When body image activist and marketing consultant Michelle Osbourne, 49 was in her twenties, she became addicted to exercising and looking perfect. “I was a fitness instructor for many years,” Michelle, who lives in Quebec, Canada explained to HELLO!. “And during that time I had disordered eating, I over exercised and my life was all about looking perfect.”
“On the outside I looked like the perfect healthy person, but what people around me didn't realize was that mentally I was really suffering, and even though I looked physically well, inside I was going through hell.”
Michelle’s mission to reach physical perfection had a tremendous impact on her mental health and it impacted the way she lived her life. “I spent most of my twenties being very unsociable. I didn't go out with people or see people socially because it meant that I had to control what I ate and I couldn’t control that. So I just didn’t go out at all. I stayed at home where I knew I could be in control.”
“And then, I had a literal breakdown because I felt I was chasing a goal that I just could not possibly get to. And I stopped exercising completely and I stopped watching everything I ate, which made me gain close to a hundred pounds and led me to feeling even more depressed.”
It wasn’t until the end of her thirties, when Michelle turned 39, that her perspective toward her body and her life completely changed and she finally began to feel happier and healthier, both physically and mentally.
“Turning 40 was a catalyst,” Michelle, explains. “My marriage of six years was ending and I began to reevaluate everything in my life. I realized that if self-esteem was tied to weight and how you look, I should have been amazingly happy in my twenties. But instead I was miserable, sad and depressed and thought I wanted to end my life. So when I turned 40 I just started living for myself and not worrying about what people thought about me. I realized I wasn’t a naturally thin person and I became happy with that.”
It wasn’t just Michelle’s self reflection and change of perspective that turned her life around at 40. She had made a list of 40 goals to complete before she turned 40 and she credits that for giving her life a new purpose which fuelled her confidence and self worth too.
“I developed a blog called 40 by 40 which saw me complete 40 goals before my 40th birthday. They were simple things like wearing red lipstick, which sounds minor, but as a black woman with larger lips, I was always afraid to wear bright lipstick. The goal was to face the fears that I had been putting on the back burner my whole life.”
Michelle credits her 40 by 40 list as the catalyst for many life-changing moments including travel, a new career and having a baby. “One of the things on the list was to travel by myself. And if I did not travel by myself, I wouldn't have my own business. I wouldn't have a child, I wouldn't have my Instagram platform @uncomfortable_bliss, I would not speak another language because in Quebec City they speak French. I never spoke French at all in my entire life. And so that list made me tackle all the fears that I had and it has actually made me be the person that I am today.”
Michelle now feels more comfortable in her skin than ever. “I feel more myself not having any makeup on and just letting people see who I am. When I get trolled online about my weight, or my bald head, I use those comments as learning opportunities. I try to remind people that happiness has nothing to do with validation from other people. It reminds me even more to live my truth. and just be comfortable in the skin that I'm in.”