The Ultimate Diet.

Apologies for the lack of posting; new job means getting used to a new routine in a new phase of my life.

As I’ve said before it has been my own journey through body image issues and self-discovery that has led to me to this new place of positive body image activism. I only recently noticed that an old triggering point had arisen once again: gaining weight. I spent too much time in my teenage years and early 20’s battling my own mindset about how I looked, how I should look and struggling to disassociate my worth from my weight. So this now felt like a great time to test whether I could walk the walk, after I’ve spent so much time and effort on here talking the talk.

A UK size 14-16 is where I have averaged out throughout my adult life; I used to be positively ecstatic if I fitted into something smaller as the numbers meant a lot to me. Looking back now I can see just how much they dictated how I felt about myself at 18 years old, even though it’s so clear I have always been an average or below average size. But I was cross with my body because I felt it didn’t allow me to be the person I wanted to be.

I tried to stick to the ‘rules’ of how women considered ‘curvy’ should appear. Try to keep your hair long and full, it will hide excess chins and it’s more feminine. No boots, we don’t want to make those legs look bigger do we? Try a flared jean instead to balance out those proportions. Accentuate your waist as it’s the smallest part of your body, we need to see how small you can be! Try an A-line skirt to skim and cover your hips. Three-quarter length sleeves will hide any unsightly bingo wings. PUT DOWN THAT TANK TOP!

This kind of thing really annoys me. I’m not a piece of fruit.What it should say is: Are you human shaped? Then wear whatever the hell you want.

 

I was lucky I have family who tried their best to balance out the negativity I was picking up from outside, but those external influences are strong at a young age. The message I received from the media was that we must always try to be smaller, more fragile…

Women should aim to take up less space.

Confused?

Are you confused?

 

When actually, if pinterest had been around then, mine would have been filled with cropped hair, mini skirts, doc martin boots and skinny jeans. Now this isn’t to say I NEVER wore any of these things, because I did. But the point is how I allowed myself to feel in them, and if I had been brutally honest, I usually felt uncomfortable. Thankfully, nowadays I’m way more relaxed, so much so that I almost missed the opportunity to write about this, simply because it didn’t become a ‘thing’ in my life.

Until summer I’d spent a period of time being at the smallest I’ve ever been at a 10-12. It wasn’t something I’d taken much notice of because I no longer weigh myself or particularly pay much attention to what size I’m buying. I was eating on the go and exercising 6 times a week as a way to de-stress my way through my fourth and final year at college. Although I had no time to socialise and was in bed by 9 most nights; I wasn’t obsessive, I wasn’t restrictive or negative, it was just my life and routine at that time. The only other time I have been that size was in the end stages of my time living away from home; when I was devastated by bereavement and possibly suffering from a mental breakdown. Nevertheless, at this present time I was casually applauded for this change in all situations; at college, at the gym, at church and when I was out socially. Years back this used to make me feel really good; but now I just smile awkwardly so as not to be rude, but know that on the inside I’m eye-rolling. When one girl noticed my disdain for the ‘compliment’ of “you’ve lost weight, you look amazing now” I was told to “enjoy it” and that “you love it really, everyone likes to hear they’re thinner.” I’m at a point now where if that’s what you think I’m thinking, you really don’t know me at all.

 

Smaller, earlier in 2014. That skirt might not fit now…but it is JUST a skirt.

 

When I finished college everything changed. I had kept my head so focused on that end goal for 4 years, I really hadn’t thought of life beyond getting that certificate, because if you had told me 5 years ago that’s where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed you. My routine changed; I was job hunting, writing, not working out much, happily spending time re-focusing on what the next journey could be. The whole rhythm of my life changed again. I wasn’t sad to leave college, I had gained everything I wanted out of the experience. It wasn’t all easy, as change seldom is but I’m focused on all the privileges I am blessed with in my life that some people don’t have, one of the biggest privileges of all: choices.

And as I contemplated all the things I have achieved so far that I am actually proud of and all the things I still hope to achieve, I wondered how they could link in to my blogging experience. I got my answer when I was getting dressed later that week; a proportion of my clothes no longer fitted and I found myself just casually tutting instead of blind panic. Sure, it was annoying, those skirts my mum had taken in would need letting out and still might not fit, I even hulked out of one of my favourite shirts…

I lift weights at the gym to be strong not to make myself small, so feeling a bit she-hulk was kind of awesome.

I lift weights at the gym to be strong not to make myself small, so feeling a bit She-Hulk was kind of awesome.

 

But I didn’t freak out. I just adjusted my diet a bit and aimed that I’d stick to 2/3 workouts that I enjoy a week whenever they fitted into the rest of my life…but my size didn’t change. And I finally got it, that this is my natural shape. The thing that so many women fight a daily battle against. Because you can never win when you make yourself the enemy. As long as you’re healthy (whatever that is for you as an individual) and happy you are winning. I may have gained physical weight, but I realised I’d finally lost what I had needed to all along, I’d lost the emotional weight. Don’t underestimate it, that’s a lot heavier than you might give it credit. You’ll be so much lighter to do all the things you want to do, to dream all the things you might do. Lose the guilt associated with taking up more space in the world. Lose the shame that you’re ‘letting yourself go’ if you skip a few workouts. Lose the fear of being less attractive because in real life you can’t Photoshop yourself to perfection. Lose the hate that you will be worth less because you weigh more.

