How I Began to Love My Body, Part 1: My Deep Hatred for My Body

This is part one of four-part series on body image—how I hated my body for a long time, learned to love my body eventually, and how you can achieve a positive body image as well.

Thin Legs

Thin legs

For a long time up until recently, I had hated my body.

While most people hate their body for its certain features, their body frame, or a disdain of their natural body type, my hatred of my body did not stem from any of that. I have always had no problem with my natural appearance, be it my body type, my body frame (which is medium in size relative to the average Asian female), my height (which is 1.7m / 5′ 7″), nor my facial features (save for two of them, which I have since addressed a year ago as I had shared in my beauty article.)

Rather, my hatred of my body stemmed from my inferiority of my body weight.

I had always felt that I was heavier than I ought to be. While I had never been overweight nor truly “fat” even, I had always wished that I could be lighter. I had always believed that regardless of how (well) I looked, how many people praised me about my appearance, or how heavy (or light) I was, I would be much more attractive if I was slimmer—much slimmer.

Start of My Self-Body-Hate

A Childhood Experience

A big part of this self-body-hate probably started when I was in secondary school.

I recall sitting beside this girl in class who would regularly dissect and disparage her body parts, including referring to her thighs as “tree trunks”, even though she was stick skinny—easily one of the skinniest girls I knew.

At that time, I didn’t understand why she would repeatedly put down her looks like that. Whenever she berated her thighs, I would look at my own thighs and wonder why she would think her thighs were large, for my thighs were much larger (and I was at a perfectly healthy weight for my height).

While I did not hate my body nor think that I was fat in any way then, hearing her constant disparaging of her thighs planted the first seeds of doubt about my body’s integrity. It made me wonder if I was perhaps missing something about my body and that it was not as “okay” or perfect as I thought it was.

Thin = Beauty = Attention from Guys

Somewhere down the line, between growing up in primary school and junior college, I noticed that the thin girls would usually get more attention from guys and/or appear more physically attractive to them.

For example, when I was in secondary school, there was girl who was excruciatingly skinny and highly emancipated and was regarded as a school belle among my peers. When I was in junior college, I had a fairly skinny schoolmate who would often receive compliments from male peers about her looks even though she didn’t have the conventional good looks. It was apparent that guys found her attractive because of how slim she was.

And then on and off, one would hear of girl friends with suitors or guy friends who are after particular girls. The common denominator among all these girls was that they would be fairly skinny, which was undoubtedly an attraction factor for the guys.

These incidents made me subconsciously conclude that being skinny is equivalent to beauty and that to be regarded as beautiful by others, I had to be stick skinny.

Projections of Beauty by the Media

Subsequently, I became exposed to projected images of beauty in the mass media on a regular basis. From leggy models, to sharp facial contours, to stick-thin celebrities, these images were repeatedly projected as standards of beauty which all girls should strive for.

Guys would hanker after females with said qualities, hence reinforcing these images as “standards” to strive for. Among females, sizes 0 to 2 (U.S. size) would be aspirational dress sizes because these were dress sizes for models and shop mannequins.

Myself, I was no size 0 nor size 2; I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to ever achieve this dress size because my natural body frame just isn’t that small. The thinnest I can be without looking bizarrely thin would be size 6–8 (which would my current dress sizes); endeavoring to achieve a size 0 or 2 would only make me look extremely unproportional and no different than some alien being.

Of course, this wasn’t a factor of my concern back then. My only obsession was to be as thin as possible, then evaluate the results later.

To be stick skinny—that was deemed as a good thing. To not be stick skinny was deemed as being not ”attractive”, not “beautiful”, or even—not deserving of love.

Attempts to Conform to the Idealized Image of Beauty

A Corset

A scarily tiny midriff

Because I did not conform to the sticky skinny image of beauty (I hovered between U.S. sizes 10 and 14 during the years I struggled with my weight), I harbored a deep hatred for my body. I constantly wished that I was thin, thinner than I was, or better yet, thinnest among everyone I knew.

My weight loss journey would be fraught with difficulties for my childhood was laced with emotional eating issues (which I’ve written before in my 6-part emotional eating series and have since overcame as well). I constantly ate to feed my emotions, resulting in weight gain over time despite my healthy eating efforts and constant exercising.

