Not so long ago, I read Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe and it struck a chord.
I have had issues with my weight and body image for years. Not big ones, but ones that were big enough to niggle at my enjoyment of life and lead to some very cautious shopping choices. For reasons I no longer remember, around 2011 I properly embraced a diet. I had paddled about in the waters of dieting, but never really jumped in. That year I did. Calorie counting, 1500 calories a day, must do at least 200 calories worth of exercise… I lost weight. A noticeable amount, and received compliments from friends and family. I felt really pretty good about it all!
Of course, it all ended in the predictable way. I reached my goal, I went back to eating as I had before and slowly but surely re-gained the weight and returned to my wardrobe of size 14 and 16 clothes. Which, needless to say, made me unhappy. I made the right noises of enlightened, feminist womanhood. It’s just a number on a pair of jeans, as long as they fit well, it doesn’t matter. The sizing standards are insane anyway. But, of course, underneath I felt pretty rubbish about it all.
And so began my big exploration of lifestyle dieting. The ones that aren’t a diet because you’re not counting and weighing everything. The ones that are the healthy ways to eat. Paleo, Low-carb, Low-GI. Quit sugar; quit processed foods. Now I really was losing weight. I even got to buy one or two items of clothing in sizes 8 and 10. I hadn’t been able to do that since I was a young teenager first making the move from the kids’ to the women’s clothing sections. The problem was, it just wasn’t sustainable for me.
If I’m honest, I still do believe that there is a lot of sense in some of it. Eating mainly fruit, veg and meat certainly felt healthy in terms of how I felt physically: I had more energy, my blood sugars were pleasingly stable… and it definitely led to some weight loss. But the problem was this: it was only ever a matter of time. Whether it was Christmas; my boyfriend eating Doritos; my Mum bought me an Easter Egg; we went out for dinner and I didn’t want to sit with a glass of water while everyone else ate brownies and ice cream; we were poorly and lived off ready meals for a week because we had no energy to cook. Something always came up. I’d feel guilty and horrible and after a period, be it hours or months, renew my energies in eating lots of red cabbage and boiled eggs. In fairness, I love both of these foods, quite legitimately, but that’s not the point.
This is not a new or unusual story, it’s just mine.
I saw this book mentioned by Lauren and the Books and for some reason something clicked. I bought the book, I read it, I loved it. I’m still working on things. I’m sure I will be for some time. I haven’t overnight fallen in love with my body. I haven’t overnight made peace with food and eating. But I haven’t weighed myself since I read it. When I have eaten entire bags of crisps or sweets I have been gentle with myself and tried hard not to beat myself up about it. I have given myself permission to eat whatever I want to when I’m hungry. And interestingly, although I am still eating a lot of sweet and snack foods, I am eating less than I was I think. I’m definitely eating less in one sitting and putting part packets away, rather than just eating it all. I am trying to let my body find it’s own way. I am trying to feed it nourishing food to make it happy. But I’m feeding it the things it wants too. And sometimes realising that it doesn’t make me feel so good, and trying to remember that next time. I bought and wore a swimsuit for the first time in years to take Small swimming at Center Parcs. I picked one I felt good in, not the plain black one or the one with tummy control panels (which would have been fine if they’d been the ones I felt good in!). So it’s progress. I’m glad. I’m excited. But when I see myself in the mirror, or the scales still gathering dust in the bathroom, I’m still a bit scared too.