For Anyone Who’s Felt Bad about their Body: What I’ve Learnt from Being Fat + Thin

For Anyone Who's Felt Bad about their Body

What I've Learnt from Being Fat + Thin

Pomegranate looking like womb, ovaries and blood
Warning: Contains explicit content ♦ & is not to be used as medical advice ♥ Disclaimer here

Mostly what I’ve learnt, is that we’re all a bit warped.

Intro: For people who have always had a healthy relationship with food, this piece will probably leave you thinking ‘bitch you’re crazy how can you make something that’s so simple; so difficult?!’ but the rest of you will relate.

I’ve been on a lot of diets; the Paleo diet, the 5:2, the Master Cleanse, booze instead of food diet, laxatives diet (which did NOT end well let me tell you) and combined these with various bouts of ott exercise regimes (P90X everyday anyone?).

I’ve stuck a toothbrush down my throat on a few occasions, but I’ve never once succeeded in making myself sick. (I’ve trained my gag reflex too well I guess..). It’s annoying when you attempt self-destructive behaviour and fail at that too.

I’ve probably ranged from a size 14 to a size 6 and everything in between, depending on the year. Yet no matter the size of my arse, IT MADE NO F*CKING DIFFERENCE TO MY LIFE. It was how I felt and what I did, that made the difference. Which seems obvious, but when I realised I was overweight and that my world hadn’t come crashing down and literally everything was the same (and I was still getting hit on), it was kind of a revelation because so much of our culture suggests that being a little podgy is akin to doing a small stint in Hell. Just walk down the magazine aisle, look at the headlines and you’ll see what I mean. Similarly, being super thin did not improve my life in any respect whatsoever. (Although it must be added that significantly overweight people do face discrimination). Anyone with a scrap of intellect can say, 'yes, you idiot, it’s how you feel, not how you look, that matters'; but this simple truth is so easily lost.

Freddie and Spencer and their body insecurities
International cricketer Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff has opened up about his past struggle with bulimia and reality star Spencer Matthews has talked about how he regrets taking steroid pills to bulk up (he was taking them at the time of this pic). Image cc: Ian Hodgson / Rex

Once upon a time, the men were saved from dealing with the body bullsh*t,

but now they too are fed similar myths; that you can and should be trim and hench af and if you’re not then you’re essentially inferior. Peter Andre abs are nice to look at don’t get me wrong, but a six pack isn’t going to provide charming dinner conversation and big biceps won’t be any good at crushing your anxieties. And we all know that being swole has nothing to do with actual combat skills.

Most people are quite careful not to comment on a woman's physical flaws (to their face), whereas men are often seen as fair game. Now that all of us are under similar pressures it might be time to tone down some of the teasing and competitive banter.

Perhaps I should stop telling bald men to get fried eggs tattooed on their heads?...

It’s confusing, because increased health and confidence are keys to a better life, and for some people exercise regimes can be emotionally transformative. But an important distinction to make is whether you are focusing on your joy or on a certain aesthetic. You may have heard of Marie Kondo, expert house tidier and now Netflix star, but her ruling principle ‘does it bring you joy’ could be incredibly useful when considering your food and exercise habits.

Kate Moss and Tess Holliday Cosmopolitan covers
Kate Moss and Tess Holliday. Neither of these bodies look sustainably healthy, but one of them gets abuse and the other get congrats. 'Healthy' can look very different for different bodies and you have no idea what that person is going through. Maybe someone is very large/small because they’ve been abused and they feel safer having a physical barrier from the world or intensely controlling their habits, maybe someone is very large/small because they're struggling with addictions. It’s important to show diversity so people know that they can be proud of themselves no matter what they look like.

being thin

trying on clothes was an absolute dream. Until the recent ‘plus size’ movement the standard model was underweight  and a skeletal person can make any garms look good because they’re essentially a clothes hanger. And a trendy looking clothes hanger at that, because thin is ‘cool’ (skinny, rich, aloof, big sad eyes and a small coke habit - that’s what we want isn’t it?). Clothes used to be far less revealing, more tailored and more flattering: suits and long fitted dresses, whereas now we’ve got skimpy, cheaply made, crop tops and leggings - but if we don’t look great in them it’s our bodies that are at fault?!

getting in and out of a wetsuit is quicker.

i liked the fact that I was ‘skinny’, because it’s seen as the desired way to be, as opposed to being big which is often unspokenly labelled as a failure

i felt more vulnerable.

i felt more anxious.

i didn’t feel as good dancing or f*cking. There weren't any parts of me to shake and jiggle and I felt like I’d lost the things that made me look and feel sexy. (sidenote Constance Wu talks about loving her small breasts here)

When you lose weight, or ‘achieve’ the body you think you should have, your insecurities and imperfections may simply morph into different ones. If there was a skinny b*tch whose guts I hated, I was glad that I wasn’t fatter than her. But if there was a big woman whom I admired, I felt inferior to them, like they were powerful and I was a weak little girl bowing down to the thin rules that society set. When I was thin I worried that bigger people would be judging me and when I was fat I worried that thin people would be judging me. I wanted a smaller stomach and arms and then when I got those I wanted a bigger bum and boobs.

