I went to the Doctors about my Eating Disorder – and was prescribed weight loss tablets.

I suppose there is no right beginning to this particular story. I could start out by describing the first time I found the language to speak about my eating disorder – but somehow, that doesn’t feel quite right because that language still feels so foreign to me. So let me begin by telling you about the first time I ever verbalised it to another living person. Not just in my diary, or in my poems, but to someone who had the capacity to respond – someone who could either affirm me, or keep me from talking about it again for a long time.

Unfortunately, it was the latter.

The first time I spoke about my eating disorder, I was 19 years old. My struggles with eating were not new – in fact, I could not remember a time where my relationship to food or my body felt “normal”. I could not even begin to imagine what “normal” looked like. What it felt like to not use food like it was packing paper – its primary purpose to fill the emptiness inside of me. Even if it was only ever temporary. Even if it made me feel even worse after. The seconds of fullness were always worth it. I became fixated with it. I lost sense of hunger. Eventually, I began to lose sense of the fullness too.

So, when I was 19 I began to chase a different kind of beast. This one went by the name of thinness. I found my hunger again – and this time around, it was all I could ever think about. Living away from home, I could exercise as much and eat as little as possible without my family – who were already well versed in the language of eating disorders – noticing. Except when I went home, they did notice – because I had dropped a couple of dress sizes. But they weren’t concerned. They were proud. They applauded me.

They weren’t the only ones. A doctor I saw about chronic pain encouraged me to keep on with my mission. They advised I keep eating less and exercising more. That would be the cure to my pain, they assured me. Except, my pain stayed – stubborn as ever. But it wasn’t just physical – my mental well-being was deteriorating quickly and I had no idea where to turn. So when a university counsellor gave me the numbers of local crisis lines, I found myself dialling it frequently. And one time, I confided in them about my struggles with eating. I found the language to speak about the binge eating, about the restricting, about the obsessive routines I had around food, about the eating disorder beasts that had long since haunted my family. I closed my eyes, and it spilled out of me. All of the things that I had never said. I had opened the gates that had long been closed – and out came everything that had been crammed up against them for over a decade.

At first, there was silence. And then there was regret. Of course, shame was not far behind – it never was. A few seconds hesitation on the crisis nurses’ part felt like a lifetime. When she finally answered, it was a question. A question that circles around my mind to this day.

“Well, are you overweight?”

This told me everything I needed to know. It told me that because I was fat, any weight loss would be seen as a positive thing – no matter the reason the weight loss was occurring. That in society’s eyes, my body was something that needed to be shed like an extra skin. All that mattered was that it become smaller.

And for a while it did. Until it wasn’t anymore. The weight I had lost came back – I gained back that extra skin. And another. And another.

So I suppose it shouldn’t have been all that surprising this time around. I suppose I should have expected it. Except, between then and now – I had spoken about it. Hesitantly, I opened up to a home treatment nurse – one of the nurses who had been coming to see me daily for a few months a few years ago. Not long after the phone incident, I told another nurse – and this one listened. She believed me. She referred me to SYEDA, where I had a few months counselling. A decade of struggles with eating could never really be covered in a limited amount of sessions, but slowly the wounds started to open and heal.

Which made this certain instance at the doctors particularly demoralising. Realising I needed more support, I took myself to go and see a doctor I had been seeing for a long time – who I respected, and trusted. In the first appointment, he spoke about how he “binges” sometimes – often opting for say, a chocolate bar instead of a piece of fruit. A frustrating comment, but one I forgave. He said he would refer me back to SYEDA – and I am yet to hear about the said referral.

Returning back to the doctors, I spoke about my struggles with my weight – how it is never stable and due to yo-yo dieting is constantly fluctuating. I wondered if I could be referred to a dietitian. I mentioned my eating disorder again. Instead, the doctor began to write a prescription out for weight loss pills. And because I was in a really bad place with my eating disorder, and because my family seemed to be especially on board with the pills;

I took them.

This is something that I am so ashamed to say. I took the pills. And for a few weeks, they were okay. For a few weeks, I felt free. It was as though someone had tied my eating disorder to a balloon and let it fly with the wind. I felt lighter, and the world felt easier to navigate.

