Happy Tuesday my lovely readers! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend.
This post might sound a little self-absorbed and narcissistic, but please bear with me, all will make sense. I actually considered not writing it for a while, but one of my friends told me I should, because its important.
This year I have put on 5kg and had a small breakdown in a clothes shop because I was no longer a size 8.
Now I know that doesn’t sound like much to some, but for me, 5kgs is the difference between two clothes sizes, and going up a clothes size has opened up a whole host of anxiety for me. Allow me to explain…
Women growing up in this era have a huge amount of pressure when it comes to weight and dress size, and we are constantly being told mixed messages about how the world wants to see our bodies;
“Love your curves”
“Strong is the new sexy”
“Are YOU beach body ready?”
“Real women have curves, only dogs love bones”
“Do xxx to get rid of that unwanted body fat!”
“Fat girls don’t get dates, they just get take out”
We are hammered with advertising telling us we must be slim, but curvaceous, and fit and strong, but still feminine, and not stronger than men, because yanno. And if we have any body hang ups don’t worry, because a company somewhere will have a wonder product you sell your soul for to see if it works. (The diet and “wellness” industry is worth over £2 Billion in the UK alone) THERE. IS. TOO. MUCH. FOCUS. ON. WOMEN’S. BODIES. ITS. RIDICULOUS.
Which is where the amazing body positive movement came in, and women everywhere would post their “Instagram/real life” selfies showing just how imperfect, and therefore perfect they really are. There were hashtags, #bopo #bopowarrior #loveyourbabyloveoyurbabybody which let women know that it is absolutely awesome to feel fabulous as fuck no matter your size and to love your body and just do you.
I look at these hashtags and see amazing women talking about how they have overcome their body hangups and embrace themselves and it is great, they inspire and lift up so many women who feel insecure. I see my favorite women feeling confident about their baby bodies and encouraging other mums to love themselves and feel so confident on the beach and that is great.
But I’m not those women.
I’m not plus sized, and I’m not underweight. I’m not a gym freak, I’m not a model, I’m not a mum, and I don’t have a baby belly body, and I might never have a bump. I’m not in recovery. I’m just Hollie.
All these women are amazing and I don’t want to discredit what they have done for making people feel better about themselves.
But I don’t feel good enough to be in that category, or to inspire others. I’m just neutral. I neither love my body, nor do I hate it. Its OK, yanno? So where do I fit in?
Lets get in the way back machine.
Waaaay back in 2012 I was single again for the first time in a long while. I put on a crap tonne of weight and no-one told me. It wasn’t until I went shopping for a new winter coat that I realized how much weight I had put on and I hated it, so I went on an extreme diet and started running. In a year I lost two stone had started running stupid distances, and signed up to do the London Marathon in 2014. Throughout this time I was size 8 and I stayed a size 8 for about 2 years. But you know what, I was happy. I was running a lot, I felt awesome. Running marathons taught me how to fuel my body rather than diet, and it made me feel good about myself. I then met Tim, the rest is history. I still run, but nowhere near as much as before because we have a social life now, and that’s perfectly fine by me, I wouldn’t change a thing. But when I went shopping a few weeks ago, I couldn’t fit into the size 8 jeans and it freaked me the fuck out.
“How has this happened?”
“I need to go on a diet”
I felt horrible and I cried.
Now I know that seems super trivial to some people and a lot of you are probably thinking “Jesus woman it’s just a dress size!” but I have been picked on my entire life for the way I look (no exaggeration, I can pin point the day the bullying started at primary school when someone told the rest of my class I had fleas. Kids are assholes). I have always had big hair, I had glasses, I had severe acne, I didn’t get boobs until I was almost 17, but got my periods early so I was hella emotional, plus being asthmatic, I was an easy target for bullies at school. Add to that my severe dislike for confrontation, it must have been a walk in the park to bully me. I looked weird, I acted weird, and I liked weird music and had different interests. I wasn’t really interested in anything that drew attention to myself, in fact my goal through high school was to get through the day without being noticed. Boys and girls told me I was ugly and gross all the time right the way through school, and I never grew out of believing that. Children are easy to influence and when you tell someone they are ugly and worthless enough, you start to believe it. Roll forward to when I had surgery on my ovaries due to PID and being told at 17 I couldn’t have kids, and then went though all that crap, why would I ever believe in myself?
So you get it, I never really had a lot of body confidence growing up. When I started running I felt like I was getting some of that confidence back because my body was doing something I never thought it could. Then I met Tim and he bought out the confidence in me and makes me feel like the best version of myself, even when I feel like a slobby over emotional shit when aunt flo comes to town. He took all my fertility problems in his stride and has never left it. He tells me when I look fly as fuck, and makes me feel awesome. So for me, putting on that weight and going up a dress size made me feel like I was loosing control, and my first thought was “what if he thinks I’m fat and doesn’t love me any more?”
