Learning To Embrace My Body

I keep putting off writing this post, and even as I sit here in front of the computer now, there’s part of my brain that’s saying “What makes you so special that you think people care about the fact you ’embrace’ your body? Smug cow!”. You see unlike many other stories you read about people’s dramatic body transformations and journey to self love, I haven’t had an eating disorder, I haven’t gone through a traumatic illness or disability, and I haven’t been the victim of bullies or abuse, so what’s the big deal?

It was only when I was talking to a friend over coffee the other day, and explaining my concerns over not wanting to come over all ‘look at me aren’t I great’, that she turned round to me and said, “Yeah but Bex, that’s exactly what people want to read, because it makes it real, it makes it more relatable to the vast majority of people out there and that’s when you start making an impact”.

In that moment I realised she was right and that in a way, if I really thought about it, then yes I have experienced an eating disorder in the form of yo-yo dieting and the pressure I’ve put on myself in the past to look a certain way, and in a sense that was an ‘illness’ I had to recover from, and that in actual fact I have been a victim of bullies…MYSELF.

Since building up my business, blogging and becoming more educated about nutrition, fitness, wellness and getting to grips with what generally works for my body, combined with having a family and just generally growing older and wiser, I have learnt to become 100% accepting of my body.

I love my body, I love how it looks, I love what it does for me

and I love what it has given me.

Next month, myself and three other ladies are hosting a screening of the Taryn Brumfitt social impact documentary Embrace, which looks at the ever-increasing negativity that, women in particular, have of their bodies and the damage it is doing to our esteem, self worth and worst of all our children. Social media and the media play a huge part in this, with the entirely unachievable, but still very much lusted after ‘perfect’ body that emblazons our pages and screens.

We hope that by sharing this documentary we can help empower women to view their bodies in a much more positive light, to recognise and celebrate their imperfections, differences and uniqueness and ultimately to ’embrace’ themselves.

Having watched Embrace for the first time myself, what stood out more than anything for me was the impact that body image and perception has on our children. Teenagers today are exposed to this way more than we ever would of as children, simply because of their access to social media. It is not something we can protect them from, but it is certainly something we can educate and talk to them about. My daughter is 7 and already she is thinking about the way she looks; the other day she told me her thighs were too big and that if she wears lipstick it will make her beautiful. I obviously explained to her that this was not the case, that she is beautiful as she is, but what a sad state of affairs that at 7 she is already picking up on things that suggest she does not fit in with that ‘ideal’ image. For the record I don’t wear lipstick and although my thighs are big, I never describe them as such, instead I use words like ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’.

I’d be lying if I told you that when I look in the mirror I see perfection, of course I don’t. When I look in the mirror I see a wonky head, wobbly thighs, big open pores, spotty skin, mottled teeth, white hairs, and boobs that have shrivelled and shrunken like sad week old party balloons. And maybe even only a year ago I would have let all of those things bother me (in the words of Rag and Bone Man…I’m only human after all), but now, well now I couldn’t give two hoots.

So what’s changed?

Many of us are guilty, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, of pointing out our flaws, but we find it far less easy to talk about the things that we like about ourselves. When people look at me, they might not even notice some of the things I’ve just pointed out, but they’re certainly going to now, right? And when we spend so much of our time negatively analysing our bodies, pointing things out to people, trying to cover up the bits of ourselves we feel insecure about, all we’re actually doing is highlighting them further and cementing that negativity deep within ourselves. It isn’t kind and you certainly wouldn’t dream of treating someone else in this way, so why do it to yourself?

A big life changing moment for me was throwing away the scales. It felt like a huge albatross had been released from my shoulders and it marked the final acceptance of my body. Since that day I’ve not looked back. Let me give you a bit of background of, well let’s call it the story of my body, to show you the journey I’ve taken to get me to my point of embrace.

I was always quite tall growing up, one of the first girls in secondary school to really shoot up and with it came a degree of gangliness. I was fairly sporty, more than capable in PE lessons, strong, fast and keen to get stuck in, but I was never one for joining a sports club, I guess I just never found my thing.

I left school at 18 and went to art college for a year, which also saw me move out of home and into my first flat with my first proper boyfriend. There was lots of partying, lots of drink and lots of fast food; I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted and yes I was putting on weight, but so what.

I was probably at my biggest at this point, around about a size 14-16, and as art college ended, university started, I began comfort eating as a way of blocking out how unhappy I was. I wasn’t living in halls, I was commuting every day, I felt trapped and older than my years, already in a committed relationship and I was only 20.