Because of my emotional eating issues, weight was frequently an area of contest within myself. I would constantly set goals to lose weight, only to fail one way or another. This would make me hate myself even further, for not being able to achieve my goal.

For the record, my real problem was not in losing the weight. My problem was with sustaining my weight losses, partly due to my emotional eating issues. Regardless of how much weight I would lose during each weight loss endeavor, I would regain my “excess” weight after a while, through one way or other. From gradual regains over the span of months to immediate weight regains in a matter of days, I would always regain my lost weight.

It was almost as if my excess weight had a mind of its own. No matter how many times I lost it, it would find its way to pile itself back onto my body. It was as if I couldn’t run away from it, no matter how hard I tried.

The Dark Depths of Self-Body-Hate

I hated hating my body. I hated constantly berating my body as if it were a contemptuous object.

From hating the fats on my thighs, to hating the thin space between my thighs, to hating the “heaviness” of my body (largely a psychological perception), to hating the “bigness” of my hips, to hating the “largeness” of my calves, I hated everything there was to hate about my body.

I constantly wished that I was a few dress sizes smaller so I could fit into smaller clothes and be as slim as the standard stick-skinny Asian girl on the street. I constantly wished I could be lighter by say, 10kg or so, so that I wouldn’t need to slug this extra weight around and look like some fat loser to the world.

The mirror was one of my biggest nemesis, for it would reflect the image of my burgeoning body, something which I absolutely abhorred. To me, looking into the mirror was like being confronted with one of my deepest nightmares—to be an ugly and fat b*tch whom no one would ever find desirable nor want to be with. There were times when I would avoid looking into the mirror because I didn’t want to be faced with the image of my constantly expanding physical body, a problem which was made especially real due to my emotional eating problem.

Deep Devastation

In my heart, I was devastated.

Why can’t I lose this weight (permanently)? I kept asking myself. For while I had no problems with many things in life and could easily overcome any problems that came my way, this weight thing just kept spinning its way back into my life—over, and over, and over again. It was a problem I could not conquer, and because of that, it gradually gained tremendous power over me.

I would be caught in this cycle of trying to lose weight, losing a bit of weight in the beginning, being taken off track in my diet and/or exercise after a few days, regaining all my weight back after that due to self-sabotage, then returning with a vengeance and deeper resolve later on to lose my excess weight all over again. No matter how many times I failed in my weight loss regime, I would return shortly after (be it a matter of days or weeks) to have a go at this goal again. Each time I would fail, and each time I would return to try again after that.

It would take a while before I would realize that there was something deep in my subconscious which was driving my recurring weight regain, and that I had to first decipher and address this issue before I could finally end my struggle with my poor body image.

Move on to Part 2: Unraveling My Weight Issues, where I delve into my issue of self-body-hate and unravel the mystery behind my continuous weight regain.

This is part one of four-part series on body image—how I hated my body for a long time, learned to love my body eventually, and how you can achieve a positive body image as well.

Images: LegsBack


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  • http://www.thejoyofthewrittenword.com Patricia Blomeley-Maddigan

    Hey, no fair!! I want to know what happened next!
    I look forward to Part 2.

    With empathy,
    Patricia

  • Bob

    I think you have found exactly the right balance now Celes.

    Re. “I recall sitting beside this girl in class who would regularly dissect and disparage her body parts.”
    I heard that we can catch other people’s emotions like we can catch a cold and then we start to experience the same feelings other feel, whether it is good, bad or neutral.

    Re. “These incidents made me subconsciously conclude that being skinny is equivalent to beauty and that to be regarded as beautiful by others, I had to be stick skinny.”
    At one time people who were rich would show this by being fat – now it is the opposite.
    In my opinion each country defines beauty differently depending on what has been decided. Why do think countries define their images of beauty Celes?

    Re. “To not be stick skinny was deemed as being not ”attractive”, not “beautiful”, or even—not deserving of love. ”
    This projection is a constant battle to be accepted – I think the acid test is to look at yourself in the mirror everyday and tell yourself you love yourself. If you have difficulty it means that something needs to change.

