Big girl pants

Oh, readers.  Do we have a belter of a post for you today.  From the one and only Katielase.  You’ll know her as the “cake-baking science nerd triathlete” (as I once described her).  I don’t know many women who won’t feel this post touch the most uncomfortable parts of their insides.  It’s brave, it’s honest, it’s unflinching.  Much respect to you, KL.  It’s not easy, doing what you’re doing.  But it’s so, so necessary.  Here we go:    

This is a story of a journey, a journey so far, not completed but begun, at least.

This year I am not trying to lose weight. I think this is the first time in my adult life that I can honestly say this. And I say it while weighing the most I have ever weighed (apart from that time I had a nearly 9lb baby inside me). That nearly 9lb baby girl though, is the reason I started trying not to try to lose weight.

I’d read so many articles and studies and research showing that girls are developing body image issues at younger and younger ages, and it was clear across the board that one of the best ways to protect them against this as a mother was to deal with your own body image issues. I never wanted my daughter to hate her body, so I started to try and stop hating my own.
It was hard. It really was, and is, hard. I have worked at this for the past few years, since I pushed her out and my body changed irrevocably, but now I can honestly say I can look at myself in the mirror and I don’t hate what I see. I don’t love it yet, it’s not a journey completed as I said, but most of the time I don’t hate it. I don’t wish half of it away. I don’t jump straight to my flaws. I see myself and I feel okay. I try to treat my body with kindness.

This is an empowerment for me. Particularly so because I am a reluctant anarchist, a deeply anxious rule-breaker, it does not come naturally to me not to just do what I am told. I’ve been called a teacher’s pet, a goody-two-shoes, and I will own those things, because it is quite quite true. But this, this is for me. I started for her but it’s for me now. I deserve this. I deserve to look at myself in the mirror and be happy. I am breaking the rules by doing it, because the rules say I should want to lose at least 5 stone, I should want to skim down my hips and tone up my thighs, I should want my cheekbones to stand out and my waist to go in and my bum to perk up but I am refusing to want that, I am resisting. I am breaking the rules and it feels amazing.

I mean, maybe it wouldn’t feel quite so incredible if I had snuck out and got drunk as a teenager once in a while and experienced the buzz of rule-breaking but whatever, it’s a thrill. It’s empowering.

Now, I am currently 15 stone, a size 16, definitely overweight, probably obese if I cared to check my BMI which I do not because I don’t give a tiny flying banana for the BMI scale and its narrow definition of health. I have never really valued BMI as a measure of health, but I have absorbed a lot of society’s attitudes towards obesity and I did and do care about my future. So, when I started this journey I started with a search for information. I am a scientist at heart, a nerd as well as a teacher’s pet, and I like to go into any challenge armed with knowledge. This is what I have learnt.

Health is not a number on a scale, despite what we are constantly told. You can be healthy at any size. I don’t want to go into the details here because that’s not the post I am writing today, but if anyone would like a little bit more information on this, then this article is a brilliant place to start. And maybe I’ll write another one some time, because I can’t resist some statistics.

The more I read and immerse myself in body positivity though, the more I understand that even health is not the point, really. My body would be deserving of my respect and my love and kindness, even if it wasn’t ‘healthy’, for whatever reason. When I was pregnant with my second baby, I developed pre-eclampsia, which was diagnosed at 38 weeks, and I felt that my body had let me down. I was furious with it, for months. I couldn’t get past it. This was such a challenge for me, such an eye-opener. It took me a while even to realise how much I hated my body for letting me down. My body wasn’t healthy at that moment, and I was so unhappy with it. It’s taken nearly 10 months for me to forgive my body, to remember that treating it with kindness even when it isn’t perfect extends further than the superficial. I had to learn to like my body when it was ill as well as when it didn’t look the way I has always thought it should. It was hard.

And that hasn’t been the only challenge, as I said, it is hard, this. I said superficial but it isn’t really. It goes so deep. Some days I look in the mirror and I just see a fat girl, and I despair. I think oh how I would like to be just a bit thinner, maybe I could be a size 14, and that would be better. But then I remember that I have been there and I know when I get there I will look again and think maybe I could be a size 12. And then maybe a size 10. I’ve never been a size 10 so I can’t say what comes next but I am 99% sure it is maybe a size 8, because none of this is really about what size I am or what I weigh, it’s about how I feel about myself.

So, I am making a decision, I am choosing to try and feel good.

