Sometimes I sit down to write, and I've an idea about what I'm going to say...and then something totally different emerges instead. That's what happened today- I had planned to chat about last week's fabulous John Hewitt Summer School experience, and then, quite unexpectedly, this came out instead.
For as long as I can remember, I yearned to be 'a slip of a thing', a fragile wil o' the wisp, a delicate fairy sort of girl. The sort of girl who swoons elegantly when appropriate, can be easily carried by strong men when the occasion arises, and who can wear those silky slip type dresses that look like a bit like a nightie, but with no control pants underneath obvs. (Cinderella much?)
It was not to be, for I turned out to be the exact polar opposite- I was 'big boned', 'solid', 'a healthy girl'...'fat'. I watched enviously from the sidelines as my friends morphed from awkward twelve year olds into long limbed, pretty teenagers with great hair, ducklings into swans almost overnight, while I just became a much larger duckling with a very bad perm.
Looking back, it probably didn't help that my Mum was, and still is, a slip of a thing. She'd been called 'skinny malink' in school and I'm quite sure that when she looked at me, she couldn't work out where this great strapping, greedy child had come from.
I saw it reflected in the stifled surprise of people who saw us together for the first time.
“She must take after the other side”, they'd say, “she looks nothing like you!” and I'd smile tightly, knowing full well what was left unsaid.
It was always said, and not in a good way, that I was 'far too sensitive,' - this was absolutely true- and yet at a very young age I got the message loud and clear that the way I looked was unacceptable, and the only way to fix it was to diet.
|I carried this picture in my purse for the longest time!|
I just wasn't wired that way, in mind or body. I'd never simply 'forget to eat' and weight didn't just 'fall off me,' and I always assumed that it was all my fault and weakness. What I didn't understand until much later, was that our shapes and and builds were completely different, and no matter how many Hail Marys I said, or how much cottage cheese I ate, those chunky thighs were here to stay.
And in the end, there was to be no quick fix for me. I've no before and after photos to show off, no light bulb moment of clarity to recall, no misty eyed slimmer's redemption story to tell, just a meandering, circuitous journey to self acceptance.
The catalyst to change-which incidentally started in my head, not my body- was, as it almost always is, being loved unconditionally. Or more importantly perhaps, knowing that to be the case. And gradually, as my twenties and half my thirties slipped away, I began to believe that I was okay to be the way I was, and then one fine day I threw away the scale, and chose another path.
It's not always easy, and like everyone I have good days and bad, but I've learned that walking, mindful eating and the 5:2 plan are my friends, and finally my weight stays fairly steady, and hell, there's always spanx.
Maybe it's largely an age thing, and yet I know many women who become more obsessed with losing weight and looking younger as they grow older and see their looks begin to fade. That isn't me. At this stage in my life, it's all a bit of a Brucie's bonus, because I never had beauty and style in my twenties and thirties to lose! And who'd have thought that I'd finally, FINALLY peak in my forties?
Does that sound big headed? I don't mean it to, because I know that I'm no stunner, and I'm still very far from slim (a size 14-16 depending on the day) but it's a long way from where I once was- now I buy my clothes in 'normal' shops and sit on Himself's knee without worrying about cutting off the circulation to his feet. But not everything changes and mostly I still like the lights dimmed when I'm naked, and tiny little birds of women in fitted dresses still make me feel like Godzilla to their Godzooky. (Remember that cartoon?)
Like all girls, I care what I look like, I always did, it just took me longer than most to find my groove. I love clothes too but now I know what suits me, so I stand up straight and wear fabulous shoes and statement necklaces and leopard print, and no longer wish I wasn't a ginger.
Of course, the other catalyst to change that I haven't mentioned, was having a daughter. A daughter that I assumed from the start would inherit the 'weight problem' of her Mama and would likely need my attentive guidance to avoid years in diet wilderness.
I wanted her to have a mother who was comfortable in her own skin even if this meant hiding my own hang ups, and never, ever asking the question 'Do I look fat in this?'
But ironically, at fifteen, it would seem that she's naturally slim- she eats when she's hungry and she stops when she's full, and the topic of my weight or hers rarely comes up.
She also happens to be beautiful (all mammies think that, I know) so I tell her, because I know from bitter experience how important it is to hear it....even if it isn't true.
But I also tell her that I love her and that she's smart and funny with great taste in music, and a lovely singing voice, and a beautiful smile and the world is her oyster because that's so much more important in the long run anyway, isn't it?