Diets are pretty much the norm in the UK. If you go into a workplace, especially where the majority of employees are women (like in teaching), most people will be on some sort of diet. Since January I’ve actually been asked 6 times if I’m on a diet. And, unlike any other year, the answer is no.
My weight has always a little bit up and down. I lost weight when I went to university because I started walking more. In 3rd year I got a car and a friend who lived far away from a bus route so I started driving in. I also started eating pub meals on a regular basis and piled on the pounds. I went from a size 8 to a size 16. This may not seem extreme, but I’m quite a short person.
In 4th year I started walking again. It took me 30 minutes at a brisk pace to walk from my flat to university and I would do this journey 4 times a day. I also joined the gym and went to Zumba. The biggest change at this time was my diet. For around a year I counted calories. I became obsessed with counting calories. I would always aim to eat between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day. I stopped eating out with my friends and spent ages picking low calorie meals in the supermarket. If a meal wasn’t less than 300 cals I wasn’t letting it pass my lips. I dropped back to a size 8 but wasn’t happy because I was missing out on things.
Since leaving university, my weight has been slowly creeping up. I would go through periods of eating whatever I wanted, then panicking when I read the scales and going on a strict diet. Last year I went on holiday to Italy and put on a lot of “pasta weight”. By the time the summer rolled round, my clothes weren’t fitting and I felt tired and unwell. I couldn’t understand how it had happened. I immediately went on a strict diet where I weighed all my food and then, when I didn’t lose weight, I went to the doctor worried about having thyroid problems.
Now I realise, I didn’t have thyroid problems or anything else. I was just getting myself so stressed out about my weight that I was putting more on.
When we feel stressed about eating we tend to make ourselves feel hungrier. Then we will overeat. The more I thought about my weight, the less likely I was to shift it. Eventually life got in the way of calorie counting and I was so preoccupied with other things that I forgot to stress out and quickly lost weight again.
It was reflecting on this that led me to my New Years Resolution: accept your body the way it is and learn to love it.
I have always had a bit of a tummy, which I have hated. However, after thinking hard about body image I came to the conclusion that if I saw another girl with my body, I wouldn’t think twice. I wouldn’t think she was ugly and needed to lose weight. If I was willing to be accepting and nice about another woman’s body, why couldn’t I do the same for my own?
Since I’ve stopped worrying about body image, I feel healthier and my weight has plateaued. I’m a size 12 now which I’m pretty happy with. With that in mind, here are the rules that I have embraced this year that have helped me love my body:
1) Buy clothes that fit. I’ve stopped buying size 10s to squeeze into and have opted for size 12 clothes from most shops. It has been amazing! I finally feel like my clothes look good on me. I don’t stress out about tight fitting clothes anymore.
2) Appreciate your body for the amazing things it can do. So what if you don’t have a flat stomach or toned arms, your body fights diseases, makes energy and can dance. Your stomach acid can dissolve metal. Give your body the respect it deserves.
3) Be happy with what you’ve got. We all have different body types. If you weren’t born to be a tall, willowy model type you’ll never get there by dieting. We all want what we can’t have. That model type probably would love to have your boobs. Every body is beautiful in some way.
4) Try to look at other cultures body ideals. The media in Western society tends to favour slim women and muscular men. However, that’s not the case everywhere. Thinking about different forms of beauty really helped me. I’ve decided that women in Italian Renaissance paintings with their soft curves is where it’s at for me and I’ve embraced that. I guarantee that anyone will be able to find a culture or period of history where their body type is the ideal. Find it and own it.
5) Your body is a well oiled machine, so give it the right fuel. I concentrate on giving my body nutrients now, rather than cutting down on certain foods. If you eat lots of fruit and vegetables then you’ll feel loads better for it. Also, eat full fat food. I’ve stopped buying low fat products because usually manufacturers add sugar to compensate for the lowered taste, which is really bad for your body and is more likely to make you put on weight. Some fat is good for you and is probably better than sugar.
6) Stay active day to day. I’m pretty bad at exercising but building in activity in work is a great way to stay fit. I walk around as much as I can and often sit on the floor. This actually really helps, because you have to constantly shift around to get comfortable. Also, by not leaning against a chair back, you have to keep your body balanced by engaging core muscles (now I sound like my yoga teacher).