My body is not magazine-cover perfect. I have many bumps, curves, flaws and scars. I haven’t always felt comfortable in my own skin. It’s been a journey to get to where I am now. My body image only improved once I learned to accept and love it for exactly what it is.
As a child I shot up taller than most kids my age, with a bony little figure. Body image was not something that bothered me until others brought it to my attention.
I had a very healthy appetite. My grandfather used to tease me, saying, “I’d rather feed you for a week than a fortnight.” When a school teacher accused me of being anorexic at the age of 10 I became self-conscious of my body started filling my plate up more, opting for greasier and sugary foods to solve my problem.
This began an unhealthy cycle of binging on the wrong foods and being left lethargic.
I was diagnosed with low muscle tone when I started school which affected my stamina. I enjoyed sports and was talented in softball and netball but found it strenuous to be active for long periods. Between my muscular condition and skinny legs, I started to dread physical activity in public environments.
In high school I elected to rather write lines of punishment for forgetting my exercise clothes, than engaging in physical training with my peers. After years of neglecting to properly nourish my body, my shape morphed into what is known as skinny-fat. My limbs remained slim but I piled on fat deposits around my middle, showing signs of inactivity and an unbalanced diet.
At the age of 15 I dated my first real boyfriend. The raging hormones and butterflies in my stomach diminished my appetite. Some days I would forget to eat completely. This lead to a dangerous little game I kept to myself. I found delight in watching the weight drop, even though my boyfriend didn’t approve of it.
My teen years consisted of the typical ups and downs of struggling to find myself. Controlling my hunger was a thrill, peaking especially after the break up. I weighed an all time low of 46kg (which is minute on my 1.77m tall frame).
My obsession with getting the number on the scale down as low as I could ruled my life. I drank very strong coffee throughout the day to keep my appetite away and would only eat in company so that I did not raise suspicion. It was the one thing I had control over at that time, when I felt a few parts of my life fell apart, not realising that I had become exactly what I was accused of being as an adolescent.
After school I relocated to Cape Town to establish a new life. I was living alone and buying my own groceries whilst studying and working as a part-time waitress.
I bought cheap food, mainly consisting of white carbohydrates such as hot dogs, two-minute noodles and a lot of fried food at the restaurant where I worked. After six months I had successfully put on 10kg by eating junk all the time.
I entangled myself in the provocative party scene, living off cigarettes, rum ‘n diet coke and greasy hangover food. Having the time of my life was taking its toll on my body. I was in no way healthy. My immune system suffered.
After my 21st birthday I noticed the effects that partying had on my body and it hit me that each year it would become more challenging to reach my ideal shape.
I joined a gym and began my research into the fitness world. The information fascinated me. Weight training for women revolutionised my mindset.
Previously I believed the myth that to lose weight, it took hours of cardio training. Getting into weight training had a significant impact on me because I was told my muscles were weak as a child.
Building strength excited me and restored hope in myself. I had been held back by believing other’s perceptions. Exercising in the ‘men’s section’ at the gym, took guts at first but I soon became comfortable. The work payed off. Results fueled my motivation. My confidence grew.
There is immense beauty in the raw womanly figure, curves and all. There is no beauty self-loathing at any size. Scars and stretch marks give us authentic character. They tell our story.
My body is still not perfect in everyone’s eyes but I love it. I eat wholesome foods that make me feel strong, give me energy and fuel my mind. Every bodily function is affected by what you put into your system.
My aim is to assist other women with body image issues in learning to love their bodies as they are and then loving their bodies even more by taking care of them. You do not need to be perfect all the time.
I still indulge in beer, pizza and ice-cream when the mood strikes. I don’t beat myself up on that. Some weeks I exercise less than usual. Holistic wellness is about balance and you’ve got to have fun to stay balanced!