    Re. “It was almost as if my excess weight had a mind of its own. No matter how many times I lost it, it would find its way to pile itself back onto my body.”
    Two factors that most people are not conscious of Celes. Over the last few years the size of plates has got larger and the portions served are bigger. Quality doesn’t necessarily correspond with quantity. A balanced meal is usually smaller and more nutritious.

    I’m glad that you have overcome this situation Celes. Your beauty inspires many people to motivate themselves to take action. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life.

    • max

      /signed/

      i really enjoyed reading your article celes as well as your comment on it bob

      this community contributes something positive to mankind. let the love flow… it’s something hard to grasp if not experienced by yourself. this blog constantly reminds me that there are many other people who experience the beauty of life and have a positive attitude towards life!

      thanks so much! so inspiring!

      • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

        That’s so awesome that you feel this way max. As you rightly put it–let’s let the love flow!! :)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      In my opinion each country defines beauty differently depending on what has been decided.

      Hi Bob! :) You’re definitely right that the definition of beauty is different from place to place. This was something I realized for myself when I started traveling extensively in 2011, and a conclusion which I had shared in my beauty article.

      That said, the granular definitions of beauty differ from culture to culture (i.e. facial features or body type), the one commonality of beauty among many places in today’s world is that of thinness. Yet there was a point when “big” women were seen as beautiful, particularly in the olden days of China. It’s really interesting to see how beauty is really about perception and much of what we (intuitively) feel is beautiful today is really a function of our conditioning than anything else.

      • Bob

        Re. “It’s really interesting to see how beauty is really about perception” – I definitely agree Celes. Being aware of how we are and accepting that we all have commonalities and differences. Our self view can sometimes be (terribly) distorted as we try to take on/become the perceived image (which may or may not be flawed) of our parents, peer group, group of influence and the “respected” images of beauty, instead of determining how we want to be and working towards and achieving this. One really important point is Validation/recognition of others, not trying to change them but accepting them for their idiosyncrasies and helping them bring out their latent qualities.

        Re.”…much of what we (intuitively) feel is beautiful today is really a function of our conditioning than anything else” – excellent point Celes. When I feel uncomfortable with a person it is usually because it means there is work I need to do on myself to correct flaws of inadequacy. I can either learn the lessons of life by accepting and embracing them or reject them. Some lessons take more time to learn, especially ones I don’t want to address immediately. These keep repeating with greater amplification until I address and master them.

  • http://lifemosaique.wordpress.com/ Lina

    I’m looking forward to the second part as well. I think any girl/woman can relate to this kind of thinking, which is in fact a sad thing – not being able to love our bodies and accept them as they are. Can’t wait to read how you got around this issue/flawed perception. :)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Thanks Lina. :D You are entirely right that any female can relate to this mindset, which is what drove me to share this story with all of you. I’ve been looking forward to writing this series on body image for a long, long time, but had waited until I had personally overcome this issue before taking to writing this on the blog.

  • http://hackmyheart.com Alexa

    I’ve had issues with my body image as well, though for different reasons. While weight is something that has bothered me about my body in the past, it is simply a small part of bigger issues for me. The heaviest I’ve been would’ve maybe been considered “chubby,” but just barely.

    However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t had negative thoughts about my body. Being only 5 feet tall (Google tells me this is 1.524 meters), any weight I do have makes me seem “bigger” than the same amount of weight would make other girls look. I looked at my skinny friends’ arms, for example, and wonder why mine seemed big in comparison.

    Other ways I’ve felt self-conscious: body hair, especially on my face; not having thick enough/nice enough hair on my head; being afraid that my skin wasn’t nice/clear enough (again, especially on my face); the shape of my face/nose…all sorts of things have made me feel insecure even now. (Some days, even just the fact of physically having a female body and the implications that come with being a woman really get me down, but I think that’s a much bigger issue that I need to contend with that doesn’t quite go with the focus of this series. ^^; )

    That said, I’m really looking forward to reading this series. I think issues of self-image are big regardless of gender even if it’s seen as a “feminine” problem; for example, I have a thin male friend who’s desperate to get stronger/gain muscle. I hope your tips will apply universally regardless of gender or what aspect of our bodies we take issue with; of course since it’s you writing, Celes, I’m sure they’ll be nothing but excellent advice!

