I’ve struggled with my body image for probably as long as I’ve been aware of my body and how it compares to others. Logically I know I’ve never been fat; I’ve never been bigger than a size 12. Yet that didn’t change the fact that I hated my body, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was fat.
Over the years I’ve tried several drastic methods to lose weight, and to some success. After an awful flu that left me unable to eat much for three weeks, swiftly followed by four months in Australia where I couldn’t afford to eat much, I dropped to a size 8 (not that I actually realised this at the time). A few months at home eating whatever I could and a year at university I had put all the weight back on and then some.
Throughout these fluctuations my body image never changed. Size 12 or size 8 I still hated my body the exact same. I still saw the same thing in the mirror.
Over my second year of university I actually lost over 20 pounds and coming home for summer I have had a lot of comments about. Comments that I just wasn’t expecting because to me I still see the same thing in the mirror, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve gone down two clothes sizes and the number on the scales has dropped significantly, I wouldn’t know.
I’ve had everything from ‘wow you look absolutely fantastic, have you lost weight’ ‘you look so slim now’ ‘did you not eat at university?’ to ‘you better be careful you don’t put it all back on’ (said to me by one of my Grandpa’s friends after I’d just eaten a massive burger, and you bet I ordered a cake for dessert and made sure I ate the whole thing).
For the most part these comments aren’t malicious, but they are routed in society’s view that women are more attractive when they’re skinny. And thing is, I was never fat. I was a size 12. That’s normal. Why do we berate women who are just a normal, average, healthy size?
The thing is I didn’t lose the weight intentionally, I also didn’t lose it healthily. Along with second year came some pretty horrendous anxiety and I can’t eat when I’m anxious. On many days at university I would barely be eating a slice of toast or a bowl of vegetables a day, and yes sometimes I could definitely smash down a bowl of pasta, but gradually my appetite decreased to the point I could only have a few chips post-night-out rather than my usual chip portion and sometimes a pizza or chicken wings on top of that.
I think that’s what has made people pointing out my weight loss so awkward and even upsetting sometimes to me. It wasn’t healthy. I shouldn’t have lost it that way. And what was wrong with my body before.
Sometimes I feel more confident in body, but for the most part I still hate my body just as much now as I did when I was larger. Mentally nothing has changed for me.
My point is, don’t mention someone’s weight loss to them unless you know that they have been intentionally trying to slim down. Yes, saying how great someone looks can be a confidence boost. But unless you know if it was there intention, you don’t know what they’re going through. Is it the result of starvation? Abuse? Anxiety? You never really know what anyone else is experiencing.
And whatever you do, never, ever tell someone they have to be careful to keep it off.
Losing weight taught me that your own happiness has very little to do with your weight. It took me ten years and a lot of heartache and an unhealthy relationship with food to realise that.
There is nothing wrong with being a size 6 or a size 20, or what view society takes of you based on this. All that matters is your own self-confidence and if you are happy.