I think the absolute height of my body fears was prom. I’ve always had a hard time loving my arms (hence waking up on arm day to the sound of Eye of the Tiger ready to kick Self-Conscious’ butt!), and even the thought of dressing up for an event where you are going to be looked at terrified me… Even more so when I had no sleeves to cover up even a little bit of my arms… Eeek!
Of course, in hindsight, I want to tell myself off. Without dwelling on the fact that I actually adore the photos and I don’t particularly cringe at the sight of myself (even if we had come back off of holiday the day before and I had a slight t-shirt tan from constantly covering up), I have more than learnt the lesson that my arms really didn’t matter. The extent to which I despised my arms meant that on holiday, if I was wearing a top without sleeves, I would wear a cardigan- even if it was 30+ degrees! Body confidence is something I believe is very much so an individual thing- no one else matters. It’s about health and it’s about happiness; things we (whether we need or want to and have help from others or not) can give to ourselves as a shiny little gift wrapped in all of our favourite things.
In a society like today’s body confidence could even seem like a myth to a lot of us. Who likes themselves anyway?! Of course we should like ourselves! I believe it is of absolute importance that our main aim in life is to love who we are- in any aspect of life. Frustratingly we are far more likely to compliment ourselves in terms of skills or qualities like kindness or humour (which is important too!) than look at ourselves and say, “I’ve got cracking legs, haven’t I?!” Partially because feeling confident is confused with being arrogant and apparently we should feel guilty for liking ourselves- let alone loving ourselves!
While it is sad to look back at how body conscious I was at 16 years old, I also had the ability to go home after school and devour a pack of five Galaxy cake bars (man, I do miss those little slices of amazingness)! Anyone can see that this isn’t the healthiest lifestyle. I was old enough to know it was unhealthy and should have tried far harder to restrain myself.
Side note: The above photo seems incredible to me. The extent to how much I hated my body meant I would never take any kind of photo like this. My mum might have wanted a nice photo of me from holiday or something but I’d be so concerned about how different parts of me would make me look and in turn help me despise a photograph. Now I am more than happy to have a smiley photo taken of me since some of my most treasured photos are of family and friends looking all smiley.
I thought it was unfair I didn’t like how I looked because I cycled and walked to school or to friends’ houses, and as I continued onto sixth form, I ran more in my spare time too. With a slight – although it wasn’t much – change to how I ate, I realised pretty quickly that exercise and eating have to work together in order to do good. As I altered my diet slightly (all this meant was that I would have one or two cake bars and snack a little less) I did notice – as did others – that I was losing weight I was wanting to lose. By the time it was the summer before university I was happier but still not entirely happy. And I was still pretty good at snacking. I was for sure in need of a change in mindset and to alter my relationship with food.
In the first year of university I was running- potentially too much. At the same time, “because I was a poor student”, I was eating my main meals and a couple of snacks, but each main meal wasn’t really enough. For this reason, even if I was eating ready meals (ones full of “bad”!) and running 13 miles a few times a week along with shorter runs, I lost quite a lot of weight and started to tone up more and more. At the same time I was aware that if I was eating properly (so instead of just having a cottage pie ready meal for dinner having a homemade dish like this with potato and veggies), my body would feel far more healthier. Over the summer that followed, I was still wanting something to change. It was always at the back of my mind, though, that it was all about me. I had to really change my eating.
Still treating myself to the sugary foods I loved every now and then, I ran, cycled and walked even more (but in a far better way to my obsessive running during the academic year) whilst bringing a few sprinkles more of “nutritious” in my meals. By the time I was back at university for second year, in the same position, financially, I decided I was ridiculous (which I was!) for using “being a student” as having tasteless, boring and silly meals. I did spend a fair bit more than the year before but I easily could have healthy-d up on the same budget to first year (£7.50 aweek eek!). I also decided I wanted to budget enough to afford a gym membership too- and I fell in love with the challenge the gym brought. Throughout the year I did far more cooking and in this process fell in love buying lots of natural ingredients alongside other ingredients and making something from it all! It was all very simple but I was just happy to not have ready meals every night. And soon enough, with the better eating and lots of varied exercise, I was starting to actually feel confident in myself- who knew that could happen?!
What’s so important to me is that I don’t obsess over exercise and food- I enjoy the whole experience. And that’s what is so important. Sometimes I think far too much about not being able to make it to the gym on a day I want to go on and then I tell myself off: STOP. Sometimes I’ll overthink some food I ate and once again: STOP. Loving ourselves is so much more important than telling ourselves off if we slip up – no matter how big – because, if we really want to, we can pick it all back up again as soon as possible.
I really “healthy”d up a month or so into university in the second year, realising that I wasn’t being “strict” on myself through not snacking on rubbish and choosing healthier options, I actually enjoyed it. I still eat chocolate cake one every now and then. My mum and I will meet up for ice cream a couple of times a month. I still adore cheese. I hear this all the time and it’s true: it’s all about moderation. But more than anything, my body thanks me so much for eating in the way that I do- adding as much veg as possible to dinners or salads. Eating more exotic fruit that I adore like pineapple and mango when I’m bored of apples and oranges. For switching pasta to whole wheat and always eating wholemeal bread. For finding alternatives (what-I-call jacket potato wedges instead of processed chips which I realised I don’t actually like or sweet potato because it’s SO YUMMY). For eating pizza only as a treat and not as a quicker dinner “when I don’t have time.” For exercising, and most importantly, for adoring the whole routine. The least fixed routine- which is so incredibly important for me.
