The images above are my body. A body that has been abused for years, a body that has starved and a body that has binged. A body that has been called too fat and too thin. A body that has been too weak and a body that has been pushed to its limits to gain strength. The image on the left; a photo taken nearly two years ago, a photo that I thought I looked fat in, a photo where my spine didn't stick out enough, a photo which encouraged me to drop another half stone. The two images on the right; photos taken a few days ago; photos depicting 14 months of hard work, a two stone weight gain and an immeasurable increase in strength. Despite the drastic physical difference, both these images have something in common: they are both bodies that have been shamed and criticised. Fat shaming, fit shaming, skinny shaming. Call it what you want, the bottom line is we are constantly judging people based on their physical appearance. And that is something that is not ok.
Being judged is never nice. It is harsh and cruel and can lead to so many lasting damaging results; you wouldn't call someone fat to their face because you understand how hurtful this could be, so why is it any different to see someone underweight and say the same thing? Why is 'muscly' a negative adjective to use when speaking about a woman?
My answer? society. On a daily basis we are inundated with juice fads, new diets to try, new instagram filers and apps to remove any flaws. We are bombarded with ways to make our lives, our bodies and our social media accounts 'perfect', without giving a second thought to what 'perfect' actually entails. I remember a little less than a year ago I was sat in bed one morning scrolling through twitter when one tweet in particular caught my eye. It said 'real men like meat, only a dog wants a bone'. The sad reality of that tweet is that wasn't just one conceited opinion, it was a tweet that voiced what the majority of society today believes; because s
ociety has come to develop the idea that 'real women' are curvy and we mustn't all feel obliged to conform to size zero. Although I am all for positive role models showing off different body shapes, that doesn't mean that someone who is naturally petite or lacking in curves can't be beautiful too. Why does it have to be one or the other? Just because I was severely underweight, or just because now my body has muscle, it does not make me less of a woman than anyone else. Why does the fact that I am not naturally curvy detract from my ability to be a human being?
If 'real women' are curvy, then what am I?
Women have fought for years for equality, the vote, better jobs, the right to earn the same as men, and yet we sit here 2016 and still manage to degrade everything they fought for by tweeting that a 'real woman' is not defined by her achievements but by her body shape.
Time and time again influential women's achievements are degraded due to someone's opinion on their body. Rebecca Adlington is an olympic medalist yet got more press in 2013 for the appearance of her nose during her stint in I'm A Celebrity than her sporting achievements the previous year. Jesy Nelson of Little Mix fame is constantly up against a barrage of social media abuse regarding her size despite the fact she is an incredibly talented young woman. Cheryl Cole was constantly shamed for being too thin during her appearance on last year's X-Factor, without anyone giving a second thought to the fact she might have been battling with numerous personal issues. However, as awful as this trolling and laughing at other people's physical appearance is, the worst part of the situation is the fact that we live in a culture where girls actually bond over body shaming themselves. Not only is it expected for us to laugh at fat women, skinny shame thin women, throw insults at muscly women, but we are expected to dislike our own appearance too.
For years I hated my body. I have cried countless tears wanting to lose weight, gain muscle, tone up, reduce body fat; the list is endless. But over time and through experiences I have learnt to love my body. I know now that my body is just that: mine. The beautiful thing about the female body is that it comes in so many different shapes and sizes, so instead of focusing on everyone else not conforming to perfection, focus on making your body the best version of yourself that you can be. There is no standardisation of beautiful, no amount of diet and exercise will make your legs longer, your hips wider, your boobs bigger, your height smaller. So it's about time we stop bullying each other for things far out of our control.
Last year, I spent *approximately* 546 hours in the gym. During this time my body underwent an enormous physical transformation, something not gone unnoticed by some of the regular gym attendees. Recently, I have received a plethora of incredibly positive comments from members and staff alike, such as; 'you have completely transformed your body shape and you look amazing for it', 'you've gained so much healthy weight', 'I've never seen you look so happy in the 18 months that I've known you' and 'You put us all to shame with how hard you train'. However, as nice as it is to hear these compliments there are a large number of people who do not understand the core reason behind why I spend so much time in the gym, and along the way I was victim to a number of negative comments such as 'you're obsessed with exercise', 'they shouldn't let people as skinny as you join a gym' and 'you're not strong enough to lift that, you'll do yourself a mischief trying'. Did those people ever stop to think that if they hadn't let 'some one as skinny as me' join the gym then I would probably still be sat at home 12kg lighter and immeasurably unhealthier. Don't judge a book by its cover; just because I'm small it doesn't mean I'm not mighty.
The body above has been through a lot. I am proud of every part of that body, but that body does not define me. I am defined by my mind, my heart, my passion, my education and my strength, and you should be too.
'If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies how different our beauty ideals would be'