Guest Blog Post – By Teya Foley.
The battle with our body is one of the most enduring in the lives of most women. The media and society constantly tell us that we’re imperfect and of course, we are, because perfection does not exist. We’re fighting a battle that we can never win as the rules are constantly changing and the goal posts are constantly shifting.
As a kid, I was always tall and lanky. People would comment on how skinny I was regularly. So, when puberty hit and brought with it some hips, my body changed in a way I wasn’t ready for and didn’t relate to. While I was still slim, my lankiness was less apparent and as a result, my “skinniness” was no longer a point of conversation. Because of this, my mind talked me into believing I wasn’t slim enough. This point of view was only reinforced by conversations between girls about their weight. Most of my friends were quite short and only weighed about 45-50kg, meanwhile, I was just under 6ft and weighed over 60kg and felt so ashamed of that number. I honestly didn’t stop to acknowledge that I was so much taller than my friends, and the notion of being in a similar weight range to them was completely unrealistic.
While I didn’t experience a recognised eating disorder, I longed to have one. I tried to make myself throw-up, but I wasn’t “good” at it. I tried to starve myself, however, I lacked the “discipline”. Instead, I spent the last 2 years of high school only eating when I was at home. At school, I would go for a walk at lunch time or head to the bathrooms when people were eating to avoid temptation. Sometimes I would publicly eat for show, in fear of being discovered. I would also sneak diet pills in an attempt to become slimmer.
I’m fairly competitive by nature and have always loved playing sports. I would play netball 4-8 times/ week in addition to 2-3 training sessions for my numerous teams. I genuinely loved playing netball and would often hang back after the game in the hopes that someone needed a fill-in. Sometimes I would play 3 or 4 games in a row. Also, I was always enrolled in at least one other sport, I went to the gym and I walked everywhere I could. Looking back now, I wonder if my love of sport bordered on an exercise based form of bulimia? Either way, leading such an exercise heavy lifestyle without properly nourishing my body was not a healthy combination and I used to experience dizzy spells and even fainting on a fairly regular basis.
When I was 17, I met a 25-year-old man who told me I was beautiful, and my self-esteem was so low in that area that this lead me into a 3.5 year emotionally abusive and controlling relationship. He had a very poor diet comprising predominantly of meat, potatoes and pasta, that was completely void of fruit or any other vegetable. Like a lot of controlling partners, he attempted to control my weight by attempting to fatten me up and by telling me that I was too skinny. I think that staying that way despite the poor food I was manipulated into eating was my body’s way of rebelling. My physical and mental health were extremely lucky to have made it through that relationship with minimal damage.
About 6 months after that relationship I was ready to re-enter the dating world, and I needed to look the part. While I avoided the trappings of the obvious diets, I definitely reconnected with my over-exercising past. I would go the gym daily, often doing 2 group classes in a row. Additionally, I started playing in 3 different netball teams. Fortunately, this time around I was eating more nourishing foods so I was very physically healthy. Mentally, I was getting there, however, I definitely hadn’t reached a place of body love and acceptance. I was still driven to try to obtain the unattainable.
My relationship with my body continued like this for years. When I met my now husband, I definitely grew to accept myself and my body more based on his constant praise, support and reassurance. However, it wasn’t until I fell pregnant with my daughter that I actually started to take responsibility for my own mindset, and to want to improve my relationship with my body. Ironically, my swollen, pregnant body was the body I felt more comfortable in than I ever had before. Sure, I had those ‘I look huge in everything’ moments, however, overall, I felt incredibly womanly and for the first time, I began to actually appreciate my body’s function over its form. I realised that I needed to harness that mindset and I needed to learn to accept and love my body in order to role-model these things to my children. It isn’t always easy, particularly when I look down at my body that has been through 3 pregnancies, suffered a very complicated miscarriage and given birth to 2 children. However, instead of leading my new form to get me down I choose to remind myself of the beautiful daughter and son that my body created and gave birth to. How could I keep treating a body capable of creating such wonder with such disdain?
After watching the documentary ‘Embrace’, I felt more committed to having a positive body image and practising self-love than ever before. So, when I launched my blog andsoshethought.com a few weeks later, I found myself slowly morphing into a champion of self-love and writing a lot of my blog posts and social media content through that gaze. I hope that sharing my thoughts and opinions on self-love and body-image will inspire others to begin their own journeys to comfort within their own skins.
So, now I have those moments of insecurity like everyone else…because I’m human. I acknowledge those thoughts and then I dismiss them, they add no value to my life. I exercise now in order to improve the way my body moves and feels, not to try to look “perfect”. I feed my body in ways that fuel it. My diet is generally pretty nutrient rich, but sometimes my mind craves a treat and that’s okay. I listen to my mind and my body and I give them the foods they need, whether that be a green smoothie or an iced chocolate.
Têya is a Melbourne based mother-of-two and a blogger with a passion for all things womanhood, sisterhood and self-love. Teya created andsoshethought.com to empower and connect women by sharing their voices and stories, and exploring the issues many of us face but don’t talk about.