Enjoy this article by Jude Schweppe, editor at TheScarletOrchid.com ~ Lauren
I went to war with my body at the tender age of 11, and fought bitterly against it for the best part of twenty years. It sucked the joy out of my life, damaged my health and left me drained and exhausted on a regular basis. Why did an intelligent, smart young woman like me allow this to happen? As women is it just something that ‘we have to go through’? Is it part of our DNA to always want to be slimmer, leaner, a different shape to the one we are? Why do we punish ourselves so brutally to conform to an ideal that is not based in any reality I’m familiar with?
Answers to these questions later, but for now back to me and my pre-pubescent body.
Aged 11 I was obsessed with my dance classes and was convinced that I had been put on this planet to split jump and jazz hands my way to stardom. I adored dancing and it gave me a release and focus that I desperately needed, living as I did in a house that was somewhat fraught with tension. But as my long lean body began to change and I developed shapely thighs and hips, I began to dread the change into my leotard and tights. All the other girls in the changing room had long, slim legs and boyish waist lines, while my legs were not straight up and down, my hips were not narrow and my butt was the perfect J-Lo – way before the gorgeous Jenny From The Block made it cool to have a big butt.
As I hit my teens my obsession with dance morphed into a dangerous obsession with my weight and shape. My body became my mortal enemy and I sent so much negative energy its way, I’m surprised it didn’t totally rebel and develop a serious illness. I was constantly on a diet, constantly checking my weight and trying to assess my shape from every angle possible in the bathroom mirror. My reflection made me angry and frustrated and I would have given literally anything to look different. I couldn’t walk past a newsagents without staring longingly at the beautiful lean (or, more accurately, ridiculously skinny) bodies on the front covers of fashion magazines and I was angry at the world because I didn’t look like that. At school, everyone thought I was happy, confident and carefree but as my closest girlfriends morphed into these gorgeously sexy creatures who looked amazing in a pair of 501s, I became more and more unhappy. I was absolutely convinced that I was fat and ugly and no amount of ‘don’t be ridiculous, you’re gorgeous’ compliments from my friends could convince me otherwise.
The year I left school, things took a turn for the worse. I was living in London with my Dad and his family (my parents having separated when I was 4) and working a number of different jobs to save some money for college. Because my schedule was so erratic and I was always running from one job to the next, it suddenly became easy to skip meals, and because everyone assumed that I was eating at work, nobody really noticed that I wasn’t eating at home. The weight began to fall off, and for the first time in my life I could fit my rear end into a pair of 501s without squeezing. It felt absolutely amazing. I loved the way I looked and I was so ‘proud’ of the fact that I had finally got my healthy appetite under ‘control.’ But the problem with living on a bowl of cereal a day is that, funnily enough, you get hungry and you get tired. I was starving myself and then wondered why I kept falling asleep at the bus stop, in the bath, wherever. I literally had no energy. Then one night, I came home from work having had a couple of beers and suddenly it hit me that I was ravenously hungry. I opened the fridge and ate everything in it, stuffing my face in a frenzy. I didn’t even think about what I was eating; my body was just so desperate for food I shovelled in anything that wasn’t wrapped in cellophane and could be consumed instantly. And then, I panicked. All I could think was that I would undo all the ‘good work’ I had done losing all that weight. So I ran to the sink, put my fingers down my throat and kept them there until I had emptied my stomach.
That was the start of my ten year battle with bulimia. It was lonely, frustrating, maddening and at times downright painful. I fell out with friends and family because of it and it hi-jacked my life and my happiness for too long. There were days I was so miserable I couldn’t bear to leave the house and living a life where my every waking thought was what I could eat/not eat was absolutely exhausting. I hated it.
Peace at Last
Skip forward almost another ten years and I have finally made peace with my body. I have settled into a shape that suits me and have been a stable weight (give or take a few pounds) for the last five years. The question is, why did I put myself through such hell before I finally accepted that this was the body I was meant to have? Why do I see so many young women falling into the ‘must be skinny’ trap and treating their bodies with such hatred? Why do we still believe that beauty/sexiness/perfection is an airbrushed image on the cover of a magazine that has been altered to create an almost cartoon-like ideal of the female form? And why do we allow it to continue?
Happiness from Within
The female body image debate is one that, thankfully, is gaining traction across the globe and more and more women are finally realising that we must stop doing this to ourselves, and that regardless of how many kilometers we run each week or hours we spend down the gym sculpting our bodies, real sexiness is something that only ever comes from within. It’s an essence, an energy, a confidence and a joie de vivre. It’s knowing yourself inside out and not being afraid to chase your goals and your dreams. It’s slipping into your favourite jeans and saying ‘to hell with it’ if they feel a little tight. This is a really really difficult thing to do – believe me I know. But it is so important to do it. Take a deep breath, live with the feelings that rise up because you’ve put on a few pounds and process them.
You might decide it’s time to cut out the chocolate for a few days, or switch to skimmed milk or generally eat a bit more healthily for a couple of weeks, but whatever you do, you must not turn that negative thought in on your body and punish yourself for your ‘failure.’ Embrace it and decide to make the changes from a positive place. Think health not weight loss, think happiness from within not appearances from without. This is what true beauty and sexiness are all about, and for the sake of women everywhere and our daughters we must start changing our attitudes and the way we think about body shape. The time is now!
By Jude Schweppe