Usually, this time of year I am planning some extreme diet, chucking every piece of chocolate and cheese left in our house in the bin from Christmas (or feeding it to my husband) and working out how I can eat 500 calories a day in between working out fourteen times a week…but not this year. This year I feel like I’ve learnt something that I never thought I would; that no matter how thin I am, it doesn’t make me a better more attractive person. In actual fact it’s taken me thirty- eight years to accept that I don’t need to weigh seven stone to be accepted or be happy or beautiful. 38 years and a baby. This time last March I found out I was pregnant after four years of trying to get pregnant and one pregnancy that didn’t work out. For the first time in my life I was able to eat whatever I wanted without beating myself up. I knew immediately that I couldn’t restrict myself by eating a boiled egg and fizzy drink for lunch (to fill myself up) and that I actually cared more about the little person growing inside me than looking amazing in a pair of jeans or for a random night out. The main thing was I carried a healthy baby to full term.Don’t get me wrong I ate vegetables and fruit and salad, I wasn’t on a fill myself with junk food diet, but I understood that I needed to eat. I also understood that with pregnancy comes changes that you can’t control, bigger boobs, an ever growing tummy and stretch marks, which are all OK.
To be honest I’m still not sure where my unhealthy relationship with food started? I remember skipping meals when I was about twelve, me and my friends taking pictures to see how skinny we looked. So I know I was young, but on reflection I don’t think I grew up in a household obsessed with looks or a mother who told me I needed to lose weight, however I know that weight has been something that has consumed me for years. Knowing I had a night out, I would diet for three weeks before so I felt good for the night, or every December diet for the whole month so I could binge at Christmas without the dreaded guilt of eating Christmas week, or for 5 weeks before holiday follow some fad restrictive diet that would make me miserable and depressed. I even once challenged myself to see how long I could go without eating at all which resulted in me not eating for three days. I’ve chucked away food, taken it out of the bin to eat it twenty minutes later (low point), eaten ten Krispy Creme doughnuts in one sitting and then starved myself for 24 hours to make up for it. I always wondered when we started trying for a baby if those bad decisions had somehow contributed to me taking so long to get pregnant, looking back that must have had some long term effects on my body?
So I enjoyed my pregnancy, all 287 days of it. I ate exactly what I wanted or fancied for every single one of those days and gained a healthy two and a half stone but also gained a sense of what’s really important for the first time in my life. Don’t get me wrong that included vegetables and salads but it also included a healthy amount of calories, fats and carbs. Do you know what I learnt? I learnt that I LOVE food and in a strange way I finally enjoyed meal times and being excited about eating again, not painfully researching calories or menu choices to find the lowest fat meal on the page.
While I was away last year on holiday, I was reading the daily mail online (yes I know a real newspaper) and as I scrolled down the page I came across an advert with a woman in her underwear, nothing unusual but to me, the image was unusual. Something about it wasn’t right and for 30 seconds or so I couldn’t put my finger on what it was? Then it dawned on me, the picture hadn’t been touched up. The model had a roll, she had cellulite and she wasn’t a size 6 and I felt ashamed that I found the picture strange. I was so used to seeing pictures which had been enhanced and touched up, that I had been conditioned to see this as normal.
I also started to realise that social media has a large part to play in my relationship with food and my body. I never really believed that images could play a part in people’s body image struggles but it does. So I started unfollowing anyone who doctored their pictures or filled their pages with perfect touched up images because it’s not real and no one really looks like that. There are so many great women out there who want to promote healthy body image. I love that Olivia Buck has started a swimwear range that shows true to life images, none are touched up, they’re all real. Reason being is one; I can order a bikini and get a sense of how it will really look and two; I get to see woman who look like me for once in swimwear. We need more of this!
Since having my little boy I haven’t felt the need to starve myself back to my pre pregnancy weight (something I was worried I would feel pressure to do), damn my body just made a person! I know that weight and a healthy body image is something I will need to keep working towards each day and I understand that I will sometimes still look in the mirror and criticise myself (like all women do), but it’s ok to eat everything in moderation. So instead, this year I made a promise to myself. This year my New Years resolution is to be kind to myself again, to know that being skinny doesn’t make me a better person or a more attractive woman and to eat cheese on toast whenever I bloody want!