How I stopped Hating my body

I used to hate my body.

I have this really random and weird memory from when I was about 8 years old. I can recall it with a bizarre level of utmost clarity, like a 4k HD movie. I was sat on the bottom bed of mine and my sisters bunk bed with my leg positioned so that my knee pointed to the ceiling and my foot lay flat on the bed. I was staring at the slope of my hamstring in the mirror, grabbing my hamstring saying ‘I wish I wasn’t so fat.’

It’s kind of weird to recall because it was an isolated memory and my dislike of my body didn’t fully take off until a few years later. But is significant because it shows how I absorbed the body issues of society like a sponge and even at such a young and innocent age I had already learnt to hate my body.

I wasn’t fat as a a child. I did lots of running and was super active so was relatively muscular, but I sat there grabbing my muscle, accusing myself of being too fat because most other girls and women shown as beautiful on TV didn’t have muscular hamstrings.

When I was in year 6, I developed early. I started my period at a young age and got boobs super quick. I was a B to C cup at age 10… and I hated it!!

(I KNOW WHAT AN UNGRATEFUL CHILD CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHERE MY BOOBS WENT IS THIS THE PRICE I PAY FOR UNGRATEFULNESS??? FATHER FORGIVE ME)

I remember playing rugby one time with the rest of my school friends. One of the boys tackled me and my top came down a little, revealing my bra. He pointed at me and said:

“Sara’s got boobs!” And made fun of me and told EVERYONE. I was mortified. I hated having bigger boobs that the other girls.

Then, when I was in year 9 I started a new school. It was my first week, I still had no friends and it was P.E lesson time (at this point I was a top junior athlete, training regularly). As I was getting changed in the changing rooms, another girl (who was incredibly beautiful by all standards of the word) pointed at me and shouted:

“HAHAHAHA SHE’S GOT A MANS FIGURE BUT WITH BOOBS!”

Everyone looked at me as I stood there in my underwear, vulnerable as could be, and they all laughed. I was mortified and I will probably never forget that moment.

I stayed athletic for a good period of my life, ripping jeans with my thighs and constantly longing for a thigh gap. I didn’t like my arms because they were toned and ‘manly’. Then I stopped athletics training and gained a lot of weight. The legs that I hated for being muscular I now hated for their cellulite, the arms that I hated for being too toned I now hated for their bingo wings.

I could go on and on with memory after memory.

Kids in school told me my lips were sausage lips and too big (I have memories of folding my lips in to see what they would look like if they were smaller). A grown (black) woman in church asked me why my skin was so much darker than my sisters and why my nose was so much bigger. Me and Kima (my sister) looked at each other (I was around 12 years old at the time) and there was this moment when we both realised that my skin was slightly darker and my nose was slightly bigger. We had never noticed that before.

So for whatever reasons, I didn’t like my body.

And yet now I genuinely love my body. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wake up each day like DAMN SIS YOU FINE. It’s more of a chilled – I am okay with this to the point where I barely think about it because it’s chill kind of vibe. Sometimes I catch my reflection in the mirror, rolls (yes I still have those), muscles and all on show, and I think something like ‘it’s a crime that the whole world can’t see this fire right now’.

LOL like what? even?

Recently I’ve been pausing to wonder how the heck did I get from hating my body to kind of loving it? When after all – I don’t actually look that much different. I probably looked ‘better’ by worldly standards, when I was 16 years old.

I want to keep this post short (failed already) , so I’ll bullet point this, but from my reflections so far – here’s how I did it:

  1. I realised that I don’t have to be pretty. 

Nahhh let’s pause here.

I DON’T HAVE TO BE PRETTY!!!!

Or beautiful!!! Or sexually attractive!!

Adjusting my body to fit other peoples idea of beauty is LITERALLY NOT MY PURPOSE IN LIFE.

It’s like asking an eagle why it can’t swim. Like hun – it’s an eagle and it’s about to fly off and leave you feeling as irrelevant as that question.

That is not my purpose in life. I literally owe beauty to NO ONE.

If some guy finds me unattractive – that is about as relevant as my year 9 Geography grade. My body isn’t here for his sexual pleasure, creep. It’s here to allow me to live. It’s a temple, a vessel for the expression of life. How the heck is some random guy gonna try and belittle that supernatural, Godly purpose to his own creepy little sexual preference?

