That’s a pretty fucking fast year flew by.
A year ago on the 9th of February, I published a blog post titled ‘2017: The Year of Being Fat and Happy’. In it, I spoke about my yo-yoing weight and how I was struggling to place myself within an industry which seeks to define women’s bodies as either “regular” or “plus size”, a scale on which I fall decidedly in the middle.
It’s neither one of my longest, nor one of my most well-written posts, but it is a piece of writing which I hold very close to my heart. When I published that blog post, little did I know I was nurturing the beginning of a loving and respectful relationship with myself. Since then, a lot has changed, but before I get into that, here’s a little excerpt from last year’s post, just to get you up to speed:
“About a month ago, I made a decision. 2017 was going to be the year of being fat and happy. For so many years I have worried and stressed and despaired about my weight. I’ve lost weight, gained weight, lost it and gained even more again. I’ve dieted, exercised and calorie counted to the point where I was simply not a fun person to be around. I made myself miserable. Restricting myself and counting calories still makes me miserable. So I’m not doing it anymore. I’m stopping. I just don’t want to be that person anymore, and the absolutely unparalleled freedom that has come from that is incredible.
Chances are, I’m going to put on weight. I’m eating chocolate biscuits when I want, desserts when I’m at dinner, a lil’ hunk of cheese at night when I get the nibbles - of course I’m going to put on weight, that’s a no-brainer. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I already have put on a few pounds. I tried to pull on a pair of size 10 jeans the other day and good lord, they would not even go past my hips. Whilst in the past this would have sent me into a downward spiral of salad-sulking and desperate longing whenever Keiran snuck a good old piece of cheese on toast, I can now hand on heart say that I do not care. I don’t fucking care! It’s amazing!”
So one year on - what's the deal?
Well, I’m still a size 10. My weight has yo-yoed, and I’ve been heavier and lighter than I am now, but nothing extraordinary beyond that. I’m still wearing the same things and preferring elasticated pyjama bottoms over jeans and trousers (obv - and if you don’t change into your comfortable clothes as soon as you walk through the door, you’re a monster), and I still have a head so round that it’s easily mistaken for the moon. Belly is still wobbly, arms are still chubby, still rocking a lil’ FUPA - much the same as this time last year.
Whilst my weight has stayed the same, trying to let go of however many years’ worth of body-resentment hasn’t been easy. There have been real ups and downs, and I’m by no means “fixed” - I had another down moment yesterday - but that’s testament to the fact that learning to love yourself is a journey. And I try not to roll out phrases like ‘self-love’, ‘self-care’ and ‘body positivity’ too often, because unfortunately, they’ve been hijacked by advertising bods and privileged white girls like me to sell you things that you don’t necessarily need. For the sake of this post, however, self-love is self-love, and sometimes it’s difficult.
So let’s talk about some of the not-so-positive times.
A couple of months back I started restricting my meals and stopped eating before 5/6pm, bar the odd slice of bread and butter when I was absolutely Hank Marvin. I wanted to lose a few pounds - and quickly - and I know that stopping myself eating throughout the day works. After a week or so of doing this, I’d shed the pounds I wanted, but then, of course, I gained them straight back. Whilst doing this I also started to take daily photos of my stomach in the mirror, in the hopes that I’d be able to track any visible changes in my waistline. I could never see any difference and despite me trying to hide them in a secret folder on my phone, Keiran saw them a couple of days after, told me off, and I stopped. These aren’t my proudest moments, but they have happened and will likely happen again, so I have to share them in honour of fairness and honesty.
And the good times?
Guys, I have eaten so much good food. I’ve rediscovered so many snacks that previously, I wouldn’t even have given the time of day. Leibniz biscuits, for example: delicious. Or Twixes, cheese and crackers, bread and oil, a shit tonne of grapes, HALLOUMI - the list goes on.
