Two years ago, I could comfortably fit into a Size 10, sometimes even an 8, depending on how much I had deprived myself that week. I had defined cheekbones, slim thighs and a very visible collarbone. Friends and family complimented me on how “fantastic” I looked, how much weight I had lost, how my (very strict) diet was really working for me.
I did very little exercise, had a stressful job and a truly miserable home life. I lived in a city that I hated, and that I was convinced hated me. In the midst of a destructive relationship, I had cut myself off from my oldest and closest friends. I was shrinking.
Physically, emotionally, psychologically, I was forcing myself to take up less space in the world, to disappear, pound by pound, stone by stone.
In a twisted way, whenever anyone told me how “great” I looked, rather than taking pride in that, it simply validated my disappearing act. It made me push harder, restrict myself further, tell myself that my worth was measured only by the amount of space freed up by slender limbs and a concave stomach.
Now I refuse to shrink.
I eat healthily – properly healthily. Fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, plenty of greens and gallons of water. But I don’t restrict myself. I love dark chocolate, coffees with plenty of milk, the occasional slice of cake or ice cream shared with my love at the end of a delicious meal at our local pizzeria.
And I move. My god, how I move. Walking, walking everywhere. Walking the dog at dawn, walking to and from work, walking when I feel stressed, or sad, or just in need of some fresh air. I’ve even begun running. Slowly, sweaty and red-faced, I bounce through the beautiful green spaces Newcastle has to offer, like Jesmond Dene or Leazes Park.
I look ridiculous while I’m doing it, but when I move I feel so alive, so vibrant, so confident. Feelings I can’t remember experiencing in a very long time.
I could quite accurately be described as ‘plump’ these days, and have completely given up trying to squeeze myself into those Size 10 jeans. But I’m happier, healthier and fitter than I ever have been.
I’ve stopped disappearing.
What if we all agreed to stop disappearing? I look at the young women around me, beautiful, high-achieving, intelligent women all, but what do they do when they gather together? Compare ‘spare tyres’, discuss the latest deprivation diet. I’m done with it, and you should be too.
We are lucky enough to live in a society where, for most people, food is plentiful and work conditions are far healthier than those are grandparents and great-grandparents faced. We mustn’t forget that by instead judging success by the visibility of your collarbones.
We all deserve to take up space. We all deserve to be heard, to be loved, to be respect. Come join me on the plump and happy side. We have all the best snacks.