Credit: Celia Paredes
I remember being 10 years old, riding my bike up a hill in a small country town in Victoria, worrying I was a fat kid. I looked down at my fingers gripping the handlebars, and thought to myself: ‘It’s ok, my fingers still look normal – I’ll only start really worrying if my fingers get chubby’.
I’ve been fighting that same dumb battle, riding up that bloody hill ever since.
I can’t remember my parents ever discussing weight with me when I was a kid – I never felt like I should look like this or that for their benefit. My own children are 6 and 4 and have little to no consciousness about the size of their bodies or the condition of their skin. So, based on my experience, somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10, IT happens…
The Great Inundation.
The mass-media attack on the impressionable, information-hungry, wide-eyed, pre-pubescent child. And thus we start to believe should look like ‘that’, and not like ‘this’.
As a grown woman, a lot of the battle now is determining how much negative body-talk can be attributed to not embodying the media-led idea of what I should look like, and what is actually my body’s natural response to being a little bit neglected. To not being lovingly tended to like it wants to be, to not being respected and looked after the way it deserves to.
Naturally, my weight fluctuates, but I never feel as alive as when I’m feeding my body wholesome food, and when I’m physically active. I feel my best when I’m about 60 kilos. I’m certainly not lean, and I’m far from petite, and, at 35, I’ve only just accepted that I never will be. I’m full and soft and rounded, and that’s that.
However, I also know that when I carry extra weight, unnecessary weight, I feel sluggish and depressed.
I want to relearn what it is to be a child, back when I knew to stop eating because I was full, when I moved my body because I just had to, played in the rain and the sun and the wind because it felt good to be outside. I’m not interested in repeating sappy mantras to myself in the mirror about ‘being perfect no matter what’, because – perhaps controversially – I’m not perfect no matter what. Deserving of love, absolutely – worthy of affection, of course – but actually, my body is a complex machine that needs great care and an almost sacred reverence.
Lately, in an attempt to combat The Great Inundation, I’ve started to get my kids to repeat after me:
“As long as I’m healthy,
Eat good food,
And look after my beauuuuuutiful body,
I’m just right
Just the way I am.”
It can’t save them, but I want to do all I can to reinforce the truth, so they’ll be more prepared for the lies that will certainly come their way.
We, especially we women, are exceptionally hard on ourselves, and have spent too long stuck in body-shame and a cycle of self-abuse. This must stop. We must learn to block our ears to the media circus, with its ridiculous ideals and the dangerous standard it sets, and, instead quietly ask our body what it needs – then listen to the answer.
What does your body need, right now?