Having been at war with my own body for most of my teenage and all of my adult years, I fully embrace this message.
In a week where I have seen inspirational women talk about abuse in which other people treated their bodies like ornaments, read inspirational books about bodies, read frightening books about bodies, seen a t-shirt for nine-year-olds emblazoned with “cheat day”, and been told by family members that I need to lose weight- this is me telling you to mind your own business and stop commenting on other people’s bodies. My body is my own to do what I want with, to treat as I please. I can run 10k in well under an hour, I can lift huge weights and I can defend myself. I have curves that don’t fit with our current fashion, but 50 years ago would have been sexy.
Most importantly, I have a beautiful baby niece. I don’t want her to inherit the body hatred that has been passed down through generations of my family, multiplying every time. I want her to be able to go for a run without worrying about what others are thinking of her boobs jiggling around, or worrying if she is too fat to enjoy dancing in a nightclub. Or even if she is worth romantic attention.
Because that is how I still feel when I leave the house.
I’m not huge, a size 12-14 in most shops. Pretty average. But I feel cumbersome, heavy, and I have spent far too long hiding beneath layers.
That one ‘excuse’ from commentators, “I only mention your weight because of the health issues”. I hate it.
You really think I don’t know about the health risks associated with being overweight?? You think every single overweight person doesn’t obsess about every dent, every bulge, every fold? We know! We get it! You telling us really doesn’t help, it makes it worse! We hate ourselves, we hate our bodies, we hate our relationship with food.
Thing is, hating your body is not how you go about losing weight. It actually often leads to weight gain. The only way to gain a healthy relationship with food is to accept your body, your flaws, and work with them. To be happy, to be OK with dancing all night, to be comfortable going to a Zumba or fitness class, or confident going for a run along the canal. You are actually doing harm when you comment on someone’s weight. You make them feel abnormal.
And more to the point, you don’t know the whole story.
Some of us have medical conditions that make losing weight very difficult. Yeah, we know, you obviously “aren’t aiming your comments towards those people”.
Thing is, just because you have a medical condition, that doesn’t make you any kinder towards your own fat. Trust me, I know! I have spent so long counting calories to offset the effects of my hard-to-control hypothyroidism, I made myself feel worthless. In the past year, I have lost count of the number of times I come home from work or university and cry about how ugly I am, how fat I am.
Knowing about my medical condition didn’t stop me putting on weight as a teenager. I didn’t even realise that my thyroxine levels could be so wrong. Depression hit hard, I stopped eating whenever I wasn’t around family, putting my lunch money towards new books as a treat for not eating. I kept on putting on weight. Loved ones accused me of eating chocolates and sweets at school. I started a hateful relationship with my body that has lasted almost ten years. Even though, when I was nineteen, I found out that the thyroxine company had been putting too little levothyroxine into my tablets which is what had caused my weight to balloon. Because even though I finally knew it wasn’t my fault, I had already decided my body was evil and needed to be punished for its mistakes.
I still punish my body. This punishment takes the form of running four times a week, I go to five gym classes, and I feel I must tell everyone about it all, but also at the same time that nobody will believe me. I feel I have to justify my weight. “I know I’m fat, I’m trying to fix it!”
It sucks. But this week? I stopped.
I had a little help with my decision. Recently I met a beautiful woman who has the same congenital hypothyroidism that I have, but unfortunately, where my mother fought to have me tested when I was born, hers hadn’t. As a result, she suffered brain damage that affects her every single day. And I just felt so selfish standing there worrying about how I looked, when this wonderful woman had only gone a few more days without levothyroxine as a baby than I had, but my brain works almost perfectly. My life could have been unimaginably different.
I deleted the calorie counting app. 1400 calories per day plus hard exercise was making me tired, unable to concentrate at work and downright grumpy.
I’m still exercising, but I’m trying not to keep telling everyone about it. I tell myself I don’t need others approval.
I stop myself looking in shop windows when I walk past to see if this top makes me look completely huge.
I ordered a big steak and chips at this week’s Team Lunch and enjoyed every single bite, and didn’t eat only lettuce for two days afterwards. And you know what? I’m OK! I am managing!
Some days it has been hard.
Like today, eating lunch with my family, of which one member has been dieting so successfully. For about ten minutes, I hated my body, I wished I hadn’t quit the never-ending diet. How hard would it be to just cut my calories even more than I had before? It would surely be worth it?
But then I picked up my pretty muscular and built brother soooo easily, and I realised how strong my body is. It is awesome!
I’m making a lifestyle change. I am choosing to love my imperfections. I am choosing to focus on health, not restrictions. I’m choosing to say, “I might not be a model, but if there is ever a zombie apocalypse, I am winning”. And I am choosing to teach my niece that big women can be powerful and great. All you need is a little perspective.