The Ultimate Diet.

Apologies for the lack of posting; new job means getting used to a new routine in a new phase of my life.

As I’ve said before it has been my own journey through body image issues and self-discovery that has led to me to this new place of positive body image activism. I only recently noticed that an old triggering point had arisen once again: gaining weight. I spent too much time in my teenage years and early 20’s battling my own mindset about how I looked, how I should look and struggling to disassociate my worth from my weight. So this now felt like a great time to test whether I could walk the walk, after I’ve spent so much time and effort on here talking the talk.

A UK size 14-16 is where I have averaged out throughout my adult life; I used to be positively ecstatic if I fitted into something smaller as the numbers meant a lot to me. Looking back now I can see just how much they dictated how I felt about myself at 18 years old, even though it’s so clear I have always been an average or below average size. But I was cross with my body because I felt it didn’t allow me to be the person I wanted to be.

I tried to stick to the ‘rules’ of how women considered ‘curvy’ should appear. Try to keep your hair long and full, it will hide excess chins and it’s more feminine. No boots, we don’t want to make those legs look bigger do we? Try a flared jean instead to balance out those proportions. Accentuate your waist as it’s the smallest part of your body, we need to see how small you can be! Try an A-line skirt to skim and cover your hips. Three-quarter length sleeves will hide any unsightly bingo wings. PUT DOWN THAT TANK TOP!

This kind of thing really annoys me. I’m not a piece of fruit.What it should say is: Are you human shaped? Then wear whatever the hell you want.

 

I was lucky I have family who tried their best to balance out the negativity I was picking up from outside, but those external influences are strong at a young age. The message I received from the media was that we must always try to be smaller, more fragile…

Women should aim to take up less space.

Confused?

Are you confused?

 

When actually, if pinterest had been around then, mine would have been filled with cropped hair, mini skirts, doc martin boots and skinny jeans. Now this isn’t to say I NEVER wore any of these things, because I did. But the point is how I allowed myself to feel in them, and if I had been brutally honest, I usually felt uncomfortable. Thankfully, nowadays I’m way more relaxed, so much so that I almost missed the opportunity to write about this, simply because it didn’t become a ‘thing’ in my life.

Until summer I’d spent a period of time being at the smallest I’ve ever been at a 10-12. It wasn’t something I’d taken much notice of because I no longer weigh myself or particularly pay much attention to what size I’m buying. I was eating on the go and exercising 6 times a week as a way to de-stress my way through my fourth and final year at college. Although I had no time to socialise and was in bed by 9 most nights; I wasn’t obsessive, I wasn’t restrictive or negative, it was just my life and routine at that time. The only other time I have been that size was in the end stages of my time living away from home; when I was devastated by bereavement and possibly suffering from a mental breakdown. Nevertheless, at this present time I was casually applauded for this change in all situations; at college, at the gym, at church and when I was out socially. Years back this used to make me feel really good; but now I just smile awkwardly so as not to be rude, but know that on the inside I’m eye-rolling. When one girl noticed my disdain for the ‘compliment’ of “you’ve lost weight, you look amazing now” I was told to “enjoy it” and that “you love it really, everyone likes to hear they’re thinner.” I’m at a point now where if that’s what you think I’m thinking, you really don’t know me at all.

 

Smaller, earlier in 2014. That skirt might not fit now…but it is JUST a skirt.

 

When I finished college everything changed. I had kept my head so focused on that end goal for 4 years, I really hadn’t thought of life beyond getting that certificate, because if you had told me 5 years ago that’s where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed you. My routine changed; I was job hunting, writing, not working out much, happily spending time re-focusing on what the next journey could be. The whole rhythm of my life changed again. I wasn’t sad to leave college, I had gained everything I wanted out of the experience. It wasn’t all easy, as change seldom is but I’m focused on all the privileges I am blessed with in my life that some people don’t have, one of the biggest privileges of all: choices.

And as I contemplated all the things I have achieved so far that I am actually proud of and all the things I still hope to achieve, I wondered how they could link in to my blogging experience. I got my answer when I was getting dressed later that week; a proportion of my clothes no longer fitted and I found myself just casually tutting instead of blind panic. Sure, it was annoying, those skirts my mum had taken in would need letting out and still might not fit, I even hulked out of one of my favourite shirts…

I lift weights at the gym to be strong not to make myself small, so feeling a bit she-hulk was kind of awesome.

I lift weights at the gym to be strong not to make myself small, so feeling a bit She-Hulk was kind of awesome.

