Disclaimer: I wrote these blogs a long time ago! I'm leaving them up as I don't want to delete my journey and I think showing growth is important. But it means that some of my views, and some language I use, is now different. Please be mindful of this, and that the content might be triggering, if you choose to read on.
I made a body positive video in my underwear and then freaked out.
I call myself body positive, but I feel like a total fraud. I make videos and write stuff about body image and self-esteem, but I’ve just spent 20 minutes crying because of my stomach fat. This isn’t a new thing - I know my stomach is fat. It’s always been that way. I’ve never been thin so seeing my stomach in a video shouldn’t be shocking, but it still is.
My video involved me having some “fun” with some “suck-it-all-in” pants. A well-known brand is Spanx, but mine were a cheap version. There was no way I was going to spend more than a fiver on potentially the most uncomfortable pair of pants I’ve ever worn. So I bought them on eBay and instantly regretted it. I told myself I didn’t have to wear them, I could just have some silly fun with them instead, which might make for a good video.
I hated having pictures taken of me when I was younger, back in the day when you had to get pictures developed and you wouldn’t know what they were going to come out like. There was always a weird mix of excitement and dread when going to collect them. On seeing the photos, it was as if I was being shown the “real” me, the version that everyone else in the world sees. I always hoped I wouldn’t look as fat as I expected. I was usually disappointed.
I used to justify my fatness by telling myself “I’m not that fat” and that it was okay because I was doing something about it. I was doing what was expected of me – everything I could to not be fat. Seeing a photo of myself would act as proof that I was seen as too fat by the world. Even if other people said the picture was nice, all I saw was fat. I was looking for validation in a simple photographic representation of me. But what’s more real - a small projected snapshot of your body, or how you feel in the flesh? If I’d listened to my body, I’d have found that I was relatively fit and healthy. But it was so ingrained in my mind that you couldn’t be healthy unless you were thin. That fat is repulsive. That I’d never get a boyfriend if I was fat.
I was explaining this thing of seeing the “real” me to my boyfriend (proving my own theories wrong, see?) and I asked if he’d ever experienced a similar thing. I asked him if he’d ever seen a picture or a video where he didn’t recognise himself, or he looked bigger or smaller than he thought he was. He said no. Not at all. Never. I can’t imagine what it must be like to grow up in a world where you’re not scared of seeing yourself in a picture or video. Where you don’t get scrutinised, or don’t scrutinise other people for their appearance. Where you’re allowed to take up space without constantly having to try and change yourself to feel like you have a place in the world.
When I made this video with the suck-it-all-in pants, I had a feeling I might not post it. I thought I’d make it anyway, push myself out of my comfort zone and all that. But it takes a huge push to post it. When I watched my video back, all I could see was a big, wobbly, obese woman who looked as if she had never exercised in her life. I know I’m not that person, I guess that’s why it’s annoying.
I started to notice some of the old thoughts creep back in. “If I just stopped eating bread then my stomach might shrink” and “maybe I can just get used to the hunger”. All I saw was stomach. My automatic thought was that it was repulsive. That’s when I started feeling like a fraud. Then I go onto doubt all the thoughts I have about being “healthy”. I started to fat shame myself based on the voices of other people. But then I remind myself that my health this my own responsibility and even if I’m not being healthy, it doesn’t mean I deserve less respect, from myself or other people. When you’re not feeling healthy, that’s when you need even more self-compassion and respect to get yourself through.
I’ve been working hard on having body positive thoughts for years. It’s a long process. I try to catch my negative thoughts about my body and replace them with positive ones. I’ve learnt about the diet industry, and the media and society’s expectations. I’ve started to question the things I was taught about thinness and beauty growing up. I’ve been doing yoga and connecting to how my body feels instead of how it looks. I started to have a different experience of my body. But… I’m not immune to a meltdown. It’s like I “remember” that I’m a fat person and that means I’m “bad”.
Being a good, kind person is way more important than my body shape. Weight is nothing to do with acting like a decent human being, yet we’re taught that being fat is a terrible thing. We associate it with being lazy, slobbish and disgusting. The irony is, many fat people are taught they’re bad people for being fat but it’s the people telling them this that have the real problem. They’re the ones who are discriminating against people. They’re the ones who are boosting their own ego by putting someone else down. They’re the ones knowingly hurting another human being. Fat people are not the problem – people who are judgemental and discriminatory are the problem.
The whole world recently flipped out about Tess Holliday on the front page of Cosmopolitan. I noticed that people tend to fall into three categories in these situations:
1. The trolls - there to be as mean as possible, to provoke some kind of reaction or just to be hateful for the sake of it. They’re the equivalent of the hard bullies at school who beat people up.
2. The “Concern Trollers” - the equivalent of the two-faced popular girls in school. They pretend they act out of kindness by “pointing out” that being fat is not healthy. It’s like they think fat people have forgotten they’re fat and need reminding.
3. The millions of people all over the world struggling with body image issues. The people in this category are the reason why Tess Holliday needed to be on the front cover of Cosmopolitan. They’re the reason I write and make videos. They’re the people who are reaching out for help and inspiration. They’re the ones who will form a new generation of body positive people. They’re the teenage girls who could have grown up to obsess over and scrutinise every part of their bodies but instead, they’ll learn that they don’t need to be thin to be respected. They’ll grow up to respect their own bodies and are more likely to be kind to them. When people aren’t distracted with negative thoughts over their bodies they can focus on more important stuff such as school, college, work, careers, travel and generally just having a bloody enjoyable life. Why be worrying about your waist size when you could be travelling the world?
There are so many people like me that want to pass on the experiences we’ve had to help others, but we never stop learning and growing ourselves whilst we do that. Saying I’m body positive doesn’t make all the negativity go away. There are triggers, such as this silly video I made in my underwear. I still can’t bring myself to post it, yet I am disappointed in myself for not posting it. Body positivity is meant to relieve appearance-based pressures, but sometimes I just feel the pressure to be really good at body positivity.
If you’re reading this in the future, then hope I finally posted the video, but please – no judgement if I didn’t. Body positivity is a long journey after all, and it’s a big jump from not wanting to be on camera at all to making a video in my underwear. I realise I’m telling you all of this more for myself than for you. This post is in fact just a massive “just post the bloody video” letter to myself.
I’ve had lots of moments in my life where I’ve had to push myself out of my comfort zone - wearing a swimming costume in public, wearing a sleeveless top, wearing shorts. These were all terrifying at the time, but I just kept doing it. I kept wearing them and then it became less of a big deal. That’s literally it - desensitize yourself to yourself, as it were. In the same way that seeing more pictures of videos of myself made me more accepting. It’s just how I look, and instead of worrying about double-chins, I’m more concerned with the words coming out of my mouth. I keep pushing myself to make videos and I keep countering the negative thoughts. I’m rewiring my brain.
So maybe what I need to do is make a video in my underwear single day and it’ll become so normal I’ll want to live in my underwear. No, I live in the UK - it’s way too cold for that.
I realise now that body positivity is about being able to look at the picture or video and think, yes I have fat on my body but that’s not my defining feature. It doesn’t make me good or bad, it’s just a fact. What really matters is if the video means something. The content of the video is what’s important – and I think it’s vital to show people just quite how ridiculous suck-it-all-in pants are. I’m done trying to pretend my fat isn’t there. So those suck-it-all-in pants got what they deserved.
Okay, okay, I’ll stop banging on about it and post the video soon. I realise now I must do this for humanity, for a better world without stupid uncomfortable pants.