First published on Friday the 6th of May, 2016, this piece comes in at number 23 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.
“You have a good body.”
I don’t know about you, but there have been many times in my life when my immediate response would be an uncomfortable “no,” and to change the subject.
You see, unfortunately fat doesn’t collect in the ‘right’ places for me. Maybe it doesn’t for you too. My arms bulge at the tops and creases form at my armpits when I lift my arms. My thighs rub. My stomach curves. My back rolls.
Or maybe your body is naturally thin, your thighs don’t rub, your breasts don’t form a ‘womanly’ cleavage, the boys at school would only sarcastically tease you for being ‘fat’.
Regardless of our shape, many of us have spent most of our lives punishing ourselves for the way we look. As children we pinched our bellies and fantasized about what they would look like if we could just remove the fat. As teenagers we spent hours policing calories, meal sizes, forming diets and exercise regimes. We talked with our friends about who had the best body, why, and commended each other on desirable features like big breasts and a small waist. We cried in exhaustion whilst running on a treadmill, we condemned ourselves after eating a big meal.
Many of us do or have done whatever we can to be deemed as the physical ideal to men because when you are a woman or especially if you are overweight, men are doing you a favour by being attracted to you. Forget love, forget sex being for you also. Many of us have been taunted since childhood about our bodies because in our society being or having fat is inherently bad and inherently unhealthy.
We are taught from the moment of rational thought that our bodies are our prize, they are an expression of our place in society. Regardless of natural size and race, we are taught to gain the ideal regardless of the effect on our health – our body size shows our self-control and social status.
Frankly I’m a little sick of people policing what we eat and how much exercise we do. I’m a little sick of little girls being encouraged to eat less, to be less, to take up less space. If we think about it, what really is health? Is it a flat stomach, only gained by excessive exercise? Is it a space between the thighs gained by restricting calories? Is it prominent hip or collar bones because you purged all of this week?
Or is it being able to get through the day without feeling dizzy? Is it a warm smile? Is it glowing skin and sparkling eyes? Is it ending the day with a full happy mind and belly, instead of a stomach emptied out by laxatives and a feeling of disgust? Or is healthy being able to live a full life?
Healthy is working out at the gym and eating broccoli. But it is also laughing with friends over chocolate cake and pizza. It is also going to the beach, or staying at home and binge-watching TV shows, it is doing what you love and giving your body what it needs.
You are allowed to have the body you have, whether it is thin or whether it is fat or in the middle. Your body is a good body because you are human and therefore deserve respect and unconditional love. May you know today that as a woman you are an insanely powerful and beautiful (not just in a physical sense) being. Your thoughts, mind, voice and feelings matter. And may you love yourself wholly and intensely because you are so worthy.