STOP Fighting Food. A Revolution’s Coming!
I love that body positivity is becoming such a popular idea, and so celebrated. I love that women are loving themselves and saying, actually, I am GORGEOUS. There are many reasons people want to change the shape of their body, and many reasons other people don't, and the key thing here is that it's THEIR body, and they can do what they damned well like with it! Body positivity simply means (to quote Wikipedia) adopting more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards our bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being.
For author Anna Mansell she wanted something to change; she wanted food to stop being something she had a shady relationship with. Join me in welcoming Anna on the site today to talk about getting her food love story back on track, body image, and what's finally working for her to help her feel more body positive.
Welcome, Strong Woman Anna!
STOP Fighting Food. A Revolution’s Coming!
by SWS guest writer, Anna Mansell
I am a forty-year-old woman. I weigh fourteen and a half stone and I am five foot eight. Actually, I’m probably closer to five foot seven these days, I slouch. A lot. In fact, typing that very sentence made me sit up properly, which made my neck crack. Did you just sit up properly, as you read it?
I’m slouching again now…
For as long as I can remember I have had a shady relationship to food. Shady is untrue, actually. Shady suggests it’s a little on the dark side, but can be brightened with a good dose of summer sun and a piña colada on the beach.
I don’t like piña colada.
The problem is - and forgive me, I know you’ll have heard this before, we’ve all heard this before – the problem is that we’ve been raised on a media diet of manipulation. If we’re not like Cindy Crawford, we’re not worth loving. I know, right. Cindy Crawford, there’s nothing like a current cultural reference to bring us all together. The thing is, Cindy Crawford was the influence in my day, when my fifteen-year-old self was banana crunching her abs in a desperate attempt to get them Crawford (Or Campbell, Herzigova, insert your own, more current, image if you like!) flat. If you’re my age, you probably did it too. Or got a chair out and did those arse-crackingly, cramp-inducing, bum squeezes that Cindy suggested, in order to give us a bottom like hers.
I don’t have a bottom like hers. Or Herzigovas' for that matter. Campbell was never gonna happen, I’m just not that in to yoga.
And in fact, if we’re really going to be honest with ourselves, Cindy back then, would be classed as plus size now. Albeit on the smaller side, like… let’s say… a H&M plus size, as opposed to one of those gorgeous Navabi ones. But still, she had…. ssshhhhhh…. she had hips!
SHOCK AND AWE!
And Herzigova… we all remember those adverts, don’t we? No? Well then you’re perhaps a little younger than me. Herzigova had the most magnificent breasts, that were seemingly not good enough on their own, they also required scaffold level pushing up in the form of the groundbreaking (at the time) line of brassieres from Wonderbra.
Now, I’ve nothing against the supermodels from the nineties, the workout videos, H&M… actually, forgive me, I do have a tiny bit against H&M, whoever thinks that is a size 16 is deluded at best, encouraging a new generation of body image disorders at worst.
No, I’ve nothing against it all per se, except that, they reinforced what I already thought I knew. My fifteen-year-old body was not good enough. And at forty – post two children and a career that sees me sat in my pyjama’s at my laptop most days – it’s still not good enough. I admire those women who are focused and able to balance exercise and food and celebrate their bodies. I admire the women who head down the gym and lift weights. I admire the women who pre-plan their menus for the week ahead in order to keep on their self-styled straight and narrow. I do. I’m really not here to be negative. But you know what? If I’m really honest? I admire the women who don’t strive for perfection even more.
Which is why I’m excited, and inspired, and ready to stop fighting with food. Because there’s a revolution happening. I can feel it. I can see it. I can taste it. (Yeah – tasting stuff is good!). Instagram is awash with beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, celebrating their individuality. Pinterest has pages and pages and pages of photos that pinners have pinned to inspire their own fashion style. High street stores are beginning to recognize the vast market for plus size fashion (No! Not you H&M, sit back down!). And with it, questions are raised.
Why do so very many of us feel bad about our bodies? What’s wrong with them? Why does this sense of disappointment in the size of our hips, fuel a relationship with food that sees us going crazy around our kids left overs, or grab bag of crisps that we just aren’t going to share? I mean, surely I can’t be the only one to get giddy over the biscuit barrel. Or download every menu of every restaurant or café I go to – often days (who am I kidding – it’s weeks) in advance, so I can plan exactly what I’m going to eat and then daydream about it until it’s laid out in front of me.
And you know what? It’s exhausting. I am so tired of it. I am so drained by the thoughts of disgust, and dismay. I’ve written about my body before, on my blog. (feelthefearandwriteitanyway.wordpress.com) I won’t go there again, not in detail, not least because I think I might have found a solution. Actually, my hairdresser found it, as I sat in her chair, wet hair against my face, the reflection of my mother staring back. (No offence Mum!) We’d gone through the diets she recommended. I’d said a diet felt wrong, it felt like I was restricting. It felt like I wasn’t dealing with the issue, with my relationship to food. So she said,
‘What about Intuitive Eating?’
My brow furrowed. My double chins quadrupled in dismay. Intuitive Eating? What the… so I googled it. (Other search engines are available but let’s face it, we all google.) And there it was, the most obvious, easy, straight forward, stress reducing solution to a near on lifetime problem I’ve had…
Stop Fighting Food. It’s the message an American Woman called Isabel Foxen Duke was sharing. Another woman, Lauren Fowler, was giving a similar message. I searched around and eventually (not easily, I have to admit) found a number of people talking this way. And they have been for ages, but I hadn’t heard it. It wasn’t something I came across. Not in keeping with the message society wants us to have? Who knows, it certainly doesn’t help the multi-billion pound health industry. It certainly doesn’t help a world that wants women to conform to an idealized form of beauty. But it feels… real.
It feels… so obvious. So straight forward. So… totally, and utterly on point. Stop fighting food.
Now, I confess. This is the early days. I read the rest of the website and many others. I immediately felt empowered. Three days later I realized, as I snaffled my third pack of bacon rashers that eating what you want, when you want, does not mean thoroughly enjoy those multipacks of corn based crisps and ignore the guilt you feel afterwards. It means, don’t see these things as a secret. Or a reward. Or something to be done as quietly as you possibly can after the kids go to bed. Hungry? Sure, eat bacon rashers – if that’s what you want. But listen to your body first – go on, listen…
So, I’m listening. I’ve researched webpages in the UK and the US. I’m getting email tips. I’m re-reading the basics and I’m determined that this, my fortieth year, will be the start of a new relationship with food, and you know what? With my body too… It’s started off okay, we’ve a long way to go. But today, I can confidently state that I no longer hate my body. I don’t love it, don’t get me wrong. But I will. Today, I feel sorry for it. I’ve abused it. I’ve disrespected it. I’ve not taken care of it when it’s screamed out for exercise, or water, or food that doesn’t make me bloat.
This is week one of my new relationship with my body and with food. If any of the above rings even remotely true, google Intuitive Eating and see what comes up… it might just make sense to you too!
Thank you so much, Anna!
Anna is going to keep us updated with her progress with intuitive eating as the months go on, and she's really interested to know your thoughts - have you given this a go? Did it work for you, and help you feel better about yourself (about life)? Have you been inspired by anybody through social media that's made you come around to a body positive way of thinking?
You can keep up with Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMansell, Facebook: /AnnaMansellAuthor or Instagram: MrsAnnaM, or buy her awesome books, The Lost Wife and How To Mend A Broken Heart, over on her Amazon page.