I love my body. While that bold statement might sound somewhat contradictory coming from someone who has battled with anorexia for the past seven years, it is one I endeavour to remind myself of daily.
As I have explained in many of my previous articles relating to my eating disorder – my anorexia has never been sparked by a desire to lose weight. My anorexia thrives upon control and generously feeds my addictions to self-pressure and perfection. While my symptoms and struggles are mental, they unfortunately manifest themselves physically, meaning they are often terrifyingly exposed to the outside world.
At high school, I detested my figure. Well, that’s if you could even call it a figure; I was essentially just a pencil with wildly unmanageable hair and wonky braces. Like, seriously, you’d have found more meat in a tofu salad at a vegan convention.
While my friends were rocking up to non-uniform days looking fab in Topshop skinny jeans and little Zara blouses, I was sorrowfully traipsing around Tammy Girl for my outfits.
The only skinny jeans I could find to suit my weed-like stature were emblazoned with motif unicorns. I was hardly a teenage dream, put it that way!
I felt like the last blossom tree to flower, and it hugely affected my confidence.
The teenager inside me fought to be released, but I silenced her pleas.
I ached for a slice of excitement my friends indulged in: parties, being asked out by boys, and girly shopping trips to town to wrack through the H&M sales.
But what was the point? I was the baby of my year group: so tiny I was literally invisible.
I spent years begging my parents to fund the boob job I was hell-bent on having as soon as I turned 18. (This was in-between trying to convince my Dad to let me get the Playboy bunny logo tattooed on my shoulder. Thank Christ that particular phase relinquished. I don’t think my craved ink would have particularly helped my squeaky clean author image. As far as I’m aware, Enid Blyton didn’t have a promiscuous tattoo, but you never know.)
And then – funnily enough – at 18, I finally grew my very own boobs!
I enjoyed the boob life for two years, before I developed anorexia and well, that was that. They packed their bags and they haven’t been back since.
Funny how life turns out, isn’t it...?!
Sometimes I gaze back at old photos from my college days with longing. At 7 stone 2, I was the heaviest I have ever been (bear in mind I am very petite and only five foot), but the extra weight suited me. My face filled out, giving my cheeks a slightly hamster-esque appearance... But I kinda liked it. As mentioned above, I ALSO HAD A CHEST! Finally, I could ditch my Betty Boop AA sized bras in favour of slink La Senza numbers.
At the age of 18, I was, at long last, becoming a woman.
Boys, parties, nights out in town and a booming self-confidence followed suit of this revelation.
I had curves, and I bloody loved it, flaunting this new gimmick wherever I went in tiny shorts and crop tops.
Anorexia came along and briskly swept away all traces of that bubbly, self-assured college girl. I have seen wisps of her over the years, for example when I was travelling and when I lived abroad, but it upsets me to admit that she has never fully returned to her former glory. In her place sits The Voice on its throne of dark spikes, manipulating my every move.
Nowadays, I’m at peace with being petite. Sure, I’m a little skinnier than I would like to be, but I have to retain my faith that one day, I WILL conquer The Voice.
I’ve accepted that my boobs will probably never make a comeback, and I’m okay with that. They’d only get in the way of my jogging, anyway!
The flat stomach and slender hips I used to curse have become my friends, as have my thigh gaps. Yeah, I might have legs that one might only usually see on a sparrow, but it’s fine: I’m in proportion.
My ribs are very visible, which I don’t like, and as my face is always the first place I drop weight, my cheeks are pretty gaunt at the moment.
I have stretch marks at the top of my right leg, which are startlingly white, and bumpy to touch. They’re my war paint – something I wouldn’t change for the world! I first developed these marks after I had recovered from anorexia the first time. I gained back over a stone of the weight I had lost, and the immense pride and love I felt for my body during this time was one of the most beautiful sensations I have ever experienced. My stretch marks take me back to this positive mindset, and remind me that I can get back there – one day – however long it takes.
People think that anorexia is simply an out of control yearning to be thin. This is the biggest myth and misconception. For some, this may be the case – there are limitless triggers, causes and strains of anorexia – but not for me. It might look as though I have full control over my low weight, what with my constant restricting of food and excessive exercise. But in reality, I have no control over my weight. I have very little control over anything in my life, because I am a slave to The Voice in my head.
I don’t choose to be as skinny as I am. Believe it or not, I don’t want to be a 27 year old who still fits in age 12 dresses!
