I’ve been having something of an epiphany recently about my body. Perhaps it’s my age, perhaps I’m finally coming to terms with media-brainwashing and teenage insecurities but I am definitely changing the way I think about my body.
Let me take you back.
This is me at the tender age of 16. I thought I was overweight. I really, really, did. My father made comment, probably when he was drunk about how my Mum was ‘half my size’ when he met her, and that stuck. As a teenager I didn’t diet, per se, but I did avoid eating whenever I could and I binge drank til the point of vomiting regularly, which is sort of disgusting now I think about it. I was, and still am, marginally obsessed with measurements. I’ve always been heartily disappointed on the scales, due in part, I think, to the amount of muscle I carry on my lower body and my bountiful chest.
So, even by the age of 16, in fact when I think about it, by the age of 14 I was decided that I was fat, ugly and no amount of flattery could make me think otherwise.
By the time university came to my final year I was overweight. I was on the pill, has been in a long term relationship that was very up and down and I had literally let myself go. I’ll put a photo here for you for the comparison.
I hate these photos of myself. The reaction I get to seeing myself look less than ‘perfect’ goes as follows:
I get the urge to grab a sharp object and cut the offending flesh from me. There’s a real sick satisfaction in it. I’ve never done it, I don’t want to, but I suppose it’s like an invasive, obsessive thought. Being overweight makes me feel suicidal, feeling overweight makes me want to mutilate myself.
Now let’s go the opposite way. There aren’t a huge amount of photos from when I was at my skinniest, but after my manic episode in 2011/2012 I was very, very slim. I still thought I was fat. Even though I KNEW I wasn’t.
I started to put on weight again probably when my mood started to stabilise after taking olanzapine last year – which is known to cause weight gain.
Let me break this down for you in terms of UK dress sizes (accross 3 sizes because of vanity sizing). Photo number 1, I am a 6-10. Photo number 2, I am an 8-12. Photo number 3, I am a 4-8.
I am 5’2 and any weight shows. Let me show you me now, and in a photo I am particularly proud of.
(Photo by the wonderful Ace A.M.P Photography)
Do I still think I’m fat? Yes. In this photo, yes, I did at the moment of taking it, I did. And then I read the comments.
Strong? I then realised, my whole way of thinking about my body had been dictated by a media-popularised standard of beauty, and my own insecurities routed in my Dad’s appalling insensitivity to a young and troubled mind. I will never be a dainty, lithe looking girl. And that is what I have aspired to. This idea that femininity equals fragility, but as a woman you are your own femininity. Any size, any shape, you can lose weight, gain weight, you can tone and buff and build but you are whatever shape you are.
So here’s the body positive. I have strong, muscular thighs. I have a toned stomach, a big bust and the slightly larger, muscled arms that help to carry this bust. As I’ve been getting more into my fitness I’m starting to come to terms with my own limitations physically, not insofar as to how hard I can train, but what my body is physically capable of looking like while I am eating healthily and remaining active.
I’m redefining my femininity. Sometimes I hear my voices saying things like “disgusting” or “sickening” when I look in the mirror (something I do a lot, because I can be quite vain and narcissistic, and I make no secret of that.)
I still look down at my thighs and my throat tightens as though I’m about to throw up and I get the urge to hack away at them.
Every time this happens I am going to remember I am a strong, robust woman. That beauty in society is a standard that few meet. And fragility does not mean femininity.
Femininity is whatever you want it to be.