 

But I didn’t freak out. I just adjusted my diet a bit and aimed that I’d stick to 2/3 workouts that I enjoy a week whenever they fitted into the rest of my life…but my size didn’t change. And I finally got it, that this is my natural shape. The thing that so many women fight a daily battle against. Because you can never win when you make yourself the enemy. As long as you’re healthy (whatever that is for you as an individual) and happy you are winning. I may have gained physical weight, but I realised I’d finally lost what I had needed to all along, I’d lost the emotional weight. Don’t underestimate it, that’s a lot heavier than you might give it credit. You’ll be so much lighter to do all the things you want to do, to dream all the things you might do. Lose the guilt associated with taking up more space in the world. Lose the shame that you’re ‘letting yourself go’ if you skip a few workouts. Lose the fear of being less attractive because in real life you can’t Photoshop yourself to perfection. Lose the hate that you will be worth less because you weigh more.

That is the only diet you will ever need. Lose your emotional weight.

This will mean so many different things to people, that I couldn’t begin to cover it here, but start the ultimate diet by focusing on the achievements in your life that have nothing to do with your weight and appearance. All the positive things and things I am most proud of: finishing school, travelling, always working at any job I could find, re-discovering my christian faith, having wonderful family and friends, overcoming depression, supporting gender equality and gay rights, getting my degree, appreciating what I have, always keeping hold of my dreams…you wouldn’t need to know the number on my scales or the number in my waistband for any of those things.

 

 

So what have you done?

Found out who your true friends are and cherish them?

Made peace with something or someone in your life?

Studied towards something that means a lot to you?

Fallen in love?

Have a wonderful family?

Got a job you love?

Left a job you hate?

Travelled alone?

Faced your fears?

Stood up for what you believe in, at all costs?

Always remember those things. The positive and negative, the light and shade in your life is who you are; your spirit, experiences, memories, choices and changes. Not your physical body.

 

We will all be smaller and larger at different times in our lives but we must never let it dictate our worth. I will keep saying this, over and over: your weight has NOTHING to do with your value in life. If you’re a size 6 or a 26; you can be whatever you want, your dreams are just as valid and attainable as the next persons and you can be beautiful and sexy. So don’t wait to lose weight, or gain it, before you start living your life and being you. It goes by so quickly, there’s only one you, there will only ever be one you. So make it count.

Oh and stop being an apple, rectangle or pencil and wear what you want. Your ‘bony’ legs or your ‘spare tire’ aren’t going to kill anyone. And just FYI, I recently graduated, bought more miniskirts, now own multiple pairs of boots and chopped my hair off…and it feels great.

Thanks to Beauty Redefined for the celebrity quotes.

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Life is a balance…

…of holding on and letting go.

I read this the other day and thought how true it was. Balance is so key to all of us and how we experience the time we are given. We make choices of what we hold near to us and what we let drift away or even push, so it’s important to know that you’re doing either for the right reasons.

My personal journey has seen me cross paths with this idea recently; emotional de-cluttering is more cathartic than you could believe! In the last couple of months I’ve felt a great increase in pressure of Uni work, attempted to deflect the ever persistent questions of “What are you going to do after you graduate this year?” and also, sadly suffered a personal bereavement. All events which are common and relative to us all in some way. It is our reactions to these situations that determine how we move forward, how we attempt to stay balanced.

Now when I say ‘balanced’, I think that can often conjure some misconceptions. An image springs to mind of a juggling act or a plate spinner, both of which are skilled to keep so many elements in play at the same time but it does not evoke peace, more like underlying tension. And perhaps in our increasingly chaotic culture the meaning of balance has shifted. It is seen as the achievement of spinning more and more plates at the same time and still being able to move. At some point though your arms will get tired, you might start to lose focus and the balancing act becomes more of a stress-managing act. True balance is being able to put down a few plates every now and then, even the lot and not beat yourself up about it. We all do it in different guises; I did it about this very blog, set up as an addition to my college work and an outlet for my writing but when other things had to take higher priority I felt guilty about not writing and that’s when moments of enjoyment become ‘tasks’. When enforced expectation takes over.

There’s always lots of discussion about not living up to cultural and social standards but what I’ve found the hardest is measuring up to the ones you set yourself, disguised as someone elses’ so there is someone to blame when you’re not hitting the mark. But they aren’t stone pillars, they’re just stakes in the ground that can be moved whenever they need to be. And that’s where real balance lives, in between the ever-changing guidelines. Really look at what you hold on to and make sure it makes you smile.

You don’t have to stop ‘wanting it all’ to achieve balance just don’t have it as your life goal. Accepting the transience of all things will help expose your enjoyment and appreciation of what you have already and the importance of the present moment. Holding on and focusing on what is now and letting go of expectations, negativity, of past and present.

Balance is much like contentment which I have mentioned before. Although it is intrinsically linked with happiness, that is not all of its story, it is much more about acceptance.

Acceptance of highs and lows, light and dark. We can’t be balanced with one foot in the past and one in the future, you have to be rooted in the presence.

