I hope you will afford me some narcissism on this one in the aim of the greater good. Of course, I see that blogging itself is probably a narcissistic activity, but this subject, that of weight, self image and wellness is one I feel strongly about. I am also very much still on my personal journey with it and see that so many others are too.
So, my relationship with body image and weight goes like this – in my teenage years I thought I was fat. I was tiny, 8 stone 7, 26″ waist, curvy and with that irritating teenage ability to eat and drink ad infinitum without the carnage of cellulite erupting before the night is even over.
Obviously, that blissful age must leave us all, and by my 20′s I had entered into the pendulum of weight swinging which I have been in ever since. My weight has always been linked with stages of endometriosis and the way it has affected my life; prolonged periods of pain and hormonal treatments, exhaustion, operations and the rest have taken their toll on my activity levels, depression levels, and ability to stay actively healthy.
In my 20′s I did what many women my age were and are still doing – that is, every kind of quick fix there was when the desk job starts and the metabolism slows down. I did Slimfast (lost loads but passed out often), smoking all day every day without eating (effective but dying of cancer ill advised); Atkins diet (again, fainting often and blood sugar everywhere), food combining (actually this was great but hard to maintain), and finally Weightwatchers.
For me, in the my late 20′s Weightwatchers stopped the crazy cycle of quick fix diets, got me down to a slimmer 9 stone, and there I stayed for a while. At that stage I was not very active, and would consider a walk to the pub my daily activity, all to earn the “points” to drink the pint at the other end. But hey, to all intents and purposes I got the weight off. I needed to re-educate myself to eat less, move more and be aware of portion sizes and that worked for me at the time.
Ater my 3rd laparoscopy for endo I became a lot more active. I cycled an hour each way to work at last 4 days a week, ran my very first events and discovered a whole new body – one that was strong. This was a revelation to me. I had discovered skinny, I had boomeranged in an out of overweight and bloated to broken and on self destruct, but this new me was a whole new chapter. I never weighed myself any more or counted points. I was exercising enough and eating well enough that my body had become slim, strong and happily active. My clothes hung well, I had confidence back, this was, as they say, was new me.
During this time I happened to pop along to my gym and the personal trainer weighed me. To my horror, I was classified as obese. At 10 stone 6, this fit, happy, confident body was suddenly doing it all wrong and I just seemed so wrong.
I have gone back to Weightwatchers since – after having my twin girls I was too sleep deprived and ill after the birth to exercise much and wanted to keep a check on my weight – and, once again, it worked. The difference was that this time I had known how a healthy, strong body feels. I knew how it felt to run 10k, cycle 26 miles a day, to feel strong and good. On diet plans I always find myself cold with hunger, counting the minutes to my next allowance, and only able to exercise at the very minimum as I don’t have the energy to do anything else.
I have lost and gained weight several times since then, and as someone with oestrogen dominance and now post children, it certainly doesn’t come off as easily as it once did. However, last year I ran my first ever half marathon and it re-ignited that passion for movement in my body. I now go to yoga once or twice a week and combine running with getting out on my bike. My body is beginning to feel strong again after a harsh year of hormonal treatments and pain. I can feel muscles working, my stature is changing and I can feel that I am back on the road to being what I know is right – strong and healthy, although I know that won’t always mean slim and certainly won’t mean skinny. The government guidelines on weight and BMI indicate that for my height and weight, at 5 ft 3 and 10 stone 7, I am overweight. I can feel that my body needs to change for the better, and I am aware I am carrying extra weight but I just won’t let it be my main focus.
As someone who battles with my body and a chronic illness alongside motherhood and business, I refuse to berate myself any more for my body image. I may not have the abounding self assured confidence of my youth, but I certainly don’t have the unhealthy drive to lose pounds at the cost of feeling strong. My body changed when I was pregnant, it changes when I am ill, it responds to who I am at that point in life. The best I can do for it is to eat as well as we can possibly afford, keep it active and enjoy being the me that I am at each part of life.
I don’t feel as gorgeous in my bikini as I did at 20. Who does? But, I do have a body that bore me twins, has pain every day yet still gets me out there in my trainers and Dri-fit to run like the wind through the Autumn leaves. I have a body I know can be strong and I will take that any day over feeling cold, hungry and too underfed to move. I have goals I want to reach, including cycling and running challenges, yoga moves to crack, and new experiences to have with wellness.
I don’t think I am gorgeous. I know that looks fade, I know that confidence comes and goes. At 36, I am responsible partially for the inner voices of two of the next generation; what I want to teach Eva and Mia is that being strong and well will bring happiness that far outweighs anything else. I will also tell them how awesome it feels to run 7 miles in the pouring rain with a smile on your face.