Today I am going to be talking about body confidence, self-love and how I'm slowly learning to love the body I'm in. This isn't easy and I continue to battle with it everyday - sometimes the negative thoughts can get too much and it can all seem impossible. I'm here to tell you that it can be done and that it does get easier, you just have to learn how to turn the negative into a positive.
My Weight Loss Journey
Well it hasn't been easy, that's for sure! I had a bad relationship with food when I was growing up, which led me to lots of binges where I would just eat a load of junk food in one sitting when no-one was around. I was told I couldn't and being a typical Scorpio, when someone tells me I can't or shouldn't do something, I do the total opposite!
Cue lots of secret eating and having a tooth sweeter than a Cadbury chocolate factory! I'm ashamed to admit it really but I need to in order to a) take responsibility for my past and b) to give context to my journey.
This carried on well into my college and university days, leaving me with a significant weight gain which would leave me wishing for a smaller body. But it wouldn't be for another few years until I would finally do something about it.
I took a holiday to Australia after university and the photos still make me cringe to this day and actually were the impetus for me to start on my weight loss journey, alongside my sister who said she needed someone to go with!
Right out of university I had started my own pet sitting and dog walking business which meant I was walking all day everyday, for more than an hour each time. So naturally some weight came off easily before I joined Weight Watchers but I was still very heavy at over 14 stone.
I know many (myself included) believe that Weight Watchers and Slimming World are not very healthy for your mental health, but at the time I really needed something which would control the amount of food I was eating and therefore the calories I was consuming.
It took me a year or so to get to my goal weight which was two and a half stone less than when I started. It wasn't an easy journey, but it was much needed and I felt so much better afterwards. I mean I still do now, even though I'm not at that weight anymore (but definitely not anywhere near my starting weight!)
Getting Slim But Not Loving Myself
So I may have been slim but I was a long way off loving myself, that only came later. Much later in fact. I went a bit crazy after losing the weight with buying all new clothes (needed but not as many as I ended up with!). I had a mistaken belief that it would make me happy somehow. That I'd finally be able to accept myself at my new weight.
I guess because I'd been so big for so long I had gotten used to being that size and didn't really know what to do with this new body of mine. Wasn't used to having hip bones sticking out and making lying down uncomfortable (in the best way!), having a relatively flat stomach (in comparison to how it was before) and basically being smaller than I had ever been before.
I did have a better life once I'd lost all my weight don't get me wrong, it was certainly easier to be a woman and exist in a world which congratulated weight loss and bemoaned any type of weight gain or body types which didn't fit the mould.
This is what really makes losing weight hard because the media just throws out these weight loss adverts left right and centre without caring about the consequences. You're made to feel bad for not loving yourself completely as you are and wanting to make a change and then once you do actually get the body you're 'supposed to have', they will pick apart every time you so much as gain a pound. You can't win.
You have to stay slim to be 'worthy' of anything, it can make everything so hard and actually lead to eating disorders and the like. I know when I was getting to the tail end of my Weight Watchers journey, that seeing the scales drop every week was like a drug, I wanted more.
Seeing myself getting slimmer and being able to fit into clothes I could only dream of and believing I *had to be* (for some messed up reason) a size smaller than the one I'd spent months getting to and the one I'd envisioned myself wanting to be once again when I was bigger.
Why The Diet Industry Sucks And How It Perpetuates Yo-Yo Dieting.
We all know how f'd up the diet industry is, I mean for one thing, it was created purely to be targeted at women and for another, if you think about, it all year round we're bombarded with different messages about what we should and shouldn't be eating yet meant to maintain a skinny body throughout it all! Confused much?!
OK so here's my take on it:
January - Best lose that Christmas weight now! Get yourself on a diet & go down the gym,PRONTO!
February - OK so you best still be on that New Year diet girlfriend, but wait, Pancake Day is around the corner so you best ensure you have a whole stack of them!
April - Easter is here so quick eat all of the Easter eggs NOW!!
(Not much happening in March/May, but you can guess it's more of the same, don't eat too much and get yourself down the gym!)
June - I hope you're still working on that Summer body girlfriend....no muffin tops here please! Get down the gym!
July - Summer's here.....your body best be in shape, your stomach best be flat, you can't wear a bikini on the beach with rolls!
August - You may be on holiday girlfriend but that doesn't mean you can eat/drink whatever you like! Oh no...!
September - Autumn is here, yay. Time for Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Pumpkin Soup, Bonfire Toffee and all that good stuff. Hide your body away under layers.
October - Halloween! Eat all the trick/treat sweets for yourself, hiding on the sofa and not answering the door....
November - Almost Christmas! Mince pies are on sale, all food now contains some sort of Christmas spice. Best eat them all before they go!