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Alexa! I hear you… it does sound like there is an overall “appearance” complex and weight is one of the components of it. I also agree that appearance is definitely something males struggle with as well (though to be honest, in a much lesser intensity than females, at the very least in the Singapore society), and that the males tend to face struggles with bulk/build/muscle whereas females is about size/thinness.

      Thanks so much for your kind words by the way! *hug* I hope by writing this body image series openly, it’ll help girls (and guys) out there who face similar issues. I definitely, definitely, think that this is something almost everyone faces, just that (a) no one really talks about it in the context of insecurity / self-hate (b) people talk about it as if it is normal vs. it being something which should be looked at/resolved. I look forward to hearing your feedback of the coming parts too Alexa. :) )

      • Bob

        Hi Celes and Alexa,

        I agree that self image/appearance is a situation for both sexes. In my experience there is a fundamental difference between females and males. Males tend to accept themselves more consciously or unconscious as being dominant and therefore they don’t have feel as much a stigma of not feeling adequate. This means they are not as sensitive to body perceptions, even though they have equally as many flaws and imperfections as females.

        • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

          Hey Bob, thanks so much for sharing this interesting insight. I have never thought about this topic from that angle before. It’s definitely something for me to reflect on.

          I think another factor is simply that the female body is and has always been a subject of scrutiny in the media. That, in part, has definitely played a role in females’ feelings of inadequacy about their bodies.

  • Daniel Pelzl

    Who claims that BMIs tell what is most important about ourselves? Are we kind? Are we physically healthy? Are we comfortable with ourselves and otheres? Are we able to help others without being prompted? Do we associate with our intellectual peers? Do we give ourselves adequate challenges in out daily work?
    There is a lot of genetics involved in a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index) [ (kg/m x m) or (lbs/in x in)705]. Anything under 25 is considered healthy.
    You are right about the brand. It was Joy and not Dove as I had stated.

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Daniel, your questions are sound but this whole issue of self-body-hate often goes a lot beyond just logical questioning and rationalization (which I have realized and experienced for myself in the past 10 years). There are deep-seated self-hate issues and insecurity involved which (in my opinion) requires delicate unraveling to truly resolve them for good.

      I’m not sure about your comment regarding the brand; I can only assume it’s with reference to an older comment on the site?

      • http://www.ffufi.net/mindflight Ffion

        BMI is bullshit anyway, according to BMI exceptionally fit and muscled people, i.e. professional boxers might easily land in the obese range.

        I’m pretty thin because I excercise a lot and am pretty fit and I’m constantly being told by the doctor that my BMI is too low. As my boyfriend will attest to, the amounts of food I consume occasionally border on the ridiculous compared to my body size, but I don’t put on the weight because my body seems to need it and I feel fit and strong, there’s no bones sticking out, but they just stick me in a “too thin” category just because of some idiot number? I look good, I feel good, I’m healthy, how is that “too thin”?

        Life can not be measures exclusively in numbers. BMI might serve as a guideline, but we should be very aware that most people do not neatly fit into the assigned categories and there is a lot of error.

        • Daniel Pelzl

          You are mostly right. There are better metrics. Why are you “constantly seeing your doctor”? Why is it that we associate health with the medical profession? As far as I know, there is not a single study about the lower BMI numbers (<22). Annual health costs (the lower the better) and longevity are better measures. Quarter mile times is something I am considering. Drug usage may also be considered. I remember suggesting kindness. I have to admit not ever experiencing a negative body image. Read "End of Illness" by David Agus. He suggests that you become your own doctor.

          • http://www.ffufi.net/mindflight Ffion

            I’m not constantly seeing my “doctor”, I go for a checkup at my gynaecologist once a year and for some reason they always work out my BMI and have been doing so for years. I don’t care anyhow, as long as I look and feel good in my own skin I don’t care for numbers.

            I no longer associate health with the medical profession. I’m dissillusioned there. I rarely go to the doctor nowadays because most stuff goes away by itself with plenty of rest and sleep if we give our bodies the chance to mobilise its own healing powers. I generally only go to my yearly checkup at the dentist and gynaecologist, just to make sure everything’s okay. I rarely visit the doctor when I’m sick, I prefer to stay home and sit it out or resort to natural remedies. A reasonably healthy diet, lots of excercise and fresh air and reducing stress keep me pretty healthy anyway.

