I joined Slimming World 12 weeks ago, this week I was asked how I could talk about a major diet industry whilst encouraging body positivity and I thought it was a really interesting point and it got me thinking.
So I haven’t always had the best relationship with my body, I was a size 8 before I had kids and never loved my body, I was always embarrassed by it and I never felt as though it belonged to me. I was generally unhappy and so my body was another thing to worry about. I started on a diet when I hit my late teens for no other reason than I thought it was what women did.
I had my first child at 19 and went from a size 8 to a size 16. I had lots of stretch marks and my once flat stomach was now soft and squidgy and rolled over my trousers. It was all a bit of a shock to be honest and it deepened my dislike of my body.
These feelings carried on for years and it was only after my first big surgery to remove my colon and form my ileostomy that I began to think about my feelings towards my body. After the initial shock of surgery and having an ostomy, for the first time in my life, I felt proud of my body. It had carried me through this stressful operation, had part of me removed yet I was still standing! I realised that my body was pretty fucking awesome!
I think that this time coincided with my children becoming teens was a big part in my change in thinking, I didn’t want my kids growing up hearing me hating my body. I was trying to teach them to love and respect themselves and so I knew I had to lead by example. I began to talk about my body in a positive and loving way. I saw my stretch marks for the signs that I had carried my babies, my large breasts that no longer were pert were the things that fed those kids, my scars were the marks of my battles through operations and treatments and showed I was still here.
For the first time, my weight stopped being an issue. I didn’t look at my size as a source of shame, I saw it as my body, and my body made me happy and strong. My weight went up and down as I went in and out of surgeries, the steroids made me gain a lot of weight, the surgeries made me lose it.
My last op in September last year was to fix two large hernias, one of them ruptured and I was rushed into emergency surgery. It was a big op lasting around 6 hours and they repaired the incisional hernia and the parastomal hernia with mesh and pig skin. During recovery, I became terrified of having another hernia and so I stopped walking the dogs, stopped pretty much all exercise and in turn gained around a stone in weight.
So my decision to lose weight was, for the first time in a long line of diets during my lifetime, not about hatred or shame. It was about health, I knew that the more I weighed, the more pressure I was putting on those hernia fixes, I knew that the weight gain was making me feel sluggish and unfit. Going into a diet not hating my body was a really new thing for me! I loved myself, I didn’t look in the mirror and dislike what I saw, I looked at myself with love and pride but with a knowledge that I wanted to make changes to benefit my health.
And so I decided on Slimming World, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be for me but I thought I would give it a try. I went along to a local meeting and the leader weighed me and said this was the last time I would see that number on the scales. I weighed 14 stone 5 lbs. The heaviest I have ever been.
It took quite a bit of getting used to, Slimming World gives you lots of ‘free’ foods that you can eat including meats, eggs, fish, veg and fruit and also rice and pasta, then two ‘healthy extras’ a day that are dairy and bread or cereals. Anything else must be counted as ‘syns’ and I hate this word!! I hate that it makes those foods sounds like you are doing something wrong as I honestly believe you should eat what you like and not feel guilty about it.
It has made me really think about the food I put into my body and how many empty calories I was consuming through habit, boredom and just not thinking. It is great for encouraging you to cook fresh food and ditch the processed crap. Learning to look at the oils and fats I was cooking with has been a huge benefit and I have changed the diet for the family, our evening meals are Slimming World friendly and with a few little changes are much healthier and don’t taste any different.
I have ditched most sweet foods, cakes and biscuits etc as I realised I am just not that bothered, I was eating biscuits out of habit and now I don’t miss them at all. If I really want something, then I have it and count it in my syns but I really am not that fussed. I stopped having sugar in my tea and coffee and swapped to sugar free pop and squash. I don’t eat much bread these days and it made me realise just how much of the stuff I was consuming and again I don’t really miss it.
Breakfast is probably the meal I find the hardest as cereal means using both my healthy extras of cereal and milk and I would rather save my milk for teas and coffees through the day. I would usually eat toast, butter and jam before but now I very rarely have these things. I now have porridge oats with yoghurt and fruit or scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes or grilled bacon and beans.
Lunch was usually a sandwich, these days it is usually a salad, jacket potato, or omelette. Sushi is my go to lunch if I am out and about.
Dinners are the easiest as I find I can cook pretty much all my favourite meals syn free by cutting out the oil and using lean cuts of meat and plenty of veg. I think you might struggle if you don’t like cooking as most processed foods are a no no. I am not one for pre packaged diet meals so though they are available, I haven’t tried them yet.
And so today has been my weigh in for week 12 and I am 12 stone 12 1/2 lbs. I have lost 10% of my body weight and I feel so much better for it!
So how do I marry the ideas of body positivity with dieting? Well, I think we are taught to hate our bodies, especially women, we are shown unachievable, photoshopped images of women all day, everywhere we look we are bombarded by photos of women that are part of such a narrow, Western ideal of what beauty is. We are taught to much so much emphasis on our looks and so it is unsurprising that so many women will openly say they hate their bodies.
My weight loss is not about what my body looks like, I love my body when it is larger or smaller and I am just grateful to still be alive! This weight loss is about me taking back control of myself and my health after nearly 4 years of surgeries and treatment that took over everything. I have felt so weak and vulnerable during this time and now is the time where I want to feel in control and strong and I know that dropping a few pounds and getting myself into a healthy BMI is going to do that for me.
I don’t think that everyone should be the same size, I think that we should strive to look after our bodies and to be the way that makes us happy. I have been on diets for years and they always came from a place of unhappiness, this time it comes from a place of self love and self care. I want to do this for me, not for any other person.
I am really looking inwards at the moment, I am seeing a counsellor for my mental and emotional health, I am doing things for myself that make me happy, I am going to the cinema regularly on my own because I love it, I am (don’t mock me!!) doing jigsaws, crochet and reading more, I am spending more time in my allotment, and I am changing my food intake to give myself what my body needs not what my habits push.
I was nearly 14 and a half stone and a size 18 three months ago. And you know what? I was banging hot! I felt sexy and beautiful and awesome. I am under 13 stone now and I’m in a size 14 for the first time in years and I feel great. Not because I weigh less, but because I feel I am looking after me.
It is so important to look after yourself, to work on self love and self care. We so often put ourselves to the bottom of the list of priorities and that needs to stop. Take a moment to think about what will make you happy and fulfilled and make the effort to do something that makes you love yourself a little more.