You might have read my blog called “My journey so far”, and if you have, I apologise, this may become a bit repetitive. If you haven’t, then welcome! Body image and my relationship with my body has been a big theme in my life, and I want to share it on here on the off chance that it might help someone. When I was growing up, I wasn’t aware of many people, both in my real life and in the media, who were proponents of body positivity.
So here it goes. I have never been fat. I know this. I know that genetically I have been very lucky when it comes to my body shape. However, I am extremely aware of my body and the messages that it receives both from myself and from the world around me.
I grew up in a culture where most of the adults in my life were on some diet or other, and I therefore believed that being on a diet was normal and inevitable. It honestly never occurred to me that when I grew up I could eat normally.
I grew up surrounded by the idea that one day, it would all catch up with me. That one day I would put on weight.
Simultaneously, I was aware of messages that being fat was bad, lazy, and somehow wrong (at least in the environment in which I grew up).
These all messages converged into a sense that “Being fat was negative, and yet I was bound to put on weight one day, unless I took control of what I was eating.”
Can you see how I became obsessed with body image?
I began to be very aware of what I was eating. I started researching diets, researching what professional dancers and gymnasts ate, looking at the calories in foods, then counting the calories in what I ate, and then restricting what I ate. Eventually I also began purging what I ate. I was absolutely terrified of putting on weight.
I developed a bad relationship with food. I would eat if I couldn’t avoid it (hating conflict I would often eat when I was around family, but not when I was at school and so on).
If you want to read the full and more detailed journey that I took with food, please read my previous blog post on my journey so far.
After a few years of therapy and a lot of self-development, I believed that I was finally developing a healthy relationship with food. I believed that I was in a good place. However, a few weeks ago, I posted an Instagram photo promising that I would stop weighing myself. I had weighed myself most days in the last few years and didn’t really think anything of it. The number on the scale didn’t change much, so it didn’t bother me.
So, I stopped weighing myself, and I actually decided that I wanted to put on a bit of weight (or maybe that’s what I told myself).
One day, two days, one week, 10 days… it was going great, I didn’t weigh myself and I was having a great time.
Then suddenly… BAM! I realised that I was constantly thinking about what I was eating. I was conscious of how big my portion sizes were, what snacks I was having, how quickly or slowly I was eating. I couldn’t keep my mind off of food! What on earth was happening?
I sat down and had a think about it, I spoke to my partner about it, and I spoke to my own therapist about it. I have come to the conclusion that I didn’t confront all of my issues with food and weight gain. I believed that I had tackled these issues and won, but that was because I had remained within certain subconsciously determined weight parameters, and as long as I remained within these parameters, I had no issues. Remaining within these parameters meant that I was eating enough but not too much. The numbers on the scale suddenly meant everything to me, and without them, I was lost.
Isn’t it strange how the simple act of weighing myself in the mornings, not in an attempt to lose weight, but because I “just wanted to see”, kept my anxieties at bay. Without weighing myself, everything felt off kilter, and it still does.
I am now attempting to eat intuitively, to fill myself with foods that nourish me, and to re-learn what it means to eat normally (maybe that was something I never knew). Every day, every meal, I question whether my portion size is too big, too small, lacking in something, and so on. There are so many questions around food. And this is something that I am constantly working through and trying to improve upon.
I have found that the best way that I can do this is to be open with people. My partner knows all about this, my therapist knows about this, and a few of my friends do too. I don’t want to focus too much on it by letting it dominate my conversations with other people, but I do want a few people to be aware.
It is so helpful to me to have feedback from other people in my life, for example, my partner will tell me if he thinks I need to eat more, my friend will remind me that I didn’t have a big lunch or that we have been snacking through the day rather than having proper meals. At this point in time, I really appreciate this feedback because, as crazy as it sounds, I am re-learning how to eat normally, and at the moment, it is trial and error. Sometimes I get it wrong, and I don’t want to fall down another rabbit hole with food!
Something else that has really helped me with this is not being too hard on myself. I have slipped up and weighed myself once or twice over the last few weeks, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I have a think about why I weighed myself, what it made me feel, and so on, and then I move on. I don’t dwell on it, and I don’t let it bring my mood or my motivation down.
Something that really motivates me on this journey is to think about who might be watching me now, and in the future. I’m not talking about a judgemental person looking over my shoulder and scoffing at the giant slice of cake on my plate.
I’m talking about the young boy or girl who might be surrounded by similar messages that I was, seeing me eating a healthy-sized meal and not worrying about it. I’m talking about my future children growing up in a household where diets and negative body image isn’t a major topic of conversation. I don’t want to contribute to the future stigma surrounding food, diet, and size zero culture.
I want to contribute to a movement towards normalising healthy eating and normal food consumption, a movement towards mindful eating and positive body image.
If you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at email@example.com