Body image is something I have struggled with.
From an early age, I would gaze at my mum’s magazines and wish for the women’s long lean legs and perfect skin. It was only when I got to seventeen I realised that looking like the women in the photos wasn’t going to happen, because those women in the photos didn’t even look like that. Airbrushing well and truly screws up our perspective on our bodies and our appearance.
I look back on photos and see what I would now class as slim. I was seeing a whole different picture at the time though. I felt big. I threw away my lunch every day and would eat minimal amounts of dinner. I craved a thinner body and was blind to the fact that I already had one.
And for that I blame the media? I guess I sort of do. I spent my youth growing up with magazines that flaunted thin women and shamed those with curves. The thing is, I was slim – I just didn’t feel slim enough.
I’m now twenty-two. I have a different perspective on life and body image and the girl so desperate to be thin is no longer inside me. Perhaps I’ve wised up to the airbrushed version of reality or perhaps it’s because I’m more secure in everyday life. It’s taken me a while to get here though, and to truly feel comfortable with my body.
I think when I began to realise that there was a difference between being skinny and being healthy, and only one of those would ensure a long and happy life that I changed my ways.
So, let’s rewind again. In my mission for a positive body image I thought about what I needed the most. I came to the conclusion that a sensible fitness regime and nutritious diet were pretty good starting points. My combination of no formal exercise and cereal weren’t doing my body any favours.
My first barrier that I had to overcome was my fear of the gym. I once had a poor attempt at martial arts, but that’s another story. I’ve always found gyms so image-led and intimidating. A gym should be about fitness, prevention of illness and feeling fantastic. My gym was about mirrors, muscles and competition.
Determined not to let the muscle fanatics intimidate me, I tailored a plan that suits my needs and makes me feel amazing!
Nutrition was my next biggest hurdle. Swapping my meal-skipping habits and cereal dinner for balanced, wholesome food wasn’t something that happened overnight. I invested in two books that totally changed my mind-set and encouraged me to understand what I was putting in my body and question whether it was benefiting my body.
Those books were: ‘The Story of the Human Body’ by Daniel Lieberman, and ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that a couple of books have turned my life around, but it’s made me feel a damn load better about my body. I understand nutrition, I understand what exercise my body needs. As the days go on I can feel the grip of negative body image slowly letting go. One day I’ll be truly body positive.