Body Image & Happiness

I have just returned from a screening of Embrace – a moving and powerful film about body image. About learning to love your body, in whatever size or shape it comes, and the damaging impact media has on our sense of self-image when compared to photo-shopped images all around us. I cried with admiration for the filmmaker – Taryn Brumfitt and the amazing women featured in her film, all of whom are incredibly inspiring and awesome, not because of how they look, but because of WHO THEY ARE.

So why did I leave the screening feeling like the bad guy? Deflated, depressed and desperate to get back to my car so I could sob without making a spectacle of myself in public? In many ways I am the polar opposite of of how Taryn sees women progressing in embracing their own body image: I was obese and unhappy, joined a slimming club, and have shared my success and pleasure in losing weight. Like it or not, I have made my own contribution to slim-equals-happy, everyone-should-be-a-size-zero, big-company-weight-loss-money-making-scheme brigade. However, my views DO match Taryn’s, funnily enough, I DON’T think looks matter, I DON’T think size matters, and I DO think girls and women should learn to love themselves from as young as possible in order to fulfill their own potential.

Therefore that leaves me conflicted. I am about to set up my own slimming club. That is at odds with my viewpoint isn’t it? What about my journey within the last nine months? Am I happier because I am slimmer, and should I even allow myself to feel happier because I am slimmer? I have reflected heavily in the two hours since the film finished and am writing now for the sole purpose of continuing to reflect and question myself. Why do I want to set up a slimming club if not to encourage people to lose weight?

My reasons for wanting to set up my own slimming club are very simple – I want to help people, I want to fulfill a purpose, I want to feel like a valuable member of the community. For anyone that feels they WANT to lose weight, I want to inspire and show that it can be done, even when you think it can’t – I was that person. I do not intend to put a gun to anyone’s head and say this is what YOU SHOULD do. If you want to do it, I want to help. However I cannot control the original reasons why someone may walk into a slimming club. If someone is doing it because they think they should, from societal pressure, from media images or because they think slim equals happy then that remains their own journey to follow, identify and reconcile themselves with. What I do know, is that I was a hair’s breadth away from being diagnosed pre-diabetic. I had joint and back pain I couldn’t get rid of. My cardiovascular health was not as good as it could be. I wanted to change those facts, and was ready to change my lifestyle to do so. I don’t believe I have gone ‘on a diet’, I believe I have changed my eating behaviour and my attitude towards food. It is a lifestyle change that I love and has led to me feeling the benefit not only physically but also mentally, in many ways.

Taryn held a Q&A after the film, and we all listened intently. One of her messages was less judgement, more love. I wholeheartedly agree. I also waited in a very long queue of admirers afterwards to meet her. I often think that people’s first impressions of me are never representative of the person I am. As I disclosed my feelings of conflict Taryn recommended I read ‘Healthy at Every Size‘ – I couldn’t help but feel affronted. I will read the book but know absolutely that I was not healthy as I was. I may well put all my weight back on and then some, or I might not. I love running now – I absolutely couldn’t run at almost 17 stone, however others may do. I don’t suffer with the back pain I previously did. I haven’t had a repeat blood glucose test but the scientific evidence is clear – losing 5-10% of your body weight if you are medically obese increases good cholesterol, reduces hypertension, and can reverse insulin resistance amongst many other health benefits.  Therefore I cannot agree that there isn’t a place for a slimming club, and in particular the one I endorse has the motto #livehappy – that says it all for me.

Media images of women can be damaging. I would hope that if I attain my goal of getting on the Slimming World magazine front cover, as a size 12-14 as I am now, it would hopefully be inspiring to people who want the health benefits of losing weight. I ask not to be judged for losing weight, it is simply one part of my journey which always comes back to my mental health. It remains the basis for everyone’s ability to function in life. I am happier now than I was when I first walked into my slimming group. My mental health will always have a fragility to it, which is what leads me to question myself intently at every hint of conflict.

Love yourself as you are, absolutely, you are unique and amazing and infinitely more than your physical weight. But as with everything in life, if you want to improve at something you have to work hard at it, and if I can help someone with one aspect of that, then it will be an honour and a privilege.

Thanks for listening,

Emma x

Love yourself

 

5 thoughts on “Body Image & Happiness

  1. Ah, Emma! It made me sad to read this. You’ve put such a huge amount of work and commitment into something that’s really challenging and difficult, and achieved so much, and now you’re planning to try and help other people on their journey. This is all amazing stuff. Try not to let yourself forget that.

    I’m dubious about the whole ‘Love your body! Accept yourself as you are!’ thing. While I think it’s absolutely necessary that women accept and love themselves – I would never argue with that – I do feel that the body-positivity movement has become a new stick to beat women with. “Do you love yourself? No? You must! It’s because you’re not TRYING hard enough! Work HARDER at loving yourself!” It becomes yet another thing WE have to fix. We grow up in a society that teaches us women’s inner lives and thoughts and intellect and emotions and our work and efforts are second best, not as good or real or valuable as men’s, and that our only real value is in how we look. No wonder we’re in uneasy relationships with our bodies and selves. And for society to say to us, ‘Hey, it’s up to YOU to fix this attitude problem you seem to have’… well, it makes me a bit fighty.

    We all have to find our own way through it, and I’m sure body-positivity is really helpful for some. But there’s no one-size-fits-all (sorry 😉 ). You’re doing brilliantly. Keep on keeping on X

  2. great blog post, beautifully written. As someone who has struggled with my weight all my life (never obese, but overweight at some points), battled with eating disorders on and off, depression, low self-esteem and all that comes with that, reading your post is very refreshing…. It’s important to be healthy and fit….at any size… there are people twice my size but in much better health and fitter…
    After years of having no energy at all, blood test after blood test trying to find out what’s wrong with me, I’ve decided to change the way I eat (slowly, as I’m still a sugar junkie… ), trying to exercise a bit and see how it goes… I haven’t seen any changes on me just yet but hopefully I’ll see them soon, I’m just not patient enough and get really discouraged.
    Reading your posts, and fb updates are really encouraging and helpful and I know you are going to do great with your slimming club, helping others to get healthier (and thinner at the same time).
    Mirella

    • Thank you for your honesty, Mirella. I think life is tough, extremely tough at times, and we all fight battles daily. Granted those battles are different for everyone and one person’s battle may be another’s dream but regardless we all have to get ourselves through, the best we can. I think compassion is key – towards others – absolutely, but towards ourselves too. Tricky tho! Good for you trying out changes, and keep at it! P.s. sugar free February – HA! – not a chance, need that drug to keep going!!! xxxxx

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