Unintentionally, my weight and my relationship with my weight has become somewhat of a hot topic on my blog. I spoke about how to deal with weight gain back in March 2016 as I started to get heavier thanks to our good old friend, contraception; almost a year later in February of this year, I declared 2017 as the year of being fat and happy - of abandoning my weight woes, and focusing my attention on improving myself as a person. That was easier said than done, of course, and in July I found myself revisiting the topic of my weight in a post titled "Musings On Accepting My Body and Not Always Being Positive", which discussed my struggle between telling myself I was body positive, and actually feeling it.
And do you know what? I cried the other day. I cried about my weight. But it wasn’t because I'd been sucked down into a sinkhole of self-loathing - it was because an opportunity to hate my body arose, and instead of looking in the mirror and wishing I was taller, thinner and more tanned, I actually liked what I saw. I’d just been sent some lingerie from ASOS for an upcoming post I’ve got in the pipeline (more lingerie for the belly-conscious coming! Yay!) and I was treating myself to my own little fashion show, trying the pieces on and even taking a few snaps of my arse when I thought it looked particularly decent.
One set of lingerie didn’t fit how I expected to. It was tighter, slightly see through and didn’t skim over my stomach in the way I'd hoped. I had a rubber ring around my waist, and little rolls of chub when I relaxed my shoulders and didn’t breathe in quite so furiously. But I was okay with that. I even liked it. I looked warm and soft like a plate of Pizza Express dough balls, which seems apt, really, given the amount of garlic bread I consume.
Dress - Zara
Roll neck - Primark
Boots - Old Zara
Belt - H&M
Bag - Gucci
Earrings - Jane Koenig*
This was a real revelation for me. For all of my pushing of body positivity and declarations that I wasn’t going to entertain negative thoughts about my weight, I was actually having a moment where I believed what I’d been teaching myself. The way I was thinking about my body had finally shifted, and I felt like I was experiencing a real moment of clarity. It was a little emotional, and I took five minutes to shed a tear or two and reflect on how far I’d come in the last year.
A few days later, however, I received a message on Instagram from a girl who said that I looked like I’d lost weight, and did I have any tips for her to follow suit? I was faced with a conundrum. How do I reply?
I read the message out to Keiran and asked what I should say. He told me to just say thank you if I couldn’t think of anything else, but this felt the opposite of what I wanted to express. By saying thank you I would be acknowledging losing weight as an achievement, and even if I had lost weight, it would have been entirely unintentional, so how could I take credit for something which was both accidental and not particularly desired?
This isn’t the first comment I’ve had on me losing weight, either. A couple of weeks back I was meeting a freelance client, and the first thing they said was: ‘you’ve lost weight… But hi, how are you?’ And that’s so bizarre, isn’t it? Because I doubt that anybody would open with the alternative: ‘you’ve put on weight… But hi, how are you?’. This surely comes down to how, culturally, we view weight loss as an accomplishment. Weight loss is met with pats on the back and heart-eyed emojis on Instagram, all the while being underpinned by the back-handed subtext that what people are actually saying is ‘you look better than you did before’.
‘You’ve lost weight’ is not synonymous with ‘you look good’, and after spending a year dedicating all of the energy I used to channel into hating my body into developing my ideas, my passions, and my values as a person, I couldn’t reply to this message in a way that encouraged the opposite. Rather than responding with gratitude, I explained that I made a point of not affording my weight worries much credence, instead focusing on what made me happy as a person, independent on my stones and pounds.
By regarding ‘you’ve lost weight’ as a compliment, we propagate the idea that weight is something to be ashamed of - something that needs to be lost. And the more we do that, the more we feed into our own misery, pigeon-holing happiness as a result of a specific body type and making it impossible for ourselves to grow outside of that. Think of how many hours we’ve wasted absurdly worrying about armpit fat (I mean what the fuck?! Who cares?! It’s a fucking armpit) or practising poses in the mirror to fake a thigh gap? Or how many times we’ve talked ourselves out of wearing something that we love because we’re worried we don’t look thin enough? Or, honestly, how many times we’ve berated ourselves to the point of tears because we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re lazy and disgusting and wasting our youth on being fat?
I used to think that if I lost weight I would be more successful as a blogger, and that more brands would want to work with me. And honestly, given the severe lack of diversity in the industry, that’s probably true. However, back in Feb, I decided to focus on myself instead. I wanted to be a better person - more thoughtful, more understanding, more compassionate - and so I stopped criticising myself in the mirror, I stopped weighing myself and I stopped comparing my body now to photos of myself when I was slimmer. All of the energy that I was draining with my self-loathing, I channeled into writing, reading and trying new things. I’ve been on a year sabbatical from my role as Chief Criticiser, and honestly, I’ve already handed in my notice. I’m not going back. I quit.
The next time you feel compelled to compliment somebody on their weight loss, or the next time that same compliment is extended your way, take a moment to reposition. ‘You look amazing’ needn’t be caveated by the acknowledgement of weight loss, and you're not obliged to say thank you if somebody says it to you. My weight yo-yos as much as I say ‘yes, that is definitely what I want for Christmas’ to my long-suffering boyfriend, but I’m no longer affording that the 9pm prime time slot. My fucks have been withdrawn, and so should yours.
What you have to say is always more important than what you look like. Give yourself some time off and have fun exploring that.
Until next time lovelies x