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This Is for Every Woman Who Has Ever Been Told She's Overweight by a Man

08/07/2015 17:12 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

When I first heard about Michelle Thomas, the woman who wrote an open letter to her Tinder date after he labelled her 'too fat to fancy', I did a mini feminist fist pump. But I also felt a pang of shame.

It goes without saying that any man who criticises a woman for being overweight deserves to be punched in the balls. (And in the interest of equality, any woman who criticises a man for being overweight should be punched in the boobs.)

But this, in my experience, is easier said than done.

A photo posted by @msmthomas on

Michelle Thomas

Once upon a time I was Michelle Thomas. The difference being that the person who told me I was overweight was a boy I'd been in a relationship with for about eight months, a boy I loved. But instead of writing an open letter or refusing to continue a relationship with someone who didn't love me unconditionally, I cried and cried, and went on a diet.

It might be worth adding that, like Michelle, I was far from overweight. Maybe I was pushing the healthy BMI limit, but that was about it. For him, I wasn't "slim enough". I'd "let myself go", as most people do when they fall in love, and that wasn't good enough.

To cut a long, emotionally draining story short, I went on a serious diet, losing just over half a stone in about three months. This is not a Slimmer Of The Year achievement, I know, but for someone who wasn't overweight in the first place, it's quite a lot to lose - and for all the wrong reasons.

We stayed together, but my self-esteem plummeted. I was a shadow of the fun, outgoing, energetic person I once was.

It's been many years since we broke up now, I was very young, and now I'm a different person. I have no hard feelings about it, apart from the fact that I wish I'd handled it differently.

Looking back I was embarrassed that he thought I was overweight, now I'm embarrassed that I didn't end the relationship on the spot.

I identified as a feminist at the time (and still do), but that still didn't stop me crumbling when I was criticised. The power that conversation wielded over me makes me feel sick to my stomach. I'm sure that for him, it was a throwaway comment, but it wounded me deeply. And I wish it hadn't.

While there's no doubt that I would probably be hurt if someone I cared about told me I was overweight (even though I know I'm not), the difference now is that I would pick myself up, eject that person from my life and carry on.

I owe this confidence to people like Michelle and to the hoards of body image campaigners who pose in bikinis on the underground or who pose in photo projects glorifying cellulite and stretch marks. There are few women who would be so bold as to do what these women do, but the impact these campaigns have is incredible - I'd know, I'm one of them.

There has been nothing short of a body confidence revolution over the past few years. But while my experience pre-dated the fourth wave of feminism, I wonder how many women truly emulate this body confidence on a day-to-day basis.

No matter how much we know that our bodies are ours and ours alone, no matter how much we're told to #effyourbeautystandards or see diversity in the media, no matter how much our friends and family tell us we're beautiful, the idea of 'The Perfect Body' still lingers in the back of our minds.

I'm surrounded by beautiful, intelligent, talented girlfriends, but not one is 100% happy with the way she looks.

A friend of mine once ripped out photos of models from Vogue and stuck them all over her fridge. Another jumps from juice cleanse to fad diet and back again, getting up at 5:30am to exercise three times a week, to keep herself slim. They fret over being too tall or too short, having big breasts or little fried eggs, having bad skin or thin hair.

It breaks my heart to see it, but I know that no matter how often I beat the body confidence drum, there are times when I too fall victim to body image pressure. It's pathetically unfeminist, but something so deeply engrained on me, it's proving impossible to shift.

There's nothing wrong with dieting. I am now slimmer than I was when I was in the relationship and I'll admit I've been on a diet since - not a count-your-calories or cut-out-major-food-groups diet, but a healthy eating reset (with moderate exercise, rather than crazy treadmill addiction) to make me feel better about the way I look.

The only time to go on a diet, if there is ever a time, is if you 100% believe that you are doing it for yourself.

Never ever, take it to heart when a man tells you that you are overweight or not perfect. You're perfect exactly as you are - eat the goddamn cake, go to the pub instead of the gym, and just enjoy yourself.