Gone are the days of my box gap, flat tummy and toned tush. Gone are the nights I would binge eat anything I could get my hands on to fill my unsatisfying, superficial aspirations. Hunched over trying to make myself vomit up an entire McCain’s pizza, I would let the shower drown out the gagging and the water wash away tears of self-hate.
I had one of those bodies that girls starved themselves for and I couldn’t even see it. I thought of myself as a “bigger” girl at 48 kilos and made jokes about being fat and lazy after skipping dinner and running 10 kilometres.
Then when I went overseas, something clicked. I started to notice that people I met outside the Gold Coast, Australia, didn’t think it was cool that my collarbones protruded from my chest; they thought it was cool that I was travelling the world by myself at 18 years old.
It is all simply perspective. I learned that beauty in other cultures differs significantly to our western views. In Tonga, the more of the woman the better; in Tahiti, body hair and natural, puffy nipples are desired; women from a tribe in Ethiopia have their bodies scarred from birth to be more attractive to their future husbands. In some parts of Europe, underarm hair is considered sexy, and in Northern Thailand, long necks are admired.
Instead of counting calories, I’ve started to count experiences, places I’ve visited and inspiring people I’ve met. I’ve grown into a womanly figure and have fallen in love with my curvy hips that will one day bear children, my voluptuous bosoms that hold those in need and my belly that wobbles when I laugh from deep within. I have a newfound adoration for my soft, inner thighs that hug one another when I walk and cushion the hips of a lover.
Fuck perfection. Fuck whatever society’s image of “beauty” is and embrace what you have got. Be grateful for your health, not your bikini bridge. Find people who love you for all your wiggly, out-of-proportion bits. Wear your heart on your sleeve and your differences with pride.
Indulge in delicious, nutritious foods you crave. Taste and share and drink and laugh. Exercise to make your soul feel good, to release endorphins and increase your libido, not to take a popular half-nude Instagram photo. Run outside, hike a mountain, practise yoga in a candlelit room, swim in an ocean. Stand naked in front of a mirror and feel sexy, feel free and authentic. Change your screen saver to a picture that makes you happy to be you – not a picture of someone you want to be.
Focus on your passions and stop spending all your time and energy focusing on image. Start working on what’s within, as that will radiate out. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, who inspire you as a person and make your heart feel full. And find lovers that want to kiss every part of your body, stretch marks, puffy nipples and all.