13 February 2017

I Don't Want To Be Body Positive

Before I fell pregnant with Willow I had been a Weight Watchers member on and off for several years. Overall I had managed to lose over 4.5 stone and I truly believe it not only benefited my health but helped me to get pregnant as quickly as we did. When pregnant I knew that the myth of eating for two was exactly that, a myth, and it wasn't necessary to eat more than 200 additional calories in the third trimester; but of course, I ate more than that and often consumed much more than I was consciously registering. By the time I was two weeks overdue with Willow I weighed 6.5 stone more than my pre-pregnancy weight, a tremendous weight gain, the majority of which was completely unnecessary.

Of course, a lot of that weight gain was down to carrying a baby, the waters which were her home, my body preparing for breastfeeding and I had extreme swelling and Edema which meant I experienced a lot of water retention. However, I'm very clearly no longer pregnant and Willow is now a 1-year-old; yet I still weigh the same as I did when I was 2 weeks overdue with her.





Whenever I have written about my weight, attempts at weight loss or my body in general in the past, I have always tried to do so with a positive attitude. Although this is my space to write honestly and openly, there has always been a niggling voice at the back of my head that would worry what others would say or think about this kind of content. I've always tried to put a positive spin on things because I believed that is the attitude I needed to have in order to be 'body positive' and because I worried, and still do a tremendous amount, that thinking negatively about my own body will make others think I think negatively about their body.

The thing is, when I look at other people, whether they are smaller than me or bigger than me, I don't see a 'right' or 'wrong' size; I see a body and often, I am jealous of that body. Jealous of the shape, the curves, the ability to wear clothes which actually suit their figure regardless of their size, the confidence they put out to the world, the whole darn lot. I don't think about my body in that way, I can't, and that isn't because I think any particular size is wrong or because the media has 'brainwashed' me, but because I am fat (and I do not have an issue with that word being used to describe myself because I am fat, the majority of my body is fat) and for me and my body, that is unhealthy; I see the negative effects it has on my health on a daily basis.

I get out of breath walking up the stairs, my joints at my knees, ankles, and wrists hurt, I struggle to get up from the sofa and my asthma has deteriorated. Every bit of me wobbles when I move and I can't cross my legs when sitting down as they are simply too big. My skin has shown negative effects too, with the pigmentation and discolouration which I encountered as a young child and teen due to being overweight having increased to the point where my neck looks like it has a black ring around it. I feel self-conscious every single day, whether that be at home or out and about and I have found myself apologising to old friends who I haven't seen for a while for my size and weight, for being so big.
"The Body Positive Movement is a feminist movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being." - Source.
Yet if you turn back the clock a good 3-4 years, I was body positive. I would spend my days trying to spread as much body positivity as possible, I'd tweet all day, write posts here on the blog, share photos on Instagram, all because I was 'plus size and body positive', because that's what I was meant to be, right? At the time I used to share the occasional outfit post but I couldn't just refer to myself as a 'fashion blogger', because I was a size 16-18 and that meant I was plus size and so I had to fit in with the plus size community because I was too big to be just a regular fashion blogger, and there began my problem with the term body positive.

I didn't like having to separate myself from a group of 'us and them' (note how I didn't use the term 'vs' there, because I don't think it's a case of us vs them when it comes to size, it only becomes 'vs' if you let it), I didn't see why it was necessary to have a whole separate name just because of a number on some scales. But there it was, an unspoken rule; if you're smaller than x, you can play over here, but if you're bigger than x, you need to go over there. Does it work? Not for me, it didn't work at all and still doesn't now, but maybe that's because I have come to have a very negative association with the term 'body positive', because my voice which had spent the best part of two years shouting about body positivity, was silenced.

I had just found out I was pregnant but it was still very early days, so it wasn't public knowledge yet. There was some big fuss on Twitter after a brand had insulted the plus size community and I was there with them, tweeting my disgust, saying the negativity and judgement needed to stop, until I received some negativity and judgement of my own. I was told not to tweet, not to support, not to use the term plus size, because I wasn't plus size anymore; I'd openly shared a journey on Weight Watchers in the year previous and I had managed to get down to a size 14, so I wasn't allowed to call myself plus size anymore and I wasn't allowed to support the plus size community anymore. In fact, losing weight, 'giving in to those big diet companies', that was an act of treachery and I was a damaging voice in the plus size community; I didn't deserve an opinion on being plus size and my voice was not wanted.

Even now, over two years down the line, that conversation has stuck with me. I didn't feel 'skinny' or 'slim' at a size 14 and I still viewed myself as plus size. I knew I was pregnant and would gain weight and I knew I would need the community of body-positive women I had come to love and speak to daily, to keep me on track in seeing my body as something beautiful rather than something that brings me distress. I hadn't joined Weight Watchers and chosen to lose weight because I wasn't body positive or because I felt that being bigger than x size was wrong; I wanted to lose weight so that I would be happy in my own body, and isn't that what body positive is ultimately about?

"Just because I'm plus size doesn't mean I have to be happy about the body I'm in; not being happy doesn't make me against body positivity."

