Weight, weight – don’t tell me…

A 2021 New Years Resolution

It’s January 2021 and we know what that means:

  1. 2020 is over (thank goodness – what a horrendous year).
  2. A new year lies ahead – where anything is possible (although let’s tread carefully)
  3. January – it must be time to make a new year’s resolutions. (cos that’s what we do right?)

So here I am. The beginning of the year and I’m faced with the same dilemma, the same “goal”, the same desire, the same “must do” that turns up on my list every January – lose weight.

Here’s the thing though. Despite the fact that this resolution has found itself imprinted in my diaries, traced as far back as to when I was a young child – the truth is – no matter how much I put my mind to it, no matter how much enthusiasm I muster, how much I learn about macros, micros, paleo, vegan, Weight Watchers, Intermittent Fasting, Atkins, Liver Cleansing, Dr Oz, Noom, Mediterranean Diet, Dukan, 5:2, low GI or any other miracle diet I have tried over the years – I will fail. And the reason why I know this to be true – is because I have over 3 decades of experience. I am my own personal example.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve lost weight. I’ve toned up. I’ve run half marathons. I’ve hit that magical place where my thighs don’t touch. I’ve been there – TEMPORARILY. Yet nothing, zero, nada that I have done has remained consistent except for the inevitable slide up the scale, where the number is higher than I began and I am left dejected, humiliated and embarrassed. The long standing disgust with my body remains, the sense of failure. My weight becomes a representation of shame I cannot hide.

So now – what do I do?

“How do I handle the weight of the weight?”

The uphill battle

I remember the first time I was told that there was something wrong with my body. I was 6 years old. I was at my dad’s office and his secretary remarked about my weight. I was six for fucks sake, but for whatever reason she thought it was appropriate to mention how my moving from eating one egg to two eggs was the confirmation that I had failed the body test. I had done wrong. I was to be ashamed. My father who found pleasure in disempowering me, echoed her sentiment. My body and therefore I was not acceptable.

From then on, I started to doing weird things with my food. I began hiding any sweets or chocolates I was given as gifts and put then in a box under my bed – a sign of my discipline as a six year old. It was a trophy collection of what a good girl I could be. I recall my mother taking me to the grocery store during her weekly shop and when left alone in the sweet aisles, I would break a few chocolate bars on the shelf. If I couldn’t have them, neither could anyone else. Food was the enemy. My body was the enemy. It was a war.

Young Danielle (I don’t know how old I was)

At ten years old, I was having weight loss competitions with my primary school friend. We would compete to see who could lose weight the fastest. I can’t tell you who won but I can tell you, it consumed me. I wrote down everything I ate. I found an enabler and we competed down the dark drain of starvation.

Now, I need you to know, I wasn’t a fat kid but I felt like a fat kid. My face was round but not pudgy. I don’t recall myself thinking I was beautiful but I look back at pictures of myself as a kid with sadness, that I hated my young body so much.

My parents were no help. My father took every opportunity to tell me how fat I was. He tormented me, constantly drawing comparison between me and my naturally petite sister. Fat meant I was lazy. Fat meant I was ugly. Fat meant I was disgusting. Every chance my father had to berate me, he took the opportunity, throwing a grenade to destroy my sense of self. As a child, when your parent makes it clear how undesirable you are, it can only result in one conclusion – that they’re right. And so I swallowed his truth and accepted I was not worthy of love and acceptance.

When I became a teenager, I found myself curvaceous. Big breasted, wide hipped. Suddenly I was garnering attention. Boys were looking at me, lusting after me, desiring me. After years of feeling so disempowered, I suddenly had an elixir,an essence that commanded attention. Men were curious. I received compliments about my appearances and I was being told and showed how desirable I was. Yet, the familial shaming didn’t stop. My father added slut shaming to his repertoire and although I had never kissed a boy and was extremely vanilla and conservative in comparison to my fellow teenagers, a message was being drilled into my head AGAIN – that my body was shameful, I was disgusting and reprehensible. Unworthy. My mother didn’t help. A broken woman in a broken marriage, focused on appearances and the superficial, her remedy was to take me to a dieticians or Weight Watchers meetings. There was no counter culture only cruel confirmation. Each time I stood on the scale, I was to be reminded of my worth – I was to be valued by a number on a mechanical scale. There were good numbers and bad numbers and those seemed to directly correlate to whether I was a good person or a bad person.

