There is always so much hype in the media about women embracing their body shape and not trying to aspire to how the models in magazines look. I’ve decided to write about my experience – mainly because I have picked up a lot of weight since moving to the UK and none of my 44 years of experience of my body has anything to do with me wanting to look like a model in a magazine.
This is my story, my body and my opinions ….
As a child I remember my mother continually getting on the scale and saying she was fat. She wasn’t. She never told me that I was fat but she had VERY strict ideas about eating. A person should have three meals a day and should never want more than that. As a lot of people know, as a child, you aren’t ready for breakfast by the time you wake up and are hustled off to school so by ‘first break’ you are starving and you eat your lunch. Therefore no lunch at lunch time, then sport, so by the time you get home by 4 pm you are absolutely STARVING! My mother would NOT allow me to eat when I got home because after all, she had packed me a healthy, substantial lunch and we would be eating supper in two hours. Because my mother was often ill, she spent most afternoons sleeping and I became the world’s most stealthy secret eater. My mother was fastidious about cleanliness so you must imagine that for me to cut 4 slices of bread (this was before all bread came already sliced (best invention EVER!) and butter them and use a spread such as cheese or Marmite was an absolute feat of ingenuity. So I would do this pretty much every afternoon and when supper time came I was stuffed. But I had to eat my food (and every single morsel of it) because to leave anything would be wasteful and cause an argument. To this day I cannot leave anything on my plate and get anxious if other people leave food on theirs. Everything must go!
I don’t remember worrying too much about my weight or how I looked during my high school years. I did obviously care but it wasn’t an obsession or anything. I became obsessed after I had my first child. After that I was convinced that I would be labelled – put into that bracket of once you have a kid you just let yourself go. And that’s what started the obsession for me – it was not about wanting to look like a model but more about worrying about the perception people would have of me. Maybe it was because I was an extremely young mom (20 when I had her), I can’t recall, but I just remember that I was totally obsessed with remaining thin. I was frighteningly thin by the time she was 2 years old. I took diet pills and all I ate every day was a tiny bit of supper. Nothing else passed my lips except coffee and cigarettes during the day.
Then, when I wanted to have my second child I was in a real quandary. I didn’t want to give up the diet pills because I knew my appetite would return with a vengeance. But I also didn’t want to put on weight. So I did my research and worked out, very carefully when I would ovulate. So I would take the pills all the way up until I ovulated and then wouldn’t take them again until I knew I wasn’t pregnant. This lasted six months until I did fall pregnant and because I was SO thin when I fell pregnant I ended up putting on 25 kgs. I will admit to binging on King Pie and croissants while pregnant though! The moment I stopped breastfeeding, back to the old regime and all the weight came off.
Then the worst thing happened – the active ingredient in the pills – ephedrine – was suddenly made illegal and the pills stopped working. It was around this time that my first marriage broke up and life got really hectic with lots of parties and stress and trying to cope with two little ones so the weight stayed off. I did also start being very conscious about what I ate and always made sure the children ate healthy food and snacks. As my girls got older my regime was also for them – I wanted them to be proud of their mother who still looked good and looked after herself. Throughout all this time I had also been a gym bunny – since the age of 15. Obsessed!
I chatted to my girls about it when I decided to write this blog and they both remember me caring about my body and what I put into it. They remember me always being good about my weight, eating healthy food and gyming a lot. I asked them if I had negatively or positively influenced how they looked and felt about themselves and their bodies and they said not at all really. They both said I was always very honest with them when they did put on weight or lose it again. Khaya said I once told her that she would never be anorexic because she loves food too much! I still haven’t been proven wrong! 😉
I was very conscientious when the kids were growing up and that started changing towards the end of my time in South Africa because by then Nick was in boarding school and the girls weren’t living with me but I was still VERY active. I was walking up Lions Head once a week before work, going for some kind of marathon run or Impi Challenge pretty much every weekend and was still gyming or walking before work.
London changed all that. This is what happened: First of all, because I walk everywhere, I got it into my mind that I could eat anything. Walking does NOT make you lose weight – especially if you are eating as much as I was. Also, the food here is so darn cheap! You can buy a big packet of Nachos for 46p! You can buy a sandwich for £1. You can buy a jar of peanut butter for 65p! You can buy a 6 pack of doughnuts for 50p! Those big Cadbury Oreo chocolate bars – £1!!! And because I have never been good at portion control, this was not good for me and my waist-line!
Also, going back to my previous post about my more sedentary lifestyle and herein lies the problem. I have really enjoyed doing nothing and that includes not having to cook or get off my arse! It’s not like I didn’t enjoy going to gym and all the walks and epic hikes (I loved them) but when I got here I welcomed the change as well. I didn’t miss the walks and was completely happy and blissful reading or watching movies in bed all weekend (with my snacks!!). The cold weather helps with that. And when its summer here, its so darn hot and muggy you don’t feel like working up a sweat either!
THAT HAS TO CHANGE! But the reason I want it to change is not because I want to look like that skinny model in the magazine. It’s because I know I am not being good to ME. I know that I don’t need to eat as much as I do and I don’t need to be SO lazy. I don’t even care how much weight I lose. I just want to be the best me I can be. That will probably never be the active, go-getting me of five years ago. But I feel that I need to reach some kind of compromise between current me and previous me and get to a place where I feel comfortable in my skin again – and hopefully my jeans too!
I have never really dieted properly without the help of some kind of dieting substance so this time I have to go on sheer willpower. I am scared. Very, very scared because I LOVE putting food in my mouth. I am not sure if that’s because of my secret eating of my childhood or because I deprived myself of food for so many years but whatever it is, the obsession is real.
I had a great year of eating whatever I wanted, when I wanted and being lazy and just enjoying doing nothing if that’s what I felt like doing. But by the same token, as much as I wanted to be a great role-model for my girls when they were growing up, now it’s about me and being the best me I can be FOR MYSELF.
I don’t know how other women feel but I just feel that if you know you are doing the best that you can for your body and yourself and even if that means you aren’t model thin, then surely you can be happy in your body and enjoy it.
If I could talk to my 20-year old self (which it seems is all the rage today), I am not sure I would tell her any different. Yes, what she did was stupid and she is lucky that she still has a metabolism, but isn’t that what life is about? Learning from life and using what you learn to become wiser. In my mid-40’s I realise that if I want to do this I have to do it with nothing but willpower to power this. The long and the short of it – for me and my body – is that the less I eat, the less I weigh, and the better I feel. Simple as that.
I will write another blog about this soon and let you know how I am getting on. If anyone has any tips or stories of their own to share about this very sensitive subject I would love to hear from you.