health

'I spent 40 years of my life hating my body. At 41, I've finally learned to love it.'

“You’re pint-sized!” a friend said one day.

I was about to jump in the pool and, self-conscious in my teenage body, was desperately trying to minimise the time between removing my towel and hiding under the water.

“Is pint-sized a good thing to be?” I thought.

My friend sat with a towel wrapped around her middle, next to the pool — her beautiful cleavage curving out the top of her bikini. My torso was certainly pint-sized compared to her. Almost flat chested at 17, I had an athlete’s body — lean, strong, toned, and tiny. But I felt ugly.

I was mortified by the size of my thighs, my fat knees — scarred from a biking accident — my pear-shaped, small-breasted, big-bottomed body.

Except for my school uniform, I refused to wear shorts or skirts and hid my lower half under flowing dresses and jeans.

I compared myself to my slim friends who somehow managed to be runners and keep their curves. My intense figure skating practises four days a week — and off-ice training in between — chased my curves away. Except the ones I imagined and hated.

When your body turns on you.

Hating my body meant I treated it badly. I ate junk. So much junk. My drinks were full of sugar and, once I became a university student, I could neither afford or be bothered with vegetables. I stopped exercising. I stopped caring.

And then, in my early twenties, my body gave out.

The athletic strength that I had taken for granted rapidly vanished. My immune system turned on me. My body, which I had criticised and picked fault with for years, started to attack itself.

“I have no idea what this is,” the doctor said, flicking through the textbooks on his shelf, his face turning grey as my body visibly destroyed itself in the chair opposite him. He picked up the phone. “We need to get you into the hospital right away.”

I had developed a rare immune disorder and then two years later, I developed another one and was bedridden for almost a year.

Even healthy-sized women are unhappy with their bodies.

Some studies say 60 per cent of women are unhappy with their bodies, others say it’s as high as 90 per cent. I have young daughters and as young as age eight they became conscious of how they looked.

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I don’t want them to grow up to become that 60–90 per cent. But how can we change it?

It’s so entrenched in our society — women and men striving for unattainable, perfect bodies.

Listen to Overshare, the podcast you really shouldn’t be listening to. Just like the best group chat with your mates, Overshare is a bit smart, a bit dumb and a bit taboo. Post continues below. 

At 40, I decided I’d had enough. (I’m not even sure I can talk about body image as a slim woman who’s never really had a weight problem — you’re welcome to leave your own comments and experiences below.)

I decided it was time to love my body and hopefully model something different for my girls.

Embracing it all.

Through eating well and making some changes I managed to put my immune disorders into remission in my 30s, and at 41 I am strong(ish), fit(ish), and healthy again.

Maybe it takes almost losing your body to love it?

When I look in the mirror now, I see a wonderful body.

  • I see a body that can hike up mountains with my partner.
  • I see legs that can handle bike rides with my children.
  • I see enough arm strength for rock climbing at the gym, enough core strength for kayaking on lakes. I see the glow in my face from platefuls of healthy food.

At 40, I have a body that looks different than it did pre-babies (things don’t stay in the same position forever!). It’s imperfect and flawed and scarred in places.

Of course little thoughts still pop into my head— your tummy looks fat today. Is that extra cellulite back there? But I get to decide what thoughts I keep. I choose which thoughts to dismiss and which ones to dwell on.

My body is imperfectly perfect. And I choose, daily, to love it.

And when I’m 80, and my body changes and fails, I’ll love it then too. I won’t judge it or hate it, I’ll choose to love it unconditionally and treat it well — because that’s what it deserves.

What will you choose?

Feature Image: Getty.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. For more from Kelly Eden, you can find her on Medium.

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