Australia: Part 2

Today, by complete accident, I found myself at the beach where my family celebrated New Years Eve back in 2006. It’s funny how these things happen. How you can stumble back to a place or a person from a different time and it seems like a whole life ago. I guess in this case it kind of was, a lot has changed since 2006, expectedly so. It would not be good if I still looked like I did in 2006.

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I had the day completely to myself and it was brilliant. It made me think back to two years ago when I was in Cambodia on my own. I found it hard, I’m a sociable person and as much as I could chat to people, I found the fleeting connections frustrating and struggled to be in my own head so much. Today I didn’t have that problem. I read, swam, listened to podcasts, sunbathed, had lunch and did it all as and when I wanted. It sounds silly but when I realised I was so happy and content in my own company, I felt so aware of how far I’ve come and such a sense of self-assurance. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t come to Australia and decided I don’t need to see anyone else, I’ve met some great people and started some friendships but sometimes it’s nice to have a day of complete self indulgence.

Back home, two of my friends have just got new jobs, another is moving into her new flat, one has just finished their dissertation and another has just booked a ticket to South America and it got me thinking about the differences in lives at this age. I’ve found there’s no competition, no comparison, just support, happiness and encouragement. Everyone is just working out their own life in their own time and I’m so pleased we’re at this point. There’s so many options and none of them are right or wrong, it’s a time to do whatever you want without justification or explanation. It’s exciting and something that I found overwhelming a few years ago, like too much time on my own.

Ok, enough with all the cheesy sentimental stuff. Enjoy a few photos from the past week instead.

One final thing I will say about being on your own though is that there’s no one to watch out for sunburn so I’m now the colour of a well cooked lobster. A gentle reminder that we all need other people or a harsh reminder of my own stupidity? You decide.

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My Body

I meant to write this before I came on holiday, but there is a slight madness that comes just before you go travelling for a month so I’m writing it now, as I sit on an eight hour train hurtling its way through rural Java. Before I came to Indonesia, I spent a lot of time thinking about my body, partly because I was unhappy with it anyway and partly because I knew bikinis and swimming costumes were practically inevitable. The subject of body image and body confidence is a bit of a minefield and I speak with no authority, just my own experiences, and what I’m about to say is not to prove a point or seek compliments or educate anyone but to simply share my thoughts and add to an existing and necessary conversation. Ok, thats my disclaimer done.

For context, I am not an obviously large person, I’m a size 10-12 (Although I recently bought a pair of jeans that are a size 6 but that is a whole other issue), I exercise regularly, I like to think I eat relatively well but enjoy my food and drink but I definitely do not have the body I would like. Equally, I am aware that no one has the body they would like, they may have one they are happy with, but I don’t think I have ever met, or heard of anyone for that matter, who has the body of their dreams, who has met all of their goals and who wouldn’t change a single thing about themselves. How reassuring.

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Some days I am happy with my body, I’ll wake up and feel there is room within me to breathe, that I am strong and proud of changes I’m making and my clothes are flattering. Other days I will feel so far from this that I cry when trying on dresses for events and flinch when anyone touches my stomach. This fluctuation is one I know I am not alone in experiencing but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. How can I eat whatever I want somedays and not notice a difference and yet be healthy another and feel 5x heavier? Why is there no clear rulebook? Everyone’s body is so different that a clear rulebook would be impossible to follow and I think this lack of logic, and as a result, understanding, has given so much prominence to today’s huge variety of diets and vitamins and lifestyles and routines on offer in an attempt to make us feel better about ourselves. I say this as someone who has tried a number of these and let me just say spirulina did nothing for me except smell and intermittent fasting is essentially just a fancy way of saying you skipped breakfast. Problems with my gut and excessive bloat have lead me to attempt to follow food combining (a way of eating based on digestion time that means you don’t mix your starches and proteins) most of the time and take a probiotic, both of which I ‘think’ have made a positive difference. However, I am aware of the huge likeliness of a placebo affect, of the priority of the ‘wellness’ industry to make money and the huge combination of factors that lead to feeling your best.

Obviously, social media does not help, we have the ability to access images of thousands of other people immediately and see what they are doing and how they look and yet, sometimes that does help. There is a huge online supportive body positive community, there are girls of all shapes and sizes encouraging exercise, not exercising, eating whatever they want, eating healthily, eating cake everyday. Whatever the content you are looking for, it exists, just make sure you are only taking in things that benefit you. Easier said than done though, I have spent many hours looking at body transformation pictures of girls who have been exercising for less time than me, who appear to eat ‘worse’ than me and yet have a body ‘better’ than mine. Life isn’t fair.

In my opinion, the only thing any of us can do, and perhaps should be doing, is attempting to feel our best, mentally and physically. If that is eating a pizza then brilliant, if its having a smoothie then great, if its doing both then wonderful. Your body is yours and yours only and your opinion is the only one you should be worried about. I exercise now out of habit, I don’t get smashed because I can’t handle the hangover and I have severely cut down my potato and milkshake intake since my first year of university. That being said, my sweet tooth remains persistent and if you think I won’t be eating my body weight in noodles and rice in Indonesia and will be bothering to exercise in this heat then you are very wrong. This is my dilemma, I want to eat the noodles, but I am on my way to Bali and I want to feel confident and happy, I don’t want to be comparing myself to the hundreds of beautiful skinny tanned girls and their smoothie bowls. Unfortunately, the two do not go hand in hand (noodles and my confidence, obviously a tan and a smoothie bowl is an excellent pairing).

So we are back to square one, the unsolvable issue, the endless circle and constant battle. I know the answer is balance but I’m yet to find the ideal level and I think I would rather seek acceptance than frustration over myself and a lack of change. Body neutrality is the idea that you are impartial to how your body looks, you focus on the incredible things it can do rather than its appearance, sounds ideal, but I’m just not there. Everyday is different, everyday I am changing and everyday I’m learning. I read somewhere recently (apologies I can’t find the original text) that any weight you struggle to lose is your life, it is the memories. It is the meals out with friends, the celebratory drinks, the takeaway with your family, the brunch on a Saturday and the dessert on a date and let me tell you, I intend to live my life, in the one body I have to do it in.

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Side note: I obviously haven’t put any bikini or body pictures in this post, partly because that is clearly not the point and partly because I am not yet confident enough to, either way, it is intentional.