Being “body positive” is something that I’ve struggled with for pretty much my entire life. I mean, I’m positive I have a body, but that’s about the extent of my relationship with it. It’s never looked how I want it to and, in recent years, hasn’t functioned as I want it to either.
Even before the dawn of social media, children have been growing up, persistently bombarded with a particular standard of beauty. Magazine covers, films, pop stars. Slim and attractive people were what we aimed to be. The women in my life talked relentlessy about the latest diet and the crazy ways in which they were going to shed half a stone in a week. Counting points, eating obscene amounts of cabbage soup, drinking only slimming milkshakes. And, let’s be honest, life is really no different now. Balancing macros, drinking juices, tallying up syns. Just like me, my children are going to grow up in a world obsessed with weight loss. Only now, we also have the flip side of the scale. The plus size movement. Something that purports to be about body confidence, but is really no healthier (or happier) than the unrealistic standards showcased by the often malnourished girls strutting the cat walk.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, I get that now. I accept it. The only thing I strive for these days, is healthiness. I don’t want my children to grow up, concerning themsleves with weight loss. Or boob jobs. Or bum implants. I want them to grow up with a healthy attitude to food, to excercise and to their bodies, so that altering them isn’t something they’ll ever feel the need to do.
In my late teens, I embarked upon my own diet. It’s called Bulimia. For several years I struggled with my inabilty to starve myself. My lack of discipline. Nicole Richie was my idol. All I wanted and craved was the waif like figure that she had. Her weight loss was constantly splashed across the pages of Heat Mag and, to me, she looked amazing. Protuding bones and gaunt faces were appealing. I wanted vertebrae that were visible to the outside world. I didn’t want my thighs to touch. The thought of having a muffin top, sickened me. Literally. Puberty had given me curves and I resented them. I weighed myself obsessively. Anything over 8 stone was disgustingly fat. and yet, I didn’t have the discipline not to eat. I could go all day long, but once the hunger got too much, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d binge. I’d eat everything I could find and then, afterwards, I’d thrust the pointed end of my toothbrush deep into my throat and I’d purge. I’d force myself to vomit and I’d keep doing it until all that remained was bile and blood. And I was inventive at hiding my illness too. Carrier bags filled with sick, hidden in the boot of my car until I found somewhere far from home to dispose of them. Using the sink at friend’s houses, because the splash from the toilet was too noisy. In the shower. Into bins. Anywhere really. Anywhere it could be hidden and my secret remain unknown. The guilt of keeping the food inside of me was far too much to bear. For four years this went on. It became the norm for me. I knew which foods would regurgitate more easily and which to avoid for fear I wouldn’t be able to bring them back up again. I’m not even sure how I got better, in the end. How I recovered. There must have come a time that I stuck that toothbrush down my throat and then never did it again. Of course, the temptation remained. The guilt. It took years more for that to go completely. But it did, in the end.
That’s not something I want for my children. I want them to enjoy food. I want them to eat without shame. I want them to make healthy choices, but allow themsleves to enjoy treats without all the guilt. I don’t want them to diet. To an extent, my concern lies more with Daisy than with the boys, but I know full well a crisis of body confidence is not just an affliction for the girls. I saw first hand, the Spouse, who took up cycling. Who began to lose weight. Who delighted in the comments from others, “you look well”, “have you lost weight?”. And for whom it became an obsession. Who weighed himself every morning. Who became addicted to watching the numbers plummet. No, it’s not just girls who worry about their weight.
So what about now. Where are my body and I at now? Sure, I’ve dabbled with diets. I’ve been desperate to lose weight. I’ve gained for too many stones of it and watched my arse grow at the same rate as my belly during pregnancy. But here I am at 30. My body is what it is. I’m never going to be a 6ft super model (not least because I’m only 5ft 3 on a good day). I’m never going to have boobs that don’t migrate into my armpits every time I lie down. I’m never going to have a perfectly flat stomach and I’m never going to have a belly button that doesnt look like a sad face. But you know what, I’m ok with that. I’m not body confident. I’m body content. And I try to look after it, but I also try to indulge it too. I’m active. I don’t pummel the treadmill 7 times a week, but I do work out with friends on Wednesays and Fridays (roughly 60% exercise, 40% vocal gymnastics) and I try to walk as much as i can (70,000 steps a week is the aim). And, most importantly, I try to involve the children. They walk home from school every night, come rain or shine. It’s their “daily mile” and its a normal part of their routine that ensures we’re all (including the dog) getting exercise, even if they do then spend the rest of the evening in front of the tv. It’s not painful. It’s not the sort of exercise regime that leaves me feeling half dead or chundering into a bush, but it’s enough. It’s enough to keep me feeling healthy. It’s enough to make me feel stronger. Fitter. It’s enough to let me allow myself to eat the foods that I enjoy and feel like I deserve them. We don’t talk about diets here, anymore. We talk about balance. We talk about “everything in moderation” and it couldn’t be more true. That’s how I want my children to live. I want them to enjoy exercise and to enjoy eating. I want them to be healthy and happy. That’s it really. That’s my “fitness regime”. It’s not intense, it’s not hardcore, it’s not restrictive and it’s not complicated. It’s just mostly healthy and mostly happy.
P.S. Here’s a gratuitous picture of my “guns” because honestly I’ve been working really hard on it and I’m feeling super hench (only on the one side, mind).