This week, the press and social media have been set alight by a photo of one Ms Khloe Kardashian. I’m not going to include the image because Khloe’s made it crystal clear that she’d prefer it not be seen any further, so I want to respect that. Khlo was relaxing by the pool in a bikini on a hot day, make up free (as I do myself on holiday) when someone took a quick snap of her. Said snap found it’s way onto Instagram and the world and his wife have had an opinion about it ever since.
I guess by publishing this post, I’m now throwing my hat into the ring of this conversation. But it’s not to criticise or offer an opinion, it’s to offer a bit of perspective.
So, here’s the thing. Nobody gets to decide how a person feels about their appearance but that person. No matter how many people tell you “but you look amazing”, “you’re beautiful”, “don’t be so silly it’s not that bad” they can’t make that person feel it themselves. And (most crucially, I feel) if a person has gone through years of being criticised about their looks, constantly compared to others and have struggled to find their place within that, you can’t be surprised when they do things like photoshop/good lighting/flattering poses to look the best you can. So, if they freak the fuck out when an image unexpectedly comes out that could put them back into that negative public arena, that’s a pretty reasonable reaction.
I relate to this, like a LOT. I wrote this post a little while ago about how I’ve spent most of my life listening to other people’s opinions of my appearance – good, bad, unsolicited, from friends, from strangers, in admiration, in disgust, in insecurity. It’s confusing, exhausting and never ending. And I’m just a regular gal! I don’t have a TV show, millions of followers or get followed by photographers everywhere I go, so I can only imagine how much worse that kind of attention could feel.
I’m sure a lot of us have also seen a photo of ourselves that we’re not 100% happy with, but maybe your mum’s taken it and you think it’s going to sit untouched in an album somewhere, so what’s the harm? Until your mum forgets to delete it from her phone and it accidentally posts it on Facebook with all the others photos and you immediately call her up and be like “delete that RIGHT NOW”. That’s all that’s happening here, except my mum’s Facebook isn’t publicly stalked by ‘journalists’ looking to make a quick buck with the Daily Mail, so the impact is much less widespread.
Koko – you’ve always been my favourite Kardashian. I hear you, and I hope others take the time to really hear you too. I stan.
*This post is about body image and weight loss. Please don’t read it if you feel this may negatively affect you.*
If you’re a long time reader of my blog, or you’re a friend of mine in real life, you’ll know I’ve been through a few changes in my life. We all have I’m sure.
What you may not know is that I still don’t feel like I fit in. I don’t feel like I know what my place is, or should be in the world, because of how I look. Or because of how others feel about how I look.
A bit of a walk through the past explains the why, but not the where. Please read with an open mind and an understanding heart.
I had a distinctly average looking body for my age (I’m cringing at how awful that sounds to say, but this is where the mind of childhood Jenny in the 80’s/90’s went, as well as those who looked at her) in some photos you could even argue I was fairly slim. But, not as skinny as some of my classmates it would seem, even then. Girls at my school learnt very quickly that the best way to hurt someone’s feelings was to insult their size. I was told I couldn’t play leapfrog in the playground because my ‘bum was too fat’, when I started dance class I was called ‘elephant in a tutu’ both by girls who were supposed to be my friends. Once, I was even punched in the stomach by a boy in my class.
So, things got better for me at high school? Did they bollocks!
Boys were interested in girls bodies, girls knew it, and girls had further refined their weight-related insults. When I was about 13, I was with a group of friends when one said “let’s all say how much we weigh” so we went round the table, and when they got to me I told the truth (which was about 8st and I was a size 10-12). After a few moments, one of them said “oh no, Jenny is the heaviest” and they all gave me a sympathetic smile. I knew for a fact some of them had lied but didn’t say, because I didn’t want them to be embarrassed, or to look vengeful myself.
It was around this time that my Grandad started to make regular comments about my weight and how I looked. He’d recently gone on a much needed health kick, gotten fit and lost weight, and I was apparently his next target to ‘fix’. Even my mum made the odd comment – once she said if I lost enough weight over the school holidays she’d buy me a whole new wardrobe and all the boys would fancy me.
Came out of a serious relationship, lived alone, thought nobody cared about me, ate what I wanted and partied hard. During this time I received probably the most horrific comments I’ve ever had, some from people I didnt know. At work I was described as someone’s before image, “she looks amazing now, she looked like you before”. Someone else asked why I was so fat when I ran around busy all the time, and an older gentleman who had health related weight issues told me “we have to to be careful, people like us, fatties”. This was around the time I was newly in a relationship with the man I’m now married to and I was so worried all the time thinking ‘why the hell does he want to be with me when everyone else clearly has such a low opinion of me??’.
Mid to late 20s
I was married, had an active social life, and was (now I can look back with a more objective eye) a pretty average body size. Because I consumed too many sweet and high calorie things, towards my later 20s I decided I had to change how I looked after myself so that I could feel more positive and less lethargic. I figured making changes before I hit 30 would be easier than making them later.
I’d made the aforementioned changes, feeling more lively and I looked different. Quite different actually. It was the first time I’d ever been considered a ‘slim girl’ in my whole life. I went through moments of being proud of myself for making changes I felt I needed and sticking with them, actually looking in the mirror and feeling aright about myself, yet confused by how other people’s opinions of me suddenly changed.
