I wrote a piece titled ‘The Perfect Body Doesn’t Exist’ at some point last year which I regretfully deleted. The idea sprung to mind whilst on holiday in Greece, lying underneath a bright blue umbrella, surrounded by men and women all with different body shapes. At the moment, I’m lucky enough to be living near beautiful waters, the sun is always shining and I can wear shorts and bikinis more or less every single day. I feel a sense of happiness and motivation when I see women of all sizes walking around in clothes others might see as inappropriate, and women walking around in swimsuits and bikinis without any consideration of what people may think of them – it’s great. But what do you do when you don’t love what you’ve got?
Happiness in my own skin hasn’t always been easy for me. I was the happiest at sixteen or seventeen years old when I still hadn’t fully developed any shape, I was running daily and I was able to fit into tiny shorts and tops with ease; those days quickly changed a year on, and skimpy shorts are no longer a thing of interest for me. I felt free within myself, and fully confident about the way I looked – but I haven’t felt this way for as long as I can remember and thinking about it on a more personal perspective and rambling on during a warm Sunday afternoon in north Brisbane, it makes me feel somewhat sad.
I’ve never been ‘big’. I was probably at my biggest when I had a bit of puppy fat at the age of 12 – biscuits for breakfast and two blows of ice cream and a chocolate bar every evening most like didn’t help. But I look back on pictures a few years ago at the age of 21 when on holiday and can’t believe I let myself go that much. I’d just recovered from a bad case of Gastroenteritis, I couldn’t keep food in for three weeks, and lost a lot of weight – soon to pile on the pounds again when I had the freedom of eating whatever I wanted again without running to the toilet. I felt incredibly self conscious throughout the holiday, and never fully relaxed because I was so paranoid about the few extra pounds I suppose I actually had to gain.
Last weekend I published ‘Because of the Internet’ which was inspired by Alice Catherine’s post here. I dip my toes into the disadvantages of scrolling through the likes of Instagram all day every day, and how I fell into the Instagram loop hole of perfectly toned bodies, flat stomachs and round bums. Is it any wonder why so many of us, male and female, suffer with such low self esteem? I also stumbled across an interview with Irish illustrator Tara O’Brien who explores strength, vulnerability and body image. Within the interview she states ‘one of my core aims is to create more diverse representation of women that we currently have. The fact that, as a fat woman, I generally can’t find people in popular media who have bodies like mine and are as varied in character as all the fat people I know – or even as their slimmer counterparts – is appealing to me.’
One experience with body confidence, or lack of it, that I remember vividly was when I was around 16 years old. I became anxious about my weight, the lumps and bumps on my thighs and I developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I always watched what I ate, and exercised once or twice a day in an attempt to ‘cure’ every inch of cellulite I had. I soon came to the realisation that this was indeed stupid – I fainted in the shower due to the lack of food in my system. The media portrays our imperfections – such as cellulite and stretch marks, as a ‘must thing’ to get rid of. There’s endless exercise videos, articles on how to lose weight in one week, the products we must use to banish all lumps and bumps, and diet plans we should all follow. I hate to burst your bubble, but you are never going to look like that model you so wish to be.
Realising that the perfect body doesn’t exist became a blessing to me. At the age of twenty two, I’ve found comfort in the person I am. After a daunting and unhappy period of my life almost seven years ago, I can now order takeaways without even thinking about it, I no longer look at the calories on packets, and I eat what I want – in moderation, of course, I eat chocolate without guilt and I avoid denying myself food or snacks. I don’t eat biscuits of breakfast anymore or overdose on several bowls of ice-cream after dinner, but if I want chocolate, pizza, a curry or a packet of crisps, I have it. I’ve also come to the acceptation that I’ll always have cellulite on my upper thighs and on my bum, I’ll never have perfectly toned legs, my hair will never be perfect, my stomach will always have rolls when I’m sat down, and my bum will always ‘bounce’ when I walk.
We’re in a daunting time of social media, full of people showcasing the best moments and their incredible beach bodies whilst eating a bowl of leaves for lunch – there’s more pressure to have a ‘perfect body’ more than ever. But the ‘perfect body’ – whatever that is, doesn’t exist. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and I wasn’t born with the body shape to look like Candice Swanepoel. I find that acceptance is the first step to true happiness and a way of gaining confidence in your own skin.
“Ultimately it’s in your head not your thighs that the problem lies”