“Imagine the things I could do if my head wasn’t full of this – it galls me”

Written by Stylist Team

41-60 of Stylist’s 100 women sharing their thoughts on weight. 

Trigger warning: This article talks about eating disorders, weight loss and calories

Body positivity, self-love and wellness have replaced the quick weight-loss and fad diets that dominated our youths. But how easy is it to erase the impact of the diet culture we grew up with? Have we really moved on or have our true feelings about weight and body size just become shrouded in secrecy and shame? We held an open photoshoot for Stylist women to tell us – honestly, and without judgment – how they really feel. Here’s what they had to say.

Krishna

41. Krishna, 34, hospice worker

“I moved to London during the dating app boom and the way men commented on my appearance gave me a real hatred of being photographed for a long time. Now I don’t have a single photo to remember the years of my life that I spent travelling. It’s heart-breaking.” 

Emma

42. Emma, 44, writer and podcaster

“I spent years in a cycle of weight loss and weight gain, assuming I was greedy and gluttonous, and it filled me with shame. When, at 41, I found myself at my heaviest (again), I couldn’t face putting in all that effort to succeed knowing that I’d likely fail again, so I looked for a solution outside of diet and exercise. After so many years of feeling resentful and disconnected, it was tackling my emotional eating that changed my relationship with my body – now, I’ve learned how to support it without self-sabotaging.” 

Lollie

43. Lollie, 27, writer and presenter

“I’ve had bouts of bad body dysmorphia. I was so fearful of gaining the ‘lockdown 10’ and then having to go back out into the world and have people notice a difference that, throughout the pandemic, I ran a 5K and did a HIIT workout every day.” 

Charli

44. Charli, 31, model, writer and beauty founder

“There’s often an assumption that because I’m a model, I’ve never had issues. I think people underestimate how many women feel bad about themselves, how many of us are insecure. But most of us have grown up in a world where we’re either too much or not enough.” 

Laura

45. Laura, 28, content editor

“In Spain, no one wanted a big bum – the women in my family would always complain about the size of theirs. Here, it gets me compliments. It’s a small thing, but it opened my eyes to the fact that there’s no right or wrong way to look, there are just different perspectives.” 

Meena

46. Meena, 28, Stylist’s features editor

“I hate how many times I’ve cried in changing rooms, under hideous strip lighting, over dress sizes that mean nothing and yet feel like they define me. It’s not who I want to be and it’s not who I tell the world I am, but this project has shown me there’s such power in being honest with each other.” 

Rebecca

47. Rebecca, 38, entertainment relationship manager

“I’ve grown up around thin friends who’d say things like, ‘I’m so fat, I feel disgusting.’ Meanwhile I’m eight stone heavier. Am I disgusting? I’ve had to set boundaries with what people say around me. Comments from my teenage years still echo in my mind. Parents of my friends saying, ‘You can go out if Rebecca does, she’s big and she’ll protect you.’ PE teachers putting me up for the shotput. Those things are hard to forget and it’s a constant battle.” 

Felicity

48. Felicity, 33, model

“Most people’s bodies have changed in the last two years because of the trauma of the pandemic. Now things are getting back to normal, people are starting to talk about how they’ve put all this weight on, but we have to remember that we were simply surviving. It’s so strange; when you get ill you’re begging your body to look after you. Your body is your warrior. But when you’re healthy, you don’t treat it with the same respect. You criticise it because it doesn’t look like other people’s or it doesn’t fit the latest trends. When I was growing up in the 90s, my body was not desirable. Then we saw a certain family who altered their bodies and created this trend of curves – now my body shape is popular and I have a career. But when the next trend comes, then what?” 

Clemmie

49. Clemmie, 40, writer and podcaster

“Up until the age of 30, I weighed myself every day. I’d watched my mum diet her whole life, eating tiny portions, and 90% of women I knew did the same. It wasn’t until the birth of my daughter that I realised I didn’t want that cycle to continue – that was when I threw away my scales and leaned heavily into intuitive eating. The plot twist is, now I’m back to weighing myself and measuring out my food. I’ve taken up weight-lifting, and to compete you need to enter certain weight categories. Stepping back on the scales the first time was triggering, because now I’m more muscular I weigh numbers that would’ve been my worst-case scenario. But it’s been healing to start thinking about my weight and food intake in terms of helping my body perform, not just trying to make it look a certain way.” 

Charlie

50. Charlie, 28, activist, author and presenter

“Mine is not a Cinderella story, but I’ve come a long way. Ten years ago, before my transition, I had to cover every reflective surface and sit in darkness; my dysmorphia and dysphoria was so bad my reflection made me physically sick. It’s been a long road since then, I’m a proud, visible trans woman, but I still struggle with the myth of what a woman’s body should look like. People feel they can comment on my body – the size of my arms, the paleness of my skin – and for a long time I tried to shrink and change. But recently I thought, fuck that. If they don’t respect me, why would I give their opinions any credibility? This is my final form, and I love her.” 

