When you’re having a little meltdown…

I knew it would come at some point and I tried and tried to stave it off, but sure enough the ‘meltdown’ has arrived.

The past few days have left me feeling a bit rubbish. I went from congratulating myself for getting through four and a half months restriction free (the longest I have ever managed!) at the beginning of last week to going back to complaining about how fat I (feel that I) am, how ugly I (feel that I) am, wondering what crash diet to go on and cancelling plans on two days because I couldn’t face seeing anyone towards the end of the week. I’ve tried to gather my thoughts on this and have come to a few conclusions.

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The first is that this whole thing is difficult for my brain to process. I’ve always had restricting and controlling my food to fall back on in any given situation. I suppose my eating disorder gave me an identity and without it I feel a bit lost. Like any new thing, you go through a ‘honeymoon period’ before the need for the real graft kicks in and I guess I’ve had that period now. Although the last four and a half months have been challenging, I’ve kept going and have not once spent a day controlling my food, refusing food, counting calories etc and I have really forced myself through some days. I had a period a few weeks back where I felt on top of the world – euphoric almost. I felt like I had cracked this and had it all sussed. Right now, I feel lost and stressed out and like I want to just go back to the comfort of my old ways. I feel too big, although rationally I know I’m not. I feel like I’m beginning to dread summer arriving as I just want to cover up and hide because I hate my body so much again (which is no good given we are moving overseas to a hot country in 4 and a half months time!) and I feel like I need to take a look at my diet and start making drastic changes (which would be utterly ridiculous).

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The second is that this could just all be down to good old hormones! Just over four weeks ago I started on the mini pill to help try and regulate my up and down hormones which I’ve been left with thanks to my eating disorder and over exercising. I seemed to start off fine on it, but in the last 10 days or so I’ve become really bloated to the point my face has changed shape and I have so many spots! My once lovely skin has become greasy and congested which is incredibly frustrating given that I have cleansed, toned, applied serum, eye cream and moisturised twice a day, every single day, for the past decade using high end products! I really look after my skin and spend a lot of time and money doing so, so it’s really disheartening for it to have changed like this. I don’t think that’s helping my mood at the minute either. So perhaps PMT and my hormones trying to level out is causing some changes to how I feel as well.

My current mood and feelings could be a combination of both main points I’ve spoken about here. I think if I can bear in mind that no two days are ever going to be the same, learn to expect and embrace any changes which will undoubtedly occur and try and take things as they come and move on from them, I’ll be able to keep going and I’ll get through the rough patches.

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It’s taken me my entire life to feel a certain way and it’s not going to take just four and a half months to undo it all. I should expect that there will be times when I feel uncertain about my decision to ‘get better’, feel ‘normal’ and love myself as much as my amazing husband and children do, but I should just accept that and keep moving forward.

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What size is this again?

There’s nothing like a shopping trip to send someone with body image issues and low self-esteem into major meltdown mode. As much as I absolutely LOVE shopping (usually for make-up and beauty products), I felt that a lot of the time when I went shopping for clothes I would come home feeling deflated and upset and hating my body even more. Nothing ever looked how I wanted it to. Nothing ever seemed to fit right. I constantly blamed my ‘awkward’ body, because after all, it couldn’t be the stores fault, could it? It had to be me.

I ended up with wardrobes full of clothes I hardly ever, or never, wore. Lots of impulse buys. Lots of ‘when my legs look a bit thinner I’ll wear that loads’ buys. Lots of ‘maybe if I go to <insert somewhere I would 99.9% be unlikely to go to> I may need this’ buys. When I moved here a few years ago I had a huge clear out. There was an immense amount of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories that went to the charity shop! I still kept a fair few items and over the years these naturally built up again. Recently, I decided I needed a clear out and had a major wardrobe sort out.

Given I’d had another huge clearout, I wanted to get some more clothes which I actually felt good in. I’d picked up some bits and pieces and had to do the usual adjusting the length etc, but it wasn’t until I was trying things on during a trip to Meadowhall a few weekends ago that it hit me – we all know there is no consistency in sizing at all across the high street, but it’s now inconsistency in individual stores too.

