I’m not overweight, I’m obese. My thighs rub together, my armpits have flappy bits and I carry a lot of weight on my abdomen. For years I have struggled with my body image, not just the weight but even down to the skin colour and texture, the hair on my body. I have numerous scars from picking at things and plucking hairs in an effort to be ‘perfect’. I may well have body dismorphic disorder but I tend not to share this information with therapists and doctors.
In the last 5 or so years I’ve started to embrace my body. When looking for a new swimsuit for a holiday my now husband said I looked better in the bikini than the tankini. I doubted him but trusted him, I bought it and felt horribly self concious in it but I wore it. That was my first milestone.
Then I was at a pagan camp which had a spiritual sweatlodge. We were to go in naked and it was pitch black (it’s a clothing optional camp). I very quickly shucked my towel and dove into the darkness. When we came out some time later I was hot and sweaty, I was given the complimentary bucket of cold water over my head. I was handed my towel but was so hot I had no desire to wrap it around me. I’ve always felt more comfortable in loose clothing and sleep nude but was always too concious of my body to go without clothes at this camp. I went to the fire and dried off and didn’t put clothes on again until the night air was too cold. The next day I was approached by people at the camp telling my how beautiful I was and how they wished they had the confidence to do what I had done. I wished I could tell them the shame I felt over my body, how it had led me to harm my body, but I was too ashamed of that. I shrugged it off and decided that these people were crazy to think that. But the comments kept coming. I went without clothes at times at the camps that followed over the years. Partially because I feel better without clothes, partially because it felt spiritually right at that moment in time and partially for those other women at camp who felt about their bodies how I often feel about my own. To show them that they didn’t have to feel ashamed of their bodies.
I got married last year and went on honeymoon early this year. I dieted for the wedding and tried to lose weight but damn I love my food. Come the honeymoon I did not have the ‘beach body’ I had hoped I would have and again felt terribly self-concious. The first day on the beach in my bikini I headed straight for the water despite being a nervous swimmer, at least that would hide some of me. Building on those steps of wearing my bikini before and going naked at the camp I started to feel more confident in myself. My husband thought I was beautiful and sexy, other people hadn’t thrown up at the sight of me. These were encouraging points. Towards the end of the honeymoon we found ourselves on a beach eating lunch whilst taking a break from snorkling. I was in my bikini and snorkling boots and my lovely husband wanted a photo of me. I duly posed and started dancing around which he wanted to video so I did an encore. I did a ‘belly dance’ of my own making. I really felt happy in my body and it was a moment I had meant to post about but hadn’t got around to. I’ve shared the video on my facebook and made it public (I’ve still not worked out how to embed a video into these posts, if someone can tell me how I’d appreciate it). I still cringe slightly watching it. I see all the faults, but then I look at my smile and feel better about it. I wasn’t going to share any pictures of myself on here, but I feel that this is a just cause to break this rule. I hope by sharing it maybe it’ll help other’s feel less self concious. Even if it’s due to them thinking ‘I don’t look as bad as that belly slapping crazy lady’.
A couple weeks ago my house mate and I were looking through a Bravissimo catalogue and she commented on the slight muffin top one of the models had, saying it was reassuring to see that they got that too. We then flipped to the swimsuits and she mentioned something about tankinis not looking right on her because of the midriff gap. I’ll mention here this girl has a belly, waist line and hips that I long to have, and was one the first things I remember noticing about her and being insanely jealous of. I told her we can either hide away all our lives or we can dance on the beach slapping our bellies.
Today an article went around on facebook about a lady who had done a tremendous job losing weight but did not have a perfect beach body, as such photos of her ‘after’ in a bikini were refused by a magazine that had wanted to publish her story. It reminded me again how much society says to be beautiful we have to be skinny and flat bellied. Now I like looking at a ‘hot’ beach body in a bikini as much as most girls, well probably more than most girls, but it’s the photos we don’t share that are harming other women. We are only showing one side of the picture to young girls and letting more and more grow up with the idea that skinny = beautiful when the truth is that so many things make up beautiful.
Now I’m not saying I don’t need to lose weight. For health reasons I do, I want to live a long life, I want to have children and see them grow and then hopefully see their children grow. To do that I need to be healthy. But I don’t need to lose weight to be beautiful, to be sexy or to be accepted. No-one does.
I’ll leave you with a sentiment of another post that has been doing the rounds lately: