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.
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.
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.
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.
Jumper – Matalan (still in stores, can’t find it online!) | Skirt – Matalan | Bag – New Look | Boots – River Island
Photos: Rob Poor