Today I want to dive deep into a topic that is really close to my heart… the struggle so many women have with poor body image. Over the years I have struggled with some pretty major body image issues of my own and I know that many others are facing similar battles right now.
In this article I am completely open and honest and I’m going into depths of my personal struggle that I have never shared with anyone before. I wanted this article to be as raw, real and relatable as possible so prepare yourself babe because I certainly haven’t held back on the details of my experience!
When I was a little girl I was extremely outgoing and bursting with confidence. I knew no other way and I embraced life fully. I truly believed that I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be, nothing in the world could hold me back… I was unstoppable!
From the age of 8 I performed in ballet concerts in front of hundreds of people without a single moment of self-doubt or fear. I absolutely loved being on stage and the moment I stepped out from behind the red curtain and into the spotlight I was in my element. I loved expressing myself through dance and my heart would overflow with love and pure joy for what I was doing.
However in my early teens there was a shift. I decided that I needed to get serious if I wanted to become a professional ballerina and this became my entire focus. Everything I did from here on in was in the hopes of reaching this goal and I was determined to turn my dreams into a reality.
Being a typical Type A personality I strived for perfection in everything that I did. Unfortunately my ballet training only encouraged this way of thinking even more… each movement and expression was analysed critically and could always be improved upon which ultimately made me feel like I was never good enough.
I continued to strive for this unattainable perfection and become the image of the “perfect ballerina”. At the time in the industry the ideal ballerina looked something like this… not too tall, extremely lean, alabaster skin and preferably dark hair. It was even rumour that some judges and examiners would deduct points during exams and competitions if the girls didn’t have the ideal face shape, eye colour or hair line.
The ballet world was extremely image focused and unfortunately I fell into the trap of picking apart every inch of my body with judgement and negativity. I watched the other dancers around me pinch the non-existent “fat” on their thighs and heard them say the most horrible things about themselves (and sometimes even about each other). I looked at these beautiful girls and I thought surely if they are seeing something wrong with themselves then there must definitely be something wrong with me!
I began extreme fad dieting and became absolutely obsessed with it. I had folders filled with diet articles from trashy gossip magazines and I read them constantly. I became highly restrictive with my food and recorded every single thing I ate, everyday in a journal. I deprived my body and got to a point where I absolutely hated food and anyone who tried to make me eat became the enemy. I honestly thought that my family and boyfriend at the time were being “unsupportive” of my dreams and goals.
I was hungry all of the time and constantly thought about food. I felt weak and dizzy especially during my dance classes when I really needed a good supply of energy. Some nights I would literally be hunched over in bed with hunger pains, unable to sleep and I just kept telling myself “it’s going to be worth it”…. HECK NO IT’S NOT SISTA! I was emotional, edgy and often referred to as the “Drama Queen” at home.
My parents were obviously concerned about my unhealthy eating habits so I booked in to see a dance nutritionist (for their peace of mind). I put my trust into this lady… as a “professional” however I was given advice to go on another diet… a grape only diet. Yep that’s right, all I was allowed to eat was grapes. This was by far the most extreme diet I had tried to date but I took on her “words of wisdom” with full determination and commitment.
At the age of 17 I asked my ballet teacher, who I completely admired and respected as an ex-ballerina herself what I needed to do to become a professional in the industry. Her response was short, simple and to the point. I will never forget her words, she looked at me for a moment and said “Well Kathryn, if you want to get serious you need to stop eating for a while.” Gosh if I could go back now my response would be very different to the “Okay, I can do that”.
I was completely malnourishing my body! I felt highly restricted and deprived which led to many episodes of binge eating. After consuming half the contents of the fridge (okay, slight over-exaggeration… but seriously…) I would feel completely overwhelmed and consumed with guilt. I would then find myself leaning over the toilet bowl, toothbrush stuck down my throat… desperately trying to bring back up the food I “never should have eaten”. If anyone had ever caught me in the act it would have been a pretty shocking and unpleasant sight for sure!
I saw exercise as a tool for punishment and over exercised constantly out of fear of putting on weight. I weighed myself morning and night and took all of my measurements weekly, expecting to see “improvements” or in other words I desperately hoped that the numbers would get smaller and smaller each and every time.
I had light blonde hair naturally and my skin was golden from spending so much time outdoors at the beach or in the garden on our farm. I loved to be outside and soak up the warm sunshine but all of that had to change in the name of “ballet beauty”. I died my hair black and stopped going in the sun completely unless I was covered up. Even after months of no sunlight my skin still had a slight golden tone so I would exfoliate with rough salt crystals morning and night until my skin was red and almost raw.
I never left the house without make-up on and I always wanted to be seen in the most slimming outfit possible. I was desperately trying to fit an image and everything I did was a form of punishment to my body because I truly believed I was not good enough. I was completely out of touch with my body and my relationship with myself was very broken.
When I sat down to write this article for you beautiful my eyes welled up and the tears immediately started streaming. When I think back to this time in my life I see a picture of a little girl who is very insecure and completely lost within herself. It honestly breaks my heart to think that right now there could be someone, maybe even yourself that is facing similar challenges that I once did. I truly hated and punished my body for years and I would never ever wish this kind of pain on anyone. It was a very dark place for me for a long time and it took me years to overcome my struggles and accept and fully embrace myself exactly as I am so today. I want to share the tools I personally used to overcome my struggles because honestly… IT WORKS!
How I overcame my body image issues…
I realised that to begin my healing process I had to remove myself from the world of ballet. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It had been my dream and complete focus for so many years to become a professional ballerina and I felt like I was losing my entire identity. I had no idea if I would ever feel this passionate about anything ever again and I had no idea at all what I was going to do next. However I made the decision that for me to heal I had to let it go and along with this I did a few other things.
Beautiful girl I want you to know that you are simply amazing. There is not a damn thing you need to change about yourself. You are perfectly imperfect, exactly as you are and let me tell you babe, you are oh so worthy of love.
This life has so much to offer and I don’t want you to spend one second missing out on having all of the joy and love that is entitled to you.
Be the most authentic version of yourself in every moment. There is nothing more beautiful and sexy than a woman who knows her worth, so embrace your true essence and do not be afraid to shine!
So gorgeous if something in this article touched your heart or spoke to your soul then I encourage you to share it with a girlfriend. You just never know what story she is telling herself and what kind of an impact this message could have on her life!
P.s – I’d love to see you being your most beautiful, authentic self! Take a pic and share it on your Facebook or Instagram and don’t forget to tag me in it so we can celebrate your unique beauty together! @kathryn.chandler #kathrynchandlerstory