I tried a dress on this morning. I’ve not worn it for years because I’d lost quite a lot of weight and it was too big.
‘Too tight?’ suggested my 8 yr old. An observation, not a criticism.
‘Yup,’ I agreed. ‘Never mind,’ I said with a smile, stripping off and standing in my pants to find something else. I showed no shame, I wasn’t coy, I didn’t let on that in my head, there was an entirely different conversation happening: Too tight. Because you’re weak willed and stupid and have properly let yourself go. You disgust me. Not an observation; a blatant and ugly criticism. Criticism that continued, as I searched out something cool enough for the weather, that wouldn’t subject the world to how very fat I’ve let myself get. How disgusting I am. How stupid I am for knowing, as I sat dunking crisps in dip, washed down with wine, exactly what I was doing to myself. I’m not just disappointed in myself, I’m actively, verbally, punching myself in my fat gut with every passing minute of the day.
How dare I!? How dare I speak to myself like that?! I wouldn’t take it from anyone else, I’d never stand by and watch someone speak like that. I’d be appalled if I overheard a conversation like that. In fact, I would never even think about anyone else in the first place. I would never think someone should stay at home because they’re so disgusting. I would never judge a clothing choice because it didn’t completely and entirely hide just how fat they’d got. I would never look at them in a mirror and turn my nose up in shame and disrespect.
So why is it okay to do that to myself?
Of course, I know that it’s not. With every word of disgust, there are as many that say, Why? Why does it matter? Who is judging you? On what basis? Such is the split of my inner monologue. My logical, grown up mind also says, You’ve had a rough few months. That was how you dealt with it. Don’t beat yourself up. Find some forgiveness… it’s just that, that voice isn’t quite as loud.
I’ve struggled with body image for a lifetime. I was forty last week. When I was thirty, I vowed not to feel about my body the way I did in my twenties. I lost over three stone. I felt great. I felt amazing in fact. And I truly, truly, felt I’d managed it because I’d finally realized that my body does not define me. That I am more than the sum of its parts. Which of course is true, and yet, now that those parts are once again bulging and soft and sagging and bloated, and incapable of fitting in high street clothes, or, frankly, most of my wardrobe, I realise that I start another decade of my life no further on in my relationship to my body.
A relationship I cannot pass on to my children.
A relationship I do not deserve to have.
I should not want to avoid seeing people because I’ve got fat. Because I weigh more than my husband. I should not be sat here now, with tears in my eyes, knowing that to lose what I’ve gained is going to take forever because it did last time.
None of this should matter. I haven’t changed.
Now, I know that when I post this, my friends will want to jump to my defense. They will tell me I am beautiful or gorgeous, they will tell me that they love me. Some might even make recommendations on where I could go to help lose the weight. Others might tell me I’m not fat, as if to be so is a terrible thing, a thing we’d all want to avoid, because you know, fat, eurgh! But don’t. Please. Truly, don’t. That is not the point of this blog post.
So, what is the point?
Honestly? I’m not totally certain, except that it is something I’ve felt compelled to write this morning. I think because I’ve gone through life hating myself when I am not what I consider acceptable to society (even when I was, but didn’t realise it!). I am weary. Tired of that level self-scrutiny. Exhausted by the many solutions I offer myself daily. Because actually, all I really want, is not to care. The same way I don’t care when it isn’t me.
I’ve read recently about a lot of people who simply started to change their thinking. To tell themselves that they love how they look. And in so doing, eventually, they believed it. And by god, do they radiate all of the good stuff; beauty in its purest form, from every single pore.
Is it really as simple as that?
Can I just change my thinking?
I am a strong woman, I’ve achieved things I’ve set my mind to, I’ve been proud of myself, I’ve tackled life’s curve balls and I’ve never been scared of hard work. And yet this…? This feels insurmountable. An Achilles heel. A wall so tall, I can’t even see the top.
And what makes it worse, is that I know I’m not the only one.
As we face a world of uncertainty, terror, fear, greed, poverty, manipulation, Donald Trump… and probably a whole host of other things about which we should be aware, my getting fat is not relevant. My writing about it, and posting it to my social media, is – at best – self-indulgent.
Yet still, I know, I’m not the only one.
And those of us with these internal self-destruct buttons, come in all shapes and sizes. Literally ALL SHAPES, and ALL SIZES. Is it us in the wrong? Or is a society that allows us to believe success and beauty comes in a “bikini ready” body that’s really at fault here?
I know the answer, because I’m smart.
Yet still, I disgust myself.
And I know, I’m not the only one…