It feels weird to write about anything but politics right now, but in an attempt to break up the heat of the flames of doom licking at the door, I’m gonna give it a go.
I’ve spent the best part of fifteen years in a struggle with my body, and with myself. This doesn’t make me special or unique in any way; in fact it I was a part of 97% of women who have a negative thought about their bodies at least once a day. So with that in mind, I want to stress that this isn’t an attention grabbing blog, or me complaining about myself. It has a happy ending, I swear. This is about how I’m teaching myself to accept my body, to treat it with the respect it deserves, and be thankful that it works for the most part.
Around the age of 16 I suffered from anorexia, which later developed into bulimia. I don’t talk about it a lot, if ever. I managed to hide it from my family and most of my friends. In hindsight, I was of course frighteningly thin. But one of the genetic traits of my mother’s side of the family is a pot-belly. It’s like the little puppy fat that you see on kids, except it never really goes away unless you crunch to fuck on a daily basis. It only affects the women, and it was all I could see. I saw my best friend with her ironing board flat stomach and figured I must be fat because my stomach wasn’t like hers. So I didn’t eat. For a good two years, I ate the bare minimum, forced myself to diet, drinking gravy as a meal; and when I felt like that wasn’t working, I started throwing up. I’d stand in front of the kitchen cupboards bingeing on dry pasta, scoop handfuls of anything from the fridge, and then I’d run upstairs and make myself sick. I didn’t do it that often, and so I convinced myself it didn’t count. I was aware of what I was doing, but I wasn’t that bad, so it didn’t count as an illness, I was just trying to shift some weight. The belly never did shift, but looking back at pictures, I was clearly only focussing on that.
Now, I’m not saying for a second that anyone who is naturally this skinny should be ashamed of their body. As long as you’re healthy and you love you, that’s what matters. But I’m a naturally curvy person – this was a result of unhealthy habits and obsession.
The first person to notice was a friend, who quietly started buying me lunch when we all went out. The second person was my first ever boyfriend, who crossly cooked for me whenever I would stay at his house. For a while, I started to get back on track. I slipped a few times, but was lucky enough to have people in my life who knew and who would be there to help. I didn’t slip as far as I could have and I’m so grateful for that.
Since then, I’ve been on a yo-yo of dieting, exercise fads, periods of giving up completely and just eating everything I could get my hands on. Neither of these made me happy. Food has always been something I can control; whether I’m skinny or whether I’m fat or somewhere in between has always been down to me. I can choose. Yet at the same time, whichever way I went, I hated it. I hated skinny me, she wasn’t toned enough, she never got to eat anything. I hated fat me, she looked disgusting, she looked lazy, she wasn’t worth anything.
I’ve done atkins, paleo, slimming world, something called the toast diet (don’t.), vegetable detoxing, soup diets, all sorts of ridiculous shit I’ve heard about through word-of-mouth. As recently as last year I fell into the trap of the Joe Wicks diet, having convinced myself it was different – this time it was for health reasons.
I have been everything from a size 8 to a size 18 (currently 16 for those keeping score…) and I have had people who’ve seen both mock me for weight gain and make me feel like turd. Sadly, that same first boyfriend later took to calling me fat on social media like a gentleman. And it fucked with my head. And I hated myself. And I covered up. And I hid. And I did a fad diet.
About three years ago, I was on one of my health-binges. I couldn’t afford to join the gym, and so I put on my trainers and I went for a run. I’d never run before. I stopped at every street lamp to catch my breath. I walked for long periods, and slow jogged the rest. But I did it. And when I got home, something was different. My body had taken me on this journey by itself, that body I loathed so much had carried me. Nothing changed overnight; I still obsessed.
But I carried on running. And I learned to love it. And I learned to love the body that meant I could do it. I was proud of the tubby little tummy that jiggled with each step.
Slowly, I began to forget to obsess. I could eat without bingeing. I could eat healthily without over thinking it. I could go for a run for the sake of going for a run.
Then I discovered feminism. I read books and articles and studies about how we’re shown images of the body we’re supposed to have from infancy. Have you ever seen a chubby princess? So for my wedding, know what I went as? A chubby fucking princess.
My weight has continued to yo-yo. Sometimes I’m too comfortable, or I’m too busy, and it falls by the wayside, and I focus on my social life, on my marriage, on my job. But do you know what? I haven’t hated myself. I cannot remember the last time I looked at my naked, podgy body in the mirror and thought that it was disgusting. I love my body. I’m proud of what it can do, and I’m proud of what I can do. I’m proud of how I can do my makeup when I want, and I’m proud of the outfits I put together – and I’m proud that I can stand, naked, fat and unashamed without feeling judged; without feeling I have to cover that pot belly.
The closest I get is wearing tight-fitting clothes. I get apprehensive. And so last year, I bought a tight-fitting lace bodysuit. And forced myself to wear it out despite feeling self-conscious. And it felt so fucking good.
I want to be healthy, and fit enough to run up a hill, and active enough to flood myself with endorphins. But if I can’t be arsed sometimes, that’s cool too. I want to eat the sort of food that will keep my body going. But if sometimes I want a fucking pizza, that’s cool too.
Accepting the little things about me that I can’t change, like that determined belly, has changed my life. Accepting that there are more important things about me than what I look like has changed my god damn life. But above all, learning to love the body I have has changed my life. It’s the only one I’ve got, and it keeps me safe, it keeps my organs running, it keeps me breathing – and that makes me one lucky motherfucker. And with the world falling apart at the seams, I have more important shit to attend to than worrying what other people think about my flab. If I do change myself, it’s for me. If I don’t, that’s because I don’t want to.
Letting how I look run my life made me miserable and now – I have never been happier. It’s fed in to my confidence across the board. I don’t need to spend an hour putting on makeup to feel noticeable; I can rock into a board meeting with a bare face and my hair in a top knot and still kick-ass. I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but forcing myself to confront my body and my fears about it has changed my entire life. And I feel fucking amazing.
As a part of this whole confronting my shit thing. Here’s an unashamed full frontal no makeup picture. It’s not the biggest I’ve been, it’s not the smallest I’ve been, it’s not perfect in the way magazines tell me it should be. But it’s fucking perfect to me.