Our inspiring client, Tess, shares how she’s learning to love her body once more…
So after recently having watched the documentary “Embrace” I finally feel ready to write a blog post. I wanted to talk about my journey so far on building a relationship with my body.
I know that I wasn’t born disliking myself but for as long as I can remember my relationship with my body was negative. I spent my life constantly criticising myself. My thighs, my shaped face, my eyebrows, my laugh, basically just my functioning self. I was constantly trying to mould myself into these awkward ideas of what the “perfect” person was. I thought that if I was constantly chopping and changing my natural state of being then surely soon enough I would reach that perfect person who I had in mind (or rather who other influences had ingrained into my mind). However that’s not the reality. As soon as I achieved one thing, another criticism would arrive. My hair was short and ugly, then it was long and too straight. Once I started squatting for that bum, my thighs got too big. When I waxed my bushy eyebrows to slithers of grass, Cara Delevigne came along. There was just no winning. I was never happy with myself. I still continued along this path though convinced that loosing weight was the ultimate achievement. At first, I did get a few compliments. So why was I still not satisfied?
Soon I was trapped in this game that I didn’t know I was playing. I was caught in an eating disorder. Amongst other reasons, my eating disorder came as a result of not having loved or even liked myself. I had the belief that once I reached that “perfect” body that I saw advertised everywhere I looked that then I would be happy. So that’s what I dedicated my life to. Agonising every second of the day about what I would eat or what I had eaten. It didn’t work out the way I had hoped. It literally happened over night where I went from thinking I was too fat to then thinking I was too thin. By now I was in too deep though and I couldn’t get myself out of it. I hated my body. Not only did it look hideous to me at the time but it was becoming more fragile and seemed to be failing me more and more. I was still caught in this cycle of self criticism and I was convinced that if I looked in the mirror enough and called myself disgustingly thin that I would be able to eat and gain the weight again. At this stage though food had become the most terrifying thing for me. I felt totally helpless and stuck.
After a long hard battle, I finally stumbled across clinic. For the first time that I was in treatment recovery was made out to be a gift as oppose to this scary thing that I should do. For a very long time though I was still too scared to make any nutritional changes because I was too scared that I would gain too much weight too fast. I wanted to recover but I found it excruciating to challenge the nutritional aspect. My body still continued to deteriorate. I thought I’d be ready to recover once I had reached “rock bottom”, and my “rock bottom” just got lower each time. Finally I reached a point where I realised that this may actually kill me, and I didn’t want my life to end anymore. In my journey through clinic I had developed a little spark of warmth deep inside towards myself… I wanted to keep fighting. I deserved to recover. So I changed my mindset. Food became my medicine at first and from there it felt like an exponential improvement. Before I knew it food became exciting again and enjoyable!
Initially, as I started to gain weight I struggled to see the changes and to accept them. However, as my relationship with myself grew, I learned to accept my body for what it was. I started to realise that my body was the only thing that had been with me through this entire journey. It may have gotten weak, but despite all the abuse it had received it never gave up on me and my heart kept beating. As I started to care for my body more, my body responded by supporting me more. I went from constantly punishing my body to listening to it and responding to it. I started to realise amazing things about my body! Sitting on a chair didn’t hurt now that I was getting cushioning. I was getting strength to go out paddle boarding and go out with my friends and dance. I had the energy to laugh! As I learned to love my body more, it became less important what shape my body was.
One hurdle I am still overcoming is what other people say about my body and my weight gain. Whether they think that I’m a “healthy” weight, or whether they think I am still too thin. At first it didn’t matter what they would say because there was just no winning. Either way I would feel like crap just at the thought of other people observing my body. Overtime I made a revaluation though – that how I feel in my body shouldn’t be determined by someone else’s relationship with my body. I remind myself of his every time I have a reaction to other people commenting on my body and it’s getting easier to face as time goes on. I even felt that I couldn’t write a blog post on it until I was a “stable” weight. Now I’ve realised that my current shape or size is not something that I want to allow to stop me from sharing this beautiful journey that I am on and the realisations that I am making.
This is not to say that I don’t struggle as I can still have poor body image. It’s no where near as crippling as it had to be though. Also I’ve been surprised at how my body image has started to get better as I’ve gained weight which is the total opposite to how I expected it to be. This is because it’s about the relationship that I have with my body and with myself, and as long as I respect that I believe that my size will matter less and less. Nothing is permanent and I am included in that. No shape that I have will stay the same and I only have this experience in my body once. So why not stop fighting this war, make peace with my body and celebrate the time that I have with it.