Then again, sometimes I look at pictures of myself from 5 years ago, and I’m taken aback by how little of me there is, and I think how much better I looked, because I can’t help it. We are all conditioned to think people look better when they are thinner, it’s automatic (although side note: at the time I still didn’t like my body and wanted to lose weight so, yeah). I make myself look again. I see my smile, my big stupid ridiculous grin that scrunches my nose and wrinkles my eyes and I know will give me laughter lines probably from about the age of 35. I love that smile. It’s my favourite thing about myself. I suspect it’s hard for people to even see my body when I smile like that, it’s a good goddamn smile.

All this, it has freed me to really revel in the things my body can do. I’m mildly obese and yet I can run 5k, I can swim 2k, I can row 500m on a machine faster than any other woman at my small gym, I can do 20 full press-ups. None of these things are why I have become okay with my body, I chose to do that regardless of what it can do, but I am still proud of them. In the past I have exercised because I didn’t like my body, because I felt I should be fitter and thinner, and I hated it. All those years I deprived myself of something that I could have loved, simply because I made it a punishment for myself. Now I exercise for the joy of challenging myself, for the rush of endorphins, for the peace it brings to my often-anxious mind, and for the time to be myself, just myself. It’s such a gift.

I always struggle to end posts, and I’m not sure what my concluding point is, really. I’ve just been thinking about this for nearly 3 years and now I have a space to write it down again, and share it, and get it out. But I’m also not here to preach and convert, I’m not saying anyone else should do what I’ve done. It’s been hard and grim and wonderful and empowering but that is just for me. If it is for you also, then that is wonderful, but if you aren’t in that place then that’s also okay. You are okay. That is all.

Categories: Body Image, Health, Life Experience
39 interesting thoughts on this

39 Comments

  1. Penny
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    This is so brave and brilliant. And the best thing is, the more you do this stuff the easier it gets. It’s a mental path you can train your brain to go down instead of the old, unhealthy one.

    When I was in recovery for an eating disorder I would force myself to look in the changing room mirror every day at the gym so I could confront the fact that it was changing. It was one the hardest, rawest things I’ve done. But it helped me become more objective, tougher and more rational about how I looked. A body is just a body, in all its brilliance and beauty. Just another bit of life on our tiny planet.

    Px

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      You are a proper inspiration and a bad-ass Penski x

  2. Zan
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    So much of this is so familiar. Infertility made me feel like my body had let me down horribly. And it’s still something I struggle with now as well as an ever present battle with my weight. One thing I’ve worked hard to do is not instantly compliment on weight loss with family/friends. It’s so ingrained as a response, but isn’t always a positive change and there’s much better attributes to comment on!

    Great post xx

    • Ro
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I very rarely notice people’s weight loss and hate it when women (always women, my MIL particularly) then fish for compliments about their weight in front of my daughter – what on earth do you say?! x

      • Katielase
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Completely agree with this, also goes for people referring to food as ‘bad/good’ in front of her, and I’ve taken to just saying “all food is good food” because I can’t bear her not to hear me correct it! x

        • CMac
          Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

          Gah!! The BAD / GOOD food thing DOES MY HEAD IN!!
          See also ‘I deserve a little treat / oh go on then, let’s be naughty / if you’re really good you can have ‘

  3. Rach M
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Great piece Katie. Brave and brilliant. You’re convincing me I need to give myself a break too. Thank you xxx

  4. Diana (adizzygirl)
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Wonderful and brace writing, as expected.

    You are exactly where I want to be and I’m so thankful that you wrote about how you got there. This has been the perfect reminder I need. For the first time in my life I’m dieting purely to be ok with my body rather than to be thin/skinny/size 12.

    I’m also dieting now while my 15 month old won’t remember, in the hope that she knows a mother who has a healthy lifestyle and sensible attitude to food rather than one who obsesses over every calorie and can’t look in the mirrror.

    I’m dieting so that I can be more comfortable exercising, but exercise that makes me happy rather than exercise that makes me burn the maximum amount of fat.

    I was pretty angry with my body during pregnancy. I saw other people seem to sail through without the aches, the extreme bump, the sodding gestational diabetes and it irritated me that I wasn’t the same. Then I delivered a 10lb baby and spent most of a year in utter awe of what my body had actually achieved. But I rewarded those achievements with cake and chocolate and biscuits. So many biscuits.

    Now I have a toddler who I can’t retrieve if she goes into certain areas of soft play and enough is enough. She deserves a mother who is fit and healthy. A role model who can promote healthy body image without obsessing over her own body. I will shut down any person who comments on my daughters size, weight or eating habits but then look in the mirror and grimace. That’s not how it should be.