          • http://www.ffufi.net/mindflight Ffion

            Just been checking out the book recommendation… I always enjoy a good read. However David Angus sounds like a quack to me. Taking baby aspirins and statins daily? wtf? He sounds like he’s paid by the pharma industry to peddle their products.

            Swallowing a pill every day to me is NOT health. Sorry.

            I somewhat agree with “become your own doctor”. But not by administering medication. Your body can do a hell of a lot for itself if we get out of its way and stop pumping it full of rubbish.

            • Daniel Pelzl

              Suggesting taking a 50mg aspirin tablet a day to prevent inflamation is goofy. David does believe in research and this suggestion is an action that seems to have reduced heart disease in the test subjects. Does this make him a quack? Maybe. I do not think taking 50mg/day is going to make anyone very much richer. I take no medications, vitamins or supplements. David did find that taking vitamins and supplements increased cancer. Part of being your own doctor is to read the original papers and critic’s remarks. Medical professionals are trained to “be helpful” and suggest a patient to do something different so as to internally justifying their charges. You seem to be blessed with heath.

              • http://www.ffufi.net/mindflight Ffion

                If loads of people are buying his products it is going to make him quite a lot of money. There are also studies that prove vitamin supplements can help prevent cancer. I find it problematic that there always seems to be appropriate studies to promote anyone’s view of reality, even if they are contradictory. The reviews he has received don’t seem very encouraging either.

                I don’t take medication or supplements unless it’s unavoidable, because I believe our body is a naturally healthy being and sickness is caused by pumping it full of rubbish.
                Feeding it sensibly without trying to force it into strict diets or deprivation (been there done that, got through the bullshit), excercising and getting fresh air is what keeps me healthy. I’ve made my share of health mistakes and have realised that I’m healthiest when I get lots of excercise, eat what my body needs and wants, get out every so often, keep stress as low as possible and live in line with my authentic self and stop trying to bullshit myself into being happy. When I’m sick I allow myself to rest and take care of myself, occasionally I go on a fast to speed up the healing process.
                I’m a lot healthier at the moment than I was a year or so ago, when I was in denial and trying everything to solve my problems except actually addressing the problem. Now I try to figure out what’s really the problem and then try to address that.

  • Carrie

    Hi Celest,

    I share the same sentiments as you. I am looking forward to your part 2 as I also struggle with hating my body and wanting to loose weight. No matter how hard I try, the weight keeps on creeping back…. It is frustrating as the same process start all over again.

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Carrie, thanks so much for your comment. :hug: I’m sorry to hear that you experience the same issue as I did in the past… I hope this series will provide you with insight on your situation; do let me know what you think after reading the subsequent parts. :hug:

  • http://ferventlife.wordpress.com/ Violetz

    What you said resonates with me Celes.

    Not only the weight creeps back when you have given so much time and energy to shedding it off and, they come back in leaps when you gave in a little. Being aware of the pain and pleasure factor works, but not for long. And not to mention, how heavy our luggage is compared to those of our thin friends because we had bigger clothing.

    It was a regrettably hurtful experience to have as a teenager but until we learn how to love ourselves, we will never learn to appreciate our physique.

  • Lolita

    I cannot wait to read the series because i am still grappling with these issues until today. Not being naturally thin and always starting an exercise regime and failing. Looking into the mirror and wishing i was smaller. Thinking that people would hang out with me more if i was thin or somebody would love me better if i was smaller. Gosh! I hope to gain a lot from these series. Healthy body image! How easy to say but difficult to practice.

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Lolita, feel free to share your feedback with me of the later parts via their respective comments sections. I’m pretty sure some of the insights will be relevant for your situation and will help you to address your issue be it in part or in full. Part 2 is up now :)http://personalexcellence.co/blog/body-image-part-2/

  • http://www.imjustsharing.com Mitch Mitchell

    What an interesting self exploration to go through. I think many of us have had to deal with this topic throughout our lives but we try to avoid it because it makes us uncomfortable. Heck, I still don’t look at mirrors all that often; avoidance is a skill. :-)