A couple of days ago I did something which, in hindsight, was utterly and completely ridiculous. I went to the Doctor;s and very carefully, very rationally asked him to prescribe me a diet pill, commonly given to obese people, in order to lose weight. Granted, this isn’t the most outlandish problem I’ve brought to a Dr before, not even close, you are after all talking to a bonafide hypochondriac who has convinced herself over the years that she has brain tumours, cancer, HIV, Tourette’s, Schizophrenia and most recently Glaucoma. (To name a few.)
Let’s give a shout out to the good Doctor though, he did hide his smile very well and politely told me he would not be able to do that, that I was clearly not overweight and while I could lose a few pounds for cosmetic reasons if I wanted to, that this was clearly not impacting on my physical health. For some reason, maybe the sheer absurdity of the scenario, or his calm words, it really hit something home for me. I was not in bad health. This man must see people every day who have life changing or sometimes life threatening conditions; who struggle to perform basic day to day tasks and here I was banging on about wanting to lose 10lbs so I could be the same size as I was when I was 21. Sometimes the shame I feel for my actions makes me feel incredulous to how I ever could have thought they were a good idea.
This got me on to thinking about the bigger picture and why I really felt that desperate need to fit back into a size 10. It’s just a number, why was it so important to me?
From being very small and first starting dance classes I’ve always been just on the wrong side of ‘chubby’. Never fat, just sort of soft and with about as much muscle definition as a wet flannel. This was just the way I was, my sister, who had little interest in dance and annoyingly way more natural ability, was all limbs and lean muscle and flexibility, while I struggled to reach my toes and always had a slight pot-belly in my leotard. I can very clearly remember it bothering me and often crying with frustration in front of the mirror. I suppose those kind of demons lay deep foundations when you’re 8 or 9.
It sparked a lifelong passion for dance which led me to train professionally. Again, the old issues arose. Let me tell you, the dance world is not a kind place when you’re barely 5ft 3, have a double F chest and a stomach that just won’t lay flat no matter how many sit-ups and diets you do. I look back now and wish I’d embraced my difference, wish I’d tried to accept that’s just who I was and given it everything I had anyway. Unfortunately when you’re 18 that’s about as impossible as sprouting wings from your arse and flying to Jupiter. I looked at my friends, with their perfect physiques and tiny crop tops that didn’t require a bra that looked like something out of a camping catalog and envied them. All I wanted was to be like them and so that’s what I tried to do. As I now know, and as I’m sure most of you do, trying to be somebody else never works.
The rest of my 20’s were a bit of a shitshow of partying and soul-searching and trying to find who I was and more partying and more partying and to be honest, on the most part I’m glad they’re behind me. Since that milestone birthday just over a year ago every thing really has seemed to click into place. I have a partner who I adore and tells me every day how beautiful I am, I’ve found passion through travel and writing, I no longer try to be somebody else but embrace my unique “me-ness”, so why do these old demons refuse to die?
The media loves to tell us how we are now embroiled in a society that is image obsessed. I don’t see this. Sure, if you spend your life in front of the TV or reading vacuous, mindless magazines that’s the message you’ll perceive, but on the whole I don’t buy that premise for a second. I personally know, and meet, amazing, talented, beautiful, inspiring, honest and truthful people every day who base little to no emphasis on their clothes size or what the scales say or how big their biceps are. These people are interesting. Not because of their lack of care for the narcissistic, not because they don’t conform, they’re just interesting. Period. I can honestly say I have never given their weight a second thought. I believe these things, I KNOW them, so how do I get what I know to connect with what I feel?
Another source of frustration for me is that I personally adore the aesthetic of a curvier woman. That isn’t to say thin women aren’t gorgeous too, I appreciate and champion women of any shape, I just personally like the look of a rounded stomach, curvy hips and thick thighs. I have never really bowed to the belief that only one size and shape is attractive, the idea that a woman is only sexy if she is a very specific, prescribed shape is ludicrous, doesn’t personality and intellect play a huge part in attractiveness? Of course it does. Don’t tell me you’ve never met someone, thought them to be pretty plain physically, then after an hour watched in awe as they dominate a room, drawing people to them like a magnet and feeling more and more attracted to them.
Some of my favorite IG ladies are shown below:
I look at images like these daily and genuinely believe them to be staggeringly beautiful. I find myself wishing I looked that way and so how come when I see my own body in the mirror I can’t see the same beauty I see there? A curve or roll I see on them is attractive to me, on myself I’m repulsed. It makes no sense.
I recently found myself feeling anxious about the impending prospect of returning to London. I know I want to rekindle my burlesque career and yet I feel a sense of dread when I think about it. Will people book a girl who’s my size and shape? The evidence I see would sadly suggest probably not. In that case, what do I do? Stick by my guns and continue to self-accept, risking my passion in the process? Or go on a juice cleanse, get back to the shape I was when the lemon detox seemed like a rational idea and conform?
Of course all of this is ultimately completely meaningless. In a World where children are being obliterated in drone strikes, the fact I can’t fit into my denim shorts is an utterly abhorrent “problem”. I do still believe at the heart of it, it is an issue we should address though and try and stamp out. If we learn to love ourselves a bit more, lumpy bits and all, then we raise a massive “fuck you” to the powers that be who have set these impossible standards for us, thus creating a more loving place for every one.
I guess, like any struggle it is something that will be ongoing. It is impossible to change a lifetime of learned behaviors and thoughts overnight and the process will be a long one. Some days will be good and I’ll wear that bodycon dress with pride, and others I’ll feel like a potato person made from cottage cheese. I will continue to fight the good fight, for myself and for the entire sisterhood. ❤
(And maybe buy some bigger denim shorts.)