SIBAHLE

Once upon a time in my life when I was not concerned with what I looked like, or what other people thought of my appearance, I was truly happy until I began receiving attention for what I looked like – the good and the bad.

The ‘good’ attention came from people who liked my measurements/size: from the size of my bust to the size of my hips (or lack thereof).  The ‘bad’ attention came from self hate; at a time when I really ‘packed on the pounds’ and had stopped being active, resulting in more eating and, of course, weight gain.

When I realised how much the bad attention was getting to me I sought to alter my image – to go back to what once was.  It was no easy feat as I had become undeniably lazy: I would start working out and, as sure as the sun rises every morning, I would stop within the very same week.

This did nothing to help my esteem because I felt as though nothing I did would ever help me get back the body I once had.  I therefore took upon myself to stop exercising and began restricting my calorie intake; now I could see, and feel, the change.  My body pained from this radical change it was kicked into and did not respond well!  I told myself that, like the many mantras I encountered on the internet, it was about mind over matter! That if I wanted to get thinner (I had to skip dinner) I had to welcome the pain as it was a sure sign that what I was doing was working.

What I was doing was more than just me in losing the weight, I was slowly losing myself.  Regular daily tasks became chores – hardships even!  My calorie intake eventually lead to no food intake whatsoever, with the exception of one meal to keep me going. I had fallen into a routine that became hard to break.  I would spend the sleepless hours looking at images of girls who were emaciated, hoping that one day I would come to look like them: thin arms, thin legs, the coveted thigh gap, tiny waist, protruding hip bones, the slight bump that was the lowest bone in my ribcage barely visible under a t-shirt – I was romanticised and did not want to acknowledge neither the danger of ANA (anorexia) or EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified/Stated) nor the unhappiness that came with it: unhappiness in my life and with myself.

In my late night rendezvous with my dream image, I came across an image of a woman who was lean and happy.  A woman that ate regularly and exercised just as much.  A woman that loved her lifestyle.  A woman that loved herself.  A woman I was not.  A woman I wanted to be.  It was then that I, once again, took it upon myself to really get up and change what I did not like about myself and to go about it in the correct manner.

I was once told that I have the physique of an African woman, I did not know whether to take it as a compliment or otherwise.

At the time I was in my worse off state where if a person wasn’t commenting on how thin I had become I was unhappy – I’ve been working so hard, why isn’t it showing?!  However, after beginning my fitness/healthy lifestyle journey I understood that as an African woman I am meant to have an African physique: I have a large bust, I have a round booty, and I have a waist that curves in all the right places! My arms are strong and my thighs are thick!  Sure I have narrow hips that wouldn’t be ideal for child bearing, but who cares?! I am who I am and no amount of starving is going to alter that – black don’t starve, Gogo will vouch for that!  I’m fortunate enough to have realised this sooner rather than later because Lord only knows how far I would have gone to be bone thin and/or how unhappy I would have become in doing so.

My perception of my and any other person’s body image is this: you get out what you put in.

The views of society differ greatly from those of your own and that’s okay; if you aren’t different you’re just another sheep in a flock heading over the cliff!

You will never know what love is until you’ve loved yourself for who you are.  You are a work in progress, a god or goddess that is perfect in his or her imperfections.

In the words of J. Cole: “…no need to change what God already put His paint brush on.” [Crooked Smile, J. Cole, Born Sinner].

Sibahle Jozana

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