From the 13th to the 19th of May in the UK is Mental Health Awareness week. The focus this year is on body image.
I read a recent statistic which showed that 80% of women have self deprecating thoughts about themselves, most of them connected to body shape, and I am sure some men do that too.
Like most people, my relationship with my body has always been love/hate, more the latter than anything in most cases.
I grew up in a family OBSESSED with the idea that skinny = beautiful and even though I’ve always been fairly thin, when I was a teenager I felt I should lose weight. I was particularly paranoid about my belly: I remember looking at the mirror and squeezing what I considered being excess fat time and time again.
In the years of Performing Art Academy this feeling became even worse. In any dance class we were forced to wear an “accademico”, a very unflattering unitard, to keep our fat level on show so that by seeing any body part jiggling we would feel publicly ashamed and do something – aka not eating. We would be weighed (like pigs kinda) every week and if we were putting on a single gram from what our professors decided that was “the ideal weight” for us, we had to clean the toilets for a week.
Can you imagine how this could impact the self-esteem of a 19 years old who was still discovering herself?
I have now learned that is completely normal to fluctuate with body weight depending on life (and hormones) circumstances and I do not measure my level of self love on what number the scale shows. I hardly ever weight myself, and I encourage my clients to do the same.
But growing up I was feeling hugely depressed in seeing an increase in that number and that would drag me down into a deep spiral of depression.
I would use words such as “I hate myself”, “I’m disgusting”, “I have to stop eating”.
What for me has been life-changing was stumbling across fitness. Might sound cliché, but here’s my truth. Exercise, unlike theatre, truly allowed me to find a space where to feel strong and capable, where I could ignore what others thought I should look like. It rather empowered me to be how I wanted to be.
Mind that when I approached fitness was almost 10 years ago, when social media was in its infancy and there was much less pressure about having abs for the gram. It makes me so sad thinking that the new generation has even more to contend with now.
Don’t get me wrong, body confidence is still a work in progress for me. Sometimes when I pass a mirror, or I wear a bikini, or I see a picture, those bitter thoughts peek back.
But then I make a conscious choice to remind myself what my healthy body allows me to do and I try to tell myself something nice, appreciative instead.
I grew very passionate about inspiring others to do the same, to not allow themselves to fall into the spiral, to let go of self destructive thoughts, and most of all to let them know “they are not alone”.
Do the same by sharing your story ❤️