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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When the leaves begin to fall.

I’ve always loved writing poetry, but have never had a platform to share it from. I’ve been discouraged in the past because of copyright issues but it feels sad to have untold stories hidden away, living between the pages of a notebook. All I can do is ask that you respect the words and ask permission or credit me if you wish to use them.

I initially wrote this one as part of my study for my photography work ‘Ubiquitous’ (which can be seen in a previous post). Its focus is on loss, change and the journey back through healing…

When the leaves begin to fall

 

It was stolen from me many years ago,

Though I had not missed it until now.

Through an empty chasm did a cold wind blow,

The echo followed like a lovers broken vow.

Through the window life beckoned me with a long, outstretched finger,

“You must come back my child” she whispered on springs gentle breeze.

The sharp urgency of her breath, I knew I could not linger,

Promptly rising from the shadows, legs carried me with ease.

And soon the world was upon me, living once again,

I could recall the touch of light, brushing past my cheek.

But just as life had told me, a shadow would remain,

Sorrowed past had spent so long with me, without it I felt weak.

 

We travelled over sand and road, searching as we went,

I had to find my missing piece, someone would know its place.

Sorrow walked some steps behind perhaps knowing its time was spent,

I sensed my first port of call and followed down to memories trace.

My first love sat alone on the sand, skimming stones across the water,

Next to him I rested my head, smiled and asked for its return.

“I do not have it, not even mine, for now it belongs to my lovely daughter”

And there he left me in beautiful summer, feeling nothing but its burn.

When days grew short I heard the music and leaves were falling in the wood,

I was sure the bewitching notes I loved had swept it from me by chance.

I sang along but the tune was different, it played ‘we wouldn’t take it if we could’,

So the music played on and the trees grew bare and I missed the urge to dance.

Snow crunched underfoot as we came across a house, filled with warmth and light,

My loved ones inside felt my pain but said it would return when it was ready.

I frowned at this wisdom and in my persistence backed out into winters bite,

As I started into the darkness that’s when I heard it, beating soft and steady.

 

And there I was so suddenly amongst the snow and air, soft and still,

In a place where cold stone rose from the earth, standing prominent and proud.

My breath escaped me, I felt exhausted and then I felt the chill,

There lay my heart, my lost piece next to a stone but cushioned like a cloud.

How had I forgotten that I’d given it, just given it away?

I knelt before heart and stone on mossy ground and knew it would come to me.

“I need this back now my darling” I said aloud. “I need it back today”

I should have known it was here all along but the haze had made it hard to see.

My love, my heart, sorrow and I sat for a while in the woods of stone,

When sorrow left I looked for him, but there was no trace I would have known.

The snow was melting, spring was returning, birds soaring above in the sky,

I would come to realise I was all the pieces, all the music, all the changed seasons and I would endeavor not to question why.

All rights reserved © 2014 Jennifer-Anne. Do not use words or imagery without the artist’s permission.

“Fascinating”

So summer is in full swing (albeit perhaps more of a temporary status in the UK) and for me that means some time to contemplate the past academic year and look forward to the next.

I will be entering my fourth and final year of my course in October, both exciting and very daunting. The grand finale BA year, an accumulation of all the teachings and experience absorbed over the past three years.

With it arrives the prospect of deciding on a project proposal. And for me the equally difficult decision of whether to, not necessarily ‘play it safe’ but to stick to the style I’ve been honing or to mix it up and challenge myself further. To get back ‘the fear’; the feeling I had when I first started, the connotations of which are not negative as they sound, more of an excitement that sits precariously on the borderline of trepidation.

My current work is eclectic in nature, predominantly focused on the notions of abstract, narrative and the everyday. However my gut feeling is that it’s time for a change. Time to get stuck into something else I feel passionately about as well as my present path of fine art, and that’s the issue of positive body image. Already a well documented area but new to me personally.

I have yet much work to do in terms of deciding the specific nature of my study, in terms of how I will approach it and what I envisage the outcome to be but the seed has been planted. For a while I have been toying with the idea, still slightly unsure of my change of direction, unable to commit to branching out, weighing up the risk factor of doing something completely new for my final assignment. But we need to take risks sometimes to progress and through my indecision I stumbled across something to sway my judgement.

As I’ve stated, I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd. The new Star Trek films really got me into the original series and I absolutely love Mr Spock, so imagine my suprise when by chance I discover that Leonard Nimoy is a successful photographer who has been involved in body image related projects and the size-acceptance movement. His ‘Full Body Project’ is a response to the pressures women face in certain societies to conform to a particular size and image. I found a great article about it from the New York Times: Girth and Nudity, a Pictorial Mission

I’m always drawn to projects that I can learn further from the subject matter and/or have personal connection with as I believe it’s that real love and affinity with a subject that creates a great body of work that can really connect with a viewer. I’m a great believer that we all need to be far more accepting of the diverse range of body types we all have instead of creating and reinforcing illusions of specific ‘ideals’ to aspire to. As long as an individual is healthy and happy whether they are big or small, to me they are all beautiful in their own way. Yeah, maybe that’s too rainbows and fairy dust for the cynics out there but beware you are in the thought bubble of an eternal optimist (watch out….hopefully it’s contagious 😉 )

And so skipping merrily back to the original point of my new assignment; I have much to think about and a well timed week in Spain to do so from today. I have pondered whether it is the right path for me to follow but if the wonderful first officer of the starship Enterprise deems it a worthy subject, surely it can be my only logical choice.