I was 10 when I first looked at my body critically, my mum had pulled me aside and commented on the way I was ramming food down my throat like an animal and it was causing a scene, knowing me and the way I eat, I most likely was. Now, my mum didn’t mean it critically, she wasn’t being mean. However, this was the first time I equated food with grotesqueness and not pleasure.
This began a teenage obsession with weight and perfection, I grew up with the 00’s models and I wanted to be like them; stick thin and waif-like. Ask all teenage girls and they’ll tell you the same story, about how they hate their changing body, and who they want to look like, which much older celebrity they want to be. It always sticks in my throat how awful that is, that little girls don’t believe they are beautiful, and that for some societal reason they don’t see themselves as more than a number on a scale.
By the time I left to go to University (the first time I’d lived with other girls my own age) I was completely and utterly consumed with the idea that weight shouldn’t be a shameful thing, that losing it (although a triumph for some) shouldn’t be the be all and end all. Yet here I was surrounded by some of the best minds in Britain, women who has fought the odds to study science, the arts, humanities, law, and what where they talking about around the table each night? Politics? History? Scientific advances? No, diets, surgery and self loathing. One girl wanted wrist surgery because her wrists, she claimed, were too fat. This beautiful, intelligent woman wanted a surgery to remove non-existent excess fat from where? Her wrists? I’m not even sure that’s a real surgery, she exclaimed.
Another girl, again a beautiful and intelligent young woman, decided to limit herself to 600 calories a day, because she thought she was getting fat. And so it goes, throughout life, we are consumed by these negative thoughts about ourselves and friends and family are told not to intervene. A friend comes over for tea and winces because of the amount of pasta you put in a pan to cook her, what do you do? You take some out, you don’t ask her why. We’ve come so far, we say looking at the body positive moments, at the celebration of different bodies in certain genres of movies and music, we are growing, we are expanding we say.
And yet, still, you go into any school anywhere and there will be girls and boys checking the scales compulsively, feeling lost, unhappy and alone. Can we stop that? I don’t know, are we trying, I don’t know. For some reason we equate thinness with happiness, wealth, and attraction. We pick ourselves apart, being an enemy we would hate and to ourselves, rather than a friend we’d love.
Do I think more young girls should be vegan, maybe, do I think more young people in general should be educated about health and nutrition, yes I do. I wish I’d have found veganism sooner, it makes me feel happier. I wish younger me could have felt this happy, I wish she’d have eaten three bowls of vegan chilli and found nirvana, rather than counted calories or binged on sweets. But this issue is one that is so ingrained in society that it will take more that just nutritional information and smoothie bowls to fix it, and since I can’t hand out ‘you’re beautiful’ stickers to everyone I meet without being seen as weird.
All I can really do is to encourage everyone to be somewhat critical (not in a judgmental or mean way) to anyone you know that is being negative about themselves, something as simple as a ‘Hey, don’t say that about yourself, after all that’s my best friend you’re taking about’, or a ‘Well I think you’re excellent the way you are, but if you want to change maybe try this, whether that be a plant based lifestyle, or just a healthier one’.
In this moment in 2016, I like myself, I’m not thin, I have some bum, some tum, some thighs, I’m wobbly here and there, and I’m happy. I don’t get upset when I don’t fit into certain clothing, I just think ‘Ah, probably just need a poo’, but that’s the sort of clarity learnt through old age that we need to be teaching to our younger counterparts – that maybe it’s not you, maybe you just need a poo.