I tried to use tricks to motivate myself. I would use permanent marker to draw marks on my thigh dimples, or trace my stretch marks from a growing teen body, telling myself only when they disappeared would I be allowed to wear a short skirt. I would use dog food as a form of punishment, that if I didn’t stick to my diet, I would need to open up a can to punish myself for the failure. There was always the magical number I needed to attain – 5’7 and 58 kilograms and without hitting that figure I would always be the wrong size.

And so the journey continued – the ups and downs – literally, physically, metaphorically and spiritually. People weren’t shy to comment on how good i looked when I was skinny. My confidence connected to a dress size. Then, as the rollercoaster of weight took charge, I’d find myself in rooms with ‘family friends’ offering unsolicited advice about how to get into shape “If you want a man to find you attractive, you need to lose a few kilograms.”.

The Plus Side

In my late teens I dated a photographer. He was obsessed with taking my picture. He told me how beautiful I was, how photogenic, how the camera and I had a connection. He made me feel comfortable in front of a lens. He encouraged me to step into my spotlight. Thanks to him, I learnt to connect to a camera and found that it picked up a light inside of me that had mostly stayed hidden. It was then a few years later when watching a news program about the shift in beauty standards to “plus size” that I thought to myself, I photograph well. I can do this.

And I did. I got an agent and within my first week booked a photo shoot for Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Make-up for Avon photoshoot (2011)

For 8 years I modelled (a side hustle to my “real job as a Television Producer”. My main contract, was as the face of an Avon lingerie brand. It meant every few months, I’d get flown to the Philippines for a catalogue shoot. An unimaginable chapter of my life.

I became a lingerie model for Avon!

And yet, whilst there were moments where I felt beautiful, sometime I felt like the tokenistic “fat girl”, the politically correct addition to the fashion world. Whilst I look back at that time with deep fondness (mainly for the wonderful Filipino friends I made) I would be lying if I were to say that the dark voices of self hatred were at bay.

My thirties

When I was 29, I was hired to be the Executive Producer of MTV Australia. I was their only Executive Producer. I was the Exec for every show ( 3 TV Channels and 2 Digital Websites) producing local content for Australia and New Zealand.

Zachary Quinto & Chris Pine MTV interview junket (s few months before Paris)

At the same time, I was in a long distant relationship with an adonis. A Parisian doctor, who looked like a movie star. Charming, intelligent and ticked every cliched box one can imagine.

On turning 30, I decided I had committed my twenties to my career and self sacrificed so much for my job, that my thirties were going to be about fulfilling my heart and so I left my job and decided to move to France.

What should have been a Disney fairytale soon disintegrated into a Grimm nightmare. The writing was on the wall but I was so deeply hopeful and so hungry to find my soul mate, that I ignored the shadows.

The first time he and I had became sexually intimate, he pulled away from me half way through, exclaiming that I was disgusting and that he couldn’t have sex with me because I was not attractive enough. I remember the pang in my stomach. The shame. The embarrassment. The anger. Who the fuck did he think he was? …

,,,

And then, like a time machine, he transported me back into the realm where I was a six year old girl and my body was wrong and I was wrong and unloveable. He knew the right buttons to press – my only achilles heal, the raw nerve that would tie a noose around my neck,

I got dressed, Angry. Left. Went for a walk. Crying. Hurt. Disgusted.

“How could he?” slowly turned into “How could I?”. “How could I do this to myself?” ” How could I not be disciplined enough?” “How could I not stop eating?”. My moms friends were right – no man will love me.

In the feminist, empowered wonder woman version in a parallel universe, I told him to “fuck off “and walked away. In reality, this relationship continued for another 18 months were my body, psyche and self identity were chipped away at. The control, abuse and neglect got worse. I was shamed, minimised, humiliated, loathed and abused. My weight, my food, my body and my clothes became a point of daily criticism. I was reminded how repulsive I was. He took every opportunity, every meal as a chance to chastise me, every trip to a grocery store to critique. me, every item of clothes I wore was not up to standard.

