Here’s what’s happening with me: my doctor told me I’m obese, I’ve not felt healthy for a while now, and today I begin a terrifying and exciting journey to lose almost 3 stones of weight – 38 pounds, to be exact.
I’ve been gently accumulating extra fat. We could call it “softness”, “womanliness”, or “padding” but it isn’t any of those things. It’s fat. I feel comfortable using that word, and always have. I wrote a book called I’m Fat (and still get laid), as my own way of taking ownership of that word. I’m not afraid of it.
“But you’re not fat!” emails, Tweets, and well-meaning family would counter, because people are nice, and often we use that word as weapon, particularly against women, as another way of saying, “You’re not perfect.”
I am perfect – perfect as I’ll ever be. I’m also fat. Those two things are separate, because the circumference of my thighs is not directly related to my worthiness as a human being, and I know that in my bones. I love myself, so incredibly much, and am proud of the work I’ve put in to being my best self. I meditate, I listen, I find the lesson, I share the story. I’m a good friend, aware sister, humble daughter, honourable employee, considerate housemate. But my Body Mass Index – an arguably flawed but NHS-approved general system for establishing an ideal weight range for one’s height – pegs me at obese. My belly rests on the tops of my thighs when I sit. My chin triples as I look down. My thighs applaud each other when I run up the stairs.
I was genuinely, totally and absolutely fine with my body, with my health, with what I saw in the mirror… until I wasn’t.
I’ve been researching and pondering on the things that keep us “small”, lately – what we do to limit our potential. Irresponsible financial behaviour (check), stupidly smoking roll ups (check), taking shit from people who don’t get to tell you what you are (check) – these are all things I’ve been trying to work out. And then it hit me: I limit my body’s potential by eating a shag-ton of crap and not working out enough.
I’ve spent years figuring out how to optimise my heart, my mind, and my soul – that determined awareness of self is how I get my kicks -- yet I wrap up all of that hard work in a body that I do not treat respectfully, and what’s more, that disrespect has become my identity. I hide behind being the one to finish the box of cupcakes, the one who’ll go back for seconds. “Laura can be such a riot!” can be synonym for “Fucking hell, she packs it away!” I’ve made being fat my fact, and accepted it as who I am. But what if identifying that way is actually keeping me “small”, lessening my potential?
It is such a fine line, wrought with gender politics and a complex history of emotion: the female form. Somewhere in my pursuit to eschew any notion of diets, of deprivation, of “you can’t tell me what the fuck to do with my body”, I’ve gone the other way, deliberately made myself overweight and thus unhealthy to prove a point. I’ve negatively abused my body to make a statement that we are more than our dress size, and bigger than our weight.
I want to change how I look after my body. I want to feel strong, and sexy. I strive to feel a lot of things: sassy, accomplished, adventurous, competent, but I’ve shied away from my own strength, and my own sexuality, I think because I’ve desperately wanted to prove that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I’m on the other end of that precarious spectrum now, though – I’m falling out of love with my body, and that’s as sad on counting on nothing but my looks.
Here’s the plan: I’ve signed up for a 10K race, for strength, and a very revealing bedroom boudoir photo shoot, for sexiness, both in April. For the next three months, I’ll be chasing strong, and sexy. Strong and sexy. Strong, and sexy.
I’m using a weight loss programme I have access to for free through work, a doctor-monitored high fat-burning diet, and I’ve already started training for my race with a free app on my iPhone.
I’m terrified of this change, because so much of my sense of self is wrapped up in having thighs that chafe. I’m worried changing my body will seem as though I value what’s on the inside less than I did before. But it’s totally the opposite. It’s because I value myself that I know my unhealthy habits have got to change.