In the same way that I stopped stressing about my heartbreakingly, tragically low year 9 geography grade when I realised that the glorious combination of google maps and my medical career choice had rendered my geography skills wholly irrelevant to my life, I also stopped caring about my ‘beauty grade’ when I realised it was not my problem.

2. I started looking after it

A whole process, but you really learn to love stuff when you take the time to look after it, improve it, keep it in good condition, polish it and care for it.

3. I saw what happens when peoples bodies fail.

Good health is a blessing. Don’t take your body for granted

4. I realised that I’m the one who defines beauty – not society.

I get to decide what I think is pretty. One day I looked at my thick lips, fully looked at them and realised that I like them big. I genuinely liked them. Turns out society decided to agree 10 years later.

5. I removed myself from people who said mean things to me.

Literally left friends behind (e.g that girl in the changing rooms) because the words and actions that they chose to speak over me were detrimental to me bettering myself and at odds with the purpose on my life

 6. I stopped being mean to myself.

You can cut off all the bullies but if you still look in the mirror and call yourself ugly then you are still getting bullied. Stop being mean to yourself

7. I realised my looks are a gift from my parents and my gift to my future children.

I will never allow anyone to call my parents or future child ugly. Not even me

8. I faked it till I made it

Sometimes, wear that dress with confidence. Post that picture where your arms look huge, keep doing it again and again and don’t ask questions or reflect. Just move on and carry on with life

9. I focused on other things 

My relationship with God, my career, my athletic goals, how much I give, my kindness, my relationships, my ability to forgive others, my room decor, my youtube videos, my meme collection – turns out that when I focused on the important things there wasn’t enough time left over to stress about the width of my calves

 

And that’s all I can think of for now.
It’s a journey. It’s a process. It didn’t happen over night.

But it certainly didn’t happen by accident either.

I hope you get there if you aren’t already. You’re awesome and beautiful and you should be kind about your body.

From someone who knows what it’s like to live in a body that she hates and then live in a (probably quite similar looking but smaller chested) body that she loves – please believe me when I say that life is more enjoyable and fruitful when lived in a state of love.

Make time to learn to love yourself.

Life is better when lived in love.

 

Xoxo

Dr Saz

Short Stories by Dr Sara Sienna – Happy 70th

sarafilt

It’s minus five degrees yet the amount of snow on the ground is nothing compared to the amount of regret in my heart. Sure, these little black ankle boots look great with my outfit, but Lord knows that was not my best idea.

During my 20 minute walk (more of a steeple chase) to work this morning, I have managed to collect enough snow in my boots to reverse global warming. There is ice between my toes and I can almost hear my Nigerian ancestors crying out from the grave that I am neither genetically nor emotionally equipped to ever have ice between my toes.

I finally make it into work at 7:30am. The biggest and busiest hospital in Cardiff is eerily quiet.  I receive a message from my senior – a picture of his car completely hidden beneath a wall of snow. He isn’t going to make it into work any time soon.

“Sara! You made it in!” The lead nurse’s eyes light up as I arrive on the ward. He is so happy to see me.

I ask about the damage, how understaffed has the heavy snowfall left us?

We’re a few nurses down, and the ward upstairs are missing a doctor. But it’s fine. We’ll pull together. We make a plan – I’ll see the sick patients on this ward then head upstairs and cover that ward too. But in the end I find that I don’t have to, as the doctor upstairs has walked through ten miles of snow in order to be there for his patients.

Another head nurse arrives. She isn’t scheduled to work today but has come in anyway. She knew we would be understaffed so will work today then sleep here overnight before working tomorrow too . She is here for us.

During the ward round, one of my patients grabs my hand. She is nervous ahead of her hip surgery today. I kneel by her bedside, hold her hand in mine and reassure her that she is in a safe place. We are here for her. All the nurses and staff are here for her. Even if we had to sleep in the staff room for the next three weeks straight – we’d be here for her. And today of all days I find myself struggling to express just how much I would do, how much snow I’d carry between my toes, just to be here for her.

My work whatsapp group is flooded with forwarded messages from locals offering lifts to hospital and emergency staff. Simple every day people with 4×4 cars that can handle the snow. Not one of them asks for a charge and they refuse to accept it when we offer. They are here for us.

That night I hear a story on the news about a surgeon who walked twenty miles to operate on a patient. Stories upon stories of people going above and beyond the call of duty just to be there.

As I sit there, letting it all wash over me, I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that I am part of something special.

