Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Wanting, But Failing, To Be Body Positive



I can't really remember a time when I felt as though I really loved my body and figure. I find myself continually reflecting on this being a pretty sad state of affairs but also feeling completely unable to change my mindset. It really annoys me how much time I spend worrying about this and the years I have spent unhappy in my skin. It contributes towards feeling depressed and does very little for my self esteem. At times I feel like it rules my life and my mind and what's really annoying is that I know that if I tried hard enough it could be something I could change for the better.    

There have been a couple of standout periods in my memory where I was able to lose weight and feel good in myself. One time was following a bad break up and the other was for my wedding. Both occasions I was basically starving myself and eating way less than my body required to function properly. It wasn't a great existence but I became so driven by the goal to be skinny that nothing else really mattered. 

I remember the pressure to look good on my wedding day feeling quite overwhelming at times and I couldn't bear the thought of looking back on my wedding photos and feeling unsatisfied with my appearance. I put a stupid amount of energy into crash dieting and working out during a period of 3-4 months and managed to get down to my lowest weight for years. The sad and crazy thing is I still wasn't really satisfied with my figure, which at this point in time I would love to have back again. I still picked holes in myself and wanted to fit into even smaller clothes. 

After my wedding, and when the pressure was off, I relaxed and slowly but surely piled some weight back on. I stopped exercising as much too and I really became aware of what a horrible impact my all or nothing thinking could have on my lifestyle. I was like a seesaw, at one end not eating and exercising every day, to the other end where i'd eat what I want and do no physical exercise whatsoever. It annoyed me that I could never just strike a healthy balance with food and exercise and be happy in my body. 

There's no doubt that society and the media in particular put a huge amount of pressure on women to lose weight in general and for our wedding days and I know that subconsciously this must have been where these ideas of mine came from. But I also know that you can't change how you feel in yourself and no matter how many people would tell me I looked great I wouldn't believe them until i'd reached a certain milestone on the scales.  

When I became unwell with anxiety and depression a few years ago I was initially signed off from work and my whole life suddenly came to a halt which meant I was even less active than ever before. Anxiety and Emetophobia would often keep my appetite at bay but as soon as I started to feel well again I really put on weight fast and ballooned up to the biggest i'd been for quite some time, if not ever. Since then it's felt as though I have been continually battling with my weight which, take it from me, can be an extremely exhausting place to be.

When I had to go back on antidepressants a couple of years ago I remember sitting with my GP and sobbing about not wanting to take the medication because it would make me put on weight again. Even when I felt really unwell my priorities were completely screwed and I was putting gaining weight above and over getting better again. I'd scan the internet for horror stories about how much weight people put on when taking this medication and drive myself into a frenzy at the prospect of getting bigger. 

Initially my anxiety was so bad that I did in fact lose weight but sure enough once I started to feel well again the weight came piling back on. Weight that I am still at war with losing as I type this today. At times it feels as though no matter how healthy I eat and how often I workout, the weight just doesn't budge. It can be really hard to stay motivated and continue to push on when you're not seeing any results. It's also horrible feeling that the medication I take could be causing my body to hold onto weight and making it all ten times harder for me. But sadly its not something I feel ready to come off yet. 

Last Winter I made the decision to join the gym and I wanted to break old bad habits and take on exercise as more of a lifestyle change than a quick fix. I also wanted to work out for my mental health as much as my body. For the first time ever I find myself in a good routine with exercise and every week I take myself off to the gym 2-3 times a week. Even when we have had breaks and holidays come up I have still managed to drag myself back there which would have never happened in the past. It's so good to be able to see improvements in myself in that respect and in my fitness levels, but in terms of weight loss things have been really slow and I haven't seen the results I was hoping for.

I now go to the gym for the endorphins and the feel good factor it gives me mentally. Part of me feels like I have given up any hope of exercise making a difference to my weight but I know I need to work a little harder with my diet and nutrition too. The temptation to just stop all exercise and go back to not eating again is sadly quite real but thankfully being married to a man who loves to eat makes it so much harder to follow through with any unhealthy ideas like that.  

I wish I could be a larger woman who is in love with my body and spreading the body positivity message. I have so much respect for the women doing that online and I often look at their photos and wish I could just come to terms with the size I am because I know I would feel a lot happier in myself if I could. But that really doesn't even seem like an option for me. It feels like I will forever be comparing myself and judging myself by what weight I am and what clothes size I fit in. It's a cycle which i've been in since I can remember and I can't really see any way out of it. 

I often feel a panic come over me that i'll look back on my life one day and all I will remember is how consumed I have been by weight loss and what I am eating. All of the different cycles of periods of exercise and dieting and then binge eating have got me nowhere. It's like I take five steps forward and ten back and I am always stuck in the same place of feeling completely unsatisfied with what I see in the mirror. 

