Can You Be Body Positive And Still Want To Lose Weight?

How learning to love my body helped me lose over 100 pounds…

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During a health examination at school, I was asked to step onto a weighing scale. I was 10 years old at the time, and although I may have not fully understood the implications of being bigger than my classmates, I knew that my body was different.

While the rest of kids rejoiced over how little they each weighed, I was presented with a number that was noticeably higher than all the other girls in my class.

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In that moment, I was forced to confront my childhood chubbiness, and it was humiliating. For the first time in my life I felt betrayed by my body, and instead of sharing this destructive feeling with my friends, I bottled it up for years.

'We know that every woman wants to be thin. Our images of womanhood are synonymous with thinness'. Susie Orbach, Fat Is A Feminist Issue

As I got older and grew into my womanhood, the pounds started piling on pretty rapidly. I tried to diet and failed miserably several times. I tried to be more active in school, but was publicly shamed in P.E every time we had to do that bloody bleep test.

By the time I got to university, I'd convinced myself that this was who I am, and that I'd be overweight for the rest of my life. I figured it's better to embrace it, rather than secretly self-hate.

The picture on the left was taken in April 2013 at my sister's wedding and the picture on the right was taken March 2017 at my brother's wedding. Weddings are always an occasion when, whether you want to be or not, you find yourself in the limelight. At my sister's wedding four years ago (pic on left), I remember struggling to find anything to fit. My criteria for shopping for an outfit was simply to find something that fits. That means my choice of styles were limited which sucks because back then there were barely any plus-size brands that's catered to my body. I decided to go for a diraac (Somali traditional) which has a one-size-fits-all concept which thankfully worked. My mum bought be a gold belt to wear around my waist, and I remember standing in her bedroom and the belt barley wrapped around half of my waist, let alone fit. I cannot describe the absolute shame I felt in this moment. I couldn't find a dress to fit and now this belt which would have quite literally pulled my look together, didn't fit either. I didn't understand how I had possibly managed to get myself into this position. I was only 22 and I was a size 24. I tipped the scales at over 300 pounds. I was completely out of shape. I ended up finding a belt on the high street that worked - but of-course it wasn't as nice as the gold one my mother had given me. You get to a point in your life where your tired of selling yourself short. You begin to feel stuck. I felt stuck in my body and honestly I could have had a breakdown after my sister's wedding and ate more food to make myself feel better temporarily, but I didn't. At some point in your life you have to take ACCOUNTABILITY. You have to own up to your own mistakes and bad habits. And once you admit to yourself that you can do better, you need to go on a journey to find a way turn things around. I decided to take control of my life and body on the 29th of April 2013 and I haven't looked back since. By the end of 2013 I had lost 60 pounds through healthy eating and working out. By April 2014 I lost 120 pounds. Four years later, I felt confident at my brother's wedding. My dress was custom-made and fit me perfectly 💃🏽

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But every time I was ostracised for being obese by friends, strangers and even some family members, my body positivity bubble burst . Because the truth is, when you're overweight, people can be mean - and I'm talking Regina George mean – sometimes without even knowing it.

I remember being told by a uni friend that if I wanted to be a magazine journalist, then I'd have to lose weight because I was too fat to work in fashion. The worst part is that I believed her. Cue weeks of starving myself and throwing up whenever I took a bite of, well, anything. Not clever, at all.

'"Fat" is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.' J.K.Rowling

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Obviously it's not just me having to deal, celebrities don't have it easy either. With an A-lister going up a dress size or two usually making front page news. Take Rihanna - the slender R&B star has recently been photographed looking a little bit fleshier (and I literally mean a few pounds) than usual and even though she still looks incredible, her new perfectly-proportioned curves have been the talk of the town.

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Pregnancy rumours have been swirling as fans continue to speculate about the singer's recent weight gain. Sadly, this is just a prime example of the fact that we live in a society that shames women who don't fit into the mould of what an 'average-sized' body should look like, or assumes they must be pregnant. In true Ri Ri style, she clapped back at the trolls with a meme, captioned with a crying-face emoji.

😢

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At 23, I had an epiphany that changed my life.

I decided that it was time to put an end to my negative relationship with my body and food, for good. The difference this time was that my decision was fuelled from a place of self-love, instead of hate and disgust. This time, my motivations for losing weight had nothing to do with wanting to impress my mates, or anyone else for that matter, I was doing it for my own benefit, my health, and ultimately, my future.

On April 29 2013, I tipped the scale at over 300 pounds, and although I was shocked, I took it in my stride because I was ready to make a big change. I set myself a goal of losing 100 pounds through eating better and moving more and I kept my my GP looped into the process.

After a year of hard-grafting, I managed to lose 120 pounds naturally, and earnt myself a brand new body to discover, dress and of course, love.

I could lose weight. That is a fact. But I am dope at any and every size. Gabourey Sidibe, This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare

Signing up to the gym was terrifying.

As a bigger girl, I couldn't help but feel intimidated by super lean gym-goers, but the only way I could overcome this fear was by facing it.

Lauretta Johnnie is a UK Size 26 qualified personal trainer and founder of Full Figured Fitness – a platform designed for men and women of all shapes and sizes- that welcomes clients to workout in a non- judgemental environment.

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'I wanted to create a class for overweight people who want to take their first steps towards fitness, with exercises that are not going to leave them in too much pain', explains Lauretta.

'When weight loss comes from a place of hate, then all you end up chasing is a quick slim-down. I often teach my clients to look at their bodies in a more positive light, as a lot of it is a mental struggle.'

In 2017, the magnitude of body positive activists on social media means that women are finally exposed to real and unfiltered images of the female form.

'The body positive movement was created for people and bodies who aren't represented and accepted, but the movement is a celebration for everyone, no matter what size or shape you are', says Vlogger and presenter Grace Victory.

'Most women have cellulite and stretch marks which are deemed as 'ugly' so we must showcase that too. I want the people that follow me to love themselves at every step of their journey.'

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According to the World Heart Federation there are 400 million adults worldwide who are obese and one billion who are overweight, 17.6 million of which are children. Based on these statistics alone, it's clear that we need to find a balance between adoring our bodies and making an active change to be in the best shape we can be.

As someone who has battled with obesity and food issues throughout most of my life, I'm happy to say that I finally have a healthy relationship with my weight, which I've maintained for the last four years.

'You can still be body positive and want make changes out of self-love and self-improvement', explains Charted Physiotherapist and fitness blogger Lilly Sabri. 'Sometimes it's way too easy to get caught up in the hype of looking a certain way and forgetting the importance of a heathy active lifestyle for your bodies health, your vital organs and mental health.'

I couldn't have said it any better.

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