“I still have bad days body-wise, but realising that I am, for the most part, normal, and doing my best in a society governed by warped ideas of female fitness and beauty always helps.”

I’m 23. It’s taken me this long to have some semblance of acceptance of my body. For a period of about 18 months I really liked it, because I lost a lot of weight and was the lightest I’d been since I was 13. Still podgy, you understand, but from 13 stone to 10st 7 in a year and a half pretty much by accident felt pretty good. For a variety of reasons (moving back to Glasgow, Stodgeland; illness, new relationship, etc.) it’s crept back up to the high 11st-ish. So I don’t like it as much any more, because I know I used to look “better”.

BUT. Given that I had absolutely despised myself and my body since I was in nursery school, I reckon that’s pretty good going.

So what changed? Basically, I came to the realisation that there were different body shapes. This sounds incredibly stupid, I know. Bear with me.

I’d spent my entire life wanting to wear the same clothes and look the same as tall, willowy teenage models, as seen in Topshop, New Look etc. Indeed when I was a teenager I hated myself because I wasn’t delicate and skinny. If only I could get rid of my belly, if only I could make my arse smaller, if only I didn’t have such a round fat face…you get the idea. Then two things happened: the “ 1950s vintage style” thing- i.e., dresses that suited people with hips. And I got told I had PCOS. So I found a style that I felt good in, and got an explanation for why I looked the way I did.

PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – has two effects which affect me in a concrete sense. Having children will probably be a bit problematic, and it makes me carry weight round my middle, which is also harder to lose. I’d like to think I’ve reconciled myself to the “probs no kidz lol” thing. The only time it’s caused any problem to anyone is when I went for a GP check-up and a demented duty doctor phoned me 2 hours later saying, “Your hormone levels are insane, get to hospital now!“ It was a Friday night; I wasn’t even ill. I told him that, and poured myself more wine.

But the weight thing – hallelujah! I can now accept that I will always have a big stomach, always have a big arse, always have hips. They may fluctuate in size, but they’ll always be there. And when I try to lose weight, I don’t weigh myself any more. I’ve done that for too long, I know that to lose any great amount of weight, personally, I need to cut out carbs and drink only water. I did it when I worked abroad out of necessity, because I was poor. But now, frankly, I have a life to lead. Fuck me if you think I’m gonna subsist on pulses when I have a boyfriend who makes good quality, mostly healthy, food for us.
I do get a bit down about myself still- especially my face. It’s round, and I hate that I always look fatter in photos than I really am, because of my face. But I’m working on that. And yeah, I’d like to lose some weight. So I joined a gym, for the first time ever. And finally, the fear and anxiety engendered by years of bullying in communal changing at school has disappeared. I might not be lighter, but I will tone up. I don’t care how much I weigh. I care how I look.

So to sum up: 5’ 3”. Big arse, big hips, big stomach, round face, small breasts. But I have a great waist, I’m not a blob like I always thought. I love my long, thin fingers. My shoulders are nice. Small breasts are useful – I can run for buses! Yay! And I’m fit – I had always thought, “Oh I’m podgy, I must be hideously unhealthy”. This is BOLLOCKS. I’ve been walking uphill for about 45 minutes most days since 1998, when I moved into a house on top of a fuckton of hills then didn’t bother learning to drive. I might not be fast, but I have stamina and I’m strong. So I needn’t have worried about being shit at the gym, the crosstrainer and rowing machine hold no fear. I might not be skinny and delicate. I might be clumsy and flabby. I’m overweight, but I’m not ugly. I wish more people realised that being skinny isn’t the only option. There are so many issues bound up in the “must be size eight to have self worth and be attractive to men” thing. If I started I’d never get off my feminist soapbox. Since I left school, I’ve never had any problems finding boyfriends when I’ve chosen to look for them, nor any complaints from them about the size of my arse/chest/face/stomach/occasional PCOS beard/insert other cause of neurosis here. I still have bad days body-wise, but realising that I am, for the most part, normal, and doing my best in a society governed by warped ideas of female fitness and beauty always helps.

“Being naked with other people in a non-sexual way really shows you that the most normal thing about your body is that it’s totally unique and different from everyone else’s.”

I’m really not sure how to begin discussing how my feelings towards my body have changed over the years as I love this blog and want to do it justice and also, until I stopped caring so much about my body, I was really never sure how I should feel. Perhaps “should” in there is a very telling word! While at school I was heavily into sports and trained at least 8 hours a week and as a result was healthy but incredibly skinny (I recently saw a photo of myself at 14 and was quite freaked out by the sight). I did the whole developing thing late and fast. At 15 or 16 I started my periods and went up 3 cup sizes in two months. The boob job jokes were quite flattering at the time but did make me more self-conscious.

