I’m just a girl. I’m not particularly interesting or special (no more interesting or special than the rest of the world, at least). I’m certainly no diet/exercise/life guru. As I said, I’m just a girl. But, like many girls (and guys) my relationship with my body has been trashed by a combination of childhood trauma, unobtainable media images and a society that – confusingly – values both control and excess. Growing up overweight – eating in secret – I believed that my body wasn’t so much a temple as a dumping ground for all the overwhelm and confusion I felt. By the time I had my first psychiatric admission I was a size 22, by the end of it I weighed 25 stone and had accepted my fate as being enduringly ‘mentally ill’ and ‘fat’.
I’m now 37 (just!) and life looks very different. Whilst the first half of my 20s was littered with hospital admissions, day centres and enough medication to sedate an elephant, the second part saw me tentatively take steps back into the ‘real’ world. After a lot of soul searching, self-help, support from some amazing and inspirational people I entered my 30s as a fully fledged member of society. No longer needing medication to deal with the consequences of my past, I finally have a job that I love, a life that I feel lucky to live and a husband that I’m proud to walk beside.
But … and there’s always a but, isn’t there … as far as I’ve come, my relationship with my body is still somewhat strained. We grudgingly acknowledge each other’s existence, but I haven’t made that many strides into actually taking care of it and fully owning it as mine. Part of the legacy of trauma is that it’s so much easier to separate off from your body than fully feel what it’s trying to tell you.
Despite years of ‘on again – off again’ dieting, sporadic bursts of healthy activity and a husband who’s health can only be described as unbearably fit … I’m starting this part of my journey with a BMI of 40 (that’s just over 20 stone). I’ve lost about 5 stones since the hospital-years, but I’ve got a way to go.
Making a choice
Starting a new diet at the beginning of a new year is one of the biggest cliches I can think of. Blogging about it as if it’s going to go well, without any thought that I may end up – in a year – embarrassed and pretending that this blog isn’t mine and I have never heard of BrightSide (my pseudonym on here, to protect my anonymity as far as possible on the internet).
The thing is, I need to do this. I need to lose weight, but I need to do it in a way that feels healthy and helps me reclaim this thing I call ‘the body’ and make it mine again. I’m 37 now and, if I ever want the chance of having a child with the man I love, I need to get my skates on. After all, my relationship with food was set in motion through events that I had no control over as a child. But, as an adult, if I want to have a child I am committed to ensuring my relationship with food and my body is as healthy as possible so I can pass on a positive body-image – not a bucket-load of issues and hang ups. This is my choice – and it’s one I’m glad to be making.
I’ve decided to follow the Cambridge Weight Plan (starting on Step 2) to help me lose weight, but also plan to combine it with plenty of body nurturing and healthy life choices. Described as a work-a-holic by too many people to ignore, I’m going to work on bringing the fun in and trying things that I’ve previously avoided (either due to my size or my fear). My goal is a BMI of 25 … so I’d best get started!
Typing to lose
This blog will enable me to chart my progress as I make some pretty significant changes in the way I deal with my body, food and life in general. I’m super-aware that taking my eye of the ball leads to diet-death, the fastest way back to the land of denial where the added pounds and stones don’t exist as long as I avoid the scales. So, ‘typing to lose’ is quite literally a way of me using words to keep my focus up on this pretty challenging journey.
I’m hoping this blog will be more than simply a personal diary, though (although if that is what it becomes I’ll be happy as long as it helps me keep on track). Losing weight, especially on the CWP, can be a lonely endeavour. When I was researching the Cambridge Weight Plan I really valued reading about real people who, like me, have struggled with their body image and food for years. To see others work so hard to find a new relationship with food gave me the inspiration I needed to commit to this myself. So, if anyone does read this – I hope it helps you find your own way to health and wellbeing (whatever size you are).
One final thought
In order to do this, I’m trying really hard to not see myself as ‘fat’ – but to see myself as a human being. The word ‘fat’ comes with so much negative baggage that it is so easy to feel laden down with it, so much so that the idea of making changes can feel impossible. My weight is unhealthy, I have no qualms about saying that, but in order to find my health I also need to chuck out some of the jibes and judgements I’ve carried around with me since childhood.
This journey isn’t my punishment for being overweight, it’s my treat to myself for being worthy of living a long, healthy and fulfilled life. This is something we are all worthy of – never let anyone tell you otherwise.