health

'When I put on 15kg, everyone I knew congratulated me. But it was for all the wrong reasons.'

For a period of time now, I have been attempting to find the correct words to articulate myself in an honest, coherent and powerful way. One that will resonate with people beyond those who can sympathise purely from experience alone. One that will not be disregarded because of my face value body image.

Growing up, I was the youngest of three girls and, unfortunately, I was very much privy to questionable language regarding my body and my weight from an extremely impressionable age. Powerful adjectives such as big, bigger, fat and chubby were just a small fraction of my mother’s vocabulary she chose when discussing not only my weight, but my sister’s and mere stranger’s. The same woman who found hopping on and off of scales as natural and easy as packing our health-conscious lunchboxes every day. I wasn’t even a teenager.

Here are some ways to help improve your daughter’s body image. Post continues below.

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By the age of 15, I can confidently say without exaggeration that if I had learnt to love and nurture anything of importance, my body was bottom of the list, in fact, I don’t think it would have made the list at all.

I’ve always been a petite woman, I’m five feet tall and completely lacking any of the curves that we celebrate so fiercely today. And so we should; overdue is an understatement.

My body shaming journey began at a young and crucial age, and I carried it with me for an excessive amount of time. I held the language I had heard from my mother growing up to my chest so tight, I wasn’t giving it up for anybody – I didn’t know that I could.

Previously, the idea of putting on weight severely frightened me, I liked that ‘little’ was my identifier. I had a strange desire and longing to maintain this conception of me that others created. The internal fear that I would hear my mother or anybody, for that matter, discussing my weight with others consumed me.

And the fear of gaining weight was, in hindsight, SUCH a ridiculous notion because when I did, and fifteen kilos to be exact, I still looked healthy. I was still a petite woman. I simply held a curvier silhouette. And boy, didn’t I hear about it.

 

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I was congratulated. Congratulated for slipping out of the skin I and everybody else had always known me to be in, and into another, a skin that was easier for others to celebrate.

I had friends jokingly threaten to kill me, if I ever got back to that weight. The weight I had always been, and always known. “I’m proud of you,” was thrown at me so often, that when I lost those fifteen kilos again, they were all I could hear, they stuck to my skin, and once more, I held them so tightly to my chest because I didn’t know what else to do with them.

I saw those words in the mirror, I saw them on my ‘tiny arms’, on my ass everyone so kindly reminded me that I had ‘lost’, I saw them on every inch of my body that no longer existed. I was afraid to bump into friends I hadn’t seen for months; afraid of the language I would be met with.

Afraid of telling them how wrong they were for celebrating my curves, for pushing their idea of healthy onto me. Didn’t they know I was drinking far too much? Didn’t they know that I was struggling at work? Didn’t they know that I had no capacity to socialise? Didn’t they know what they were celebrating?

One side of my scale was condemned, met with furrowed eyebrows, looks of concern and “are you eating?” whilst the other side was met with congratulatory statements and pride. I sadly acknowledged that I would be recognised and celebrated less as a woman without the curves everyone had taught me to love more than the body that stood before them previously.

Our weight, our size and our shape are not an indicator of health, of happiness, of self-worth, of self-love. Pushing your idea that somebody looks ‘their best’ onto another is so dangerous and language can be incredibly debilitating.

We are all constantly learning, shifting, absorbing, changing and growing in terms of self-love and self-worth. I am constantly learning to listen to my body, what it needs and what it wants. I don’t want to listen to the thoughtless adjectives that keep getting thrown at me. But this is a process and a work in progress.

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Now, I am completely aware that a cis, white, skinny woman probably wouldn’t be your first choice as an advocate for discussing body shaming. It’s easy to disregard my experience because of my personal circumstances. But that does not mean that my experience should be at all marginalised.

There is room for all of us at the table, and we shouldn’t value exclusion based on sizes and assumptions of personal experiences. Language is important, inclusion is important. You are not a before, you are not an after. Your body is and always will be YOUR body, YOUR vessel, one of strength and love and adversity.

You have legs that have carried you to where you are today, arms that have held other’s in their times of need, hands that have created wondrous and glorious touch and experiences, eyes that have seen love in so many multi-faceted ways, stomachs that have hardened and softened in times of heartache and tears and deep belly-rumbling laughs.

We do not owe anybody thin, we do not owe anybody thick, we do not owe anybody a single damn thing except to remind them that this language is discriminatory, that it holds weight and power to do damage, that this language needs to be eradicated from everybody’s vocabulary – that we have got to stop telling others how to celebrate their bodies. It simply isn’t our place.

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected]. You can also visit their website, here

Feature image: Supplied/Victoria Watts.

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