Something unlike anything that the world has ever seen.

It knows neither colour nor wealth. It won’t hold your status or previous life mistakes against you. It welcomes the homeless and the rich, the blind and the addict with open arms. And it gives a gift that no amount of money could ever repay.

I am part of the NHS.

A community of nurses, doctors, physio’s, radiographers, secretaries, cooks, cleaners, pharmacists, students, porters and every day tax payers who have all chosen to be there for each other.

That night, I pray that we will never take for granted what an honour it is to serve and be served by our NHS. I pray that we will always hold the powers that be accountable. I pray that we will never be scared into believing that  this incredible, live saving community is no longer possible.

Because this spirit of grace and selfless giving? This is what it means to be British.

This is our NHS.

Happy 70th birthday, NHS.

May you live on for many more.

“The Fear” – Short Stories by Dr Sara Sienna

I feel sick.

Hot slithers of sweat seep from my chubby hands onto the stack of notes before me as the world spins beneath my feet. If I were to projectile vomit right now, my lunch would probably travel further than my medical career. Five days. Five days until exams. Five days to revise seven modules. Nope. That’s wrong. Revise means to ‘re-visit’ and that would insinuate that I have seen these modules before. My whole intellectual career flashes before my eyes as I consider my two options. Number 1 – Start revising now, or number 2 – Build a time machine. It’s a close call as to which option offers the more successful outcome.
Regret.
Why are you like this Sara?!

I plead with my own soul and every fibre of my body. Why do you wait for ‘the fear’ to kick in before you start to prepare for exams?! Ahhh… ‘The Fear’… That classic, sick feeling of pre exam panic that propels you toward action like a moth to the flame. My old friend, my companion. But over the years, like a drug addict I’ve grown tolerant. Numb to it’s effects. At GCSEs the fear would saturate my soul a full 6 weeks before exam day. Now at medschool? 5 days.
Drip. 
A sweat drop from my forehead hits the page.
They say experience is the best teacher, and Lord knows I’ve been here before.
Drop.

I breathe in, breathe out, and prepare myself for the onslaught.

Because I did not come this far to fail.

______________

There aren’t many fields I claim to be an expert in, and I can’t say that I’m proud of this one. But my new video on ‘How to revise last minute’ is the grand symphony of a life long expert procrastinator. Gather all ye late to start.

Come see thine route to freedom on https://youtu.be/ssZS-0H5QIA 

“The Resolution” – Short Stories by Dr Sara Sienna

I look no different. It’s been months of 5am gym sessions. I am cold. I am tired. I am so. Freaking. Done. Katie’s progress pictures are incredible. Why on earth do i look the same? I ate kale yesterday. FRIGGIN KALE. Heck, I didn’t even remove the stalks and Lord knows my tastebuds don’t deserve that. I want to cry. Tears well in my eyes because I have tried so ridiculously hard. My goal of 24/7 six pack abs is probably impossible, but at this point I’d settle for one ab, leant back in good lighting for one second first thing in the morning.
I want to quit. Lord help me I really, really want to quit. ‘So quit, Sara.’ I tell myself. ‘SLEEP like a normal person. Eat like your tastebuds have feelings too..’ Then suddenly i realise something. I can’t quit. Quitting would mean going back to 2ndyear when I stood on the scales at 69.8kg at 5 foot 3. Told myself I’d eat healthily, then binged on junk food straight after. Quitting would mean accepting that no self control and unhappiness is simply who I am. But I don’t want that to be who I am. I don’t want that to be how I am. This isn’t about my body anymore. This isn’t about my looks. This is about me and my life and how I’m going to live it. The next day, I stop taking weekly progress pictures because my looks are no longer relevant. I also stop forcing myself to eat kale. “Wish I had an 8 pack like yours!” Says the guy at Fitclub 4 months later. “What?” I am genuinely confused. I must have misheard him “Your 8 pack! It’s incredible”. Says fitclub guy again. I look down and see abs.
What is going on. I tell myself it must be good lighting in the hall. When I get home I check again. I still have abs. I take a selfie and compare it to the others from months ago. I’ve got a 6, borderline 8 pack.
I lie on my bed, stare at the ceiling & breathe in this moment. I have done something bigger than what I’d hoped to do. While I thought I was defining my abs, I have somehow taken the steering wheel of my own life and redefined who I am.
I am not a quitter.

And I will never quit again.

                            “