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.