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You are not your weight, high or low

30 Jul

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a worrying trend: I’ve seen at least four women apologising for trying to lose weight. All four are plus size bloggers, and seem to feel that wanting to lose weight is betraying the work they and their colleagues have done to advance fat acceptance and body positivity.

This needs addressing. Body positivity is about being happy with the body you have, not carrying on having a body you are unhappy with because you’re worried people will think you’ve ‘sold out’.

I understand all the issues around this, and after chatting on twitter it seemed I wasn’t the only person to notice this. The same couple of things popped up as I chatted more, and it all boiled down to the following;

  1. It might look as if I think there is something wrong with being fat
  2. It gives ammunition to people who think underneath our positivity we’re all unhappy with being fat – “I’m scared people will accuse me of not loving myself & my body.”

Neither of these arguments hold weight, and here’s why – being body positive, as we should all know, is nothing to do with what other people think. If we don’t listen to what they say when we’re trying to love our fat bodies, why should we listen to what they say when our body is changing?

If someone puts on weight, I say nothing, and if they lose weight, I say nothing. Giving notice to either of these events means I notice their body, and not them.

A body positive attitude is taking control and ownership of YOUR body, and if you’re not happy with it being above a certain weight, it is actually OK to do something about it. If you’re not allowing yourself to eat in a certain way because you’re concerned about how a group of people will react, then aren’t you just being bullied into looking a certain way by a whole new group of people?

Eight years ago, I lost 8 stone, on purpose, because I wanted to adopt a baby. My goal weight would mean by BMI was still at the top end of average, and my goal clothing size was an 18. I was told I had to lose weight to adopt a baby, and at that time that was what I wanted, so I did it. I didn’t make any apologies about it, and I shared what I was doing a lot, mainly because I was excited about being a mother, and also because I didn’t realise losing weight wasn’t as difficult as I thought.

I didn’t end up adopting a baby, obviously, and I ended up putting back on all the weight. I was kind of annoyed about it, but only because I had some kick-ass size 20 clothes. During the whole weightloss thing, I loved my body for the first time in my whole life. It wasn’t because it was smaller, but because I OWNED it. It was fit, vital, and in perfect working order, as well as being a size 20.

Because of that experience, I know it’s possible to be fat and healthy, and I know I’ll always love my body. I still love it now it’s much fatter, because I know it’s mine, it works, and without it I couldn’t do the things I love.

Recently the doctor told me I need to stop drinking and lose weight, or I’m going to die young. There was a time when he would say that, and I wouldn’t care, but this time I did. I don’t want to die yet, I have loads more stuff to get done. I have to finish that colouring book project for a start… So I stopped drinking, and I’m eating better, because I have to lose weight. It’s not that I want to, but I will, because my weight doesn’t define me.

‘No diet talk’ to me means I don’t want to hear how fat you think you’ve got, even though you still fit into a size 10, because that makes me think you’re judging me for wearing a size 28. Trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you have to be one of those people who talks about low fat food, but it also doesn’t mean that if you do talk about it you’re perpetuating diet culture. Telling me you found something which tastes really good and is low in fat is about health, not weightloss or size.

I love my body now – and I’ll continue to love it if it expands, and when it contracts. If this is betraying some fat pride logic, so be it

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too – comment below, or tweet me.

Playing – it’s not just for kids

4 Jun

Sometimes I sit back and realise just how bloody lucky I am.

The last time this happened was last week, when I was chatting to a lady in the shop. She wanted to buy something for her grand-daughter, and decided on a craft kit.

I love making things with her! We always get on really well and have a lovely time

I asked her whether she had any hobbies herself. She was about 50-ish, maybe older if she had a grandchild, so I was surprised and delighted that she said she’d just treated herself to a new smartphone. She told me how she hadn’t realised how good the camera would be, and showed me some photos she’d taken. She clearly had a good eye, and she said she’d really enjoyed herself that weekend.

This was clearly someone who got a lot out of being creative and playful. She ended up buying one kit, because she said although she liked the other one she had her eye on, she didn’t think her grandaughter would be able to manage it. I suggested she just got it herself anyway, and made it one evening – I hasten to add I wasn’t trying to upsell, it was only a quid. Her response saddened me

I’d feel silly doing it alone

I hear this every day, and it still upsets me every time.

I spent five years neglecting being creative, and it ended up nearly killing me. I’m not saying I’m a standard person, but nor I am that unusual. I’ve written before about playing, but I need to write more and more and MORE about how playing is a lifesaver, why everyone should be doing it, and how important it is.

