Like most women, I have had a long and complicated relationship with my waistline. As a teenager I was skinny, especially sideways-on. At uni I became still skinnier thanks to the usual 19-year-old hedonism and the fact that I often survived on frozen (yes, still frozen) peas. During my third year I shared meals with three housemates as greedy as myself, and then promptly moved in with my boy when I graduated, whom I matched portion for portion. Thus I became a little fatter. Since then I’ve had one period of being quite fat, really, at the age of 23/4, after my little sister died and I baked like bloody Nigella feeding the British Army, and ate like said Army, to help ease the horrendous pain. When I could no longer button up my winter coat, let alone my skinny jeans, I crashed from one extreme to the other, turning my need for distraction to obsessing over Weightwatchers points and tracking my progress on charts and graphs. I shed more than two stone, but found the Rainman-esque counting and plotting and planning impossible to sustain (let alone the fact that a baked potato was considered to be pushing the boat out). The three or so ensuing post-Weightwatchers years have seen me ebb and flow between varying degrees of medium-sizedness.
Throughout my adventures with fat or lack thereof, I’ve stayed within a one-stone bracket on the whole, though have bounced (sometimes quite literally) within a three-stone margin at my extremes. One thing, though, has been consistent, apart from perhaps at the zenith of my Weightwatchers triumph, at which point I did pat myself on my slimline back a little: I’ve always thought I was a bit fat. Always. Even when I disappeared when I walked behind a tree, I thought my hips were too wide and thighs too plumptious. But strangely, whenever I’ve looked back at photos from years gone by, I’ve always thought “but I looked fine then! What was I fretting about? I’m fat now, mind…”. Then the next year I’ll look at the photos from that time, and I’ll think I looked fine. And so it goes on.I’m always happy with my body when I’m removed from it, by time and by the camera lens. It’s when I’m in the moment, feeling it in all its fleshiness as I pull on my jeans, or seeing bits of it poke through the bubbles in the bath, or catching sight in the studio mirrors of my childbearing hips swaying through a street dance class, surrounded by a sea of drinking-straw thighs.
The truth is that I’m not fat- and I’m stones away from needing to worry about my weight for health reasons. I’m not super-skinny either. I’m not going to bash out that old fallacy: that I wouldn’t want to be skinny; that “real” women are better, that curves are much sexier. Such statements are ridiculous and as bad as the other extreme (especially when uttered by magazines which without fail push “skinny” as an ideal- the hissing words about new mums showing off their “gorgeous curves” snaking treacherously under and over unflattering photos of slightly tubby celebs; the message they’re really sending the exact opposite of the words on the page). Nobody is more real than anybody else, for god’s sake, especially not thanks to their bingo wings or muffin top. But equally, nobody is better because their legs are as thin as another person’s arms.
None of that is my point. My point is that, whatever shape I’ve been, I’ve usually been unhappy with it. And for some reason, every woman I know- and most of the women I know are highly intelligent- experiences this to some degree.
Clearly I’ve not discovered a new phenomena- reams of column inches and late-night conversations are devoted to this topic daily. But it’s one I’ve never truly got my head around, one which I can intellectualise, but I can’t send the rational messages to my irrational self esteem. I’d like to spend some time to crack this nut, but fear that it will never be cracked, by anyone.
And oh hell, have just realised, I’ve blogged about this before. Which, really, more than anything, goes to prove my point.