This is my personal story and an explanation why positive body image issues are important for me now. And why I stress so much the importance of raising girls free from self objectification and body insecurities.
There was a time when I didn’t think about positive body image at all, and instead I felt ashamed for how I looked and what I ate. I was obsessing about how I should be looking. At that time of my life, I was wasting much of my energy on worrying about weight loss, and my mood was highly influenced by how others would see me. You can call it a natural path of youth, but I think that it was unhealthy, sad and self-centred. And I have a feeling that many of my friends used to feel the same.
Though I was raised to love and accept myself, and I’m sure that is not what my mother wished for me. My family was praising and complimenting me ( now I think that they should have compliment less my appearance ). I did have all the support I needed. But I do remember that the women in my family were never happy about how they looked. (And they were all beautiful). I would hear the phrases: I need to lose weight; I can’t eat this because I’ll gain weight, I can’t wear that because my breasts aren’t big enough, I’m too skinny, I’m too fat..( now I know that a family member talking low about their body in front of a girl or a teen is linked to her low self esteem).
There used to be no sweets at my home, and we would eat really healthy, which I generally really enjoyed. But I would eat as many sweets as possible as soon as I was out of sight. And since my teen years I would feel ashamed after.
Almost all of my friends would agree that them too need to lose weight, as if it would be the only socially approved thing to say.
But maybe they too, were told that they actually should watch their weight. I was, even though I was wearing size medium. And nobody was being mean, my family members just really believed that being even slightly overweight is horrible, unhealthy and something to avoid by all means!
So I did have a bulimic episode during one summer, when I was around 22 years old. I was outside of my home city, working in an extremely boring office job, and surrounded by even more image-orientated culture. My work lunch was a mix of pizza, greasy fast food and muffins, while my family dinner was extremely healthy and lean. And I gained weigh (a terrible sin in my eyes at that time) but I couldn’t stop eating, because that was the only fun thing (except of shopping, can you imagine) that I would do that summer. And I was reading all of these fashion magazines and I would constantly compare myself.
I did force myself to throw up, after eating way to many sweets, hidden from the world in my room. It happened three times to be exact (not enough to be diagnosed with bulimia, but enough to make me understand what it’s like). And I felt extremely ashamed, disgusting and impossible to love.
Luckily for me, that summer was finally over, I did go back to my home city and back to my psychology studies, and I stopped thinking about my look that much. Also, I already knew that bulimy is a very sad path to go down, and that I didn’t want to be there. Happily for me, my life got exiting again, I got my support system around me back, and I never threw up after eating again.
But I was still concentrated on my look, and I had a huge case of makeup. Huge. On and off I would be obsessing about chocolate and other forbidden foods. And constantly thinking about these last 5 pounds that I had to lose in order to be happy.
Of course mass media that I was consuming only maintained my mood. The super-diet-to-try and the get-beach-ready-body magazine issues. The music videos with extremely sexy and half-naked skinny women. Fashion magazines displaying one type of beauty.
So how did I actually manage to get out of it? How did I changed from borderline bulimic to self accepting and happy? How did I stop obsessing about my body image, wight loss and all the forbidden food? (.. the concept of forbidden food is a different subject all together; you know, the more you can’t have it, the more you want it..but I’ll write about it some other time..)
It was a long process to be honest. I didn’t wake up one day free from these issues and self-confident in my own skin. And for a long time I was hiding my struggle from the world. But I do wake up self-confident and happy now ( sometimes still tired though, but that’s a parent life, right?).
So here’s how my change went:
1. I stopped consuming most of the mass media.
I stopped reading fashion magazines, and instead I started taking my style inspirations from fashion blogs that show more variety. I stopped reading magazines targeted at young women and so I wasn’t reading anymore about how I should be getting my body beach ready and I just assumed my body ready. Point. Not being exposed to photoshopped models and other women obsessed with the perfect body ideal, has made me calmer, stronger and happier.
2. I stopped with the food dichotomy : the healthy versus the forbidden.
All food is just food. Some is more nutritious than other. Some is better for emotional comfort. But I don’t have forbidden foods anymore. I eat to nurture my body, and since I have kids it’s even more important that we eat whole, real and healthy food. But I believe in balance, and that’s why we bake, buy ice cream and we don’t say no to chocolate.
3. I stopped objectifying myself.
I started to see my body as a marvellous tool of mine that lets me do things I want ( like have babies) and I stopped seeing it as an object to please others. I’m not a decoration. And I realized that I’m not my body. I have my body to live and to experience life. And with the time passing by, and life experiences that I live, my body changes, and I’m ok with that too.
4. I started reading more about positive body image.
Reading about other women getting over their eating disorders and body insecurities was very inspiring and encouraging. It had made me see more clearly that we’re not doomed to be unsatisfied with our bodies. It’s the cultural context that made us feel insecure and unhappy. And we have the right to change that context.
Now I believe that we’re so much more then how we look. I think that we should all celebrate the diversity of our bodies instead of trying to all look the same. And as a mother I think that my body is simply amazing, because not only it lets me be a part of this world, but it got to create life as well!
If you’d like to read more about positive body image check Beauty Redefined, if you happen to know French, this blog has great articles on the subject. And if now you’re looking for fashion bloggers showing more diversity clic here, here or here.