That is the only diet you will ever need. Lose your emotional weight.

This will mean so many different things to people, that I couldn’t begin to cover it here, but start the ultimate diet by focusing on the achievements in your life that have nothing to do with your weight and appearance. All the positive things and things I am most proud of: finishing school, travelling, always working at any job I could find, re-discovering my christian faith, having wonderful family and friends, overcoming depression, supporting gender equality and gay rights, getting my degree, appreciating what I have, always keeping hold of my dreams…you wouldn’t need to know the number on my scales or the number in my waistband for any of those things.

 

 

So what have you done?

Found out who your true friends are and cherish them?

Made peace with something or someone in your life?

Studied towards something that means a lot to you?

Fallen in love?

Have a wonderful family?

Got a job you love?

Left a job you hate?

Travelled alone?

Faced your fears?

Stood up for what you believe in, at all costs?

Always remember those things. The positive and negative, the light and shade in your life is who you are; your spirit, experiences, memories, choices and changes. Not your physical body.

 

We will all be smaller and larger at different times in our lives but we must never let it dictate our worth. I will keep saying this, over and over: your weight has NOTHING to do with your value in life. If you’re a size 6 or a 26; you can be whatever you want, your dreams are just as valid and attainable as the next persons and you can be beautiful and sexy. So don’t wait to lose weight, or gain it, before you start living your life and being you. It goes by so quickly, there’s only one you, there will only ever be one you. So make it count.

Oh and stop being an apple, rectangle or pencil and wear what you want. Your ‘bony’ legs or your ‘spare tire’ aren’t going to kill anyone. And just FYI, I recently graduated, bought more miniskirts, now own multiple pairs of boots and chopped my hair off…and it feels great.

Thanks to Beauty Redefined for the celebrity quotes.

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When in doubt, choose change.

So I’m back from my break away in Spain and to my amazement I have returned to sunshine which is such a welcome sight and helps negate the symptoms of post-holiday blues. Initially my first post was going to be about my trip but sometimes you are just swept away, somewhere else…..

“Are you happy with how things are going then?” someone said to me a couple of months ago in response to my answer about particular plans I have for the next year or so. I shrugged and replied fairly contented with “Yeah, I suppose so.” This generic and pretty bland statement summed up how I felt about most things really. Now don’t get me wrong, I was not unhappy by any means. I feel very blessed in my life and have been very lucky to have a wonderful family and friends. But if I’m honest, I’d lost my fire and my heading, coasting along with the sails pushing me forward in no particular direction. It’s scary to say out loud those three words when someone asks “So what are you going to do when you graduate?” or “Where do you think this will take you?”

Truth: I don’t know.

At 26 most people expect me to know the answer to these questions. To rattle off some well thought out plan, but I don’t really have one. After experiencing a bereavement that turned my world upside down I kind of stopped making plans. I was adamant there was no point because things can change so quickly and just turn everything that was once solid into dust. I think however through that haze when my heart was incredibly sad for a long time I muddled plans, goals and ambitions together. And therefore although I pulled myself back up and started doing something that I love, I have still been maintaining the barrier between myself and…….wait for it, it’s a scary one to the non-planner……the future. However things are changing and I’m just starting to be aware of that.

I’ve experienced a personal shift recently, in my behaviour, my thoughts, my general outlook on everything. Why? I’m honestly not 100% sure really. I didn’t wake up one day and just….change. And yet I genuinely feel different now I think about it, sat in front of this screen considering where life may take me and the choices I have to make. Perhaps it was all that sun and time to contemplate away from everyday distractions.

For someone reading this seeing black and white statements that I’m happy and doing something I love, all this soul-searching might seem a bit self-indulgent and superfluous, to which I would not necessarily argue against. However life is all about highs and lows, appreciating the former because of the latter and perhaps hitting a long period of plateauing can be the catalyst for all of this.

Where I once coasted along, I feel I am now starting to be an active participant in my own happiness and future. I want to be a writer, but I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t concentrate on reading books and poetry that I love and inspire me because my mind was always looking around somewhere else. I love music but my old piano sits gathering dust. It’s ridiculous now I see it written out but I couldn’t hold a direction because although I was content it was all just jumbled fuzz in my mind. “Just get on and do it” I can hear the cries. But for those who have suffered a bereavement of any kind, I’m sure it rings true with many, that you just lose your confidence, with everything. And I think that realisation is only just hitting me….five years on. That old cliché that time is a healer may just be right.

I hope that if you are asked that same question “Are you happy with how things are going then?” that it is a resounding yes with a smile. Of course we all have bad times, we can’t all be beaming Cheshire cats 24/7, I think that would annoy even someone as chipper as me! But if you are plateauing, make a change. Any change. It can be the smallest thing like spending more time with someone you love or taking up that hobby you’ve been going to start for years; but do it, it could make a change that you never realised possible.

As for me, I shall be spending less time being a day-dreamer and more time actively pursuing those daydreams because you never know…..they could come true. Fear and complacency have no place in achieving what you want. When you stop living within the parameters of others expectations and opinions of you, you can finally wake up.