I hated my body for a long time. I am still not happy with the bits that roll, sag or stick out. But I have found a peace with my body that I never thought I would. Lately I have found a way to be immensely proud of it too.
I am not my body. My body is not me. I live inside my body. That isn’t to say that my body is just a meat sack vehicle for me to get around in, it’s not. I have started to think of my body as a sort of faithful pet, or a plant. A very loyal, very lovely pet that has always done its very best for me, even when I was utterly awful to it. And I have been. I tried to cut myself out of my body, literally. I tried to kill my body. I starved my body, I hurt my body. I was angry at my body when my babies died, I called it ‘fucking useless’, ‘ugly’, ‘fat’. I cried when it couldn’t do the things that other bodies did with ease. Poor old body, it still kept by me, still kept me alive. I was angry with my body for not being the thing I saw in magazines and on TV and in my friends. I would not accept any compliments because my body was a thing of shame and disgust to me. From quite an early age I remember comparing my body to others and feeling embarrassed by it. Embarrassed by the things it had done, for the things that had happened to it.
I felt like my body let me down a lot. I felt like it did it deliberately, to prove what an awful person I was, my body held up a big flashing sign, a physical, outside pointer to how shocking and disgusting I was, a warning for others to stay away. My self esteem was always quite low. I hated my face most of all. I saw no beauty in it, no bonniness, no prettiness. I hated any fat on me, hated food, but punished myself with it, hated any weight gain. I have been on one diet or another since I was about eleven.
I have recently started to consciously look at my body not as a thing that needed to be changed, but as a thing that was doing a brilliant job, and needed to be treated with the respect and care it deserved. I joined the gym, I signed up for The Great North Run. I did it to raise money for Tommy’s, you can sponsor me here:
I’ve stopped restricting myself and classifying foods as good and bad, and it turns out the things I really enjoy are nutritional and healthy. I don’t eat so much white pasta, bread etc because it messes with my blood sugar levels, but I prefer brown rice and wholemeal bread anyway. I stopped using low fat spreads and oil sprays and swapped to butter and olive oil. My skin has improved dramatically. I don’t crave salt any more. I don’t eat meat, I don’t miss it. I weigh myself occasionally and I am slowly losing weight. I am losing inches.
My body has survived some big operations due to my poor old kidneys not being brilliant. My body held on to my daughter and kept her alive and would have delivered her alive if things had been different. My body tried so hard to make two more babies, my body went through five rounds of IVF and six months of clomid and all the awful drugs with all their awful side effects. My body survived all the things I did to it and everything else that happened to it.And guess what, turns out that same body who was fat shamed in the school sport’s hall, that body can run.That body can lift weights and climb stairs and manage excitable dogs and can reach and stretch and do these amazing things. I am watching my muscles developing and I am proud of my body for the first time in years.
Yes, I want my body to be stronger, healthier, fitter. I want to go into my forties in fantastic shape and feeling great. But I am so proud of what my body has done for me. I love my legs, I love my eyes. It’s a short list, but it’s a start. I want to love you, body. We’ll get there.
Here’s a poem I wrote about running. I wrote it after some lads in a car yelled something at me while I was out running. I was very proud to have it published in Kate Garret’s This Body I Live in.
It’s got some swears, so look away now if you don’t like the word FUCK. Sorry.
Yes, I’m fat with a crooked nose
from an accident with a lamppost
and a slightly lazy eye and I look
(or so I’m told) the spitting dab
of my grandmother. I’m thirty
seven and a bit. I am scarred, I am
scared, I am falling down drunk
on a Saturday night and too hung-over
to leave the house. But I run. You
see me running, or jogging, or
dragging my fat arse along, puce
in my moon face, eyes watering,
fists clenched, sweating under
each swinging tit, gob gaping
because I’m fat and I am running.
Because once upon a time I wore
skirts and bare legs and danced
in clubs and once upon a time
I wore skin tight jeans and looked
so hot I set the house on fire. At twenty
five I could have passed for sixteen
and when that cute little drug habit
kicked in I was the skinniest I’ve ever been.
And I remember that, like a drunken
dream. Not the stomach in knots
and the fingers down my throat
and the desperation to be thinner,
but the loose hips, light headed
high-as-a-kite girl with legs so long
they hurt your eyes and auburn hair
like Anne Boleyn. So, yeah, I’ve done
my time getting through and fighting on.
Now I am grown up and have a house,
and have a man, and when the things I loved,
I mean, the things I really loved, were gone,
despite me being so fucking good, all those
rear view mirror dreams, I fought. I fight on.
This? This training, this getting fitter,
this bringing myself back to something
I half recognise? This is nothing. Not to me.
So go on, laugh it up, turn away, whatever.
I don’t give a fuck.