Where self loathing is born
I remember in year 2, being taunted before school each day with the nickname Fatty Miller. I remember in year 4, Mrs Lye told to me to pipe down, that I was so big I already stuck out like a sore thumb and by being loud I was just drawing more unwanted attention to myself. I remember in year 10, at the hospital getting my tonsils out and having to step on the scales for my anaesthetic, the nurse saying "Oh My God that couldn’t be right. Is that really how much you weigh?"
When I think about it now, I can remember it all so vividly, I can feel the sun on my face in the playground, I can picture the art on the walls in Mrs Lye’s classroom & and I can smell the hospital. I went on for so long smothering those feeling because I was so ashamed of my body. I was so ashamed that I could be so disgusting even as a child, but more than anything else it makes me sad. Sad that an off the cuff comment from a school kid, a teacher & a random nurse could have such an impact on me for the next 20 odd years. I actually can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I remember those events as clear as day.
The way we feel about our bodies is shaped from a very young age. We are conditioned very early about what is acceptable and expected and what is undesirable and unappealing. These thoughts shape who we are and how we perceive ourselves and go on to guide our decisions as adults. When you believe you don't fit the beauty mould or valued by your peers, attempts to fit in become dangerous, well they certainly did with me!
The thin ideal was always sold to me as the perfect body. Legs that went for days, visible hip bones, that thigh gap, you know the one. It was so unachievable for me to ever have a body that looked like that. Even when I did starve myself, and boy did I starve myself at some points of my diet years, I still didn’t look like that.
So where did my thin ideal of beauty come from?
Many places. It came from the media, Dolly magazine anyone? The media largely portrays one type of beauty. The tall, skinny, blond type. I’m never going to be able to change that, but I can certainly change the way I look at it! It came from my female role models, although I never remember mum dieting, I do remember her commenting about her own 'flaws' and commenting about how lovely and slim x or y person was. I remember my gran watching her weight. I remember watching family members yo-yo with their weight, each time they lost it being congratulated, and each time they gained it, hearing the conversation about letting themselves go all the way home. The diet industry & the thin ideal was forced down my throat before I knew my times tables.
Looking back now, it’s not surprising I struggled with my weight for so long. A combination of a horrendously low self-esteem, and a multi billion dollar diet industry that promises that I can look like 'her' in only a few short weeks. Lose lose situation or me. I was in this cycle of trying to hate myself thin, which of course never worked!
Once I started to consciously improve my body image and self-esteem, all these incredible things started happening. I began to see just how incredible my body actually is, what it does for me everyday and what it has been through which has very little to do with how it looks. I began to eat to nourish myself, not to lose weight or because I had ‘earned’ it. I began to exercise to celebrate that incredible body, not to burn off the cheesecake from last night. I stated lifting weights, no longer terrified about them turning me into an Amazonian. The way people saw my body didn’t have nearly the same impact on me as it has for so long as I adopted the attitude, this is me, like it or don’t like it, I don’t care.
Once I started bringing up all those horrible memories about people commenting on my weight or my body growing up and sat with them, they lost their power. I had been so ashamed of those things, I never even let them surface, let alone think about them. I understand now those comments had very little to do with me. The people saying them presumably had no idea that what they were saying would start my tumultuous relationship with my body for the next 20 years.
In fact, I am incredibly grateful for those comments because they have brought me here to the place I am now. Where I am, personally, never happier or fitter or healthier in my life. Where I am professionally, helping women who have struggled with weight and body image for their whole lives find peace with food and their bodies. Where I am as a Mumma bear to two incredibly absorbent little people. They look to me for love and guidance and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I am doing everything in my power to have them build healthy relationships with food & with their bodies and boy does that feel good!
If this sounds like music to your ears, I’d love you to reach out and share your struggles. I know it feels really isolating when you are in the depths of body loathing, just as I know there is a way out!