But my balloon found me again.

One day, I wanted a piece of cake. A piece of glorious chocolate cake. I sat down to eat it, and it was the best thing I had tasted in weeks. The buttercream danced on my tongue. The chocolate bounced off of the walls of my mouth. I knew what happiness tasted like again. And everything was fine.

Until a few hours later, when I had an embarrassing accident – luckily I was at home, but it did not make the shame any less. I stood up from my bed, and found a large orange oily spot that had seeped through my bedding and onto my duvet. The pill had literally made me shit oil – all because I had eaten a slice of cake. And my doctor never warned me of this – or of the potential to develop liver disease or kidney stones.

After googling and finding this out, and an article that spoke about how shitting yourself was merely a “punishment for eating something that you shouldn’t have”, it suddenly hit me. I had been taking diet pills. A pill that claims to absorb some of the fat you eat, and help you to lose weight – one that is also available over the counter for use by anyone.

This pill was prescribed to me when I was in need of support, and help with my eating disorder – an eating disorder that was then encouraged and given fire to by a doctor who only saw possible weight loss I could achieve as the most important thing.

It all boils down to this.

My doctor did not believe that I could have an eating disorder, because I am fat. For him, and many others in this society, my fatness is something that needs to be fixed – whatever the cost.

And in this situation, the cost was my mental health.

It has taken me a few months to write this, and still I am not sure how to end this. What I could possibly say that would make me feel any better. How to end this optimistically.

But the truth is: I am not optimistic about this.

I do not feel positive, or supported. I do not feel able to self-refer to my local eating disorder support because it requires me to fill in my weight – and I do not want to go through this again.

I just can’t.

 

The Things We Do Not Talk About: Grief Edition

As I prepared to talk to my uncle for what I knew would be the last time, I began to obsess over how I could make the interaction as meaningful as possible. I wondered how I could capture everything I felt towards my uncle – the gratitude, the love, the mourning for more time than we were given – into the ten minutes that he would be able to stay awake for.

I could barely breathe under the weight of expectation for a good last word. One that was careful, and sweet, and heartfelt. All while knowing that the best last word was impossible because in a fairer world, the last word would be able to lengthen the little thread of time that our loved ones have left. That perhaps, in a less cruel world, there would be no reason to contemplate the last word you say to a dying person at all.

But in this world, grief is much too sticky on our fingertips – our hands printing it anywhere they can. The biscuit jar. The fridge. The coffee mug. The google search titled “what does it feel like to die? where do we go?”. And it would be lying to say that reading about what scientists believe to happen in our dying moments gave me no comfort at all – it did.

“In this world, grief is much too sticky on our fingertips – our hands printing it anywhere they can”

The truth is, part of me thanked a god I no longer believe in that we are perhaps saved from pain in our last moments – instead accompanied most likely by a decreased perception of reality. By a lightness that is impossible to measure. A lightness thought to be induced by an excited visual system in our brain. I thanked a god my uncle did believe in, that he was most likely allowed to dream in his final moments.

I like to imagine that he was dreaming about reuniting with people he had already lost, of the 52 years he spent with my auntie. A bigger part of me than I like to admit also finds comfort in this; because perhaps I will be given the same luxury when it comes to my own time to leave this world that I barely even know yet.

A three page magazine spread about my uncle after his death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked into the room where my uncle would die, I was drawn to the large cabinet that lived in front of their bedroom window. I did not know yet that this would be where his urn of ashes would sit, behind a large framed photo frame of my uncle smiling – years back, before he knew what dying felt like.

I looked at my uncle and it was hard to liken this man who laid weak and gaunt, unable to get more than a few words out, to the man who was so excited at the invention of YouTube. An invention that allowed him to delve even deeper into his love of music, listening to his favourite songs with one click. Each time we would visit, he would present us with his latest artist discovery with a light in his eyes.

But here I was, looking into his eyes – and I could not find that light anywhere. Any comfort that my prior google searches had given me evaporated – and no amount of trying could bring it back. I wanted so badly for it all to make sense, and for a little while it did. But as my uncle struggled to sit up straighter, to listen as I spoke, none of this made sense.

