I felt good about life – even though I was poor as hell. Even though I could barely afford a cup of coffee I was happy. I felt good about myself. At the time I didn’t really know why. I wasn’t getting much acting work – as everyone had told me, being a paid actor was actually quite hard! I didn’t have a rewarding day job – I worked in retail at a number of shops on Cuba Street. I didn’t have a boyfriend – failed relationships were my forte. But for some reason I felt damn good about myself. Perhaps it was that I lived with good friends and we laughed together every day? Perhaps it was that living in the city was never dull?
It wasn’t until I met my now partner and started living a life of domestication that I figured out why I had been so happy: I was thin.
I moved out of the flat with my girlfriends and into a flat with him. We were madly in love so spent much of our time canoodling and staring into each other’s eyes. We rarely went out. I stopped seeing my friends. I stayed home with him and ate take-out in my pyjamas. It was bliss. But over time something happened. I got fat.
A year after meeting my Lover-Man I stood on the scales and realised I had gained more than 10kgs. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t even noticed! I’d been too busy taking part in said canoodling to take heed of my expanding ass. The scales must be wrong I told myself. I must take The Jeans Test! I dug out my old jeans and tried to squeeze them on. To my horror they wouldn’t go past my thighs.
I stared in the full length mirror naked for the first time in ages and realised it was true. I had gotten fat.
Who cares! I told myself. Who cares if I am bigger. Bigger is sexy. Curves are hot and luscious and delicious. But I still felt down. I called my girlfriends and planned a night out on the town – I hadn’t been out since Lover-man and I had moved in together! I squeezed myself into my little black dress (which now appeared much shorted and tighter on my frame) and told myself – you are sexy – you have curves – you are still you, just bigger. Better.
I looked around at the crowded bar. The boys were still there they just weren't looking at me any more. 10kgs was the difference between attractive and invisible.
I went home that night sad, mad and annoyed. Sad that I felt I needed attention from guys I didn’t even know to make me feel good about myself. Mad that for some reason the image of myself had changed, even though I was still the exact same person. There was more of me sure, but I was still Lisette. Creative, drama geek, who can tell a good story and laugh at jokes. I was still awesome but now I was fat, the awesome was harder for me to see. And clearly harder for the rest of the world to see too. I was annoyed at the world for judging people by the way they look. And I was annoyed that just because I was bigger I was struggling to like myself and even love myself! A year earlier my self-confidence had been sky high and now it was plummeting over something as shallow and stupid as my weight.
Even trawling the internet for blogging pioneers of self-love didn’t help me. For one, all of them seemed to be thin. Very thin. Their Instagram feeds displayed pictures of them smiling broadly in fancy outfits, their skinny frames against flowery backgrounds. How could someone struggling with body image take self-love advice from a stick insect?
What I discovered was that self-love comes in many forms. It is a layered and detailed issue. Self love is an act: a daily task. It doesn’t just mean you take hot selfies and put on lipstick. It takes work.
Forget about the fat: My first step was that I wiped my fat fear issues from my mind. I bought some comfy yoga pants and jeans that fit and then I closed the door in my mind on my fat issues. Fat is just a label. A label I didn’t care about. The first way to love yourself is to silence the nasty voices in your head. That is what I did. I stepped away from them and slammed the door behind me.
Exercise: I learnt that when I exercise I feel better about everything – not just my body. I feel lighter, happier and calmer. It also regulates my hunger and of course makes me fitter so that I can do basic everyday things without feeling like a fat unfit person. Exercise also helps me to love my body because I’m more aware of what it can do. These awesome legs just walked for an hour. I am so grateful for these legs. I managed to do a set of 25 lunges with hand weights! Woohoo! There is something about challenging your body to do new things, to grow stronger, that gives you a new appreciation for it.
Food: Diet is super important for self-love. If I eat chocolate cake for breakfast I will feel great for an hour and then my heart will sink. The sugar crash will subside and I will feel sad. I have learnt to nurture my body with clean, healthy food on a day to day basis and reward myself with healthy whole food treats on occasion. Why would I put poisonous crap into my body? I love it. I want to treat it good.
Do what you love: I make it a priority to find time to do what I love. I love writing. It makes me happy. If I am not writing or doing something creative I am sad. Writing makes me feel good about myself. It helps me to see my value. I can put words on a page and share them with the world. To me there is more value in that than wearing a size XS. I also love growing my own food and cooking. These things make me feel worthwhile. There is something amazing about harvesting your first crop of spinach, knowing that you grew that all by yourself!
Make Yourself a Space: Pottering around your home and making it a space you feel nurtured in is important too. It is amazing what a difference it makes when you start to tend to your home as you do yourself. Love it and it will love you back.
Love Yourself (literally): An orgasm is the best gift you can give yourself. And it makes you feel swell! Try it! Right now!
Seven years after I vowed to love my fat self I can honestly say that I do. I love myself regardless of how I look. I am far too busy doing all these things to work towards self-love to dislike myself. Now I write, grow veggies, swim, go for walks, lift weights and do yoga. I am a mother of two awesome boys. I have far too much to do to worry about the size of my butt. Funnily enough though, the more I love it, the smaller and firmer it gets.