I’m also a big believer in switching it up. I’d get bored if I had a fixed plan for food and exercise. Each week I am likely to do at least one sport I didn’t the week before so I get excited about it all: badminton/tennis/swimming. And with food, I am constantly looking for new recipes/making up new recipes. Now I look forward to the lifestyle I am now used to (it’s not a “diet”!), happy with myself and excited at the thought of improving myself further. For me!
I believe we should all feelgood about our bodies- all shapes and sizes are welcome in the Let’s Love Ourselves Club. And while we are in this club we should evaluate because we are more likely to do so in a positive way. I so believe we should always strive to be positive because, then, even when we are negative or feel bad about something we have accustomed ourselves to seeing the world in a brighter way which moves along even the suckiest of times. So since I have become more of a half-full kind of gal, I have been able to look at parts of my body I don’t like and change them positively or find peace with them! If I am feeling down about myself, then I just plan how I’m going to make myself feel better about it! Because the best type of evaluation comes when we are happy. We can make two stars and a wish and it might go like this:
Star: I like my arms now
Star: I love my legs
Wish: Tone up my arms more
And so I carry on walking, cycling and running to destinations; I carry on putting extra positivity into arm day at the gym- always ready to learn more exercises to be Arm Happy too. I don’t dwell on any food choices I made previously. I like the phrase, “work hard, play harder” but I want to enjoy every aspect of my life and so with a lot of aspects of my life, especially with my lifestyle, I just Play Hard. It’s only work if we don’t enjoy it!
It’s, of course, so important that we make healthy changes when we need to. Although I want everyone to like themselves, it is crucial that people make important changes when their health is in danger. (Also that we are always living so as not to jeopardise our health.) If we are unhealthy (Galaxy Bar Kat), we should so want to healthy up and if we are dangerously unhealthy in any way, we must (important: healthily and positively) make changes. Exercise is so awesome, as is finding a healthy relationship with our food. I would never consider “my way” as “the best way” and so it stands that we should research and try and find our own way to Healthy Happiness!
If we are learning from mistakes and never putting ourselves in danger (eating/drinking alcohol in dangerous amounts or not eating and nourishing our bodies enough), we can be body confident and healthy too. Even if it takes time. And what is so very important that we, in High School Musical fashion, support each other and be very aware that The Body Confidence Issue is NOT Just a Girl Thing. It’s an Everybody Thing. Females just aren’t the only ones who give themselves a hard time- but all of us can feel confident.
Other peoples’ comments, of course, can get in the way of opening the door and walking through into The Body Confidence Room (metaphors are my best friend today). I have never had anyone explicitly say anything to or about me in regards to my body (as far as I am aware) and to anyone that has, as hard as it is, their comments just shouldn’t matter. As long as we are happy and healthy, or making our journey towards healthy, then turning a blind eye is absolutely necessary.
One thing that used to really upset me, though, was this… Almost whenever I used to meet up with a particular friend she would say something along these lines: “I know I’m not fat but I have a really big tummy”… *we discuss further* …”We’re the exact same body shape, aren’t we?” She hasn’t said this in a good while, I don’t see her how she saw herself and I am sure she wasn’t trying to be mean. However whenever she said it I was either trying so hard to stop feeling bad about myself or I had stopped feeling bad about myself, so it sucked massively and could throw me a few steps backwards. However, if she were to turn around and say this today, I am so confident in how positively I feel that I could easily shrug it off. Not just because I have entered a healthier way of living but because I can see that feeling sucky about myself really wasn’t worth it.
A few years ago I remember crop tops coming back in and, despite adoring the craze, I was very aware that they weren’t for me. They are now more than just a staple item to my wardrobe- my friends who wear outfits including crop tops name them “Kat outfits”! Me, Kathryn Terry, who had the worst kind of butterflies in the lead up to prom wearing crop tops!
I used to be able to sit there and list all of the things I despised about my appearance. This was a far unhealthier activity than eating a whole pack of treats after school. Not only have I learnt to deal with or cherish the qualities I can’t change, I’ve kicked butt in trying to change bits and bobs I can change- alongside my mindset. Exercise is something I adore, and eating well too. Knowing that this isn’t going to change brings me so much comfort- far more comfort than crisps and chocolate once brought me… or supposedly brought me! I know I can keep improving myself and it’s so important to know that we all can!
Through looking back on how nervous I used to be and terrified of my own appearance, I find that body confidence comes from a healthy attitude (not just in regards to food and exercise), complimenting myself, never comparing myself to others and from the simple desire to want to love myself.
Join the Let’s Love Ourselves Club today! **IT’S FREE!**
~ Kat ~