Women are so much more than the sum of their bodies. We are beautiful, warm, loving, kind, nurturing, driven, compassionate, fun, strong, inspiring, capable and wise plus a lot more besides but so frequently we are judged by our outward appearance. This isn’t just external judgement, it can come from within too, with self criticism or a lack of belief.
It saddens me to hear women judge themselves harshly or talk about how fat they are or how they don’t like their bum, their skinny / flat chest or their belly. Often accompanied by much prodding and grimacing, and I too have in the past felt negatively about my body and who I am because of my weight so I understand where that comes from but trust me when I say that life doesn’t have to be this way.
It has taken me years to feel happy in my skin, to be able to look at myself and find I am pleased with what I see. I have a 13 year old daughter who is beautiful inside and out and I was always determined that she wouldn’t grow up with a negative sense of self. Every day she is told that she is loved and I frequently praise how attractive she is to me too, but I am also careful to ensure that I also offer up lots of praise for how smart she is, how I love her business skills (she’s an expert negotiator!) and how much I love that she loves her brother. For every compliment I give to her appearance I offer two about her qualities and who she is. It’s important to me that she doesn’t absorb the message that looks are everything. (And don’t worry – this seeming barrage of praise is delivered in a non-gushing way and not all at the same time!) It is a strategy I have adopted over 13 years to ensure a constant drip feed of boosts to create a rock solid centre. Build resilience and allow her to feel secure in herself as well as in our family. My daughter is also very humble and level headed. She’s a little rock star who knows her Mum is 100% in her corner, and won’t let her feet get away from the solid ground beneath.
I didn’t have much ‘building up’ as a kid. No blame here at all, but some of the comments I heard in my youth were in the form of “Look at those tree trunk legs” and one comedian in the family who thought it was funny to say “All that meat and no gravy”. Yes, it is just banter – to an adult. But words delivered as jokes to raise a laugh amongst a group of peers who would forget the ‘very funny joke’ within 24 hours can scar hard on a kid. I can still recall the exact words, the exact person who delivered them and exactly how I felt – almost 30 years later. No-one should have to feel belittled because of how they look. No-one should have to feel that they should conform to some ‘ideal’ prescribed by the wider society. We are all different and beautiful, because of our ‘flaws’ not in spite of them.
These incredible shots were taken of me recently by a talented photographer friend, Aby Moore. I asked Aby to help me create some photography showing how I look now, in this body, because I am launching a new website later in the year to help people who are affected by emotional eating, compulsive eating and issues with self esteem relating to their bodies. It is a struggle I have a great deal of experience in and over the last 6 years I have been privately writing about. My diaries, where I have untangled negative thought patterns around food and learned to help re-set my brain into a new way of thinking about food, are my toolbox to help me now help other people. I am still on my journey from my heaviest weight of nearly 17 stones, to how I look in these photos at around 14 stone 10lbs to my target weight of around 11 or 11 and a half stones. I’ll know what the right weight for me is when I get there, because I have been overweight my whole adult life so I have no idea of what the scales should say for me. I don’t really have a firm target weight.
But weight isn’t my number one concern anymore. I’m not obsessed with losing weight or getting a bikini body, my focus is on being happy in my body, enjoying food (not abusing it) and living my life to the full. Not sitting out experiences or nights out because I am ‘on a diet’ or scared to try something. We are only here for such a short time – I’m 41 years old. This means I’m probably half way through my life. Do I want to spend the next half in negativity? Prodding and poking and not being happy? Do I stuff! I want to enjoy a steak dinner, go out dancing, laugh with my friends, take lots of photos, have movie nights with my kids, hug, feel and embrace. I’m a lover, not a fighter – always have been. So it pains me to say I have spent a lot of time fighting with myself – I didn’t mean to but I didn’t know any better. But this is no more! It has stopped – for a while now I have been the person speaking to you from this blog post. I don’t criticise or hate my body. I love it for what it does for me. It has nurtured two babies. It gets me from A to B. It carries around my soul. It is the only vehicle I have – it is my absolute duty to take care of it, not to hate it. I want to share all this so that if you are stuck in a negative thought pattern about your body then it doesn’t have to be this way! There are too many things I read in the media and on social networking websites where the writer is unhappy with their body, so in order to redress the balance this is a post that celebrates our bodies!
I hope that you have enjoyed reading my story and if you are interested in checking out my new website visit http://loveyourselfslim.co.uk. To keep up to date with goings on behind the scenes and latest posts, do sign up to my newsletter. This mailing list will communicate information about Love Yourself Slim only (not JuggleMum… everything that is going on with JuggleMum gets published on this blog!) and if you have a special interest in a particular aspect of self esteem, emotional eating, compulsive eating or body issues, then do let me know in the comments. I already have a suite of blog posts on a variety of related subjects ready to go at all times but if there is something particular in this area that you wish to read I can ensure that it gets covered on this new website.