From that moment I felt like I was back in school; I wasn't small enough to be 'normal' but I wasn't 'big enough' to be plus size. I was stuck in limbo, with no voice, unsure where to turn and in the end, spent months feeling more negative about myself and my body than ever before. It is awful growing up overweight and being bullied, but as an adult to find that safe place where you feel like your body is OK, to then have that snatched from you and basically told your body isn't even good enough to be part of a community that uses body positivity as their mantra, left me in a very bad place mentally.

And then I had a daughter, and I realised I was going to have to walk her through life and help her navigate all these experiences and situations and her body, her tiny little body which grows and blossoms every day, was immediately at the forefront of my mind. How would I make her feel confident, happy, body positive if I have such a negative connotation towards the term? The very people who are meant to endorse a safe, positive space for me because my body was so big, had been as detrimental to my body image as all the naive children and teenagers in school who used my weight as a daily attack. Can you imagine that, spending my entire life being told I am too fat, to then be told I'm not fat enough? So much hard work to be 'body positive' turned into another reason to despise my body, and it made me realise something.

I don't need to be body positive. I know I'm not happy at the size I am, I know I am not comfortable in this body and I am not at my healthiest in this body, and actually that's OK. Body positivity isn't about being happy at a certain size, it's being happy at the size that is right for you and although that is not my current size of 18-20, it probably wouldn't be a size 10-12 either. It's my choice to make positive changes to get where I feel happier and healthier in my body and I don't need a term to help me get there. I want Willow to grow up with a healthy and happy mama, not because I'll be a certain size, but because I will be happy at that size. I want her to view all bodies for exactly what they are; beautiful.

Scolding people for making a decision to change their body does not come across as body positive. In fact, I think it's hypocritical to say you are body positive whilst attacking people for being a different size to you or for being happy in a different size to you. Surely body positivity should be about everyone being happy and confident in their body regardless of their size, whether that means eating a perfectly balanced diet, going on a weight loss journey or binging on take-out (all of which are done by people of all sizes and are not tied to one specific size). The idea that you cannot openly say you are not happy with your body worries me because I'm pretty sure I am not the only one who doesn't give a toss whether someone else is a size 6 or a size 26.

Wanting to change my body has nothing to do with your body. Wanting to benefit my own health does not mean I worry about your health. Feeling like I am too fat does not mean I think you are fat. I tried to think of some long-winded technical way of saying that to make people realise that having a negative attitude towards your own body does not mean you have a negative opinion of someone else's body, but it doesn't need to be some long explanation; it really is that simple. I am not happy in my body at the size I am and doing something positive for my own personal situation, like rejoining Weight Watchers, does not mean I have given your body a single thought.

"I want them to know that so long as they are safe, happy and healthy, it doesn't matter how big or small they are." - 5 Things I Want To Teach My Children.

This isn't about losing the baby weight, I never had any intention of starting a diet when I gave birth nor have I ever been an active and fit person who wanted to start running or join a gym as soon as I had my daughter. This isn't about having negative connotations with anyone else's body or size or listening to the media who tell us that big is bad. This is about me, my body, my health. This is about acknowledging that my health is in a very bad way due to my size. It's about acknowledging the fact that my weight, that being the size I am, caused numerous problems with the healing process of my caesarean scar and is the reason I experienced as many infections and post-partum issues as I did, which ironically, in turn, helped to worsen the already very negative feelings I have towards my body. Partly, this is about being tired of being afraid to speak up and say "I'm incredibly overweight and I am not happy in my body.".

I don't love my body, I'm not body positive in the slightest and I don't feel it is acceptable for me to be this size and have the health issues I am experiencing because of it. I've given myself 12 months to make excuses, the old lines of 'I've just had a baby', 'I'll start in a few weeks' or 'It's not a problem' to name but a few. Honestly, I wasn't ready to start what is going to be a long, physical, emotional and psychological journey to lose weight and get myself in a healthier place. I wasn't ready to admit that enough was enough and I needed to do something about it.

Why Weight Watchers? Because it's worked for me before, because my problem, mostly, is portion sizes and having a daily and weekly points allowances helps me to control that, because I can't do it alone and go to meetings each week is that support system that I need. If I could do this by myself, I wouldn't be where I am now.

I actually rejoined Weight Watchers earlier last Wednesday and since then I have felt so excited about my journey ahead. Losing almost half my body weight no longer seems like an impossible task that I want to hide away from, it seems achievable and I'm so excited for my weekly meetings to see how I progress each week. I know there will be weeks where I stay the same or even gain, but there will be weeks when I lose and those are the weeks I will focus on. I will be doing updates as I go along here on the blog, although not regularly, maybe once or twice a month. I'll also be sharing updates on Instagram and particularly Instastories, where I have been sharing my decision to rejoin Weight Watchers as well meals, how many points I am on and how I use my points each day and throughout the week, so make sure you give me a follow over there @TattooedTealady.

Everyone deserves to be happy in their body at whatever size, shape and weight that they feel comfortable and happy in, and everyone deserves to be the one to make choices about their own body.

I am not happy in this body, this is my choice and it is my time to reclaim my body.

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