Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The journey to body confidence

I'm pretty new to all this I have to say and my journey so far has been great. I've always been a fairly confident person, despite being larger than socially acceptable. I was never really bullied at school or anything like that so for the most part I got on with being fat as it didn't really effect me that much.

The only time its really affected me is in the clothes area. When I was a chubby kid growing up I was way past kid sizes before I'd even hit about 11. Wearing a ladies 16-18 meant that I was so limited by what I could wear. Couple that with the 90's fashion of leggings/tight trousers (before they were reinvented and cool) and short tops, it left me feeling incredibly self conscious about my stomach. Looking back now I realise that actually my torso is really long and I'm pear shaped, and was never built for even normal length tops let alone short ones! But with money not in abundance, a severe lack of plus size clothes back then, growing up as a teenager I had no chance in the fashion stakes.

Around 13 here? Hiding under baggy clothes

I remember a period when I was about 14 where I got away with the tight trousers/too short t-shirt combo by tying a jumper around my waist. I was so ashamed of my lower stomach sticking out that I tied something around it at all times. How ridiculous!?

 I briefly flirted with the idea of being a goth

It wasn't until I got into my grungy baggy jeans and t-shirt phase later on in my teens that I began to feel more comfortable, although still too fat, and very far from feminine. By the time I hit 21 I had started to mature a little in what I was wearing, I felt like I was getting too old for stripy knee high socks, baggy jeans and band shirts (ppffft old, smold!) and rediscovered fashion. By this stage I had continued to gain weight and was a size 22. I felt OK, but still society told me my body was wrong...although it had at least acknowledged that plus size girls need clothes too and shops like Evans were easier to find (new look inspire, yay!). Shoes became my biggest passion - the easiest way for a bigger girl to feel fabulous...

I trucked on like this for a while, my wardrobe became more varied, but I still tried to diet intermittently with little or no success. Around 24 I actually just stopped dieting, relaxed a bit and before I knew it I had dropped a few sizes without much effort (more personal proof that dieting doesn't work for me - or anyone for that matter, but that's another blog post entirely). I also collected a huge amount of irregular choice shoes, they were actually my babies!

Then BAM! I was 25 and along came this crazy sport called roller derby. I just took one look and fell in love. I have no idea why, I hated sport at school - I used to accidentally on purpose spill coke on my PE kit as an excuse! But whatever the reason I did and it really did change my life.

This is me not long after I started roller derby
(I have to say it is slightly photoshopped lol)

I went from very little exercise to training a few times a week, and before long as we got more serious it became more like 3, 4 even 5 times a week. The weight stayed steady for a while. Although I was exercising more I was also eating more as I was constantly hungry, but the best thing of all was that there were women much older than me still parading around in their knee high socks and frilly skirts, and band t-shirts and goth stuff and just generally being awesome. It finally opened my eyes to the fact that if you have the confidence to wear it, it will look good and you should please no one but yourself when it comes to the clothes you pick.

Suddenly I found myself in a community where all women of all sizes were celebrated as sports women - big bums and thick thighs suddenly became desirable and a sign of hard work, or a good blocker.

Even through all this though society still told me I was too big for this or that fashion, I should be dieting and spot training (which is actually impossible incidentally) to "lose my bingo wings", "tone that tum" and if I couldn't do it, there was something wrong with me. Somewhere in the back of my mind I still believed it.

I like to eat!

Things changed when I broke my ankle. Stopping training sucked and it also meant my weight went up. I gained just under a stone in 4 months. Coming out of healing process I vowed once more to go on a diet, albeit a "healthy" one to lose the weight. I started calorie counting and like all diets before it I could go 1, 2 or even 3 months being "good" and inevitably binging and feeling out of control around food. I was on the cusp of a size 16, but mostly wearing 18's then plateaued. My weight was actually fairly stabilised. And if I'm honest I knew despite my odd tendency to overeat I actually had a pretty healthy lifestyle in balance, but dieting actually made me eat more and gave me a bad relationship with food.

 I also love having my picture taken...

Then another BAM! I discovered HAES (Health at Every Size) - a principle that teaches that all bodies are good bodies and that, with a bit of self love, we can all take subtle, enjoyable actions to make ourselves more healthful. It takes away the judgement of people - goes against dieting mentality and against the idea that overweight or obese automatically = unhealthy and that thin is automatically = healthy.

What a revelation! There's nothing wrong with fat bodies, and here's the big kicker...

Its non of anyone's damn business if someone owns one or not, or how they chose to procure and maintain said body!

I've tried explaining this to friends, but if I mention the words "fat acceptance" the first thing anyone says is "Stop the press! Isn't that promoting unhealthy lifestyles!?" Umm no... My usual response to this is "Because the media is so full of healthful role models like Kate Moss right...??"

With all this comes the self questioning. Why do I want to hide away parts of my body? Why are certain things not acceptable? Who's actually bothered? Will the world collapse if my fat arm is hanging out and still waving a big "Hiya!" long after I've finished. No! Will I feel liberated and like a bit of a rebel? Yes! Will I open myself up to critism from others? Humm Maybe... But if I feel good in something then who gives a shit!?

So after this pretty long and drawn out post what is my point? Well there are still two main areas of myself that I struggle to really love or accept even. That is the aforementioned bingo wings, and my lower stomach/hip area. I have saddle bags on the tops of my thighs then I go in, then I go out again around fat hips and my lower stomach sticks out. Its not particually easy to love, but I find that by being kind in my mental voice, and appreciating my body for its worth as a whole rather than its looks its slowly become easier to love youself a little more.

My right saddle bag is noticably bigger than my left because I had a car accident where I pulled out infront of a lorry (yes massive idiot) and actually nearly killed myself. Instead of dying however the brunt of the impact was on the driver door and my right thigh. I came away with nothing more than a pizza sized bruise on my leg and a bit of a fleshy lump. So in a way my fat juicy thigh saved my life, and my extra saddle bag is just an awesome scar and representation of that!

So I'm vowing to keep practicing a little self love, body acceptance, looking after myself physically and mentally, even if that means eating an entire tub of Ben and Jerrys on a Sunday afternoon. Because actually living my life is the most important thing, and its carrier vessel is so much more than something to look at.

But hey, if I can dress it to look damn good, then I will! ;-) 

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post Jen.

    It'll also be good for when you want to look at your journey, or maybe hit a bump.