New Year, Same Amazing You.
Well, its that time of year isn't it? New stuff, fab family and friends get togethers, great food and a little indulgence right?
We’ve enjoyed the festivities, relaxed and generally had a great time. Usually we've eaten and drank what we like and then... for some of us... this marks the time when negative thoughts start sneaking in..... 'I've done it again' ‘Oh I’m so weak’ ‘Why did I have to eat so much?’ or even worse…. ‘I’m digusting’ ‘look at the state of me, god I hate myself’…. awful isn't it? But it's the reality at this time of year for millions of people.
Its compounded by the media - which is FULL of articles about getting thinner and ‘beach ready’ - transformational ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures. New year new you, ditch the fat for good etc etc You know the drill right?
I’m speaking from the point of view of a big person but I know full well that people of all sizes suffer with many of the same issues and equally feel as unrepresented in the media, sports and fitness world. We've lived with it all our lives haven't we? We've known what we're 'supposed' to look like ever since we got our first Barbie or Sindy doll and marvelled at her perfection. Haven't we? Societies perfect figure for us has been there in plain sight. Everywhere.
My earliest memory of not being happy with my body and the way I look was when I was aged 9. I was very slightly plumper then my thin best friend and for some reason it I knew I was different. As in fat - and that fat equalled bad or weak or not as good as thin. Looking back of course I was a healthy 9 year old who was just a different shape - not fat - not obese - just a sturdy strong 9 year old who was a great swimmer.
I have just turned 44 and I can confidently say that for those 35 years I have thought about food, dieting and being disappointed in my body at least once a week. This adds up to a minimum of 1,820 times I’ve had negative thoughts about my body since I was 9. Crazy huh?
I know that during those 35 years I also would have joined a slimming group or gone on a diet or made some kind of unachievable food/fitness plan at least once a year. Weight would come off - and then go back on - and then I would blame myself for being a failure and so it would begin again.
The last time I was at a diet club - Slimming World - I remember having a lightbulb moment. I was running and swimming and was fitter than I had ever been - yet here I was feeling like crap for being the same number on the scale as I was the previous week. Sat around in a group with a load of people who were equally as miserable. Although, to be fair, some were not miserable - there’s always just enough people losing weight for the others to think the diet works and that it’s us that have failed, again. I realised then I was never more miserable or obsessed with food than I was when I was dieting. My life and my moods were being governed by a number on the scale. I was despairing at myself, crying regularly and it was seriously affecting my mental health.
So, I went home and threw away my scales and vowed never to go back. I got rid of the bloody sugar packed Muller Lights and started eating what I wanted, when I wanted. My god it was good! Freeing! Liberating! Oh - and I could eat ALL the avocados! (most diets ‘score’ these high so you ‘shouldn’t eat too much of them’ - I know right!). Since then I’ve learnt that research has shown (like, years ago) that diets don’t work for most people long term (yes of course they work short term - hell - we’re always going to need those before and after pictures). See some of the links below. Or, Google 'diets don't work' and see where that gets you.
Now, I have to say here. I’m still big. Probably bigger than I have ever been. I’m not saying that slimming groups are bad (ahem, well, maybe a little!) and I’m not promoting sitting on the sofa with the biscuit tin. I'm also not saying don't make lifestyle changes or set goals for the coming year.
I’m just saying there’s more out there. Be curious, check in with yourself, open your eyes - are you *really* happy? Don’t be a slave to the diet industry - there’s a reason it’s a multi billion pound international business. It’s preying on us, the revolving door dieters constantly paying a fiver to feel dreadful. Trust your body. It’s strong, it’s wise. It can do amazing things. Honestly it can, just try. It’s the guilt and the shame that’s just horrifying and holds us back. Stand back and really really think about it. Try eating without feeling guilty. It’s just food. Look into the nutritional values of some of some diet products you eat - I read somewhere recently that Slimming World sell Hi-Fi bars - high in fibre apparently - but apples actually have more fibre in them … honestly - and this is legal?!!
Be active, just do something - try and do something every day if you can. I don’t have all the answers but what I do know is that the feeling great is much more powerful and achievable long term than trying to be thinner. Its likely my body has yo-yo'd for so many years I would need to do hours and hours of daily exercise to get smaller and I'm just not sure I'm ready to do that.
I’ve started following active body positive women on social media and reading blogs. Whatever size, shape, height or age you are - try and find some people in the media or fitness/sport/business world who you relate to. It’s a lot better having your instagram full of powerful, fabulous women just like you than all the unreal celebrities who spend hours and hours trying to maintain their abs.
I run, I work out. I’m happy. I’m happier in my own skin that I ever have been. I can stand in front of a group of women in lycra and lead a warm up knowing I’ll be running at the back. I understand more about my body, my health and my wellbeing more now than any diet group would ever give me. I know what foods agree with me and which ones don’t. I buy clothes that fit me and I wear a bikini in the summer. I'm just sorry I didn't discover all this year's ago.
I still have some occasional negative thoughts and disordered eating but I’ve been practicing that for 35 years. I now need to spend my next 35 years unlearning it all and understanding that I don’t want or need a New Me for New Year - I am me, I’m pretty amazing just as I am - I’m just going to work harder at being the best I can possibly be.
Let's start the New Year accepting who we are, giving ourselves some self worth and not trying to be what the media have decided women (and men) should look like. Instead, set goals, work hard, be active, try new things, eat cake and smile a lot.
Who's with me? xx
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNtPVgblzWY Maybe we should do a little more of this hey?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn0Ygp7pMbA TED talks like this are super interesting.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/health/biggest-losers-weight-loss.html More food for thought.
http://rebelfit.co.uk/blog This is an excellent place to start with reading fascinating, evidence based blogs about diets. I’ve completed a couple of the ‘missions’ on here. Enlightening to say the least.