I’ve recently had to piece together my journey to this point for someone in relation to my body positive adventure. It was a really interesting look into my past that I found really hard at points, and really eye opening in others. It also made me realise how totally epic this year has been (although it’s brought great sadness too). It seemed appropriate to include it in my blog somehow both as a review and as I truly believe that by sharing our stories we inspire and connect with others we may not even know we reach. I’d hope someone can relate and if it helps even one person then I’m made up! Thanks Helen James & the nurturers for the prompt!
So how’d I get here? My experience of being body shamed started early. I had an aunt who I used to regularly hear tell my mother that I was a) too quiet and b) too thin – it was high time she fed me properly and got some weight on me – I’m talking as early as 6/7 years old! Apparently way back then, I looked like a starving child. I was thin, quiet, introverted and happy in my own company. As a teenager I grew tall and terribly skinny – I was stretching up as some teens do – but I was too thin I was told. I can still remember one summer attempting to put on weight because I was told I was too thin. I had no idea at the time why it mattered, just that my mother had wanted me to put some weight on so I wouldn’t look so miserable (most likely prompted by that auntie!).
Somewhere along the line I must have been sufficiently acceptable weight wise (or I didn’t care!) and I forgot about my weight through my teens. I was tall, skinny and still introverted but with a great group of friends who all supported each other through those bloody awkward teen years with a dash of madness and good humour. I can remember reaching my late teens and thinking I’d like to be more curvy, but weight wasn’t something that I really thought about too much at that time. My mother was a regular dieter – we had weeks of very specific diets where she had to food combine and during those two week stints she’d knock herself out over feeding the rest of the family and jumping on and off the scales. It was a constant in our house. She had her own health issues that contributed to this too which I guess I only really learned the true reach of much later in my life.
I never worried about my weight or dieted until my late 20s when I started to gain weight a little bit more easily. I did a few diets – I can remember going to weight watchers for the first time prompted by my sister so that I could look good for my wedding. I jumped right in and bought it all – I counted points and kept track of everything. I lost weight. I still wasn’t happy with how I looked though. I think at some point around 2 months before my wedding I decided I wasn’t going to stay miserable and that I would look after myself and maintain rather than beat myself up for not losing more. I vowed to enjoy it. I have a photo of myself on that day where you can see my lovely little round belly. I used to hate that picture, but now it brings me great joy that even then, in the midst of it all I knew I just had to love myself better.
Fast forward a few years and deciding to quit smoking – hardest thing I’ve ever done and definitely when I started to gain weight again. Probably another thing that set me off dieting like crazy again! I tried so many different ones. Atkins was a big hit and I lost whilst feeling well but being slightly carb crazy (I can remember my very lovely boss asking if she could go get me some pasta one day!). I tried weight watchers again, juicing, low GI, the list goes on and on and there are many books I purchased to help me find the right thing for me. I tried lipotrim and the weight flew off. I missed food though. But I was slim again so I persisted.
I had my first baby and felt even more acutely that the weight needed to go and spent a few years yo-yo-ing with the lipotrim diet again. I lost a heap of weight and had my second child. Then considered the old lipotrim to get back in shape – but it didn’t really work. It was harder, the weight was slower to come off and I was miserable. I realised that it wasn’t working because I’d possibly done it too many times. It felt like metabolism had changed and slowed. I stopped and started trying to eat healthy instead. I really didn’t want to have my children ask why I wasn’t eating meals with them. It was too harsh and unnatural. A friend was joining slimming world and asked if I’d go with her. We both had a bit of weight to lose so off we trotted once a week to be weighed in and shamed. And I bought into it – every week for a few months, before I realised that I had been eating far better food without it. There was big encouragement to low fat foods – what I like to call chemical shitstorm food. And the dreaded queue to get weighed in and asked why I hadn’t done better. And I was paying for this. I didn’t last at slimming world. I left when we got to Christmas that year and didn’t go back.
I was also struggling with depression at the time and feeling very low on energy and joy. It was a pretty bleak few years. My family situation changed hugely after the sudden death of my father and my mother currently resides in a nursing home with dementia and Parkinson’s. After antidepressants and therapy didn’t leave me feeling any better, I decided to take a different approach a few years ago. I came off the antidepressants and did a month clean eating kick starter. I felt slightly but not much better physically but my mind definitely felt a lot clearer. I took myself to the doctor for full testing and he advised that I had hypothyroidism. I can still remember my visit when he told me that I just needed to take the tablets and that the weight should start falling off after about a month. At this point how I felt was more important but I took his word for it and started taking my tablets daily. I felt better after a month for about a month and then it all started to go downward again. My hormone level would rise and fall and my medication with it. I continued this way until a few months ago.
