Body image is something I’ve been struggling with for as long as I can remember. How about you?
I’ve been obsessed with looking the way I thought I should look since primary school.
Back when this all started for me, Girlfriend and Dolly magazines were every young girl’s bibles and I poured over them in my spare time, staring at the models that featured on the pages. I wanted to be thin and toned, with beautiful big lips and luscious hair. I couldn’t understand why they had such even and unblemished skin and I was battling acne year after year, trying every single fucking face-wash and treatment known to man with no results.
Body image issues also came via the likes of other people at school.
It was a cesspit of comparison, both with girls and boys. You’re constantly comparing yourself to the other girls. Are you thin enough, cool enough, pretty enough? Why does he like her, but not me? I don’t have the latest cool clothes or those shoes – maybe if I get those, I’ll be cool.
I had bouts of depriving myself of food during the day and just filling myself up with water, thinking that would help me lose weight. I binged the minute I got home and then hated myself for it. I always thought I was fat, never wore revealing clothes and did not have an ounce of self esteem (I was picked on for being a nerd with braces and acne – I had zero chance).
Social media didn’t come into my life until my final year of high school (thank God).
Myspace was released unto us in year twelve, and in hindsight, that shit was fucking mayhem on our naive minds. It was in addition to the shit we caused on good ol’ MSN messenger, and Myspace took the cake with allowing you to rank your friends FFS.
Over the years, my obsession with being thin lessened and in my early twenties, it morphed into a new obsession. ‘Strong is the new skinny’. Yes. At face value, this is a great message. Encouraging women to put good food in their bodies, to eat healthily, to exercise and that being strong is sexy. Definitely a step up for me. But looking back I realise how fixated I was during that time of my life.
I was obsessed with ‘clean eating’ to the point that I didn’t even put sauce on my meals. It was meat and green vegetables 24/7 and I never, ever slipped up. The strong fixation was just a just a different type of body obsession. I was ridiculously careful. Looking back on it, I was thin with some muscle – collarbones and abs to boot – but my mindset then was so poor that I didn’t see it. I just wanted to be thinner, fitter, ‘better’.
As I’ve gotten older this somewhat self-destructive behaviour has come in all shapes and sizes (like people #ha).
Sometimes I’m fit and focused, sometimes I slip into weird yo-yoing phases. This girl can eat. She knows how to binge and eat everything she sees when on holidays. I emotionally eat, I emotionally restrain. I love beer. #alloftheabove
A few days ago, I slipped into a negative headspace, completely tearing myself to shreds about everything I didn’t like about my body. My legs, oh my legs. They’ve never been particularly toned, it’s where I carry the majority of my weight and I’ve always had a difficult time accepting them for how they are. I have cellulite almost everywhere from the knee up (spray tans help in disguising this), I don’t have a firm, peachy butt and it wouldn’t hurt if I could have less-cankle like calves, more definition-like calves, but whatevs.
I went to bed early that night feeling off, but knowing that a good night’s sleep would help my mindset. And I was right.
I woke up with a clearer way of seeing things and have been reinforcing what I have been saying to myself over and over and over lately: my legs work. I can feel them. They allow me to walk, run, jump, skip and dance. I can get from A to B. I can exercise and balance. I am healthy the majority of the time. I have great jobs, great friends and great family. My life is good and being self-conscious about a body part is not a reason to shut down, binge-eat, get sad or beat myself up.
No, I’m not a size eight anymore and aiming to get into a certain size of clothing is no longer on my radar. Thinking about how I look and how I feel takes up a lot of my mental brain space, but I am working on remembering what really matters. And I am reminding myself every – single – day. I need to ingrain it in my head. I need to re-train my brain on the way it thinks about body image. I need to stop obsessing about every little thing and worrying about what others think. It’s exhausting and detrimental to my mental and physical health.
If you’re in the same boat, I would highly recommend a few things:
- Unfollow fitness influencers/accounts on social media that don’t make you feel motivated or good about yourself.
- Don’t fall for all those skinny teas and lollipops that make you shit yourself until you’re thin.
- Do your research – read verified studies and information about what is good to put into your body. Yes there are lots of different opinions on what is the best way to eat (keto, veganism, dairy-free, intuitive eating, 80/20 etc.). Find what works for you and makes you feel good in the body and the mind.
- Practice gratitude – sounds hippy and I’ve said it a hundred times, but it works. Write down things you’re grateful for in life, and throw in something you like about your body. Do it enough times, it’ll become habit (that’s what I’m trying anyway).
Did you hear me? BE KIND TO YOURSELF. And to others. The world can never have enough kindness.