MY BATTLE WITH BODY POSITIVITY

BODY IMAGE, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL HEALTH, MOTHERHOOD, MUST READ, SOCIAL MEDIA, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

The majority of lists here on Mother of All Lists tend to conclude on a positive note. The fact that Harriet aka @tobyandroo was been brave enough to admit that she is yet to find ‘the answer’ or feel truly positive in relation to her body is really admirable.  Learning to feel truly at one with the skin you are in should be really simple, but often it takes years of ‘unlearning’ to get to that place.

  • I’m Harriet, mama to three feral kids aged 4, 6 and 7. I’m married to Adam who never fails to tell me I’m beautiful, especially when I don’t believe it. I write at tobyandroo.com and lately I’ve needed to write about my struggles with body positivity and orthorexia.

  • I was badly bullied as a child because I was larger. It is something that has shaped my relationship with my weight and subsequently body positivity.

  • When I was 9 my stepmother, who was very much the Snow White version, took me to try on clothes and remarked that I was so overweight I would need to go to the adult section. I was very tall but very unhappy after my parent’s split up and that contributed to my eating habits. I weighed around 9st at 9 years old.

  • When I started secondary school I was very much overweight and the largest child in the class by a country mile. I felt sad, lonely and ugly. At 11. That isn’t a good vibe but it’s all too common.

  • My mum decided that I needed inspiration and we made a deal that if I lost weight I would be allowed to have my belly button pierced (I mean, Britney had it done and I WANTED it.)

  • I lost so much weight, I ate salad sandwiches for lunch, nothing for breakfast and whatever my mum cooked for dinner in small portions. At one point I used slim fast shakes. I have VERY negative feelings about weight loss shakes now and to think I was using them at such a young age is sad. It contributed to an unhealthy yo-yo dieting that has followed me to the present. I don’t think my mum really knew the level of obsession I developed with weight.

  • I got my belly button pierced at 13. I am nothing if not determined when I really set my mind to it, so worse of all I have always known I CAN do it, which unleashes the demons even more so.

  • At this time in my life there was no such thing as body positivity – it’s a fairly new political movement that has been hijacked by the masses and confused with body confidence, in some ways for the better, in some ways not.

  • I kept my weight off, by 17 I was so obsessed with being a size 10 (the perfect 10, there are songs about it for Christ’s sake) that I would sob every time I couldn’t get into a 10. I was a 12 with a big bum and in the noughties jeans were NOT kind to big bums. No sir.

  • I slowly gained weight but maintained a fairly happy size 12-14 until I met my husband and we would go out for meals, booze it up like all 19/20 year olds and we both gained weight, me more so than him.

  • When I had Reuben, my eldest, I very unhealthy because I never exercised and ate nothing but fatty foods, take aways and my own feelings. I had maternal sepsis and was bed ridden for around 2-3 weeks (I was very lucky it wasn’t longer) and didn’t lose any baby weight. I had gained A LOT of weight.

  • I remember going to George at Asda with my mum to get some post maternity jeans when I could walk again and I was a size 20. I sobbed and decided I was going to do something about it.

  • I developed something called Orthorexia – a condition I only heard about in 2018, nearly a decade later.

  • Orthorexia: is a proposed eating disorder characterized by an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food. The term was introduced in 1997 by American physician Steven Bratman, M.D. He suggested that some people’s dietary restrictions intended to promote health may paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences, such as social isolation, anxiety, loss of ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner, reduced interest in the full range of other healthy human activities, and, in rare cases, severe malnutrition or even death.

  • I became so obsessed with weight loss. I determined to go on a high protein, low carb diet.

  • Over time that became no carb. Or as little as is humanly possible.

  • It started with just eating salad and marinated chicken or prawns twice a day, yoghurt for breakfast. I loved it. I felt so healthy after a month or two and I had dropped over a dress size.

  • Within a 3-4 months I was back to a size 14/16.

  • I decided I was still “hideous” so must do BETTER.

  • I cut the salad and chicken and spent a few weeks just eating yoghurt.

  • I hit my size 12/14 target after 5/6 months of dieting. From a size 20.

