T-Shirt by Outloud Studio | (Post contains potential eating disorder triggers)
If you've ever struggled with any eating disorder, you know how daunting the topic of weight can be. Growing up, I always had a peculiar relationship with food. I never quite knew if I loathed it or loved it so much that I hated it. Comments about my weight started around the age of 10, when breasts started filling in, or in my case, not knowing the difference between breastessesssss and just plain fat to fit my already chubby frame. Looking like a black Bruce from Matilda with a Jerry Curl, I remember people pinching at my cheeks, belly and even boobs a couple of times, seemingly in awe of how my beauty and/or cuteness had faded into this prepubescent human food vacuum. Comments from aunts and uncles always had an array of joking tones ranging from "wooow, she's so big, where's her waist", "so unlike her sister" to "you're gonna have to be careful, lest she stays this way". I think then it's true when they say that you don't know what's "wrong" with you until someone tells you there's something wrong with you. These early interactions set the rolling stone of what the world at large would come to tell me in later years, that beauty had everything to do with factors outside my immediate control.
It wasn't until I moved to England at age twelve when I discovered that comments weren't only from curious adults, but also from kids who were at the dawn of puberty. At secondary school I discovered the era of flat pierced bellies, long necks, dainty wrists and lanky arms and legs. It was then that I started taking drastic measures to control how I looked. I swapped fufu for a tin of tuna in brine water, yam at dinner for litres of water, and lunch at school for a slice of bread if I felt really hungry. Then on came the bouts of bulimia for the next year. I'd never heard of eating disorders at that point, and I don't remember feeling like what I did was particularily wrong. I did what was logical to me, eat so not to get fat. Sure enough the weight did come off, but at an ugly price.
"I never once stopped to consider how my body type could affect what my skinny would look like"
For the next decade of my life I continued to struggle with my weight, never skinny enough, still 'big' no matter what I did. I've always been what would be considered a "strong" girl, big shoulders, big hands and feet, easily bulked out muscle if I wanted to. This body type wasn't built to be skinny and I refused to see that. During this decade I never once stopped to consider how my body type could affect what my version of skinny would look like. I spent more time trying to get rid of my muscle definition and flatten my bum than actually considering my health.
Now a few years later, and having to admit that it's still difficult to get this mentality out of my psyche, I ask myself what I really gained from all this self-hatred. And it really was/is self-hatred. I hated how I looked for more than half of my life. I'd walk past a mirror and dread seeing what was in front of it. I'd pinch, punch, grab, squeeze and twist at whatever fat there was. Phew, at times, I still don't know how good I feel about my body, if I'm being totally honest. I think a lot of people are silent about their weight struggles. We jokingly remark how chubby we're becoming, not really delving into how much it actually bothers us. And not to forget the slight glance up and down your body from people could be met with pre-emptive comments like "Yeah I know I've put weight on, I'm working on it", and "look at these fat thighs, how are you btw!?"I know this to be true, because I've never talked too much about my struggles with food—it always felt silly, especially because I still have the privilege of looking smaller (there really is skinny privilege in a lot of western culture!) than what I feel. And yeah, we're in an era of 'body-positivity' and acceptance, which is wonderful. But I never felt like I could relate to those messages because I never believed it for myself.
At the same time, I deeply regret the times in the past where I didn't think I was good enough. I didn't appreciate my body and I look back at those photos I took right here on my blog, which can serve as a painful reminder of where I'm not, and think what the actual fuck, Sherida — you looked great, you still do! You just don't believe it yet. I thought the whole body self-acceptance thing was a cliché...but it's cliché for a reason, and quite frankly a cliché more people should delve into, myself included. At my skinniest, I still detested my body. I just think, 'when will it ever stop?' And it won't, until I decide that I am good enough. Sadly we're always telling ourselves that we're not good enough, picking out our flaws and agonising about all the things we still need to "improve", like our bodies are some luxe showroom apartments that need to be "presentable" at all times.
"I deeply regret the times in the past where I didn't think I was good enough"
Now some years older, I can tell from the way I have to suck in my belly a little bit more to appear flat in my dresses that my body hasn't been quite as fit as it used to be. A whole two stones heavier, three inches or so around the mid-section and I need to genuinely be okay with that right now, not just seeing "body-confidence" as a trendy hashtag but harnessing it as personally as I can. I'm blessed to have a body that is healthy and functions as it's supposed to, that alone is cause to be grateful. I'm a grown woman with grown woman body-parts, and I'm not going to waste time lamenting what I had as a 16 year old girl with eating disorders. I have to accept myself as I am now, work towards being stronger, healthier and slimmer again but in a non-obsessive way. I want to work towards my goal boldly out of love for my body and not hatred.