I had spent years trying to forget about death. I had spent years avoiding conversations that would force me to address my own impending mortality – and more painfully the mortality of my loved ones – but here, that was impossible. Here, I looked the mortality of my uncle in the face – and no matter how much I begged, no matter how much I hoped, nothing could change that. Here, I looked my own mortality in the face – and my strongest instinct was to run. But to flee this painful truth, was to flee from a goodbye I desperately needed to say.

My uncle died at around 5am on the morning of the 19th June. My auntie had slipped downstairs to make a cup of tea and upon returning to her room, she found my uncle’s lifeless body. The next time I would be in a room with my uncle, he would not be there – but his body would be. In this room, I would attend my first funeral. One that almost 200 people attended, where we paid tribute to a man that we would never see again. We cried to the songs that he chose as his final goodbye, and afterwards we all shared stories – laughing over memories that we had all long forgotten.

A tattoo I got 2 months after my Uncle’s death: the flowers were his favourite.

I suppose I know now why people say that funerals are for the living. There is something so moving about being in a room full of people paying their respects for someone who is now gone – someone who you now have to become accustomed to referring to in the past tense. For a little while, you can hold on to the things you do not want to forget. In that room, your loved one’s voice is so loud. It was easy to imagine my uncle singing along, accompanied by his trusted guitar. His arms stretched around every single one of us.

Selfishly, I have began to wonder about my own goodbye. About how I want to leave this world. And I hope that like my uncle, I will be able to say that I have had a good life. I hope that I left this world a little better than it was when I came into it. I think that is all any of us can hope for.

Someone once said to me that we have two deaths: the first, when we actually die – when our essence leaves our body and we are no longer around to speak, to love, to live. The second, the last time someone speaks our name.

I hope that the last time someone speaks my own name, it will be laced with love. I hope that in it, there will be joy and tenderness. I suppose, perhaps that we all want to be remembered fondly. Maybe it is the human in us – to want so badly to have our names held in strong, loving arms. To have it gently placed, carried away in a soft wind to be left to rest.

So with these words, I hope to keep my uncle’s memory alive a little longer. In them, I plant some love, and tenderness, and nostalgia. Even a little hope. Hope for a life that I can be proud of. A life that I can leave behind knowing that I have lived so heartily that every broken heart meant that there was so much joy here.

There is so much joy here.

When University Isn’t The Best Years Of Your Life

Image result for university

A past version of myself is curled up in a ball beneath her desk in her University room. She is 18. She decided to live in halls for her first year, despite her better judgement. She is sharing a flat with eleven other people – and months in, she still barely knows them. Knowing them would require leaving her room, other than for lectures – from which she either visits a friend on a different part of campus, or skulks back to her room. In her room, she sits in darkness – mess is piling up, because she has no energy to do much of anything at all. She gets a text from her mum saying “Are you okay? We love you”. When she replies, it isn’t with the truth. It’s some lie about how great she is doing. What she doesn’t tell her mum is that, that night, a friend goes with her to the hospital – where she is handed a leaflet about suicidal thoughts and sent away.

I didn’t think that it would be like this. I was told that the time I would spend at University would be the best years of my life.

They did not tell me that they also had the potential to be the worst.

Another thing that they did not tell me, is that when you were mentally ill before moving away from family and into an environment that is completely different – you will still be mentally ill. Just now, you are in a different place that you do not recognise surrounded by people that you do not know.

The image of University that I previously had – fun nights out, excitedly scribbling in lectures and seminars, cooking meals with your flatmates who are now your best friends – quickly started to be replaced with my new reality.

Instead of fun nights out, my first and only Freshers’ night out ended with me sitting outside on the cold ground having a panic attack and being covered in tin foil. Instead of joint cooking, I stayed in my room. I became the stereotype of the isolated flatmate who barely even says two words to anyone, avoiding the kitchen at all costs. Instead of excitedly scribbling in lectures and seminars, I either skipped because I had been too depressed to do the reading – or attended, and could barely keep my eyes open long enough to pay any attention.

