This, right here, is my first two-parter. I received this email from the amazing Chiara – a friend and (amazingly) a reader, a couple of weeks ago. I’d toyed with taking a couple of parts out so I’d have the room to respond in the same post, but it’s such an amazing point that I can’t bring myself to remove a word.
So: here’s the letter. Next post: me, writing to me.
Hope you’re good and still enjoying living in London.
I wanted to get in touch with you because, as you know, I am a follower and big fan of your blogs. I really respect and admire the message that you preach. Having struggled with a distorted body image for the majority of my teens/young adult life, your dose of realism and positivity is exactly what I need when I find myself slipping into my old unhealthy ways.
My friend and I were having dinner the other night and our conversation turned inevitably onto weight and body image (she is a recovering anorexic, although – after years of therapy – has finally made peace with her body and has an incredibly healthy attitude towards food).
She said she had seen this thing on Loose Women (in her uni days when she could watch daytime television) where viewers wrote in ‘letters to their body’. She turned around and asked me flat out (with little explanation of the concept)…
‘If you could write a letter to your body what would you say?’
After about 30 seconds of deliberation I replied:
“I would say thank you… Thank you for not giving up on me when I pumped copious amounts of drugs and alcohol into you in my late teens. Thank you for carrying on when I denied you the rest that you needed. Thank you for pulling through the days that I would starve you of the nutrients and deny you the fuel you needed to function (surviving for weeks on black coffee and Ryvita).
Thank you for sticking with me even when I felt uncontrollable hatred towards you and disconnected from you, believing that your sole purpose was to humiliate me. Thank you for bouncing back from all the times I tried to defeat you. Thank you for enabling me to wake up every morning, walk down the road, jog on the Hammersmith bridge. Thank you for allowing me to speak, to listen, to hear, to see … to breathe in and out. Thank you for being a kick ass host for the past 25 years.”
My friend said her letter would be a simple apology. “I’m sorry I put you through what I did. I’m sorry I doubted your sole purpose… To keep me alive. I’m sorry I fought against you for so long.”
We spoke about this for a while and decided to ask some of our friends to see what their responses would be. I was shocked at the response. I asked the girls at work (all in their mid-late 20s) and they came back with messages full of hatred and anger. Responses included:
“Why did you give me these fat thighs?”
“Why am I 5’2 with stumpy fat legs?”
“Why don’t you look like Kate Moss?”
“Screw you and your slow metabolism”
“Why no matter how much I work out you still make me fat?”
The list goes on and on (as you can imagine.)
I was so taken aback by this – my friend said she heard similar things – and it made me really upset to see not only the destructive feelings women have towards their bodies, but also how disconnected they are from them.
Needless to say I used to feel the same way, I showed my body no respect while I was growing up I smoked, I drank, I took drugs, I starved myself – I am no one to preach. I just thought that as we get older we become more at peace with ourselves, more accepting. This does not seem to be the case at all.
It’s terribly upsetting that all these beautiful, intelligent wonderful girls go through their life harboring such hatred and anger toward themselves.
It really made me think.
I know you write about this issue a lot – so this is probably not news to you.
I wanted to write and tell you about this because primarily I thought you would find it interesting and secondly I was hoping that maybe you could pose the question out to your followers and see the response.
If anything I am hoping that people who follow you and are practicing good health and well being may have more inspiring answers to the ones that I received.
* * *
So, team: where do you stand? If you were writing to your body… What would you say?