For now I will continue to work out because it really does do wonders for my self esteem and overall emotional health. I also really enjoy feeling fitter because feeling over weight and really unfit was a horrible place to be. At least now I can breathe whilst walking up hills and there is more of a spring in my step. To work out for fitness and health without weight loss at the forefront of my mind is probably what has kept me going back for so long now. I haven't seen results with weight loss but I still go back because I know how good it helps me to feel.  

In terms of eating i'd really like to adopt more of a whole foods only plant based diet and try to cut out the junk I tend to eat as a reward at the end of the week. I'm sure I am like so many others out there who tend eat healthily during the week and then it all goes out of the window at the weekend. It's such a bad habit I really wish I could break. I know I am addicted to sugar and some evenings the cravings for chocolate and treats is just sky high so I know it's something I really need to address.

It really is great to see so many body positivity messages online these days and they are definitely helping to counteract a lot of the societal pressure that there is to look a certain way. I really wish I could be more body positive in myself and help to spread that message too but it's so hard when you feel the way I do on the inside. Whenever I go clothes shopping all the size 14 - 16 clothes are gone and so I know I am in the majority rather than the minority but it doesn't make how I feel any easier. It just makes me wish I could pick up the size 10 and be on my way!

I guess I just wanted to share this on my blog because it is something that I struggle with most days and I know there are probably many of you who do too. I'd love to hear how you get yourselves to feel more positive about your bodies and i'd also love some recommendations of women to follow on Instagram who promote more self love and realistic body expectations. It would also be strangely reassuring to know that I am not alone on this.           
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12 comments

  1. Aww well done for opening up on this topic. For years I failed at body positivity but this has improved a lot although I still have "off" days.
    For me exercise is key. I cannot recommend Max Capacity Training enough. It is 16 minutes of exercise 3 days a week for about 12 weeks. I have done that a few times but I have also done Insanity which really is insane but it comes with a meal plan which you can easily adapt to veggie/vegan.
    If working solo is a struggle, maybe a group sport would be good? I do taekwondo which is a really good social workout. Knowing I can defend myself whilst boosting my fitness really gives me a body positivity boost.
    As for exercising and losing weight, please don't let the scales define you. When you exercise you are creating muscle which is heavier than fat. It is completely normal to see a weight increase when you start working out as you start to gain muscle. A great way to measure improvements is actually with a tape measure. Sure you may not have lost weight but you might have lost an inch or 2 around the waist and gained an inch around the biceps.
    The next time you look in the mirror, instead of thinking "I dont like my blah blah" try and think "I have really nice legs/arms/hair/bum/whatever".
    Positivity comes with time and is not something that can be forced. I (and all your followers) think you are beautiful and amazing so don't stop being you.

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    1. Ahh thanks so much for your epic comment - I found it in the end in my spam folder! Yep I definitely find it hard to not let the scales define me. I have started to measure myself with a tape too so hopefully that will help to see more results. I'm glad your own body positivity has improved over time and hope mine will do too! xx

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  2. Thanks for sharing Sarah. I used to feel the same and then I was exercising a lot, got sick, was at my lowest weight in years, and got complimented on looking amazing all the damn time. It's strange but that's what pushed me over the edge and made my brain really click into place to realise that societal beauty standards are screwed up and that I didn't want a part of it. From then I tried to eat more intuitively but never denied myself "junk" foods, shouted down every single negative thought about my body that popped into my brain (I would often ask myself if I would ever say that about a friend and the answer was always no), and followed a lot of body positive Instagram accounts (I also unfollowed a lot of people who seemed to be pushing societal beauty norms with their posts). I haven't completely eradicated all negative thoughts about my body but they're less frequent, I'm much less likely to get fixated on them, and I feel like I'm much kinder to myself these days.

    Off of the top of my head my favourite body posi instagrammers are radfatvegan, bodyposipanda, gabifresh, effyourbeautystandards, tessholiday & biggalyoga.

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting & i'm so glad that you managed to reach a more positive place with how you feel about your body. I will defo check out some of those insta accounts you mention thank you xx

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  3. This is such a heartfelt and well-written post. <3 I know it sucks and it's so hard to get into a positive mindset about your own body, but you're already doing great and just the act of carrying on with exercising even though you're not seeing any changes is a huge step forward and a change of mindset you should be proud of! It can take years and years to finally settle in your own skin, try not to feel too discouraged just because you're not there yet. You're still making amazing, positive steps.

