Body image. A bad body day. Body positivity. Body neutrality. There are a thousand different nuanced ways to talk about how we relate to our bodies.
This is a matter I realised I felt strongly about a number of years ago. I couldn’t figure out why so many of my friends felt like their bodies were ‘too big’. Later on I found myself in a career as a dietitian and began to see more and more intricacies in the relationships that we have with our bodies.
You can read more about my take on body image and weight for equestrians here.
Throw a skin tight pair of white pants and the welfare of our equine partners into the equations are the waters only become muddier.
Many of us go through struggles with our bodies, and what follows is my story. But its important that I acknowledge that although I have had times where I have felt not good enough, I still experience thin priveledge.
Despite growing up in a geneticallyfairly lean body I struggled to accept my body. This probably isn’t surprising given that in this society we receive multiple message on a daily basis telling us we need to be thin – the thinner the better. Despite this, my self image was distorted.
I remember clearly being 15 and suddenly having noticed my thighs having become larger. I was so conscious of them when wearing breeches ,that as soon as I dismounted I would either untuck my shirt or cross my legs in an effort to hide my thighs. Looking back now I can see objectively that my body was average. Also knowing what I know, I understand that what I had experienced was probably just normal weight gain associated with puberty.
During my formative years, I had learnt that criticising your body was something that you did. I had been inducted into that twisted form of female bonding before I was old enough to understand it.I was fortunate to have been protected against going down the pathway of dieting by positive modelling of my mother.
My parents and my sport also helped to instil in me a sense of self-worth that had nothing to do with my appearance. And so I made it to my final year of high school without having attempted to change my body shape or size.
My formal was coming up, I had a great dress picked out – fitted through the waist coming out into a fuller skirt For some reason I became concerned that I was not going to be able to fit into my dress on the big night. So I started doing sit ups in my room, in secret. Fortunately, these behaviours were pretty short lived.
Over the last few years my concerns with my body resurfaced. I had started medication to help me manage my anxiety. And the medication did a brilliant job of that, but it came with a couple of side effects, one of which for me was weight gain. The weight crept on gradually and was apparently noticeable to no-one but me. I became increasingly uncomfortable in my skin. At about the same time in my professional life I developed an interest in a weight neutral approach to nutrition and dietetics. I learnt that it may not be possible to control your weight, and truly began to learn the meaning of healthy eating. This helped me a little.
I embarked on the only type of detox I will ever do. A social media detox. I removed all accounts from my feed that were focused on body shape, size or appearance. I tried to appreciate all of the things that my body enabled me to do. And I bought clothes that weren’t tight and pulling in all of the wrong places.
I’d like to say that I got to a place where I loved my body, but that would be a lie. Even after I went off the medication, lost some of the weight and got fitter than I have ever been, I still don’t love my body or have perfect body image. But I think the changes in my mentality helped me get closer to a place a neutrality. Most importantly I don’t hate my body.