Absolutely everyone must (and I mean must, not should) do something every day which makes them happy – otherwise what the hell is the point of being alive?

(I hasten to add that in this post, and everything I write, I am of course mindful that some people don’t have the luxury of being able to do what they want when they want to, like people living in extreme poverty, people in abusive relationships with partners or carers, and so on. But for the sake of this blog, let’s assume I’m talking to the 99% of the population who have choices about what they do or don’t do.)

I get so absolutely, mind-blowingly passionate about this, that it drives my husband a bit mad. My best mood comes at about 7.30 in the evening onwards, and that’s when I often can’t hold in how I feel about certain things, whether it’s how amazing ‘Dexter’ is, how beautiful my cat is, or how much I love making badges – it’s also usually when I end up getting upset and frustrated because not everyone is being creative every day.

This isn’t even hyperbole – I cried the other week when someone told me they couldn’t draw. Everyone can draw – it might not be very good, but the action of drawing is putting an implement onto a surface, and everyone can do it.

People are often impressed by my husband because he can paint holding a brush in his mouth, as in the actual action of him doing it, as well as the paintings being damn good – but all it took was practice. He didn’t immediately know what he was doing, and anyone starting to draw won’t either. It’s only practice at anything that makes you better at it. I mean, I have the ability to walk, I know how it’s done, but I’m not a professional speedwalker – people who are have just practised and trained, and they do it better than me. So, I wouldn’t dream of saying ‘oh I wish I could walk’ because that’s ridiculous.

Similarly anyone else who paints with their mouth, or indeed their feet, didn’t just pick up a paintbrush in their mouth or foot and paint an amazing picture – but the difference is they kept at it until it became easier, until they got better. Just like that speedwalker kept on training and becoming fitter and faster until they won races.

So practice fitting in creativity into your timetable – I’ll be writing more about excuses not to do it and how I won’t accept them another day, but for now, find a blank surface and an implement, and draw something RIGHT NOW. I promise you, now I’ve guilted you into it by talking about people painting with their feet, it’ll seem so easy you’ll never think you can’t do it again.



22 Oct

I’ve been trying to live better for a few weeks now. I’ve managed on the not smoking – apart from the occasional social cigarette, I’ve not seriously smoked in weeks. I’ve tried to be better at remembering my medication, and apart from three days where I tried not to take it, I’ve been good. I’ve also kept up with eating three times a day, and really trying to eat the right things.

However, I’m still drinking too much – I think this might be worse since I stopped smoking. I don’t really know why I just *have* to have a vice. Next thing to be dealt with, but perhaps in the new year.

Frozen fruit

4 Oct

Just a quickie – as you know I’ve been trying to live better. It’s working so far, I do feel pretty good at the minute, regular migraines aside.

One thing which has made this very easy is frozen chopped fruit from Ocado. They’re smoothie mixes, so I’ve been whizzing up a handful with apple juice for a smoothie, but they’re also good for a sweet toothed treat.

Just get a yoghurt and a handful of frozen fruit, blend them together, and it’s instant frozen yoghurt! Nice and sharp, tangy, and nothing rubbish in it. I have to admit I added honey last night as the yoghurt I used was cranberry flavour and it was a little too sharp!

So these bags of smoothie mix are two for £4, and the apple juice was 3 cartons for £3 – this has lasted me all week, with apple juice left to spare. That’s having a large smoothie every day – Pretty good value when you consider how much innocent smoothies are.

Live a little better – the start of something new

21 Sep

Last Sunday my brother went into hospital, and was treated for a heart attack. It wasn’t one, thankfully – after tests it was shown to be a virus – but it scared me. I love my brother, obviously, but it wasn’t just that. He’s vegetarian, doesn’t smoke or drink, and walks a lot. The whole time I was worrying about him, I was annoyed that it wasn’t me instead. It seemed very unfair.

I’ve always been fat – I was pudgy as a child, but then I broke my leg at 8 and spent 10 weeks in traction. My leg was weak and made sport difficult at school, and the puppy fat which probably should have gone hung around. I was also bullied in junior school, not by other children but by a teacher, and then ostracised in high school for being intelligent, a lesbian, or weird. These sound like excuses – its really not, it’s all just background.