    Helen already mentioned it but I definitely recommend not using a scale to track your progress with your fitness - I've gained 5kg since I started working out properly in August, but I look leaner. If you do strength, resistance etc. training or basically anything other than run on a treadmill as your exercise you'll probably be putting on muscle as well as losing fat, which is discouraging when you're focused on the scales but it's only a tiny picture of how your total body fitness is doing! Plus I am a huge advocate of reminding people how long it takes to actually SEE changes. I started going to a gym probably 3 years ago, lost a lil bit of weight but nothing noticeable, and have then been training with weights 5 times a week since August last year and the changes are only just now starting to become more obvious. It's hard when it feels like your work isn't paying off, but it'll happen eventually esp. with the right food, just never restrict completely cos if you're anything like me it'll set you up for failure (I am a 'well I've already eaten this one donut so I've ruined my healthy eating I might as well eat the entire pack and binge on all other junk food in my house until I feel sick and start again tomorrow' kind of person...) Treats are perfectly ok and turning them into coveted ~cheats~ just tends to make you more likely to eat more of them instead of just enough.

    THAT WAS LONG. Anyway my favourite bopo IGers are: bodyposipanda, nourishandeat, _kellyu, omgkenzieee, _____halle__ and probably more that I can't think of right now!

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    1. Ah thanks so much Steph for your positive and wise words :-) You're a big inspiration in my journey to being body posi and it's amazing to see how far you've come and how much your mindset has changed. xx

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  4. It made me feel sad to read about your struggles, but I'm glad you're feeling in a better place now in terms of exercising to feel good. My sister feels similarly about her body - I know that with summer coming up she's starting to feel the pressure to look a certain way and is fretting about what to wear etc. She's always felt like that in the warmer months, for as long as I can remember, and often hid herself away or simply didn't go out on hot days because she was so self-conscious about bearing her legs. Pretty much as soon as we're born there are expectations pushed on us about how we should look - it's completely exhausting to keep up with and even harder to unlearn. Throw mental health issues into the mix and there's no wonder you're finding it difficult. I like Grace Victory for body positivity, but I even see her sometimes share that she's having self esteem issues, so even those who appear body positive and happy with their bodies aren't always feeling like that. Hope you keep on this healthier path and start to feel as beautiful in your skin as we know you are! xx

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    1. Thanks so much Nadia! It's a shame Summer can be such a huge trigger for people when it comes to body positivity, or the lack of it, and it makes me feel sad too that there's so many who feel they can't wear what they want to wear or avoid social interactions because they just want to hide away. I look at you and envy your figure so much! I will defo go and check Grace Victory out xx

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  5. A lot of what you have said resonates with me. I've yoyo'd my whole adult life and always been overweight pretty much. The only way I'd had success in the past was not eating enough calories and exercising a lot.

    My wedding is coming up in less than 5 months now and I joined Slimming World last year in an attempt to lose some excess pounds but after a few months I quit (again) for good. It just isn't good long term.

    I think the biggest change for me in my mindset came when I shopped for my wedding dress earlier this year. When I found 'the one' I already liked how I looked in it. This kinda made me lose motivation to lose more weight. However, the things that come along with the excess weight (muscle injuries, acid reflux....) have made me want to change my lifestyle, so I joined the gym and started working with a trainer. I am losing weight but I'm happy that I'm not going to be 2-3 sizes smaller by my wedding.

    Like you, I'm not sure I'm ever going to be happy with myself completely - I do really wish I could just be happy with what I see in the mirror at any weight. Like Jojo, i'm trying to be kinder to myself and I also follow quite a few body positive accounts on insta for inspiration.

    It's a journey and trying to get there is a great start!

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    1. YoYo-ing is totally the right word, i've been the same, but mostly overweight and struggling to find balance. That's so lovely to hear that you love how you look in your wedding dress, it can be such a stressful time without the pressure to lose weight and look like a different person! That's great you're working with a trainer now too. I'd love to find a vegan personal trainer and nutrition coach who I could work with in person. Thanks for your encouragement xx

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  6. Thanks for sharing this post! I can completely relate with you. As someone who has struggled with my weight since I was 10 years old this post brought me to tears because I know exactly how it feels to work out so hard and starting ridiculous diets only to see no results. I've gone up a size in the last year and this caused my depression and anxiety to worsen because I know I will only be content when I reached my desired weight but sadly I don't ever think that day will ever come. I've given up multiple times but always manged to start again because I know my future self will thank me one day. ♥

    mooeyandfriends.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh i'm sorry this post made you cry :( but I get that when you can relate to it so much it does make you feel sad that things are the way they are. It's especially harder when you look back and see that years have gone by of feeling the same and not seeing different results. It really doesn't help anxiety and depression either. I think they can be so inter webbed for people like us. I hope you get to where you want to be one day and well done for always starting again, it shows motivation and dedication to not completely give up xx

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