Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Weight-loss, insecurites and self-acceptance.

(Disclaimer: Everyone is different and deals with these things differently. I am no doctor or psychologist, but reading others personal journey's really helped me so I thought I'd give it a go)

The road to body image acceptance and body confidence can be a long one, and if you’re insecure about your weight/appearance, it isn't easy. As controversial as it is to some people, regardless of weight, you should NEVER be made to feel insecure about your body. 7st or 18st. Toned or not. Never.

Since I was about between the ages of about 15-19 I was extremely insecure about the way I looked. It all started off with something small, and spiraled off into a toxic cycle of endless self loathing, where no part of me was safe or respected. As I said, you name it, I didn’t like it. Including my face shape, chin, nose, eyes and hairline to name but a few and it slowly reached my body shape/weight. Without going too much into the dysmorphia, the endless insecurities ruled my life. They were always on my mind, and although many people commented on my obsessive behaviour/negativity, I never really told anyone about how I felt, mainly due to embarrassment. It affected everything from my everyday behaviour and diet to my relationships and it really got me down. I struggled on without seeking help for ages, which was extremely lonely and painful.

One thing that I want to point out is that I loved going to the gym and eating healthily, and at that time I probably was at my healthiest weight wise. However, a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body, and I, like many others, was so caught up in weight loss purely for superficial reasons that I neglected the importance of my mental health. I started dieting/exercising quite a bit between ages 18 to 19 and If you know me at all, you’ll know that I can be a tad obsessive when I put my mind to something. I become addicted really easily so exercising and calorie counting became my life for that short period of time. Instead of making me feel more confident, obsessively counting calories, exercising and ultimately; losing weight - didn’t work at all. In fact, it made me feel worse about myself. It was never enough and I got into a cycle of trying extremely hard to reach an unreachable goal, which me feel worse and ultimately led to failure. It was exhausting. I wasn’t happy, and altering my appearance wasn’t doing anything for me. I started to think to myself that I maybe needed to work on whats on the inside, first. Why did I feel that way? Where did it all start? I wasn’t born with these feelings and they had to come from somewhere, didn’t they? I also started to notice that a lot of people around my age were having similar experiences with their appearance. Everyone around me were trying to lose weight, everyone wanted the 'bikini body' and it  started to make me question why. Although I was my biggest critic, I was constantly bombarded by this pressure to be a certain way, to look a certain way and it continued to feed my insecurities.

Now, a lot has changed since then. I became extremely interested in body image and what it all meant. I started to seek out others who felt the same or who had gone through similar fights with their body and appearance, which solidified further my idea that A LOT of people my age felt this way. A simple Google search brought back these horrific statistics:

  • 70% of British girls aged 11-19 cite their relationship with their body their number one worry.
  • One in three British girls would consider cosmetic surgery. 
  • Girls as young as five years old in the UK are worried about the way the look and their size. 
  • 90% of British women feel body-image anxiety.

I was shocked by what I found and I was determined to understand why I and so many girls (and guys) feel like we need to constantly change our appearance in order to lead a happy and fulfilled life and it honestly took me on a journey which changed my life completely. I started researching the theories which explain methods of how we construct our own body image from an early age and how it can be influenced by a variety of external factors such as our upbringing, our peers as well as societal ideals and pressure from the media. Through research, I began to question why so many people were made to feel this way. I realised that the problem wasn’t with me, that I wasn’t mad and actually, I came to this 'crazy' conclusion that I didn’t need to change myself, at all. This was a confusing and scary concept, which I often doubted due to years of conditioning, but nonetheless I decided to take an active step in trying to become more confident in myself, flaws and all. I read endless self help books and blog posts and watched many a YouTube video on how thousands of women across the world had also become liberated with this realisation, documenting their journey to confidence - without the fad diet.

Firstly, I got rid of all of the negativity from unnecessary external influences as well as anything that I felt was clouding my judgement at the time. I quit the gym. I stopped myself from getting involved in commenting on anyone else's appearance. I ditched the diet obsessed magazines and TV programs and I unfollowed the ‘thinspo’ Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr accounts. I then started to put my research into action by telling myself that I liked loved those bits of me which I didn’t like. It sounds daft but, I literally stared in the mirror (clothed and nakey) and looked at the ‘flaws’ in my eyes. Why didn’t I like them? Did I not like them because I'd been made to feel like I shouldn't? I also spent quite a bit of time pointing out what I did like about myself, the positives. These didn’t have to be for purely aesthetic reasons… For example, I really like my hands, because I have similar hands to my mum and they remind me of her.  The more comfortable I became with my body, the more I started to understand and listen to it.

I then began talking openly about body image. For example, my problem with how many young girls are brought up to hate themselves, purely so that they will become more obedient and submissive consumers. As well as the whole 'We'll tell you you're not good enough, but its OK, don't fear; because we sell the products which will make you better' - Its twisted genius really. I felt enlightened and I couldn't believe that I'd wasted so much of my time trying to conform to this unattainable ideal while hating myself in the process. This realisation then led me to change the way I thought. If my inner monologue ever tried to tell me that I looked a certain negative way, I literally fought against it. I thought to myself 'nope, not today. I feel great and I look great'. I started to go without make up for a few days at a time and I started to put it on again for fun, because I enjoyed it - rather than as a necessity. I started to do more things I loved. When I exercised, I did it for fun, and when I ate healthily, I did it because I wanted to be healthy, not because I wanted to look like (insert celebrity here). It all sounds so simple, but for anyone who battles with or who has battled with insecurities, these simple tasks can often feel impossible, and they started to feel possible again.

Honestly though, the more you start to do this, the happier you feel. Once you become happier with yourself on the outside, it starts to affect everything and everyone around you. Do you point out others flaws in order to make yourself feel better?  Do you compare yourself to everyone? Do you feel too insecure to enjoy the things and/or people that you love? You can stop it all. For me, it all stems from inner happiness. Then, once you're happy with yourself and you would still like to lose weight in order to improve your health. Go for it. Because once you’re happy with the way you are during the ‘before' phase, I can guarantee that it’ll be easier and you'll be happy regardless of the number on the scale.

For me, two years on.. I can honestly say that I have never felt so content and happy with myself, ever. I still have off days (like everyone) but I am happy. I now roll my eyes at anyone who points out the the weight gain/loss of a celebrity. Who cares? Not me. Every January, when a large majority of adverts try to shove summer ‘bikini body’ tips tricks and diets down my throat, I barely blink an eyelid. I no longer look at myself and see flaws that need altering and I believe that there is no diet or beauty regime in the world that can give you true confidence like self acceptance. There is so much more to me than how I look or what I weigh.

There is so much more to life.


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