I AM NOT FAT | THE START OF MY JOURNEY TOWARDS A BODY POSITIVE MINDSET


TW: BDD, EATING DISORDERS 

I've started writing this post so many times and I always stop half way because it's so difficult to talk about. Loving the body you have is an exercise in learning and unlearning so many things. 

A couple of weeks ago I was busy doing my 3 month declutter and I came across a shoe box full of my old journals from high school. I opened one up from my matric year and it was filled with such self-loathing it left me reeling. While reading the terrible things I wrote about myself, one thing became very clear to me: I never want my daughters to feel this way about their bodies. 



I grew up in a "clean your plate" home. My mom was always thin and diets never really came up in our house. But there was one moment in my childhood that stands out as a defining moment for my self-image, I must've been 12 or 13, only slightly heavier than average and I had a super itchy spot on my leg, behind my knee. I asked my mom to have a look and when her eyes met mine I was so confused. Why did she look so disappointed? Wasn't it just an itchy bite? She said; "you're getting stretch marks". I asked what that meant and she said: "it's when you grow to fast and your skin stretches." I didn't need to hear more. While she never said it with malice or anger, I got it. My body was growing faster than my skin could stretch. I think about this moment often. It was the first time I realised that fat meant ugly. It was the first time I realised that I was not like my sisters or my peers. I was marked. Itchy and red, my legs looked angry at me for doing this to them. I hated it. Every time I passed the full-length mirror I looked at these disgusting lines behind my knees and I started to hate myself more and  more. Like many people with eating disorders, food is the thing that anchors us. Binging made me feel better. Safe. I made myself uglier on purpose. I felt it taking over my life, this obsession with my body. This crippling sense of self-loathing. 

High school was a rollercoaster of starvation, binging, Thinz tablets and oh yes, more of that self-loathing. I just wanted to fit in, to feel normal. I remember my desperation so vividly, and even now, all these years later, it hurts.

My early twenties was the first time I realised I could look different and still be attractive. I had boyfriends, I wore clothes that made me feel sexy. Slowly those feelings that were synonymous with my teen years disappeared. Then a few years later, Regan came along and on our first date he told me that he used to walk behind me to the train station most mornings and just stare at my butt. I think that's when I realized he's a keeper. When we found out I was pregnant with Sophie we were over the moon. I had a blissful pregnancy. I fell in love with my changing body every day and in every way. I ate when I was hungry. I gave into my cravings and it felt so good. Having a natural, drug-free birth instilled in me a deep respect for what my body could do. I felt invincible. 

Then I saw my naked postpartum body for the first time and at the risk of sounding dramatic, I fell to my knees and wept. Who was this saggy, flabby, stretch-marked mess looking back at me? Where did my beautiful boobs go? And my flat, stretch-mark-free tummy? What have I done? In that moment I was 13 again, looking at a body that filled me with disgust and shame. And just like that I was back in my spiral of self loathing and binging. I gained 17 kilos when I was pregnant with Sophie and another 17 in the two years after she was born. I couldn't leave the house. I didn't see friends. Getting dressed pushed me close to tears every day. I was in such a state of emotional pain I didn't know how to pull myself out of it. Then one day I weighed myself and the number staring back at me jolted me. I could not keep doing this to myself. I am not healthy. I am killing myself with food. It's got to stop. So I went on a diet. I managed to stick to it for long enough to kind of get back to the weight I as before I had Sophie. Not thin but a size I am comfortable with. 

We decided we'd start trying for baby number 2. It was difficult. Miscarriages and failed attempts pushed me back into old behaviour. When I did eventually fall pregnant I vowed to be militant about my health during this pregnancy. Morning sickness hit me hard and unlike most moms, I didn't curse it, I didn't complain. I was grateful. I was grateful because I knew it meant I would not gain that much weight while it lasted (I know how this sounds). In the end I gained 8 kilos. Grace weighed 3. I lost it all pretty quickly after Gracie was born. 

This time, looking at my naked postpartum body was a little different. I had a big cut across my belly. My stretch marks from Sophie had faded. My tummy was hanging lower and my boobs looked heavier and more swollen that they had before. But I wasn't filled with that familiar sense of self-loathing. I was looking at a body I didn't feel 100% friendly towards, but it was a body I (somehow) had grown to respect. 

And so this internal dialog began. What can I do to accept and love myself? Will being thin fix my negative body image? Will being thin stop my sense of self-loathing? What message am I hoping to leave my girls with? How will my behaviour affect their self-image? Am I happy? What do I need to happy with myself? Will meeting those needs be enough? 

