I don’t get on with my body very much. In fact that’s quite an understatement. And today that self loathing hit me like a sledgehammer. I’ve got a romantic day out with my husband planned, at a spa, we’ll be getting massages and spend time in steam rooms and jacuzzis. It all sounds heavenly. The problem is that I need swimwear now, so I thought I’d pop in to town and pick up a swimsuit. In my excitement about the spa day I forgot just how bad it could be. As I stood in the changing room, listening to the size 8 teen in the next cubicle complain she was too fat and needed to be at least a size 6, and staring at myself in the full length mirror I felt utterly broken.
There I stood, size 20, an overhanging belly, fat dimpled thighs and upper legs, sagging boobs, and massive silver stretchmarks cobwebbing their way across large swathes of my flesh.. I felt disgusting. I wanted to be sick, I wanted to starve, I wanted to binge, I wanted to cut and carve and tear away chunks of flesh. I wanted to physically hurt.
Here’s the thing, before I met my husband I was struggling with really disordered eating. I was eating a single slice of toast a day, unless I needed to go for a meal with someone, in which case I’d eat in front of them then deny myself even toast for a few days. I was determined no one would know what I was doing, in case they tried to stop me. I’d wake up every morning and do 45mins of exercise, then the toast, come lunchtime I’d skip food and exercise again. In the evening it was skip food and do stretches. And I lost weight, and the compliments rolled on it.
Sure I was light-headed most of the time, my stomach ached ceaselessly, and if I dared have an alcoholic drink I’d be hammered and in a state almost instantly. But everyone kept telling me how good I looked.
What hurts most now is that I was only a size 14 when I started this, and I thought I looked horrific. I got down to a size 10 before I met my husband, early on in our relationship I confessed what I’d been doing and he was a massive help in getting my eating under control again. Often cooking me healthy lunches to take to work with me.
However we hadn’t been together long when my back went wrong, suddenly I was severely limited in my mobility and exercise went out the window. I often needed help just getting to the bathroom in those early days, and so the weight piled on, and on, and on.
Over the years I kept thinking, “when my back is sorted I can get more active again”, of course it’s now 6 years later and while I manage the pain better, I still cannot do much.
I occasionally tried loose forms of diets, but any hint of restricting diet triggered me back into those old eating habits, it was just never enough. I wanted to starve myself, but of course this was no solution, so to soothe myself I’d binge instead. I know it makes no logical sense, but I guess in one way I gain comfort from eating plus it is still a form of self harm. Right now just talking about this I want to gorge myself, I’m not hungry, I want to be simultaneously comforted and hurt myself. Self harm inspires the same odd mix in me. It is pain, but it soothes.
At one point I saw a counselor for a mental health assessment via my gp, I told her about the disordered eating, she looked me up and down (I was a size 16 by then) and just said, “well it’s obviously not a problem now”. That’s right, my constant fight with food and my body was not a problem because I was too fat to be suffering.
More recently I’ve tried taking inspiration from the wonderful women involved in #effyourbeautystandards and other plus size fashion. There are some incredible women, with these beautiful bodies, some are even similar to mine. But when I see theirs I see beauty and when I see mine I see grotesque. I also struggle as many involved in plus size fashion are larger but their skin is taut and young, pert breasts, firm stomachs, not sagging looseness.
I feel like I’ve lost my youth to my back pain, not just in terms of time, but in terms of my body. I feel like youthfulness has been stolen from me and I’m only 30. I just feel like I’m stuck in an older body, functionally and aesthetically.
I want to feel like my body isn’t this alien cage I’m trapped in, all fat and pain. But it is.
Yes, it’s borne to wonderful children, but even then I was desperately ill through both pregnancies, with one ending early thanks to my body.
It fails at looking good. (Fat)
It fails at movement. (Back, wrists, knees, shoulders, elbows, neck, shoulders..)
It fails at pain. (Back, wrists, knees, shoulders, elbows, neck, shoulders..)
It fails at pregnancy. (Hyperemesis gravidarum)
It fails at childbirth. (Prematurity)
It fails at breastfeeding. (Not enough milk, even with drugs)
It fails at femininity. (PCOS hirsutism)
It fails at ovulation. (PCOS)
It fails at eating normally.
It fails at health.