    Strangely, changing my focus from “get skinny” to “be comfortable with myself” has been the biggest motivation I needed.

  5. Fee
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Oh KL, you are glorious and wonderful as ever.

    I love all of your thoughts on this – you’re right, the impact of our thoughts and actions and words impact not just us but our children, other adults, everyone. Your attitude towards it all is inspiring. You are strong and healthy and a fantastic role model for your children.

    I had a total furious hate for my body as quite frankly, it really really let me down a few times. But somehow the growing and having of my babies made me feel like a superhero for the first time. For me that was a huge physical achievement (I know it’s nature and science and women have been doing it for thousands of years etc) but it’s made me want to have more physical achievements where I feel strong. Next stop: Great North Swim.

    The weight issue is one I’ve always struggled with but FINALLY in my mid thirties I have realised that I want to feel strong and healthy, not just be a lower weight or a smaller size. I wish I’d realised this a long time ago. I’m definitely going to try and pass this message onto my boys.

  6. Anon
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I absolutely love this post, it resonates with me. I lost my baby in a second trimester miscarriage last year and since then I can’t even look at my body. For me it’s not a pregnancy weight thing, obviously (that must have fallen off as I drowned in grief in the weeks and months after it happened, I never checked) but, as you mentioned with pre-eclampsia, it’s the idea that my body failed so horrendously at a time when we so badly needed it to work. The fact that I couldn’t protect my longed-for, adored baby daughter is something I still can’t process some days. I’m at a point now where I have to start learning to trust my body again, but I just have no idea where to start. This is a really thought-provoking and helpful post and I’ll be reading it several times, I think. Thank you.

    • Fee
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Am so so sorry to hear this. Sending you so much love. I’m almost 5 years on from losing our first baby boy and I promise, it slowly gets a little easier. If you ever want to chat I’m sure the girls can pass on my details xxx

      • Anon
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        Fee, thank you. I’m so sorry you have been through it. I don’t know anybody that this has happened to in “real life” and it can be pretty isolating. I’ve read your posts and they are so beautifully written and full of hope.. it would be so good to chat, if one of the girls could maybe put us in touch and you wouldn’t mind? xx

        • Fee
          Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely! Will ask them xxx

          • Posted March 9, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            Anon, I’ll send you Fee’s details. All my thoughts with you.

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Oh I am so so sorry this happened to you, how unfair and awful. Be kind to yourself, both your body and your mind, there’s absolutely no right way to get through something as awful as this, so just treat yourself gently and with love. Sending you all the love and light in the world to help with this

      KL x

  7. Laura
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Sweet Jesus, you don’t know how to end posts?! Oh KL, but you do

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Oh, thank you. This means a lot coming from someone as skilled with words as you! It’s always just my least favourite part of a post to write.

      KL x

  8. Posted March 8, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Great post KL! What an amazing attitude to be developing, not only for yourself but for your little ones to aspire too as they grow up.

    Making any kind of changes in our lives are difficult, going against what society dictates to us even more so. Learning to love ourselves for who we are is probably our most difficult one in my opinion. I have felt angry with my body for a long time, 5 years of infertility wore me down, then I got told I have Multiple Sclerosis, just another thing to be angry with my body for, alongside the ideas that society has given me on what my body should look like and how it should work. I am currently working through many ‘body’ issues, I’m not there yet but reading this today has really helped.

    Thanks x

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Claire you are a warrior, I literally don’t have any other word for it. If this has helped you at all then I’m beyond delighted

      KL x

  9. Peabody_Bites
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    This is brilliant. And just what I needed today – you made me realise that I have been frustrated with and resentful of my body for 18 months now, through unexplained secondary infertility and now with the nausea and bloating of 9 weeks of a second pregnancy. I hate that it can’t take this pregnancy in its stride, that I can’t separate myself from it mentally like I did the first one, and that I am already bigger at 9 weeks than I was at 19 weeks last time!
    But, actually, my body is ace. All our bodies are. It carried me last year through work travel to the opposite ends of the world twice every month for a full year without jetlag or illness. It carried my first daughter who, at 3, is gloriously unihibited about food and her body. It allows me (in theory) to run, to swim, to ski, to do yoga. And so I need to stop punishing it for not being 18, to stop being embarrassed by its 36(!) yr old sagging and bulk, and to embrace it for what it enables me to do.
    I will come back to this again and again over the next months as my body (touch wood) continues to change and grow and stretch and sag – and next year as it gradually shrinks and settles into whatever the new normal looks like. Thank you.

