This week I fell off the wagon. Big time. After a weekend away at Mumsnet #Blogfest16, I was exhausted, my head was buzzing with blog ideas and my ears were ringing with the piercing screams of a teething six month old. The last thing I could focus on was my diet but now the guilt has set in and I am feeling wretched for eating all that ice cream when I got home.
I’m an emotional eater. When I am happy, I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. When I’m tired, I eat. I eat, I eat, I eat. For as long as I can remember, I have had a weight problem. I was a fat kid and I have been a fluctuating adult, flitting between a size 12 and a size 20 over the years. I’m currently around a 14 -16. Not that size means very much. Who doesn’t own a pair of size 12 jeans from one shop and a size 16 from another that both fit exactly the same? (Do you clothing people not have some kind on industry standard?!)
Before I had my eldest son, back in 2014, I was more of a 12 -14 but I gained three pregnancy stone, lost it again and then gained three further stone when I had my youngest seven months ago. I have still another stone to lose to get back where I was and another stone on top of that to achieve my final goal. You see, never in my days of yo-yo dieting have I ever been slim enough to fit comfortably into a size 10. The ultimate size. The Perfect 10.
Over the years, I have wildly fantasised about how amazing it would be to be a size 10. I have imagined how flat my tummy would be, how small my waist would be, how pert my bum would be. My life would be perfect. I’d marry a celeb. I’d be loaded. Everything would fall into place. Basically, in my head, being a size 10 would turn me into Kim Kardashian, only less superficial. Except, it wouldn’t. If I were a size 10, I would still have a two year old and a seven month old with chronic sleep aversions. I would still have to maintain my house and go to work. My face would be the same. My hair would be the same. I’d still be of average height with short legs. I’d still be as white as the driven snow (or, more accurately, as mottled as the corned beef), without the time or inclination for regular spray tans. I would still be buying most of my clothes from Tesco or Asda because I don’t have time to shop anywhere else. It’s just easier to pick up a jumper and buy loaf at the same time. I would still be married to my lovely non celeb husband. Everything about my life would be EXACTLY the same. It would just be the label on my clothes and the number on the scales that would be different. It’s all a lie. Sorry size 10s, you may be slim but I’m fairly sure your lives can be just as mundane as mine.
The amount of time and money that I have spent on controlling my weight is obscene; gym memberships, diet plans, fitness gadgets, personal trainers, weight loss shakes. Has any of it made me happy? Aside from the genuine buzz that exercise gives you, I can honestly say, I have been as thoroughly miserable at size 12 as I have at size 20. I have felt fat at both ends of the spectrum. I have felt unattractive and worthless when I was slim. I have walked into a room in the smallest dress I have ever worn, at my own engagement party, and still felt ugly. The reality is, my happiness and self esteem is not linked to my dress size. I just use my weight as an excuse not to treat myself particularly well. For every nice thing people say about me, I counteract it with ten more criticisms of myself. I never graciously accept a compliment. Instead, I laugh it off with a put down or assume that people aren’t being genuine. However, I’m now a mum of two young boys and an aunt to a highly impressionable 11 year old girl. I am a role model. How I perceive myself and treat myself has to change, for both their sake and my own mental health.
Our children are growing up with enormous pressure from social media to look and behave a certain way. My niece and her friends spend hours getting the perfect pose on Snap Chat and Instagram. Whilst perceived as ‘fun’, these apps create an idea that to be loved and worthy you need to look a certain way. The impact of this is devastating. According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, published earlier this year
The tragedy of those statistics is the lack of talent being utilised and the potential wasted. Girls like my niece should never be afraid to assert themselves because of the way they look. I am sorry to say that I have been in the categories listed above and it feels horrific. No one should feel less of a person because they don’t fulfil someone else’s standard of beauty and no one should miss opportunities because they feel they don’t measure up. If you judge yourself by the standards of others, you will always fall short. In doing this, young girls are risking anxiety, depression and eating disorders and it’s naïve to think that this is something that just affects girls today. Boys are equally at risk of this also.
@DoveUK has, for many years, championed women feeling good about themselves, not only with their skincare and haircare lines but also through The Dove Self Esteem Project. Over the last 10 years the Dove Self-Esteem Project has helped reach more than 2m people in the UK with self-esteem education, including running workshops in schools to help young people feel body confident and resilient to social pressures about size, shape and weight. Now Dove is supporting The Be Real Body Image Pledge, which encourages organisations to promote the responsible portrayal of body image in advertising, media, fashion and music. By signing up to the Pledge, Dove is calling for the responsible portrayal of all people in the media and advertising, and especially women and beauty. As a blogger, an aunt and a mother I also support #PledgeToBeReal.
I’m pledging to drive out my obsession with clothes sizes. As a parent, I have a responsibility to teach my children the importance of a healthy diet for their strength and longevity. I have a responsibility to demonstrate this in how I eat and my relationship with food. However, it is important that they know that ‘fat’ is something you have in your body and not what you are. It doesn’t define a person. Being overweight doesn’t make you a bad person. I pledge to have pride in myself because of my achievements such as setting up my blog, running a charity race or even just getting out of the house when the kids have been running riot and I’m an hour late. I will stop telling myself ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I’m ugly’ or ‘I’m not good enough because I’m not as pretty as (insert name of impossibly beautiful friend or celeb)’. I want my boys to treat women with respect and to love and admire them for who they are, not what they look like. I want my niece to respect and love herself for all her qualities, not just her physical ones. There are so many fantastic, successful women who have achieved so much and are great role models for girls but not because of how they look. Women like comedian Sara Pascoe, MP Jess Phillips, journalist Miranda Sawyer. None of these women are by any stretch unattractive but their true beauty is their strength, their drive and their talent. These women are known for their fortes not because of their faces or figures. I’m sure each of them would tell you so. Someone once told me that if you wouldn’t say it about your best friend, you shouldn’t think it about yourself. We should all be our own best friends. I will not beat myself up for eating a little bit too much ice cream, I’ll just get back on the healthy train today.
I created this post as a competition entry in support of Dove and the Be Real Body Image Pledge.