all, I might be sad.

I write because the world inside is far safer than the world outside.

I write because I have no other way of saying what I really want to say.

My Book Launch

Some girls dream about what their wedding day will be like, but for me, the dream has always been the book launch. And last week, it happened! What I thought I’d do for you here is tell you what things were like behind the scenes, and how it feels to be a newly published author!

Well, at the risk of defusing the tension far too quickly in this blog post, being a newly published author feels very similar to being a nearly published author. Except now, when people ask me what I’ve written, I can actually point them in the direction of book stores!!! Having my book finally out on the shelves is just amazing. To go from being a Waterstones bookseller to seeing my book on the Buy One Get One Half Price tables is a dream come true.

Last Monday (three days before my launch party) I went to see my bookseller pal Teresa at her branch of Waterstones on the Kings Road, London. And I got to do the signing thing!

This is me doing my first ever Waterstones book shop signing!

This is me doing my first ever Waterstones book shop signing!

After which I had to go and find somewhere to get my eyebrows tamed. Ladies and gents, but mostly ladies, if there is one thing I hate doing its plucking my eyebrows. I just let them get as unruly as I can take before I go and have them threaded or waxed. Which is how I found myself in Peter Jones in Sloane Square, getting tutted at by a lady with some fine string, who proceeded to moan at me for how red the areas around my eyebrows were getting during the treatment. Like that’s even my fault?! When I asked for a mirror afterwards so that I could put some correcting make up on, she barked “no make up for five hours after treatment!” so I promptly went to hide in the toilets whilst I applied considerable amount of concealer on the upper half of my face.

Flash forward to the day of the party…

I spent most of the morning in bed trying to sleep so that I’d have enough energy for staying up late (those who are unaware of my health drama, please check out the tab on POTS), but I just couldn’t rest. I was far too nervous/excited, and I was getting far too many tweet alerts celebrating my book birthday. After lunch I decided to paint my nails whilst watching a countdown of the best ever Disney songs on Sky. This was a very good decision on my part and I didn’t regret it.

My party nails!

My party nails!

When I finally got to Waterstones Piccadilly, at about 5pm, my first thoughts were with the cake. The cake had been ordered from Choccywoccydoodahs months before, and I was desperate to know 1) if it had arrived at Piccadilly safely, and 2) WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE. Seriously, they don’t tell you these things. You order the cake, and you kinda know what to expect, but then you just have to wait it out until party day before you even get to see it. Well, fortunately, I was not disappointed:

CAKE!!!

CAKE!!!

Look at it. LOOK AT IT. It is quite possibly the most amazing cake IN THE WORLD!!! It’s made out of chocolate sponge with white truffle cream filling, and decorated entirely with chocolate. Yes, that’s right: ENTIRELY WITH CHOCOLATE. The fantastic guys at Choccywoccydoodahs had replicated the cover art (designed by Kate Grove, illustrated by John Riordan) perfectly, and made me a solid chocolate Othergirl. Right now, as I type, the chocolate book is being mounted and sealed in a moisture proof box frame, so that I can keep it forever. FOREVER.

Next up, let’s talk about my publishers, and how fabulous they looked:

Myself with editors Chloe and Charlie!

Myself with editors Chloe and Charlie!

How to tell if your publishers like you: THEY DRESS UP IN SPANDEX FOR YOUR LAUNCH PARTY.

Charlie had only flown in from the Bologna book fair that day, and looked amazing as an Incredible, whilst Chloe was doing her bit for genderswap by representing as a lady-Thor. And yes, that’s me in a cape. A FRIGGING SHINY CAPE. It was rented from Angels and had tiny tear in the back, but I’m hoping nobody noticed…

Being surrounded by every single person you care about in the word, all together in one room, is totally overwhelming. I’m not sure that there are many moments in life when you get to experience that, but let me tell you, its wonderful. I had almost all my extended family in the room, plus friends from school, friends from university, friends from Waterstones, and even some of the friends I’ve met whilst working copious hours in Edgware Starbucks! Plus there were bloggers, other booksellers, writers and librarians there to wish me well. It was amazing. If you were there, then thank your for being there, it meant a lot. If I know you and you weren’t there, well then trust me, I wish you were (but Waterstones Piccadilly had a cap on the numbers).

My signiture changed dramatically over the course of the evening. I’ve been told to try and perfect a special signiture just for signing books, but I really haven’t figured that out yet. So some people got legible versions of my name, whilst others got the letter ‘N’ followed by an intelligable squiggle. But between my hands shaking and struggling to remember how to spell people’s names, I did the best I could!

Signing for one of my best pals Laura Jane, and for my cousin Gina!

Signing for one of my best pals Laura Jane, and for my cousin Gina!

Finally, let’s talk about how standing up and signing signitures and generally being in a state of stressed-excitement for a few solid hours was probably the worst thing I could possibly do for my health. My resting heart rate sits at about 110 at the best of times, and that plus my high blood pressure and my POTS diagnosis is why I can’t do exercise at the moment, so basically I was running on endorphins and adrenaline for a good portion of the night. When I finally managed to sit down at about 9pm, it transpired that standing up again was not something that was going to happen easily. I felt terrible, and had all the signs of extreme fatigue. Put it this way, for someone with POTS just the process of going from sitting to standing puts 3x the amount of strain on the heart than for a normal person. So by the end of the party I wasn’t just tired, but quite unwell. I couldn’t stand without seeing stars, and as my Mum was to find out soon after, I became incredible irritable whenever I had to move somewhere. I crashed out that night (a Thursday) and didn’t really get out of bed until after midday on the Saturday.

But it was was worth it. Every moment of discomfort and palpitations was completely and utterly worth it to be able to celebrate Othergirl with everyone.

So there we are. My book is out, you can buy it in shops or on the online retailer of your choice. I hope you like it, and if its not for you, oh well! There are plenty of other books in the sea, and I hope that you liked this blog post at least?

Much love and high fives,

Nicole