So, I’m 5′ 2.5″ (if we are being precise!) and a size UK6. I didn’t take photos of everything I tried on (I was sending them to my husband stood outside the changing rooms with the kids for his opinion!) but for example, take this playsuit. It’s a size UK4 from a Petite range designed for women of 5′ 3″ and under. I had room in the body, the bust and arms and across the back. The zip did up fine. I could breathe! However, I felt like it was going to cut me in half as it was so short in the body – my camel toe had camel toe! How could this possibly be, given it’s in a range designed for women up to half an inch taller than me? I didn’t buy it.

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In the same store I tried this outfit on, the top is a standard size UK6. It was fine, with room. The skirt was a UK6 from the Petite range. I had to breathe in to get the zip up on this (though I’m not breathing in on the photo and felt like it was slightly digging in). But I’d just been in a UK4 Petite playsuit which did up fine and I could breathe in. I didn’t buy the outfit.

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Next, whilst I was in there I tried on this dress which was a UK6 from the Petite range. I felt like I was wearing a maternity dress. (You can see from my face I’m less than impressed!). It was baggy where it should have been fitted. I felt it was too long to be flattering on a petite height. The waist was cut too high and it just felt too big. Yet I’d just struggled to do up something in a size UK6. I didn’t buy it.

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In another store I tried on some sports kit in a UK6. The leggings were a little big. The vest was far too small.

I then tried on a few dresses. I actually wish I’d taken photos of them now so you could see the ridiculous difference in sizing. All standard sizing. First dress was enormous. It was a UK4. The next dress was a UK6. Way too tight. This lightweight jumper and shorts combo were both a UK6. Shorts fit ok on the waist but a little long on the leg so not flattering, jumper was ok too.

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I couldn’t get over how different each size fit even when in individual stores. I know that you should never base your worth on your clothes size and the size on the label really shouldn’t matter, but when you struggle with these things it just doesn’t help at all. If someone with body issues feels comfortable with themselves at a certain size, it can be a real trigger when going into a store and grabbing a load of items in that size to find half of them don’t fit. I actually heard a girl in one changing room really upset because she couldn’t get a pair of size 10 jeans on.  Her friend tried to reassure her that the sizing was ‘always funny’ and kept asking her if she was sure she picked up the right size as sometimes they’re on the wrong hangers. She just kept replying “but I’m always a 10, have I put weight on do you think?”. I wish stores were more consistent. But I guess that’s where the whole self love thing comes into it. I know I need to care less about the size of my body and size of my clothes and just love myself for how I am and how I look in whatever size that fits well – no matter what that size may be.

Needless to say though, I didn’t pick up many bits that day but that just means I’ve got another shopping trip challenge to face and conquer.

Feeling good

Recovery isn’t always rainbows and butterflies and sometimes things can be really difficult. I did have a few really hard days last week where I felt bloated, fat and ugly and wanted to sit and start calculating diet plans (AKA restriction plans) and doing more exercise to lose the weight I had gained, thinking it would make me feel better. However, I remembered that when I was over exercising and restricting my food intake massively and being generally quite horrible to myself and my body, I was miserable. I was doing all of those things and putting all of that effort in and having it take over my life, but it wasn’t making me happy like I expected it would. I wasn’t becoming the person I thought I should be.

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Monday morning this week didn’t start so well. It was like the morning. From. Hell. I was beginning to feel a bit out of control and when I feel like that I know that I always have food restriction and exercise to fall back on to make me feel more ‘in control’ of things. Luckily, I got home to some good news and it managed to distract me enough from those feelings to keep things in check. Despite my eldest boy being poorly, we continued to get more good news this week and I think it has really helped my frame of mind just when I was needing it.

Earlier in the week I had been reading an article about treating your body like it’s your friend. Remembering that you wouldn’t do or say such horrible things to one of your friends and how you would behave positively towards them – so why do and say these awful things and not behave in that positive way towards yourself? Yesterday I woke up feeling amazing. I actually felt good about myself for once and thankful for what my body can do. It was a strange feeling, I suppose you could say it was novel, as I’m not used to feeling like that at all – but I loved it! It was so nice to actually feel good about myself.

