I’ve put on a stone since I’ve been away. A STONE.
That’s 14lbs worth of fatty globules that I’ve added to my body in a few short months. (Yes, enough for a man to ask me if I’m pregnant.)
Sure, I knew I’d put a bit on, as my clothes were getting tighter and my bikini was starting to leave an elasticated mark, but I blamed it on the heat, ‘a little swelling’.
“No love, it’s your arse.” I heard my brain’s muffled outcry.
“Ah yes, about that.” My reluctant reply.
You see, before I left the UK, I was pretty obsessed with losing weight. I ate really well, I had a personal trainer, exercised almost every day and often ran as far as my little legs could carry me. And, although it’s all I thought about for a while, for the first time ever I felt a pang of ‘that’s not too bad’ when I tried on a bikini. I even pranced around in it a little.
But, prancing aside, I’d still be eating egg white omelettes and spinach for lunch and counting every single calorie because I just wasn’t quite thin enough. I just wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. I had a target that I’d passed months before but it was just never good enough.
Nope, not a cool way to live.
Then this strange thing happened. Almost as soon as I got off the plane in another country, I just kind of stopped caring. All that worry, anxiety, sweat, calorie counting and obsessing was nowhere near as important as my big adventure. All of a sudden, having the ‘perfect body’ just wasn’t a big deal anymore.
And I think I know why.
You see, the thing about where I’m from, in England, is that it’s really very cold. Like, all of the time. We spend the majority of the year covered up and when we are required to be nearly nude in public it’s generally when we’re on holiday with family, friends, partners, i.e. people that love us for who we are and not for whether they can see through a gap between our thighs.
So really, we never get a look at anyone else in the nearly nude. We don’t get to check out anyone else on the beach. We rarely get to see what a normal woman’s body looks like (which, by the way, there’s no such thing as cos’ they’re all proper well different!)
Whereas here, in a really hot part of the world, well, people in the nearly nude are everywhere. And they all look great. In their own very different ways.
When I was at home, what I now realise I actually did was spend all year surrounding myself with images of nearly nude women that are by no means real people at all. I’d pine after their abs, their lean arms, their toned thighs – and not just the ones in magazines either – I’d wake up every morning and check out the reels of bright and beautiful, thin, filtered and altered pictures of nearly nude women on Instagram and Twitter. They’d flash before my eyes most mornings and most evenings – so it’s really no wonder they became the norm to me. And, I’m going to assume, that’s kind of how it can be for you, too.
So of course we have such a warped idea of the way we should look. Of course it’s easy to become obsessed and depressed with our body image. Because we’re striving for something that isn’t even achievable. Because we compare ourselves to women’s bodies that have been manipulated by a computer or altered with a filter. Every. Single. Day. Cos’ it’s all we get to see.
So I’m pretty sure the only way we can fix it, is to just get in the nearly nude more often. How to feel better about your body image? Get naked! Let it all hang out sometimes and embrace it. Hang out with other nearly nude people more often and re-train your brain to know what’s ‘normal’ and what’s really not.
I’m not saying that we should give up caring about our body or our health (because yes, a man asking me if I was pregnant was more than enough to make me focus on how to lose the extra weight) but just that we should exercise because it makes us feel good, not out of punishment. That we should eat well because it makes us feel healthier and more alert, not out of hate or anger at ourselves. That we should be taking care of bodies out of love and admiration.
Reality kicked in for me when I didn’t actually know that I’d put on weight because I didn’t hate myself when I looked in the mirror. And if I didn’t hate my body image in the mirror, then I can’t have put on any weight. Because for a very long time, weight gain to me stimulated thoughts of hate and anger and punishment and failure. And that makes me sad.
BUT NOW, well now I’m just kinda chillin’. I’m experimenting with good healthy foods and recipes because I know they make me feel better. I’m doing exercise like bikram yoga because it clears my mind, tennis because it’s fun, swimming because it’s relaxing and running because it makes me surprise myself every time.
I’m still getting around to quitting on sugar altogether. I mean, I can’t always resist a cronut (oh yes, that’s a croissant AND a donut in one). I’m partial to a goon or ten (yep, that’s wine in a box.) And a chinese takeaway will always be my answer to “If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?” (Yep, a common question.)
But in amongst the naughty treats, it’s so much easier to get back on track for the purpose of feeling better, rather than for looking better. (Feeling better is immediately noticeable for starters!)
And, apart from the days when I do catch sight of myself in a mirror at a terrible angle and wince, I’ve realised that apparently, having the ‘perfect body’ isn’t the most important thing in the world.
Until Monday, obviously, when the diet starts again…
Some shocking truths:
Women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day.
97% of women admit to have at least one ‘I hate my body’ moment every day.
81% of ten year old girls are afraid of getting fat…
Will you be hanging out in the nearly nude more often? Are you at a happy place with your body? How did you get there?