Facilitator: Kristy Shannon
Body Shaming: Welcome to the Real World
by Kristy Shannon
North Queensland, Australia
“I don’t want you to gain any more weight throughout the third trimester”.
The words slapped me like a dead wet fish. It was especially hard coming from a fellow health professional, a woman who up until this point had been sensitive and sensible and had been helping me achieve my goal of enjoying this second pregnancy more than I did my first.
So it was a shock to me when I started my appointments with my Obstetrician and low and behold, at every single appointment I was faced with a weigh-in. At a time when every former Anorexic – I would argue most healthy women as well – are struggling on some level to cope with the changes to their body while it goes about the miracle of creating a life. Here I was, pregnant and celebrating the fact that my body was actually able to conceive after the years of trauma it had endured, and yet every one of those appointments sent me flying full throttle right back into my ED days when my self-worth felt entirely judged on my weight. That little number on those dreaded scales. I asked to not know the weight, and she never told me; however she did always comment on my rate of gain – whether it was too much, or not enough, that month. I vomited the entire pregnancy, suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness), as is common for women with past or present eating disorders. I was barely keeping my head above water and trying to nourish my baby when I was able to keep food down, then being judged on something I had very little control over at that time – my weight. Eventually I held a perfect little angel in my arms and told myself that it was all worth it, but the experience left me scarred and I had trouble processing how it had made me feel.
Fast forward 2 years and I found myself in Sydney, in the healing presence of Melody Moore, going through an Embody Love workshop before diving into our facilitator training course. The Universe had most definitely led me with more than a gentle push towards this path as a way to move forwards and help other girls and women to love themselves for more than the number on the scale. I was about 5 years into my own recovery from a 15-year dance with anorexia, and I felt the time was right to give something back.
The Universe had most definitely led me with more than a gentle push towards this path as a way to move forwards and help other girls and women to love themselves for more than the number on the scale.
Experiencing the workshop was life-altering in the best and most powerful way. A weekend of then consolidating that newfound resilience and strength via facilitator training fostered further growth and understanding, allowing my world to be seen through a new lens. As we worked through layer upon layer of the misguided messages that society and sometimes our loved ones throw at us, each one allowed moments of grace to pause, digest, and process many of the experiences in our pasts that had scarred each of us.
Which brings me to Body Shaming. Defined as “the cultural acceptance that putting down our own or others’ bodies is acceptable”. Cue alarm bells. There it was. I was body shamed. The realisation brought with it a range of emotions, from clarity to disgust, that in the amazing process of creating a human life, a woman could be treated that way. But most importantly for me, it allowed understanding, and an opportunity to grow and move on from an experience that had left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Currently my body is growing a second human from scratch, another little miracle right inside of me. Needless to say, I chose a different Obstetrician this time around. I am 8 months along now and proud to say that during those 8 months, I have run 3 Embody Love workshops for teens and women in my local area. I was especially proud that I was able to own where my body was at – in the process of life creation and growing by the day – while holding space for those women and exposing my heart and soul so that they could blossom into self-love and self-acceptance too. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. And the most rewarding. And sure enough, when we come to the body shaming section, I share my experience from the Obstetricians’ rooms in the hope that is will help other women make sense of their experiences, and to understand why certain situations may have made them feel so violated too, in order to move on from them.
I’d like to say this story has a fairy-tale ending; that my new Obstetrician has not weighed me, commented on my weight, or insinuated that I was to blame for what my hormones were doing while I went about the process of building a human. Unfortunately, those words at the top of the page came out of her mouth, at my last appointment. And I’d like to say that I’m so strong now, that it didn’t rock me and I was able to let it repel off me like oil to water. But none of that would be true.
It did rock me. I felt violated.
As she spoke those words my self-worth momentarily disappeared somewhere into the grains of carpet on the floor and I felt once again completely judged by the weight of my body. Worse still, asked to then control my body’s weight for the next 6 weeks – something I had spent 10 years in therapy and dieticians’ offices learning specifically not to do. Learning to eat intuitively and trust that my body will settle exactly where it’s supposed to. Learning to love my body.
But the difference this time, is that I could reconcile why the experience made me feel so hurt. I could understand why it was wrong. I could use my breath to quiet my racing mind. I could trust my inner voice, my gut instinct, which was strongly telling me that everything was just fine, the baby and I are fine, and to ride the wave as best I could and soon I would have another precious baby in my arms. And beyond that, I could speak up not only for myself, but for other women too, and explain to her why I would not be monitoring my weight for the next several weeks, but rather focusing on self-care in all its forms (body and mind), so that my baby and I could continue to enjoy this experience together before he or she begins life Earth-side.
And, finally, I could write about it. Because through sharing our real-world experiences we can all grow stronger on this journey towards embodying love, and gently spreading the word in the most graceful way possible when life throws you curve balls. Life is rarely “perfect”, and “recovery” does not mean that you are bulletproof from experiencing these emotions. But it does mean that you can spread the word and spread the love whenever these choice-points come up and in that way, we will all grow stronger together, so that hopefully one day we can live in a society where our daughters feel valued for their amazing internal qualities and not by a number on the scale.
Kristy Shannon is a Physiotherapist, Yoga and Pilates instructor, and Embody Love Workshop facilitator based in Queensland, Australia. She runs a busy Physio clinic with her husband in between being a Mum and travelling with her family. After recovering from a 15-year struggle with Anorexia, Kristy is now dedicated to empowering young women to find value in their internal worth and to foster self-love, which she does through her yoga classes, Embody Love workshops, and for herself through her love for triathlon. Kristy has traveled the world and competed in 5 Ironman triathlons and countless shorter triathlons with her husband and family, which she sees as the ultimate celebration of health and happiness, and how amazing the human body can be when we love, nurture and celebrate all that it can do.
Kristy can be found on Instagram at @kristy_shannon or you can read more of Kristy’s blogs on her Physio page http://firstinphysio.com.au/