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They are not my thighs, they're Allens'...

Bridget Wood

Photo credit:  Emma Hutton

Photo credit: Emma Hutton

By Kate Tonkin of Real Food, Real You

With the release of the documentary Embrace there has been much talk about loving your body, but what does body loving actually mean for real women? Do we have to been in love with our bodies in order to be happy?

When you hear the word “love” the first thing that likely comes to mind is romantic love. Ewww… really? I have to love myself like that?

Whilst we have one word for love, the ancient Greeks had many words to describe love, ranging from romantic love, to playful love, to the love of deep friendships. Love for your body can, and probably does over the course of a day, of a lifetime, fit into any of these spectrums. I interpret this current call to body loving as a call to being friends with, to making peace with, your body. That body that most women spend years raging against.

I am no exception to this self-inflicted body rage. Over the years I have raged against many parts of my body but for now I am going to concentrate on my thighs. How could I not?

Thighs are a bit of a “thing” in our family. My gran, born in 1910 into the Allen family of rural Victoria was one of seven children. The four girls, and all their female descendants have been simultaneously blessed and cursed with what we fondly call “Allen thighs”.  Yes, they’re a real thing!

In the mid 80s my uncle was to meet an interstate cousin at the train station. He had not seen her for years and was unsure he would recognise her. No need to worry because when she got off the train the first thing he saw was “those Allen thighs”.

My own pair of Allen thighs have been the source of many struggles for me. At university I was referred to as “chicken legs” due to the size of the large drumsticks. There was the time my hockey team voted to play in shorts instead of skirts and I was mortified as shorts would reveal more of my chunky legs. I used to long to have thinner leaner legs poking out from short shorts. I used to curse those thighs – yet revel in studies showing that bigger thighed women live longer.

A year ago I was yet again complaining about my thighs when a friend pulled me up by saying – What? Those strong thighs that let you run so fast and play hockey so well. Don’t be bloody ridiculous, Kate!”

Ridiculous??? Me???

Yet my friend was totally right – our own body fears and insecurities are absolutely ridiculous to everyone except ourselves. The friend who complains about her cleavage when you wish you had some yourself, the friend who complains she’s too tall, the friend who complains her hair is too straight and thick.

What does body lovin’ mean for me and my thighs? There’s days I get dressed up and feel so hot I am just lovin’ myself sick.

There’s other days (especially in bathers change-rooms) I still wish for longer leaner legs or bigger boobs. Loving, or, at least, making peace with, my body means I don’t waste enormous amounts of time or energy wanting to change these things.

The wish for longer legs is a fleeting thought, not one that has me rushing to sign up to “Three weeks to thinner thighs” or “Best Foods to Reduce Your Thigh Fat”.

I acknowledge the thought then move on, with my strong and capable thighs.

The older I get, the more thankful I am for my capable body. The more I celebrate what it can do, instead of how it looks.

I remember as a young child watching my Gran in the shower. She’d lean slightly forward, bent at the waist, washing her underarms while rocking from leg to leg. I’ve watched my Mum shower exactly the same way. Now my daughters watch me. I move the same way on those strong dependent Allen thighs.

Those thighs which will continue to curse and bless and support generations of women to come.

I’ve watched Embrace four times and of all the incredibly inspirational people featured, the one I continually come back to is Nigel Marsh, founder of the Sydney Skinny. Nigel says “Get fit, don’t get fit, no one cares. Getting fit is not the point of life. The point is to be happy”.

I just love that.

No-one cares. No one cares about the size of my thighs. No one except me. And if I don’t care that means no one else will either.

The point is to be happy. If you are hating on your body every day and punishing yourself in trying to change it, how can you possibly be happy? True happiness comes from making peace with your body, from treating it like a friend and entering into a comfortable lifelong relationship with it.

Call it body lovin’, call it making friends, call it not being nasty to yourself.  Call it whatever you like.

Just be happy.

Being happy with my thighs won’t make them smaller, but it most certainly will improve my life.

Want to make a pledge to transform the conversation you're having with yourself? Get involved in the Body Gratitude Project and join us for a special event screening of 'Embrace' on 18 January in Parkdale, Bayside Melbourne.