Please do not feed the diet monster

It’s only been two years since I started trying to break out of the whole mainstream fatphobic diet mentality thing, and I already have far, far more good days than bad. I learned to love my body and my self no matter what size or shape, I can recognise damaging talk when I hear it, I will never go on another diet as long as I live.

But earlier this week I made a mistake. I had a meeting after work, and traffic was bad so I only had a few minutes at home to change out of my work clothes. I threw on some jeans and a hoodie and ran out the door.

Fifteen minutes later, when I knew I would make the meeting on time and had calmed down enough to notice, I realised that my jeans didn’t fit. At all. What should have been boot cut was now super skinny, I couldn’t bend my knees fully, and even when I was standing the waistband dug into my stomach.

I was stuck in those jeans for 5 hours. Aside from the physical discomfort, I noticed some thoughts sneaking in as the night went on. Thoughts like

This is just because of the injury. Once I start exercising again I’ll get smaller.

If I use my kettlebells, that’ll have an effect faster.

These used to fit me, how did I let myself get so much bigger?

And hundreds of variations on that theme.

I had forgotten how ingrained fatphobia was. Here I was thinking I had beaten it, but less than an hour in some tight trousers was enough to push me a huge step backwards and get me planning and plotting to make myself smaller.

What’s even worse is that the effect didn’t go away when I took the jeans off. It’s days later now and I’ve got my first salsa class since before my injury; I know I’m bigger than last time most of the salsa scene saw me, and I’m afraid of what they will think of me. There’s a small part of me that is actually seriously considering not going.

All this because of ONE PAIR OF FREAKING JEANS!

Of course I’m going to salsa. That nasty voice in my head is still trying to stop me, but I’ve had two years practice at throwing my shoulders back, lifting my chin and doing it anyway. And then the second I have enough free time, I’m going through every item of clothing I own and getting rid of anything and everything that doesn’t fit me. If I then need to go and buy bigger clothes, so be it. Clothing sizes are just numbers and not one of them is better than another.

My body is perfectly fine exactly as it is. My body (and my mind) deserves clothes that fit well and that make me feel fabulous, not like a sausage about to burst its skin.

How to love your body when it’s broken

At the beginning of September I sprained my knee (did you know knees could be sprained? I didn’t. It was very educational). The nurse told me it would take at least 6 weeks to heal, which turned out to be seriously optimistic;  12 weeks later and I’m now counting the days since it last hurt, although not quite daring to call it healed.

strapped-up-knee
At least the KT tape was pretty.

 

Because I’ve been out of action for 3 months, my fitness level has pretty much reset to zero. Absolute zero. I can’t describe the feeling of looking at all my running medals while I gasp for breath after climbing one flight of stairs, but trust me when I say it’s not a good one.

I suspect my knee is only better now because I was forced to rest completely last week by the worst case of tonsillitis I’ve ever had. Swallowing hurt so much I couldn’t even take water, and solid food was so out of the question I was actually glad my appetite had vanished. The antibiotics are finished, but my throat is still sore and my glands are still swollen.

Then I woke up at 3am on Monday with a cracking headache, and ran to the bathroom to be sick. I’ve caught a bug that’s making the rounds at work.

And of course my knackered kidneys meant I couldn’t take ibuprofen for my knee, had to lower the dose of antibiotics for my tonsils, and tried to get rid of my headache by drinking a lot of water and leaving the lights off when I was at home. Is it bad that I sometimes daydream of taking nurofen?

It can be difficult to love your body when it feels like it’s broken.

I confess over the last few months I’ve cursed my body several times, for taking so long, for letting me down, for turning against me. As though ‘me’ and ‘my body’ are separate entities that can be at war. As though either one would be anything without the other.

That’s how I’m working at still loving my body, even though I’m so, so tired of being ill. I remind myself that it’s as much a part of me as the voice that moans about it. That it isn’t some malevolent thing that wants to be ill; my tonsils didn’t get infected just to annoy me, my stomach didn’t decide to make me sick just to see how I would react, and I’m positive my kidneys would really rather be whole.

Rather than being against me, it is me. And one thing I’m getting better at is looking after myself. So I’m taking my sore throat to the doctor again, even though I don’t like going. I’m resisting the urge to jump back into running and salsa and ceroc and pole, even though my knee feels fine, because I know I need time to get well again. I’m even taking naps if I need them, much to the horror of my must-always-be-doing-something-useful brain.

Of course I’m more than just my body, but it is a part of me, and I’m working on giving it the love and care that every bit of me deserves.

The Militant Baker may be a mind-reader

Actual Size

 So I’ve gained weight. So what?

I came across this article by Jes Baker and, as happens so often when I read her writing, I had a lightbulb moment.

Ohhh that’s what I’ve been feeling!

See, I’ve also gained weight over the last year as my body figures out where it wants to be without me messing with it. I’ve no idea how much because I don’t weigh myself anymore, but I can tell by the fit (or rather not-fit) of my clothes.

I thought I was fine, as my reaction to this has been to alter the clothes or just buy new ones that do fit me, rather than having a hate-fest about how terrible my body is. I have not felt the urge to diet/restrict/make a ‘lifestyle change’/double my exercise in order to force my body into eating itself smaller and messing up my metabolism even more. I know full well that my worth has nothing to do with my size.

But there was this niggling little undercurrent that I didn’t even notice, until I read this:

I had just become comfortable with my body (thanks to an arduous amount of body love work over the years) — now, that body shape I learned to love was no more. Now I needed to re-learn how to love my body with all its new features.

Goddamnit, Life.

IT WAS HARD ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.

Yes. That.

I had learned to love the shape of my arms, but now they’re not that shape or size any more. I loved my muscly legs, but now the muscle is beneath a bit more fat. I loved my pear shape, but I fill in from the middle so now I’m a little closer to straight up and down. Basically I learned to love a particular way of having a body, which is now gone, possibly forever, and I have to start all over again. Geezo. I need to sit down a minute.

Thankfully, Jes didn’t just hit me with that and then walk away from the rubble. She figured some stuff out and I’m super glad she shared it because I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get there for myself.

“My body is going to keep changing for the rest of my life. If it’s not weight gain, it will be aging. If not aging, it could be an illness. If not an illness, it could be any number of things that will cause inevitable change, which will require me to to learn to love the change.”

First of all, I’m accepting that my body is definitely going to change, because I’m a living thing and that’s what we do. Of course I knew that, but I didn’t know know it. If you know what I mean.

“Change is nothing if not constant, and this is where body acceptance comes in. It’s taken me a while to learn that body acceptance isn’t necessarily just about learning to love your body right now — though this is a great first step! It extends far beyond that, and also includes deconstructing the actual reasons behind body hatred: learning why we’ve decided that we’re not OK in general.”

I’d taken that first step, which is a great start, go me! But now it’s time to take the next step and move on. Yes, I can love my body right now, but right now will never ever happen again. I have to learn to love it now, tomorrow, next week/month/year/decade, as it is, as it will be, as it ever could be. I have to figure out why loving it needs so much effort in the first place.

It was hard enough the first time. I don’t want to have to do this again. But I’m going to.

The alternative is sliding back into being miserable with everything because my body doesn’t look the way I think it ‘should’, hating the one thing I can never get away from as long as I live, and putting limits back on my life because of the way I look.

I’ve been there, it sucks, and I’m never going back again.

Let the hard work begin.

 

Go check out themilitantbaker.com (I want a unicorn dress!!)