9 Things to Remember about Yourself (or, you really weren't fat as a teenager!)

I spent a lot of my time as a teenager thinking about how fat I was. I wanted to have an 18 inch waist and was horrified mine was 21 inches (I'd read something about the Victorians aiming for 16 inches in their corsets, which I had totally taken out of context).

I danced, cycled and did loads of stuff outdoors throughout my childhood, until I went to University.

I wasn't in anyway fat.

Did I have body dysmorphia? I don't think so. Did I stop eating or go on any mad diets? No.

What bothers me is the amount of time I wasted thinking about being a fat, writing my diary about being fat, talking to my friends about being fat.....

I thought all my friends were skinnier than me, I was just a different shape to them, I had boobs for a start, they came in way to early for comfort and were larger than most of my friends, which made me look bigger.

And yet, I know my friends wanted my body shape. How stupid are as young women? Comparing ourselves to others. I know it is natural to do this, and to some extent I still do it now, but it really does us no good. I worry about my 11 year old and 15 year old doing the same thing. My 11 year old has already commented on her 'massive thighs', which she hasn't got.

So what's the answer?

We talk about the negative impact of social media on young people, and yet when I was young, I would read, initially, Jackie, and then Cosmopolitan.

The models in the magazines in the 1980's were all skinny, even Elle 'The Body' Macpherson didn't have an ounce of fat on her. The only reason I can see, in retrospect, that people called her 'The Body' was because she had bigger boobs that your average model.
Elle Macpherson in Sports Illustrated

Nowadays, on social media I follow curvier models.  You can see lot's of different body types in the media for young people to aspire to.

In my view, the internet has given young people a greater view of the world and this, on the whole, has had a positive impact.

Ashley Graham is a great example of that, she is a Judge on America's Top Model and is a 'Body Ambassador', whilst having a successful career in modelling.

Ashley Graham
However, Ms Graham has stated some concerns that as a curvier model she is more likely to be considered sexier than her skinnier equivalent.

She feels that if she were to get a part in the film, she would be the 'sexy girl' and not the serious lead.

I can relate to that, when I was at school I wanted to be an actor and would put myself forward for parts in every school play. The first part I got, when I was 12, was the 'sexy secretary'. I wore a tight pencil skirt, a low cut top, with stiletto's and glasses.

At the time I was thrilled to have got the part, I was also thrilled that older boys were suddenly showing me lots of attention.

I didn't understand, that this was the completely wrong kind of attention.
I have a friend that has always referred to me as 'sexy Jane'. Is this because I have always been curvy. I don't know, I know she says it with affection but I think I would rather be known as clever Jane, creative Jane or something like that.

I have added a photo of myself that was taken when I was 17. I look at this photo now and wonder what on earth I was thinking. I would give my eyes teeth to have that body now.

This is how I described myself in my diary at the time. (all punctuation as per my diary, apologies)

'Me: I am five foot two inches, mousy brown hair (dyed), brown eyes. Face: alright but I have a big nose. Overweight. Got big boobs and big hips, and short fat legs.'

On the Lido at Jesolo near Venice when I was 17
When I look at this picture now and read my diary, I have realised that my self image and how I actually looked are totally opposed. I am disappointed that when I got attention from boys, and later men, I was so grateful, because I thought I was hideous,  that I ended up with dreadful boyfriends who treated me awfully. This continued into my early thirties, when I finally realised that actually, I am not bad looking, quite bright and deserve much, MUCH better. 

When I was 17 I was a bright and articulate young woman, just like my 15 year old daughter is now, but I lacked self respect.

Now, no one would ever cast a 12 year old girl to play the 'sexy secretary' in a school play.

But the sexism still continues, there are certain sports at my daughters secondary school that only the boys can do, similarly, the boys aren't allowed to wear make up at school, whereas the girls can (as long as it's subtle).

At my other daughters primary school the girls can wear earrings but the boys can not.

Our children are still brought up to think pink is for girls and blue is for boys, that fat or curvy is bad and thin is good. There are still so many things that still need to be resolved to ensure true equality for men and women.

My eldest daughter is beautiful, blessed with a tiny waist and my boobs, I can only hope her adolescence isn't wasted worrying about her body shape, but I fear this is a pipe dream.

Ultimately, we are never 100% happy with how we look, even the most intelligent and beautiful person will find fault with themselves because as humans, our brains tell us we are flawed.

We have come on leaps and bounds since the 1980's when I was a teenager. What was acceptable then, just isn't now. 

If you think about Operation Yewtree - if that was what celebrities were up to, what was your average Joe up to on a daily basis.

Here is another quote from my diary.

'4th August 1984

Today I worked in Oswestry at Oswestry Show, in a grotty little burger van with a man named Ben who seemed nice enough to begin with but later turned into a 60 year old groper. He was a pain in the ass. I can't stand working for them . All they talk about is sex sex SEX!' 

Just an average day in 1984. for a 17 year old girl.

This has turned into a long and rather troublesome post. I planned to talk about feeling fat as a teenager, but instead moved on to more serious issues around inequality and sexism.

I have tried to reach a conclusion but found, unsurprisingly, I don't have a full answer to any of these issues.

So instead here is my message to my children and you;

  1. You are beautiful
  2. You won't be the same shape as anyone else because you are you
  3. You are beautiful because your mind is bright and sparkly and full of intelligence and genius thoughts
  4. You are beautiful because you imagine and dream
  5. You are strong
  6. You are powerful
  7. Don't let anyone physically or verbally disrespect you, walk away from them with your head held high. There are people who will try to make you feel useless and small - they are idiots - see points 1 - 6 for validation
  8. Everyone is different, that is what makes them special - respect that
  9. Be kind, and people will be kind to you
Thanks for reading, and making it to the end of this. If you like it please like and share.


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