I fell out of love with a subject that I had previously fallen head over heels in love with. I was in an environment where my mental illnesses were thriving – and so most of my social contact was with crisis teams and therapists. But still, nothing was getting better. It was quickly getting worse. In my year and a few months at York, I visited the a&e department of the hospital three times – two of which were because I was suicidal.

However, my university experience is not as uncommon as I thought.

In the largest mental health survey of university students to date, the Guardian found that psychological stress and illness amongst students is rising significantly – with half of the 38,000 students surveyed having thoughts of self-harm.

The survey also found that over three-quarters of these students hid the symptoms they were experiencing from their friends and family – the same way I did. I was so desperate to assure people that I was a carefree student, because that was what I thought I should be, that my mental health symptoms deteriorated so badly that I was almost hospitalised.

In the year that I first attended University in 2016, the University that I attended released a report stating that 50% of ambulance calls to the campus were for attempted suicide and self-harm.

Like many other students, I dropped out of my course and moved back home. A study taken between 2009/10 and 2014/15 found that university dropouts had increased by a massive 210% amongst students with mental health problems.

Upon returning home, I was under a crisis home treatment team for months. Nurses would come out daily at the beginning, but I could barely speak. Speaking required energy which I did not have. My face was permanently fixed with a dead stare, one that was always staring somewhere far away. Somewhere that no-one could find me.

Eventually, I started to crawl my way out of the darkness that had taken over. Nurses began to come every alternate day – and then eventually, once a week. I started new medication. I slowly started to leave the house. I attended group therapy. I began to see friends again.

I spent two years focusing on my recovery. Many doctors visits and many breakdowns later, I decided to re-apply for University. This time, I would be closer to home. This time, I would ask for help before I needed it. I would prioritise my own mental well-being over anything else.

A few months ago, I finished my first year – for the second time. Next month, I will be returning back for second year – and I’m excited. I’m proud, and I’m excited. Something that three years ago, I thought that I would never be able to feel again.

Image result for sheffield hallam university

It has taken me a long time to realise that you can’t run away from your problems, or mental health. You can’t just magic them away with some dream of a life that you think will fix everything. And taking time out of something that is harming you, or leaving completely, does not make you a failure. It does not make you weak, or mean that you did not try hard enough. It doesn’t make you any less than because you’re not at the point in your life that you had hoped to be – that now, you are not in the same place as most of your peers.

Prioritising your well-being is always admirable. Leaving something that is no longer serving you is self-care.

I no longer feel like I failed by leaving. And if I needed to, I would leave again. Because I no longer tie my worth to my academic successes – or to my productivity. I know that I am valuable, and that my own well-being is more important than any qualification or job.

I know now that it is not shameful to ask for help – and it’s not giving up by asking for things that I am entitled to.

We don’t have to do it all alone. 

What My Nephew Has Taught Me: A Look Into Children’s Media and Anti-Fatness

My nephew does not yet know shame.

He has not yet become acquainted with self-doubt, or body guilt. What he is acquainted with, however, is his hunger. He knows when he is hungry and knows how to vocalise what food he wants to eat. And more often than not, that food is chocolate. He also knows when he feels full and will subsequently say so. He is fearless in the face of food. Even strawberries, which he is allergic to, he will repeatedly announce to anyone who will listen “When I’m bigger, I will be able to eat strawberries!”

I know that one day, he will most likely lose this fearlessness. One day, he may be taught to no longer rejoice in the sight of his own reflection. To walk into my bedroom, and grin at himself in my mirrored wardrobe, before moving his body around and dancing while intently watching himself. Currently, the only things he is scared of are bees and spiders. I’m aware that one day, this list will possibly be significantly bigger.

Kids are smarter, and more aware, than we may think they are. They hear the way that you speak about your own body, and the way you speak about other bodies, and that acts as their framework of understanding which body shapes are considered “normal”. But they aren’t just hearing it from you, and other family members;

They are also hearing it from their favourite TV programmes and films.

A 2017 study that analysed the most popular children’s movies between 2012-2015 found that 84% of these movies had content that promoted weight-stigma.

This means that children are subconsciously learning anti-fat attitudes before they even go to school. Before they even understand what fatness is, they are learning that it is something that is inherently wrong.