About a year ago I saw a trailer for Embrace and signed up for email notification of when it was coming to Ireland. I cried (I think it was sheer relief) when I saw the trailer and knew it that I had to see it. I saw it with my eldest daughter (who was 11 then) in January of this year and it has totally changed my life. It was like someone turned on the lights, or an acknowledgement of something I always knew deep down inside but was never able to express. It was exhilarating, liberating and sad in turn – exhilarated to embrace the rest of my life and feeling free to do so with vigour, but oh so sad at the wasted years and money and attention I had poured into being the right shape – for who?! How had I been so easily duped for so long? I can’t believe it took me 46 years to get past noise and BS I’d been spoon fed by a media intent on keeping me unhappy with my body no matter what I did. I wondered how to take this into my own life and grow it, but determined pretty early on that it was high time to take on some serious introspection and self-care. I knew this was something that I could do – it was a change that I could make all on my own and it was entirely in my power and will to change. It smelt like freedom. I applied to become an ambassador fully confident that I could contribute to a new conversation and encourage others to join me in throwing off the shackles of a life spent being at war with my body.
I hosted a screening of Embrace and well, then it just took on a life of it’s own. It was mostly friends and friends of friends. The feedback after the screening was incredibly moving and there were tears and laughter and heaps of embraces. We formed a local group (Fabulously Flawsome) and we took to the beach for a photoshoot in June of this year. 12 strong and wonderful souls met on the beach that day and created a bond that was utterly magic. We used the photos to promote a second screening and vowed to do all we could to promote the message of Embrace, the body image movement and to build a group open to all who want to live their best life, happy in their skin. The company of this group and the conversations and friendships that formed from it have been amazing and so inspirational. It is incredibly moving to see what support, love, encouragement and a sense of camaraderie can achieve. People’s lives have been transformed and there were others who were touched by the message, but who still struggle to truly embrace themselves as they are now. I would dearly love to help these people get to where they want to be.
Having had enough of the to and fro on my thyroid medication with pretty horrible side effects this summer, I stopped taking my medication. I did a three month coaching plan with a nutritional therapist and it turned into more of a mentorship than anything else! It has been hugely helpful in teaching me to listen to body and to eat and treat my body in a more intuitive way. I feel very lucky that this year I seem to have found just the right people to help me along my way at just the right time. I’m still doing heaps of work on myself but I’m doing pretty ***king fantastic so far and I can honestly say this year has been amazing! I’m aiming to do a blog post just about this very subject in the new year and if she’ll agree an interview with her explaining how she works her magic, but for now you can find out more about Aisling’s services by visiting her website or Facebook.
I still have slump days when I am tired or I feel a bit frumpy or down on myself but they are no way near as bleak and dark as the way I had been feeling before. I feel so much more at ease and calm and trusting that whatever the feeling is it will pass. I’m happy in my own skin, I’m listening to my body and I’m more free and empowered to look after myself than I have ever been before. I want this feeling for anyone out there who has ever struggled with being happy in themselves for any reason. I want to help people to realise that they should feel empowered masters of their own lives and break the chains that bind them to old stories and thinking that keeps them trapped.
I’ve been asked lots, “But how do you Embrace?” It’s a massive question and it is different for everybody. You start with one small thing and build on it. That can be whatever strikes a chord and resonates with YOU. I can’t tell you what that is – you need to find it yourself. I can tell you there are so many things out there to help you on your way though. Google body positivity, self care, mindful eating. Research the things you think will work for you, things that you know will enrich your life so much that you’ll want to keep doing them! I’ve had a chain of things that lead me from Embrace to Unstoppable and beyond to sources of inspiration and transformation and connections I know have changed everything for the better. I followed the joy – the things that resonated and felt like home. The things that made me scream “FUCK Yeah!” or cry, or laugh, or both. A tiny thing but one which was massive was a massive cull of my social media feeds. I endeavour to keep them as positive and inspirational as possible – just for myself! It makes a huge difference. I’ve also somehow managed to do this in real life too and find myself surrounded by an amazing tribe of people who have helped grow my spirit, broaden my mind and embrace who I really am. Life can be hard and it’s imperative to have that fabulous foundation of love and support to carry you through the good and the bad.
For those of you interested in learning more Embrace You has just launched recently and is a practical, inspirational and fun online course to prompt you to find your joy and Embrace. I’m just about to have the time to embark on this myself so can fill you in more in a few weeks. It promises to be more Taryn magic though and I know it’s going to leave me buzzing! You can sign up at Embrace You! Please note that I’m an affiliate of Embrace You and as such may receive payment if you purchase this product.
Another beautiful project and something I’m looking forward to being more involved in in the New Year is Nutriri. Helen James has spearheaded this social enterprise and has been running a group in Axminster, UK, which encourages mindful eating over restrictive diet plans and providing those attending the group with the skills to feel at ease with themselves and their food choices. I believe Nutriri is the much needed alternative to the massive business that is slimming clubs and diet culture. I’m excited to be part of something so amazingly progressive and positive and have thrown my name in as someone willing to train and run groups in the future so watch this space for updates and please visit the website for more info and maybe get involved in this wonderful movement for change.
So my lovelies, that’s it for this year. I am now officially finished work for Christmas and looking forward to blowing this sore throat/viral out of my system this week so that I can sit back and relax and spend some time with my tribe. Please, if you’re reading my blog and interested in anything I’ve mentioned and want to get in touch do comment or give me a shout as I’d love to hear from you.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.