I don’t really remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be skinnier.
What’s even more dismal is that if you asked a handful of girls my age if they felt the same way, you’d probably get an overwhelming ‘yes’. Whether it’s our mothers, our aunties, our best friends or our sisters – even my friends that were a size 6. Small wasn’t enough; we all wanted to be smaller.
Now I throw all my weight (chuckle) behind the healthy body image movement. The idea people should feel ashamed of their shape and size is absolutely ridiculous. Be proud of your body no matter it’s size, I say! Wear that bikini and rock those short shorts!
But when it comes to my own self-image?
Sorry, what was that? Am I going to wear a bikini? No, no I’m good, I’m having a ‘fat’ day thank-ya-very-much. This one piece will do me just fine.
(I think being followed down the school hallways for a whole term being called “fat chick” by the boys in my class when I was 13 may have added to that insecurity, but another day, another time for that cheerful little story!)
And if I wasn’t the slimmest girl in school, I certainly wasn’t the fittest either.
I was always a bit of a clown at the swimming and athletic carnivals, laughing about coming last because it was easier than getting upset about it. I used to enter relay teams with all the really fast kids just so I had a chance at getting a ribbon. One year I even tried to rack up extra points for my school house by entering the 200m freestyle race and actually had to pull out three laps in because I physically wasn’t capable of doing it. (Just thinking about that makes me cringe a little.)
It didn’t stop at high school either. At the age of 23, I got benched for my whole netball grand final after playing nearly every game of the season simply because I wasn’t good enough. I’ll tell you what – I may have laughed that one off eventually (“look how clever I am, I can win a grand final without even stepping onto the court!”), but on the inside I was a mixture of shattered, mortified and plain old angry.
I’ve wandered in and out of gyms over the years, sometimes applying myself and throwing around some dumbbells; other times running on the treadmill until I was gasping for air (that never took long). But like a bad boyfriend, I didn’t stick around too long; just showed up when I felt like it and then disappeared for weeks on end.
Until the beginning of 2014. I’d made some new friends (*waves to Lucy and Katelyn*) who were keen gym bunnies, and suddenly I found myself going on social outings to the gym, catching up for long morning walks and shopping for new fitness clothes more often than regular attire (did someone say “Lorna Jane”?) Working out became my favourite thing to do; not because I wanted to get ‘skinny’, but because I liked the way endorphins made me buzz and how much easier it was to get out of bed in the morning. I got a genuine kick out of seeing how far I could push this glorious body of mine; this body that isn’t actually just here for good looks after all!
With a healthier body came a healthier mindset. Forget skinny – I wanted to be a weapon! A year ago I didn’t even know what ‘traps’ were and now I flex them for people who don’t care in the slightest, and I will welcome you to my gun show without you even having to ask (you can thank me later). I’m not conceited; I’m just amazed by the little changes our bodies can make when we actually push them a little bit harder than normal. It’s actually really cool. Science hey?
I eventually quit the netball team and instead spent my nights swimming laps until I could finish 1km without stopping and learning how to run long distances, one minute at a time. I spent my weekends being as active as possible. Last year I completed three 10km and one 15km charity fun runs and cut more than seven minutes off my time. And then somehow I ran a half-marathon.
I did all of this because I never thought I could. And at this point, this post is getting much deeper than I originally planned (I promise less serious chit chat next time), but when I said here I wish I had have swapped boozing for bike rides and other strenuous activities much earlier in life, I genuinely meant it because I’ve never felt better or more confident than I do now.
The most interesting thing I’ve learned throughout my (for want of a better term) ‘fitness journey’ however, is that people will judge you no matter how you look or act.
The only difference when you’re getting healthier is that they judge you to your face – not behind your back.
You drink green smoothies for breakfast everyday – gross.
You signed up for a half-marathon – crazy.
You started taking yoga classes or joined CrossFit – cliche.
You ordered a salad over a parma at the pub – boring.
You spent the best part of the weekend at the gym – obsessed.
And then there are those people you barely even know, who would never utter the words “I think you’ve gained too much weight” to anyone, but won’t hesitate in telling you they think you’re “getting too skinny” and that you’d “better stop losing weight”. I have friends who have been confronted by near strangers in the gym asking if they have eating disorders, and when they’ve told them no, they’ve asked them “why are you so skinny then?” Um, excuse me? No. Go away.
It made me realise that I was never the problem – the people projecting their negativity onto me (Year 7 boys I’m looking at you) were the problem. Some people will judge me no matter what I look like, so I’m going bust out that bikini! Heck, maybe I’ll go topless just so they have even more to gossip about, but never again will I feel ashamed about how I look.
I’m a weapon, and that’s all there is to it.