I notice this myself as I sit cuddling my nephew as we are watching his favourite programmes. He went through a phase of non-stop watching Peppa Pig and I started to memorise words from the episodes that I had seen most. Not one of my finest talents.

Image result for fatphobia in peppa pig   Image result for fatphobia in peppa pig

But in watching so much of this programme, I began to see first hand the subliminal messages of anti-fatness that are prevalent in so much children’s media. I saw continuous patterns of body shaming against Daddy Pig – various comments aimed at the size of Daddy’s Big Stomach, his inability to run, his inability to fit into the treehouse.

Though this may seem harmless – though people may argue that it’s just a programme, the effect of the media can be powerful; particularly for children. The media that a child is exposed to has the ability to impact how they may view and order the world. And because media often lacks inclusivity in terms of gender, race, (dis)ability, and size, this may directly impact what a child may perceive to be normal.

fat alfie

We see these patterns in research that looks directly into childhood bullying. This research finds that children are already showing prejudice towards larger bodies by the age of 4.  Presented with two different versions of the same story book, with the exception of one of the characters was made to be fat in the second version, the children consistently rejected the fat character. The kids perceived this character to be slower, naughtier, worse at school and to have fewer friends. From this research, we can undoubtedly see that these children perceive fatness as inherently negative – meaning that children are already absorbing an anti-fat message at 4 years old.

It’s not just fatter children who experience high rates of bullying – it’s black and indigenous people of colour, disabled children, lgbtq+ children. When a child navigates multiple of these identities, they are at a higher risk of bullying. For example, lgbtq+ children and teens are more likely to experience weight-based bullying.

Considering all of this, it’s quite unsurprising that by 10 years old children are already afraid of fat. So much so, that research shows that 81% of 10 year olds are more afraid of being fat than they are of losing both of their parents, cancer and war.

So what does this mean for our children? Our kids, our younger siblings, our niblings (this is a word I recently discovered after googling a gender-neutral term for nephews and nieces and I don’t hate it)?

How do we protect them from a society that places so much emphasis on the appearances of our bodies? In a society that sees European beauty standards as superior and places the white, cisgender, thin, heterosexual, able-bodied individual as the ideal – how do we assure today’s children that they are perfect as they are?

  • Regulate the way that you talk about your body, and other bodies, in front of them. The way you refer to your own body acts as a tool for them to perceive their own body. Negative body and diet talk constitutes bodies that are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Show them representation of all different kinds of bodies, and people.
  • Monitor the media that they are being exposed to – is the media that they watching perpetuating harmful stereotypes around marginalised people? What is it teaching them?
  • Start conversations – educate the children in your life on intersections such as race, gender, age, (dis)ability, size etc. Expand their perceptions of what ‘normal’ is, and avoid stereotypes that dehumanise certain populations of people. When we don’t teach the children in our life about different intersections, we are showing them which bodies and people are prioritised – and which we don’t value. Teach them about the value in all people – not just a select few.

Obviously, these are just a select few suggestions – and they won’t be able to 100% protect the children in our life in every single area of their life. But it’s a starting point – and it is something that I am trying to implement in my interactions with my nephew. There are times when I just want to pause time, cuddle him to me and talk about dinosaurs for as long as possible – to stop him from every coming into contact with anything that may make him question his worth and value. Times when I just want to stay in the bubble of him staring curiously at his reflection in the mirror – not yet seeing anything out of place about himself, because each time he recognises something new. Something he didn’t notice before, but wow.

But I am also aware that my nephew will navigate this world with so much privilege – and that some of this privilege will act as bubble wrap against a world that others are not so protected from. I am aware that his whiteness will grant him access which others are not given.

My wish is for a world that values and represents all bodies. A world that is not navigated easier by those who are white, able-bodied, thin, cisgender, heterosexual – navigated easier because these intersections are seen as superior.

I want a world where I am not terrified that my nephew will one day hate himself as much as I have hated myself – as much as so many people that I know, have hated themselves.

Last month, my nephew turned 4 years old – and the way he excitedly screams “Bee!” and runs to give me a big hug is all of the hope that I need that one day things will be better.

