I have been in an abusive relationship for most of my adult life.

What started out as fun and exciting spiraled into an out of control nose-dive heading straight for disaster. It’s not easy to see the problem because it isn’t something physical – it’s mostly emotional abuse.

But emotional abuse eventually takes its toll on the physical and manifests itself in the body in ways equally as damaging and deeply more scaring as a punch in the face.

I am of course talking about my relationship with myself. My body image, if you will – the Bad Body Double. The person doing all the damage is me.

I’m not even sure exactly where it all went wrong. I was quite happy with myself for a long, long time.

Being a girly girl (blissfully so) I started experimenting with make-up for a bit of fun, and enjoyed spending teenage Saturdays in shops trying on outfits I could never hope to own. Just dressing up in them for a moment in the changing rooms was fun enough to quench what-ever need it was I had to enjoy the clothes.

But it didn’t stay there as just good clean fun.

As I left my teens behind and saw more and more images of perfect women around me, I started to notice that the reflection in those change-room mirrors was not quite as perfect.

I started tweaking the way I treated myself. It was subtle. A reprimand here, a disapproving look there.

I wouldn’t say I bought into body-shaming hook line and sinker right off the bat, but there were times when I would deny myself some pleasures – mostly of the food variety – to try and be more like the images I saw. The disappointment grew and with it the inner chastising.

I started spending more time and money on wardrobe and make up to try and look the part, even if I didn’t feel it. To be the body-double for the world, while hiding the person I knew I really was behind the scenes, and hoped to high heaven that that woman was never seen without her make up on.

My body-double began to take over, and I started to tell myself I was not enough. After all, hair and make up can’t do everything. It can’t make a person magically lose 10kg’s.

I was simply not good enough. Not pretty enough, thin enough, disciplined enough. And the world clearly agreed with me, given the amount of nastiness I saw people hurl at those seen as fat or pale or less pretty or less ‘perfect’.

I was terrified that I would be seen the way I saw myself.

But I am a fighter. I am not one to take things lying down, and so I started looking for regime after regime to make things better. Punishment in the form of work.

After all, if I ate less, or dieted more, or if I could run or dance or spin my way skinny – if I could do something faster, harder, stronger, then I would look better and subsequently feel better. Makes sense, right?

Except that I am now a good 15 years into my adult life and it hasn’t worked, because none of those things ever made me feel better about myself.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. So a year ago I decided it’s time to stop the insanity.

Stop being disgusted with myself and stop beating myself up for things that really don’t matter.

Stop exercising just to be thinner, and rather move my body for enjoyment, and if anything, to be stronger. CrossFit was perfect for me in that regard, as well as out door walks, hikes and even rollerblading on the beachfront.

I decided it’s time to stop eating to lose weight or satisfy cravings (which I then felt guilty for, perpetuating the vicious cycle), but rather to nourish my body and treat it in the way it deserves, and so have been enjoying my life ‘diet free’ for a whole 12 months.

And guess what? I haven’t turned into a blob. I haven’t even gained any weight. In fact, I have lost a little bit of weight on the scale, but that isn’t my goal anymore. I have lost body fat and gained muscle mass, and that is a pretty good place to be.

Mostly, I decided it’s time to stop trying to force myself to look like someone I’m not, and rather just be who I am and have fun in front of the mirror again.

I found something called the 28 Day Love Your Body Challenge and decided to sign up. Even though I can’t say that it cured all my body image issues, it sure as hell has helped me in going a long way to be more happy with what my body can do and less concerned with how it looks.

After all, it’s my body, no one else’s.

My only body, the only one I get.

And I choose to get out of the bad relationship it has been in with its bad body double and start loving it for what it truly is. It’s time I star in my own show – no extras or butt-doubles necessary.

I have no doubt that my journey is still far from over, but for the first time in my adult life, I can honestly say that this body sitting here writing this article is pretty darn awesome, just the way it is.

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