December - Christmas!!! You best eat your body weight in pigs in blankets, mince pies, Christmas pudding, Quality Street, Roses and turkey sandwiches! All washed down with mulled wine and Baileys!
Before of course, starting up again in January with the diet adverts.
So you see, they're literally setting you up to fail at every turn because of all of these different messages! I mean, how anyone is supposed to make head or tail of these I have no idea?! And it's not like you can get away from them either, they're everywhere!
On the news, in newspapers, magazines, social media, billboards in city centers, in flyers at doctor's surgeries, dentist waiting rooms...I mean, there's literally no getting away from these toxic messages.
The diet industry exists purely to make money from us. They'll give with one hand and take with the other, all while spouting vitriol about how they body you're in right now, the one which carries you around everyday, enables you to walk, run, jump, enjoy food, is somehow not good enough and needs to be changed?!
I for one am sick of it and I'm sick of hearing about my friends think they need to eat less to shrink their bodies and for what? Nothing much it seems!
I know I sound like a hypocrite here because I used Weight Watchers to lose weight but at the time I needed it and coming out the other side of it, I can see how f'd up it all was and how I'd try desperately to be as light as possible come weigh in day so that I would get a positive result.
I guess now, having put on a bit of weight but still remaining relatively slim I can see both sides of it. My mind still plays tricks on me and makes me believe I need to be slimmer again, even though I know I'm perfectly fine just as I am.
That's years of being fed lines such as 'nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels' which I'd use all the time whenever I wanted to eat something 'bad'. I'd remember instead how I longed to be skinny, have a flat stomach and be able to wear all the clothes I could have only dreamed of when I was bigger.
What I Think Now & How I'm Changing For The Better
Now that I'm out of the other side of it, I can see that this body I have now isn't so bad. Writing that seems crazy to me actually because my mind doesn't see that, it only wants me to be slimmer, to go back to how I was when I first lost the weight and to have that flat stomach I coveted for long.
But I'm challenging my state of mind, I am challenging it to be more accepting and to push away those negative thoughts. It's a hard battle and one I will continue to fight with everyday, but one I am definitely up for.
Growing up without social media definitely made it easier to stay as I was and to pretend that everything was fine, even when it clearly wasn't. I couldn't imagine being bombarded with the amount of toxic images we get today and not wanting to do something drastic to achieve this so called 'perfect body'.
New surveys conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov in March 2019 of 4,505 UK adults aged 18+ and 1,118 of UK teenagers (aged 13-19) found that one in five adults (20%) felt shame, with just over one third (34%) felt down or low and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.
Among teenagers, 37% felt upset and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image. Just over one third of adults said they had ever felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body image.
Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image and over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media had caused them to worry about their body image.
I mean, that is SHOCKING and the sheer amount of people blaming images in the media and on social sharing apps such as Instagram for the way they feel about their own body image is frankly disturbing.
Changing Up Who I Follow On Social Media
We all know that there's a hell of a lot of photo-shopping going on behind the scenes to these images we see everyday but somehow the sensible part of our brains just goes 'another image showing a skinny model on the beach, best put down the burger and go to the gym girl'. Why we can't listen to the rational part of our brain which is telling us that this image is fake and she doesn't really look that way is beyond me.
I guess it's after years of being fed the same message day after day that it's just ingrained in us to want to be as small as possible no matter the cost. Thankfully there seems to be an upturn on this, with more and more people showcasing self-love and body positivity on social media.
I have followed advice to clean up my feeds and only follow accounts which make me happy and I can't tell you how much this has helped me on the daily, especially logging into Instagram and seeing my own image reflected back at me through the accounts I have chosen to follow.
Here are just a few of my favourites:
Megan Crabbe (Body Posi Panda)
I've also started following some accounts which share photos of others who are all in the 'mid-size' clothing category (like me!) and it's so wonderful to see them as I can definitely relate more to these wonderful women than I ever could a swimsuit model!
You're in charge of your own feed so perhaps search out some new hashtags/accounts to follow which make YOU feel good, because at the end of the day, you have the choice whether to log in or not so why not make it a happier place to be?
Ok so I think that wraps it up for now, this post is already long enough! I hope you've gained something from this post, that you can start to learn to like yourself a bit more and then perhaps allow that to grow into love.
It's not easy and it does take time but I can promise you one thing, it will always be worth it. So allow yourself to be the one you love and will spend time with, be your own lover and tell yourself three things you like about yourself.
This can be physical or not and sometimes it can be easier to start with something that isn't physical - perhaps you're a really good friend, a great cook or are really good at your job. Write these three attributes down and stick them somewhere visible, perhaps on your mirror?
So when you're getting ready in the morning, you'll always be reminded of at least three different things that you're good at. Add to this list everytime someone mentions something good about you and before you know it, you'll have your own little page of compliments which can help to life you up, even on the darkest of days.
Love Yourself, because you're worth it.