The body dilemma………love/hate

#bodyimage #bodygoals #strongnotskinny #celebrateyourcurves #bodypositivity……so…..many…..hashtags…….its everywhere with social media being the main advocate of all things body positive.

I have long wanted to write a blog on body image and what it means to me. However, for me personally, its a sensitive subject and weight and body issues have been on my radar for 20 or more years now.

When I’ve spoken to many friends about this, their story is usually that they have always had issues with controlling their weight, many spanning over decades right back to childhood. Mine was a different ‘road’ to weight gain and not the conventional route. Up until I was 18, I was a size 8, had a 27 inch waist and was one of those annoying people who could eat anything I wanted (and I mean huge portions of chips, sweets, takeaways etc) and NEVER put on weight. My body and my weight were not even on my radar – I just took it for granted to be the size I was without fluctuations, never weighed myself and my clothes always fit. I had a washboard flat stomach, no stomach rolls, no wobble or cellulite – I did always however have an arse, inherited from my Dad’s side of the family thank mainly to our Spanish heritage back in the day! Something I am thankful for 🙂

Then I was hit with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes when I was 18 and that was the start of the slippery slope of body issues. I knew from reading articles on diabetes that your metabolism is basically screwed and many diabetics struggle with losing and maintaining weight. But of course I naively thought, sure I’ll be grand and kept eating the way I had before. Big, big mistake! Between trying to cope with a life changing illness, a shitty breakup with one of the most horrible human beings I have ever met and being partially in denial about what was happening, I managed to be slightly aware but also ignore the pounds and stone which kept increasing on the scale. The result being I went from a size 8 to a size 18 in a year, which was a massive shock to me and my system. Still to this day, I HATE the fact that diabetes affected my body like that and often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had ‘stayed slim’ – as if being slimmer would be the key to a better life !!

Both my reaction and other peoples reactions were surprising and sometimes hurtful. I was very aware of having to bring larger sizes into the changing room, how awful and unhealthy I looked and reactions from some friends and the shitty ex just solidified the crippling self esteem issues I still suffer with now. Being highly aware and embarrassed of the ‘surprised’ looks from people I had last seen when I was slimmer, slightly smug looks from bitchy girls who couldn’t hide their glee that I was now a ‘fat girl’ and ‘horrible ex’ as I will dub him (he doesn’t deserve to be named) screaming at me on a night out that I was so fat and ugly, no one would ever find me attractive again……..and a few random strangers not taking rejection well and saying they were only chatting me up for a dare anyway as I was such a fat bitch……….which chipped away and stamped my self esteem into the ground…….fun times!

Over the past 20 years I would get sporadic months where I would exercise, eat clean and feel so much better in how I looked which resulted in me losing weight and having a rare confidence boost. I have lost 2-3 stone over the years and gotten down to an average size 12-14 (ish) but the struggle is constant. I hate to hang all of my self worth on a scales and how I feel in clothes and how I look. Ironically I am more comfortable with who I am on the inside than how I look outside and that pisses me off as I am defining myself almost solely by how I look. I know I have a great brain which has the ability to retain an insane amount of information, I can be funny, quick witted, analytical, compassionate, kind, loyal and everything else in between! But yet when I look in the mirror, all I can do is pick apart all the bits I don’t like……….

Living in London is amazing but sometimes it can be soul destroying for those of us like myself who do not fit the cookie cutter standard of attractive. I step out the door thinking, I don’t look too bad today……and that gets crushed within a few minutes.

You see literally hundreds of girls a day, on the tube, on the street, in work…..everywhere, who look like they have stepped off a catwalk. So flawless I literally cant stop staring and being envious. Not jealous though……jealousy can be an ugly trait and to be honest, someone can look perfect on the outside but we don’t know battles people may face under the surface so I tend to try and err on the side of envy instead, which is more of a longing to look like them but not hating them because they look seemingly ‘perfect’ and seem to have their lives all figured out and together. Nobody is ever perfect……..

I can’t write this blog without referring to the media and social media – both are culprits for celebrating all bodies but also tearing women down and opening up a forum for trolls and people with severe issues to spew and project all their own hatred and projections onto other people. The messages I love to see are that no body is perfect and to celebrate all of our differences, our perfect imperfections and what makes us unique and ‘me’.

No matter how much I read online, I always find it shocking when people on social media call girls fat who are blatantly not. Or the most jaw dropping comments, which are also deeply disturbing come when I see pregnant celebrities being called pigs or fat or disgusting for ‘letting themselves go’. What the actual fuck?? She is pregnant and housing a tiny human which is going to change her body shape. She has a million hormones in her body going crazy and sometimes medical conditions from the pregnancy, but no, lets concentrate on calling her a fat cow…….because she doesn’t fit the body standard for pregnancy, whatever the hell that is supposed to be!

