I’ve written time and time again that the journey to body positivity is not linear, and it certainly isn’t the same for everybody. There certainly isn’t an ‘end’, because we all have bad days. But I have slowly come to realise that my efforts have resulted in a serious shift of mindset, to the point where I don’t see the world in the same way anymore. It makes sense: the amygdala, which is responsible for processing your emotions, learns through repetition. Slowly but surely your conscious effort to re-think things in a certain way becomes an unconscious thought. It’s pretty impressive. I love that my mind doesn’t automatically jump to internal and external fatphobia anymore, because it leaves so much room for self-love and emotional growth. Here are some of the ways I have worked on normalising fatness and changing my mindset on my body positive journey.
I suppose I started my body positivity journey with immersion therapy. It wasn’t a conscious decision: I simply followed anybody and everybody who was plus size. I then spent years curating my bubble, following radical fatness and bold messages, and unfollowing anybody who pinched and poked and wanted to be different. First I needed to consider what kinds of things I had focussed on in the past, and how they affected me. I eliminated numbers: if they mentioned their weight, they weren’t for me. If they featured fat folds and stuck a middle finger up to anybody who challenged them, they were the kind of person I needed and I liked every single one of their pictures so they’d appear first on my feed. I’m still curating my bubble now, really: if somebody repeatedly makes me feel uneasy, I now realise that it is okay not to follow them anymore. I used to worry about hurting peoples’ feelings, but now I realise that it is more important to protect my own mental health, than the feelings of somebody who isn’t even in my life. I cannot express how liberating that is.
Bin the Zines
And by that I am obviously only referring to the usual commercial magazines, not wonderful body positive publications! When you pick up a magazine that is aimed at women in a supermarket and really consider the intent behind the wording, you realise how damaging it is. About 15 years ago I would spend around £20 a week on magazines that were aimed at women. I lapped up every message about how wrong I was, every tip and trick to hide my very visible body and shared in the joy of other women having cellulite – and we all know how I now feel about cellulite! And then one day, I had had enough. I was bored of the same messages being repeated, and realised that I was never going to be able to love myself if I kept reading something that made money out of me hating myself. Normalising fatness meant never accepting a photoshopped image as an aspiration. In fact, it meant taking great satisfaction in yourself in your current form, rather than seeking aspiration at all. It sounds unbelievable, but when people talk about photoshop now I find myself realising I had forgotten that people still photoshopped their images. Because I now take such joy out of chub rolls and thick thighs, it doesn’t make sense to me that somebody would want to mask them. This is exactly what I mean by the amygdala being retrained.
Being very clear about who I am, and what I have
You guys, I am 5″1 and my daughter’s legs were longer than mine when she was 9. Nothing I can say or do is going to change that, and so I saw no point in feeling sad about it. I am always going to have wide feet and short, chubby fingers. I am always going to have dimples under my cheekbones. My ankles and calves are always going to be wide. How do I know this? Because I have been thin, and these things have still been there. I am always going to have fat rolls under my bra strap. I’m always going to have arms that shake when I wave them in the air. I’m always going to wear leggings or Chaffree under a dress because my thighs are always going to touch. Whether I have been fat or thin, these things have remained constant. Some other things that have remained constant: I have always been good at making people laugh. No matter what, I have always felt the need to make other people happy. I have always enjoyed dancing, and got a thrill out of being silly. I have always taken pride in work and academia. The shape and proportions of my body never changed who I was as a person. The number of fat rolls or the numbers on my clothing label never changed me – they changed how people treated me. That is a ‘that person’ problem, not a ‘me’ problem. All I can do is stay in my own lane.
Everybody is different. What is working for me, might not work for you. That’s okay! I’d love to hear what works, because maybe I can incorporate it into my own body postivity. How do you love you?