With no disrespect to my parents, my emotions were not especially encouraged. If I was emotional due to any of these events in a negative way, I was told I was either hungry or tired, so I was fed or put to bed. I still do these things for myself as coping mechanisms. It means my weight has stayed high for almost all of my adult life. Food has always been emotionally charged, and as such carries a lot of guilt.

I went to university at 20 – I missed my boyfriend, and was bullied by younger girls in my halls for such crimes as cleaning the toilet and eating broccoli. I ended up living alone and my emotional eating habits coupled with opportunity developed into an eating disorder. I’d always been an over-eater, but now my nerves caused me to be sick as well, so bulimia was almost inevitable. I got counselling, and got over it quickly.

I did lose a lot of weight a few years ago – 8 stone to be exact – by following Weight Watchers and going to the gym almost daily. I was in the best shape of my life. I lost the weight to try and adopt a baby, but was told at size 18 I was still too overweight, and denied the chance of a child. I stopped trying to lose weight, got depressed and ended up having a nervous breakdown.

My anti-depressants made drinking alcohol impossible due to the hangovers, so I decided that now I wasn’t drinking, I would allow myself to eat what I wanted, without guilt, for the first time ever. It was also decided that being alive and fat is better than being dead. As most people on anti-depressants will have experienced, they do tend to cause weight gain anyway, so in conjunction with me eating cheese and cake, I put all the weight back on.

Unfortunately my medication also caused the disgusting side-effect of making me want to smoke. Before venlafaxine, I’d only smoked a couple of cigarettes in my whole life. To this day I don’t know why, but these pills made me want to smoke. We also decided that being alive and smoking was better than being dead. Ok, it was only three menthol cigarettes a day, but it’s still smoking.

Now, three years later, the legacy of these decisions is taking its toll. Yes, I’m alive, but I’m now more overweight, as well as being a smoker. I’ve also started drinking again as my dosage has been lowered, and I’ve got used to the hangovers. I find myself, ironically, in the worst physical health of my life instead.

Part one of changing was easy – I stopped smoking. I knew it would save me money (and being self-employed this is important) – so I just didn’t buy any cigarettes. That was about 6 weeks ago, and despite being a bit snappy now and again, it was easy. Sorry.

I’ve also been following @bangsandabun on twitter, and enjoy reading about Bangs on the Run, if not just for the fact it makes me sing Wings every time I see it. I’ve always wanted to run – I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because I want to get where I’m going quicker with less people seeing me. At the gym I only ever walked on the treadmill, because I found it hard even doing that in a straight line.

I also enjoy reading about Peach Nia and her raw food diet. She’s adamant that what you eat affects your health to such an extreme it’s infectious. I tried making packed lunches like a graze box – nuts, dried fruit and so on – but I have to admit, delicious as they were, I didn’t keep up with it.

With these influences, Food and exercise were clearly the best areas to tackle first. Alcohol will be the last one, in case you’re wondering. I don’t think I can stand having no emotional crutches at all.

I actually only ever eat four times a day. I know this is hard for some people to understand. I am overweight because I am too sedentary and when I do eat, I still eat exactly what I want, not because I am continually grazing on sweets.

Sample food diary

Breakfast – fruit and fibre with soy milk, black coffee
Lunch – cheese and ham sandwich, black coffee
6pm – black coffee and cake
Dinner – Chinese takeaway – prawn toast, then fried rice with chicken & cashew nuts

If I counted the calories it would probably not be much more than 2000 – of course I haven’t written down the vodka and diet coke, or the fact I was sitting most of the day. But it’s woefully lacking in nutrients, has too much fat and hardly any vegetables or fruit. The new plan is to eat at the same times, but different things. It’s not rocket surgery.

Exercise-wise I always loved the rowing machine at the gym, so I’m going to try and find a cheap second-hand rowing machine, and get using it so I am a bit fitter before I even try and run. I don’t have a decent pair of trainers anyway so rather than hurt myself trying to do something I’ve never done before, I’ll do something I enjoy until I buy trainers.

I appear to have rambled. I clearly had more to say on how I got to where I am than I thought. It all seemed important enough to not be edited out. As I said at the start, they are not excuses, not in the slightest. They are merely a way to show how someone can be enormous, but it isn’t because they are lazy, eat five breakfasts, or gorge on boxes of chocolates all night.

My point was I’m fat, smoke, drink and have a sedentary job – if my brother’s cardiac event had been a heart attack I would have felt only guilt that it wasn’t me, not relief. Instead, I’m going to be grateful for it being a wake-up call, and live a little better every day.