Social media, marketing, films and TV are putting more pressure than ever on people to feel they have to look a certain way. We also are in a time when there are many voices standing up for body confidence which was something very lacking as I was growing up.
I was born in 1981 and was a teenager in the era of Kate Moss, heroin chic and waifs. But I remember vividly the first time I realised that society equates fat with being bad.
Princess Diana’s cellulite
And ironically enough it was a story about Princess Diana that started it. Someone who later we found out battled eating disorders. She was considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. And it was this story that first made me go on a diet and feel rubbish about myself.
It was 1996 and photos came out in the tabloid press of Diana leaving the Harbour Club fitness centre in London. She was wearing shorts and the story said she had cellulite on her thighs. One newspaper called her Princess Lumpy Legs. Wow, just wow.
It was literally front page fodder and was on the tv news, everyone was discussing it. So much so that the princess denied she had cellulite publicly. Saying the dimples on her thighs were imprints from a bar stool she had been sitting on.
Several tabloids then actually hired models. They attempted to re-create the photographs to prove or disprove whether the bar stool could cause these marks.
I’d never even heard of cellulite before this, but suddenly it was all anyone could talk about. I remember seeing girls at school squeezing the flesh on their thighs to check if they had it. I thought to myself that it must be a horrific thing to get. If the worlds most photographed woman had to speak out and deny it.
It was probably the first time I really started judging my body I was 15 and very skinny. But these stories told me that even the slim Princess could have cellulite and be totally shamed around the world for it, so what hope did I have?
In the weeks after, every newspaper, magazine and tv show was all about what diets and exercise you should do to avoid this dreaded scourge of cellulite and I took it all in. I went on my first diet and starting buying fitness videos. I never had an eating disorder but the story really affected me and changed the way I viewed not only myself but other women and I dieted for the next 20 years.
Nowadays I have learned to love my body, whatever size or shape it is. I’ve been very slim and currently due to two hernias and extreme pain stopping me from even walking very far, let alone exercising, I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m not actually happy with my weight and shape right now, but that’s down to feeling out of control and weak not the weight itself.
After surgery I will be working on getting strong, but none of this is for anyone else nor any other reason than I want to feel strength in my body, I am so looking forward to getting back out and walking my dogs, in dancing in bars and my kitchen, in swimming and kayaking and gardening and just being a happy, active me! I have no aims to lose a certain amount of weight or to look a certain way, I just want to feel strong and like me again and I know I can feel that at a size 10 or a size 18.
Does fat = bad?
I have learnt that fat does not equal bad or ugly or shame, it’s only hateful and hurtful words that make us feel those emotions. I have learnt that my body is beautiful and wondrous and my wobbly bits, my cellulite, my scars and my ostomy bag are all part of that. I’m beautiful because of those things, not despite them.
So though social media does expose us to so many more negative images and stories, I’m glad we live in an age where we hear the positive stories and body confidence too. Where we can see women of all shapes and sizes looking fabulous and telling their stories of self love.
I saw this photo of Jameela Jamil in her Instagram this week showing her cellulite and it made me reflect on how differently that image was accepted compared to the photos of Diana and it makes me feel like things are changing and it is becoming easier to love your body, however it looks. Her campaign of body confidence has been so inspiring.
I’d love to hear your stories, do you remember a time when a news story changed the way you feel about your body?