None of us leave the womb worried about our weight or body image. In fact these things never occurred to me in my younger years. My childhood years were free. I was surrounded by secure confident women so I learned to be secure and confident too. I gained weight in puberty and not slowly. One night a teeny little girl went to bed and the next morning this woman came down for breakfast, all size 12 with a massive bust. I was still a little kid so I couldn’t handle it. I was in no rush to fill that body, I didn’t know how.
I left home to attend University. Everything was new, nothing was stable and I found comfort in something familiar that made me feel grounded again. FOOD. I took to food like an Olympic athlete takes to a serious training routine. It became my EVERYTHING and I gained around 56lbs. I was a large size. I was miserable. The misery wasn’t a result of my size but a result of me being completely out of control.
Over the years my relationship with food remained a constant and soothing presence. I have never found an occasion, symptom or emotion that I cannot medicate with it. If I’m sad I want to eat to remind myself of secure, happy meals at home. If I’m happy I want to celebrate by treating myself to food. Stress leads to binge eating as I lose all control over what my body needs and I wait for that all important moment it will tell me to stop. You’d think with all that baggage around food I must be full of self-loathing for my body. But in general I’m not. Yes, you heard that right. I’m good with being me.
Today I weigh around 180lbs. I’m just under 5ft 9 inches tall. I’m busty, and of a medium build. I’ve been slimmer (before I moved in with my boyfriend) and I’ve been heavier. I don’t just like me, I love me. I’m only sorry that I’ve only recently started saying that out loud. I feel lucky to have good body image most of the time, we all have our moments right?.
I’ve noticed a few things though that seem to be my body image triggers. Firstly, When other people berate their bodies When people talk about needing to lose weight, I find myself starting to think “If she wants to lose weight and she’s thinner than me, Does that mean I need to?” When they look at their own photos and criticise their tummy rolls, or fat thighs I automatically start to examine my own. I am wrong to want to love myself?, am I silly to think that how I look is OK? Secondly,The Media. I love a magazine. It’s a weekend routine for me to select a glossy cover, make myself a nice cup of tea and settle in for a read but I’ve realised you have to choose your material carefully. In this modern day where body issues seem to be discussed a little more openly I’m surprised that nearly every cover on a women’s magazine offers me a chance to look slimmer for summer, to lose 5lbs in just 7 days or glow from 10 days on juice. Take a look next time you are in a store. It’s difficult to pick a magazine that’s not offering you a quick diet fix. TV and the internet is full of praise for celebs who have lost weight, full of loathing for stars who have gained a few pounds or been photographed at a bad angle.
My personal sanctuary, the bookstore, is full of bestselling books offering me an easy way to lose the weight for good. They have beautiful covers, they use enticing words and they offer me a chance to feel better about myself. I admit. I fail. I fail in the face of these things. I start to feel bad about the stomach… I want to buy the glossy book, I buy the magazine that shows me how x,y,z lost 12lbs and kept it off… I look at my home, the stack of magazines and the shelf entirely devoted to diet books, the fat library. I haven’t read half of them. I glean a few pages and I shake myself. Why am I letting all this stuff change the way I feel about me? Because I’ve learned that behaviour.
Over time something told me that slimmer is more attractive, it’s healthier, it’s more desirable. Something made me look at my stomach and say it needed to be flatter, and something told me that if I didn’t look like a model in a magazine that I should keep trying until I got there. I’ll let you in to a little secret I don’t look like a model that I see in magazines’, I look like me. I bought the books, I tried the diets, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of money on any number of quick fix attempts. The secret is, nothing you buy will fix something you aren’t ready to fix. And that is OK.
If you really want to lose weight and feel healthy, go for it. A book, magazine or berating article on the internet will not help you. Drive, determination and a positive mind-set will and none of those things are available at the local store. You already have them, hidden inside the body you already are in possession of. By loving the body you have right now, by showing yourself acceptance and praise you can take the focus off negative thinking. I still have days where I want to sit on the sofa and eat a massive tub of ice cream. I also have days where I run for an hour because I like it and it clears my head.
When you love your body and you want to take care of it you realise that diet nor exercise is the enemy. You realise that what you look like in a candid snap will not take away who you are as a person. It’s all just negative noise and it’s a choice you CAN move away from. I may not have the perfect flat stomach. I’d like a bigger bum and some toned shoulders. Maybe I’ll get them, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter because my life will go on regardless but it’s a damn site easier to look at myself in a positive light. I shine in that light and by shimmering away in my corner I shed a little light on those around me.