Learning to live with a beautifully different body

My first 32 years

Until I was 32 I had the “perfect figure” I was a size 12 and I hardly thought about my body at all. I had been a Latin American dancer alongside my accountancy career and enjoyed everything dance related. Then one day I got a stomach virus……it changed my life. I spent a week struggling to eat and felt drained and lethargic.

Whilst my appetite returned, the feeling of exhaustion stayed with me for 10 years. I had developed post-viral fatigue. My body ached constantly and the slightest physical activity made me exhausted. To this day I need to be aware of what my body needs and balance my energy to avoid a relapse.

The Impact

At a time when post-viral fatigue and M.E. was not widely recognised I was left to sort out my situation with no medical support. I realised that if I ate more sugar I got a bit more energy which kept my brain going long enough for me to keep working. The impact was my size 12 body became a size 16 body. I didn’t know how to dress it, I didn’t like what it looked like and I often hid. People weren’t very kind. From family comments about the size of my behind, to remarks like, “It must be really hard when you had this fabulous body”.

“How can you stand there when you look so fat?”

Last year I was hosting a pop up for the business in a branch of HSBC. A lady approached the stand and asked to speak to me in private. She asked me, “How can you stand there when you look so fat?” As always it was up to me to decide how I wanted to respond. As I have said in numerous talks this year, 27 year old Sharon would have slapped her, 37 year old Sharon would have been in tears.

47 year old Sharon asked her a question.

“What is it about fat that you don’t like?”

Her response? “I’m not as fat as you but I can barely leave the house because of it and yet you just stand there with no shame.”

We all too often receive personal comments which are actually just a reflection of someone else’s state of mind. I’m sure we have all compared ourselves to others at sometime and decided we are not worthy, or lacking in some way. The challenge is to dig deeper and recognise and embrace your true self. It’s easy to accept other peoples negative narrative, but do you embrace the positive comments you receive in the same way? Do you truly understand and embrace what your uniqueness brings to humanity?

What I have learned about me. 

My change in body shape has allowed me to be more body aware, it has given me insights to societal attitudes that I was unaware of before. More importantly for me it has broken down barriers in my own mind allowing me to access a more empathetic part of me. Through this experience I now understand what it is to be human in a way I could never have imagined before. As lessons go, it was a hard one, but one I would not change as what I have learned holds more value to me.

At 32 I was afraid of public speaking. I hid from confrontation and I was fearful of not being accepted. Through this experience I more readily recognised fear and shame in others and have found ways of providing support I had not considered important before. All of my relationships have a deeper quality, especially the one with myself. By accepting and embracing the whole of me I am no longer so self conscious.  I understand we all have an equal place in society. I can now speak on a range of business and EQ related topics and my only concern is that my audience gets some value from what I am saying.

My body is what it is. Curvy, cuddly and kind.

I still have a fabulous body – it greets me everyday with a smile and it wrote this article for you.

#livelaughbounce #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealth #MHAW19 #bodyimage #bodyconfidence

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About The Author

Sharon Critchlow

Sharon Critchlow is a Wellbeing Advocate, speaker and facilitator at Discover Your Bounce for Business. Passionate about people being the best they can be she is a Time To Change Champion for mental health and holds a Masters level qualification in strategic coaching for performance. Sharon is a qualified accountant and has 20 years experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. www.discoveryourbounce.com www.time-to-change.org.uk