Roll forward 3 weeks to a Thursday lunch time. I was wandering around Next and picked up a shirt that I really liked in a size 8. I really loved this shirt. But I didn’t want to buy it until I got back to my “goal weight”. Id been back on a restrictive diet and trying to drop some weight and nothing was working. Id lost 2lbs but still didn’t feel great. I was going to a photo-shoot for a blogger day out the next day with one of my besties and didn’t want to look chubby… so I put the shirt away and opted for black instead. I felt like I didn’t deserve it until I was thin enough.
The following day I tried on some gorgeous coats and it wasn’t until I looked at the label and realized that the coat I had worn was a 10 that I thought to myself “huh, it’s not so bad. I look awesome”, I started to ask myself why I was so hung up on this number. Because that’s really all sizes are at the end of the day. Numbers made up from measurements that someone decided on. It’s not a reflection on me or who I am as a person, heck in different stores that number goes up or down – for example in Warehouse I have never been anything smaller than 12 and that’s why I don’t shop there – and why am I putting so much pressure on myself to fit that number which means fuck all?
And then I got what Body Neutrality is all about.
Body neutrality is not restrictive. It doesn’t require a membership. You don’t need to look a certain way, be a certain size, or have any back story to be part of this movement. You don’t have to have an eating disorder. It is not gender exclusive. Body neutrality is not about being fat, thin, muscular, short, tall…..
Body neutrality is about cutting yourself a break.
It’s about forgiving yourself for feeling bad about how you see yourself.
It’s about learning to look at yourself and accept how you see you.
It’s about learning to accept the parts of you that you may not like.
It’s about learning to be kind to yourself.
Its understanding that a blanket “Just Love Yourself” message doesn’t apply to everyone. For some people, working towards accepting their demons and being neutral, not striving to feel amazing every day is the goal. You don’t need to wake up and feel like Beyonce every day!
Body neutrality is not about being perfect. It’s about looking at all those amazing imperfections and knowing that they are a part of what makes you YOU. Its about being kinder to your body, even when it fails you. My infertility is a huge insecurity for me. So if you cant have children, and you don’t fit into the “acceptable” mold, and you body is kind of a mess, how can you “just love yourself?”
You cant. But you can be OK with yourself.
I have struggled with the way I look for so long, for as long as I remember I have been picked on because I wasn’t pretty enough, not curvy enough, my hair wasn’t smooth and shiny enough, my skin wasn’t clear enough, and there are tonnes of companies out there who wanted to prey on my body insecurity. Diet plans, pills, skin care, make up, hair dye, straighteners, clothes to lift n tuck, bras to give you better boobs, I put so much effort into being enough, and you know what?
I’ve had enough.
I still wear make up and dye my hair and even sometimes straighten it, because they make me happy and confident. I eat well and exercise, because I like how they make me feel. But I’m trying really hard to be nicer to myself and realize that I’m 30, and I don’t need to prove myself to anyone with how little space I take up. I am not defined by my physical stance, or my ovary.
I went back to Next and bought the shirt in a size 10. You know what? I felt awesome in it. I went to brunch with my best friend the following day and she told me I looked incredible and it wasn’t because of the shirt, it was because I wasn’t putting my arms over my stomach to hide it, or trying to move my arms which were restricted because the sleeves were too tight. I felt so relaxed. I was comfortable. Then she told me about how she had been through the same thing – went to work feeling a bit bloated and instead of someone telling her not to worry and that she was awesome, they told her straight away she needed to cut out carbs/drink more water/do cardio and she would see the pounds drop off. WHY DO WE DO THIS TO EACH OTHER?!
So starting now I want to make a promise to you. To everyone who reads my stupid rambles, to my friends, to family, to the strangers on Instagram who inspire me. I promise you that you are so much more than your dress size or your relationship with gravity holding you to this earth. You are awesome, you are unique, you are beautiful inside and out, there is no-one else out there like you, and as long as you are happy, healthy, and aren’t hurting anyone, don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
You want to go to the gym and lift twice your body weight? Yas Queen. You want to run ultra marathons? Yaaas Queen. Wanna quit your job, pack up your life and move to the other side of the world? Yaas Queen. Want to become a yogi? Yes, Yes, Yes. Want to become a make up artist and blend eye shadow until your arms fall off? Girl go for it. Wanna become an eco warrior Queen? Girl just do you. Want to smash glass ceilings and work your ass off? I couldn’t be prouder. Want to wear a bikini? Go for it, you look awesome. You are all boss ladies and I love all of you.
We need to cut ourselves a break. We need to be kinder to ourselves and each other. There are so many more fulfilling things you can spend your time doing than being hard on ourselves.
I hope that this helps someone somewhere who is feeling a bit shit. Just love you. You are the bomb.
Until next time,