  • It wasn’t enough. It was never enough. I remember turning to a friend in a restaurant and telling her that I “Just wanted to be a comfortable size 12, then I’ll stop” as I ordered my breakfast and asked them to remove the potatoes, bread, tomatoes and add extra mushroom.

  • Eventually I turned to juice fasting. 5 days, 3 juices a day. No carbs. I did this on and off, I lost 14lbs in 5 days once and as much as I hate to admit it I am still proud of that. Which goes to show I probably haven’t come as far as I’d hoped.

  • Eventually I reached a size 10, my target for my entire teen and adult life (since 11). I reached it and I cried in the changing room, the sales assistant looked totally concerned.

  • I got pregnant with Toby and cried on the midwife at my 38/39 week weigh in because I had gained 1st. She told me that was extremely low weight gain for pregnancy and that if I was that concerned with my weight I may need to talk to someone. Toby was 6lbs 12oz when he was born compared to his brother who was 8lbs 3oz and his sister afterwards was 7lbs 4oz.

  • I breastfed him and by eating only lettuce and yoghurt for the first 2 weeks of his life I lost all of my weight and managed to get back in my jeans. Within a few weeks they were too big.

  • I had reached a point where I either couldn’t go out with friends or with my husband Adam because I was juice fasting or I would go out and make everyone uncomfortable because I would drink water. Work trips were ideal because I just wouldn’t eat – winning. If I wanted to check if something like pasta was cooked I would bite it and spit it out because I was so worried I would gain something.

  • I wouldn’t use any hormonal contraceptives because they do make me gain weight. I would rather use NFP and when we really didn’t want another pregnancy I did have a copper coil, despite the doctor’s advice. I bled so much I became anaemic and had thrush constantly. My body hated it.

  • I fell pregnant with Edith and all I craved was fatty foods. I worked opposite McDonalds and would frequently go for lunch.

  • I gained 3st.

  • I lost it within 5 months for my friend’s wedding. I felt like I was huge because I was 6lbs heavier than I was at my very thinnest (which was never thin enough to raise worries from people so no one really knew how badly I was treating myself).

  • Then I decided that I had nothing to maintain. I started to earn more money and we would go out more. I left my job and started working from home where I could eat whatever and whenever. Edith was an extremely difficult baby and young toddler. I would comfort eat, and I didn’t care.

  • I said I was happy at a size 12, and then I discovered body positivity.

  • I declared myself body posi. If I wanted the cake then fuck it, that’s what I would have. I shouldn’t restrict myself to fit in with a set of societal parameters. I was awesome regardless.

  • Sounds great in theory until you realise a year later that you have gained almost as much weight as you lost from Reuben’s pregnancy and you’re a size 16/18 with a quiet, hidden obsession with weight loss.

  • I don’t get upset when my children tell me I’m squidgy or I have a big bottom, I get upset when I see pictures of myself at my largest and I realise that I’m free falling back to that and I do care.

  • I don’t care when I think I’ve got to size up in the shop, I’ve taken from body positivity that I don’t really need to buy into clothing sizes. I care when I can’t wear the dress I love in my own wardrobe.

  • I’m fine with telling myself I don’t care about the extra 5 stone I’m carrying and that I just love food, I’m a body positive woman and I’m beautiful… until I go to an event and I feel once again like the largest one in the room but not really sassy enough to carry it.

  • I have a very negative relationship with my body shape, and I flit between loving the fact that I am no longer restricting myself and unhealthily obsessed with what I eat, not having to ask the waiter to ensure there is an extra portion of broccoli or order a side of stir fried veg instead of rice/noodles and feeling like I was a better version of me when I was thinner. I was certainly happier with my body, felt sexier and more likely to run about with the kids.

  • Body positivity has been my crutch for eating when I’m not even really hungry but just want it.

  • At the moment I’m not writing about body positivity anymore because I can’t honestly say I feel it. I blame it for allowing me to think it’s ok to gain so much weight when I now feel desperately unhealthy. Since the start of the year I’ve been ill 3 times and I’ve still not shifted this latest cough. I am never ill. In truth it isn’t body positivity that is to blame, it’s my all or nothing relationship with weight loss and weight gain that is entirely at odds with the belief of body positivity. It is years of societal and personal diet culture conditioning.

