Migrated Other

Body Image – My story

Written by Andrea Parker

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. 

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About the author


Hey, I'm Andrea Parker, an adult amateur dressage enthusiast on a remarkable journey with my 13-year-old mare, Mon Ami. Delving into the equestrian world, I recount the highs and the hurdles on my blog, The Sand Arena Ballerina. I'm also passionately working on crafting an equestrian podcast titled Equestrian Pulse.


  • Love it, Andrea. This is something I struggle with everyday, despite being a “healthy weight”. It always takes me aback when others struggle with this, possibly because it’s not something we try and draw attention to.

    • Thank you! I think it can be hard to talk about when you are “in the healthy weight range” because although we can feel bad we are probably also aware at some level that we don’t experience the same degree of stigma or oppression that people in larger bodies do. That being said because we do live in a society that largely values thinness there is the unspoken pressure of ‘you’re thin now, but don’t put on weight’.

    • I agree it’s something we try to avoid and talk about which only serves to reinforce the problem. We are told to be thin, but don’t make it look like you are trying too hard to be thin

  • Thank you for sharing this. As a child I was always very petite, barely over 100 pounds, but with a slight belly due to my “conformation” and then with college came an additional 15 pounds on my tiny frame. For the first time I was uncomfortable in my own skin and people felt it okay to talk to me and tell me that I looked bigger. Like that was okay to talk about. I bounced back and hovered at a healthy weight until I was pregnant with my children. I never gained much weight or used it as an excuse but it was extremely difficult to lose the weight and “snap back”. My body was different. I cam back to horses around then and tight breeches and tucked in shirts did nothing to make me feel better about myself. I don’t believe in diets or detoxes, but try to eat well (mostly) and do exercise frequently. And still, it is frustrating because since the new year I gained about 10 pounds. I’m riding less over the winter, and my hips were out of alignment so I had to break from the gym. Truthfully, I’m not overweight for society but I feel uncomfortable and annoyed that I “let this happen”. With my daughters I am so aware of how body image affects them so young, and I see it now even in elementary school. Too thin, too curvy, or “she’s growing out of her baby fat”. It is so entrenched in society that it creates this unrealistic emphasis on looks over substance.

    • Ahh Heather you have hit on so many important points there. One of the ones that we don’t talk enough about is that our bodies are not meant to always stay the same. Weight gain during puberty is normal as it is around the time that women go through menopause. The additional fat is needed in puberty to prepare the body to be able to carry a pregnancy in a healthy way and prior to menopause having fat on the body helps to regulate hormone levels and reduce the symptoms of menopause.
      It really sucks that because weight talk is so normalised in this world that people feel it’s ok to make comments on other people’s bodies.

  • Hi Andrea such an important topic! I don’t think it is spoken about enough in the horse community! I definitely agree that we as women are brought up thinking that being stick thin is something everyone should strive to be! It’s sad as we all have different body shapes and it’s rubbish so many people including myself at times don’t feel comfortable in their own bodies for no reason !

    Louise xx

    • Thank you Louise. I couldn’t agree more, but I think raising awareness amongst individuals that the ideal of thinness is learned and that there is no one right way to be in a body