I wrote a post about being body positive a year ago when I returned to the UK. I posted it on this blog for roughly 24 hours, then panicked and deleted it. Sharing something so personal to me tends to go against the whole point of this blog. All I really want to do is make people laugh and think ‘yep, that’s definitely me’.
After being back in the UK for 12 months and working every single day to develop a better relationship with body image, food, and the overwhelming desire to shrink myself, I’ve decided this is something that needs to be addressed again. So here is the post, half written a year ago and half written today. Read, enjoy, and please don’t judge me.
Being Body Positive
My previous attitude towards fitness and weight loss has been very much ‘all or nothing’. Long gym sessions alongside the perfect amount of calories, calculated down to the last gram of blueberries meant that physically, I looked alright. Mentally was another story. When I finally gave myself a day off from dieting, allowing myself to eat a cookie or two, I would feel anxious for days. I would be unable to exercise because it would feel pointless, I’d overeat food I didn’t even want because I’d already ruined my diet, deciding instead that I would just ‘start again tomorrow’.
Ironically, when I finally did lose weight, I still wouldn’t let myself eat anything I deemed unhealthy. I didn’t want to be any thinner but I certainly didn’t want to be fatter, and this meant I was still forced to monitor every last bite.
This strictly non body positive attitude is something I don’t speak about very often, mainly because I’m embarrassed by it. How can you claim you care about the world and still get dragged into something so trivial? The desire to constantly look good is, in itself, a first world problem. It’s egotistical, narcissistic and a sure-fire way to ruin your social life. As someone who has travelled all over the world and witnessed quite extreme poverty, it’s actually quite shameful. As someone who only really wants to help other people, it’s embarrassing that I would engage in something so selfish.
I don’t consider this an eating disorder in any way. There is no deep-rooted, psychological reason why every time I eat something I hadn’t planned to I let negative self-talk get the better of me. It has nothing to do with feeling in control, and it’s definitely not to do with any past trauma.
Counting my calories, restricting food, or crying in the changing rooms was never about finding calm in the chaos, like it is for many people. I literally just wanted to be thinner. That’s it, there is nothing else to it. I wanted to be thinner so that I could fit into a world that constantly tells us that thinner is better. It’s shallow, it’s ridiculous, but it’s the truth. It’s something I struggle to admit even now, having spent years telling my friends and sister that they are beautiful just the way they are – and actually meaning it.
I have tried every diet there is. A juice fast, zero carbs, intermittent fasting. I gave up gluten for 6 months because someone told me they had done it and lost weight. What did I gain from it? An irrational fear of pasta. The obsession with controlling my nutritional intake became completely out of control. But it’s the shame I have in admitting that I have been this way for years that really gets to me.
I know that in some ways this post is hypocritical. Maybe it’s because I know deep down that I still won’t allow myself to eat chocolate unless it’s the weekend, or I still know my weight down to the last 0.1 of a pound. It’s one thing to write about body positivity, and another to actually actually enforce it. But really, I just want to get across that it’s OK to feel the pressure to look a certain way and it’s OK if sometimes you give into that pressure. We don’t all have to be body positive all the time. Sometimes, the pressure gets to you.
It doesn’t make you a bad person because there is a part of you that feels a sense of accomplishment when you fit into a smaller clothing size. Or because you can’t help but beam with pride when someone asks you if you have lost weight. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you conditioned.
I’m blaming the press, and the media and fact that no woman larger than a size 8 ever played the lead in the chick flicks you watched as a teenager. The fact that even the ‘plus size’ models still have flat stomachs. That people still use the word ‘fat’ as an insult and ‘thin’ as a compliment. The fact that the people advocating body positivity on our Instagram feeds are, more often than not, naturally thin. That people talk about how they look far more than how they feel. That people tell you the scales don’t matter because muscle weighs more than fat, but you know it’s not muscle you have gained, it’s fat. The fact that every week, an article is written by someone with no fucking clue, telling us that dairy is bad, gluten is bad, that if you quit sugar you will feel the best you ever have in your life.
I have quit dairy, I have quit gluten, and I have quit sugar. I have exercised the perfect amount and eaten the perfect number of calories – a number low enough that you lose weight every week, but high enough that you don’t pass out when you get off the treadmill. I’ve done it all. Yes, you might feel healthier at first but soon the calorie deficit catches up with you. It doesn’t take long before you realise that constantly thinking about food doesn’t leave much room for the things that really matter to you, whether that’s making time for your friends, drinking wine at the weekends or not having your entire self worth rest on the size of your jeans.
I’m not sure how to end this post because it’s probably the most I have ever spoken about this. I’ll probably panic-delete this later. I guess I just want to say that feeling an overwhelming pressure to look a certain way isn’t anything to be ashamed of and if anyone feels the same way as me, let me know and we’ll go and eat some cake together.