For me, body positivity is about body acceptance. It’s about learning to be positive about my body, no matter the lumps and bumps. I’m not a curvy woman. In fact, my teeny tiny boobs are smaller now after two and a half years of breastfeeding than they ever have been before. I have a straight up and down pencil shape with huge “swimmers” shoulders that I’ve been conscious of since I was about ten. This said, I’ve never had a hateful relationship with my body – instead I’ve always taken more of an irreverent approach to it. I guess I haven’t really thought too much about it either way, having always been a pretty similar shape.
However, in the past year or so I’ve started to have the odd wobble – and I’m not talking about the belly kind. I’ve fretted a little over my non-existent thigh gap and worried over my non-washboard stomach. It’s made me second-guess myself, wonder if I’m making a fool of myself wearing a particular dress or speaking to the camera at a particular angle on a YouTube video. This isn’t me. It’s never been what I’ve been like before, so why now?
I think, in my case, it’s a social media thing. I’ve been so bombarded with images of body “perfection” on Instagram and watched so many weight loss videos on YouTube that I’ve started to compare my own body and felt like I’ve come up short. I spend more time on social media than most, because it’s my job, and I don’t think that’s necessarily been healthy in terms of my relationship with my body.
There’s another factor though, and it’s a pretty straight-forward one. I’d put on weight. Just after Christmas I weighed myself (something I rarely ever do) and was shocked at what the scales told me. I couldn’t fit into my favourite pair of jeans and I suddenly noticed chafing around my arms and thighs that hadn’t been there before. My weight gain had nothing to do with being kind to myself and accepting my body for what it was – something I think we all need to do. It had more to do with NOT being kind to myself, not making the time to exercise or to even drink a couple of glasses of water in a day. To me, my weight gain was a direct result and physical evidence of self-neglect. And it made me feel crap.
So, after Christmas, I decided to make a few little tweaks to my lifestyle which might make me feel positive and – perhaps – even a little bit confident again. It was about looking after myself rather than losing the weight. I don’t mind being bigger if it’s the shape I’m meant to be. But I do mind being bigger if it’s because I’ve put myself last on the list of people to care about.
I drank more water (aiming for around two litres a day), I ate more fresh fruit and vegetables (particularly blueberries, avocadoes, baby carrots, lettuce and sweet potato – something I’d always told myself was an extravagance we couldn’t afford before… until I realised you can buy blueberries and avocado halves frozen at Tesco). I exercised, at first running a couple of times a week and, lately, doing quick 20 minute Tabata workouts on YouTube (this guy is brilliant if you’re after a quick workout you can do at home by the way). I ate more chicken, fish and lean meat and less cheap sausages and pizza.
My approach was about MORE instead of less. I didn’t deny myself wine or chocolate if I really wanted it (which I always do at the weekend and often mid-week too). I didn’t stop eating all carbs. My beloved cake and cheese were still a part of my life. Instead, I simply added water, more fresh food and exercise to my life too.
And the result? I feel better than I’ve felt in a long, long time. My body isn’t much different, I’m about a stone lighter than I was at Christmas but, really, a stone isn’t a massive amount is it? My shoulders are the same size as they ever have been and my boobs are still as small as ever. My tummy still wobbles and I still have a non-existent thigh gap. BUT this year I’m actually considering buying a bikini for our summer holiday instead of my usual hold-it-all-in corset style swimsuit. And the reason? I’ve looked after my body a bit more and come to realise that it’s not that bad after all. I feel positive about it and no longer care about the bingo wings and dimpled bum.
I guess it’s obvious the thing that’s really changed here is my mindset. No amount of weight loss or carved abs would have gotten me this feeling of positivity and acceptance had my mind not made a major shift. Just caring about myself a little more has made me feel happier and more confident in my skin.
Body positivity isn’t about weight loss targets or counting syns or points on a complicated diet plan. It’s about taking the time to be nice to yourself and realise that, whatever your shape, your body can be beautiful if your mind lets you see it that way.
If you’re struggling to feel comfortable in your skin at the moment then I urge you to pop over to Instagram and have a look at the #warriorwomanproject hashtag today and have a read about this inspiring project over on Natalie’s Style Me Sunday blog. This post on the subject by my pal Alison at Not Another Mummy Blog is also really brilliant and well worth a read.