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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 29 November 2020

Our bodies are amazing, why don't we give them the love they deserve?

Like so many women and men, I wasted time hating my shape and trying to change it. Then I realised what an incredible, beautiful machine my body is.

Image: Shutterstock/Konstantin Sutyagin

“THAT GIRL OVER there is so thin, I would love to be like her”. And so it began. At a mere ten years of age, I began to notice, and indeed analyse, womens’ figures and weight.

I was lucky enough to have wonderful parents, who provided my siblings and I with healthy, home-cooked dinners every night. Takeaways were unheard of in our house. We were taught to have a positive attitude towards food and we understood and appreciated the necessity to eat nutritious food in order to stay healthy. We were also taught the value of staying active and fit. Family hikes, cycles and tennis matches were an integral part of our childhood.

And yet, with this one comment, made by a childhood friend of mine, everything I was taught about nutrition and exercise was partially sidelined, as I began to focus more and more on physical appearance, as opposed to physical health.

I always thought I could “look better”

Throughout my teenage and college years, I worked hard to maintain a slim figure. At various points throughout these years (usually when I was stressed about other aspects of my life), I developed an obsession with my weight. I would calorie count – keeping my intake of calories well below the recommended daily intake, whilst simultaneously engaging in vigorous exercise.

An eating disorder is characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour (HSE). In hindsight, I can recognise that my attitude towards food was indeed abnormal, and in fact, it had major implications on other aspects of my life. Food and exercise were constantly on my mind and I never felt truly happy with how I looked – despite consistently remaining a size 6. I always thought I could “be thinner” “look better”.

I began to change my attitude towards my body

In September 2014, I started a new job. I joined a gym which was close by to my workplace and found myself settling back into old habits – calorie counting, excessive exercise. I was training hard and running quite a lot so I entered a 10km race to have something to work towards. I ended up coming fourth in the women’s section of the race and it was this result that began to change my attitude towards my body. My body had done something amazing – it allowed me to train, compete, and achieve something I never thought I could do. My body is amazing.

And it is that thought that I want to share with the world. It saddens me that there is so much focus put on achieving an unrealistic figure presented to us in magazines and on runways. Young women want to be “thin” “slim” “have a flat stomach”, and I too wasted so much of my life aiming for these ludicrous ideals. This is not what our focus should be on.

We should not be starving ourselves of nutrition and putting our bodies under strain with the aim of achieving the unachievable. Our bodies can produce amazing results if we fuel them and look after them correctly. As a nation, we should be encouraging everyone to get the most out of your body, as it has so much to offer.

Our bodies are amazing

Since decisively changing the way I view my body, I have adapted a positive attitude towards food. Each day I ensure I am feeding myself with enough nutrients and protein to fuel my training and, as a result, I have gained 2kg of muscle in two months, making my jeans a bit tighter! In the past, this would have made me stressed, unhappy and obsessive about losing more weight. However, I am now healthier and happier than ever and feel physically fantastic. My positive attitude towards my body has improved my quality of life as a whole – I spend less time worrying about food and exercise, which has allowed me to focus on other aspects of my life.

The human body is a spectacle – it fights illness, creates new life and enables us to achieve so much in life. Why has society taught us to look at it critically, and often in disgust? Our body is a powerful instrument. If we fuel it appropriately, and look after it with the love and attention it deserves, it can help us to realise and accomplish our goals. Our bodies are amazing.

The author does not wish to publish her full name for professional reasons.

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