A weighty issue
A few days ago on Instagram stories, I asked the question ‘Is it ever ok for a woman to say she wants to lose weight?’ and I was met with a resounding yes. Over 300 women responded and not one thought that it’s not ok. But, almost every single response came with a, well, but.
‘Of course, it’s ok to admit you want to lose weight. But you just have to know why you’re doing it’
‘Fuck yes it’s ok. But it feels hard to admit because we’re all supposed to be body positive’
‘Yep! But I’d never say it to my friend or family as I wouldn’t want their pressure or judgment’
There were so many ‘buts’ I could’ve been in a Sir Mix a lot video.
Like almost all women I’ve struggled with food since I could remember. My family, my dad especially always rewarded me with food. Great grades? It was a table for two at Fatty Arbuckles (does that place still exist?!) with a Knickerbockerglory for dessert. Patiently waited for the car to be washed? A quick pit stop at the corner shop for some dib dab sherbet. Fell of my bike? A Bakewell tart (or at least four out of the box of six) would fix that and on and on it went until I tried to regulate every single emotion with food. These harmful practices are only visible in hindsight. When you’re in the gravy like the thickness of bad eating habits, you’re blind to the strained relationship you have with what goes in your mouth.
Bad eating habits aside, it’s important to respect my body type. Even at my smallest, I could never be described as sinewy. I’ve always had large thighs and very wide hips. So incessant social media images of photoshopped and plastic surgery blessed women aside I’m able to understand how my thoughts and reality may differ. Before my body type was taken by women more socially appealing, repackaged and sold back to me in a way that makes no sense (there is no way toothpick like thighs can hold up all of that ass silicone) I had made peace with the fact that I’m never going to look like a model.
But then I had kids. When we’re talking about body positivity, diet culture and all things regarding a woman’s body, it’s important to remember that those of us who have had children walk an entirely different path. We have something to compare our bodies to which aren’t cut-outs from magazines. We have lived through miracle versions of the before and after of our physical selves and often pine for a figure that’s far closer to home.
A cocktail of youth, illness and watching what I ate when pregnant and after having Esmé, meant that my post-baby body then was something I look back on with happiness. Whilst, of course, I had expanded, I hadn’t gained much weight at all. I slipped back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe wears without struggle and didn’t think much of the constant SnapBack culture because I snapped back in my own personal way. I didn’t have a six pack before having her so really didn’t expect miracles.
This time around has been a struggle. In the four years since having her, I became more sedentary and of course, I gained weight. I fell pregnant with RJ whilst trying to lose weight but deep down I knew that dieting and pregnancy aren’t two things that should go steady. So I relaxed on the point counting and tried to work out as much as I allowed and promised to make up for lost time on the other side of the postpartum journey.
And now I’m here I’m a little conflicted. I absolutely believe that pictures like the above are important to share as it makes women who’ve witnessed their body change, feel less alone. I’ll drop my garms in a moments notice if that means that I’m able to help someone, anyone else, understand that these changes are normal. This body has carried two children and pulled through when I mentally thought I could go no further. I do not speak ill of my body because I’m able-bodied, in good health and able to experience life in a physical way which many cannot and for that I am grateful. But all of that aside, I still want to lose weight. And I don’t know why that’s so damn hard to admit. Actually, I do. It’s because like many of the women I spoke too, I feel like in a world that screams #bodypositivity I may actually be chastised for that admission. For all the ‘sisterhood’ and ‘girl gang’ bullshit, I’ve noticed when it comes to money and weight the solidarity sometimes ceases to exist.
I’ve watched the physical recoil of conversations that veer towards salaries and scales. Both things contain numbers that very few want to do the sums on.
When a woman says she wants to lose weight at dinner with her girls it’s all ‘no babe you look great’, ‘don’t say that about yourself’, ‘I’d kill for your figure!’ (that one usually comes from the friend that resembles Naomi Campbell - come on let’s be honest)
I’ve been that girl. And to be honest all I wanted to hear was ‘you know what girl, what can I do to help you along this journey? Should we trade in the cheeseburger for a chicken salad? Waiter!’
What I am learning is that you can’t use the term body positivity to then profit off of diet culture. Numerous wonderful Instagram accounts have shown me how dangerous that it. Body positivity is there to actively support those who have learned to have no qualms about their bodies as is and would like the support and respect of society no matter their size. And whilst I want that for myself, is it possible to cling to the lamppost of body positivity whilst trying to run towards an older version of myself? I’m not clear about that yet like I said, I’m still learning.
It’s not about being obsessive, it’s not about starving. It’s just about making wiser choices which will help allow me to enjoy clothes which remain in storage because the zips just won’t budge. It’s also really about fitness and strength. Five weeks into the couch to 5k plan and I still can’t believe that I used to run 5k four times a week, for fun. Sometimes gossiping with a girlfriend the entire way around. Reigniting my love for running has reminded me how everything is interlinked. I can’t eat an entire pizza and five bags of popcorn and then smash a run the next day. I just cannot. So the tweaks that need to happen for me to get fighting fit to include a definite modification to what goes in my gob.
And that’s the hardest part. I love food and have no plans to become a macro weighing bore. But I also need to learn that taking a six pack of Bakewell tarts to bed each night is not the best attitude either. It has and will always be about balance.