Body Stuff; I’m Ok, Until I’m Not

No surprise that, being a woman, I’ve carried my fair share of body stuff in my time. I was a pretty regularly sized kid until around age 8 or 9 where it began to really show I was a bit bigger than the rest of the kids around me. I don’t know if you ever had that moment when you’re looking around for the fat kid in your grade, and then you realise it is you… Yeah, it wasn’t the best feeling. Surprisingly it wasn’t much of an issue in the schoolyard until I hit high school though. At home things were more pronounced though. Perhaps it was just that my parents didn’t know what to do, but whatever the facts… lets just say a lot was said about my weight, but not much was actually done about it and I grew quite large. I then fluctuated up and down from my mid-teens onwards, though never what anyone would consider “skinny”. I suffered quite a bit because of it, not only from what people said to me but also what I saw and what I told myself.

I think I’ve always had a slight case of body dysmorphia. I’ve had plenty of people tell me I have it, but it certainly hasn’t totally dictated my life the way it has others. I seem to have mostly skirted around it, but there is something about how it just quietly creeps in one morning with no warning and brings my confidence crashing down. It’s more than just feeling a bit puffy, or putting on a couple of kilos. It totally changes what I see in the mirror to something completely outside of reality. And then of course it tells me what I saw on the good days is the actual delusion, and that I should be embarrassed for what I wore on those days. Yep, it’s a right c**t, and it can make life so confusing at times. During my late teens I would take photos of my outfits because through some magic what I saw through the camera was different to what I saw in the mirror. I should probably open an X-File on that, because I have no idea how it worked but it did.

I’ve yo-yo’d up and down the same 20 kilos since I was probably 11 or 12, with periods of stability and others of mass gain or mass loss. The first time I lost quite a bit was when I started playing soccer as a teen. Though never “skinny” I certainly did begin to have an actual shape, rather than just round. And then, most likely due to trauma, I hit a wall and gained 20 kilos in 6 months and had a massive meltdown in a changeroom when I realised just how much weight I had gained. And then the next day I broke my foot and was stuck immobile, fat, and miserable. My mum even tried to sneakily put me on a diet while I recovered. After I was back on my feet (literally) I joined the gym and slowly lost a bit of weight, followed by more when I started one of those slim shake diets that really blossomed around 2007. Sure, it worked. And then I suddenly became coeliac and gained 4 kilos in a week because my body was freaking out. After a long year of realising that gluten is in literally everything I began to even out and lose weight again.

I moved out of home and was too poor to eat much, so that probably helped keep my weight down, and then I met the man who would later become my husband. Our love blossomed… and so did our waistlines. At some point I put my foot down and said I wasn’t going to let that happen to us, and we leveled out a bit. We indulged here and there, because who doesn’t in their early 20s living out in the big wide world where unhealthy food is cheap? I changed jobs and began to work out with the team, and began to learn about food properly thanks to the guidance of some great trainers. My work team decided to do a “Biggest Loser” challenge, and I dropped so much weight; I was eating very little, swimming, doing Crossfit once a week with work, and I think exercising at home too. The thing is, while I dropped down to the smallest I’d ever been as an adult, I was so messed up in the head and having panic attacks if I had a “cheat” meal. I was also obsessed with food. It is all I talked about, all I thought about, and all I wanted. I also slowly began to realise that my low energy levels and pain weren’t normal, and learned that I had CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), but had no idea how to care for myself with this condition. I slept a lot, starved myself a lot, and mentally punished myself if I ate too much on days where I was too exhausted to exercise. I even distinctly remember doing one of those 30 day squat challenges and breaking down in tears because I couldn’t keep going. I even started studying nutrition during this time, and did quite well in my first year, but couldn’t continue because my health was so poor.

