I mentioned in my Sorry While I Go Quiet For A Bit post earlier in September that I wanted to post about “… crying because I felt fat even though I’m objectively not and about body positivity.” Well, here goes nothing.
Let’s start by putting it into a little context, shall we? This emotional outburst was certainly at least partially borne of stress associated with thesis writing and moving house as well as hormones. It came about partly because I didn’t have time for anything apart from writing, working and sleeping and as a result the quality of the food I was eating was going down and the quantity was going up (I am a classic stress eater). Of course, there was no time to work out, either.
So it was no wonder I was feeling a bit rubbish. This time last year I was celebrating the fact that I’d almost reached my weight goals, having lost almost 2 stone and one dress size. Let me be clear on this: I was not overweight when I decided I wanted to lose weight. When I reached my goals I was not underweight.
However, it turns out there’s a fair range of weights a person can be without being either under or overweight. While I wasn’t quite overweight I was at the upper end of that range and I was too heavy to feel comfortable and happy in my own skin. Maybe that’s a perfectly natural feeling, maybe I’ve been as conditioned as everyone else by culture, media and advertising, maybe I’m just overly sensitive. Probably it’s a combination of all three.
What I can tell you is that when I’d lost the weight I wanted to lose, I felt great. Not just the sense of accomplishment, either. I felt much healthier (again, that could be as simple as the power of suggestion). Mostly, I’ve managed to keep it off, too. I’ve now gone a whole year maintaining my weight, with small fluctuations up and down, as is perfectly natural and healthy.
Sometimes that means I eat loads of unhealthy stuff for a few days and then I switch it up and eat salad and quit snacking for a bit. That’s my version of balance.
Christmas is a great example of this. I eat loads at Christmas and I mostly just sit on the sofa. I never regret it because a) Christmas food is amazing and b) after Christmas my diet goes back to normal, and so does my health in general.
So this last month of writing and moving home has been like Christmas in that I’ve eaten loads and not exercised, but not like Christmas in that I haven’t even enjoyed it. That seems like a waste. I just didn’t have the energy necessary to avoid it.
So, there I was; tired, stressed, upset and now feeling fat. Even though, as I said, I am objectively not. So I cried. I didn’t cry because I was worried about the state of my thesis (which I have also done) or because I wasn’t getting to spend time with P, or because someone had done something to upset me, but because I felt fat.
So here comes my attempt at body positivity: I should not have to feel like that. I should never have to feel like that, regardless of whether or not I’m overweight. That’s not to say I won’t now go back to a healthier lifestyle, or that if I found myself gaining weight I wouldn’t carefully assess how that was happening – it’s just to say it should never be so important that it makes me cry.
It shouldn’t make anyone cry.
So, here to remind me for possible hard, stressful times in the future are some of the reasons why my weight and my appearance are trivial. This is where my self worth comes from:
- I am a physicist. When I get up in the morning I go to work and I get paid to do physics. I quite literally work to push the boundaries of human knowledge
- I am a good friend. My friends know that I am there for them when they need me, and, most likely, when they don’t need me too
- I’m a good teacher. I can share what I know with others and explain difficult concepts in such a way that people understand them
- I’m a person. Nothing about my appearance or waistline means I should be treated as anything less
- I’m hot as hell. Fuck you, haters.
Ok, so that last one is flippant, but to be fair feeling like you look attractive is a mood booster even if you kind of object to the idea that it should be. I’m aware that the system is manufactured to make women feel that they need to look perfect all the time, but I’m not outside that system. I’ve been marinading in it since I was a little girl. It’s a hard thing to reject entirely.
As Last Year’s Girl said to me not long ago, “sometimes, when you’re feeling like crap and you hate your body you just have to strap yourself into an awesome dress and rock it.” She is wise. It’s harder to feel ugly when your in an awesome dress and a pair of killer heels with red lipstick on. I feel like the red lipstick is important too.
Ok, that’s enough. I’m not a fitness professional or a life coach or anyone who’s in any way qualified to give advice about this kind of thing. So I feel like a bit of a fraud writing about it but that’s how I feel about it. If you’re having body positivity issues there are better bloggers than be writing about it (although I do feel better writing that list of reasons, so if you want to write one too don’t let me stop you – just please don’t try to write it unless you’re feeling positive because if you find it hard it’ll only make you feel worse).
If this is all a bit confusing, Buzzfeed have a good Body Positivity 101
Also, since this stuff is often linked with more serious depression and anxiety, if you’re feeling low or you’re struggling, please know that you are not alone. It’s ok to ask for help and the following groups (and many more) exist to provide it:
I am enough and so are you.