We see Instagram posts with filter after filter after filter, until people are so unrecognisable you have to double check their account to see if its them. I for one, am guilty of filtering the colouring of pics to try and minimise the dark circles under my eyes (hate), to brighten up jaded sun starved skin, to add more sparkle to my eyes when I’m tired……you get the picture. I ask myself why is it so bad to just post the normal picture which captured a beautiful moment? Because it may not be ‘attractive’ enough, because you can see my flaws? Because people will see the real unfiltered me (god forbid!) or secretly because I probably wont get as many ‘likes’. Its all about the likes…..the validation from other people that you are attractive. I hate the fact I get a buzz from other peoples comments, even though I constantly give the same compliments myself to other people, when what I really want to say is, yes you look great but you are such an amazing person too and you are so much more……and should not be defined by your looks.

I remember reading a study about the power of peoples words in relation to compliments about weight loss which really said it all. Subjects were put into an MRI machine and different phrases would be read out to them and doctors would see certain parts of the brain lighting up in reaction to the spoken words – sometimes words of love, sometimes anger, fear, sadness and so on. Ironically the part of the brain which lit up when people were told ‘I love you’ by a loved one, was the exact same part of the brain lighting up like a Christmas tree for another three words…….’You’ve lost weight’. Think about that for a minute and realise how insane that is!? We put so much weight (excuse the pun) on being told we look slimmer that we equate it with the same area of the brain which controls the ‘love’ hormones and endorphins.

I realise I could go on forever about this subject and have had numerous debates with both guys and girls when it inevitably crops up in conversation. Usually the most heated debates are with my guy friends who take the piss out of ‘fat girls’ or are too embarrassed to bring out the girl they are dating because she isn’t a ’10’, for fear their friends will take the piss secretly. In my mind, if you are not proud of who you are with, then you don’t really deserve to be with that person…….but that’s just me!

I swing between championing myself and my differences and usually listening to the ‘sensible’ voice in my head regarding my body image and self esteem issues relating to this. Unfortunately the little devil on my shoulder is a noisy little bastard for most of the time and always shouts the sensible voice down.

On a good day, I can pick out the bits of me I like – my big dark brown eyes, my smile, my boobs (!), my small waist and my bum (but only in jeans!) – see, even now, I am slightly tweaking one of the things I ‘like’ and cant say it fully with confidence and own my curvy arse! I actually love my curves and the softness of my body and I certainly do not want to be skinny. On bad days, which happen far more often than I would like, I literally loathe to even look at myself in the mirror and feel hideously unattractive and I then pick out a million things I hate about myself. It affects my mood, my mental health, friendships, it has inched its way into past relationships with feelings of not being attractive enough and bad insecurities which I project onto the other person… seeps into everything like a poison.

How do I get out of this mindset and change the behaviour of a lifetime and try and fight off the unconscious conditioning from the world defining what is a ‘great body’ and what is attractive. Somebody’s self worth, importance in this world or how we choose to treat them should never be based on how they look or whether their body fits the ‘acceptable’ body type. It takes a complete asshole to treat someone like shit because of how they look and says a lot more about them that it does about the person they are targeting. Well adjusted ‘normal’ people do not go around destroying other human beings for their own gain.

I am fully aware I will never shake this feeling and it will be part of my life forever, which I have become slightly more accepting of as the years go on. The only thing I can do is talk it out with friends (two of whom I live with and provide the most amazing support system), family or just in general. Speaking out the thoughts which are rattling around in my mind can be more cathartic than you think – saying the words out loud makes it more real and makes me take responsibility and address some of the issues I have. Also, you will find you will come across more and more people who will empathise with you and have similar experiences and this can also help.

In the meantime its about celebrating the times when I feel good about myself, not buying into other peoples horrible words, being proud of not being perfect and realising I have a lot more to offer than just how I look. For the bad days, its about acknowledging it but not wallowing in it – and also realising that it will be just a few ‘down’ days and that I will come out the other side and to recognise that.

I know I will never ever lose the issues I have with confidence and self esteem and these will always be part of my life…..which on one hand pisses me off, but on the other hand I need to accept this part of my life will always be knocking around my head. Its about managing it and putting things in perspective. There are more important things in life than how you look. You only have one body to live in and one life, so its about making the best of it, even if you limp through sometimes and feel like your world is crashing down. Its about surrounding yourself with people who see you for far more than the shell you inhabit and appreciate you for the amazing person you are !!