I am about to turn 37, and it has taken me the past year to begin healing a body image I’ve held on to since I was twelve years old. The “spur to prick the sides of my intent” was having a daughter. I saw the young woman I was, the young women my students are becoming, and the girl my daughter is and deep inside me erupted a rage against the unrealistic beauty standards of our world. I had never been one to shy away from a good diet tip or miracle cure for fatness, and if it came in pill form, I was in. When I really delve into my diet-obsessed teen years and early adulthood there are five momentous ways I gave in to thin culture.
At 33 I couldn’t do those things because I was pregnant and then caring for an infant. I discovered how great it was to just eat food and exercise in a comfortable way. At the same time I mourned my restrictive pre-baby body. It was around the time I was 35 that I started to see little ripples in society about body acceptance and fat shaming. I realised I’d rather be a role model for my students and my daughter instead of someone who only focuses on the shell.
I was embarrassed as I learned about body acceptance because I discovered that my reluctance to gain weight had put me at the top of the shamers. I had become the body shaming persona of those who tormented me in school and in the media. I fully take the responsibility for my own self-image. Still, I know that my body image issues stem from junior high school, a time when your body becomes the most picked apart thing in your world. Being smart and quiet and fat meant I was a target for bullies, and I never stood up to it. Here are a few formative moments to my self-loathing.
And then at 35 I gave up (or, started to). I thought: why am I doing this? Why do I care so much? And how can I fix this for my daughter and my students? I started seeing things online about body acceptance, I read posts on FB mom groups about body shaming, and I learned about fat acceptance. Then, I started to read. I read and read and read. And now I can’t stop.
Here are my top six favourite books that sent me on a path to retrain my brain and accept my body. I’m not there yet, but I am working on it.
My favourite go-to blog for body acceptance is “Dances with Fat” by Ragen Chastain.
My favourite instagram accounts to follow to help retrain those images in my brain are:
My favourite documentary about body positivity is Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt.
I’ve discovered a new purpose in my thirties, and that is instead of finding new ways to diet, I need to find new ways to love my body, and I hope to help others accept theirs. If the narrative changes, so that instead of being told there is only one way to look and to act and to be, won’t we do our children one better than the way we grew up? Admittedly, I am a work in progess, but that’s okay.
This is a post for those who’ve stayed silent when people make destructive comments about their body because we think we deserve it for not being the standard, and because there doesn't seem to be an alternative. There is a better way, and we need to retrain our thinking to move forward. I’d like to reclaim JB’s “talk like Tara” refrain to be one of body acceptance, because I’m not going to shut up about it.
*I am no way saying these aren't legitimate food choices, but I tried it to be thin.
These writings are comprised of my creative nonfiction, and books, books, books. This blog is a exploration of the books I read, the people I meet, and my life as a backyard homesteader.