I started reading. I read a lot. I started unfollowing all the people on diets and followed all the people preaching body positivity. I struggled to get behind the concept. Are you saying I should ignore the legitimate unhappiness I feel when I look at my body? How can I learn to love something that's literally brought me so much shame for most of my life? Is this insane? I should just keep dieting.

But then it started to make sense to me. Loving myself does not mean I need to stop working on myself. Healthy is not a synonym for thin. Fitness can happen at any size. I can be happy and comfortable with the way I look and still work out and strive to be better and fitter. I can be happy and comfortable with the way I look and still eat healthy food. I don’t need to diet. I don’t need a course of Duromine.


So here I am now. Dipping a toe into the body positive movement. And even though I am not yet immersed, there are some basic truths I now live: 

  1. I HAVE FAT, I AM NOT FAT - I AM A PERSON WITH A LIFE AND THAT LIFE IS NOT DEFINED BY MY APPEARANCE. 
  2. WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT PROFITS OFF LOW SELF ESTEEM. I AM DONE FEEDING THAT BEAST. 
  3. EXERCISE IS NOT A PUNISHMENT FOR ENJOYING FOOD. EXERCISE IS A CELEBRATION OF WHAT MY BODY CAN DO. 
  4. REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES IS A LOAD OF BULLSHIT, REAL WOMEN ARE WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT TO BE WHENEVER THE HELL THEY WANT TO BE IT. 
  5. IT'S OK TO BE VAIN. 
I have a responsibility to my daughters to be the best role model I can be. And while there are many facets to that, the one I can no longer ignore is my self-image. They need to learn that true beauty is a reflection of your state of mind, not the state of your body. I need to be the guiding light that shows them that there is no such thing as a bad or wrong body. There is no right or wrong way to be a woman. I need to use mindful language when speaking about bodies. No more using words like diets, or skinny or fat or muffin top. No more talking about myself negatively. No more making statements about physical beauty. I am the gatekeeper to their self-esteem and I need to do everything I can to ensure they don't walk the path I did. And that starts with loving and accepting who I am today. 

Life is so full of drama and happiness and pain and love and excitement and danger and worry and joy and fun and and and.... I'm here to take up space, to eat the food I love, to enjoy the feeling of my body working out, to be vain AF, to flaunt whatever makes me happy. I have wasted so many years hating everything about my appearance; I can't afford to waste any more.  

Now, I don't normally end off my posts with a request that you share what you have just read, but in this case, I am going to say this: if you read this and resonated with you, or you know someone that could benefit from a positive message then please do share. 

Xxx

Nikki Lincoln

Thanks for reading my little blog! I'm Nikki, writer, mom, passionate foodie and bookworm. In addition to my blog, I also craft creative and engaging content for various FMCG brands and a few events companies.

On my blog you'll find parenting tales, tips and advice, occasionally a recipe or two, products reviews and once in a while even a giveaway. If you'd like to say hi or find out more about working with me or my writing services please pop me a mail: nikki.lincoln@gmail.com

7 comments:

  1. Dearest Nikki

    Thank you for pouring your heart so beautifully and courageously! Well done on facing those ghosts, and deciding to go on a journey of self love and discovery!

    Your daughters have one hell of mama to look up to!!!!

    I've struggle with a few other poor self image moments, and still struggle with. Thanks for the reminder that we can be whatever the hell we want and that we are not our body : type, shape, height or form!

    We are beautiful because who we are is enough xxxx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes to this! 3 is especially true for me right now, since discovering the joy of exercise. I have never felt this strong and it's something I want for everyone, and for my daughter (and son) too - to discover this joy in what your body can do. This is beautifully written and I look forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this post so much...spending most of my life as a tiny thing, the post baby weight has brought up so many issues with me, I can totally relate to not recognizing yourself in the mirror. I really need to stop with the "when I lose weight then things will be better" mindset

    LOVED THIS

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ur post hit home for me,and now as a mom of 2 girls it's so important for me for them to be good enough what ever they look like, we are beautiful in all the shapes and sizes we are

    ReplyDelete
  5. Crying, just full out crying.

    This post Nikki...I so don't have the write words for how deep it struck.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is brilliant! I love it! xxx I am struggling with this at the moment. So much of who I am and my self worth is tied up in how I look and my struggle with my weight and my poor relationship with food is NEVER ENDING!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really enjoyed this post Nikki :) you touched me right there where it resonated the most

    ReplyDelete

I love comments!

Instagram