I spent a good chunk of my teenage years counting calories, reading the nutrition information on the back of food packets, working out way too hard in the gym and staring at my body in mirrors, focusing on everything, that in my young eyes, was wrong with it. My relationship with food and my body was so bad, I could literally make anyone’s body preferable to mine.
I tried starving myself, munching down effervescent orange flavoured vitamin pills in the hopes that they were have some kind of pseudo grapefruit diet effect on my body, binging on sickly treats like icing sugar and then attempting to throw up. The operative word: attempting. I was not very good at bulimia, so of course that just gave me another reason to hate my body and myself in general.
In my case my body issues actually had nothing to do with my body. They stemmed from the fact that I was bullied at school, again nothing to do with my body. At that time I felt so out of control of my life that I took control of the one thing that I could. My physical form. I took out my anger and my frustration and my fear the only way I knew how and punished my body in that disconnected way that so many young women do.
Of course when you spend 80% of your life focusing on something, regardless of the root cause, it inevitably becomes an issue in itself. And so I developed an obsession with food and my body that would continue to linger long after I left school, and the bullies, behind.
At 16 I went to college. Life got way easier and A LOT more fun! I met an amazing group of friends, and the culture of a more grown up environment just didn’t really allow for that whole school bully thing to even be an option. I studied fashion and textile design and funnily enough, though I still had some body hang ups and started, through my training in how to cut a garment and eyeball dress sizes and measurements, to analyse other peoples bodies with more intensity than before, the crappy relationship with food and my bod chilled out.
However it’s an issue that has continued to haunt me throughout my life. Haunt seems like a strong word and kind of makes it sound more drastic than it is but it really describes the feeling perfectly. My body image issues kind of hang around in the shadows like an eerie specter waiting for the right moment, when I’m feeling vulnerable, enough to pop out and say BOO!
So here were are, more than 10 years later, sometime this past summer, and I find myself lying in bed next to my boyfriend, (we’re no longer together but I think it’s useful for you to know he’s an awesome person) - I had never felt MORE attractive than in his presence – sobbing, for reasons that I was too confused and ashamed to explain to him. I don’t even remember what had happened. It might have been a long exhausting work week, it might have been something untoward someone said to me, but I felt shitty enough for the body image ghost to sneak out in his finest white sheet with eyeholes cut out, so he could see just as clearly as I could the dimples on my thighs, and the extra 5lbs I’d gained since finding myself in a mega happy relationship, and starting hanging around like a bad ghoulish body image smell. (Gotta love a mixed metaphor!)
In that moment, I literally could not focus on anything but my cellulite and how fat and disgusting I felt. And I even managed to convince myself that my boyfriend must absolutely find me less attractive now, because, well, just look at me!
And when I woke up the next day, with tired eyes and salty cheeks, I knew that this madness had to stop. I was 26 years old, lying in the arms of an amazing man that loved me dearly, living in my dream house, in a city I love, surrounded by a super cool group of friends and a supportive family, my business taking off, my loyal sweet Greyhound by my side, and all I could think about was the cellulite on my thighs and what hair brain lose-weight-fast scheme could I come up with to make it go away so FINALLY my life would be perfect.
Jeez. It’s tiring just reading about it.
So instead of beating up on myself and stocking up on Slim Fast shakes (I don’t know about you but I like to chew my food! Just sayin’!) I started to pay attention to the bits I didn’t like. I bought some luxurious exfoliator and moisturiser and used them every day in the shower, especially on my legs and bootay. I wore my favourite clothes that made me feel amazing and I ate the foods that left me feeling healthy and clean and energized.
In short, I started listening to my own damn advice and realised that I really shouldn’t hate my body, because it’s the only place I have to live! In estate agent speak I set to work sympathetically refurbishing my souls home here on Earth, with some sea salt, shea butter and lots of oriental style salads with plenty of chillies (my fave!).
And guess what? It worked. With no need for a crash diet or marathon style training regime, in just a few short days I ditched self hate and rediscovered the love for my body that’s been growing ever since I left school.
So the moral of the story is folks, hating something does not make it better. Pouring negative emotion into something in the hope that it will magically improve or disappear is totally twisted logic.
The next time you find yourself being a big old meanie to that incredible bod of yours try this on for size: Love up those parts that you dislike the most. Shower them with luxurious affection and if you want to lose a few pounds or tone up, start from that place of love instead. Like my good friend and weight loss coach extraordinaire Jessica Procini says, there’s no point waiting until you’ve lost the weight to start loving your body and having fun. You need to start practicing now!
And above all, when you’re feeling less than perfect, just remember what your body is capable of. It can swim even though it’s not a fish. It can dance even thought it’s not Brendan Cole. It can climb mountains, and kickbox and bend into unimaginable positions in yoga class. And all those crazy little organs made of flesh and blood just somehow all work in perfect unison to digest your food, deliver oxygen and get rid of toxins and keep you alive.
Seriously dude. You have a really nice house.