Fashion, Life

The mental minefield of dealing with weight gain

Autumn Matalan outfit

When this post is published, I will be on holiday. Presumably, at some point on said holiday, I will be wearing swimwear. As I write this, I have one day before going on holiday, and yesterday’s try-on session of bikinis and swimsuits was nothing short of an ordeal. The thought of putting on swimwear is making me feel slightly ill.

So let’s come out with it; I’ve gained weight.

Well, I can’t be 100% sure of that, because I actually haven’t weighed myself in years, and I certainly don’t intend to start again now. The reasons for that are another story for another time, but my changed appearance coupled with the fact that I can’t get into some of my clothes tells me all I need to know – and I’m finding it tricky to deal with.

Matalan autumnal outfitMatalan monochrome outfit

I’m sure no one needs an explanation, but despite the fact that I know I don’t need to excuse my body for doing what bodies do I feel obliged to give a reason. It’s very simple; over the past few months I’ve eaten more and moved less than I generally do. My weight has always fluctuated and I’ve never been someone that maintains a consistent size no matter what they consume. This means that both losing weight and gaining weight are things which seem to happen fairly regularly for me, although I’m sure you can guess which one is easiest and I’m sure the more difficult one will get even more so as I get older. Even understanding that though, dealing with weight gain mentally is a bit of a minefield, especially if you have any history with issues in that area.

Matalan skirt and jumperMatalan colour block jumper

I’m obviously generalising when I say this, but getting bigger is, let’s face it, seen as the ‘wrong’ way to be doing things. A woman should only ever be aiming to get smaller, of course. How many times have you heard something along the lines of ‘she looked great, she’s lost some weight’ or ‘she’s let herself go, she looked bigger than she used to be’? These sorts of phrases being commonplace really underlines the fact that gaining weight is broadly seen as a failure. I know when I’ve put on weight in the past and mentioned it to a friend they’ve been quick to assure me that no, you haven’t, don’t be silly, you look great…and it comes from an incredibly well-meaning place, but again, denying something that is just fact as a way of comforting someone only serves to position weight gain as something to be very afraid of. Yet even while recognising that this is a thing, and thinking its a load of rubbish, and wanting to call bullshit on it…I really don’t feel good about the weight I’ve put on recently.

Which brings me onto something that doesn’t sit well with me. Obviously I like to pretend not to be influenced by society, or the media, and all that jazz, and I truly believe that we are all enough, whatever shape or size, and a number on a scale or in a clothes label does not mean we are less worthy of respect, success or love. But if my feelings about the weight I’ve put on are all negative ones…am I a bad feminist? Or an enemy of the body positivity movement? I almost feel I’m not ‘allowed’, by those standards, to suggest that I might want to lose a few pounds – because isn’t that letting patriarchal and societal standards win?

Aside from oh my god stop thinking about things so much, I have two reactions to this. The first one is; Jesus, I’m exhausted. Can’t women ever win? On the one hand we’re constantly fed the idea that slim is the ‘goal’, the ideal, the optimum and most desirable way to be (although if you’re slim they’ll still find a way to make you think that’s not okay either, don’t worry). The second is; it’s not that simple. Self-love, feminism and being less-than-thrilled with weight gain aren’t mutually exclusive in my mind, so it’s perfectly possible to have a bit of all of them going on.

Colour block jumper and black denim skirtMatalan monochrome jumper

I’ve tried to unpick it further, or attribute all of my displeasure at gaining weight to pressures from the outside world – and while that undoubtedly comes into play somewhere, it’s far from being all there is to it. A lot of it is a struggle to line up my body the way it is now with the way it has been before, almost as though when I’m at my heaviest I don’t consider my reflection to be my own. I don’t feel comfortable and confident at this weight, not because I just need to break free and learn to love myself, but because I feel sluggish, and unhealthy, and not the way I feel at my best. It’s difficult, when you’ve been a certain way that you were happier with (which could be anything, depending on your body and your ‘journey’ – this isn’t about size, it’s about change), not to then feel negative when that changes. And I suppose this is especially applicable because gaining weight for me hasn’t been a result of self-care or doing what I want – in lots of ways it’s the opposite. There are a lot of my favourite things that I haven’t been doing or eating, so I guess you could say I haven’t been living my best life.

So, where do I go from here? As someone who has a fraught relationship history with my own body, food and exercise, first and foremost I’m not going to ‘do’ anything in particular. The most important thing anyone can do when trying to deal with weight gain in my opinion is try not to punish themselves for being human. So no ‘that’s it, I need to be super strict’ (I don’t believe in diets and restriction is a dangerous road) and no ‘that’s it, I give up, I’m going to eat bread and chocolate solidly until I die’ (a direct route to self-loathing where I’m concerned).

This body may not be the one I have when I am caring for it well, but negative self-talk is not the mind I have when I am caring for myself well either, so that’s off the cards. I’ll certainly be making an effort to do more of the things that make me feel great (running, trying to pick up heavy stuff, sometimes dropping it), trying out some new recipes – and continuing to eat chips because obviously. For now I will try to accept where I am, rather than where I wish I was – we might talk about gaining weight like it’s the biggest of failures, but if that’s really the worst I can do…I can live with that.

