My weight and my personal body issues have clouded my entire life, from my teenage years until just under a year ago, when I learnt to (mostly!) let go, I want to tell you the story of how my weight has changed and how I’ve navigated the issue throughout my life.
The other night I was with a man having sex. I was on top, naked and we were going at it, I mean fully at it! I was bouncing around having a great time with all of my wobbly bits bouncing around with me. The man had this amazing look on his face, lust mixed with glee and obvious pleasure and he was just staring at me, my body and my face, drinking me in. It was just amazing to look down and see. We were utterly lost in the moment. He didn’t care about the slapping noise my stomach was making on him, nor did he care every time he got hit in the face by a wayward boob (in fact he seemed to really enjoy that!). I was completely lost in the pleasure of the moment and I didn’t care either. Upon reflection the next day I realised how far I’ve come, and how much more at peace I am with myself and my body. I never would’ve had that kind of sex with either of my exes at the weight I am now. In my past relationships my weight often became the elephant in the room. Nothing was usually said in the moment but when it came to having sex I felt judged, and that sex was something that they were doing because they had to, not because they wanted to.
But the real issues with my weight started much younger. I was a bit of an early developer and I remember at 10 years old not wanting to go on the scales at school because I was convinced I was fat. Everyone weighed about 5 1/2 stone and I weighed around 6. The reality was that I was also taller, and had started to develop my boobs and my hips a little. But that feeling of being ashamed of my weight started then. I would sneak food so I wouldn’t be seen eating or enjoying too much food. When my teenage hormones started to rear their ugly heads I started to use food as a coping mechanism. If I was eating I wasn’t feeling. My family is very good at repressing and eating their feelings. This didn’t make much difference to my weight at the time. I was still growing and I was a very active child taking part in many sports in and outside of school. The tipping point came when I was about 14. I stopped growing and I got a job. I was less active and had more money to buy things I wanted, I started to gain weight.
I went to my first diet club (weight watchers) when I was 15. I was overweight and needed to lose about 2 stone to be healthy. Which I didn’t achieve, I never stuck to the diet, I’m surprised I lost any weight at all! Weight watchers was the last thing a teenage me needed, I needed a self confidence workshop!
Things took another dip around 16-17 when I left school, stopped all of my sporting activities, got a better paid job and learnt how to drive. I was still eating too much and doing largely nothing to burn it all off. I’m not exactly sure how much I weighed but when I was 18 I was a size 18-20 in clothes.
Things changed a little when I went to uni. I stopped driving and walked everywhere. I did everything with my new friends which included lots of drinking but not much eating. I shared cooking responsibilities with my new flat mates who generally cooked healthy meals. I got a job at a bar where everyone was fun, fit and healthy and I wanted to fit in, I worked long shifts usually skipping dinner. I noticed I started to lose weight without trying too much. So I started to try, in the most unhealthy way. I stopped eating anything but my evening meal. But it worked and I lost a lot of weight. I was wearing a size 14 by the end of my first year at uni, I looked very different and I loved it.
This was short lived as that was when I got together with my ex husband, who worked at the same bar with me. He’d known me bigger and we got together when I was thinner.
In my pat relationships the conversations regarding my weight would never go anywhere, I was ashamed I had put weight on, it was always noticed. As a result I’d eat more and more in secret because of the guilt I felt about putting weight on. And the cycle went around and around. With the occasional break when I decided to try another fad diet/diet club/exercise routine. But I’d never stick to them, I’d resort to starving myself to compensate for the junk I was consuming so that after a week the scale would show 1/2 a pound lost…..
My weight became everything. I couldn’t have a serious discussion about anything without it sneaking into the room. I achieved so much in 10 years, but all I remember were weighty issues. I got married but I remember how the fat spilled out of the back of my wedding dress and that my corset was uncomfortably tight. I finished my degree but I remember my partner being frustrated at me over the weight I’d gained during the stress full year. I graduated, but I remember the meal after where later that I was berated me for choosing a fattening dish. During my first year teaching I was struggling to gain the respect of my pupils and I was told that maybe if I lost weight they’d have more respect for me. I had a baby and a year after giving birth I was told I wasn’t going to get a dress in the size that fit me for my birthday as I wasn’t to be encouraged to stay that weight.
I fed myself to protect my feelings and numb myself from being in an unhappy relationship.
Then the HIV came, I’ve already talked about my weight loss during that time.
These days I have a better relationship with food. I no longer hide what I’m eating. I no longer binge. Unfortunately I still eat when I’m low, feeling lonely or depressed. I still enjoy large portions and fattening foods more than healthy foods. But the biggest change is in my attitude. I’ve finally discovered at the age of 31 that what I eat does not define me. My weight does not change who I am as a person. There will be people who like or dislike me, judge me or not whatever weight I am. Just like there are people who will judge me in regards to my HIV status. I learnt to let go, and basically say “fuck you” to anyone who does.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m human it still hurts a bit if someone does judge me/reject me because of that. But I don’t dwell, I move on far quicker than I ever did before. Afterall it’s their problem, not mine.
I’m still living my life as an overweight person. I worry about becoming diabetic (it runs in my family) I worry about it getting out of control like it has before. But I also know it’s nothing I can’t cope with. I’ll deal with that just like everything else I deal with. And hopefully overtime my relationship with food will get better and better much like the relationship with myself has.