    I’m so glad the AOW team are back, however sporadically.

  10. Ro
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Wonderful words from a wonderful lady, KL I’m in awe of your attitude to exercise for you and your determination to raise your baby girl (and boy) to be the strong, empowered little beings they already are. I’m glad you’re starting to allow some of your immense stores of kindness and empathy to shine within as well as on all those around you. Good luck with your continuing journey. xx

  11. Martha
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    So brave and so inspiring. I hope I can get to this place one day too xxx

  12. Carly
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I loved this Katie, it spoke to me on so many different levels. 6 weeks post birth I’m not in the best place with my body -stretch marks, saggy tummy/boobs & a bloody c section scar which is an ever present reminder of what my body couldn’t do.
    I have never been thin but, last year, as I knew we were going to start trying for a baby I joined a bootcamp. Four nights a week in a muddy field, pushing my body harder than I ever had before. Like you, I became able to run, press up, squat & lift with the best of them. For the first time ever I loved my body & what it could do. After a year of doing this do you know how much weight I lost? 5Ib! Did I care, not a jot.
    I suppose my point is, that I’m looking forward to getting back to that place. I now know that I’m capable of loving my body & look forward to being body confident in my new, post baby body, once more.

    I’m sorry if this makes no sense – I know what I mean but on three hours sleep I am struggling to order my words properly!!

    Carly x

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      This is so exactly me! Training properly and finding I actually could do things I had always assumed were off limits to me because I wasn’t sporty or fit or thin was such a mind-blowing revelation. I hope you love getting back there again, I found I loved it even more post-baby because it was like getting a little bit of pre-baby me back, in the nicest possible way. Plus I love to know my kids see me enjoying exercise and being active.

      (Also I had a c-sec with my second baby, so I’m with you on the battle scar)

      KL x

  13. Amy
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Opposite side of the coin here. I generally like how my body looks with the exception of when my endo bloating makes me look hugely pregnant and stops my clothes fitting for no sodding reason but I hate how none of it works properly. With 3 chronic illnesses not including MH the most basic day to day exertions leave me exhausted and feeling like shit whilst all the time appearing fine to everyone else who just think I’m being useless.

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Ah Amy, silent illness or disability is so bloody difficult, I know people who struggle with it and it really is one of the hardest things to come to terms with. Sending you lots of love and gentle thoughts for yourself and your body

      KL x

  14. Amanda
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing. Both the content and the writing. I’m watching with admiration as you do what I’m sure I will never do. I comfort myself with the fact that because I’ve never been attractive (apart from about 18 months at age 16), I won’t find aging so hard: I’ve seen stunning women who have always defined themselves by their looks really struggle with this. This is the best I can do. You have my heartfelt admiration – you are truly a role model, for your daughter and for girls and women everywhere.

  15. ClaireH
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    This is something that’s been on my mind too, thank you for sharing this. I’ve never been ‘thin’ and have basically been at one end or other of a size 14 for my entire adult life. And I’m generally ok with that, and credit for that should really go to my mum I think as she has never really mentioned diets or weight loss etc. Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely been conditioned by society to think I’d look ‘better’ if I was a bit smaller but I’ve never been very good at either not eating or exercising loads.

    Like you, I’ve now got a little girl and this is worrying me so much for her future. On the one hand, I’m trying to be positive about food, not react negatively if she doesn’t want to eat/don’t force her to finish everything etc but on the other hand, I know I’ve eaten ALL the biscuits while on maternity leave (mmmm dark choc hobnobs!) and I’m a bit bigger than before. I know that what I need to do is work on my fitness and eat fewer biscuits/make wiser food choices to nourish my body from the inside out and be the healthiest, best mum I can be but it is hard some days not to react negatively to the number on the scales or that my new work trousers are a size bigger. Just need to keep focusing on the fact that I’m enough, just as I am, and make changes for the right reasons.

  16. Liz
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    What a bloody amazingly healthy attitude.

    It’s crazy the ridiculous relationships we all have with our bodies, our weight, our health. These perceptions of misplaced perfection are so ingrained within us that being able to say I’m happy with being me is such a big achievement.

