Tilly-Jayne Kidman on her struggles with body image and how learning to focus on health has helped her to to combat negative feelings about the way she looks
In the first of our September series on body image, Tilly-Jayne Kidman tells us how her relationship with her body has changed through focusing on overall health rather than the pursuit of skinny.
Body image is something I’ve always struggled with. From a young age I would gaze at my mum’s copies of ‘Marie Claire’ and wish for the women’s long lean legs and perfect skin. It was only when I got to a mature age I realised that looking like the women in the photos wasn’t going to happen, because those women in the photos didn’t even look like that. Airbrushing well and truly screws up our perspective on our bodies and our appearance.
Through my teens I maintained a size 8 figure. I look back on photos and see what I would now class as slim. I was seeing a whole different picture at the time though. I felt huge. I threw away my lunch every day and would eat minimal amounts of dinner. I craved a thin body and was the blind to the fact that at a size 8 I already had one.
Do I blame the media? I guess I sort of do. I spent my youth growing up with magazines that flaunted thin women and shamed those with curves. The thing is, I was slim – I just didn’t feel slim enough.
I’m now in my mid-twenties. I have a different perspective on life and body image and the girl so desperate to be thin is no longer inside me. Perhaps I’ve wised up to the airbrushed version of reality or perhaps it’s because I’m more secure in everyday life. It’s taken me a while to get here though, and to truly feel comfortable with my body. As comfortable as I can be, anyway.
I think when I began to realise that there was a difference between being skinny and being healthy, and only one of those would ensure a long and happy life that I changed my ways.
So let’s rewind again. In my mission for a positive body image I thought about what I needed the most. I came to the conclusion that a sensible fitness regime and nutritious diet were pretty good starting points. My combination of no formal exercise and cereal weren’t doing my body any favours.
My first barrier that I had to overcome was my fear of the gym and gym classes. I once had a poor attempt at a boxing class, but that’s another story. I’ve always found gyms so image-led and intimidating. A gym should be about fitness, prevention of illness and feeling fantastic. My local gym was about mirrors, muscles and competition.
Determined not to let the muscle fanatics intimidate me, I looked further afield. I can’t praise my local training centre enough. If you’re a woman in the St Albans area who like me, feels intimated by ‘regular’ gyms then this centre will put you at ease. It’s a real support unit and I’m so grateful for it. I have a tailored plan that suits my needs and makes me feel bloody amazing!
Nutrition was my next biggest hurdle. Swapping my meal-skipping habits and cereal dinner for balanced, wholesome food wasn’t something that happened overnight. I invested in two books that totally changed my mindset and encouraged me to understand what I was putting in my body and question whether it was benefiting my body. I also purchased a couple of books; Deliciously Ella was my first purchase. I currently lead a vegetarian lifestyle, and if like me you want to cut out meat from your diet but ensure you get the right nutrition this book is great. Madeleine Shaw’s book has also given me some healthy tips.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that a couple of books have turned my life around, but it’s made me feel a damn load better about my body. I understand nutrition, I understand what exercise my body needs. As the days go on I can feel the grip of negative body image slowly letting go. One day I’ll be body positive.
Tilly-Jayne Kidman is a UK fashion & lifestyle blogger, feminist, vegetarian and currently shares her home with three naughty house bunnies. Find her at tillyjayne.com.
Image attribution: Author’s own.