“So, what do you want to change about your body?”

The personal trainer looked at me, with her perfect ten body and face so chiselled it looked like it was made from wood work. I gulped.

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I thought long and hard, taking in my reflection in the mirror. I’ve looked sassier, sure: my hair’s a bit frizzy from the rain, I’m wearing odd socks and the bright pink trainers and multi-coloured pastel leggings I purchased in a Sports Direct moment of weakness now look horrendous in the cold light of day. But I said something I thought I’d never say:

“Well, truth is, I like my body.”


“I guess I’d like to be stronger. But I like it”

The trainer looked genuinely affronted, as if she’d never heard the words before, my lack of self-loathing a total undermining of what it is she does. Which, I suppose, it is. Like taking your beat-up VW Polo to a car mechanic and saying, you’re quite happy, but can it just have a lick of paint, please? For years I didn’t like the body and thought munching through Alpen alone would bring me happiness. It did not.


It’s not the right answer, is it? Happiness. For the next hour, I put up with hearing about how I could lose body fat around my waist, how best to change my diet to be leaner, how I was only going to see real change with strength training. I knew I shouldn’t be offended. Really, I do. She’s only doing her job.

But when you tell someone you’re happy with having a ‘shape’ – and the only saleable answer is that you shouldn’t, can’t – you can’t help it. When I met my boyfriend afterwards, my face was bright red, more from shame than pistol squats.

I wanted to cry the entire way to dinner.

And as I shooed away the sourdough for the tenth time, tried to scan the cocktail menu for something ‘healthy’ (wishful) and denied myself the strawberry Eton Mess my ten-year old self really wanted for pudding, I still wanted to cry.


Why are you so upset, he kept saying, I like your curves, I like your voluptuousity (not a word). I demanded to be told I’m sexy every ten minutes which, I assure, does not good dinner company make.

Truth is: I wasn’t just upset for myself. I was upset that we live in a culture where, for women, self-hate is the norm – in a seemingly endless struggle for perfection and self-acceptable that stops us enjoying basic human rights like strawberries, whipped cream and meringue, in the hope that one day we’ll wake up happy. I was upset that the words of another woman cut so much deeper, so much fiercer, than the words of those closest to me – an outsider’s perspective on my not-quite-perfect-10 like a bucket of cold water over my self-confidence. I was upset that female competition was still so rife – even after all the great words of Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham, Sheryl Sandberg – that I was a willing participant in it, that we couldn’t learn to celebrate other women’s decisions more.

I know I’m far from perfect; my boobs are always too big for the bra I’m wearing, my jeans pinch my waist and I’ve got a bum that adds a touch of Latino to my Ashkenazi. But do I need to lose all that? If we’re on this life-long quest to totally disappear, my fear is that by the time it finally rolls around, you’ve wasted all your life doing the plank hoping it will bring inner peace, and forgotten to live, too.


And there’s another thing. I just need to say it, and then it’s done: Instagram is really fucking us all up. Especially for women. All this ‘fitspo’ lark – the progress pictures, the photos of women doing yoga on the beach, their Downward Dogs perfectly lit by the sunset, the gym selfies and photos of kale smoothie – it’s really messing us over. These people aren’t your friends. You don’t know them. You only know about their lives because they’ve made themselves public to you.

I don’t mean that lightly: we need to be wary of the word ‘community’. A community is a group of people who support each other – and what this community of ‘fitties’ is doing is making a whole set of new, dangerous issues for women. What kind of community flaunts their abs and their porridge bowls for the world to see? One that’s probably not happy, if I’m being honest, and I’m starting to doubt whether this community wants your happiness, either.


There’s a huge danger in ‘fitspo’ – behind the Lulu Lemon leggings and perfect tree poses, I fear that we’re developing an unhealthy relationship with health, far too interested in what everyone else is doing to smile, enjoy pudding from time to time and relax away from body hang-ups.

A little sharing with friends is fine, but just be careful – seeing other women’s bod shots and every meal time is a dangerous habit to fall into, and ultimately have a hugely destructive power on your own sense of self-worth. If someone doesn’t say it now, we’ll just realise ten years down the line that we’ve lost a decade of happiness because we were too busy trying to replicate each other morning Chia pudding and videos of squat routines cut to Jason Miraz.


It’s time wasted, really. How many times have you flicked open Instagram before bed and realise you’ve lost an hour in a rabbit warren of checking other women’s profiles, breakfasts and bikini bodies? Take it easy, ladies.

They say women are social decision makers. We set the trends. Start the fashions. Book the restaurants. Why did you put bee pollen on your porridge this morning? Probably because of the social decision makers. Why are you sporting tri-colour fashion-focused work out gear? Yup, social decision makers. We’re not just setting the trends for women, we’re doing it for everyone.

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that your beauty, your worth, lies far more than in just a number on the scale. There’s thing to strive for, things that men are striving for, that go far behind the Instagram filters – we can, and should be lusting for something much more than just the perfect body, but genuine fulfilment too, which I’m sad to say I don’t think comes from doing inverted leg raises. Let’s try for something more, too, shall we?

I’m sad to say I broke up with my gym. We were just not working out.

In solidarity of women everywhere, tweet us a photo of something imperfect you’ve created recently with #PerfectlyImperfect. Tweet us @abouttimemag.