Also, when you lose weight you get so many comments about it, that even if you didn’t give a damn about what size you were, you probably will by the time everyone is done. I’m sure it’s the same for men who bulk up. It’s understandable that people make such a fuss because we’re all subject to our cultural image obsession, but remember that:

a) you can't necessarily judge someone’s inner state by their outer weight

b) what we view as a healthy body might well be a hungry or overworked body

(and they've probably had remarks from 10 other people already so you may as well refrain)

Two things I learnt: not feeling hungry doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating enough. Secondly, being underweight made me anxious. Not only anxious, but just less sure of myself.

One morning last year, I woke up and felt guilty and depressed because I’d eaten an unnecessary amount of kit kats and peanut butter before bed. Then I thought Jesuuuuus.Chriiiiiiiiiist. is this how I want to to live my life?! Having a morning ruined by despair, because I ate some f*cking snacks?! I saw my whole life spanning ahead of me; filled with body worries and food dilemnas, rules and regrets, and I thought F*CK THIS.

constantly eating > barely eating > just eating. The middle one is a hungry body NOT a healthy one and yet to most of us it probably looks normal. We have to consciously retrain ourselves to aspire to REALISTIC. Maybe now I've got steady habits I'll get bigger/smaller/the same - absolutely no f*cks given either way

new mantras

* please note: self love positive affirmation stuff makes me feel just as queasy and cringed out as it does you, but sometimes you really do need to do it.

everytime I realise I am mentally tallying up what I’ve eaten that day (so as to decide whether to be pleased about it or not) I will stop.

if I try something on that doesn’t fit I will blame the clothes, not my body.

the thought may enter my head ‘I would look good if only my…’ but I will ignore that

i will resist the urge to make rules

i will not look in the mirror and think about the things I want to change, but instead will concentrate on the fact that I have such an incredible body.

i will stop ironically moaning; even if you’re only joking, the more you think or talk about body shape the more important it becomes.

i will not think that I should eat as much as possible of a ‘bad’ thing today, because tomorrow I’ll be ‘good’. I will just live my life, sometimes eating unhealthy things, sometimes eating healthy things.

i will no longer compare myself to other bodies; I have no idea what that person has to do to look like that. And some things are just genetic, how futile is it to feel bad about something you have absolutely no control over?

i will try to stop judging other people’s weight.

i will eat even if I’m not hungry, if I think I probably should. My concentration and happiness is exponentially more important.

i will be strict about not seeing my body as a ‘work in progress’. Are you alive? Then it is working.

How I came to a place of chill

I was seeing a therapist who did some hypnotherapy for feeling relaxed around food, eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full. It was a f*cking revelation (even insanely stoned munchies were tamed). But because our culture is so thin obsessed, I became too attached to the aesthetic and eventually fell back into the restrict and binge cycle. However, I don’t think I’d be able to act upon the right mindset now if I hadn’t have had that help. If you’ve been so deeply removed from your intuition for a long time; it’s almost impossible to know whether you’re eating and exercising a sensible amount, or whether your disordered eating or body dysmorphia is tricking you. At the time I had this hypnotherapy I felt big AND I felt genuinely happy with my body, however, I couldn’t be around food without wanting to eat it all (which is stressful and distracting) and it was this that I wanted the help for.

Find out who you are and do it on purpose.

- Dolly Parton

The perverse thing about aiming for a perfect body is that once you have it, you can’t just close up shop and say 'brilliant! I’ve achieved my goal! I can stop worrying, stop focusing on it, and move on to something else' - no - then you have the constant task of maintaining it.

And there will always be something to ‘improve’.

Restricting, aka dieting, causes binging. 97% of dieters regain everything they lost and then some within 3 years. But there’s a great deal of people making a great deal of money, who are encouraging us to believe otherwise; the global Weight Loss and Weight Management market is worth around $259.8 billion.

PS. cellulite is a bullsh*t term created so that people could sell things. Grown women are meant to be a little fatty and fat has dimples in it. That is all. (men's is less visible as their connective tissue layer is thicker).

kendrick Lamar booty with some stetch marks
I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop. Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor. Show me somethin' natural like ass with some stretchmarks. - Kendrick Lamar HUMBLE

The lies that we’ve been sold are that we can all have a ‘perfect’ body, that we ‘should’, and that it’s a valuable way to spend our time. And we have indeed been sold it.

Of course there is a certain body shape that a majority of people will find more attractive, whether it’s our biology or our culture, we are foolish to say that some people are not better looking than others. But we are also foolish to think that anyone different from the idolized norm can not be spectacularly beautiful, and we are utterly foolish to think that any of this matters so much. So that person is hotter than you, is that really so unbearable?!

Forget thy neighbour, love thyself.

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