Out of all the things I’ve learned to love – jobs, in-laws, coffee without sugar, anal sex – learning to love my body has been perhaps one of the most difficult to achieve.
My body and I have had a rather complicated relationship over the years, love/hate in nature, I have loved hating it for just over 30 years. At the age of eleven, I was 5 feet 11 inches, and I finally stopped growing at the age of 16 when I had reached the dizzying heights of 6 feet 2 inches. Whilst many adults used to tell me, “Oh, you are so lovely and tall, you should be a supermodel,” the reaction from kids at school was rather different. I was called fat, ugly, a giant, a freak, and various other names, born from the fact I was a good foot taller than most of them and had a little puppy fat around the edges. I hated myself and the way I looked; feeling like a big, globulous monster of a girl, my insecurity was amplified by my parent’s refusal to allow me to wear makeup or overtly feminine clothing.
Through my adolescent years, I suffered from various issues with food – mainly the issue that I wouldn’t eat it. This continued until my mid-twenties, as I swung between eating one cereal bar a day, and binge eating and drinking. I would keep a diary of everything that passed my lips and would deny myself food completely the next day if I perceived I had gone over my self-imposed limit. During these ten years, my weight yo-yoed up and down, my dress size fluctuated from a UK 6 to a UK 14, my periods stopped and started, and I fainted in public on more than four occasions. It was also during this time that I learned a very valuable lesson and that was that no matter how you look, or what you do to try and change the way you look, someone is always going to find a fault with it.
I was convinced that if I was skinny, all my problems would be solved. The thing was that no matter how tiny I got, I still saw a huge, fat, ugly, creature staring back at me in the mirror. I could hear the resonating of kids taunts calling me names and I thought that if I was tiny and thin, like the popular girls or the girls in the magazines then they would accept me. This however was not the case. As I shrank in size and began to waste away, they began to call me names and criticize me for being too thin. I literally could not win either way – no matter what I did, I was too tall, too fat, too skinny, too ugly, too whatever – I was fighting a losing battle.
Now I am 30 and my demons with food still haunt me. I feel guilty for eating the food that I love, I obsess over portion sizes or calories, and I spend far too long considering how fat I look or how much better my life would be if I was a perfect ten. The difference is that I have begun to accept myself. I think the word “love” is a little ambitious and completely unattainable, but I am happy to settle for “accept”.
Yes, I have had lip fillers, I spend a fortune on skincare and makeup, and am planning to have a boob job after Christmas – but these are changes I am making for me, not for someone else …and certainly not because someone has made me feel like I am lacking. I have come to terms with the fact that my ears stick out, my stomach is covered in scars from a series of complicated operations several years ago, and I have made peace with the fact that my ass is non-existent and rather less than a handful. When I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful face, nice blonde wavy hair, and the type of body that can afford to carry a bit of extra weight due to the fact it is the length of one child standing on another child’s shoulders. I have begun to see the good things about the way I look, my physical strengths and blessings, and I have become vocal about enjoying and celebrating them.
I am never going to be skinny, and to be honest it doesn’t suit me, I look and feel better with a bit of “cushion for the pushin’,” and I have no intention of starving myself to the point of unconsciousness, just to fit into the unrealistic idea of what a woman is supposed to look like. Now, I focus on eating the food I want, eating a balanced diet, waking instead of taking a cab, swimming when I can, and having a lot of sex. After all, being healthy and happy far surpasses being skinny and miserable.
Today, if you open any women’s magazine, or visit any platform designed for the female viewer, we are told that we must LOVE OUR BODIES. If we do not share this all-encompassing glee at our female forms, we are made to feel as if we are failing at being women, if we don’t skip around in white bikinis proclaiming our love for our lumps and bumps. The reality of the matter is that whether you look like Behati Prinsloo or …me, very few women every truly love their body, and the key to happiness is realizing this, and then accepting it.
Accepting your flaws, accepting your blessings, accepting the things you cannot change and the things that you can, is the only way that you will ever begin to make peace with that girl in the mirror. Like your job, your relationship, and your friendships – nothing can ever be flawless 24/7, and your body and how you perceive it is always going to fit into that category. It is the realization of this – that there is no such thing as perfect – that will empower you to love yourself. You need to persevere and remind yourself daily that yes you might have a slightly wonky nose and cellulite on your thighs, but you are still a 10/10 babe.