Shareefa

51. Shareefa, 30, model and presenter

“Even after 10 years working as a plus-size model and an ambassador for self-acceptance, I can’t look at my weight on the scales. Training for a bike ride recently, I needed to weigh myself before and after each session to calculate my sweat rate, which would then tell me how many electrolytes I needed to carry with me to stay hydrated on the ride. I knew it was purely a performance thing, but I had to ask my sister to look at the scales for me, because I know seeing those numbers will make me feel like there’s some worth attached to them. The idea that it’s a measuring stick for my attractiveness could still creep into my mind. I’m a size 18. I’m 170cm tall. I’m a big person who can’t fit into conventional clothing, and I’m also very athletic. I just did a 100-mile bike ride, I ran the London Marathon, I’ve done a super sprint triathlon. I’m so much healthier than I was when I was a size 8, but in the society we live in I’m constantly having to prove and justify that to everyone, including myself.” 

Amy

52. Amy, 29, trainee manager

“I booked a holiday a few days ago and found myself thinking, ‘I probably shouldn’t eat much until I go away.’ Then I thought, ‘Imagine the things I could do if my head wasn’t full of this shit?’ It galls me.” 

Billie

53. Billie, 25, PR

“I used to equate being skinny and blonde with having worth – if I could be those things, people would like me. I would run at 6am every day, massively restrict my eating and then go out and get trashed at night. Then I started to experience bizarre bowel habits and lost weight quickly. Aged 20, I weighed five stone. I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, and doctors said I wouldn’t survive unless my large intestine was removed. For months I had to have protein drinks to bulk me up. It is wild that I had to lose a major organ to feel my happiest. When I put on weight again it was a huge relief. I feel lucky I get to enjoy food, that I get to go on holiday and strut around in a bikini. I feel lucky I’m alive.” 

Selorm

54. Selorm, 26, start-up intern

“Therapy and an incredibly supportive boyfriend have helped deal me with years of struggling to fit into a Eurocentric standard of slimness, fuelled by damaging comments from my family. If not body positivity, I now feel I have body neutrality.” 

Miah

55. Miah, 19, video creator

“I’m due to get weight-loss surgery for my health, as I suffer with PCOS. When I posted about it online, a lot of my followers commented saying, ‘You’re betraying us, you’re not going to be one of us.’ But I respect my body as it is, I don’t care what size I am, I just want to be healthier. I deal with trolls every day: I get told to kill myself; I’ve been verbally abused in the streets and called an elephant, had stuff thrown at me. I try my hardest to block it out, but what some people don’t understand is I’m a human being, not a robot. Posting on social media has helped in lots of ways, though – it’s made me realise I don’t need to look like everyone else, there’s space for me. And I know I’ve helped and inspired others.” 

Clare

56. Clare, 33, food writer

“The most common question I get asked is, ‘How are you a food writer and yet so thin?’ I still haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer, and usually end up apologising – ideally I’d tell whoever is asking the question to sod off.” 

Laura

57. Laura, 39, author

“Surviving breast cancer has given me a newfound love and respect for my body. I put on weight due to the steroids I was taking as part of my treatment; my body did what it had to do and it hasn’t let me down since.” 

Poorna

58. Poorna, 41, journalist and author

“For a long time, I believed I had to keep myself as slim as possible. That changed when I took up powerlifting, a competitive sport where you lift the heaviest weights you possibly can. Before then, I was still held back by societal norms and was paranoid that I would get big and muscly if I was lifting. I look back now and am deeply embarrassed at this, because not only is it internalised fatphobia, it’s also anti-feminist. Men don’t have the monopoly on muscle.” 

Melissa

59. Melissa, 30, journalist

“Being a disabled woman means constantly fielding problematic assumptions and inappropriate comments about my body – just to give you an idea, someone came up to me in Sainsbury’s the other day and asked if I could have sex. People are also constantly talking at me about what a healthy body ‘should’ look like: because they think they have my best interests at heart, people will suggest I lose weight, that I put on weight, that I try this exercise or eat that kind of meal. But my body isn’t a problem to be fixed. I wish people could understand that.” 

Fiona

60. Fiona, 42

“After I gave birth to my son, I naturally put on some weight. When he was a few months old, I found a sex doll my husband had stashed away in our house. When I confronted him about it, his answer was, ‘Well, I just don’t find you very attractive when you’re big.’ It was a huge blow, especially when you’re vulnerable and sleep- deprived. I thought, wow, this body has given you two children and it still isn’t good enough. It took a lot of working through, but ultimately it said more about him than it did about me. It made me all the more determined to raise a son who grows up into a man who understands – and most importantly respects – real women’s bodies.” 

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