This was when I was at the age where you really start to care about your body and are very vulnerable to media and advertising. While I never really attracted anyone of the opposite sex until I was 18, it was when I was 16 that I had more body confidence because since I wasn’t fully developed I had the media ideal figure with boobs but very skinny. Naturally, I stopped sports, started drinking and smoking and developed an adult body so the model-like waif disappeared never to be seen again! That didn’t stop me thinking I should still have it and trying to regain it, even with crazy and very unhealthy diets pills from the US (“if they’re illegal in Europe then they must totally work!” is not a good line of thought). Perhaps this was due to media, my mother’s constant dieting or just me, but I was unhappy with my own body, even though I’ve never been larger than a size 10, and I hated that I could also sense myself judging other women’s bodies and probably making them feel the same! Patriarchy at work I guess…

The biggest change for me was living at uni with no TV, and later no internet, and surrounding myself with only the sort of people I wanted to. After a few years of great friends and increasing amounts of communal nudity I now feel that I am finally comfortable with my body. This nakedness began at solstice and festivals with skinny-dipping and saunas and dancing round fires but I have also had several naked parties with friends in the comfort of private flats (apologies to West Princes St for that time I forgot to shut the blinds!).

I now have smooth legs, hairy armpits, a couple of tattoos and piercings in eh… intimate areas. My body is not small or large but has a little bit of fat all over, ok- maybe a bit more on my belly, and my legs wobble when I walk and I’m totally ok with that. Since I stopped wearing a bra my boobs are considerably bouncier as well! My friend and I even had a fantastic time decorating my new room with our naked bodies and lots of face paints.

One of the things which makes me happiest now is how comfortable I finally am and how liberating it feels! I love being naked!!

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“I think we need to let go of this control.”

I think for a lot of woman we feel we need to take control of our bodies, that in order to be happy with how we look and feel we need to reign in each part of it and mould it into something we feel comfortable with. This is just insane because we are trying to mould ourselves into the same woman, the same figment of the media’s imagination and obviously it’s an impossible task. This attempt to control our bodies is destroying us, I don’t know one woman who honestly doesn’t wish in her heart of hearts she could just be thinner, or taller, or have that perfect hair. I think we need to let go of this control, just let go in general, but it’s so difficult when we have been coerced into feeling this way all our lives. I can’t see anything changing in the media, or in the population at large; let’s be honest, someone is making a lot of money out of our self-loathing. But, if just some women can change how they feel about their bodies then they can pass it down to their daughters and there will be some girls saved from this quagmire.

I can say that right now I am almost happy with my body, most of the time, well, some of the time. I have scars and hairs, all the things that make women hate themselves (and men feel proud). But I feel happy being naked, I’m comfortable changing in front of my friends – although sometimes their horror at glimpsing my naked body makes me wonder. I will sunbathe topless if I can when abroad, though sometimes I am a little uncomfortable around other naked people. I haven’t always been happy with myself, I remember lying in bed horrified by the realisation that I would probably have to diet for the rest of my life to be a normal size. I was completely wrong, and I learned that dieting didn’t make me thinner, just more miserable and inevitably led to comfort eating and yo-yoing weight. I don’t diet at all anymore, but I know so so many women whose lives revolve around it. I still look at pictures of gorgeous women and feel a twang of regret, why wasn’t I born looking like that? I still walk behind tall, statuesque women and hate them a little, and hate myself for feeling that way. But, I have come such a long way from looking in the mirror and hating what I saw, willing myself to be different, from clutching at towels to cover every inch of my naked body so no one would see even a bit of me. I feel freed from it, it is an amazing feeling to just let go of all that bitter pain and just be exactly who and what I am. I would love for the women around me to let go of it too, because they are beautiful and healthy and perfect.

“I feel proud of my naked body because I can see my mother’s knees, curves and breasts in it … There are so many strong and beautiful women in my family and I am proud to be one of them.”

For me, how I feel about my own nakedness really depends on my mental health and personal wellness. It can vary from time to time. I picture it on a continuum with one side being – extremely.hideous.monster – and the other being something like – foxy.supreme.being -. I don’t ever reach one extreme or the other (thankgoodness!), but I believe having good mental health and balance in life is so crucially important to how we view ourselves, and our place within the wider world. When I’m feeling stressed out and anxious, I look at my body and I see something that’s tired, used-up and in need of repair. I feel heavy, grey and lumpy. I feel fragile and brittle. I see no vibrancy in my skin and no life in my eyes. However, when I’m feeling well-balanced and healthy mentally, I know that I eat better and exercise more often (even without making a conscious effort to do so). So, during those times I feel proud of my body. I feel sexy and strong. I feel soft and alluring. I feel confident.

