“All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t”
~ Marilyn Monroe ~
I have always been blessed with good genes; you know, the sort you hear celebrities saying they have and nobody ever believes exist? I’ve always eaten whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to, done absolutely no exercise and still maintained a size 6 figure and a weight of 7stone 8.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known how lucky I am not to have to go without sweet treats for fear that a moment on the lips would last a lifetime on my hips, however, I always wished I could be just a little bit bigger. I hated how people would tell me how skinny I was and some people would even tell me I looked like I had an eating disorder – that hurt a lot; people would never dream of telling a fat person they look horrible, so why was it ok to tell a slim person like me?
Anyway, having reached my 20’s I started putting on weight and I’m now a size 6-8 and my weight sits around 8stone 3. This, I know, isn’t big but I’m conscious that the parts of me that used to be rock hard now aren’t quite so tight and I have a little pouch on my stomach. Although I’m still slim, I don’t like what I see when I look in the mirror – as far as I’m concerned, unless somebody is actually going to give me a baby kangaroo to look after (which would be awesome) then I have no need for a stomach pouch!
So, having reached my late-20’s (sob) I decided it was time to start taking action so I don’t gradually loose control of my body. I started eating healthily, not drinking alcohol during the week, cutting down on sweet treats, and I’ve even started exercising. I don’t want to lose weight; I just want to be toned.
To keep myself motivated I decided to set myself a programme of fitness so that I would stick to it. I made a little sign for the wall so I could see what I had to do each day and I decided to put some pictures on it of celebrities who had figures I would love to have – Gwen Stefani and Pink have abs of steel, so they were my first two choices for inspiration. To get some pictures I went to Google – this is where everything changed.
Being slightly naïve and not really thinking about what I was doing, I Googled ‘thinspiration’. This term is used in magazines so I thought this would be a great place to find some more photos that I could use to keep me on the fitness trail. I thought I’d find some good photos of people with toned stomachs, women with feminine yet strong bodies and that it would keep me focussed on the goal I had set out to achieve.
Little did I know that by Googling ‘thinspiration’ I was going to find myself in a world I had never seen before.
What I found was pages and pages of shocking photos. Pictures of women, men, young girls and young boys, all with every ounce of fat gone from their bodies and their bones jutting through their skin.
|Just some of the shocking images I found online|
I’m not a complete idiot, I know anorexia exists, of course I do. Although I’ve never had an eating disorder myself, I do know that I see something different in the mirror to what everybody else sees – I’m always being told that. But, I don’t think I’m any different to any other woman – I think we probably all look in the mirror and what we see as our ‘faults’ suddenly seem to shine out like a neon light. (This may be the same for men, but obviously I can’t comment on that).
When I look in the mirror, I see a big wobbly jelly-woman with a big round stomach and a flat chest (in fact, I had a boob job in 2006 and am now a 32D-32DD – but my eyes don’t see that).
My sister in particular gets really annoyed with the way I see myself but I know that’s probably never going to change, the godsend is that I know my eyes are lying to me because of the size of my clothing, the size bra I wear and the fact that I can never find knee-high boots to fit because my legs are always so tiny inside them.
I’m lucky enough to still have control of myself and ignore what I see as my reflection.
However, there are thousands of people in the world that don’t see the reality of what they are. They look in the mirror and see somebody fat or ugly and they starve themselves as a result, in a bid to make themselves ‘more attractive’ and ‘more acceptable’ in this image-conscious world we live in. I assume these people must go online, Google ‘thinspiration’ and when they see photographs of malnourished people, they aren’t shocked like I was, they see something to aspire to, somebody who has achieved what they want and are struggling so hard to reach.
Although I’m not silly enough to blame the media for all the problems in the world, I do believe it plays a huge part in the self-image problems that so many people suffer from. I myself have an internal battle when it comes to watching films or TV programmes (my best friend has endless patience with this part of me). I’m always comparing myself (in my mind) to women in the public eye and wondering why I’m ‘not as good as them’, ‘not as pretty as her’, ‘my boobs are smaller than her’, ‘my stomach isn’t flat like her’.
I think my issues stem from my first boyfriend when I was 15. He used to tell me constantly that I was ugly and couldn’t begin to compare to other girls. He’d point out women in magazines, on TV, or in the street, and he’d ask me why I wasn’t like them. He made me believe nobody else would ever want me, so I stayed with him, despite the bruises he used to leave me with – both physically and mentally.
With the amount of media focus on celebrities, the way they look and the lives they lead (which are totally unachievable for normal people like me who have to work 9-5 and can’t afford personal trainers, hair extensions etc.) I don’t think this is ever going to change. In fact, I think it can only get worse.
My heart goes out to all those people in the world suffering from eating disorders, those who look in the mirror and hate what they see. If only they could see themselves through the eyes of the people that love them, they would know they aren’t ugly at all.
Statistics say that 1 in 200 women and 1 in 2000 men are affected by anorexia, and of those around 5% will die from complications caused by malnutrition.
Surely it’s time that we made a change and started accepting people for who they are? Everybody is different, that’s what makes the world such a beautiful place.
If you, or someone you know, if suffering from an eating disorder, you can contact Beat for help and guidance:
Helpline: 0845 634 1414
Youthline: 0845 634 7650