I am a twenty-five year old woman. I have a body. A useful body, a strong body, an average body. There was a time (up until very recently) when my body was the thing that consumed my every thought, my every emotion. My thoughts about my body were hateful, shameful, rude. I wanted to be in any other body apart from my own. I compared myself to every other woman, and wanted to have their abs, their thighs, their arms. Everyone was better than me in some way. I was in constant competition with everyone around me, and they were winning.
I dealt with this rejection of my body by desperately trying to lose weight. I tried every diet going – I was a vegetarian, I was on the paleo diet. I tried the 5:2 diet, the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers and other similar diets. I turned up to dieting class every week almost fainting from not eating and having worked out to exhaustion and so anxious that I had put up weight. I starved myself, then binged, and got sick and started again.
I had such body dysmorphia that I thought I was huge and that everyone was looking at me and judging me. I felt like people could literally see what I had eaten in a huge bubble over my head and I felt ashamed.
I broke the bulimia cycle by starting to write down my thoughts and moods around food in a diary. I quickly realized my attitude towards food was extremely unhealthy. I was not feeding my body for strength or for concentration, I was feeding it just enough to be kept alive so I could work out.
So I started to notice things about myself that I did like – things I was good at, parts of my personality that were nice. I wrote them down and read them every morning. I started to push myself to socialize more and to start doing things I enjoyed. I started talking about my thoughts and expressing them in a healthier way. I would literally say ‘I’m having bad thoughts about myself’ and just accept it was happening. I stopped working out when I felt tired and stopped pushing myself to lose weight. I began to accept my natural body – A.K.A the body that I had when I ate normally and didn’t work out all the time.
Then I discovered the body positive community. I found out there were other people who had recovered from eating disorders and were beginning to love their bodies as they were. It was a relief. To see them embracing their fat, embracing their curves and their natural bodies was a relief. Because I wasn’t the only one who had cellulite, a stomach that wasn’t flat and imperfect skin. I also wasn’t the only one who had previously hated their body, and had struggled with body image. The bodies were all different shapes and sizes. It was eye-opening.
But was I ready to drop all the self-loathing and self-criticism? Frankly, no.
It took me my whole life to build those negative thoughts, I could hardly toss them away for positive thoughts straight away. So where did that leave me?
Am I body neutral?
I no longer loathe my body. I can look in the mirror and feel fine about what I see rather than wanting to scream. I can accept that my body is useful and strong. I can accept that I now wear clothes that are maybe a size bigger than what I used to be. But I wear them proudly. I don’t yet love my body. But I am growing towards having more positive feelings about it. Sometimes. Sometimes I still feel frustrated that I am not naturally slender. But those feelings pass, and I move on and think about something more important.
I accept my body as it is. I know that it could be thinner, or stronger, but I am fine with how it is right now. And I have more important things in my life rather than worrying about being thin.
My goals are to eat well, nourish my body and to exercise when I feel up to it. That’s it.
So yeah I think I’m body neutral at the moment – working towards body positivity.