As I look back on my (nearly) 30 years of life, I remember spending summer days of my early childhood naked, sitting in the grass, playing in my backyard, or skinny dipping in our pool before bedtime — they are all pure, warm and comforting memories. Adolescence for nearly everyone, brings change, insecurity and self-doubt. When I was an adolescent I felt awkward, and for years I hid myself in massive hoodies and XL jeans. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had lumps on my chest, or curves underneath the layers of fabric. I didn’t know how to dress my rapidly morphing figure or have the confidence to try.  I felt safe when I was hidden. I realize now that one of the reasons that I hid myself was because, as a tomboy, it took me a long time to come to terms with what femininity meant, and to find what femininity meant to me. I will never be stereotypically ‘girly’.. and I feel 110% ok with that these days.

When I see myself naked now, for the most part — I feel lucky and proud. I feel lucky because I have come to embrace myself and my body. I have become completely comfortable with myself (most of the time anyway!). I feel lucky because I’ve never hated my body. It works hard for me and I often don’t treat it as well as I should. I’ve abused/mistreated it countless numbers of times and yet, it hasn’t given up on me. I feel lucky because I can see beauty in my body, and I know there are an unimaginable number of women that can’t see beauty in theirs. I’m no longer embarrassed or ashamed of my body – I don’t try to hide it anymore. : ) I feel proud of my naked body because I can see my mother’s knees, curves and breasts in it. I can feel that my skin now reminds me of how hers felt. There are so many strong and beautiful women in my family and I am proud to be one of them.

Two women that have heavily contributed to how positively I feel about my own nakedness are my Mum, and one of my life-long friends, KP.  I am forever grateful to both of them for helping me achieve the level of love and comfort that I feel when I see myself stripped down.

by intheflesh

“This is the story of how I came to love being naked, and how I came to love my body.”

This is the story of how I came to love being naked, and how I came to love my body.

I didn’t always love my body, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve hated it. When I was a teenager I would see all the things I hated about it when I looked in the mirror. I compared myself to the lithe girls in my ballet class whose stomachs were flatter and whose thighs were more slender than mine. I compared myself to the girls at school who were more popular than me. But these were the bodies I saw clothed – and naked I could only compare myself to the toned, polished, photoshopped bodies of the media. And that body – for really, it is only one body that we see in the media – didn’t look anything like mine.

I am a woman of average healthy weight, neither thin nor very voluptuous, and average height, but my body was nowhere to be seen. My breasts, like many women’s, are neither perfectly round nor exactly the same size. My tummy isn’t flat, and it pudges out when I sit down. My bum is big and it isn’t firm like the bums in underwear adverts; it wobbles when I bounce up and down, or run, or dance, or fuck. My thighs are squishy and I have a touch of cellulite. I don’t go to the gym and I love to eat cake, but I try to eat a decent meal or two and I use walking as my main means of transport. My body is normal, but I didn’t know that and so I hated it.

Sometimes I hated it enough to cut its skin in anger at its imperfection. In time, watching scars heal would come to be the first small step towards realising my body’s strength and function. It could make itself new; it could grow new flesh to fill the gaps that I had made. My body wasn’t the perfect body I thought it should be, but it worked.

A little older, a little wiser, and perhaps as a result a lot happier, I left home to go to university in Glasgow when I was eighteen. In the five years that followed, I had myriad wonderful experiences that brought me to loving my body. My degree was in theatre studies, and I became very involved with the theatre society. I hung out with people who were comfortable with their bodies and found myself at parties where people would end up naked in a totally non-sexual way, just hanging out and chatting, drinking and smoking (carefully!). I saw other women’s normal breasts. I saw naked bodies that hadn’t been photoshopped. They were all different and they were all lovely. I could look at another woman’s body and just see everything that was beautiful about it, not pick out the flaws I saw in my own mirror. It made me start to realise that if all of these varied bodies were beautiful, then maybe mine was too.

When I was in my third year, I was cast in a production of Cleansed by Sarah Kane, a role which would require me to be naked on stage. I was honestly quite excited. We all had naked rehearsals together, since everyone had to be naked at some point in the play, and it quickly felt normal to be naked. We were just people not wearing clothes, rehearsing and chatting and laughing as usual. It wasn’t possible to feel shame in this situation; when you’re all naked together it becomes natural. It begins to seem almost strange to get dressed. Once you’re all naked, you wonder what you were worried about. On stage, when I took off my dress, it didn’t cross my mind for a second to wonder if people thought my body was weird or ugly. I was proud that this was my body.

