Forgetting About Food – A Lesson in Body Image

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Today I did something empowering. I went to a supermarket.

It’s funny how memories work. The last time I wandered around an Australian supermarket, I was 25 years old and barely weeks into a year back-packing around the world. Looking back, it’s crazy how much has changed in the last 6 years. Not just with where I am in life, but also with my attitude towards myself.  When I think back to that supermarket, six years ago, food shopping was a very different experience, and one which highlights just how far I’ve come in terms of my own body image.

Whilst I’ve never outright had an eating disorder, I never had a particularly healthy relationship with food growing up. Nothing to do with my parents – they brought us up with healthy enough attitudes.  Everything in moderation – we were never force-fed or deprived.  But by virtue of being 5’8” and having a wider frame than those around me, from my teens until my mid-twenties I struggled with the overwhelming feeling that I was ‘large’.

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As a kid, I had always loved food, and never worried about it until I hit about 15.  And so as a teenage girl, surrounded by influences telling me to diet, I struggled. I couldn’t deprive myself of food, and so I would binge eat, and then feel so guilty about over-eating that I would try to diet, eating overly healthy for a few days, before I succumbed to something ‘naughty’ and binged again.

For that reason, supermarkets were always something I struggled with. As soon as I reached an age where I was in control of what I was buying, simple food shopping became a struggle. Throughout university – a time when I felt particularly big – I would wrestle between super-healthy food options, and the things I wanted to eat. Food shopping would take ages. I could never just nip in and out of a supermarket.

Last time I was in Australia, body-image still dominated my thoughts. I had just been dumped, and was feeling unloved and like I had failed in some way. I was looking for something wrong in myself, even though deep down I knew I’d had nothing to do with the reason we broke up.  Backpacking meant I no longer had a strict regime. I couldn’t exercise regularly, and my diet was all over the place. Every trip to the supermarket was an uphill struggle.

So what changed?

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The older I got, the more accepting I became of myself. I no longer compared myself to other people, and began focusing on me. Not my waist size, or the numbers on my clothes, but the stuff that really mattered. What my body had been able to achieve.  I climbed mountains, I ran marathons, I travelled the world all by myself.  I took on challenges, and I triumphed over them.

With that attitude, why should a simple trip to the supermarket still be such an ordeal?

The thing about your body is that you only ever get one. And you need to learn to love it, because if you don’t love it, no one else stands a chance of loving it. The happier and more at ease you become with your body, the more attractive you become to others. And the healthier your relationship with yourself, the healthier your relationship with others.  As I’ve said before on 30 Dates, when you remove your clothes in front of someone who is attracted to you, they don’t see the stretch-marks.  They don’t see the muffin top, or where you botched your bikini wax.  They’re just excited that you’re naked and in their presence!  So don’t draw attention to the things you don’t like about yourself, I promise they won’t be looking at those things in the same way!

Society is constantly telling us about weight. You only have to flick through a magazine to see articles about weight gain and weight loss. Every few months the latest diet fad is announced. People are praised for controlling their weight. Others are berated for ‘losing’ control.

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And yet the magazines don’t understand the real eating success. For most of us, who were brought up in a world of diets, accepted ‘norms’ and aspirational (photo-shopped!) bodies, ‘success’ isn’t getting down to a certain dress size. Success isn’t weight maintenance or sticking to a diet. Success is genuinely not worrying about food any more.  Seeing it as a fuel.  A power source.  A social enabler.  A fun way to spend an evening.

Today I succeeded. Today I went into a supermarket, and my only concern was what I wanted to eat for dinner. I filled my basket with things I wanted to eat. Some were ‘healthy’, others ‘not so much’. Not once did I dawdle to stare at the calories on a packet. Not once did I choose one option over the other because it might make me fat or thin. I chose food based on the price and what it tasted like.  And the only reason I remembered that last experience in an Australian supermarket, was when I watched a teenage girl take ten minutes comparing the calorific values of yoghurt.

Next time you stand in a supermarket aisle, worrying over the nutritional content of the products you’re buying, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re doing it.  Are you simply looking after your health, or is there more to it?  And if you are worried about your own body image, what can you do to make yourself happier when you look in the mirror.  We only get one life – why waste it worrying about the stuff which is designed to give you the energy to go and tackle all the really important stuff!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

 

 

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