I have always loved food, but over the past year, I’ve given myself permission to enjoy it. Rather than feeling guilty after every bite, or feeling as if I need to swap something out before I'm allowed to feast on something sweet, I just eat the fucking muffin. If I want a bag of Doritos, I have a bag of Doritos. If I'm buying a coffee and a slice of Victoria Sponge is winking at me from across the counter, I'll grab a piece (and pay, obviously).
Whilst being able to eat all of the cake has been good in itself, it's the food freedom which has arguably had the biggest impact on my life. Because I'm not always restricting what I can eat, I don't end up binging on a Milky Way multipacks on the way home from Tescos, and because the "naughty"(bleugh) foods aren't as much of a novelty to me, I'm able to consider whether I actually want to eat said item or not. If not - no worries - I can just grab one when I fancy it, whereas previously I would have felt like oh lorDY THIS IS MY ONLY CHANCE TO EAT DESSERT BECAUSE IT'S MY BIRTHDAY QUICK QUICK QUICK.
I'm also so much more comfortable being naked. If I was fake-tanning before and Keir happened to wander into the room, I'd hurry to pop on a t-shirt so he couldn't see my pouch, worrying what he might be thinking at the back of his mind. Now, I'm swishing around the gaff completely starkers, wailing "baaaaaabe? Can you do my back pleaaaaase?". I look exactly the same, but the way I feel and think about my body is completely different. I used to criticise every lump and bump that I thought wasn't passable for pretty, without taking a breath to consider what I actually like. I was so intent on seeing myself through disapproving eyes that I was never going to see anything other than what I didn't like, but when I started to take away that lens and appreciate my body beyond its appearance, my opinion changed.
Keiran has also been a massive help. He may leave crisp packets on the floor and 'sort' the dirty washing into piles that then lay abandoned in the corner of the bathroom, but when it comes down to the shit that matters, he really comes through. I had a wobble yesterday where my face was looking ~ particularly ~ moony, and I asked him the question to which there really is no right answer: "have I put on weight?". If he was to say yes, I would die a death. If he was to say no, I wouldn't believe him.
He surprised me with a real corker, though. He told me that sometimes I've been chubbier and sometimes I haven't, but it doesn't matter what he thinks. It's about me, and how I feel, and if I'm happy, then he's happy. He's routinely brought up the original Fat & Happy since I first published it, as a reminder at some of my more difficult moments to not fall back into old traps and get lost down the rabbit hole. He's reminded me that this whole process is about more than just looking in the mirror and giving myself a thumbs up - it's about breaking beyond my tits and arse and stomach, and caring about myself intellectually, creatively, sensitively.
This is what I believe. Life is hard, so a lot of the time we move through it on a surface level, either not having the time to dig deeper, or not wanting to go through the personal turmoil of doing so. Agonising over my weight, for me, was something which I spent a lot of energy on, and this manifested in small, insidious ways throughout my every day. If I walked past a car window, I would check to see if I looked fat. If I was having sex, I would feel ashamed of the shape of my body. If I was attending an event, I was plagued with the fear that someone might say "oh my God, you look so different in real life!". I still maintained a life, a career and a serious commitment to EastEnders, but aside from the surface level, I hadn't really dug much deeper. My mind was too busy.
Now, instead of looking outwardly for validation, I'm looking inwards. I'm getting to know myself, and I'm trying to understand why I feel certain ways as opposed to expressing a knee-jerk reaction and never looking beyond that. I still care about my weight, and there are still days where it upsets me more than it should, but I am making progress and loving myself the more for it. I'm learning to accept what is and to appreciate the moment, rather than wasting it longing for something that never made me happy in the first place.
So here we are, a year later. I'm a little wiser, a little happier, and a little chubbier. I wish I had an inspirational conclusion to share with you all but, alas, I don't. I'm just taking the good with the bad, and trying to be a little kinder each step of the way. Here's to 2018, the year of being whatever weight, and even fucking happier.
Cheers to that x
I belong to nobody
Hope it don't bother you
You could mind your business
I belong to nobody
Try not to disturb
And mind my business
- SZA, Go Gina
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