“I’m still learning to love the parts of me that no one claps for.”– Ruby Francisco
This post has been really difficult for me to write about, I’m being the most vulnerable I have ever been publically and so I thought about a million ways I could start this post but what is better then being honest.
Before I get in to the heart of this post I would like to start with that this piece is in no way intended to shame anyone else’s body no matter what size or shape it is. This is purely about my own experiences and so it would be unfair to comment on other body types as I am not it.
This time last year I weighed 97kg. I now weigh 82kg.
This is not something that I outwardly celebrate and I’m going to tell you why.
How my mental health effected my weight-loss
I have always been the “bigger” friend in the majority of my friendship circles throughout my life and I didn’t care too much. I remember guys “liking” my friends in High School and me thinking to myself, “well that makes sense because I’m not tall, skinny and beautiful like they are; but that’s okay.” I remember liking my winter uniform better because it covered more of my body and didn’t show off my large legs or stomach as much. I remember wearing clothes that buttoned all the way up or had high necklines because I couldn’t even be impressed with my boobs, as they were a result of my weight. I remember wearing black all the time because it was a “slimming” colour and it would mean my body wouldn’t stand out as much- I still do this today but that’s more so because black makes me feel untouchable now.
(Beginning of 2016 in Melbourne)
You would think that would all change now being 15kg lighter, it hasn’t as much as you would think.
I have a severe, illogical fear of throwing up, I haven’t thrown up since I was 9 (I’m 20 now) and as I’ve grown older this fear has developed into intense anxiety/panic attacks and more. Around this time last year, I was out to dinner with friends and I don’t know what it was but I became the closest I’ve ever come to throwing up in quite some time and it petrified me; to put it simply, I lost it. I equated food and going out (particularly at night) to feeling ill and that has taken over my life.
To put it in perspective this is how it goes in my mind:
- If I am going out: I start to feel anxious because what if I became ill again? The anxiety makes me feel nauseas and I either go out and feel panicked the majority of the time or I cancel. If I go out, I won’t eat anything, so I have nothing in my stomach to make me feel sicker.
- If I eat something that isn’t excessively plain: I get panicked that it could make me sick and then that makes me feel anxious/nauseas and I won’t eat anything else for a while.
In the last few months of last year I had a lot going on that was adding to my stress; university, changes at work, travel, family events and a tyrannical director at my old high school’s musical (who literally made my own mother cry). The stress constantly had me on edge and feeling anxious, I was having anxiety attacks frequently and skipped a lot of meals because of it. I’m not proud to admit this but I believe it’s important for full disclosure; in the last week of September I was so anxious about a particular event coming up that I didn’t eat or leave my house for a week. I also barely slept because I felt so anxious.
(Myself and my little brother right before Christmas of 2016)
Fast forward to Christmas, in where I asked for a FitBit. During the set up on the app, it asks for your weight so you can track weight loss, I had asked for it because I wanted to achieve some fitness goals, so I weighed myself expecting to see 97kg and instead saw 82kg. In less than four months I had starved myself to the point where I had lost 15kg. My anxiety had controlled my life so much so that I was shrinking, this was great I had done no work and lost 15kg something I’d been dying to do and it was so easy. I remember telling some friends feeling proud of my weight loss, and them telling me that it was so dangerous what I was allowing my anxiety to do to me. That train of thought means I can now see how eating disorders can so easily start and become uncontrollable.
If anyone reading this knows me personally and is concerned, I did see a councilor to help work through my anxiety and I don’t skip as many meals as I used to. I am fortunate to have some amazing friends and boyfriend who make sure I eat, and an amazing family who took me seriously when I said I think I need to talk to someone professional. I still experience anxiety, more frequently then I would like but I am managing it better.
Mental Health Info and Hotlines:
Beyond blue: 1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue- Facts About Anxiety
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Young People and Mental Health
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 890
How my weight-loss affected my body image
The issue with losing 15kg to mental illness is that when people comment that you’re looking “good” “slimmer” etc, something they never used to say, you’re first reaction is to feel good about it but then you remember why you look “slimmer”. For me it’s a cycle of feeling ashamed, feeling validated, and feeling like maybe I should stop eating again to lose more weight and get more compliments. It sucks that it took my anxiety’s toll on my body for people to comment on it in a positive light. Prior to this year the majority of compliments given to me about my appearance were about my eyes, nails and smile- well and my boobs but as I previously addressed, they’re only big because I’m over weight.
Suddenly my body that I originally felt indifferent to, I couldn’t even feel like I could embrace my body and be happy with it, because it was a result of an unhealthy mindset. If I couldn’t be happy with my slimmer body and there was no way I wanted to go back to 97kg, something had to change.
Steps I took to embrace my body
1. I work out: I used to go to the gym a while back but I hated it and I have work out equipment at home. It is also worth mentioning I don’t diet, I still eat, but I don’t drink caffeine (it sets off my anxiety), I don’t drink soft drink (I do at parties but I rarely go to those), I don’t drink alcohol (too much could make me sick and frankly I hate the taste), and I only eat when I’m actually hungry. That’s been a challenge to eat when I’m hungry not when I’m bored. I may not be proud of how I lost 15kg but I can be proud of how I maintain it and lose more weight and/or tone up.
2. Clothing challenges: over the past few months I have purchased items of clothing I never would have because I never thought I could be okay with showing that much skin. I bought a bikini- something I haven’t worn since being 5 in an Ariel bikini. I bought sheer/mesh clothing, so I could get comfortable with showing off my body without being naked. I bought lingerie- no not for my boyfriend, for me to get comfortable with feeling secure and attractive in my own body before I could get comfortable with someone else being attracted to my body.