In my final year, I took part in an incredible project called Trilogy. Despite how comfortable I had already begun to feel in my own skin, it still proved to be a transformative experience – in many ways, but especially regarding my relationship to my body. A performance art triptych, the first part of Trilogy culminates in an exuberant naked dance performed by volunteer women of all ages and shapes. Leading up to the performances, we participated in a week of workshops where we eased in to being naked in a completely emotionally supportive atmosphere. I can say without reservation that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. To look around a circle of dozens of women and see slim women and big women and women who’ve had children and women who have scars, and to see the beauty in every single one of those bodies, rid me of any last vestiges of hatred for my own. This dancing wasn’t about looking sexy, it was about loving how your body feels when it dances. It was feeling your body wobble and loving it. Absolutely, purely rejoicing in the way your body moves and in its strength and power. I loved every moment.

Since Trilogy, on a couple of occasions I’ve gone with some other women to climb a hill and be naked at its summit. I have found such freedom in moments like that. In being naked I become aware of all the other things about my body apart from how it looks. I can feel the warmth of sunshine on its skin, and the breeze, and the grass. I can make it spin and run and dance and love the way it feels. I can just enjoy being in my body.

I still sometimes catch myself looking in the mirror and comparing my body to perfection. But I push the thoughts away. My body is not a photoshopped image – it’s a million times better. It’s soft and warm, and it can breathe and bleed and run and sweat and fuck and cry and laugh and think and dance.

My body is real.

by Hannah, age 23

“Although I don’t particularly dislike my body, I much prefer it covered.”

Although I don’t particularly dislike my body, I much prefer it covered. I don’t feel particularly comfortable naked but I do want to be. I am not ashamed of it, but I wish parts didn’t wobble so much, or that there wasn’t stretch marks or cellulite. But fact of the matter is, it’s perfectly natural for my body to not be completely smooth and toned, but the only images I see of women’s bodies are (usually) perfectly smooth, and almost seem sculpted; not a lump or a bump, a mark or a scratch. And that is what is not natural! I should not be embarrassed, or uncomfortable with myself naked, even when I’m on my own. But I am, and I don’t even really like seeing myself in the shower. I am trying though. For the past year or so, when I feel OK with myself I’ll maybe not get dressed straight away after a shower, or I’ll take my time getting dressed and try to ‘hang out’ with myself naked. Something I have never done before. I don’t know what was a turning point for me to realise that I wanted to get over my naked fear, I just started to want to be happy with being naked.

I don’t really know why I feel so uncomfortable being naked, I don’t really feel uncomfortable being around people who are naked, not that i have much experience with being around naked people (and maybe that’s what I’ve been missing!) but I would struggle to be naked myself, I would sit in a certain position so that I’m mostly covered and I’m not sure why. Maybe I feel indecent, but it would only be indecent if I was being naked in a situation where it would be inappropriate to be naked! I think I’ve only been naked in ‘public’ (and that was at a party with a mix of people I did and didn’t know – not just out in the open!) once or twice, I was probably drunk and I think I only got my boobs out, I did feel a sense of freedom but also fear. I don’t want to feel that fear.

I’ve also recently started taking baths with a close girl friend and I think this will be something that will also help me become more comfortable. Hanging out naked is something that I haven’t done often, and maybe not something I want to do on a regular basis with just any old soul, but with the right friends/woman it’s something that I could really benefit from and see being an enjoyable experience. But it’s all about baby steps I think, or at least this is what works for me. And I’m not doing this so I can just strip off in a big room full of people and be completely ok with it, but I want to be able to be myself in my own skin and not feel like there is something wrong with me, which deep down I know there isn’t, but it’s breaking down to that point where my conscious thoughts feel and think that way. I know I’m not fat, I’m not skinny, I’m not muscular or toned, I’d say I have a healthy body so why am I not happy with it? What is it I want it to be like? I don’t know the answer to that question, I couldn’t say what I wish my body was like as I don’t want another body… I just want to like/enjoy being naked with the one I have!

When I’m naked I feel a bit cheeky and silly, there is a certain thrill that comes with being naked, even when I’m just on my own. This sort of changes when I see my naked body in a mirror though, because I then just analyse every bit of it, whether good or bad. And actually, I can’t remember the last time I looked at myself properly in the mirror whilst fully naked (I’ll be in my underwear at least as I don’t have a proper mirror in my room and am definitely not ready for hallway nakedness). I don’t seem to analyse my body when there isn’t a mirror though. I don’t really look at it, but I am very aware of being naked. I’d like to enjoy naked time, and I believe with time this will come.

I hope this blog can be the start of a great journey for me, and for many woman, who want to be more comfortable with the body they are in, or want to celebrate the body they’ve got so we can all love and glorify all that is natural and beautiful with the female form!