Angela Cox has inspired thousands through A Big Girl’s Journey To Lean. Now she is sharing how she has said ‘enough’ to the life experiences that once held her back
Meeting Angela Cox for the first time felt like catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years.
This is partly due to the fact that I have followed her journey on social media since the beginning of 2016, and partly because I have just finished reading her first book, Enough – which intimately details her life, her health-kick and weight loss journey, mindset change, and the challenges she’s encountered along the way.
So, when I bump into her before our interview, in the queue for the loo at St Pancras Station, I greet Angela with the kind of familiarity that you probably should reserve for someone you actually know.
Thankfully, Angela isn’t fazed. She’s as warm and conversational in person as she always seems on social media, and in her A Big Girl’s Journey to Lean vlogs – and she describes herself immediately as “a professional oversharer”.
When we do sit down to chat (properly), she first confides in me that she hurt her back during her morning workout, shows me some of the ideas she sketched out while on holiday, and talks about her plans to encourage women to feel better about themselves.
And who better to encourage them? Angela has really worked at finding a new and positive way forward for herself after years of dieting and a negative relationship with food and body image. Now, through perseverance, consistently exercising, food preparation, mindset management, and documenting her journey, she has developed a significantly leaner and healthier physique.
She has also gained a huge amount of followers across her social media channels, inspiring them by sharing her own journey so far – the good, the bad and the ugly (the latter mainly involving internet trolls). She evidently works hard at wellness of both the body and mind – including her family and friends (her children Coral and Finley often feature in her food prepping posts, or joining in a HIIT session) and she is dedicated to the life changes she has made.
Angela’s upcoming book Enough confirms this, and shares so much more than we see through her social media. The book serves as a reminder that behind every post, there are chapters and chapters of life experiences that make up the person we only catch a glimpse of online. Their story is always bigger than we will ever know from the other side of a screen.
Enough is a book of three – and a bit – parts. Starting with Angela’s life, from childhood to the beginning of her documented mission to change her body and mind, she then describes her “journey to lean” kick-started by The Body Coach plan (she is a huge advocate for Joe Wicks). There’s a section on actionable self-help tools and tips for readers, and finally, a powerful, short epilogue that illustrates how nobody’s journey is ever linear – although Angela shows that some of the hardest of setbacks can be shared, addressed and moved through, with support.
We start by discussing the writing of Enough, beginning at the end – The Unexpected Epilogue. “The epilogue was fairly emotional to write,” Angela notes. “I’d finished the book eight months before the incident happened, and I thought I can’t not put that in the book. People who follow me on social media knew I’d had a blip, but they didn’t know why.”
The blip that Angela refers to is a period of emotional eating, triggered by an unexpected phone call from a man who had abused her when she was a child. She has not talked about this sexual abuse publicly, prior to sharing her experiences in the book.
She reflects further: “Writing the first half of the book, from childhood to my 30s, and then reading it back and recognising that as my story, while it was quite cathartic, lots of emotion came out of it which, as well as that phone call, caused me to fall apart. There were so many aspects of my experiences last year that kept coming back into my head that had been buried for a long time – and you cope, you cope, you cope, and then, wham, something happens and you can’t cope anymore. That’s difficult in itself – how do you, as a mum, as a person with a career, as someone who people look to as a strong woman, deal with the fact that you can’t cope one day, and you need some time to stop and reboot?”
Thankfully, she did stop, and she sought the help of a psychologist who specialises in eating disorders. Angela was diagnosed with PTSD from her childhood experiences, as well as bulimia and binge-eating disorder. I ask her whether it was helpful to have these diagnoses and therapy?
“I was quite frustrated during the first few weeks with my therapist,” Angela says. “When we met, I told her my issues were nothing to do with childhood sexual abuse and that I had already dealt with that. Her response was to say: ‘OK, what shall we talk about then?’ So we talked about my eating, the binge-eating. We talked for weeks and weeks. I didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere and asked her if anything was going to happen – and she said to trust the process.
“The next week she asked me a question about the sexual abuse, and the conversation that followed changed a lot for me. The flood gates opened and deeper memories surfaced. The discoveries have been really painful, but I feel like it’s been an awakening – because now, I’m actually dealing with the whole piece.”
The conversation turns back to social media, and both Angela and I agree that we’re pleased it wasn’t around when we were teenagers. Angela writes about childhood bullying in the book and I wonder whether the frequent online criticism (though significantly less than the support she receives) brings back those memories?
Angela is honest about the negative impact trolls have had on her. “It does get easier, but each time it happens, I get this little stab and then I think: ‘I’m going to have to let this go.’ Last year I couldn’t let it go though. I just kept thinking: Why do you do it?”
The trolls were particularly harsh when she came home from having a tummy tuck, describing it as a “vanity operation”. Angela explores this part of her journey in the book (the description of which had me gripping the pages in sympathy for her and the pain she endured). It’s now a year since she had the op, and shared her experiences, and the aftermath, online.
The procedure was not about vanity, Angela had been left with excess skin on her stomach that held her back, physically and mentally. “The first time I showed everyone that skin on social media, everyone was shocked – because I could hide it in photos, but when I looked in the mirror it was all I could see. Despite all the work I’d done, I still saw a big girl.”
However, the decision to go ahead with the op wasn’t an easy one. “The fear I had of letting go of the big girl, it was a really defining moment – the loose skin, I had got used to it,” Angela reflects. “I was used to being the big ‘bubbly’ girl, and I was good at it. The decision to take that away was a huge step. Once it had gone, I looked in the mirror and realised she was no longer there.”
The “big girl” may no longer be there, but I see – and read – about a woman who is massively determined, warm and passionate, and keen to help others. The section of Enough that provides self-help tips is both useful and realistic to the fact that we all have to choose to take action, to observe what we are doing, reflect and change.
I could have chatted with Angela all day, but we both have places to go. As I start to wrap up, I ask her one final question – are you ready for the book to come out? She takes a deep breath. “I have days when I go, oh my God, am I really doing this? What are people going to say?”
“I’m worried about the impact on my family; I’ve tried to be really thoughtful about that. There are so many people impacted by your story, you have to try to protect them,” Angela says.
“But its like that Maya Angelou quote: ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’. You have to tell it for your own sanity, and that’s where I am at.”
I leave the interview contemplating Angela’s words. I am glad she is telling her story, and I hope many, many people read it.
‘Enough’ is out now and available from Amazon. Follow Angela on Instagram