3. I did an underwear photo-shoot: This is obviously a bit extreme for most people but I found it to be truly empowering. Last year my Mum signed me up for a competition to win a gift voucher at Rosie Button Photography and I won. Rosie specialises in vintage photography and during the photo shoot you have your clothes provided and you have your hair and makeup done while scones and sandwiches are provided. I did a shoot with my little sister but I also did a solo underwear shoot.
I debated whether or not to include any of the pictures here but I think it’s important for other plus-size girls around my age to see that we can truly be sexy and empowering.
I’m in no way saying this is easy, it’s not, you’re being vulnerable and if vulnerability was easy it wouldn’t be called that. The point I’m making is I had to introduce myself to my new body and come to accept it for it’s changes and how it got there. Like I said I might not be proud of how I got here but I can be proud of maintaining it in a healthier manner, and to not be on a path of accepting my body would be more dangerous in the long run.
Being bigger then my partner
(Out of respect for my lovely boyfriend I won’t be inserting a pic os us)
If my mother or any other family member is reading this, you might want to skip this part- it’s up to you though.
In a previous post I mentioned that my one year anniversary was coming up with my boyfriend. Being vulnerable with yourself is one thing, the only person judging you is you, but being vulnerable with someone else takes way more strength and fake confidence then I thought. I’m going to be honest, my boyfriend is skinnier then me and it’s not something I think about unless I see photos of us or we are being intimate. It’s really hard not to think about it in these scenarios. I know for myself and a few friends in similar scenarios that when your partner, who is skinnier then you, compliments your appearance calling you beautiful, sexy, etc my first thought is to not believe them. I go from not thinking about my body to hearing about it and it makes me literally throw a blanket over myself and hide, fully clothed or not.
I personally don’t really have any advice for people going through the same kind of thing, because I myself am still working through it. I know that the compliments come from a place of love and not malice, which is how I cope with it, if it truly bothers you to a greater extent I would talk to your partner about how it makes you feel. Who knows, you might learn something about yourself through how your partner sees you.
What I think it comes down to is you have to come to a certain level of self-acceptance before you can accept someone else’s acceptance of you. Obviously I don’t think anyone can fully accept themselves, not really, it’s more so getting to a place where there are more things you accept about yourself then you reject. I myself am still on this path but I’m proud of where I’m heading, even if I want to just wear a suit that makes me invisible some days.
How does this relate to beauty?
I realize this piece is heavy but I needed to give some context into what I wanted to talk about and that is the misrepresentation of plus-size people in the beauty and fashion world. What sparked this piece was watching this clip of Tim Gunn talking about the fashion industry needing a makeover: Tim Gunn on why the fashion industry needs a makeover
He essentially talks about how the average size in America is “plus-size” and so the fact that designers and retailers only design/make clothes for straight-sized people they are missing out on over 80 million people in America alone. Plus sized people, particularly women have severely increased their spending habits on fashion but there’s nothing good out there for us. When I was larger the only store that I could shop at to get “nice” clothing was City Chic. Now I’m not hating on City Chic, their clothes are very nice but they’re also very expensive and for a student like me I can’t justify it. And so I’d be stuck in my target leggings and t-shirts.
The point I’m trying to make is I would say a lot of plus-size women are trying to slim down, so they can feel accepted by themselves and their peers, and I’m not criticizing that. What I’m critising is the fact that in the meantime we as plus size women can’t look good. As Tim Gunn says “the plus size women is difficult” we are, we have different proportions then a straight-sized person. It’s not just a matter of making the clothes bigger, I might be bigger but I’m not taller, I don’t want to spend $70 on jeans at City Chic to then spend another $20 to get them taken up. I don’t want to have to go online to buy “on trend” clothes in my size if I can’t try them on and guarantee they’ll look good on me.
What I want for myself and for other plus-sized people is for us to have clothing options that make us feel good whether we are on our way to our body goal or we are there. Retailers and designers are missing out on millions of dollars by ignoring the plus-sized community, and it’s no wonder that so many of us can’t feel okay about our body when no one wants to make clothes for us. It’s particularly sad for plus-sized teenagers who can’t shop in the same stores as their friends because they don’t offer their size. I myself am currently too small for City Chic but still too big for most “normal” retailers- so what do I do? Spend hundreds of dollars getting the clothes I already own altered? Further more, don’t forget that when I was in High School I thought that no one would be attracted to me next to my taller, slimmer friends, and there was nothing out there to correct that train of thought. It’s disgusting that a teenage girl can look at herself and her friends and come to the conclusion that no one will be attracted to her.
Maybe if we didn’t live with a fashion industry that only wanted to design and make clothes for a straight-sized community and was more inclusive we wouldn’t have such a body-conscious society that “fat-shamed” or “skinny-shamed”. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so ashamed of my body, of what it was and what it is now. I thought our worth came from our souls but I guess I was naïve and I too am a victim of the fashion/beauty industry. I’m on my way to accepting my body for what it is, for where it’s been and for how it’s gotten here. The biggest piece of advice I can give for a plus-sized person who is struggling with their body image is to do the following:
- Wear whatever makes you happy and makes you feel good, regardless of the fashion “rules” put upon us
- Talk to your doctor about the best ways for YOU to loose weight if that’s something you want to do
- Work towards accepting compliments about your body, they come from a place of caring
- Eating is important and you don’t have to go on a crazy diet either, just start cutting back on small things like soft drink and coffee and work your way to bigger things like the amount of take-away food- but again speak to your doctor about what is going to be right for you
Body Image- Kids Helpline
Low Self-Esteem and Body Image- Beyond Blue
Every single human being is beautiful, hot and sexy, it just takes some of us longer to realise we’re allowed to be and feel those things no matter our body. I’m not 100% there yet but I’m close- I can feel it.
I hope you have a moment today where you feel beautiful