When I was growing up, thin was the ideal. Although cases of eating disorders were certainly not as high as they are now - we were bombarded with images of ultra-thin models and celebrities gracing our front pages. These were the women that we idolised and were suggested that we should look like. Many of you will know I developed an eating disorder in my teenage years, not through the array of images that were presented to me but they certainly did not help and perpetuated my alarming eating habits.
In 2013, we appear to have made steps forward. Good, positive changes. The launch of BodyGossip, an organisation for which I am an ambassador for, was the first organisation of its kind to stand up and say that it's okay to weigh whatever the hell you like - because we're all God damn beautiful the way that we are. They've gone into schools and delivered self-esteem and body confidence workshops to young teenagers and sixth-formers, they staged a fabulous flashmob earlier on this year on London's Southbank, they've employed many celebrity ambassadors to create fabulous films regarding the subject of body image. This year also sees the launch of larger mannequins in high street stores such as Debenhams, beginning with their Oxford Street store and set to expand. And progress has certainly been made. Pro-anorexia is still a thing and there are still people out there who believe that being stick-thin is the only way forward, but I have noticed a huge shift since I was a teenager in the way we perceive body image and I can only see that as a good thing.
One thing I have noticed, however, is the term 'real woman' being used on a daily basis for woman who are, say a size 12+. That 'real women' have curves - I've literally, as I'm writing this, come across a Facebook group that says 'Real women have curves..not the body of a twelve year old boy'. I'm actually disgusted.
There's other things that aggravate me about the whole 'real women' thing. Apparently real women are powerful, and strong. That you can't be a real women until you've had a child. That real women are intelligent. The list goes on.
When I was a teenager, I was desperate to be thin. I only recognise how ill I was then when I look back now and realise some of the stupid things that I used to do, some of the hideous things I used to say as excuses not to eat. I didn't eat in my school for about 6 years until my final year of Sixth Form when I decided that I didn't need to be this way anymore. Now, I'm the heaviest I've ever been, but I'm still not over the size that one would refer to me as a 'real woman'. I used to have people compliment my figure, people telling me that it was okay for me to eat x food or y food because I was skinny and that I'd get away with it, that 'you don't have that problem' when I'd make a jokey comment about fitting into some outfit. Now I'm seen as the skinny one who needs to put weight on because no-one would look twice at me otherwise (of course, my boyfriend is attracted to me, but you see my general point). Times have changed and I've changed along with it, and I now am jealous of those with curves and those who have their lumps and bumps in all the right places because society is now telling me that 'real woman have curves'. Now, most of you know that my anorexic voice still takes over on occasion and so as you can imagine it's very difficult to fight these two very much opposing sides of my brain.
I'd consider myself someone who is naturally slender with a good metabolism, before and after anorexia. I have a thigh gap, and although I'm larger in the chest area, I have thin arms and some bony parts. I have body hang-ups every single day. I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks back that I spend hours sometimes pulling clothes out of my wardrobe and trying clothes on and taking them off again for fear of looking fat, even though this shouldn't bother me. Besides this though, I am a woman. I was born a woman, and I will die a woman. What is it about my figure that defines my gender? It amazes me that those who call themselves 'feminists' in particular decide to make comments suggesting that you're only a woman if you're over a size 12, therefore completely alienating those women who are naturally thin and haven't forced themselves to look this way. I naturally have brown hair and brown eyes in the same way as I am naturally thin. Another way this is done is seeing women through the eyes of men - 'men don't want a bag of bones - they want something to grab onto' (an awful term, I know but go with me for a second) - oncemore isolating women who are naturally slender like myself. My boyfriend has always found me attractive in the four and a half years we have been together - you cannot take ONE body shape and make one general assumption that all men prefer it, men that see women just as a body shape are indeed rather pathetic, men who see through that and see a woman for what they actually are are the ones worth keeping and worth listening to.
What I'm about to say is going to kind of relate back to my perfectionism post last week, but realistically, if we did attain the body shape we had always idolised and mauled over, we'd still be dissatisfied. Because our mentality constantly puts us down and tells us that we're not worthy or not enough. Women, and men would still find something to put themselves down about. I'm starting to realise that it's not about achieving the perfect body anymore. It's just being comfortable. Comfortable with the fact that I'm healthy and can eat what I like, when I like, and I can exercise when I like, and that I have access to fantastic food, and beginning to accept my body for what it is. I don't like my boobs and I hate my thighs but they're here and they're here to stay so I need to live with them. To accept the fact that I am a real woman whether I tell myself that I am or not. A woman who can do whatever the fuck she likes because I'm more than just a woman - I am a human being and shouldn't be defined on what I look like or what I can do by what gender I am.
Don't get me wrong - I am so happy that we are beginning to embrace the idea of being body confident in our own skin and it's organisations like BodyGossip that allowed this to become possible for myself. But let's not just assume we can only be body confident, can only be sexy, and can only be real if we have curves. Your body shape does not define you as a person and this is for females AND males. Let's live a life of acceptance and learn to embrace what we have and be good to our bodies.
I'm going to attach a few YouTube videos I've come across recently on this topic which I strongly encourage you to watch!