Any time I posted a photo on Facebook, dozens of acquaintances would comment calling me a skinny minnie, saying I looked amazing and asking for my ‘secret’. In the real world I had strangers come up to me to telling me I looked good, van drivers honking their horns at me when I went for a walk. One time, a car full of blokes stopped in the middle of the street and shouted things about my arse out of the window. I’d NEVER dealt with anything like this before and I felt overwhelmed and embarrassed by it. I wasn’t doing anything to invite attention, I was just out in the world going about my life.
Despite this, people were still mean sometimes. When I’d go to check my weight and measurements every week (I personally found this helped track my progress) I’d be tapped on the shoulder at least once and be asked “why are you here to get weighed love, you’re already dead skinny?”. There were points when my friends didn’t seem particularly friendly either. They weren’t impressed that I’d stopped drinking, chose meals more carefully when I went out, and they weren’t shy about letting me know. They would make neggy comments to me, or say our other friends looked nice but would never say it to me like they used to. They told me I was boring or acting like “a bit of a pyscho” about my diet. Even now, if I bring up my weight or how I look, they will ‘remind’ me I was “not nice to be around” .
My family, on the other hand, were bloody delighted with my progress. They would never miss an opportunity to tell me “how much better” I looked and how worried they used to be that I was killing myself before but were too scared to say anything. You’d think that’d be nice, but it made me feel almost as awkward. Had they all been judging me behind my back for years? But STILL my Grandad wasn’t pleased. He still thought it I hadn’t lost enough weight loss I was “too wobbly” (I was, so what) but I’d learnt to tune him out a bit by then.
I re-entered the world of work (after spending 5yrs at uni) and had to deal with some very toxic people. The result? Started drinking, eating more sweet and high calorie food, none of my clothes fit me anymore. I felt sad that I’d undone a lot of my hard work and angry that I’d let hateful people drive me to such a low and vulnerable point. By the time they exited my life (not nearly soon enough) the rot had set in quite severely. I’d been blogging about three years at this point, yet could barely even look at myself in the mirror and before taking photos and going places to write about in my posts.
This was also the time the Facebook acquaintances reappeared. This time, the opening line was usually “so what happened to you?” or “you look a bit different now.”
No neggy comments from the family, but don’t worry, they’ll be back soon…
And this brings us nicely to where I am today. Which, to be honest, probably isn’t that nice.
One toxic work situation ended but I somehow found myself in another about six months later. This time it was much, much worse and lasted twice as long. I comfort ate my ass off, got the biggest I have ever been, hated myself and the rest of the world for pretty much everything. And I must’ve fallen pretty hard into the depths of despair, as I had family and close friends begging me to get help. When speaking to my friends about wanting to lose weight and feel more comfortable again, the response I got was “yeah definitely, but don’t go crazy like you did before. You got too skinny and it wasn’t nice.”
I then gained a few ‘Furlough pounds’ as a lot of people did, and that’s when Grandad finally decided to pipe up again and let me know once and for all how disappointed he was in me. I know its difficult when dealing with the older generation; they have no filter or concept of how their words can be perceived, but let me tell you his cut deep. Phrases such as “we need to walk you/weigh you”, “So what clothes are yoy wearing now?” And “I’m trying not to hurt your feelings here but you really need to do something about this” have hurt my feelings a lot, to the point where I’m welling up as a type this. I have a mirror; I know what I’ve looked like before and I know what I look like now. I know what my goals are and how to achieve them. Behind the scenes, I may even be quietly doing just that. But you think I feel like turning into Jane Fonda after someone I love has ripped my self confidence a new one? No I do not.
So after reading that, do you know where I fit in, how I should feel what I should do? I figure I may as well invite comments at this point; enough people have given them anyway up to this point and I’m fresh out of ideas at this point!
Thank you for making it to the end of this post, and for getting here with (hopefully still) an open mind and understanding heart. I appreciate it lots.
Right now I feel fortunate in my life; I have a lot of great things happening and great people around me, and for these things I’m very grateful. But for me it always seems as if something goes a little bit wrong when the majority goes right, and obviously THAT’S the thing my mind zeros in on.
Right now, the thing that’s going wrong for me is my weight and how I feel about my body. I’ve had serious issues and battles over the years, which this pic will put into context for you
And this is closer to how I look now , hoping you can see a difference! I must stress at this point:
1- Everyone has their own ideals about what looks good on them/to them with regards to their size and shape, what I’m expressing are concerns about my personal ideals. I have every right to feel how I feel regardless of how other people may see me.
2- It doesn’t matter how other people see you and how many people tell you however many positive things about your appearance…if YOU don’t feel it inside, it kind of falls on deaf ears.
3- Losing weight for me has not been an easy process, it took me a loooooong time (a little of 3yrs to be exact) to get my head properly in the game to make real life changes in order to get to a place where I was more comfortable
4- The right clothes and fabric can conceal things a lot better than you might think!
I genuinely thought I had this thing licked – I could eat really well, know I’d feel good doing so and enjoy what I was having. I embraced regular gentle cardio (an extended walk every day to a retail park near my house) and didn’t feel the need to have any hugely indulgent treats very often.
What I’ve learnt since reaching my target weight back in December 2012 is that I can still be weak willed….VERY weak actually, on occasions. This year I’ve been too naughty too often and as a result it’s making me feel sluggish and bloated. I often dont like a lot of the pictures when I’m shooting a blog post, and when I sit down I see bits sticking out I just don’t like.
I know that whinging about it won’t change anything. However, I also know that I can do something about it. I can kick myself back up the bum and get back on track- looking better and feeling better than ever before…so that’s what I’m going to do!
Thanks for taking the time to read whilst I share my inner thoughts, more will be on the way soon. Anything that pops into my head, it may just make its way onto here.