I DON'T HATE MY BODY, I THINK IT'S WONDERFUL...
Image caption: Me in Dublin in 2016
I know, surprising to hear isn’t it? How often do you hear someone say that? Never, right? Especially a woman.
I was 16 stone at 16 years old. And I’ve fluctuated between that weight and 11st 9 since then. I’m now 34 years old and I don’t quite know what weight I am. I haven’t weighed myself since January. I could be 10 stone or I could be 18 but it doesn’t really matter does it? While knowing my weight may have no impact on you, it had a very big impact on me. Recently I have realised that nothing determines my happiness or the state of my health more than when my brain and my body tell me I am happy and healthy. The weight on the scales often made me quite sad for not being a number I wanted to see and I really don’t like feeling sad. So I stopped weighing myself.
I am fascinated and mortified when I think about the amount of time I spent researching diets, meal planning and writing food diaries and I was always just sad and disappointed in myself, even angry. I realise now I could have used that time much more wisely. And none of those efforts made me like my body. None of the restricting food, none of the weight loss. I was never quite there. Never quite good enough. I never allowed myself to be happy.
Then, in 2016, I did a self development course in London and recognised something rather special. You ready for the revelation? Ok, well…
Who I am is a loving auntie. Who I am is a thoughtful and funny friend. A helpful and conscientious and sometimes frustrating colleague. A caring daughter, sister and niece. What makes me a human is my interaction with other people, what I can accomplish with them and what I can do for them. I am a combination of hopes and dreams and emotion. I realised that it is within my power to create a great and happy future for myself. To travel, to learn, to love and to dream big. And the most surprising thing about all of that? Everything that makes me this human being, has nothing to do with what my face or my body looks like.
The morning that revelation hit me in October 2016 I was standing in my aunt’s bathroom in London looking at myself in a full length mirror, crying. And I knew. This is the first time I am crying for the right reason. My body IS that incredible gift so many people have been telling me it was, for years.
I used to think it was cuckoo when someone said ‘your body is a gift’ because I couldn’t wrap my head around seeing past the rolls of fat, the unwanted hair, the dodgy hearing and cracking joints. But now I realise: my body has carried me around the world, allowed me to build sand castles with my nephews, kept me warm, allowed me to learn, to talk, to smile, to create, to show love in all its forms and to express the person I am. And I’d been continually cruel to it, I’d hated it and given it such a hard time. Well, NO MORE. From now on this body (and the brain that goes along with it), gets what it needs, what it wants and what it deserves. Some love.
That was the start of my journey from poor body confidence (due to thinking it was never good enough), through body neutrality (neither hating, nor loving my body) to what I have realised is rare body confidence. It isn’t easy to make a full leap from years of self hatred to full blown body confidence but I knew it was possible now. I just needed to figure out the steps. So I read some blogs and books, listened to some podcasts and immersed myself in the body positive social media world to figure it all out.
My little rollercoaster was boosted in January 2017 when an inspired best pal told me she was never going to say another negative thing about her body. I laughed: “That’s impossible!”. But it isn’t. It isn’t impossible at all. It’s actually quite easy. That’s what I’m like now. I didn’t even have to try that hard to stop. I just stopped. Bad body chat is everywhere, it’s contagious and it’s so blooming negative and poisonous. Our kids hear it, probably way more than we realise. We don’t even notice it anymore. But when you stop joining in, you’ll be conscious that it is everywhere. Taking myself out of those conversations has really made a difference to me.
I urge you to give it a go. It changed my life. I’m now a conscientious objector when that sort of conversation arises and when anyone wants to be down about their body I hope that either my silence speaks volumes or I just say: “I actually think your arms / butt / nose / tummy / hair / neck / teeth / tits / ankles, is/are beautiful” and I mean it because I believe that what we have been told is ‘beautiful’ or ‘not beautiful’ is made up. Someone dictated their thoughts once upon a time and why did they get to have the defining say? In my book: every body is beautiful. Every ‘body’ has a story and every ‘body’ is good enough. Just the way it is.
And you know what’s really strange? When I recognised that my body is that lovely gift I started looking out for it and doing right by it. I started to nourish my mind and body because I love it, rather than punishing it because I hated it. I am more conscious now of what food I eat, I meditate every so often and I try to get more sleep. I’ve also started a skincare regime! I’m only doing exercise my body and mind enjoy, nothing is forced and I’m probably more active now than I have been in a couple of years. Now I go for a run because it clears my head not because I’ve eaten ‘more than I should’.
I pay a bit more attention to what my body is telling me it needs. Like water. That listening has lead me through a few interesting phases. At one point I didn’t eat meat for 2 weeks because I really didn’t like the idea of it being in my body. I started noticing what made my body feel good, and what made it feel a bit sluggish. This lead me into the wonderful world of Intuitive Eating. It’s all about committing to listening to your body while also not having any rules about food, not restricting food and tying in a lot of body love. Get more info here and definitely buy the book.
I started to get quite immersed in this new social media fuelled, relief filled, body love world and realised there was a huge amount of camaraderie amongst those who practice it. Some of the people who were sharing their story online have been to the depths of things way tougher than my lack of self confidence. And I was so moved when I listened to their stories. It was those brave people who had already embraced their bodies, coupled with the possibility I saw for the people in my life who I knew were still struggling, who inspired me to start The Chachi Power Project in January. (Funny story: you can read more about where the name comes from here).
It is a community project and the aim is to help everyone feel a bit happier in their own skin. For me, this revelation that I didn’t need to hate my body has been one of the most empowering things I have ever realised and I think that sort of idea could help a lot of people. It has affected my self worth, my creativity, my ability to communicate, my confidence, my relationships. I don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that I think learning to love yourself is like a key which unlocks all these areas where you may have been held back before.
A lot of people are in pain and are sad and don’t know that there is another way to be. Every week, as the project grows, I hear from people who have told me how poor self body image has affected them. In my big old world wide vision, I would like this to not be a thing anymore. I want to help so I am doing what I know how to do best and that’s get people together, talk a lot and have fun while doing it. I want everyone to find some #chachipower.
We encourage you to join the chat. Follow, share, collaborate, volunteer or take part in any way you feel comfortable with The Chachi Power Project.
Flipboard: Body Image Magazines
Piece originally written for The Edinburgh Gossip Girls website