It feels self-indulgent to write an overview of, well, me. But I’ve found it so helpful to hear from others who appear totally happy, healthy and well-adjusted on the outside but, like everyone, have their own struggles on the inside.
So I’m sharing this in the hope that it might make even one person feel a little less alone! And to show you that it is possible to reach a point where you’re peaceful with yourself and your body, even after years of being on the self-hate rollercoaster.
The Early Years
I was a pretty normal weight as a kid, but that started to change when I went to high school.
I’d always had a sweet tooth and was known in my family for loving chocolate. When my new school had a vending machine selling Snickers for only 35p (!), I couldn’t believe my luck.
Unsupervised daily access to snacks?! The dream!
Not to mention the school canteen, with its chocolate-filled doughnuts and sausage rolls, all for rock bottom prices. Somewhere out there, Jamie Oliver is shedding a single tear.
At this point, I didn’t understand the loaded concept of “weight”. I didn’t give a second thought to what I looked like or whether I was “too fat”. I was just happy, munching away on my daily Mars bars.
The Difficult Teenage Phase
This came to a screeching halt when I was 13. We went on holiday to Greece, where I inhaled the hotel buffet – my favourite part of hotels to this day. I got an ear infection and had to see a Greek doctor for antibiotics. He needed to know my weight to prescribe the right dose; he didn’t have a scale, and my mum didn’t know how much I weighed. Instead, he asked me to stand up, looked me up and down and made his assessment with a chuckle.
“Hmmm… pretty big”.
Excuse me?! I was SHOOK. It was the first time I can remember being conscious of my weight, and aware that it was wrong in some way.
As I got older, I continued to pile on the pounds but it was always with a growing sense of unease in myself, not helped by my first boyfriend who told his mates I’d be prettier if I was thinner.
The Fresher 15
At 18 – having dropped James like a hot but delicious potato – I went to university and had to fend for myself.
I had never bothered to learn how to cook.
Once I attempted to cook rice but didn’t know you had to drain it before plating it up. For Christmas lunch with my housemates, I was only trusted with heating up the ready-made bread sauce and somehow managed to burn it.
I mean… come on.
At this point, I abandoned my cookery career and lived on a diet of Taco Tuesdays at the SU and Domino’s pizza. At my peak, I could eat a large pepperoni with a side of potato wedges and chicken strippers and still have room for dessert. My weight continued to creep up and I hit my heaviest, at a BMI of 29.
The self-loathing really took hold. Outwardly, I was the bubbly, chubby friend who everyone loved but nobody fancied. Inside, I felt overlooked, worthless and just not good enough.
The Full-On Rollercoaster
The next 5+ years followed a predictable pattern:
- Weigh myself, be horrified, start swimming or running to lose weight
- Fail to lose weight, turn to body positivity to convince myself that I love my body exactly as it is anyway because ‘big is beautiful’
- Fail at convincing myself that I truly love and appreciate my body, become hyper aware of my insecurity
- Rinse and repeat
I’m sure this must be familiar to others out there!
It was completely exhausting, and ruined what should have been some incredible experiences for me. When I was at uni, I spent a lot of time in my room because I felt too self-conscious in any of my clothes to go out.
I went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China and, instead of grabbing it with both hands, I spent the whole month paranoid and uncomfortable in my skin because I was the biggest girl there – and the only one who knew how to find the nearest McDonald’s.
The Fad Diet Stage
At some point in my early twenties, the penny dropped that what I ate and my weight were, in fact, connected. Who knew?!
It makes me cringe now, but my friends wanted to set me up with a guy who was in really good shape, so I decided I had to quickly drop the pounds before I would be worthy of going on a date with him. Oh, honey.
I did a bit of reading and put myself on a strict 1200 calorie a day diet of plain chicken, salad and camomile tea. It worked. My BMI plummeted from 29 to 20, and I looked HOT.
I didn’t date the guy, but I went out to bars in London, went on a girls’ holiday to Spain and felt great in a bikini, and generally lived my best skinny life.
Of course, it wasn’t sustainable. No-one can keep up a diet like that long term, it’s simply not a realistic way to live. But I didn’t realise that at the time so, when I rediscovered my lifelong love of burgers and put all the weight back on, I felt like I had messed it up in some way. I was a failure again.
After that, I tried every fad diet going to get back to my slimmest. Keto, Atkins, 5:2, Slimming World, intermittent fasting, I tried them all and put my limited success down to me not being good enough to succeed at them. I never considered that the diets were the problem, not me.
In 2015, my grandad passed away. To take my mind off it for a little while, my mum took me to her Body Balance class at the local gym.
I’d exercised before but it had always felt like a punishment, something I had to do because I was fat and needed to stop being fat as soon as possible. But this time was different. It was the first time I exercised not for my body, but for my mind. I was amazed at the power my body had to change my thoughts and vice versa.
Back in London, I joined a gym to continue with Body Balance. After a few weeks, I got curious about what dynamic yoga would be like. When I was comfortable with that, I noticed the girls going into Body Pump and decided to give that a go. Before I knew it, I was going 5 days a week for everything from barre to spin.
I didn’t go because I had to burn calories or make up for a packet of cookies I’d eaten. I went because it calmed me down, gave me a sense of accomplishment and showed me just what my body was capable of when I put my mind to it.
After a few years of trying everything going at the gym, I’ve found what I love and settled into a great routine of weightlifting, HIIT, spinning and boxing.
I’m still a massive foodie, but because I want to feel strong and fit and healthy, I’ve learned how different foods make me feel and try to make positive choices about what I eat most of the time. Obviously I’m human, and still love a Five Guys or a cinnamon roll!
I won’t go into all the details of my current lifestyle here, because that’s really the focus of the entire blog! I’m using this site to share all of the information, tips and advice that have helped me along the way.
But please know that, even after a dysfunctional relationship with food, exercise, my body and my mind that lasted for at least 15 years, I’ve managed to strike a balance. And if I can, I am absolutely sure that everyone can.
Does any of this resonate with you? I love to hear from others about their experiences and perspectives, so please feel free to share in the comments or drop me an email.
Until then, thank you so much for reading. I hope it’s helped, even a tiny bit.