My negative thoughts and feelings towards my body began the moment I started High School at age 11. Like most young girls, I looked up to the models in magazines and assumed that was what I had to aspire to. I’ve never had a flat stomach like models do. It’s the part of my body that I’ve always been the most critical of but if I’m really honest with myself, past boyfriends loved my stomach for the soft feminine curves even though I did my best never to let them touch it.
I don’t know why we blindly assume that models are the ideal and only desirable body type. 90% of women don’t look that way in real life. Models are so airbrushed and photo shopped even they don’t look like that in reality. My Mum tried to discourage me from idolising them, but she is very thin and judgmental about anyone who isn’t so I disregarded her. I got very heavy in my late teens and stopped weighing myself at 90kg. My dress size ballooned to an 18 (I’m only 5’4). Mum was horrified. I didn’t really care what I looked like at the time as I had a boyfriend who loved me the way I was, but I felt sooo tired, drained and depressed (not from how I looked, but how I felt). I used to go to bed hoping I would die in my sleep… Then one day I woke up with a strong feeling that I had to change my life right then and there because I couldn’t keep going the way I was. I broke up with my boyfriend, changed jobs and joined a gym. Eventually I got down to a size 6 and just 40kg. I took it too far, becoming obsessed and addicted to exercise and to hearing people comment on how much better I looked thin. I was so hard on myself in restricting what I ate and exercising 7 days a week, sometimes up to 3 hours a day. Being overweight and underweight were both unhealthy for me – abuse to my body at either end of the scales. I didn’t love myself when I was thinner. At my tiniest I was the most critical of my body, always striving for ‘perfection’ which seemed so far out of my reach. My boyfriend at the time suggested I focus on how far I had come instead of how far I thought I had to go. I couldn’t see it that way and continued to punish my body, collecting pain and injuries along the way. In the past 10 years I have been a lot kinder to myself, especially after bulging a disc in my spine forced me to stop taking my body for granted and listen to it. I couldn’t walk, sit or stand for 6 weeks. A Facebook “on this day” reminder came up recently with a status I had posted 6 years ago during that challenging time saying “I just want to walk, simple really“. I would have given anything at that time just to walk into the next room of my house. That really shook me up and made me look at how I had treated my body. I had never given any thought to the many amazing things it does for me every day. I scrutinised instead of appreciated it. I quit the gym and started running or walking alone so that I could stop comparing and competing with others.
I eat healthy now because I genuinely love the taste and the way it makes me feel. I don’t restrict anymore, I nourish. I still exercise daily but I check in with my body first to see how much energy I have and adjust my workout accordingly. I have come a long way in terms of treating my body kinder, but I’m not 100% there yet – it’s a work in progress. I still had unconscious negative self-talk running in the background that I became aware of. The other day I did an experiment. I decided to see what would happen if I saw my body as beautiful and sexy at all times. I mean really feel into that energy. That week I had more attention from men than I have had in a very long time! It really is the way you feel that shines out to others. Self-confidence is attractive and magnetic! Around the same time I saw an Instagram post by Rosie Rees promoting her Nude Yoga workshops. She was coming to Melbourne and I just knew I had to go to really anchor in feeling good about my body and myself. I was scared but I felt the fear and did it anyway (and did Kinesiology on myself!). In this short podcast Rosie explains how it can help with body image. Everyone I told about it thought I was crazy, but if I said an 18 year old had Botox and fillers no one would flinch – to me THAT is crazy!! When did our most natural state become so abnormal and artificial become SO normal?
The night of the workshop 25 robed women sat in circle inside a warm candle lit room feeling nervous and excited. Rosie guided us through a relaxing meditation and then we all listened as one by one every woman explained why she was there. There were a lot of tears as most of these beautiful women held deeply negative feelings toward their bodies and felt disconnected from them. They talked about their struggles with wobbling voices, and all of us listened with full presence. We could all relate to each other’s stories, but it shocked me to hear how bad women feel about themselves! That’s the power of sitting in circle; everyone feels safe to expose their vulnerabilities. We drop the judgments and become so supportive of one another.
Rosie said we could disrobe anytime we wanted and there was no pressure or hurry. As we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable, the walls, anxieties and robes dropped in no time. Everyone looked beautiful in all our many shapes and sizes and it felt like the most natural thing in the world! It’s liberating and powerful to feel so free and uninhibited. Total acceptance of our most vulnerable selves without any judgement at all – just the medicine we were all seeking.
We did yoga in an inward facing circle to feminine music, then ended by sharing how we felt. The words being voiced were ‘relaxed, calm, connected, liberated, natural, beautiful, free, happy, loved’. One lady was so relaxed that she fell asleep in the Shavasana (meditation). We ate raw treats, had a group photo taken, chatted and laughed a lot. What a celebration of being a woman! I am as healthy as I can be and I can’t change my body, only how I feel about it. Right now I feel more comfortable in my own skin and when I don’t, I have my memories of that night to remind me that we are all perfect as we are.
Some very alarming stats Rosie put together:
😳 91% of women are unhappy with their body
😔 58% of women aged between 18 – 26 feel pressure to be a certain weight
☹️ Only 2% of women believe they are beautiful and only 20% of women consider themselves to have high self-esteem
😢 67% of 10 year old girls are scared of being overweight
😡 Only 5% of women actually have the stereotypical ‘Victoria Secret’ body.
😏 40% of women consider plastic surgery