I'm a size 14 with stretch marks & if people don't like it they're out of my life, says EastEnders star Melissa Suffield

I'M really not a fan of the term “body positivity”.

It’s not something that strikes me as particularly helpful, because our relationship with our bodies is a journey that is always going to ebb and flow.

You’re going to have up days and down days, and I’m certainly not a failure just because I don’t feel 100% positive about my body all the time. I have stretch marks. I have rolls. I’m a size 14.

But I’m no less of a person just because my clothes are bigger than they used to be. My partner Robert [Brendan, 40, a cruise director] gives me confidence every day and he’s so proud that I’m now helping other people learn to love themselves, too.

Ultimately, your body is just a vessel. It’s the person inside that vessel who is worthy of love. And if liking me or not liking me depends on a judgement someone has made about my body, then that person is a p***k and doesn’t deserve a place in my life.

Growing up, I never really thought about my body. I was probably more secure than a lot of other teenagers. I was a natural performer – I was 11 when I joined the cast of EastEnders as Lucy Beale – and did ballet lessons multiple times a week, which made me very slight. I had no boobs, which was always a bit of a sticking point. I remember thinking that I’d be perfectly happy if only I had a bigger rack!

The first time I really started to think about my body was when I became pregnant with my son River, now 22 months, in the summer of 2019. 

I was in awe of my growing bump, but I remember having a bath one day and seeing my reflection in the taps. I was sitting there with my now-huge boobs resting on this giant bump and I just went: “Oh my god, I look like a cow!”

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'I felt like s**t'

I gave birth on March 16, 2020, and we went into lockdown the following week, so I didn’t feel any pressure to get back into my jeans – I wasn’t going to be going anywhere or seeing anyone. 

Mastitis made breastfeeding impossible, so I expressed milk for River and focused on keeping up my milk supply rather than losing weight. Of course I’m conscious that my postpartum body is bigger than it used to be. 

I haven’t weighed myself in five years, but I’ve gone from a size 8-10 to a 14, and I’m not going to pretend that every day is sunshine and flowers. Self-love is like any form of therapy, you can’t just click your fingers one day and make it happen.

You have to keep working at it – it’s a process. Last week I had a day where I felt like s**t. I had to undo the button on a pair of jeans that had been loose in the summer. 

I thought: ‘How did this happen? What did I do wrong?’ But I was able to tell myself it didn’t matter, and to just put some leggings on instead! Maybe those jeans will fit next month, maybe they won’t and I’ll have to buy new jeans. It’s all OK. 

I’m currently waiting for a referral to the orthopaedics for inflamed tendons in my thighs – a result of pressure on my pelvis during pregnancy. The pain means I’m unable to exercise, and because this is something outside of my control, I’ve had no choice but to get happy with my body as it is for now. My relationship with it changes daily, depending on where I’m going, who I’m with and what I’m doing. 

My goal is for us all to reach a place where none of this matters and we’re kinder to – and more comfortable with – ourselves. 

Anything remotely negative, I hit away, because I don’t have time for it. I have a toddler and my partner works at sea, so I’m on my own a lot with a house to run, work to do and a child to look after.

But if sharing my journey on Instagram and getting my flabby tummy out from time to time means I can help someone feel a little bit better about themselves, then I will carry on doing that. 

My goal is for us all to reach a place where none of this matters and we’re kinder to – and more comfortable with – ourselves. 

  • Follow Melissa on Instagram @The.confidentmama.

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