This week, we have been given an insight into how it can feel to struggle with a negative body image. This post has been written by Carley, who runs the Instagram page @honestly.im.ok.
Let's talk body image! I'm 5ft 6ins and I have no idea how much I weigh, but I should imagine it's on the heavy side. I've done countless diets (some dangerously unhealthy), punished myself for hours at a time in the gym and at one point I barely ate anything at all.
At my smallest, I was about 9.5 stone. I guess I looked alright, my arms were slim, my stomach was flat, apart from that annoying little speed bump bit at the bottom that never goes no matter what I do. My legs were toned and I no longer had a double chin. I didn’t have much in the boob or bum department, but that didn't matter though because I was happy right? I'd lost almost 3 stone in 4 months. Everyone complimented me and told me how much better I looked. People called me a fitness fanatic and asked if they could train with me. I could fit in a size 10, I could wear short skirts and belly tops and not have to cover my arms up in long sleeves. I was happy right? No, no I really wasn't! I could still see parts of me that I hated, my body was so small that it made my head look huge, I looked a bit like a tablespoon. My legs were still bigger than most other girls, I only had two visable abs, I was flat chested for the first time since I was about 12. My bum was non existent and that flipping speed bump on my belly was driving me crazy!
I told a family member that I just wasn’t happy with the results of minimal eating and maximum exercise. I told him that I just couldn't shift my stubborn pockets of fat. He understood what I meant and came back to me two days later with a packet of illegal, fat burning steroid tablets and strict instructions on how to use them 'safely'. I trusted him fully and I knew he'd never give me anything that would harm me. He wanted me to look and feel better. He was helping me! I had a month before I was going on holiday, and the speed bump had to go. So, I used them, 'carefully'. I didn’t like them, they gave me the shakes, they made me sweat, they made my heart beat funny. Altogether, I used them for about 3 weeks. I saw a slight improvement but the speed bump was still there.
So the illegal drugs didn't work to get my speed bump flat, what's next? Total starvation? Surgery? More drugs? I just didn't know how I was going to do it. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror I saw the fat girl and I couldn't bear it. I felt huge next to my friends and family. I wasn't satisfied with the progress I'd already made, I wanted more. I constantly calorie counted, I replaced some meals with 200 calorie, lean, protein shakes, I grabbed overtime at work just for extra exercise so I could run up and down for customers. I went to the gym 6 or 7 days a week, every week without fail and sometimes I'd even end up going twice a day. I was obsessed. The day before my holiday, I went to the gym and I didn't let myself leave until I'd burnt 2000 calories and did some heavy weight training. I felt different that day. I didn't enjoy my workout, I didn't like the body I'd worked so hard for, I looked exhausted, I was scared I'd overeat on holiday and come back even bigger. What if my friends noticed I wasn't eating properly? I wonder if there'll be a gym at the hotel? If not I guess swimming will have to do. I took drugs and they didn't even work, I must be really, profusely, large!
It wasn't until a while after I came back from my holiday that I realised something was wrong with my mindset. I went to the shop on my way to the gym to buy a bottle of water and the shopkeeper said to me "Oh my gosh, I didn't even recognise you, please don't lose any more weight you might disappear!" I was so confused, was he calling me skinny? Could he tell I'd been punishing my body for the last 8 months or so? Did he know I was being mean to myself? There it was, there was the epiphany. All this time, I'd let my mind bully my body. I wanted a socially acceptable body, not a personally acceptable one. I was slim like I'd always wanted but I still wasn't happy!
I'm constantly working on learning to love and accept my body. I have good and bad days with it. My mindset is slowly improving as I remind myself frequently that my body has achieved amazing things. My body has grown a baby, breastfed and survived multiple surgeries that I once required to improve my health. Sometimes the fat girl still pops up in the mirror to mock me, sometimes I’m able to banish her back into the depths of hell where she belongs. I don't weigh myself, I don't even own a set of scales. I don't diet and I no longer use the gym. Although I enjoyed it, it's mostly due to the fear of becoming obsessed and anxious again. I still get annoyed if I can't fit into a size 12 or 14 when I go shopping. I still try and squeeze myself into my pre pregnancy clothes sometimes and end up having a sweaty meltdown because they don't fit. I still get defensive with people who feel the need to comment about my weight/size. I still respond to "Oooh you've put on weight" with "Oooh you're still a waste of space". I don't accept curvaceous or voluptuous as compliments. I don't appreciate 'thicker than a Snicker' as a kind thing to say. I'm sensitive because I really passionately believe that my body isn't anyone's business to comment about.
Today is a good body day, I feel proud of my stretch marks, scars and my jiggly bits. I've had biscuits with my tea today and I haven't felt like I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity. It's a work in progress, it's something that I'll never give up trying to master. I'm not weak because I dislike my body sometimes, I feel strong because I battle to eventually make everyday a good body day. Every shape, every size, every colour, every birth mark, every scar and every mole is special and beautiful. I went to extreme lengths before I realised it and now I'm much kinder to myself and much more mindful towards others incase they're fighting battles I don't know about. So to everyone who may be having a bad body day: you are beautiful, your hair looks banging and that outfit looks insane on you ❤
If you’re struggling with your body image and think you may benefit from some support, here is some more information and services that can help:
Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation