Creating a culture of self-love: Loving my body wherever I go


When I was living in Saudi Arabia, I was between a size 6 and 8. Being relatively thin, I was less concerned with how much I weighed and far more occupied with how I looked. I was an ultra-conservative dresser—even under my abayah. I wanted to be a virtuous girl and woman; this would be achieved through my choice of clothes, which would influence my actions and ultimately, how I was perceived.

When I arrived in the U.S. I became more aware of my body type. For the most part, I continued to dress conservatively. With the cultural shock of living in the U.S. after a lifetime in Saudi Arabia, combined with a familial incision, I began to eat differently. Increasingly, I found comfort in foods that I had rarely consumed. By the end of my freshman year, I was a size 10.

My eating habits made me more conscious of my body. I think this is a point largely missed by others: It’s not that I was eating because I didn’t notice my body or take pride in how I looked.  I was acutely aware of my body and how it was changing. In fact, I was obsessed. I felt powerless in swapping my current habits for healthier ones. As I continued to lose autonomy, I relied more on food to distract me from my growing discomfort with myself.

This experience was aggravated by mass consumption of the female body in the U.S.  I couldn’t escape the reminder that thinner was better. As a naturally curvy person, even in my smaller-sized days, watching hip-less, flat chested, thigh gapped women be portrayed as the only type of beautiful woman was difficult and fueled a more destructive view of myself.

There were pauses in my self-hate though. When I visited Ghana in the summer, I could temporarily abandon the idea that skinny was better. Not because Ghana didn’t celebrate her thinner women but because it mattered less whether I was thin or not. In fact, it was a wonderful thing that I was curvy. My body type was desired and celebrated to an extent. Interestingly enough, when I visited Ghana in the summer, I could lose up to 20 pounds without any effort or intention to. My mind was healthier in Ghana and I was kinder to body.

But as I continued to gain weight, being in Ghana become a painful reminder of my weight gain. If you’ve read my post The Trouble with Words (Part I), at a point, it became increasingly difficult for me to be in Ghana because I despised being called obolo. If I knew I would be traveling to Ghana, I would schedule the latest possible departure date so I could give myself more time to slim down—this never worked.

Being away from my family and the constant feeling of displacement, are two of possibly four reasons I have continued to gain weight. Different events in my life have fueled my reliance on food as a coping tool and I’m currently wearing a size 12.

I realize now that I am the worst person to be mean to myself. I never give myself a break; I am always present and ready to take myself apart.

I would love to have the body I had in Saudi Arabia. But I was so disconnected from my body then, so ashamed of what society said it could do, so afraid to use or portray it incorrectly that I did not love my body. Even though I am less satisfied with my body now, I think I love my current body more than I ever could have in Saudi Arabia

Bottom line: A nomadic life style has exposed me to different ideas on what defines a woman’s beauty. These ideas have either been uplifting or burdensome. Despite the richness of variety, my happiness and self-confidence should not be subject to locale. I was late in coming to the realization that regardless of where I am, I am always with me. My body is the place where I live. And maybe, in that sense, the relationship I have with my body is actually a culture. So, I could construct a culture that positively influences my body. I can create my own beliefs, behaviors and values towards my body. I can even choose foods that celebrate and encourage my well-being. I have adopted different cultures anyway, what’s one more?


16 thoughts on “Creating a culture of self-love: Loving my body wherever I go

  1. “My body is the place where I live. And maybe, in that sense, the relationship I have with my body is actually a culture.” I can so relate to this, as a fellow TCK and a woman. I have searched for my truest home all over the world and in other people and found it in my own skin. Elizabeth Liang at turned me on to your blog. Look forward to reading your posts!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh- I see that the follow button is now at the lower right handside instead of the top left. I think that means your posts will appear in the reader, but not in the email box. (I think even with the basic account you can set up in your widgets a subscribe box that automatically drops it into people’s email boxes as it’s easy to miss stuff in the reader. 🙂


  2. This is one of the good things about the internet: people who’ve never met can discuss these very real, made-us-feel-alone-but-are-so-common-amongst-us issues. Thank you both for blogging about this stuff. It matters a great deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This line “…regardless of where I am, I am always with me. My body is the place where I live” really made me think. We’re so used to treating bodies like houses, allowing them to get messy and then worrying what the neighbors will think. But if we imagined our bodies as “homes,” the places in which love and joy and memories took place, we might be a bit more forgiving of their appearances on the outside and relish what’s on the inside. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on my own body!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Eric, You are so correct. There was so much to say in this particular post. I did want to include men/boys + body image too because it is a shared concern. But I also didn’t want to just throw a sentence in about it because it deserves more than that. The preoccupation with women eclipses and ignores the challenges men face and makes it even harder for men to have safe forum to discuss and seek help. Gender stereotypes affect men and women, boys and girls. The same goes with domestic violence and rape; not enough attention is given to these issues because men are supposed to be stronger, the aggressor, etc. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! Eric, I have an about me page, I made it private because I have edited and re-edited the page. My fear is that the “About me” page will limit what I can write about or create an expectation of content. Even starting the blog was difficult because I was hesitant to commit to any one theme. So I just started writing and what I have found to be a constant most of my posts is the theme of TCK (third culture kid). I’ll try and work on an “About me” because I do understand the importance of it and connecting with my readers and followers on that level. The suggestion ( and push!) is very much appreciated. Thank you, Eric!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A really, really nice and wonderfully insightful post that speaks for all of us, in my opinion of course. I intend to make a post that suggests we are ‘nodes at the interstices of discourses’. Some sociological or critical theory positions suggest that we are constructed by language. We are the stories we hear, and what we make of them, every moment and every day. We hear the self-talk constantly. Which is to say, simply, that although we are, in my opinion, sentinel beings, that sense is created at the intersection of whatever conversation, narrative, or discourse criss-crosses our ‘self’. I suppose an alternative discourse in our head is a useful way of negating some of the less than useful messages we’re bombarded with. We just need that alternative discourse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this comment! I certainly agree about the importance of self-talk. We should be the voice that resonates, and surely, as we have learned to speak to others, we have very rarely learned how to communicate with ourselves.


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