Standing naked in the shower and looking down at my body and noticing all its lumps and dimples is a part of my day I don’t exactly enjoy. I notice the impact of weight restoration and my body’s journey into womanhood which makes me feel uncomfortable and sadly sick in my own skin. I feel much more confident fully clothed or even in underwear compared to being fully in the flesh. Nudity makes us feel so vulnerable yet it is the purest and most natural form of the human body; so why do we feel so ashamed? I admire women who are completely care free and are able to walk around the house without clothes on. When I get dressed I have worked out a very specific way to be as less naked as possible, even when I am on my own. I would love to be comfortable with my own nudity and not give a monkeys about the changes that naturally occur as my body transforms to a womanly figure because putting myself down and wishing to look different is exhausted and debilitating. Due to my eating disorder which got me in my late teens to early 20’s, I have never possessed a woman’s body. I am incredibly uncomfortable with my naked body and to be honest, I have never really seen a naked female body other than in a life drawing class I took part in recently (as an artist, not a model). My mum too was very discrete and we never discussed anything along the lines of puberty, sex, womanhood and body positivity so I guess I have grown up with a distortion of what femininity really is. For me, the thought of women being curvy and soft is a brand new revelation as I was tricked into the false image and belief that the female body should be toned, athletic and smooth like the airbrushed images in the media. My role models growing up were athletes and ballet dancers so it comes to no surprise as to why I idolise a straight up and down figure as opposed to the voluptuous, curvy, Marilyn Monroe type figure that oozes femininity.
Impurities come in any size
The media portrays a woman’s naked body as smooth, firm and slender which is not an accurate representation of the reality. The only time I would’ve fit that description was when I was severely underweight without an ounce of fat on my body in which required medical attention. I’m now a healthy size 8 woman and my stomach does not look like the ‘washboard’ we see in magazines. I too have that ‘stubborn lower belly fat’ that may I add is totally normal and stubborn because it’s supposed to be there – as women we commonly store fat in the lower belly and on our hips for normal menstruation and producing babies. It is also common to store fat elsewhere which is the bodies emergency supply of fuel in case of a famine, heaven forbid, so don’t assume that these are the only places we are allowed to have visible fat. It is essential for women to have the correct percentage of body fat otherwise you are at risk of losing your period which is why women with anorexia suffer amenorrhea due to being underweight. Loss of periods may also be a sign of potential osteoporosis (brittle bones). I experience bloating everyday and look a lot differently going to bed as I do waking up; I even sometimes wake up bloated. Depending on before or after I’ve eaten, the position I sit in or pose I stand in, my body looks very different over the course of a day. I’m sure with the correct instagram filter and pumped up pose, I could do a before and after shot of a typical diet advert in the space of 5 minutes – I’ve seen people do this and I applaud you.
Due to the brainwashing of the media’s portrayal of a woman’s body, how are we supposed to appreciate, let alone understand, an actual naked female figure? There are an abundance of different shapes and sizes amongst the population of women except we are only shown the exceptions as a mark of what we should look like. A more accurate representation of women is what we see everyday in perfectly normal situations. Women that are living, who work, possibly have children, go out for dinner, have fun: we can see all this to gage an understanding of female bodies right outside our doorstep and not need to waste time glorifying images that are unreal and make us feel inadequate. In regards to diversity, the media has introduced bodies of different ethnic backgrounds, such as seen in the Dove commercials but, the shape and sizes of women tend to be more or less on the slimmer side with the absence of bumps and stretch marks. (I have stretch marks and I love them.) Airbrushing takes away the impurities and ‘flaws’ so women end up looking like blank canvases or disney characters.
Empowerment of nudity
I was recently listening to the amazing podcast ‘The Guilty Feminist’ where they were discussing the topic of being in the nude. They challenged themselves by stepping out of their comfort zones and taking on a naked challenge such as life modelling or naked photoshoots. This discussion really inspired me as they reported feeling empowered as their bodies were presented with no form of judgement. I wouldn’t say I am quite ready to take on a challenge like that myself but it isn’t something I would totally disregard for the future. I have been to a life drawing class and I saw these bodies as simply beautiful with no sexual associations and neither the need to giggle – I saw art. It was amazing to look closely at the shapes and lines of the body and draw it on paper. Furthermore, the impurities which would be airbrushed out of magazine photos, were the bits that made each body more interesting and unique. I was in awe of the models’ confidence and pride they portrayed by owning their bodies. I have no problem with seeing others’ naked and would never judge someone on their impurities but I just can’t be that encouraging and kind to my own body.
Lights on or off?
Intimacy has been a real issue since my severe body image issues began to emerge, which was long before my anorexia. Being completely naked and exposed is terrifying! It isn’t as though I think the other person cares about how I look because I’m pretty sure they don’t but, it is how I judge myself and that negative judgement overrides my confidence. I prefer to be covered up by one item of clothing, even if that item is a very small bra and the lights need to be off (or dimmed if anything) and I’d prefer it if we were under the covers, thank you very much. My insecurities have caused problems in the past and I have most often never enjoyed sex because I am far too distracted at how my body looks whilst anticipating when I can put my clothes back on – not the sexiest appeal I know. On the back of that, I feel guilty for being such an uptight, anxious control freak as I appreciate how uncomfortable I might make the other person feel.
The human body – creation at its finest
Most commonly we gain confidence with age and lose the need to care about what others think. As a woman in her early 20’s, I still hold a lot of insecurities regarding my body and have done since I was a little girl. As I am starting to see the back of my eating disorder I am beginning to care less about what my body looks like and care more about what it does. My body has physical restored all the damage caused by being underweight – it has healed and revived itself and that is incredible. Aesthetic has nothing to do with the capability of the body. For example, you don’t need a six pack and huge biceps to run a marathon in sub 4 hours. Serena Williams is a great example and an even greater role model – Williams does not fit the stereotype of an athletic body. She has curves, cellulite and a larger frame and she has impressively made a recent return to tennis after having a baby. Her strength and stamina is exceptional and she doesn’t need to be a size 8 to do what she does. The human body is a genius part of creation which we constantly down play and abuse or do everything we can to change it. Every single body at any shape or size does magnificent things every second of every day; it fights disease, it reproduces healthy cells, it makes more humans! We should strip everything back and dispose of all the ‘we should be like this’ and simply appreciate the human body in all its glory.