It’s true. It went something like “So now that you’re fat you are trying to convince everyone else and yourself that you are healthy…”
The picture he was responding to is the one I have shared above. A before/after of a different kind.
I have become privy to sharing these kinds of images on my social media channels – an attempt to break down the stereotypes we have around what ‘healthy’ looks like. That even though my ‘before’ image looks the picture of health (with my toned body, thigh gap and abs), I was actually extremely unwell. And that while in the after photo I am more curvy (even more so than I am right now given this was taken 2 months into a Europe dream trip where I ate whatever I wanted) – I was far healthier in the second photo – mind, body and soul. Even though I don’t have the abs, and heaven forbid my breasts are bigger.
When I posted this photo I didn’t expect much, because I wasn’t doing it for any kind of ‘exposure’ or external validation. I was sharing it for my clients – the ones suffering anorexia and bulimia, the ones who have attempted suicide and self-harm driven to helplessness because of an obsession with the way that they look. I was posting it for young girls growing up in an era like never before – where ‘fitspo’ and eating disorder encouragement Instagram accounts are easily accessible at the click of a button. Where ‘skinny teas’ are even a thing (why?!) I was posting it for anyone who has ever looked at themselves in the mirror and burst into tears. For anyone who ever fad dieted in an attempt to feel better about themselves, only having the opposite effect, and feeling far worse. I was sharing it for my sister, for my mother, for my family and friends – all of us who have ever felt ashamed by the beautiful bodies we have been given.
So you can imagine my surprise when the post went semi-viral. I had to re-charge my phone 7 times that day, until I eventually gave up and switched it off. More than 5 thousand people liked the post (and for someone who gets excited at 100 likes, you can imagine the overwhelm). I doubled my followers overnight. My message requests went through the roof. Messages like:
I am 18 from Paris, and I want to tell you how inspiring you are. I am struggling with a binge eating disorder. I feel alone. And sad. Seeing your account made me a little less alone and thank you for that.
Thank you for this post. I am trying to love myself but it is so hard some days. I see a post like your and we have very similar bodies, but one difference – you smile more. I need to learn to love mine and then mine will be beautiful like yours. Thank you for the inspiration.
Today I am in the first situation – obsessed with my body, my weight, the gym…my goal is to like myself and never feel this culpability again. And when I discovered you, it makes me strong because I know that I will arrive, I have hope, because it is possible.
Literally hundreds of comments and messages like the above. Beautiful women who are sick of fighting life-long battles with their bodies. Crying out for understanding and love.
So when someone jumps on my post and calls me fat, it infuriates me.
And not for the reasons you might think.
I have done the work on myself enough to know that these comments are empty words – in fact, at first when I saw them, I would smile. You know you’re doing something right when you start pissing people off.
But then I sat with it. And got mad. How DARE these people feel it okay to body shame with absolutely NO idea of my circumstances. It made me angry for my clients, for my followers, and for all the women who had reached out to me offering love and support, crying out for help. These people were not to know if I was battling an eating disorder. If I was self-harming or heaven-forbid had attempted suicide. Do they not understand the power of a phrase like that, especially on a post aimed to inspire and uplift?
It also shocked me the number of men feeling it completely in their right to comment on my breasts. The sexualisation of my body has been something I have been extremely self-conscious of. I am bigger busted naturally, and constantly hide my figure behind baggy clothes, covering my face with my long hair. Truth be told, part of me has never wanted to be ‘seen’. I have been conscious of my body my entire life for this EXACT reason – sexualisation of my body because I have big breasts.
When I made a comment about this on my Instagram stories, again my inbox was flooded with women who feel the same. Incredibly self-conscious of their beautiful feminine shape, because they don’t want to be a ‘target’ for unwanted male attention. It really struck me how big an issue this is. And how I no longer want to hide behind the baggy clothes.
I LOVE my body and I have worked fucking hard to love it. Every single inch of it. But that doesn’t give ANYBODY the right to abuse it, shame it or sexualise it. Ironically (or maybe not) ALL of the shaming was from men. And that upsets me because I love men – my dad, my fiancé, my brother, my best friends. Is this a generalisation I am making or a real issue? And either way, what can we do to stop it?
Truth be told – I have no idea. But I am grateful for my post, and the comments it received, because it opened my eyes to issues far larger than before/after pictures or ‘fitspo’.
And mark my words I will make it my mission to promote body love every single damn day. For me, for you, for our future daughters (and sons). No more baggy clothes for me.