After the final straw of humiliation, a moment that saw me naked on a cold bathroom floor, crying, hyperventilating and being yelled at murderously, told that I deserved to be beaten, that it would be my fault if he hit me – that I knew I had to go. I mustered the last ounce of dignity I had, called upon my closest confidants and somehow escaped.

The long journey continues

My journey to recovery is ongoing. Lots of therapy, self reflection, overcoming mental hurdles and cruel self talk one day at a time.

I find myself today, 38, the heaviest I’ve ever been but the happiest and most centred I’ve ever been. I found myself in a loving marriage to a partner who not only accepts but loves and adores me more than I can fathom. He never shames or judges me. He reminds me constantly how beautiful or attractive he finds me. He never criticizes my shape, my clothes or my looks.

Unfortunately, I do.

My battle continues.

Whilst the weight is the external manifestation, the heaviest burden I carry every day is my mind. The neurons, the deep crevices, dug in trenches that have been built over decades, a synaptic highway that automatically equates my body to a deep sense of personal failure and in doing so, reminds me daily that I’m a failure..

You see the weight is heavier than just the adipose tissue. It’s memories, Reminders. Scenarios. Nightmares. Years and years of messaging that was forced fed to me and that I ate. Inside they torment me. They weigh me down.

So my resolution for 2021

So now what?

Losing weight feels so insignificant when wrapped up with a mountain of self torture.

So my commitment to myself this year is to try be a bit kinder. To hold some compassion to a six year old girl who had a beautiful body and whose father projected his own demons onto her small frame. To hug the skinny 10 year old who thought she needed to participate in a weight loss competition to be accepted. To protect the feminine teenager who was humiliated by the man who was meant to safeguard her and to call out the actions of a mother who was complicit. To reveal to my teenage self that I was loved by close, generous friends who provided joy in a dark era. To highlight to my twenty year old self, that objectively magazines were paying me to grace their cover as I stepped into my spotlight and that I wasn’t a token, but an authentic example of the depth of beauty and a more enlightened culture. And to my thirty year old self in the room in the French apartment – alone and ashamed, I bring the energy of all women of power, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s, the Beyonces, Boudicca’s, Joan of Arcs – the suffragettes, the sisterhood, the motherhood – to rescue me from that moment. To empower me with their strength, their wisdom and their maternal glory. To recognise my shattered spirit and to solder the pieces together with kintsugi.

And today, I’m offering myself freedom from a heavy chain I have worn around my neck. Today I’m removing myself from the shadow of shame by sharing a glimpse into my soul. Lifting a light to the dark corners of my past. I’m unveiling my not so hidden secret and revealing myself to you dear reader.

It is my hope as we step into an enlightened 2021, that the complexity of self is met with compassion. We are all weighed down by something, All of us carry the rocks of our heavy histories on our backs. Whilst not easy, my wish is that we create a culture that allows us to unburden ourselves from past trauma, to remove the boulders, rocks and pebbles we carry with us and to place them on the ground. To look at them. To observe them, See them for what they are. Compressed moments of time, shaped by experiences.

We can then decide what to do with these stones. To use them for foundations for a new life perhaps? Maybe break them open for gold? One could squeeze them so intensely with love that they turn into diamonds or to turn them into stepping stones that carve a new path? Some might decide to bid them farewell as leave them behind to grow small in the distance and disappear over the horizon. The choice is really yours. That choice is your 2021 gift.

Wishing you light and love wherever you find yourself in 2021. I hope my words resonate to those who need them.

Danielle Lauren

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sonya says:

    Incredibly honest writing. What a strong woman you are and also I love the reference to kintsugi

    Like

  2. Guy Hajaj says:

    A hundred times yes. Thank you for finding the strength to connect with the most painful moments in order to present to ya the choice and hope we all have—but sometimes forget we have—about perceiving our own body. You words are an elixir in themselves.

    Like

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