So to my nephew Zak, aged four –

You are perfect and you will always be perfect.

 

I am fat – and I am also disabled. This is my experience.

Towards the end of last year, I finally invested in a mobility aid in the form of a beautiful polkadot-purple walking stick. I live with Fibromyalgia and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome – two chronic conditions that often affect my ability to function in everyday life. For months, I had been adding a walking stick to my online cart – only to remove it, close the tab and tell myself to forget about it.

Buying it should have been the easy part. Internalised ableism wasn’t the only thing preventing me from pressing ‘order’, however. As I was scrolling through walking sticks, I realised that I couldn’t buy most of them – because they had a weight limit. This limited my options significantly. So after months of deliberating and endless searching, with a gentle push from an ex-partner, I finally bit the bullet.

When it came,  I hid it beneath my bed – promising to take it out soon and take it for a spin. Since that day though, it has stayed there collecting dust. I have yet to use it – despite many days where I would have found it extremely helpful.

Being visibly fat comes with our bodies being pathologised and treated as a personal and biological failure that needs correcting – and so we are prescribed diets and exercise programmes and rigid meal plans. By doctors, by family members and friends, and even strangers. This all because our bodies are seen as public abnormalities that are free for everyone and anyone to comment on. This is despite evidence that shows that 95-97% of diets do not work.  There is also further evidence that concludes that people deemed ‘overweight’ according to BMI measures (these have however been proven to be inaccurate) are actually showing to have a lower mortality rate than those who are deemed healthy by societal standards.

Being visibly fat comes with our bodies being pathologised and treated as a personal and biological failure that needs correcting

Being disabled also comes with its share of pathologisation and desires to ‘fix’ something that is considered wrong and defective. The world is not built with disabled and fat bodies in mind. We have steps up to and inside buildings with no lift, or lifts that are consistently out of order. Streets are cobbled and made inaccessible for wheelchairs and mobility aids. Disabled spaces on trains and buses are extremely limited. Bathroom stalls are made too small. Places that are advertised as accessible often end up not being accessible at all. Wheelchairs are often damaged on flights.

For fat people, public spaces are also not designed with us in mind. Restaurant and theatre chairs with armrests can be a difficult fit for many of us. Airplane seatbelts may not be long enough, and so we are forced to request a seatbelt extender – with many planes not having an abundance of these. These are just a few problems that disabled people and fat people have to face in a world that excludes us.

And so when my fat body was diagnosed with two disabilities – I found myself balancing two different intersections. I am privileged in many ways – I am white, I have been for the most part financially privileged while growing up, I have somewhere to live. My whiteness and privileges have granted me access to things despite my fatness and disabilities, that other people are not.

Being fat and disabled, for me, means constantly second guessing myself and my pain. It means feeling guilty for taking up space in disabled spaces. It means never feeling ‘disabled enough’, and avoiding using spaces designated for disabled people because I do not feel worthy of them.

It means although I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and joint hypermobility syndrome for 2 years, I still haven’t been referred to a pain clinic because my pain isn’t seen as worthy of help. I was given a few lessons of hydrotherapy, but the commute was too long and not accessible for me – and I do not drive – so I had one lesson, and had to stop. It means that one of the two doctors at my doctors surgery does not believe that fibromyalgia is a legitimate thing. And he is not the only one.

In a 2007 study of over 2000 individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia, over a quarter felt that their doctors did not take their illness seriously. There is still a credibility issue surrounding fibromyalgia, meaning that many people go undiagnosed – and many of those who are diagnosed, their pain is not seen as legitimate or valid enough. And this is the case for many invisible illnesses and disabilities.

This reinforces feelings of guilt for not being able to manage the way others expect us to, of questioning our own pain and its legitimacy, and feelings of having to prove our disability.

So if any of this relates to you,

if you feel like your pain is being ignored, questioned, or seen as invalid.

if you feel like on top of all the pain, the fatigue, and the fight just to survive – you are having to fight to be listened to, to be understood, to be believed.

I want you to know this.

Your experience is valid. Your pain is valid. That’s what makes it real.

Your doctors, your family members and friends, strangers – their disbelief, their questioning, of your pain does not make your pain less valid or worthy of help.

