CN: This post may contain mentions of dieting, restricting and disordered eating. If you feel like you may be triggered by these topics, please proceed with caution.
Slimfast, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Skinny Tea, Keto, Hay Diet…you name it – we live in a world where there is certainly no lack of products or methods to help us lose weight. When I walk into a bookshop nowadays I am sure to find a whole aisle filled with books on “Healthy eating” or “Clean Eating”. When I open the Facebook app on my phone I am almost bombarded with promoted posts and MLM presenters trying to sell me their magical weightloss pills. When I turn on the television I am immediately presented with a whole array of images on how I should look, on how certain parts of me should look.
And for most of my teenage and adult life I believed just that. I got sucked into this pattern of thinking that I needed to look a certain way to be worthy of other people’s respect. I was never skinny, and I probably never will be. Today, I am perfectly fine with that. But 14 year old me would come home crying after having been called a “fat sack of potatoes” on the street. 14 year old me would look in the mirror and pick out every possible fault that she could find, not realising that she never was at fault.
So I started researching, and reading and I swore to myself that I would lose all this weight that made people hate me. And if managed to do that, maybe then I would be liked. I looked up terms such as “thinspiration” or “bodygoals” and started obsessing over progress pictures of people having achieved what I so desperately wanted. I counted calories, restricted food and thought smoothies and juice cleanses would save me. At that point in time I had very little friends, was bullied in school and I was so desperately yearning for acceptance and validation from others, I would have probably tried anything. When I was 19 I ate nothing but cucumber for 9 days before my prom, somehow thinking my dress would magically look so much better and I would be so much happier.
None of that ever happened. I managed to somehow lose 20 kilos in 2016. And suddenly the compliments started to come in. How great I looked, how much slimmer I had gotten, how I’ve lost so much weight- as if that was the only thing nice about me. Suddenly people seemed to “care” about me, be interested in me. As if I was only worth talking to when I looked a certain way.
Slowly and through a lot of research and some amazing people on instagram I figured out that I am in fact worth a LOT more than my weight or my looks. This process wasn’t quick, it wasn’t easy and I didn’t just snap one day and be completely in love with myself. No, it took a lot of time and a lot of work unlearning all of the different ways I had thought about myself.
When you are surrounded by a society that profits so massively of our insecurities and self hatred, it it incredibly hard to find the confidence to radically and unconditionally love yourself.
One thing that has helped me an awful lot in this process was the concept of Intuitive Eating. It describes the concept of eating foods without any shame or guilt attached to it. It allows me to eat what I feel like eating, because I fully trust my body that this is the right choice. The concept is based on honouring your hunger but at the same times respecting your fullness. It is listening and being in tune with your own instincts and intuition and generally enjoying the pleasure of eating.
This does not mean that I will just shovel whatever I can find into my mouth with reckless abandon, no. It means that I can enjoy a takeaway or a pizza or whatever I feel like eating without constantly having to think about how many calories I am consuming or how long I would have to go to the gym later.
Truth be told, this process takes a lot of time and it is by no means some kind of “magical cure” for having a bad body image. There are still days when I don’t really like myself, when I think about how I could possibly look so much better if I lost some weight. But these thoughts don’t control my life anymore, I am now at a point where I am pretty okay with just accepting that this is the way I am and look, and that’s absolutely fine.
It’s really hard to be okay with living in a fat body when everything around you tells you that it’s wrong, or unhealthy or frowned upon. But once you manage to free yourself from all those expectations that society and friends and family have in you, truly magical things start to happen. I no longer feel the need to edit and filter every single picture of me, I find it a lot easier to talk to people, I am okay with having pictures of me taken, or go out in public without giving a damn about what I am wearing and how that looks on me. All this may not seem like much to some, but trust me, these are massive steps for me.
I have lost so much time hating myself, trying to shrink myself and for what? The acceptance and validation of others? That illusion that I could be so so much happier if only I was thinner. Truth is, none of these things matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. If people don’t like the way I look – fuck them – there’s plenty of other things they can lay their eyes upon. I am worth a lot more than the validation of some people who cannot see beyond their own close minded horizon. And so are you.