This morning I’ve woken up feeling the same. I was looking through Instagram and came across a photo of the most gorgeous woman and my initial reaction was ‘oh my god, she looks amazing, why don’t I look like that?’. Normally, I would criticise myself further, pick at my appearance and spend the day feeling disappointed in myself for not looking a certain way. Today, I managed to squash that voice pretty instantly and instead of all those horrible things which I usually would have thought, I reminded myself it’s because I’m me and I look like me and there’s no one else in the world who does! It made me smile. I couldn’t believe I’d actually managed to think that way without even really thinking about it (if that makes sense!). It’s a massive achievement for me and I’m feeling really proud – which in turn is also helping me feel good! One day, I hope to get to the stage where I don’t even have that initial thought I did.

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I may not have a flat stomach or a razor sharp jawline and killer cheekbones anymore, I may have gained some lbs and some body fat, but I feel good. I don’t know whether it’s the double chocolate peanut butter Magnum ice creams I’ve been enjoying plenty of, the fact I’m not carb-starved and suffering from over-exhaustion anymore or the fact I’ve tried hard to stop being so critical of myself constantly but whatever it is, I hope it continues. I think I’ve been a better person to be around the last few days.

I believe it’s really important to document these days where I feel so good because I know there will be days when I don’t and this will be something I can look back on to remind myself that I CAN keep going and I WILL get there, one day at a time. Now, where are those Magnums?

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Self Care Saturday

The last couple of blog posts I wrote left me feeling a little emotionally drained. I think going through almost everything and being totally honest about my thoughts, feelings and what I went (and still am going) through took its toll a bit more than I expected it would. Today started ok but then I started feeling a bit rubbish. I started to pick over my appearance and grab and poke at the extra bits of weight I’ve gained on my thighs and tummy and scrutinise the double chin I’m convinced I now have whilst body checking every time I went near a mirror. I was snappy with my husband and storming around the house a bit. I can’t expect that every day I will feel ok and be 100% positive and focussed in this journey but I decided to do a few small things to try and help me snap out of it.

One of the biggest things I’ve been doing lately is continuing to eat when I’ve felt the need to go back to restricting. Normally, if I had gained a little weight, I would start looking at my diet more closely and start restricting and perhaps doing a little more exercise. Lately, when those feelings have come along I’ve gone and had a snack and forced myself to either take it easy with working out or took a rest day. So, today I took a rest day and I ate lots of delicious food – including plenty of salted caramel ice cream and gluten free fairy cakes again (which I baked yesterday). I’ve tried really hard to enjoy my food recently and I think I managed it well today despite how I was feeling.

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Other little things I did today – just for me – included putting on a brand new dress (now it’s just the right length thanks to my lovely Mum-in-Law taking the hem up for me earlier in the week when she was visiting us), taking some time to read a couple of magazines on my Kindle, sinking into a hot bubble bath with a face mask on, enjoying a couple of very small glasses of red wine and starting to watch the Sex and the City box set again from the pilot episode!

These small things may not be much to a lot of people, but I believe self care is all about doing the little things that make YOU feel better and feel good. These may change on a day to day basis and I think it’s all about listening to your own body and doing what is right for you at that time.

Next on my list will be indulging in some dark chocolate and perhaps even another tiny glass of red wine whilst watching a film and snuggling up to my amazing husband. Happy Saturday everyone ❤

When you simply can’t love the skin you’re in…

This is another long one, I’m afraid guys! I feel that in order to move forward I just need to get everything out in the open and be honest (particularly with myself). The last post was hard enough to write, but this one was even more of a struggle. I think it’s so sad to look back and see how much time I have wasted of my 32 years of life by hating myself so much.

As explained in one of my previous posts, I was always a bigger kid. I always remember, even from such a young age, feeling embarrassed when I wore shorts because my thighs touched. I had a pot belly and got boobs early and swimming lessons with primary school were always dreaded. My lack of self confidence (along with an accident trying to join in with everyone) gave me a fear of the water. I was 11 years old when I last went into a swimming pool in my childhood.

