Look in the mirror. There you are!

Posted on April 30th, 2013 @ 12:43 in Uncategorized

On December 22nd of last year I completed my first run towards 5k. Just over a week ago I ran a continuous 12k which you can see here. In the (almost exactly) four months between those two workouts I’ve lost about 20kg (just over 3st) and dropped about a dress size and a half. It has been an odd journey.

You see, I wasn’t always fat – obviously (tho to the people I have in my life now I more or less have been). But what I am very much remembering – and reliving – now is that I have always felt fat. I used to obsess over my body shape, go on crash diets, yo-yo back up, the whole gamut of how many young girls dislike and fight their bodies. I used to hate my small tits and my absolutely massive thighs. This started surprisingly early. I have a memory of my brother playfully pinching my thigh as we were sitting in the back of my father’s car. He hadn’t meant anything by it (I assume, now), but to me that gesture was clearly a judgement of my fat thighs. Why else could he have done it, right? I was about 11 or 12 then. I was not fat, not by any stretch.

Nor was I “fat” at 16, when I was wearing a short dress ready to go out and my dad asked if I was sure I wanted to show off those tree trunks.1 I wasn’t even that fat in 2002, when my mother made me buy a long black blouse for my dad’s funeral because the short jacket we’d chosen previously “made my bum look big”. So yeah, I do want to fit a paragraph of “what the fuck, you judgemental arseholes” resentment towards my parents in here. Even though I try not to be all Philip Larkin about my childhood, holy shit what the hell were they thinking!? I’m not even saying I’d necessarily like my body more if it weren’t for their constant nagging about my weight, but… actually, I probably would. Insensitive clods.

Anyway, that was all a long time ago, and after that I really did become very fat indeed. I can’t pinpoint the moment I stopped obsessing over my weight. I definitely grew fat first and then decided to fuck it and not pay attention any more. There wasn’t really any choice, because boy oh boy, was I ginormous (and before some of you go “you weren’t that fat – yes I was. I was obese). So you just stop looking at yourself, and you start hiding. You change the way you dress, the things you do (no swimming or sunbathing with people you know), you even change the way you carry yourself in public.2 I remember having a conversation with my mum once where she mentioned how after a certain age you don’t get cat-called anymore, and I thought “yeah, and above a certain weight too”. I also remember I used to carry pepper spray because I felt quite vulnerable when I was younger. But that stopped too because come on, who’d try to mug me, I’d just mow them down!

There is a potential layer of meaning here where the body fat becomes the actual mask you hide behind. I haven’t really explored this to a great depth yet. What’s certainly striking is that the lower my spirits sank, the higher the scales climbed. The pounds weren’t going to come off before my self-esteem had risen above a certain sanity threshold. This was a repeated argument I’d have with my mum, her idea being (of course! how could it be otherwise?) that if only I put some effort into changing my appearance, I’d feel better about myself and could thus magically fix my head too. But, surprisingly, that was not quite how it worked. The head needed fixing first.

So here I am on the other side. I’ve approached this whole weight loss thing with a certain cautious curiosity. It’s been over ten years since I was last “not overweight” (or obese) and I had no idea what it would be like, both with the added, um, maturity, and the knowledge of what being fat was really like, as opposed to what I used to think was fat in my misguided teens. I remember discussing it with Mon not too long ago and speculating that I might see my body differently now, and she said something like “probably not”. And she was right of course. I mean, I’d suspected it might be the case, but I wasn’t sure, you know?

On some level I am wiser and more mature though, so even while I look at myself and feel huge, there’s a part of me that can step away and put things in perspective. All I need to do really is put on my old size 18 jeans and I can see right there that I definitely used to be bigger than I am now. So it’s kinda fascinating to be aware of this gaping chasm between reality and what my eyes see in the mirror (or what my brain makes of what my eyes transmit, if we want to nitpick). It’s amazing too how radically my perception can change within a few hours, when it’s obvious that I cannot objectively have put on or lost a massive amount in that time.

But despite that additional layer of wisdom, it’s really quite weird, and a bit painful, to rediscover my original body shape and find out that nope, I still don’t much like it. My thunder thighs, there they are! Huuuge, flabby, never to shrink below chafing-volume, because that’s the way they are! And in contrast, my tiny shapeless tits, which seem to be melting to nothing at an alarming rate (and they now come with bonus sagginess!). I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely enjoying this on the whole, and yes I definitely do have days where I look in the mirror and think “hey, I have a semblance of a waist!” And it’s great fun to fit into clothes I hadn’t taken out in almost a decade. But it’s also a bit of an eye opener to, well, basically be right back with the old body image issues I had buried under mountains of fat for almost a decade.

1. Thanks to Alisdair for the translation help. 😛
2. It’s interesting how I switched to second person for this passage. It may be inaccurate – this is what I did, not what “one does”, but I’ll leave it since I guess it kinda reveals something about me too. *lol*

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