But I do love my body. There, I’ve said it again, but I don’t just mean in the aesthetic sense.
I love my body so frikkin’ much for never giving up on me, even when I’ve made it my mission to self-destruct. My body has been through unbelievable amounts of both physical and mental pain – mostly self-inflicted – and yet, it continues to rise alongside the sun every morning, subtly reminding me of the beauty in the world.
I’ve selfishly pushed my body to its limits. I’ve forced it across boundaries that the human body should not have to contend with. I’ve spat venom at it in the mirror every single day, projecting the bubbling pressure within my mind on my aching joints and sunken skin.
Still, my body stands tall, like a butterfly in the eye of the storm.
My body is my most loyal, lifelong friend, and I’m in awe of its strength, forgiveness, jaw-dropping power and gritty determination.
I ADORED every single second of my boudoir shoot.
I arrived at the studio on a windy, dull May morning that could have easily been mistaken for November.
Being anorexic and therefore always cold, one of my main concerns was that I was going to literally freeze to death, gallivanting around in my pants for three hours.
To my relief, the studio was as warm as the welcome I received from my hair and make-up artist (Row) and photographer (Claire).
I was made to feel at ease from the very second I walked through the door. I was greeted like an old friend, and the three of us were soon chatting away as if we’d known each other for years! Once we’d covered the important paperwork and basics (e.g: ‘have you had a fever or cough in the past 48 hours?’ ‘What’s your skin type?’ And ‘Do you have any dogs?’), it was time to let the boudoir begin!
Row was some sort of mascara-brandishing magician, and had me feeling utterly fabulous in just under half an hour. She really listened to my ideas when it came to my desired look.
I’m not big on make-up, and can easily fit my full ‘kit’ into my old Groovy Chick pencil case. (And that includes three different flavoured Chapsticks!)
While I wanted to feel sexy, I also wanted to feel like me. Row understood, and advised that I stuck with my usual minimal make-up, but accentuated my lips with a bold red splash of colour.
She loosely curled my long, black hair to absolute perfection, and I was beyond delighted with my mini makeover!
I didn’t feel even the slightest bit nervous as I stepped out of the changing room in my first underwear set.
Claire and Row complimented my choice of outfit as if it was the most natural thing in the world, which totally normalised the whole situation, immediately diffusing any potential awkwardness.
I’m not gonna’ lie... I am a bit of a natural born poser. Saying that, even I froze as soon as Claire picked up her camera. I’d had a flick through some of the advertising images on the website, but I suddenly had no idea how I was going to get into the positions.
Claire was exceptionally professional and gracefully guided me through each and every pose. It didn’t me long to really get into it!
The studio was split into different backdrops, including a flower wall and a bed draped in a white silk curtain. There were various props to make use of, including an old fashioned telephone and a vintage dressing table.
The sheer positivity that filled the studio throughout the duration of my shoot was infectious, and frankly liberating.
How refreshing to be surrounded by such a lack of judgement and scrutiny where the female body is concerned. Whether it’s ourselves or others, we’ve all been guilty of making unfair assumptions and comments based on appearance and body types.
I shrugged any lingering trace of self-scrutiny off along with the last of my clothes, right before I stepped out in-front of the camera.
I stopped hugging myself in a bid to hide my protruding ribs. I forgot all about my stretch marks. I was even spared of the worry that I had missed a patch while shaving my legs.
I was there to celebrate my incredible body, and in that revelation, I had never felt sexier or more powerful!
There was a certain spring in my step as I felt the studio that afternoon.
I’d had a bountiful helping of confidence injected back into me.
The first thing I said to my husband when I got home (after, “Have you eaten my rainbow cookies you asshole??!!”) was: “I want to do that all over again!”
I can’t even explain the feeling of empowerment that the whole experience gave me. I can’t stress enough how much I would recommend a boudoir shoot to every woman I know!
When I initially announced that I had booked a boudoir photoshoot, I was met by a surprising wall of negativity. A large number of people within my circle failed to see why I would want to pose in-front of complete strangers in my underwear. Most of the women I spoke to said they’d never have the confidence to partake in a boudoir shoot.
Honestly, we need to eradicate the suspicion, embarrassment and fear that surrounds boudoir shoots.
Every one of our bodies tells a story – the unique story of us. Maybe your body’s main characters are your beautiful children, or perhaps the plot twist within your body’s tale is that you overcame a serious illness. Whatever it is – embrace it. Embrace it all! Stand tall and nourish your body with the love that it deserves.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©