A note from me:
I wrote this post in February 2017 after watching the documentary Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt, founder of the Body Image Movement. I was deeply moved by it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after. I felt compelled to write about it and to share my own complex relationship with my body.
At the time I wasn’t quite sure how it would sit on my blog and to be honest I was scared of putting my vulnerabilities out there for my closest friends and family to see so I chickened out and published it fairly anonymously on the Selfish Mother blog. It’s not a great post, I was too emotional and had too many thoughts racing through my mind at the time.
So with some trepidation and a lot of inspiration from Alison Perry whom I admire enormously, Emma Paton from Finlay Fox, Natalie Style Me Sunday and Clemmie Hooper I’m sharing my body image story with you. Settle down, it’s a long read.
I watched Embrace at a private screening with my best friend and another 100 or so women. It is a documentary that explores women’s (negative) relationships with their bodies. It follows Taryn Brumfitt’s battle with her own body image during a 9 week trip around the globe to discuss why women spend so much of their lives hating their bodies. On the surface it sounds fairly unremarkable but Embrace struck a chord with every single woman in that auditorium, many painful tears were shed that night.
I have been at war with my body my entire life and I believe the battle will rage on forever but I don’t want that for my daughters. I needed to write this post because I want us to change things for ourselves and for future generations of women. I cried a lot in that cinema. I cried for the child I was, for the woman I am. I cried for my friends and for my children and it’s about time we did something about it.
The documentary explores negative body image and our obsessive quest to achieve the ‘perfect’ body – a body that doesn’t exist, a body created with Photoshop and airbrushed techniques. We know this yet the avalanche of images that perpetuate the myth keep coming. We know the ‘ideal’ we see in the media is completely fake but we insist on measuring ourselves against it at the expense of our happiness and self-esteem.
My relationship with my body didn’t start out too well. I was labelled ‘fat’ by a couple of boys at age four – I wasn’t – and that label has been glowing brightly like a neon light above my head ever since. I can remember feeling sad and worthless and that was it, I became the fat girl in my class, a lesser human being somehow. A few years later puberty hit me like a steam train, I put on weight and my label became a truth. At age 12 I was sent to a consultant who put me on a diet, to my surprise and utter delight the diet worked! That summer I bought a bikini, I was ecstatic but then I had appendicitis and the surgeon kindly pointed out that the scar was bigger than it should have been because I had some extra fat on my abdomen. I mean WTAF??
Why are we wasting precious time scrutinising and loathing our own bodies?
The euphoric feeling of achieving my goals was quickly replaced by feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem because I still wasn’t slim enough despite my best efforts. It was a ridiculous throwaway comment by a stupid man who should have known better but those words cut me deep.
Years of anxiety around food, weight and negative body image followed. I stepped on and off the fad diet rollercoaster and I flirted with an eating disorder for many years. Somewhere along the line I got married to a wonderful man who loves me whatever and I had three kids which ironically made me like my body a hell of a lot more. I started running and liked it, the fat girl even ran a handful of half marathons but the nagging thought that I could bet better and look better will never go away.
Today I’m generally ok with my weight and the way I look but I waste time every day wishing I was thinner. I’m self-conscious about my teeth and about my skin which isn’t as smooth as I would like. I worry about the food I eat, I have very little restraint and I give myself a hard time every time I drink a glass of wine or eat chocolate which just so happens to be most days!
I’m so used to the voices in my head telling me what a shit human being I am because I ate too much or didn’t exercise enough that I almost don’t notice them anymore.
This isn’t ok, is it? We bumble along through life accepting this nonsense but it really isn’t ok, is it? I believe that we should aim to be healthy but the self-loathing and body shaming has to stop, it’s holding us back while we waste precious time on this ridiculous quest for perfection.
Please, please promise that you will watch Embrace and that you will keep the conversation going. That you will fight those awful voices in your head and that you will keep pushing to bring about change for future generations of women.
I have been working with my best friend and partner in crime Abbi to host a screening of Embrace. You can get your tickets here. We would love to see as many of you there as possible.
You can find out more about the Body Image Movement here and over on Instagram Alison Perry, Natalie Style Me Sunday, Emma Finlay Fox and Clemmie Hooper are doing great things to promote a positive body image.