When I was about 9 or 10, one of our family friends made an offhand remark to me: ‘Thunder thighs”.
At 9, I was already aware of my body. I didn’t know what dieting was, I sure as heck loved those chocolate Scotch Finger biscuits and exercise wasn’t a scheduled event. I definitely don’t remember attaching an emotion to the terms ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ other than what they described adjectively.
That comment stayed in the back of my head though. I got a bit chubby (eating half a packet of those biscuits a night will do that) and don’t have one of those naturally fast metabolisms either; at the same time I didn’t really do anything about it. It was just something that bothered me a little, but I also didn’t really know how to change it.
Then I got sick with gastro in Year 12 and lost a lot of weight. Suddenly people kept telling me how good I looked. At that point I realized: 1) I could survive on just half a sandwich and a snack pack of pretzels a day and eating less=staying skinny, and 2) I wanted it to stay that way. Therein started my 16+ year battle with anorexia, bulimia, disordered eating, obsessive controlled eating, over-exercising and just general body dissatisfaction/hate.
And now, at 35, my thighs are still the area I ‘dislike’ the most.
Isn’t funny, and just a little sad, how something so minor (I guarantee this guy has no remembrance or the faintest idea of saying it or how it affected me) can affect someone so profoundly. Given, I can be oversensitive, lack self-confidence and may be more susceptible to criticism. But it makes me really sad thinking of that girl back then who hated her body and her legs so much that she would eat only fruit salad for breakfast and lunch, would obsessively walk/run for 2 hours a day, couldn’t cut corners on a kerb because it was cheating and not doing the full distance and who today, can still look in a mirror and can have her whole day’s outlook brought down because there is jiggle and lack of a thigh gap.
This is a call out to all the girls, and guys, who look at themselves with self-loathing and wish they could change themselves. It’s for my yet-to-be future daughter and all the other people out there following unrealistic Instagram feeds, who avoid all fats cos it makes you fat, right, and who hashtag #cleaneating.
Just stop it, for one moment and go and look in the mirror. Go look at the part you hate or your whole self and tell it that you love it. That it’s so strong. That it enables you to run and jump and skip. That you can stop exercising your body away, that you can stop hating yourself; you can do that now, if you want.
It’s a simple choice to let go, and wake up to the fact that it’s not, nor has it ever been, about how your body looks, but what it can do.
Those girls and guys you follow? They’re not real. And even if they are, they’re not YOU. You are not the same as them, nor can you ever be. You are born of different parents, genetics, culture, have a different metabolism, diet, climate, social and economic circle. You are YOU and only you.
So just stop it. Stop the hating and hurting yourself. When you lay dying, hopefully surrounded by people you love, it will make you so sad to think of the hours, days and years you spent loathing your body.
I am an advocate and always will be, of being healthy, and diet and movement are intrinsically, unequivocally, essential to this. I train hard three times a week, I ride my bike to work, I do yoga and walk where I can. I eat huge bowls of salads and vegetables, I spend my money on organic meat and fish, love cheese and have butter in my coffee. I avoid processed sugar, have minimal starchy carbs, never have Mccers. But if I’m out, or it’s a special occasion or I just goddamn feel like having a Nutella donut, I will. That’s healthy.
I’m good now with my body and what I do, and put into it. I am so much further in my recovery than I ever thought possible, but that ‘monkey brain’, that voice that tells me I’m fat, or somehow less of a person because my bottom is soft, still comes up and it can still be hard not to fall into bad patterns.
I have to look in the mirror and tell myself to ‘stop it’ then too.
With love and being gentle on yourself you will get what you are meant to have. Hate will cause physiological responses in your body that will lead to your love handles or skinny calves remaining exactly the way you think you don’t want them (look up psychoneuroimmunology, a relatively new area that demonstrates the link between your thought patterns and your physical body. It will make you rethink every thought you let go through your head).
So please, let it go and just stop the self-hating. The freedom you feel is so worth it, believe me.
(And seriously, life is way too short to never experience a Nutella donut, or whatever any other amazingly decadent culinary creation your heart sings for).