I realised something! My YouTube channel offers the Confident You experience, but it’s super limited. I was lucky enough to share videos featuring Chantelle from Fat Mum Slim and Rachel from Rachel Gee Bee on developing relationships with their bodies. BUT my story wasn’t here. That’s a bit of a missing! Right? So, I decided to record a video. My body confidence story which will go live in the Confident You playlist as soon as the bloody thing uploads. Gosh.
But first, to get my thoughts clear, I wanted to write it. I’ve always been a blogger and a writer first, so that made sense to me. Here it is, in the hopes that for some of you it will inspire you to make a change. Maybe it will encourage you to give yourself a break or start questioning the things ‘they’ told you.
Ready? Here’s my body confidence story. GO.
For me, body confidence wasn’t part of the conversation for a long time. I grew up on 400 acres; we were constantly outside having adventures. On weekends you would find us at the beach, especially during summer. My body was a vehicle for life, nothing more and nothing less. Even though, when I look back, I was always bigger than the other kids, I never felt anything but at home in my body.
Until the boobs started to come in and people noticed.
The awareness of those around me forced me to consider, for perhaps the first time in my life, that I was different. Before that when someone called me fat or tried to shame me for my body, I was genuinely surprised that they noticed.
Soon swimming carnivals became something to be avoided. My body was so different to the girls in my age group around me. I was told by parents of friends that I needed to eat less, perhaps consider a diet, if I wanted to avoid that ‘puppy fat’ taking up residence. Suddenly, at the very time when a girl wants some privacy about the changes in her body my body was THE topic of conversation.
So, I did my best to fit in.
It was during my final year of primary school that I realised that it wasn’t working. The class lined up to be weighed and measured in some description of PE class. I knew I was about to be outed. Surrounded by girls and boys who weighed much less than I did. They would all know soon enough. My body was wrong. That experience of recording our weight and height has never left me. It sits in the back of my memory now all these years later.
I was almost my full adult height that day, at 12 years old. And probably pretty close to what would be considered a pretty average weight for that size. But I was a child, a female child, and according to the world, what I was, was wrong. I’m not sure what the purpose of that was? To this day, I have no idea what the actual lesson was about, all I hear is the beating of my heart in my ears.
If anyone can tell me, I’d be keen to know.
Consider that as you fight the obesity epidemic like it’s a plague. Those kids, the ones you want to reach, they can’t hear you. They already know the world hates them. By pointing out the things that they already hear from people around them, you push them a little away. It’s time for a new plan. Your old plan sucks. So hard, take it from me.
By the time I entered high school, I’d devised a plan. Led by a crazy person in the form of a personal trainer who ONLY ate a single jam doughnut a day because he just couldn’t kick those sugar cravings. I exercised more and ate less. Way less. I trained all the time, and my naturally athletic (big, but athletic, obviously) body conformed to those demands.
I was getting there. Finally, I was shrinking.
And people, just as they had noticed the boobs, they saw the shrinking. Boy oh boy were they happy. It made their day. This fat girl that they were so WORRIED about was suddenly smaller. Their conscience was clear of all the things they said to me and the little digs they took. It was justified. She heeded our warning, look at her, she looks great. What a relief.
Because that’s what it is, right? It’s a relief for people not to have to confront their feelings about health and that association with mortality. Or their prejudice or bias towards people of a certain size. It not them, it’s us. We’re the problem. Not how we are treated or the fact that you will condem a child. Oh no. It’s easier if those people, the fat people, just fix it already.
But I wasn’t fixed. No, they had succeeded in breaking me.
Instead of the child who didn’t consider her body, I was a teenager who wanted it to look a certain way. All that happened in this process was that I started a cycle of breaking myself. Disordered eating to the point that even now I have no idea what it feels like to understand a signal from my body. This cycle continued well into my early twenties. Losing weight, gaining weight, manically exercising, never leaving the couch. Over and over again.
Then somewhere in my early twenties, I got pretty over that.