    I went to see a doctor about something or other when I was about 24, he weighed me and told me I was slightly underweight. I had never been told anything like this before and I really liked it, I was really proud of myself. Skip forward 12 years and 2 children, at the moment I feel like I need to kick my butt into shape in every respect. The image in my head of how I look when I achieve this is getting back to the weight I was 24. When a doctor told me I was at an unhealthy weight. Utterly ridiculous. It really is time to accept that if it wasn’t healthy then, it sure isn’t going to be now. I definitely need to adopt a bit of your mindset! Thank you! xx

  17. Raluca
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this, especially today. We really need to stop thinking of ourselves as numbers on a scale or figures or shapes. From the opposite end of the spectre, I’ve been seriously skinny my whole life and have had quite a bit of trouble accepting it (as well as the many, many not-nice comments I’ve gotten over the years). It’s not easy when you’re not the “perfect” weight, whatever that may be. So yes to feeling good in our own skin (whatever size it may be), and yes to raising little women who won’t feel bad about themselves just because that’s the norm.

    And about that future stats post? Yes, please!

  18. Gemma C-S
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully written KL. it’s funny, isn’t it, how we as women can be so quick to hate or blame our bodies for letting us down, and not society for letting us down in that our physical appearance is so often the first thing we judge ourselves on? also this *isn’t* the point, but I’ve thought you seriously beautiful looking ever since I met you in person which was in fact while we were all dressed in pink smashing out a 5k in Richmond park. Gorgeous smile, flawless skin, corn silk hair, sparkling eyes, and strong, capable body which beat me by a considerable margin, when it was a race actually. BMI doesn’t encompass that data. Much like my personal figure type – having both a thigh gap and a muffin top.

  19. CMac
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    You know those women you know / sort-of-maybe-know / see on social media that you have a kind of fangirl thing for just because, on some level, their particular breed of awesome really speaks to you?

    Well, secret confession KL; from the 1st post I read of yours that changed my life and I still carry around in my bag as a dog-eared over folded scrap of a comfort blanket (anxiety superheroes: seriously. Changed. My. Life) to gems like this. You are one of those bloody brilliant women to me.

    • Katielase
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      Well I am genuinely in tears now, in the best possible way. It is a ridiculous crime that we haven’t met up yet. I’m going to sort this out, we need to hang out in a pub, anxiety superheroes and all

      KL xx

    • Raluca
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      I second that. I’ve read KL’s posts so many times it’s actually ridiculous. The anxiety ones have given me so much comfort and faith that somehow it can be better. Also ridiculous, I never found the courage to comment until yesterday :)

      • Katielase
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        I am crying again, guys. Honestly, you are ruining me. Properly overwhelmed in the loveliest way possible. In fact I am screenshotting these comments for bad days. Thank you for being so lovely.

        Hooray for commenting Raluca! Hope it’s the start of many many more xxx

  20. Caro
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Oh KL. Just yes just yes yes yes.
    I’m one of those up and down dieters. I lose a stone or two then put it back on then lose it again and I hate myself for it every single time. I’m happy with how I look really and so why do I feel the need to conform to how I think I should look?

    Like you my body has desperately failed me in the past and to be totally honest is not doing as it’s told right now either for a couple of reasons and so I feel helpless in that regard. But I wouldn’t ever want my child to think that I wasn’t happy in my skin for something as minor as my trousers being a bit snug.

    I’m in danger of getting rambly so will just end with a well done. You a strong and healthy and the perfect role model for your kiddies xxx

  21. Linsey
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    KL, I love this. You have such a healthy attitude to these things, and also the ability to recognise when you could actively improve it and that’s so inspiring!
    I’m guilty of seeing exercise as a weight loss tool but I enjoy the acheivement of it when I commit, never competitive with anyone except with myself. You have convinced me that I need to get off my bum and do it for me xxx

  22. Posted March 10, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I loved this piece. I have all kinds of health issues at the moment. I may be infertile. My thyroid is not working, my skin is covered in psoriasis and I am having a massive autoimmune flare up so I get the whole my body letting me down thing.

    Also as a result of the above my weight is weird. So weird. On Wednesday my uncle told me I had lost weight and I had to counter the bit of me that felt glad with the knowledge that I had not been able to eat properly for three days at that point. It is such a messed up way of relating to yourself.

    Weirdly though despite being 2 stone heavier than my wedding day, more reliant on medication to function that before and with my endocrine system doing some kind of massive freak out, I am probably the most happy with my body I have ever been. No idea how I am managing it, and some days are easier than others, but there it is.

    Thanks for this though. I am glad other people are finding ways through this silly little minefield.

  23. Lara
    Posted March 12, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    KL, you are my inspiration always. I have so much that I want to say about this that it’s a post itself, I should probably just go and write it already! For now, I want you to know that you really do inspire and give me hope. Everything you write shifts something in me for the better. THANK YOU for being you xxx

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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