I recently had a photoshoot for my website with the incredibly talented and lovely Michelle Swan of Eyes of Love Photography. In all honesty, this brought up a lot of ‘stuff’ for me. Although I am now more comfortable in my skin than ever before, I have always avoided having my photo taken, simply because I don’t feel particularly comfortable in front of the camera, but also because I didn’t want to have my ‘fatness' captured on film. I think that this is probably true for a lot of us.
So when I booked in my photoshoot back in July my first thought was, “at least that gives me a few months to shift some extra weight so that I have 'the glow’.” Now, to be clear, I was not hating on my body at this point in time, but with almost 20-years of body-bashing behind me my reflexes are not yet totally reprogrammed. I still felt - on some level - that in order to convey a ‘true’ image of health I should probably be in a bit 'better' shape. This, of course, implies that I do not not fit society’s perception of the healthy ideal. And it’s true, because society has a very narrow idea of what healthy should look like. But it also challenged me to reassess my own perceptions of a health ideal, which were to some extent still attached to a certain figure, despite what I knew about health.
Even though I knew that health doesn’t look or feel one way - it’s possible at a wide range of shapes and sizes, and one person’s experience of health will be different to another depending on a huge variety of factors - I still felt pressure to be a better physical representation of health according to society’s standards. I thought that, even though I know that I’m healthy, maybe I should lose a bit more weight just so that other people know that I’m healthy. I worried that other people wouldn’t believe I was healthy unless I looked like the picture of ‘perfect health’. Clearly, my mindset that needed changing just as much as theirs.
There is no doubt that people often judge someone’s health based on external factors, such as their figure and skin. Whilst several external factors might be indicators of health collectively, alone they can be very misleading. After all, we now know the dangers of ‘normal weight obesity’ or being ‘skinny fat’, which is when someone with a slim exterior has high visceral fat (the kind that covers vital organs) putting them at risk of metabolic syndrome (e.g. high blood sugar and high blood pressure), and in turn higher risk of heart diseases, diabetes and stroke. Essentially, being ‘normal weight’ or even slim doesn’t guarantee good health and being ‘overweight' doesn’t guarantee poor health.
I gave up dieting and restricting or controlling food quite some time ago so, rather than creating a meal plan or a set of rules to follow in the lead up to my photoshoot, I caught up to my negative thoughts and instead set the simple intention to eat in a way that made me feel well whilst I was travelling. On the whole I did eat very well, feasting on nutrient rich smoothies, plenty of veggies and probiotic foods, but at times I was not been in complete control of my diet or had to adjust to certain circumstances. I expected this and I wasn't too fussed. I ate intuitively, enjoyed the variety of food available and still nourished myself. As I consistently focussed on nourishing myself as I know how and stopped worrying about what other people thought of me the concern for my weight simply dropped off my radar.
I honestly have no idea whether I lost weight in the lead up to the photoshoot. But then again, I haven’t weighed myself (I hardly brought a set of scales with me to Australia!), taken measurements or paid particular attention to the fit of my clothes. This only occurred to me the morning of the the photoshoot as I sat in cafe drinking coffee and eating cake (caffeine and sugar are hardly a winning combo according to model etiquette). I realised that I had completely forgotten about my thoughts of wanting to lose weight, but rather than having a last minute panic as I might have in the past, I took a deep breath, knowing that I was taking care of myself and giving myself what I needed to nourish myself in that moment.
There is no need to prove our health credentials, and we can move past these beliefs and concerns for what others think of us when we really start to practice what we know and focus on nourishing ourselves fully. The weight loses it’s significance, because we know that we are taking good care of ourselves. To be sure, these shifts don’t happen overnight, but they do happen when we really devote to our self-care and nourishment.
When you feel good physically, mentally and emotionally other people’s opinions and judgements lose their relevance.
In summary, my pre-photoshoot diet (if you can call it that) wasn’t any different to my everyday diet:
+ Food that satisfied and nourished me on all levels.
+ Food that I felt intuitively pulled to eat, including green smoothies and the odd slice of cake.
+ Self-care and a refusal to define myself by my body.
I'd love to here from you now in the comments.