Body image and our perceptions

Sarah Colgate Woman Of The Year Awards Gold Coast

written by Sarah Colgate

Self Awareness

June 11, 2020

I went to the doctor late last year after a complete and utter melt down about my weight. Before I went I decided to write down every diet I had been on. I don’t know what this was supposed to prove to the doctor maybe in the back of my head I had the doctor thinking  “yes this woman is crazy about diets and has no self control or will power”

I am 157cm and 18.3kg overweight so I am really, really overweight. Today 8 months later I weigh 100g more and am still really really overweight. What the fuck am I doing? 

Body Image and Your Perceptions

In my life, I have managed to lose weight successfully 3 times. The first was 1994, at the time I probably weighed 63kg and I took laxative pills as a snack every day. I ate whatever I wanted and washed it down with 2 laxatives. I lost 4.5 kgs and I was 18 years old. 

The most recent weight losses were after my daughter was born, I did “FIT for Life” protein style diet and lost 7 kgs then I went on to do Michelle Bridges 12WBT I ran a million times around the world, ate calorie controlled meals and lost 8 kgs or so. I was at my lightest at 38 years old.  

Then as soon as I stopped running 7 days a week and ate anything other than 12WBT meals I put weight on. That was 6 years ago and since then I have put on 14.7 kgs.

I think about my weight, weight loss, being fat, exercise and food thousands and thousands of times per day. It uses up so much of my energy and tears away at my self worth continually. So what do I do? I need to get this shit sorted and get on with my life. I am 44 years old and have been on a diet for at least 24 years! I feel like it is literally killing me, not only my soul but my body as well. How do I sort this shit out, how do I sort me out? My metabolism if I ever had one no longer works, I drink way too much alcohol and am very worried about my lack of self control. 

Let’s add to this an 8 ½ year old daughter that I am having body image discussions with. WTF am I supposed to say about body image? I have an amazing friend who has a daughter the same age and we often share insights and articles about raising girls and preventing our daughters from repeating our mistakes and those of the generations before us. 

Last weekend when I sat my daughter down and talked about female bodies; shape, height, weight, strength, ability etc. I showed her a photo of an Olympic swimmer, a gymnast, an Olympic shot put athlete and a dancer. We marvelled at the different shapes of their bodies as well as talking about how much exercise and training they would need to do to stay so strong. 

Body Image and Your Perceptions

Then I explained what a model is and that models sell products. They tell people if you buy this product you will look like me. After that I showed her pictures of models. She could clearly see the difference and how “skinny and bony” they looked. She agreed that although they had nice clothes (I pointed out they weren’t their clothes, they were borrowed) they were not real body shapes. 

Then I showed her what ordinary girls and women look like. We scrolled through hundreds of photos. Then she asked if she could look up some pictures. She typed in “AFLW player” and my heart was happy. Strong confident women going for it in what has been a man’s sport. She looked at all the AFLW pictures for a long time and finally said “they have healthy strong bodies mummy.” 

After we looked at the pictures we talked about what her body could do, dance, climb, swing on monkey bars, roman rings, scooter, swim, surf and so much more. I was showing her how strong, healthy and amazing her body is. She giggled and smiled. It felt so good to be sharing this positive conversation with her.

With a very serious face she looked at me and put her little hands around my arm and asked “Why does your body have more fat than muscle?” She followed up with “ Are you strong and what can your body do?”

I teared up and thought through my answer as I wanted to be honest and not damaging. So I said “Yes mummy’s body is fat because mummy hasn’t filled her body with good food, mummy hasn’t loved her body or looked after it the way we need to in order for it to stay happy.”  I cried the entire time as I felt like I have let myself down and I have let my daughter down by not providing a healthy and strong role model. She climbed up on my knee and hugged me tight and said I love you mum and your body. 

In my head throughout this entire exchange I am beating myself senseless with negative, hateful unhealthy thoughts. I wished I could do that, I wished I could love myself and my body! 

At this stage I don’t even know how to do that. How do I love my body? How do I restart this journey ? How do I savour my remaining years of being young (ish) and a mum to create a better role model for my daughter and my son? 

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