Now I'm in my (very) late 20s, I've cut almost every unhealthy relationship from my life. All the friendships that were dead weight, or a one-way street when it came to staying in touch, are gone. Caring what people think of me isn't a burden I've ever really carried; I think I'm generally pretty great. The only unhealthy relationship I have left in my life is with my body.
I've always thought of my body as a separate entity. During the really bad spells of low self esteem, it is as though I'm wearing it like a fat suit from a bad sitcom. The padded flesh on my arms, stomach and legs feels as though it doesn't belong to me, though I've carried it since puberty. I see everything I do in third person; walking to the kettle at work, sitting on the toilet, having sex (if I can bring myself to undress). There is Lauren, the person, and Lauren, the body she exists in.
As my most recent period of self-loathing began, work colleagues coincidentally began commenting on what I was eating. "Are you sure you need that?" when I had a KitKat from the vending machine. "How many of those have you had today?" as I put a spoonful of jam on an oatcake. "Life's too short to be vegetarian!" when I tried a new salad recipe for my packed lunch. I could feel everyone else's dysfunctional relationships with food stacking on top of my own, and I could hear myself justifying every decision by listing all the exercise I was going to do to "balance out" the evil oatcakes and chocolate biscuits.
I regularly have two dreadful opposing thoughts, which are these:
1. I have wasted my 20s being chubby, when society is telling me this is when I'm supposed to be hot and skinny. It's all downhill from here.
2. I have wasted my 20s worrying about what I look like, when I probably look amazing and I'll look back at old photos and want to give myself a shake.
I appreciate everything my body does for me. It's in general good health, apart from a couple of polycystic ovaries and a touch of pre-diabetes. It bounces back from hangovers pretty well, can run a mile or two and has lovely big eyes and curly hair. Compared to a lot of people, it's given me almost no grief whatsoever down to nothing more than luck of the draw. I'm mentally beating my body with a stick because it doesn't look the way I want it to in sleeveless tshirts while it consistently looks after me. And nobody gives a fuck what it looks like but me. If I gave myself half the compliments I give to women I don't know online, I'd be feeling pretty content right now. If I'm going to pick a way to "waste my 20s", it's not going to be worrying about what my body looks like any more.