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How I broke free from the Cult of Thin: YOU are more than a body

Updated: May 28, 2022

We've been brainwashed to have a cult-like mindset. And the cultish lie is this: if you are not slim or if you have put on weight, you are unworthy. I share openly about this journey out of shame and into self-love.

Left: Honeymoon 2013. Right: Sicily 2019

I don't know who needs to hear this, but here goes.

Brenè Brown wisely said, 'Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.'

Well, this moment feels very vulnerable. I've sat on these thoughts, this blog post for months. Ready to write it. But then pulling back, knowing that I have more to process before I can distill these thoughts.

A popular quote comes to mind: 'start before you're ready.' So perhaps, I will never feel 'ready' to share this. So settle in, grab a cuppa, there's a lot to unpack. And I know there will still be more to say beyond this post. But it needs to be said (or written). Even if it's been said before by brave others. I, Nadia, need to say it. To step into the arena, exposed in the blinding lights and shaking from fear. Because it is the right thing to do.

Do you know that shame diminishes its power when brought into the light? If I stay in the darkness I won't change. And change is exactly what must happen. Change within myself. The change I wish to see in the world. But it must start from within. I can't point and blame the world if I'm part of the problem.

I've stood beside you and uttered the same words. I hear us admonish and excuse ourselves for the way we look and eat - and the clothes we can no longer wear.

Why are we asking for forgiveness?

I have been brainwashed. And so have you. To have a cult-like mindset.

And the cultish lie is this: if you are not slim or if you have put on weight, you are unworthy.

YOU HAVE FAILED. That ironically, with more weight, you are less of a person.

Yes undoubtedly Hollywood, the fashion industry, magazines, advertising and the media spread lies and images of brainwashing. Always insinuating that we are not enough. Slithering and sliding into our consciousness. We've been raised in the cult of thin. What chance did we have?

Frustrated by so many decades of harmful thinking, I finally decided to dive deeper. I took out the biggest microscope I could find. Figuratively speaking.

Over the past few years I have been my own experiment, my own lab test. I studied my thought patterns, and became aware of just how deeply ingrained this destructive and shameful pattern of thinking is. You know, that kind of self-belief that makes you want to hide in the corner. When you're having a perfectly good moment and then in a split second, you're crashing down from the shame of it all. A voice that tells you 'wow, everyone is thinking that you have let yourself go.' And by letting yourself go, meaning, you should feel ashamed of yourself for putting on weight. That you have done something WRONG. See this blog post for my first awakening.

My experiment has involved listening to this voice, the insidious whisper that is ever-present. With each metaphoric whip, every stinging welt of punishment, I let myself feel it. I became aware of that voice, that abuser. Yes, abuser. It might sound extreme, but it needed to be taken seriously as something that was hurting me. And the more I became aware, the more sly it became. I recognised its patterns, when it loved to strike. Mostly it came in the form of a photo, it lashed out, comparing me in weight from one year to the other. Admonishing me for getting heavier and heavier.

It loved those personal achievement moments the best. After a fun time cooking up a storm on a TV show, I looked back at the promo photos with a heavy heart. 'Look at your puffy round face,' it snarled, 'you've put on weight. Only thin women deserve to be on TV. How humiliating.'

I should have been celebrating my special moment.

Then I started to dialogue back to this voice. Sometimes I would speak the words out loud. I would yell, 'How dare you speak to me like this?!' My tolerance was waning. Sometimes there were angry tears. I too had a voice. That was my power.

One day, quite recently, I had an epiphany that the voice was a form of BRAINWASHING. And yes, it was coming from my own mind. Thoughts that were constructed over time, since I was a little girl. Watching my mum 'battle' with her own self-image and weight and me gorging on magazines, media, TV, advertising. Wishing I could be like the tiny soap or film stars or models in the magazines. Thank god social media didn't exist then. Over time, a belief had formed, so deeply rooted in my mind, that: if you put on weight, if you are larger, you are not only less attractive, but less likeable. Another lie that I believed was that you can't be a successful, popular woman if you put on weight. And I saw these signs everywhere.

