Mirror fasts and fat rolls: a(nother) mission to improve my self esteem.

Mirror fasting is when you don’t look at your reflection for a certain period of time, whether in mirrors or just nice shiny cars or shop windows or whatever else might show you yourself. I’d never heard of such a thing until about 3 months ago when I read about a woman who had done a year-long mirror fast in the effort to improve her self-esteem, and the idea stuck with me. I considered it far too difficult to actually implement, although I liked the idea behind it, simply because of course we’re going to use mirrors to check for things in our teeth or to attend to our makeup or skincare or hairdo and all those other things which are part of society’s mandatory maintenance on our selves, or, more specifically, our bodies and appearances. That’s without even taking into account the fact that people check their weight in mirrors all the time, especially those who are in the middle of some new weight loss or just think themselves too fat.

However, I went to a ‘Languages Camp’ for three days last week, where I shared the bathrooms with a lot of other girls, all the time, and there was only a waist-high mirror for our use. Because I couldn’t exactly climb up onto the counter and inspect my full reflection without the risk of someone coming in and finding me, I had to just live with not checking how fat I looked today for three whole days. Then, when I did return home to privacy and full-length mirrors, I was sick over the weekend and spent most of it lying in bed and wearing a fluffy dressing gown when I was up, which did rather obscure my stomach. So I went another few days without agonizing over my stomach.

After that, I decided to actually try and keep up with this partial mirror fast. My plan is to keep doing it at least until my holidays start in mid-June, and my terms are quite simple: I shan’t let myself see my bare stomach/waist/hips (that is, the  part of my body that I am most conscious and ashamed of) in the mirror until June 13. It might seem a little foolish to do something so small, but I honestly think it will make a difference to my self-esteem, because in terms of my body, I am incredibly overly sensitive about how my stomach looks. I feel like it protrudes out and makes me look like some ungainly monster, a mindset kindly installed in my brain thanks to the media and our society’s penchant for mocking people with ‘fat’ stomachs. It’s really not that much, to be honest – I have a small enough waist to wear lots of vintage dresses from the 50s and God knows they were tiny back then, what with their corsets and girdles! But the point is that I constantly am aware of it and it’s hugely detrimental to my sense of self and how I assume other people view me, so I hope that by not letting myself worry and stress about it, I will slowly become more confident and no longer mind so much what other people think of my ‘extra weight’.

This all comes down to being the media’s fault again, for perpetuating this idea that women especially must be not only a certain size but a certain shape, and daring to have a stomach that deviates from the otherwise straight line up from your legs is seen as gross and unwomanly. That’s not right  – people should be able to have different sizes and shapes and still considered beautiful. It’s ridiculous to say that one tiny thing wrong with someone’s figure renders them ugly. But furthermore, people’s appearances shouldn’t have to affect how other people view their character. You should be able to wear a bikini if you’re a size 8 or a size 16 regardless, and whether you’re a size 16 because you have a fat stomach or because you’ve got a large frame. You shouldn’t have to be worried about insults and derogatory comments. You should not have to feel like you should diet more, or exercise more, unless you’re genuinely unhealthy.

After all, everyone knows by now that people can eat the same amount and do the exact same exercise and be completely different shapes – and it’s so freaking stupid to say that some people can’t have two cupcakes after lunch because they have a different frame. That’s basically akin to racism or sexism – to say that because of something the person has no control over (ie. their natural metabolism) they are banned from certain privileges or activities that others can enjoy as much as they want.

And that is wrong. As Vanessa from The Colonic puts it, people of all kinds should be able to “…eat a fucking cupcake, and enjoy your life.”

The same post also mentions lots of good points, and one of my favourite paragraphs is this:

I am by no means advocating being “fat”–whatever that means. I am promoting being healthy–whatever that means. Being healthy looks different on each body. I feel for women who are naturally very thin and are constantly being accused of having eating disorders. After all, being active and fit looks different on each body. While I can’t say what this means for each individual woman, I can tell you that for the vast majority of is, this means fat on our bodies. Millions of years of evolution don’t care about your modern feminist agenda; even if you want to be a professional workaholic without children, your body has typically evolved to carry some abdominal fat to protect the fetus, plain and simple.

My body apparently naturally decides to channel extra fat into the abdominal region, rather than spreading it evenly over my body, presumably because yeah, I’m a female and I’m technically designed to make good children. I can tell that this is how my body is naturally meant to be because I’ve eaten (proportionally speaking) the same approximate amount of food throughout my entire life, with the exception of an awful almost-no-calories-whatsoever ‘diet’ I foolishly went on at the start of this year, but though I’ve always been active and healthy, I also developed a slight ‘fat roll’ in my stomach area from about age 10. And it’s stayed exactly the same ever since. It’s just the way I’m made. And I should be able to accept that. Which brings us back to the mirror-fast, which will hopefully encourage me to stop caring so much how my stomach looks – because I can’t even see it.

As long as I’m healthy (which I am), I need to be happy with my body, and accept that it’s the way it is, and it’s not going to magically realise that I don’t want tummy fat because this current society says it’s bad. I mean, 600 years ago my stomach fat would have been totally hot, because we weren’t so obsessed with stick-skinny women, and I can’t expect evolution to change that quickly and that frequently, just to reflect society’s aesthetic values.

In conclusion, I think I’ll go have dinner, and not worry about having a second helping. Because screw you, society.

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