The last time I wrote my own blog I talked about how I kept my daily calorie intake under 500- Pretty ironic from someone who now makes a living as a "plus size model". Up until about 5 years ago my life was very different to what it is now. At the height of my body image struggles I ran my own secret "disordered eating" blog (I struggle using the words eating disorder- the gravity and seriousness of those two words when put together in that order is something that I'm not sure I can handle or deserve. I was never admitted to hospital or diagnosed but I sure as hell battled some demons for the better half of a decade.) I was a part of this secret community of girls online, all united by the one goal- to be thin. We all introduced ourselves the same way - highest weight, current weight, and goal weight and went by pseudonyms for anonymity. We shared tips, stories of our struggles and advice on how to lose the weight that plagued us. I won't go into detail on specifics, but our regimes were certainly not practises that would be supported by a doctor.
I learnt to hate my body in primary school. My first memory of this was in grade four when a girl in my class told me that my hips took up more space on the chair than hers. An innocent comment right? But throw in early puberty, an overnight c cup amongst a sea of flat chests, intense shyness and I was already vulnerable to the clutches of low self esteem. From then on, I was determined to never take up too much space. Years passed, but I always felt in the back of my mind that I didn't look like anyone else. I was a head taller and had this womanly figure that I never saw at school or in the media. I was surrounded by petite girls who, in year 8 or 9 were just starting to get their period whereas I had had mine for a good four years already. Looking back, with hindsight and maturity I can easily say "everyone is different", but you try telling that to a 14 year old whose magazines and television was swamped with images of the Britney and Xtina's of the world. I had little choice but to assume I was abnormal and to try and emulate this "ultimate body type" in any way I could. Various comments continued to assert this- an ex boyfriend telling me his friend called me a "whale", a stylist at a runway show when I was 15 - " hmmmm your hips are quite big", and an agent telling me I would have to diet to a size 8 if I ever wanted to be on Neighbours.
The picture above shows me 16kg smaller than my current weight today. I remember being so upset, that even though I was the thinnest I had ever been my hips still wouldn't let me into anything smaller than a size 10. At the time I was studying a Performing Arts degree and pursuing an acting career, I made a pact with myself that if i ever wanted to be successful in this industry I would have to almost halve my size 12 figure. I began by cutting down on carbs which then progressed to fortnight long Lemon Detoxes, buying diet pills off the internet and vicious binge/purge cycles.
I wish I could tell you there was something in my head that just clicked. Or that some special person gave me a piece of advice that changed it all- but that's not how it happened. I entered a model competition advertised for "real models" (a term I despise but I will elaborate on this later) as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. My weight was yo-yoing and I had little confidence. To my surprise I ended up winning. It was a new experience for me- validation for not being super thin. Opportunities began to arise and my confidence grew. In a way I feel guilty looking back that I only started believing I was more than my size because other people told me so- I wish I could have believed this on my own accord. It is SO important to me that we show diversity in the media. Young men and women need a variety of role models to teach them that being different is ok and that you don't have to have chiseled abs, box gaps, bikini bridges, bulging biceps and protruding collarbones to be cool. I'm not going to lie and say I wake up every single day loving my body and feeling totally hot and fierce. I still have negative thoughts every so often that sneak their way into my brain to ruin my progress. But I've definitely come a long way from the girl writing about counting calories on the internet. Would I still be this content with myself if I wasn't working in an industry that rewarded me for being my natural size 12 self? Who knows, but I'm sure as hell grateful for it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with body image you can contact The Butterfly Foundation-
Butterfly’s Support Line is open Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm AEST (except public holidays).
Call 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673)