As I grew older I would always wear clothes which hid my body. I was bigger than everyone else and thought I had to cover up, because after all, no one wants to see ‘that’, right? I began getting stretch marks when I was about 15. I remember having a bit of a growth spurt (though not much as I’m vertically challenged!) over the summer holidays and not really realising until it came to a new term at school where my baggy jeans were swapped for school skirts. I was so embarrassed to notice I had some on the backs of my knees and my upper arms. I tried to cover them with foundation and used pocket money to secretly buy wonder creams from Boots, but nothing worked. I was mortified. No one ever specifically mentioned them, but I was certain people were looking and staring behind me in the queue at lunch or going up the stairs for lessons. I kept my blazer on even in the heat of summer because I was so ashamed of my body and would beg my parents to write notes excusing me from PE almost every week. The weeks they didn’t I always ‘forgot’ my kit. I always carried more weight on my legs and remember sitting in the lounge when I was about 14/15 in my school uniform and my Mum turning and looking at my legs with a look of disbelief on her face and exclaiming ‘your legs look like tree trunks’. Again, I was absolutely mortified and tried to hold back the tears with the biggest lump in my throat ever. She later said it was because of how my socks made my legs look but it made no difference really – socks or not, they were still how my legs looked anyway and it’s always stuck with me to the point I’ve always hated my legs the most.

As I got older and started going out and gaining more weight I continued to cover up. I was into the whole goth/skater/rock type ‘scene’ so it was more baggy jeans and t-shirts going to rock clubs and drinking beer rather than short strappy dresses and heels that others my age would wear going out. I always wanted to be able to wear dresses but just didn’t think someone of my size, with my figure was able to.

I covered up a lot in relationships, I managed to make excuses and find ways to keep the lights off, avoid sharing bathroom time etc. I couldn’t bear for anyone to see me naked – all I could see was fat, stretch marks, wobbly bits and ugliness and presumed that’s what everyone else would be able to see too. Even when I began to lose weight after my run in at the Family Planning Clinic, I never saw the difference – I always saw myself at my biggest. I suppose in a way, you could say I had an element of body dysmorphia over my size as the years went on (though my CBT therapist said in 2015 that this wasn’t the case so much anymore). I always recall one point in my life when I was about 20 – I’d grown to hate my appearance that much that I didn’t leave the house for three months. I was living in the middle of no where with my ex-husband, I didn’t have a job at the time and was unable to drive then – I was totally secluded, away from family and friends and the isolation didn’t help how I felt about myself. One afternoon, a friend drove over to see me and we had a coffee before he asked if I wanted to nip out. I was too embarrassed to say no and explain that actually I felt fat and ugly and didn’t want to face the world at all, but I agreed and we went out. We only drove to the local town, about 20 minutes away, and I remember vividly the panic setting in. I blurted out I didn’t want to get out of the car and made some excuse about it being too cold. Luckily for me we drove past my ex who was waiting for the bus home from work and we picked him up and went straight back home. Seeing my friend made me realise I was missing out on life so arranged to meet my best friend shortly after. It’s crazy looking back now and she probably won’t even remember this, but – at the time I was seeing skinny jeans and Ugg boots everywhere as the latest trend. I wanted to wear them even though I was so self conscious of my legs but forced myself into buying a pair of skinny jeans. They were a size UK12 and I thought my legs looked huge in them but just really wanted to wear them – I guess I just wanted to fit in again. I arranged to meet my friend in one place but by the time I got off the bus I was so frozen with fear, thinking everyone would be looking and staring because my legs were so big and I was so embarrassed by how I looked I called her and made her walk all the way up to meet me. I felt I needed her as a crutch really, though I can’t remember what excuse I made to her for having to meet me somewhere else. Sounds ridiculous now, but when you hate your body so much you do stupid things like that.

The pregnancy with my eldest son in 2006 really stretched my body to the limits. Eating for two as well as having a huge (9lbs 14oz) baby born by emergency caesarean and then breastfeeding changed everything even more. I had more stretch marks, loose skin on my stomach and the dreaded c-section ‘shelf’ (the majority of Mums who have given birth this way will understand this!).

