If you were granted one wish, what would it be? I'm willing to bet that for a lot of you, it would be to have the perfect body. To be thin, to be beautiful, to finally be happy with yourselves. Because that's what this world teaches us - that once you fit into their criteria of physical perfection, you will finally be happy. Everything will fall into place and you'll be that glowing figure frolicking on that magazine cover, blissful in your thinness.
And if, like me, you've spent most of your life believing in the holy grail of thin, you're probably pretty damn tired. Tired of the hunger. Tired of the torturous workouts. Tired of the perpetual food guilt and evenings spent agonising over your reflection, picking yourself to pieces and shaming every roll, every bump, every scar that doesn't match the photoshopped ideal in your mind.
You deserve better.
I can't give you the magic wish to transform your body. But I can tell you that it's possible to learn to look in the mirror, and love what you see. No weight loss required. No pills or potions or wraps. You are already good enough exactly as you are - you just live in a world that profits from teaching you otherwise.
So here's how I did it (I know that sounds ironically like the beginning of a 'Here's How I Lost 50 Pounds in 10 Days!' cover story). If I can go from a hollowed out, anorexia ravished version of myself, to a yo-yo dieting, body loathing, give-anything-to-be-thin version of myself, and become the bikini clad, belly roll loving, body positive babe I am now... then I know that you can get here too.
1. Change what you see.
We learn our ideas about beauty based on what we see. And these days when we turn on our TVs or flick through our magazines we are flooded with a sea of slender legs and tiny waists and perky breasts and all things Eurocentric - white, thin, pretty. I'm not saying that those bodies aren't beautiful, they are breathtakingly so! But they aren't the only ones. There is so little representation of all the astounding diversity in the bodies around us, that we're blinded into thinking that those other bodies just don't make the cut.
Take the blindfold off. Take control of what you're seeing. Turn off the channels that only glorify one body type and close the pages that sell you whitewashed one dimensional ideals. Fill your social media up with a plethora of perfection. Find the plus size models and the body positive activists. Find all the wonderful bodies being embraced that our media doesn't show us. Every size, every skin colour, every age, every ability, every gender - there are all kinds of bodies out there that belong to people who are completely happy in them, exactly as they are.
Once you widen your spectrum of what the 'perfect' body is, it will be a lot easier to recognise that yours fits right in there with them.
2. Get feminist.
Body positivity is a feminist issue. All genders experience body image issues, and recently the expectations of unachievable, Adonis like body standards for men are more pervasive than ever. But it's undeniable that the prime targets for the diet and beauty industries over the years have been women (including anyone who identifies as a woman). These money and self esteem guzzling monsters have been selling us empty promises of happiness hiding in our bathroom scales for decades. And while they tell us their purpose is to help us, to rid us of that dastardly body fat so we can bloom into the magnificent creatures we're destined to be... they haven't fooled us all. Their real purpose is apparent, and they've been achieving it so very well.
They have placated us. They have kept us busy with obsessions over cellulite and worries about waistlines and all the while we're wasting our full potential as human beings. We are living half lives. Tied in chains of 'you can do that when you lose those last 10 pounds', and 'you can wear that when you've worked harder to look like her'. And they've kept us coming back - the diet industry wouldn't be the thriving, multibillion dollar empire that it is if diets actually worked. They rely on repeat business, and they get it, because 95% of diets fail. And in you're in that 95%, it isn't your fault. You are not weak or blame worthy. Your purpose in life is not to lose weight.
And that's the main feminist issue - this society saturated with diet culture has convinced us that our worth lies in our weight. That we are only valuable as ornaments to be looked at by other people. That we are only deserving of happiness if our outer shells conform to the near impossible beauty standards of today. And that is fucked up. You are not an object. Your body doesn't exist for the viewing pleasure of other people, it exists so that you can live. So that you can dream and think and love and hurt and explore every extraordinary aspect of being human. And that is not dependent on what size jeans you're wearing.
So channel that feminist indignation, and get mad about all the lies we're taught that hold us down. Break free from the chains and realise that you are so much more than just your body.
3. Make the commitment.
I know, starting to sound suspiciously diet-y again. But I promise this is a commitment that involves zero guilt, zero body shaming and zero forcing yourself to eat celery, unless you actually want to. But it is going to take a moment of truth. An undeniable, unbridled moment of saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Sure, you might not wake up every morning and walk naked and unapologetic down the street shouting about your new found body love. But you do have to wake up every morning and promise that you'll try to stay on your body positive journey.
Because it won't always be easy. There will be days when you leave the house and are immediately bombarded with conversations about losing the last few pounds and being 'naughty' eating dessert, and the lure of diet culture will rear its ugly head. And that's okay! You have the strength inside you already, to keep going. Because the bottom line is that you deserve to feel good about your body. You deserve to live your life fully without the looming specter of how you look the whole time. You deserve to feel beautiful, and you deserve to know that your worth extends so far beyond superficial beauty. And once you believe that you deserve it, this will all get a whole lot easier.
This list isn't exhaustive, there are so many incredible things you can do to become body positive. You can read these books*. You can follow these people on Instagram**. You can shut down negative self talk. You can write an apology letter to your body for everything you've put it through. You can write a letter thanking your body for all that it lets you do. You can start touching your body kindly instead of harshly pulling and poking. You can see the beauty in your friends and family, and know that they see it in you too. You can do that thing you've always wanted to do and wear that thing you've always wanted to wear RIGHT NOW. No more conditionals, no more waiting untils. You have the power to do this, and I believe in you 100%.
When you're up for joining me, I'll be sitting on the beach in Bopo Paradise, with unlimited c(m)ocktails and bikinis in every size waiting. I'll save you a seat.
Love & bopo,
* The Beauty Myth (Naomi Wolf), Fat? So! (Marilyn Wann), Health at Every Size, Body Respect (Linda Bacon), What's Wrong With Fat? (Abigail C. Saguy), Fat Shame (Amy Erdman Farrell), to name a few.
** @mswink, @yourstruelymelly, @chooselifewarrior, @franhayden, @thechristinecho, @honorcurves, @effyourbeautystandards, @bodypositive_, @themilitantbaker, @wingardiumleveveosa, @pizzasisters4lyfe, @amyeloisew, @beauty_redefined, @bodypositiveeverydamday, @buckleyourboots, @cupcakethighs, @anastasiaamour, @khaleesidelrey, to name more than a few.