Matalan jumper and black studded skirtMatalan Autumn 2017 outfitColour block jumper and skirt autumnAutumnal outfit ideasAutumn outfitJumper – Matalan (still in stores, can’t find it online!) | Skirt – Matalan | Bag – New Look | Boots – River Island

Photos: Rob Poor

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10 thoughts on “The mental minefield of dealing with weight gain”

  1. Oh Sophie I can definitely relate to this post! Last year I gained a bit of weight and it was such a shock to the system, I felt very triggered by it but didn’t want to go back to unhealthy habits I had as a teenager. I’m not sure how I lost the weight I put on, but it seemed to correlate exactly to when I got passionate about my yoga journey. The great thing is that since doing yoga my weight hasn’t ever been a focus ever since., it’s all about being kind to yourself and your body. I’m positive that you will be feeling better about it soon.

    http://www.natalieleanne.com

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  2. That skirt is so cute and I’d love to own that sweater — and as for the post, excellent read! I’ve struggled with my weight over the past few years and your thoughts are quite similar to mine. I definitely would never subject myself to the terrible route of restricting foods or diets. It’s just not for me! I believe in all things in moderation, more activity (exercises and workouts that you enjoy and can stick to consistently), and perhaps incorporating more plant based and whole foods into one’s diet. These are my favorite health and weight loss tips because they seem to be the most efficient and doable for the average person 🙏🏼

    -Helene | https://angelspartaness.com/

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  3. This post is so so so well written Sophie. I totally get you and sometimes feel a bit of a hypocrite because outwardly I’m so ‘I don’t diet, everyone should feel good about themselves’ etc etc, but really I do have days where I hate my body, but I guess everybody does and I think it’s more about having a healthy attitude and wanting to be the best you health-wise rather than body-wise, which I struggled with for so long. I find there’s such a tricky balance between being ‘body positive’ and looking after your body because sometimes I feel like wanting to exercise and eat healthily is not body positive, which is ridiculous! Anyway, possible nonsensical comment over 🙂
    Amy xx
    http://www.callmeamy.co.uk

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  4. Very interesting read Sophie! I think I wrote something sort of similar much earlier in the year.
    I have yoyo-d in weight, as has my wife. But long and short of it, I actually am always very happy in myself (I grew up with my brother and dad in the house and have got a v healthy body image from their good mindsets instilled at my youngest influential ages I think)… but I don’t want to not fit in high street clothes, and I’d like to feel my fittest – both these attribute to me currently wanting to lost a few pound… I don’t feel like a bad femenist because of it BUT I do struggle with the mentality of why I do/don’t too – just like this!
    Holly xxx /// mrshollycrocker.com
    https://www.mrshollycrocker.com/blog/2017/9/26/recipe-chocolate-birthday-cake-keto-no-sugar-no-wheat-low-carb

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  5. This is SO great to read Sophie! I really enjoyed it, and it’s something I’ve spent my entire life doing, going up, going down, and it’s not necessarily healthy, but then I’ve always managed to maintain quite a healthy mentality about my body, so I guess I’m also thankful for that. I think if you’re reasonably fit, and feel healthy, and feed your body with good foods and moderate rather than restrict (probably the bit I’m worst at, hence being conventionally fat), then as long as you’re happy, it really shouldn’t matter, and if you’re not, the likelihood is that it’s probably not down to your weight. Alice xxx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

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  6. Girl, honestly, I am shook. This post is bloody fantastic! You are SUCH a talented writer and I knew that just a few sentences in! I absolutely adore this post! It’s raw and it’s real, let me tell you, I LOVE it! I want every girl to read this! I feel the exact same at the moment and relate to this hard! I’ve gained weight but I’m just not in a position to really do anything about it like I cannot be dealing with diets and hardcore exercise right now.. Honestly, I think you look absolutely stunning in all of the pictures above 🔥 I read posts all the time but this, this post is definitely one that will be memorable in weeks to come! Your words are beautiful, your thoughts are beautiful and, most importantly, YOU are beautiful! Thankyou for this post, I am SO glad I read this!❤️❤️❤️

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  7. A beautiful heartfelt post by an equally beautiful woman. This couldn’t of come at a better time for me as I’ve recently noticed that my clothes aren’t fitting the same and though I know it’s nothing I have purposely done, I’m beating myself up over it. And as an advocate for BDD, I feel like I’m not allowed to publicly speak about how much it’s bothering me. Sigh. Hopefully one day we’ll all find a balance. xx

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  8. This really resonated with me. I’ve always been tiny and petite, but because of illness, I went up three dress sizes and I just can’t get back to how I was. Like you said, I feel that I have to justify that to anyone who knew me as a ‘skinny’ person. But, now I need to accept that, I’m a woman now and our bodies do change and perhaps I’ll never be that size again. Which should be fine. But I’m still working on that. So thank you for writing this!

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  9. You did an amazing job with this post Sophie (all the positive comments can attest to that).

    I have so much I want to say but I don’t want my comment to be too long either!!

    I think that it’s very hard not to get affected by societal norms and pressures to look a certain way. What I’ve been learning recently is what feels to me – do I FEEL good? do I feel strong and confident and happy and energetic? Or do I feel sluggish, tired, bloated and gross? When I pay attention to how I feel rather than how I look, I’m in a better place mentally because I want to go to the gym and workout, I WANT to eat healthy because it feels so much better in my gut.

    I’m basically focusing on my health and I know that the outcome will be positive because I will be physically healthier but will also mentally not be pushing myself and punishing all the time.

    With that being said, I still struggle with getting down on myself if I eat badly over the weekend or if I feel more bloated than usual. It’s a constant mental exercise to work through those thoughts and allow myself to be ‘human’ like you said and realize, it’s okay to enjoy life, there needs to be a balance and that’s what I Want to figure out – what the balance is.

    And for whatever it’s worth, you look fab. I know it’s hard when you don’t feel as fab as you’d like, but you do look great sweetie..!

    http://www.elleisforlove.com

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  10. I love this post – I feel exactly the same at the moment. I’ve put weight on over the summer and although I don’t enjoy my jeans being tight and feeling uncomfortable in all my beautiful clothes, I can honestly say I have enjoyed eating what I’ve wanted to eat. That’s why I find it so hard to work out how I feel about my weight. I guess I’ve just got to do what feels right! Thanks so much for sharing.

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