So what’s the moral of this psychoanalytical waffle?

Well, when you’re feeling like it’s all too much and you need a time out perhaps you should…

check your feet and put down those plates!

And here’s a nice little story to round this up, taken from The Buried Life:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

How to get the perfect body.

Are you sick of seeing that statement splattered everywhere you look? Or does this hollow promise fill you with a sense of glee that perhaps this could be the one that works? This could be the one that ‘changes your life’ and transforms you into this other person whos’ entire life improves simply through their physical appearance.

We all know the truth really…

It’s not your body that’s imperfect or tainted. It’s your mindset.

I would like to note early on in this post that I speak generically about the majority of individuals’ day to day struggles with body image; not when it becomes an illness. Although it is intrinsically linked with this subject, I make no assumptions about eating disorders as they are a serious matter and I have not the insight or knowledge for my comments to be that far reaching.

We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded by imagery and advertisements. A quick internet search with approximate estimations states that we can see anything up to 5,000 media images a day. We are shown how we should make a career, how we should earn money but most of all we are shown how we should look. This is not completely female orientated either anymore, with a dramatic rise in men worrying about their appearance too. A BBC article stated that the Centre for Appearance Research at UWE found that four in five of the men surveyed were unhappy with their bodies. This has been a prevelent problem amongst women for some time; many blaming the media and fashion industry for their distinct lack of enthusiasm for diverse body types.

Sure I can see where blame can fall within these areas but I do not feel they can be solely to blame. Surely we should be able to look at images of other women without feeling threatened thus inducing more self-hatred in terms of our looks. Yes, I know it is because these images have almost always been manipulated beyond belief as can be seen in the 2006 campaign by Dove:

But no matter how much we protest about photoshopped images, technology will not go backwards. It just keeps progressing. The levels of how much it can be used certainly need looking into, but getting rid of it altogether….I find that very unlikely.

The crazy thing is that we are so media savvy and proficient at reading advertising messages these days that we know it’s all a money making ploy; yet we still buy into it. We sign up for the slimming clubs, purchase only their diet options, buy the mega bucks creams and lotions that promise to banish cellulite, some of us even go as far as cosmetic surgery proceedures. All to obtain a ‘perfection’ that we don’t even understand.

Because we are being sold the message ‘You are not enough.’

I’m ranting about it but don’t think I’m immune to all this. I’ve been to the clubs and wasted my money on the products. It didn’t make me happier. It fuelled what can only be described as a narcissistic obsession to achieve an ever shifting goal.

What changed?

I just simply got fed up with it all to be honest. It’s exhausting chasing something that is so relentless in it’s desire to make you feel inadequate. I stopped following the negative breadcrumbs set down by the media power-houses (though they would have perhaps been celery cubes instead as don’t forget, carbs are evil right?) and just started seeking out more positive influences and taking it all ‘with a pinch of salt’.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t just sit on my ass all day now eating muffins thinking I’m sticking it to the system. If you’re health is suffering at either end of the weight spectrum then you may want to look at making some changes. But for goodness sake do them for YOU not because you think you need to fit into some sort of unrealistic ideal. And on that note ‘healthy’ comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just the size 10 athlete; it can be the size 20 or the size 6 as well. You know nothing about a persons inner health by judging their external appearance.

And this is what has to stop; the constant judging. We’re all guilty of it at some point. Women hating on other women because of their size and appearance. This over hyped bitchyness that is so widely accepted in the media now. Why has it become ok?

Participating in this in any form will not make you feel better about yourself. So just quit it.

Deal with your own issues before projecting your self-loathing onto others. And that’s what I did. I went back to the venomous words of bullies from school and acknowledged them as just words, looked at the reams of extreme diet tips and acknowledged them as just fads. And then I looked at my pale,wobbly, cellulite covered thighs that I have hated for so long and acknowledged them as part of a body that has taken me through 26 years so far of love, hate, sadness, hope and finally acknowledged it with the thanks it deserves.

Your body and you, with all the ‘flaws’ you deem to be imperfect are beautiful. The only person that can take that away is you. I’m not saying you actually become Narcissus, nobody needs to love themselves that much. But we have been told for too long that we should want to change something about ourselves and anyone who says they are happy and love the way they look is immediatley classed as extremely arrogant or lying. If you’re positive it directly affects those around you, so start setting a good example.

It’s not easy. I know that from experience. Our perceptions seem to have become extremely warped and not everyone will want to fix that. But things can change. So if you’re there already, struggling through or just plain can’t see through the fog of self-hatred, remember for now….

Plain and simple. Don’t let your physical appearance determine your life choices, you are so much more. Don’t waste your time, your life, wishing you were something else. And in regards to my original statement; how do you get the perfect body?

You’ve already got it.