body positivity Plus-size influencer attempted to take her own life at 13 over horrendous bullying
Having overcome years of relentless bullying, Joanne Phibbs (29), from Kildare, is now on a mission to promote body positivity.
'Tugboat, fat, ugly' - these are the cruel slurs which led a plus-sized influencer to attempt to take her own life at the tender age of 13.
But now, having overcome years of relentless bullying, Joanne Phibbs (29), from Kildare, is now on a mission to promote body positivity.
The pre-school worker, who is mum to son Oliver (3), is now using her Instagram platform to reject anti-fat bias and unrealistic beauty standards, and is asking women 'to love the skin they're in'.
"I originally set up my page because I wanted to break the stigma around postnatal depression and mental health. When I got over my postnatal depression I began to love my body for what it was. I went on a self-love journey towards body positivity. I realise now that you can love your body no matter what size you are."
Having recently started on a fitness kick, the activist and curve model, who is a size 24 - 26, regularly posts workout videos and body positive affirmations to her 19,000-plus followers.
"I am not brave for posting the pictures that I do, we are all worthy of love, regardless of our size and shape. You can be thin or plus-size and that doesn't define your worth and you can be my size and be healthy too.
"This year I wanted to up my fitness levels so I started with my trainer James Rafferty on Instagram. I am not worried about my health right now but down the line it could be a concern, which is why I wanted to up my exercise.
"We are not focusing on scales, which is what deterred me before. In the past I would get so hung up on the scales.
"A couple of years ago I would say 'I am going to drop ten stone and get down to a size 12' and I would get derailed. Now I say, 'today is day 29 and I am going to see if I can get to day 60 of my fitness challenge'.
Having already completed 28 days of her get-fit programme, Joanne feels stronger, both mentally and physically.
"I can already see a difference in my fitness. Even doing a sit-up - before I was barely able to lift my head off the ground and now I can lift my shoulders off the ground and that is a huge achievement for me. My little boy is three now and he has so much energy, so I want to keep up with him."
Despite the adoring mum's efforts to spread body positivity, she still courts occasional negativity online.
"I would get the odd troll telling me I need to cover up. If that happens I just block and delete. Now if someone says I am fat and ugly I can deal with that, a couple of years ago I would have broken down and cried.
"Fat is just a descriptive word. When someone calls me fat I know it's just a word. Yes, I am fat but people get too hung up on words.
"I also think people can get too caught up by weight and then you get defined by the girl who lost X amount of weight and I don't want to be that girl. I just want to be Joanne who is fit and healthy and moving."
Speaking of her previous battle with her body image, the fitness enthusiast said: "I was always overweight when I was younger. From a very young age I was self-conscious about how I looked.
"I was bullied in school and then when I went home from school I was bullied on Bebo and over text messages. People have said to me in the past, 'you're fat, go kill yourself' or they might have called me a tugboat or told me I've a pretty face for a big girl. These are things that stick in my head from years ago."
Unable to escape the onslaught of abuse, Joanne attempted to take her own life.
"I was only 13 when I took tablets. I had second thoughts and I told my mam and I was brought to Crumlin Hospital. I had that moment, 'what have I done?'
"I love who I am now but ten years ago I would be so conscious, 'what will people think of me and the pictures I post?' As long as my little boy is happy, I am happy."
The fashion influencer is also calling for more size inclusivity in the industry.
"There are international brands but not Irish brands that cater for plus size.
"You would go into Penneys and be lucky to get your leg into some of their things. I have messaged Irish brands and they have said they are working on it, but it is not good enough.
"You can be stylish no matter what you weigh. I hope people look at my page and remember to love themselves. You only have one body and you only have one life and once you do that you will be happy in yourself and you will look after yourself."
If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, you can contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.
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