I believe you.

I believe you.

I believe you.

 

 

I don’t care about your Slimming World recipes

A few days ago, I met up with an auntie I haven’t seen in a while. Just the two of us, we went for food – an all you can eat – and for coffee after wandering around town for a little while.

It was a refreshing change of events, after a constant stream of reading and studying. That was, well, until the inevitable happened.

Over food, my auntie started telling me about a slimming world recipe she had found and loved. Oh, and of course – she would send it to me. No problem, she assured me. Except I do not remember asking for it.

Being fat has brought me a lot of unsolicited weight loss advice. Advice that I have never asked for, yet seem to invite just from the appearance of my body. A lot of recipe suggestions – low calorie, no doubt – and comments on my health from people who do not know a single thing about my health. Those that do, but still choose to mention my health – use my health against me as proof that my fat body is the problem.

Fat bodies have always existed, and always will. Your war on obesity, your insistence that our bodies are an epidemic, will do absolutely nothing to change that. Your suggestions of recipes that you will link me to, your diets that worked for you so will definitely work for me, your comments about how I should just exercise and stop being lazy – are not helping anyone.

Especially people like me.

You are not going to eradicate bodies like mine, because body set points vary significantly – and despite our current beauty standards that convince us otherwise, our bodies are not a problem to be solved.

Despite how much you continue to pathologise my existence, and insist that my fatness is a disease; I am still here. I am still worthy of respect, and kindness, and love, and happiness; things that are not and should not be conditional based on whether you consider someone worthy enough.

I love my family. I love my friends. I appreciate all that they do for me. But I hate feeling like my body is something that they do not know how to love. I hate the constant dread and fear I feel whenever I meet someone new, or someone that I know who consistently finds a way to bring up diets and weight in to the conversation. I hate feeling like my body is something on a list of apologies I need to make.

So, no, I do not care about your slimming world recipes. I appreciate you, and I love you, but I am learning how to respect myself enough to walk away from these conversations. I am learning how to appreciate and love my body enough to not wear it like an apology.

I hope you can too.

Why I Take Nude Photos

C70E2599-FC7A-41B4-9483-520EB3B15E92If you are familiar with my instagram, you will be no stranger to the kind of photos I share. The photos where I am fully naked (and censored of course; instagram doesn’t like a ‘female’ nipple), and the photos when I am partially nude in lingerie.

My relationship with my body has changed. A lot. Not so long ago, I was spending as little time as possible in the shower so I didn’t have to spend any longer than necessary with my naked body. I wore the baggiest clothes I could, to hide the folds and curves of my silhouette. Spent every minute of the day sucking my stomach in, trying to take up less space. Existing, rather than living; dreaming of the day that I would be smaller, thinner, beautiful. 

I equated thin to beautiful, and subsequently fat with ugly, because that’s what I was taught. We learn it from being just a few years old – through children’s tv programmes, through comments on our weight, through hearing others’ be preoccupied with their weight. We quickly learn where our worth lies – in our beauty. If we don’t fit these standards that are idealised, and 95% of us don’t, we are deemed less than. Until we do.

It’s no wonder that 81% of ten year old children are more afraid of being fat than they are of cancer, war and losing both of their parents (AAND).

I had no idea that it was possible to do anything but hate your body until about a year and a half ago. When I stumbled across some accounts on instagram where I saw fat people – naked, in lingerie, in clothes I didn’t even think I could ever wear. Fat people that were happy. Fat people that loved their bodies.

I aspired to be as unashamed, as unapologetic, as alive. 

Nude photos for me are a way for me to connect with my body. A way for me to document the moments where I felt unimaginable joy, peace, and appreciation. A way to look at my body and see home.

Of course, we are more than our bodies. We are everything that makes us, us. The hurt, the hope, the fears, the dreams, the loves, the hates, the losses, the wins. We are more than our bodies, but we deserve to feel anything but hate towards them. We deserve to feel safe.

We deserve everything that we are told we are not deserving of.

So dance naked, look at yourself in the mirror and become friends with your reflection, parade around in your underwear, have great sex with the lights on – if you want to. Just, live. Live.