  • Saddest of all, I was healthiest physically when I was at my thinnest, juice fasting and endlessly avoiding carbs. I felt amazing physically. I don’t think I was healthy mentally. The two are not synonymous. How can you fight something that made you feel SO good physically but made you mentally ill?

  • My pet peeves are when I talk about weight and people say “but you’ve had 3 kids” because I lost all my weight after I had kids. It’s nothing to do with having kids. If I could do it then, I should be able to do it now – a dangerous road to go down when I was so obsessed.

  • Finding a balance between Orthorexia and using body positivity as an excuse to throw all sense out of the window is hard. I’m sure you can be body positive, eat a normal diet where you are both healthy and treating yourself, still have a bit more weight that when you are dieting and be happy. I can’t seem to do it though. I’m stuck in an all or nothing cycle.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Kate Lili Blog March 5, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Great article. I can relate to a lot of what has been said here. Thank you.

  • Reply Melanie March 5, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Totally, totally relate to this. Thanks for sharing your story. You’re an inspiration whether you realise it or not!

    • Reply Kerry March 10, 2019 at 6:24 pm

      Wow, so much of what you say here makes total sense to me! I struggle with weight and restrict myself to 500 calories a day then all of a sudden I’ll be all f**k it eat the cake, which is usually the whole cake, a packet of biscuits, half a loaf of bread and a multi pack of crisps!! In a day!! Then feel guilty about if and cry! 😔 you are a true inspiration Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone!

  • Reply Jane March 5, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    I also completely relate. I have felt comfy at a 12/14 recently, I have previously been a small 12 after having my kids, and put more on again. I have made myself sick to lose weight in my 20s and also severely restricted myself at times to be a ten. Only in the last few months when 2 (very slim) friends have started to criticise their weight I have felt a lot of the self disgust coming back. I feel flabby and ugly. I know they probably have their own issues around their body but I have had to restrict the time I spend with them due to their obsession with their and others’ weights/diets. At least I can feel when I’m being triggered now. However I have joined slimming world as the disgust with myself has got unbearable. I feel bad. I should be happy how I am. My daughter is 9, tall and broad, strong and beautiful inside and out. I never let her get a hint of this. Never mention slimming world. I’m too ashamed. Thanks for sharing x

  • Reply Sophie March 5, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    This is so true and perfectly captures how I feel. I am also stuck in this all or nothing cycle.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Genna March 6, 2019 at 7:52 am

    It’s refreshing to hear someone talk about this and I can certainly relate to it. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Jade March 10, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Finally something I can read and feel ok with. Body positivity is huge and I get that there is a need and a place for it in this looks obsessed world. BUT, it’s not that easy. I want to love my body as it has bought two healthy children into my life, it’s survived awful things but I just don’t love it or even like it. I constantly want to change it, to improve it. So reading this just shows it’s ok to not have all your stuff together. Thank you

  • Reply Claire March 10, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    I’ve really struggled with the term “body positivity” for a while now. I put on weight when I settled down with my husband – just the usual weight gain from being comfortable. Had two kids. Actually lost weight because of really bad morning sickness for first 15 weeks. Never really had a problem with my body – I’d had two kids after all so I should be thankful that my body had carried and birthed two kids right? I slowly put on weight but wasn’t even bothered, finally had a little kick with a weight loss challenge at work. I’ve lost 2 stone over a very steady 6/7 months and have maintained my weight for another month or so. Looking back I was eating crap, drinking too much wine and doing no exercise but I believed in body positivity- the reality was body positivity was just an excuse for treating my body so badly. I’ve introduced moderation, portion control and a Pilates class- I feel so much bettter and will not allow myself to hide behind such a stupid term without challenge.

  • Reply Natalie March 11, 2019 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for sharing. I too am an all or nothing girl. I feel like I have constantly obsessed about weight and/or dieting sine I was 11!
    At the moment I’m too tired from a baby who doesn’t sleep to care but I know that will change. For the better I hope.

  • Reply Jo-Anne. Helliwell June 8, 2019 at 7:07 am

    I have just read your story and want to Thank you. Your honest and open reflection about your weight has hit me.
    I wish you well in your life because you are amazing.
    Thank you

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