by Danielle, 31, Exercise Physiologist, Australia
As a child, I was comfortable in my body and had never consciously considered the question “What’s right for me?”… it was just naturally how I was. When I was 12 or 13 years old, I went through a growth spurt and became quite skinny very quickly. Around the same time I felt to start eating differently. I didn’t want meat pies, pizza, fish and chips or Macca’s (McDonald’s) on Fridays or the weekends. And I didn’t want cheesy sauces on my veggies, or chips, or cheese and bikkies for snacks during the day. There were also many meals that I didn’t feel like eating at all and wanted to skip. I began to be more aware of what was ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ and what was right for me and my body in terms of nutrition and my health.
I also began to enjoy exercise and loved my daily walk/jog around our neighborhood, exploring all the parks and secret pathways. I had felt to start this little exercise routine because I had done a fitness test in school grade 7 PE which involved a 1.5km walk/jog. This was the first test I had done and my body felt really heavy, sluggish and sore; I’d been surprised I couldn’t do it, not having ever done an endurance exercise before, only sprints in running and swimming.
My body began to change – not just the shape, but also how I felt. I began to enjoy wearing my clothes and had favorite outfits that felt really comfortable and lovely to wear, such as my cute cut-off shorts and soft cozy stripe T-shirt. I felt much more free, flexible and light in my body in my fun and comfy clothes. One day, a woman commented on how lovely, lean and long my legs were in my short shorts. And I was somewhat shocked by this comment, since I had not considered the ‘look’ of my legs before, and so just went on my merry way!
By age 15, I also began to develop a taste for different clothes, i.e. what I felt were ‘adult’, ‘professional’ or ‘elegant’ clothes. With my own money, I went shopping on my own, and purchased a pair of black suit pants which fell delicately off my hips and flowed around my ankles as I walked (which I loved!), and a black and white swirly patterned shirt, which was the lightest material against my skin – almost like wearing a cloud! I also loved my brown checked slacks which were a thick and warm material, and my soft swede camel colored shirt which snugly hugged my body. My shirts were tucked in and I’d wear black shoes with a little heel. I enjoyed wearing these outfits out on the weekends when meeting with friends for a party, dinner or movie.
Somewhere between ages 13-15, something started to happen – my family began to worry about me. They’d always make sure I was eating at meal times and finishing my plate of food, and would ask if I ate my lunch and what snacks I’d had. Sometimes I felt they watched me after meals just to make sure I didn’t go to the bathroom. I would always get comments from my mother saying “You’re getting too skinny!”, or from my extended family “You’ve lost weight, what’s going on?”
One day when I was 16 or 17, my mother commented on my clothes, asking me “why I dress ‘like a grown up or older person’ when I’m a young girl and should be wearing what the other girls wear, like short skirts and tight tops”. My older sister playfully picked on my checked pants and said they were ‘grandpa pants’. Initially I abruptly said, “I don’t care what you think. I like them” (as I stormed off to my room!). But then I did begin to care what my family were saying and started to look at other girls and what they were wearing, seeing what I wore was ‘different’. So instead of feeling “what’s right for me,” I started to watch girls more closely, especially the good-looking or popular ones, and in my head would design my own outfits and what I could buy to copy those girls…
Today, I recognise how sick and tired I had become with everyone making sure that I ate, or asking what I was eating; telling me that I was too skinny, or had lost weight. And remembered how I just learned to then eat what everyone else was eating, consume all of the food on my plate – just so that no-one would say anything to me. I also discovered that if I ever did put on a little bit of weight, no-one would say anything to me, and so would ‘fit in’ with everyone else. The same with my clothes – if I dressed the same, I didn’t stand out. So I brought a short skirt and a tight top.
What happened from here is a sad story that continued with another 10 years not doing what I truly felt, but instead copying others and listening to what other people were saying. Eventually it was normal for me to look to someone else for how I should be, and to try and get recognition and attention from others for whatever I was choosing.
When I was 24 I discovered Universal Medicine who presented that it is ok to be ‘different’… which is really just ‘being myself’ and honouring what’s right for me. I began to discover that I can do what I like and not worry about what others think or say. This has been an unfolding back to the woman that I had felt myself becoming around the age of 15, but had got side-tracked from for the 10 years that then followed.
Seven years down the track, the way I eat and dress today is beginning to come completely from me. To the best of my ability, the type and quantity of food I eat is now based on how I feel at that time. Also, how different foods feel in my stomach for the next 24 hours, or how foods may affect my sleep, energy levels, and even the clarity of my thoughts or dreams. I also don’t feel bad now if I don’t want to eat at all, and am OK skipping a meal if that’s what feels right to me.
I’m now also enjoying and loving my clothes again! Buying them based on how the clothes feel against my skin; what feels fun, elegant and lovely to wear; how different colours influence my skin tone and the lightness and brightness of my gentle face.
Eating and dressing for me is only the beginning though. I have also discovered just how side-tracked I’ve also been in many other areas of my life, including the way I exercise, shower and take care of myself, to the way I clean the house, or work at my desk. Many of these things have been based on what others or the ‘popular’ people do, or what I have seen in the media and not necessarily what’s felt right for me… so stay tuned for more of all this in another blog!