I got married, and when we came back from the honeymoon my weight slowly began to creep up, higher and higher, no matter what I did. Over a two year period I gained 20 kilos again, and I was miserable. I barely looked in a mirror, and I avoided photos as much as possible. While my weight wasn’t one of my biggest issues at the time (we barely even touched on it in therapy for the first year compared to other things), it certainly followed me and dictated my self worth. I tried exercising, but it didn’t change anything. I tried eating “healthy”, but again nothing changed. For a whole year I exercised and ate pretty damn well, and my weight just fluctuated down and up three kilos. I punished myself by not buying clothes that represented my true style. Stretchy clothes were fine, and anything cheap was good too. I still felt disgusting when I looked in the mirror, though a slow, small shift was taking place.

A year of exercise did sow the seeds in my mind to care for myself, and eventually I found a way of eating that worked for me. I’m now down 11 kilos, and in a fairly comfortable place. I’ve maintained my diet for almost 12 months with only a couple of treats through the year, and I’m rarely obsessed with food now. Wile I do get hungry, I can define the difference between real hunger and just being “wanty”. I don’t get food guilt very often, though it still happens from time to time. Despite all of this, I still struggle with what I see in the mirror. No matter whether the kilos went up, or down, there has always been that little monster in my mind telling me my weight equals my worth. Some days I can tell him to piss off, but other days he takes hold and breaks me.

I’ve learned that when I’m at a certain point in my cycle my hormones literally shift my perception of what I see in the mirror; I feel ugly, puffy, fat, and unlovable. The frustrating thing is that I am a very logical person, so I have this battle of the mirror man telling me that I am huge and wobbly and everyone is laughing at me, but at the same time the logical part of my brain reminds me that I am not wearing bigger clothes therefore mirror man is lying. I love my logical side when I’m feeling this way; facts don’t lie. I know I bloat and retain water when I’m on my period. I also know my boobs look amazing at that time too. Those are the hard facts. The lies my brain tells me, however, are that people are pointing and laughing at me. That literally has not happened since high school. Sometimes I think that people are talking about me behind my back, about my size, about how I probably look like I’ve gained weight, even though I clearly haven’t. It’s just, you know, body stuff. The things we carry after a lifetime of being sold a lie that we have to confirm to.

I once lay on the beach, fully clothed, crying because of my size and how I felt about my body. Guess what, I had my fucking period that day too. Almost every time I look back at a moment like that I realise I was full of raging miserable hormones and I wonder how many other people suffer like this? Hormones; the chemicals in our brains that have the power to literally change the trajectory of our day. I mean, sure they’re also there to allow for certain biological processes, but they seem to never get the volume quite right in me and end up causing some kind of havok . If it isn’t estrogen and progesterone ruining my life it’s fucking serotonin going MIA. These are the true facts that I remind myself on the shitty days. Yes, there are shitty people out there who judge me, but that is purely a reflection on themselves. The real truth is that no matter how large, or small, I am at any point in my life I have always carried the exact same worth. The less of a fuck I give about it the better my life is, and the happier I am.

For now, I love being strong. I enjoy the size I am, and while I’d like my arms and legs to be a bit less wobbly I am a bit more accepting of where I’m at, and I enjoy my skin a lot more. I have been up and down about myself this past week, going from feeling like a supermodel to the michelin man, back up again, and then down… and now I’m just somewhere in the middle. This has probably been the rockiest week I’ve had in a little while, in terms of body image, but no bonus points for figuring out that I’m pretty hormonal this week. I’ve even got a bunch of pimples to go along with it, just to help those feelings of worth. I decided to take those feelings and challenge them though, pushing hard at the gym to remind myself how strong I am. I upped my weights, limped around the office, complained a bit about how sore I was, but have come out of it feeling pretty jolly.

As my thighs jiggled around my shorts tonight I reminded myself of how fucking hard I worked at the gym this week, and how strong I am to manage to come out of the past 20 years and 20 kilos still able to wear short shorts without having a “box gap”, and without breaking down and having a massive cry while trying to get dressed. I now walk around the house in short shorts and crop tops and spread my luscious flesh all around the place because it’s my home and I’m allowed to have rolls and creases and stripes and dimples alongside my magnificent muscles.

I’m up, and I’m down, and sometimes I’m just plodding along, just ok with where I’m at. I’m still me, and still worthy of life in each and every stage.

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