There’s a reason I'm posting pictures of myself in my underwear on the Internet.
When I first wrote about wanting to lose weight, people were kind. But then, a month later, I accompanied my tales with pictures of my 180 pound self in just knickers and a bra, and my feeling of not-being-alone-ness skyrocketed. I was overwhelmed by the love and cheerleading I received. This is what a real woman’s body looks like, I declared, and my inbox was set alight with men and women both. Thank you for being wobbly and proud, they said.
I realised that accidentally, by mistake, I was using my own narrative to maybe, possibly, help other people with theirs. The story of my body image battle reflected that of others reading me.
I didn’t know there were more. Thank you.
The emails and messages that popped on my screen were deeply personal, charting struggles and wars, deep-rooted emotion and doubts and fears and suddenly, it felt – feels – like a responsibility to keep on being honest about our bodies. A responsibility to keep telling the truth. To represent real tummies.
And so it’s important to me to follow up my story – to explore, a bit, what happens after the “target weight” party. Cuz guys: it’s been rough. Yes, I got naked in a field and had my photo taken, but that was the easy part.
It’s been six months since then, and I’ve been terrified of slipping right back in to my old habits. It kinda fucked me up for a minute there. Just a second.
In May, 65 kilos and 100% happy about it, I felt great… unless I didn’t. Missing the gym one day or sneaking a bit of pic n mix into my Wilko shop saw me get totally consumed with guilt. I couldn’t figure out the balance of treats and “good” behaviour. Mainly, I think, because I was categorising it exactly that way: pleasure = sin, and bad for me; rules = respect for my body, and so respect for myself.
Thing is, you’ve got to respect yourself before you can respect your body. It’s not the other way around.
(Repeat ad infinitum, FFS.)
In August, I gained half a stone – about 8 pounds, or 4 kilos. In a month. 4 weeks. Because I started to eat like I used to – without awareness, without listening to myself, my body. I was busy, and dealing with some weird unrequited love shit, too. So I ate my feelings. And because I didn’t fuel my body properly I didn’t have the energy to hit the gym and train for another upcoming race. That, in turn, de-motivated me even more: if I wasn’t training for a race then what was the point in working out at all?
A cripplingly bad adult acne outbreak – a physical manifestation of an inner emotional malaise – meant I had to start over. Revert to eating clean, drinking water, cutting out sugar and dairy, my bad skin triggers. And suddenly, my energy was back. Running returned to joy. And with it, pieces of the jigsaw fell into place.
I don’t skip meals to be thin. Work out to stay slim. I eat well because it gives my body what it needs to function as it should, and when I use my body I feel like anything is possible.
Basically, and I don’t know how many times I’m to learn this lesson, I’m just fucking kind to myself.
Now, I’m running thrice weekly and heading to yoga twice a week. I avoid bread and pasta because I don’t like how it makes me feel (sleepy and fart-y) and I drink three litres of water a day. I eat a savory breakfast, like eggs with avocado or smoked salmon, as I’ve noticed that a croissant or cereal in the morning sets me up for sugar cravings all day.
I’ve stopped weight training at the gym, as staring at myself in a mirror 45 minutes at a time meant I ended up focussing on what I didn’t like – yoga, on the other, consistently has me marvel at my body’s capabilities.
I eat at least two, normally three, portions of veggies at every meal. I call it “crowding out” – eat so much good that you don’t want the bad. Sometimes I eat four meals a day, sometimes only two. Depends on how I feel. What my body tells me.
And if my body tells me she wants the “bad”? I have it. And I don’t beat myself up for it. But the more good I eat the less I want it. I could probably lose another 15 pounds and two dress sizes if I didn’t ever have a cupcake, but damn. Look at me. I’ve got thighs and a bum and curves, and that is absolutely fine with me. I’m a normal woman eating normal things in a normal way and I look a-okay.
So, yeah. This is me. Being normal, in my knickers, on my blog. Because we need more of that, don’t we? That normalness. That community.