Like most limiting beliefs, there are always experiences in our past that drive the lie deeper. A boyfriend wanting to break up with me for putting on weight. So I lost weight, restricted, obsessed - is that why we ended up staying together? Wanting to sign up with an acting agent but not going through with it because I was too ashamed that I wasn't thin enough (this was when I was a size 10). These brainwashed thoughts meant I was never enough. When I weighed around 52kg on my honeymoon, having lost weight from a painful health condition, I still felt self-conscious in my bathing suit. That I had to hide and pull a thin pose. Many of you will look at this photo and say I looked gorgeous, perfect, at my optimum. And I would have thought so too.

But the truth is, although I'm physically heavier in weight now - I am lighter in spirit. I've never felt more balanced and happy. And never have I felt so much joy around food - so much so - it's one of my greatest passions. I won't apologise to myself for this anymore. And if I want to get really self-reflective, perhaps I needed to put on this wonderful weight, so those fearful voices could get so damn loud that I could no longer ignore them and ultimately heal.

Reflecting consciously on all the negative self-talk throughout my life was the key to uprooting the lies. That even when I was thinner, I never felt thin enough. And if I am thin enough, there will be another physical area that I will be ashamed of. We all know the obsession with beauty and plastic therapies. And even more sneaky, the 'health' fads.

This is where we dive deeper. Breathe with me, take another sip of your cuppa...

Placing your value and self-worth in your body image will always culminate in suffering.

We know our body shifts and changes. Not only does weight fluctuate, so too does our physical form with aging. We sag, get wrinkles, move more slowly, there's illness and injury. One day, our body will be gone.

Our body is transient. Ever shifting. We are so desperately trying to control that which must change.

And if the body changes, why place so much value on what it looks like? Part of the core-deep healing is breaking this attachment to your physical form. And perhaps one of the hardest things to do. My body will undoubtedly fluctuate and change in years to come.

'I am more than a body.'

It's an affirmation I repeat over and over. You may like to do the same. Especially when that brainwashing rhetoric creeps in, telling you that you're not this, or that. The voice of perfectionism.

You are also a soul. A funny, joyous, spirited, glowing, curious, unique being.

If you try living from a place of love, of presence, openness - your body and what it looks like really isn't the focus. It is simply a vehicle for you to express, to live, to experience this earth. I encourage you to check out Eckhart Tolle's great work.

Your body is a tool to have a human experience. So look after it. By all means enjoy wearing your favourite clothes and have fun dressing up. Splash on that red lipstick, wear that lingerie. But don't be brainwashed that you need to be thin. Or for men, muscle-bound and broad shouldered. Don't let the focus of your appearance be the sum of you.

And only you can catch out the lies. Society won't change for you. Stop expecting the external forces to do the work. It is all up to YOU. For you need to find your own inner peace. You need to break your own habits. Scientifically, your brain is designed for patterns, whether positive or negative. If you want to change the prison of thinking around your weight, then you need to create a new neural pathway, repeating over and over new positive thoughts and feelings and habits. Break the cultish thinking.

This may be a new daily habit. Perhaps hourly. When a negative thought slides in, breathe deeply and proclaim with a smile 'I am more than a body.' 'My body brings me joy.' Feel this. And bring in gratitude - how blessed you are to be alive. If you are healthy, you have so much to be grateful for. It's a privilege. That fact alone wakes me up out of a vanity nightmare. It humbles you. Use your body for what it has been designed to do: smell, see, taste, feel, hear the world and experience it wholeheartedly. To lead with love.

And when you think you're no longer brainwashed, you'll probably be triggered again. But that's okay. Because that voice, those lies don't control or imprison you. Yes, it will be in your life, but it doesn't get to be YOUR voice. Nor does it get to call the shots. Especially when it comes to your mental health and living your greatest potential, your greatest good.

As I write my final words, I feel the uncertainty of how you will respond to this blog, the risk of not being heard, of words failing to hit the truth. I'm feeling vulnerable in exposing the shameful parts, the embarrassing bits, the story that isn't about cooking or vegan Italian food!

I feel shaky as I hover over the 'PUBLISH' button. But using Glennon Doyle's mantra, 'we can do hard things' means that I won't let the words sit in the dark unspoken void, in the shadows of unpublished drafts. It's a truth that needs to be shared.

You are more than a body.


Nadia xo


Please note: This is my own personal experience and is not designed as treatment for individuals experiencing a mental health condition. This information isn't to substitute professional advice.

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Loved this and really needed to hear these words! Thank you for sharing!

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I'm so glad it resonated with you!! 😍 Thank you for your lovely comment Suzanne!

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