Today I finished reading ‘Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body’ by Kate Harding (of Shapely Prose) and Marianne Kirby (of The Rotund). I wrote a long discussion of my own relationship with my body in my writer’s notebook and how this book has affected me and made me think more deeply about uncomfortable things.
I’ve decided to share this with the people who read my blog for a number of reasons: because women, on the most part, are inundated with the message from society, the media, women’s magazines, etc, that our bodies are ‘just not good enough’. Good enough for who? Good enough for what? Even though I’ve come a long way in my journey with accepting my body, the way I look, and have become much more able to silent that nasty little voice in the back of my head, I still have some very difficult moments, where I just feel like ‘sod it all, I’m just going to wallow in self pity today’.
I recognised a lot of the points that Kate and Marianne talk about with my own experience. I retain clothes because, even though I might not fit into some of them anymore, I hold an irrational hope that I might fit into them ‘someday’. Even though I have lovely clothes that do actually fit me, they could do with the extra wardrobe space taken up by these obsolete clothes I hold on to. These hangers-on could be customised, used to customise other clothes, or even used for my sister and I’s jewellery making home business.
I’m constantly seeing things in the mirror or in photos – my large upper arms, my tummy, and thinking the worst, even though other people (family, friends, my partner), tell me I’m beautiful or gorgeous. I have moments of self loathing in between more stable moments of self love, body acceptance, and confidence. I have to admit that it did get better all those years ago when I stopped buying women’s magazines. It became less of an internal monologue of putting myself down, being critical of other women, comparing myself.
The book hit a nerve because I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of labelling food as good or bad, with some imaginary moral value. ‘Being good’ or ‘feeling guilty’ if we do or don’t eat certain foods. I have never been held back by my perception of myself, apart from fear of the doctor or fear of exposing my body when going swimming.
I used to be okay about going swimming, particularly on women only nights and without anyone I know. When you wear a swimming costume, you are near to nudity and perhaps more vulnerable. Of course, it shouldn’t be like that. There is that voice again, that nasty little undermining voice. I love swimming and cycling, feeling the wind rush past my face and giving my legs a workout. The only roadblock is life getting in the way and insecurity. Plus money, when it comes to swimming and badminton (my sister goes to the gym with her boyfriend sometimes to play badminton – I used to play it in the summer when we went camping).
Naturally, the whole thing isn’t helped by having PCOS and the doc’s recommendation to lose weight. Losing weight is a pressure, a niggle, at the back of my mind. It saps the joy out of exercise and out of eating well and intuitively. It shouldn’t, but sometimes does make me feel hopeless. It doesn’t allow me to accept myself, as I am, without stressing or worrying about it. It won’t let me be happy with this body that carries me from place to place, that enjoys dancing and cycling and swimming.
I won’t admit to myself that I still have a mental resistance to my own journey of body acceptance. I am anti-diet and pro-healthy (intuitive) eating and pro fun exercise. So what is the problem? I still compare, find a way to undermine myself. I struggle with this nasty little voice who insists that I’m ugly and worthless. Most of the time I am able to silence it.
Other times, I sink into depression and self criticism. I don’t see what others see at these times – high cheekbones, lovely green eyes, healthy and shiny hair, full lips and a great fashion sense. Instead I see double chin, spots, chin hair and wobbly arms. Then I need to tell myself that there is nothing wrong with wobbliness or a few spots (which can be concealed and dried up with Lush’s Grease Lightning), or a double chin. It’s all part of a generally human and lovely person.
I’m not faultless, nobody is. Yet at times I can be my own worst enemy, just as I can be my own best friend. I think Kate and Marianne’s book is empowering, thoughtful and positive. It reassures me that I’m not alone, that despite the pressure, I need to let go and ‘declare a truce with my body’. I want to enrich my life with my hobbies (or callings, whichever word fits) and interests, keep writing, find some time to go cycling and swimming. Make a commitment to myself to have fun, enjoy food and enjoy my body. No matter what assumptions people make or what the bloody media say. After all, we have one life, and that is generally woefully short – so we might as well fill it up with lovely things.
Please visit Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere to find out more about the book.