I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for almost a year now. I’ve been coming up with excuses not to post it from ‘I’ll post it when I’ve finished my journey’ and ‘I can’t post it yet, it’s not the right time of year’ to ‘this is garbage, I will never post it’. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and go for it (and close my eyes really tight and hope for the best).
I’ve referenced my on-going weight loss and self-love journey in a few posts but I’ve never actually sat down and written about it. So I’m going to. It’s a break from the normal bookish and occasional creative posts and I wouldn’t be offended if you skip it, but it’s an important post to write.
It’s important for two reasons: 1) so that I can look back at it and see how far I’ve come, I would like to have a record of it and 2) because things like this should be talked about. So many people struggle with body-image and weight and eating, the more stories that are out there, the more people they can possibly help.
On that note, I am going to include a TRIGGER WARNING. This post will talk about body-image, self-love, and eating habits. If reading about these things affects you, please don’t read on. Out of courtesy for those who might be triggered by my story, all of my journey posts will continue under a cut.
When I was just a little girl
…I asked my moooother what will I be. Ahem. Sorry about that, it couldn’t be helped. I mean, it could be helped, but I have to inject humour into this somehow.
When I was a kid, I had phases. Phases of being not quite twiggy but still pretty slim, phases of being average, and phases of being a little bowling ball (I hide the pictures of that last one). None of these things bothered me. I didn’t care, I was too busy making up stories and collecting snails. My bowling ball phase probably lasted less than a year, so I didn’t really notice at the time and it’s only from pictures that I know it happened.
During these phases, my eating habits didn’t change. I still ate as I always had, I think my body was just working out what it wanted to look like. I am pretty sure I ate well, I wasn’t a huge fan of fruit but I loved vegetables. My school lunches tended to include a sandwich, some malt loaf (some people call this Soreen?), a penguin (for non-UK readers a penguin is a little chocolate bar) and something else but I can’t for the life of me remember what. I always had a balanced meal when I got home from school and would perhaps have a packet of crisps as a snack and a little chocolate mousse after dinner. Other than the fact that I eat things in a somewhat strange, methodical way, I didn’t really think about my food too much.
I wasn’t at all interested in being girly, in the sense that I didn’t really care about clothes. I loved dressing up my Barbies but when it came to myself, I wasn’t that bothered. Though, I did fall in love with a dress my Nanna made for either me or my mum when she was a child out of an old silk curtain thing (see picture – it’s under the apron, she also made a dress out of a towel, the woman is a feat in and of herself). I was obsessed. It was my favourite. Along with another of my mum’s old dresses, which she hated, and a tartan skirt and shirt combo. Whenever I wore the latter I was convinced that I was, in fact, Beatrix Potter, and whenever I had mini sausage rolls while wearing that ensemble I was Jemima Puddleduck. I have no idea why. But I love it.
There was only one real time when I begged my parents for a certain item of clothing that I remember. I was in primary school and all of the Cool Girls™ were wearing these tops which weren’t really tops. They were a bit of material for the front with strings to tie across the back and around the neck to keep said material on the body. They were ridiculous and wholly inappropriate for pre-teens. My parents, understandably, did not get me one. Instead, they compromised. Instead of buying me half of a top, they bought me a top which was full-length at the front and a crop top at the back, with ties to hold the bottom bit down.
They bought me two, one white with glittery pink patterns and one pink with glittery white patterns.
I loved them. I often paired them with a dashing pair of pink snake-skin print trousers. I was the epitome of fashion.
Other than those few examples, I didn’t really think about my clothes. I was happy enough to wear a hand-me-down Lion King shirt and cargo trousers. It was a great time. A carefree time. I was blissfully unaware that girls thought about how their bodies looked. I hadn’t felt the sting. Yet.
I don’t know many people who can pinpoint the exact moment from their childhood that they developed a pattern of thinking or acting. For a while, even I couldn’t. I pushed it down and mostly forgot about it. That is until I started really thinking about it, thinking about the loss I wanted, why I wanted it, what that meant for me, and how I’d gotten to this point. It occurred to me that while I couldn’t pinpoint that moment for the longest time, I had thought about it a lot throughout my life; it was something I fell back on a lot both in good moments and in bad.
I am going to preface by saying that I don’t think the person around whom this memory revolves really meant anything by it. At least, not any more than anyone else means anything when they are sort of bragging about something at your expense. This person probably doesn’t even remember, and that’s okay. I know that if members of my family read this (hello, family) they will probably easily be able to guess who that person is, and I hope they don’t mind me sharing this story. It doesn’t come from a place of resentment, it comes from a place of understanding. I think it’s great that I am able to see where my body issues stem from and it’s definitely helped me on this most successful leg of my weight loss journey. While it’s not a nice memory, it’s not necessarily something I would change. (I am who I am because of everything that has happened in my life, this included.)
When I was a child, part of my family gathered every year for a summer party. It was almost always gloriously sunny and the food was always excellent, even for me (I was a fussy child – now I’m not and it’s wonderful). I loved going to these parties but I was never one to don the ol’ swimming costume and jump into the pool with my cousins, I much preferred to sit in a corner, or with my parents, drawing, reading and watching the world go by. It was perfect, I was surrounded by people I loved, doing things that I loved, eating food that I loved.
At one particular party (I don’t remember which year or really how old I was but I’m going to hazard a guess that I was about 8 or 9, 10 at the absolute oldest) I was wandering into the house to get some lunch when my cousin and her friends sped past in their swimming gear, ready for the pool. I remember jumping out of the way and laughing, and I remember my cousin saying I should join them. Being content to be a little wallflower, I said something along the lines of ‘Nah’ and continued on my way.
But before I could go into the house, I was stopped by my cousin’s mum. She was smiling after her daughter when she placed a hand on my shoulder. I don’t remember the exact phrasing she used, but I do remember some of the words and the implication behind it. With a hand on my shoulder and a smile on her face, she said,
“Don’t worry. You’ll get rid of all that puppy fat soon, then you’ll be able to go in the pool like [[redacted]] and her friends.”
Before this point, I had never thought about body fat, or being fat, or the idea of fat. I don’t think I was particularly big. My body was just gearing up to think about starting puberty but nothing had occurred thus far. But with those words… first, I was just confused. It was such a strange thing to be told and I’d never had anything like that said to me before. Other than that I must store my food in my legs but I think most children are told that at some point in their lives.
The next thing I felt was my stomach dropping like I’d swallowed a stone some time ago and my throat had only just released it into the rest of me. I remember thinking things like what puppy fat? do I have puppy fat? and what does that even mean? Can I not get in the pool as I am? Then came the worry about what other people thought of me. Suddenly my willingness to sit on the sidelines was a defence mechanism so that people wouldn’t look at me. I didn’t want people to look at me because I was worried that I was fat and that people thought that I was fat. I still don’t like people looking at me.
I wasn’t a hugely popular child in school, some children were mean, others just didn’t notice me but suddenly I was worried that people didn’t like me because I was bigger or uglier than I should have been. Suddenly everything was more personal and I was always worrying about it. In that one instant, I became a number in the catalogue of girls who worried that they weren’t good enough, and that worry has stuck with me ever since.
A worry that I have acted on in not the most brilliant ways. (Stay tuned for part two, where I will be talking about this in detail.)
Another unfortunate side effect of those words was that I believed that once I passed puberty, I would suddenly be lithe and slim and pretty and that it would solve all of my problems. Spoiler alert: it did not.
Stay tuned for part two, where we meet me as a teenager, a squishy, awkward, very (and I mean very) dramatic teenager.
(When I am feeling brave enough to post it, that is.)