‘Since I met you, you’ve been trying to lose weight’. These are the words that woke me up to the problems that I actually have with my body confidence. They were such a shock to the system especially because they were said by a girl who I’ve known since I was 16 years old and in Sixth Form and I am now almost 24. That’s just an estimate of the amount of time I have obviously struggled with my body image.
It started with things like wanting a gap tooth and dimples. I would go as far as trying to put the lollipop stick in between my teeth and leaving it there for as long as possible. Obviously, that didn’t work.I just thought that having those features would make me prettier.Then I hated my hair because it was so short and my mother had long hair. Then, I was cursed with acne throughout my teenage years.
Then, it moved on to weight and this is the one that has stuck with me the longest.
First of all, I would like to say that I am aware that I might not necessarily fall into the category of people who would be bullied for their weight and this is just about my own personal struggles without undermining anyone else’s. Having had this epiphany if you will, brought about by my friend’s statement, I began to try to trace where all these insecurities came from. “How far back does this go?” I asked myself. I thought back to secondary school where people always commented on the fact that I was too skinny, so that was one issue – however secretly I liked being so slim because most of the women in my family were slim and all the girls on tv were as well.
Fast forward to my gap year – when I must admit that I was home a lot and did not go travelling as I wanted to because my mother thought I would be kidnapped, amongst other reasons.Obviously, the pounds began to pile on as there was a KFC down the road and I had a free oyster card – ahh, the good old days. Now, the comments would come from my own family. The thing is, I know they meant it in a ‘good’ way but as many people of African descent know, our parents’ delivery is not always the most tactful. So, there I was, really unhappy about the fact that I was no longer skinny – something that I used to hate being called, ironically. This led to me taking my uncle’s gym membership and joining the gym. I went to this gym that was so far away but I didn’t mind the journey because I wanted to shift the pounds, however at this time I was also really shy. So after a guy tried to chat me up at the gym, I was so terrified that I never went back – sidenote to the guys, please leave girls alone when they’re trying to work out.
Now, what was I to do? I decided to find a women’s only gym but could only find one and it was so expensive – Remember that I was only 18 at this time. Then, I started searching online for other options and this led to me buying slimming pills. You know when you do something that is dodgy and you try to hide it from everyone? I knew it was wrong but I lost so much weight in a short amount of time and I figured being able to fit into that bodycon mini dress was well worth the risk. I also don’t think I told any of my friends at the time and just accepted the compliments on looking nice like it was magic. This went on until my aunty either found the pills or I confessed because I was always stuck in the loo (is that TMI?) – can’t really remember at this point – but she made me get rid of them and gave me a speech about the dangers of them which scared the life out of me. At least after that incident, no one commented on my figure for a while.
Moving on to university, at the end of my first year, I had somehow ‘miraculously’ lost a lot of weight and I was finally ‘happy’ once again in my own skin. Then, along came the obsession with curvy bodies and I was beginning to be ashamed of being straight and slim. There were all these girls on Instagram, who were slim but still managed to have these curvy figures as well and I just didn’t understand it. I decided that I was going to starve myself so that my waist would be the smallest it could possibly be – bear in my mind that I was already a size 8 at this point. I can’t explain how pleased I would be when I would go into the shops and a size small would be too big around my waist – this is just to show you how unhealthy my mind was at this point. I would always say that I wasn’t hungry and my body eventually adjusted so that I couldn’t eat more than a certain amount of food and since I was the one cooking for myself, I had total control over my food. It also made me feel powerful that I was able to restrict myself in this way – even though I would always pretend that I was eating a lot but the truth is I cooked a lot more than I actually ate.
Let’s move on to post-university, I was at this point where I was okay with my body and I got distracted by job hunting whilst being fed constant meals at home and you guessed it – I began to put on weight again. At first, I didn’t mind but then the comments from family members began again. I think what people don’t understand is that when you’re already really sensitive about something, comments trigger you. I began to hate myself because I felt like I had lost control over my whole life – a bit dramatic maybe but this is genuinely how I felt. I wasn’t sure what job I really wanted and I wasn’t getting the ones that maybe I thought I should – but that’s probably because I was applying half heartedly anyway. The thing is when I’m down and sad, I feed myself lots of chocolate and obviously, that wasn’t helping matters.
All these issues I’ve had with my body image have been doubly hard as someone who loves fashion and clothes so much. This is because the ‘fashion icons’ all look a certain way and it makes me feel even worse when I try on amazing pieces and they don’t fit me the way it fits ‘them’. I am also aware that it’s probably going to get harder as I enter this fashion blogger space which is full of all these amazing looking girls. All I can say is that now I’m more aware of myself than I’ve ever been and I’m just trying to get back to a place where I’m happy in myself – in a healthy manner. I am also trying not to let anyone else affect the way I feel about myself but it can be really difficult when the self-doubt and judgment are internalised. How do you run away from your own thoughts?
I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that we should be mindful when commenting on other people’s bodies. I will put my hands up and say that I have made unkind comments – always in private though, I mean let’s face it, WhatsApp groups are the devil’s breeding place tbh. Those comments were a reflection of my own Insecurities as I couldn’t understand how anyone could be happy at a certain size as I wasn’t happy myself. I am trying to unlearn those behaviours because as I get older, I am realising that everyone is struggling in their own way and people should be free to be happy. I am also hoping that as a generation who spend so much time on social media, we don’t allow it to affect our mental health and tell us what is acceptable as beautiful.
There is so much more I can say on this topic but then this would be a little book and I know you haven’t signed up for that.
I just wanted to share so that anyone else who feels this way knows that they’re not alone. I am going to continue enjoying fashion – will deffo try to wear the clothes I want to without burying myself in baggy clothes because I think I look fat- and so should you.
If you can relate, please leave a comment down below.Let’s encourage one another
Until next time,