My twin daughters are 5 and are the best thing I’ve ever done. They are delicious, happy, free and loved little birds. They eat organic, nutritious food, they do ballet class, dance class and every Friday at school Eurythmics (a form of expressive body movements to music – I thought it was an 80s pop band), as a result they are fit and healthy.
I cook them fresh, healthy meals and spend my evenings Googling meal plans for them. As I give them their carrot sticks and hummus as a snack, I instead reach for a large bar of chocolate and inhale it. I eat healthy food throughout the day but like an alcoholic, I binge eat and go mental, often late at night, like a food version of Jekyll and Hyde. I can eat whole tubs of ice cream, cakes and sugar-loaded snacks, which has left me double the size from when I first met my husband at 19. My weight has gone up and down like a yoyo all my life and I remember feeling fat as a young child in ballet class when I was 9, however at 6 I was a skinny little thing.
I can control my weight for a higher purpose but just not for me. When I wanted to get pregnant 6 years ago. I ate like a normal human being, hired a personal trainer and lost a stone and half in 6 weeks and was pregnant the next month. I lost a further 2 stone when pregnant with my girls, as I ate a diet which made Gwyneth Paltrow look like a fast food junkie. But the minute they popped out I reached for my sugary snack-crack and within a few months I had ballooned again.
I remember a girl I used to be friends with the saying that ‘if only you had some self loathing you would be thin like most of the girls I know’. I remember thinking how bizarre that statement was and that actually, it’s the opposite. I need more self love to respect and to nurture my body and not treat it so badly. I could take control of my weight when it wasn’t about me, as I needed to be a healthy vessel for my children but the minute I gave birth my body became a junk food dumping ground again.
I was on a play date a few months ago when one of my daughter’s friends asked if “there was a baby in my tummy?”. It was a mortifying moment and I was super-scared that I would become shameful to my little girl. My daughter said “there’s no baby in my mummy’s tummy, just lots of chocolate!”. God bless her, it made me laugh and her friend was satisfied with the answer and they continued playing pirates and princesses – no foul, no harm.
When we got home she asked, ” Mummy why is your tummy so big, why do you eat so much chocolate?”
Children are disarming and they speak the unfiltered truth. I also felt aware that even with their healthy diet and exercise regime I wasn’t being a good example to them. It was a case of ‘do what I say and not what I do’.
As a beauty journalist of 15 years I know my eating habits are bad and I know intellectually how to eat and what exercise I should be doing. I feel like a Doctor who smokes and does drugs. I can write a paper and draw you diagrams on how sugar, my drug of choice, is damaging my health and attacking my collagen.
I’m 38, I’m a mum and I want vitality and longevity, so I can see my grandchildren. I’ve been lucky that my weight has never slowed me down health wise (although my kids do call me ‘slow coach’ as I always lag behind) or professionally (in a world of skinny blonde young girls, I always stuck out anyway). However, emotionally I’m literally wearing the baggage of my past. My dad was a secret Polygamist for 20-odd years, with multiple wives and children scattered around the world. The divorce and subsequent fall out was devastating and hard to figure out. So food became my friend.
My childhood was not a secure place both financially or emotionally. Now I feel safe and I’m not that scared child anymore. I’ve built a loving supportive family unit of my own but its time for me to seriously look at why I turn to food as an emotional crutch. I watch Frozen and Disney movies on a loop and now it’s time to ‘Let it go……..’
Having that extra pizza slice, that extra scoop of ice cream, when you know you shouldn’t is not what I’m talking about. I reach for sugar for that dopamine spike, that hit and release and chemical hug. It’s a negative coping mechanism and is not about greed.
Alcoholics don’t love the taste of whisky, they want oblivion, they want numbness and to get out of their busy heads, to stop the noise of whatever is upsetting them and make it go away. I totally relate to that. I’m an all-or-nothing kinda gal and I know I have an addictive personality, so food is the lesser evil of what I could have turned to, but it’s just killing me slower.
In the face of stress I reach for sugar. Healthy people go for a walk, listen to music, read a book and have a bath. This seems simple but it’s totally alien to me. I’m trying to relearn how to be healthy not physically but mentally. Someone once told me you don’t have a food problem, you have an emotional problem. She was right. Get your head straight and the rest will follow.
Number one for me is to say I’m worth it, I’m worth being healthy for me and not for anyone else- just me. I was 17 the last time I had a banging body, anyone who knows me knows that I have huge boobs with an hourglass figure. I had a woman’s body by 11 and I always felt threatened. From the age of 11 men would hit on me, make sexual advances, try and touch me in the street and shout offensive things from cars and especially white vans. I give you, “ you fucking love it up you – you slut”, this was shouted to me at the age 16 along Oxford street. It was humiliating and devastating.
So for me being healthy and slim equals sexual assault and fear. I know I’m not that vulnerable girl anymore. I have more of a voice, boxing skills and attitude but I know deep down my fatness was also a form of protection. My boobs are still huge but are matronly rather than exotic playboy pin up. I feel like I’ve been wearing a fat suit for the past decade and it’s now time to unzip it and step out and be the real me. I’ve been hiding behind my weight, my childhood pain has been hidden behind my weight and it’s time for it all to be shed and confronted.
Me at 19, when ironically I felt I was fat. My skin looks like I facetuned it!
I’ve started. I’m exercising twice a week, not for some finite goal but forever and just for me. I still have a midnight binge when I feel stressed out and overwhelmed but they are getting fewer and far between. I’m trying to find better coping mechanisms. I’m dancing, finding joy in doing the things I forgot I loved doing. Like making things with my hands, walking in the park and speaking my feelings instead of eating them. Through yoga I’m finding a balance, peace and I’m trying to surrender. I thought it was hippy crap but it’s been life changing and emancipating.
Writing about beauty is all about invisible things and feelings, which is why so many people don’t see the value in it. It’s feelings of low self esteem and bad coping skills that have lead to my weight issues throughout my life and it’s confronting those feelings, which will improve my quality of life and break the cycle. I’m trying to fill my daughters with love and high self esteem and I want to be a healthy example for them as well as seeing is believing. If I can take these first steps, I know you can and I want to share a few them with you.
Break the cycle
Find your voice and don’t seethe, speak up and confront the people and situations that are having a negative effect on you.
Dump toxic people. Some people in your life don’t want you to be the best version of yourself and have prescribed you the role of ‘the fat friend’. You need to remove them your life in order to break free and blossom.
Surround yourself with people who truly want you to be happy and won’t sabotage your efforts with bringing round cakes and chocolates – “go on just one won’t hurt you”. Show them the door, a true friend will slap that cake out of your hand.
Find joy. Stop going through the motions and sit and think what truly makes you happy. What as a child did you do that made you giggle and feel free – do it now.
Start slow. Start walking instead of taking the bus, take the stairs instead of a lift and build up to exercising 3 times a week with a mix of some fat burning cardio, as well as toning and strengthening exercises.
Be realistic. I’ve found that working out after the school run in the morning is the best time for me versus evenings. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted and once winter comes I will not be bothered to leave my house in the dark. If you’re realistic and know yourself and your patterns, you have a better chance of success.
Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend. If you have a bad food day, don’t write off all your efforts. In the past I’ve said ‘fuck it’ and gone wild. Take a deep breath, don’t beat yourself up and remember tomorrow is another day.