The change came when I met my now husband just before turning 21. I’d moved back home with my parents, was still commuting to uni, but of a weekend I would drive to London to spend time with him. It was exhausting, but life felt like fun again. Weekdays were for working hard and weekends were for partying harder.

When I completed my degree, I moved up to London, we got a place together, I got a job and we were living the London dream. Back then there was far less emphasis on healthy eating and fitness, so we didn’t even consider it. We ate whatever was convenient and we made a half-hearted attempt to join a gym and maybe used it once or twice. It was only when a long awaited marriage proposal came and the thought of having to fit into a wedding dress that it made me start thinking about what changes I wanted to make to my body.

I joined Weight Watchers online and being the all or nothing person that I am I took it incredibly seriously and became meticulous at writing down every single thing I ate. I can’t deny that it worked, I lost 2 – 3 stone, but I became obsessed with what points certain foods were, I was weighing myself every single day, would get upset if I put on a pound, and started to work out in the home gym we had built. It began to take over my life, I was no longer enjoying food and the scales were literally dominating my life.

Then I got pregnant and having been effectively on a diet for so long I saw it as an excuse to go mad. I reasoned with myself that every time I felt a bit sick, I’d feel better if I ate something, which of course was never an apple, it was always cake. I put on three stone, with both my children.

But this time it was different.

Something in my mind had changed. It dawned on me just how special my body was. It had grown two beautiful, healthy babies and here I was giving it a right rough old time! I owed it to myself and to my children to stop wasting any more precious time on worrying about what size label was sewn into my clothes, what number flashed up on the scales and to stop caring about how I thought other people viewed me. Because none of it matters!

Since that revelation, I no longer go on the scales, I no longer obsess about the size of the clothes I buy, I eat relatively healthy, but I’m also by no means a saint, of course I still eat cake, have a takeaway and drink wine when I want. But because I give my body the respect it so rightly deserves, I now find that I naturally want to treat it better. I exercise regularly, and this time it’s not to lose weight, it’s because it makes me feel good, it makes me feel strong and I want to do it. I don’t want my children to look back and remember a mum who got upset about her jeans not fitting, or only eating salad leaves whilst everyone else was tucking into burgers. I want them to have memories of us running together, making and eating cakes together, a mum that laughs, has fun, who isn’t afraid of trying new things, going new places and who embraces everything about herself so that they can embrace everything about themselves too.

Yes I could have a boob job, teeth implants, visit a salon for a blow dry every week, have liposuction, a bit of Botox if I wanted. I mean I’d be broke and my family wouldn’t be able to go on holidays, we’d be eating baked beans for life and Christmas presents would be pretty damn rubbish, but I could in theory make it happen. Would it make me happy? Of course it blinkin’ wouldn’t!

My body is strong, it is healthy, it bears the marks of my life story so far, it transports me, supports me, represents me, it is ME.

I Have Embraced

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  1. says: Petra

    Thanks Becky for sharing your story, it’s really refreshing to read this and get to know you a little bit better. I think a lot of us have stories like that. I used to be 1-2 sizes bigger than I am now and my weight gain was just because I didn’t really pay attention to what I was eating and it was much easier to put pizza in the oven than cook a proper meal. I came a long way since then of course. A wake up call for me was my parents dying of cancer so I started to pay more attention to what I ate. I still have my own struggles at the moment but I am doing my best to stay healthy.

    1. says: Becky

      Thank you for commenting Petra and sharing your own story 🙂 I think if we could all just open up a bit, all just be a bit kinder to ourselves, and talk to one another we’d realise that, as you say, there are so many of us going through similar things, having similar thoughts that perhaps then we’d start to break down society’s expectations of what the ‘ideal’ woman should look like. ‘Cos let’s face it – we know she doesn’t really exist!

  2. says: Louise

    Hi Bex – your friend is right this is exactly what people want to read !! I am so glad you have embraced your body and I hope that lots of other people can begin to do this too. Perhaps with more people like us spreading the message of positive body image it will make a huge change – well done Bex #proud to have embraced
    Love louise x

    1. says: Becky

      Hi Louise, wow am so sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – have literally only just found your comment! Thank you for your kind words, it means a great deal and you’re right if just a few of us can chip away and help to slowly but surely build up positive body image then we’ve done our bit 🙂 x

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