Weight was harder and harder to take off, I was considering behaviours that would damage my long-term health, so I just threw in the towel. I moved, I gained like 20 kg, and I beat myself up every single day about not being strong-willed enough or determined enough to control how my body looked. Notice I said how it looked? Not how it felt? See the problem there?
Time passed, and I got married, at my highest weight ever, and I settled into life as a wife, cafe owner and drinker of way too much wine. Those subscription services have a lot to answer to when it comes to me, let me tell you. I was fat, happy, more than a little slow when it came to climbing a hill, but doing okay. Having come through a major battle with depression, and the way my body looked just wasn’t a priority anymore. Bit by bit I started to shift my focus to how I felt.
And a seed was planted.
What if it didn’t matter how I looked? What if those people who told an 11-year-old girl her value was in an attractive body and perfect shape were wrong? But most importantly, what if there was no way my body would ever meet those standards and I should just find myself a nice comfortable, middle ground. That line of thinking changed my life.
Piece by piece I changed my mind.
I fought battles I didn’t even know I was fighting under the surface. I challenged everything. Pretty soon my response to people sharing their thoughts on my body was to tell them to fuck off; it was none of their business. And can I tell you that felt amazing? My life started to change, and I focused on feeding my body what it needed to go from a to b. I embraced that natural order of things that I had as a child and lived an active, somewhat balanced life.
Then I started a blog. A personal blog about myself and our life. Pretty soon after starting that blog, we had the experience of suffering a miscarriage, followed by years of infertility and early-stage pregnancy loss. My body, which I had finally somewhat made peace with, had turned on me. It had proved itself useless in the most fundamental of ways, and I hated it.
Hated it with, as the movie quote goes, the fire of a million suns. I hated it.
During this time, a time when there was a laser focus on what my body was doing and when was when I started to disconnect from my body again. I watched for signs and clues that it was working as it should, but ignored it in every possible other way. When it didn’t produce the outcome, I wanted I would stop eating, overeat or push myself to exercise more in a method of coping I’d been practising since my teenage years.
This relationship that I’d taken such care to craft was falling apart, and I didn’t see it. I had my eyes on another prize, something I deemed infinitely more worthy. Something that, it turns out, I thought that I needed to be worthy (but that’s a tale for another day). I lost weight, I gained weight, and I tried every diet program or eating suggestion under the sun. Nothing made a difference; I kept finding my way back to the middle.
And boy, did I hate the middle.
Five years after that initial miscarriage I stopped trying to fall pregnant. It was another two years after that that I spoke to my husband about not wanting children and how I found myself called to do other things. And it has been a year since that conversation and I’m finally addressing the damage that was done to my relationship with my body all those years ago. I don’t trust myself right now to make “good” choices. I feel that every step I take might be the first on a slippery slope back into disordered eating and mania.
It’s why I’m getting help. It’s why I have been hiding behind the words of others when it comes to sharing about body confidence. Not able to see that for me, when my body turned on me, that I did what I do best and I cut it off. But you can’t exist forever in a bubble separate from your body and how you feel about it. It doesn’t work in the sense that there is a way SO much better than that out there.
So much better than just existing.
I’ve been there. And now, I’m working my way back in the same way that I did it before. I’m questioning everything anyone tells me, including myself. Looking instead for the cues and messages from my body that have been hidden behind emotions and anger for too long now. Right now, it’s about building that trust, knowing that an awareness of where I’ve been is the best thing for knowing how to move forward.
And occasionally, as I see fit, telling others to fuck off out of my business. Because, stubbornness and sass have served me well in the past, I’ve never been so good at being the nice girl. Trust me, it won’t serve you either.
EDIT: Video, done! Here it is.
Chief Blogger at Suger Coat It; An Australian lifestyle blog for women who work for themselves. Melissa is a social media consultant & lover of stripes. Most weekends you’ll find her at the beach or home on the veranda kicking back. Around here, they call her Suger. Feel free to do the same.