As my eating and exercise habits grew more and more out of control, so did my self loathing. No matter how small I was, I always saw myself as how I was at my biggest. I would scrutinise every inch of my body in the mirror and that’s when the ‘body checking’ began. The first thing I would do when I got up every morning was look at my stomach in the mirror from every angle – literally the second I got out of bed. I would suck it in, push it out, try and tense it – everything. I would tell myself over and over how disgusting I looked as I poked and prodded at myself and longed to look how I imagined ‘perfect’ was – a slim, blemish and mark free body with everything taut and toned and in the right place. Obviously I would spend the rest of the day in a bad mood because that’s not how I looked at all. The controlling behaviour with my disordered eating and exercise habits coupled with low self esteem was a recipe for disaster.

I always wanted to take my son swimming but still had the water fear I’d developed at 11. I was never a strong swimmer anyway and was so embarrassed by how I looked that we never went. It wasn’t until we were on holiday in 2008 that I went in a swimming pool for the first time since 1995. It was awful. We only went in the shallow toddler pool for about half an hour but I was so embarrassed all I could think about was how I looked, rather than enjoying myself and having fun. We left and I never went back in the pool again, leaving my ex husband to take our son in whilst I sat on a bench outside the swimming complex for the rest of the holiday.

Some days were better than others. Sometimes I would feel ok. I got the confidence to start wearing dresses like I had always wanted but only with leggings to begin with. I got brave enough to wear them with tights at one point and felt on top of the world, though I ALWAYS covered my arms up -even in the height of summer. I had been embarrassed by the stretch marks on my upper arms since high school and once I had left I never wore anything which didn’t cover them.

When I got together with my (now) husband, I started to feel a bit better about my appearance. He absolutely doted on me, always full of compliments and made me feel so good (the same is still true now!). I still had the odd niggle but didn’t want him to know how I really felt about myself. It was hard enough to try and justify my erratic eating habits at the time. In 2013 his parents had organised a charity function and we had to wear red or white as the dress code. I panicked about what I was going to wear totally more than necessary and must have ordered about 20 outfits as well as trawling the shops for weeks before I found something I didn’t feel completely disgusting in. I wanted to look good and didn’t want to show him up or let his family down by not making the effort. Obviously I restricted more in the run up to that so I didn’t look ‘fat’. The dress I finally found was sleeveless. It was warmer at that time of the year and I couldn’t find a cover up that suited it, plus I was too embarrassed to admit to my man that I was so ashamed of my arms I wanted a cover up in the first place. That evening was the first time in 12 years that I had been out in public with my arms and legs on show – no cover up and no tights or leggings. No one batted an eyelid. I forced myself to continue to not hide my arms away all the time and ditched the leggings with my dresses. I’m still proud of that now and just wish it hadn’t have taken me so long – plus, it’s much cooler in the summer now!

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As our relationship progressed I still felt self conscious about my body. I thought if he saw me how I really was then he would go off me. I was naive to think he didn’t know what I looked like, of course he did (the poor man had to undress me and put me to bed after a few too many one night!), but if I told myself I was doing all I could to hide my body from him then I was able to kid myself that he hadn’t seen how my tummy looked in certain positions/at certain angles or how bad my stretch marks were. He would constantly tell me how beautiful I was and how good I looked but I always thought he was saying it because he felt he had to because I was his girlfriend. The obsessive body checking continued over the years, but it was other body parts now too and not just my stomach.

Becoming pregnant for the second time in the autumn of 2013 was a strange time. Aside from the pregnancy problems I suffered with and having to move home to another city and leave my old life behind as well as completing final exams and assessments, I was worrying about how another pregnancy would change my body. I did gain the recommended 2 stone but obviously another child born by c-section (who again brought a lot of fluid with him and a ginormous bump!) and breastfeeding changed my body further. I was so embarrassed about how I looked I kept hiding myself away from him, but obsessively body checking myself throughout the day. My husband would reassure me he knew what I looked like and was more than happy but I felt guilty that I looked so bad and I wanted him to be with someone who looked better. On a daily basis I would complain about my weight and appearance in excess of 50 times (CBT exercises I completed showed me how many times I would say these things and how many times I would body check in a day). I cannot imagine how wearing that must have been for him and looking back I can see how much he truly does love me for still being by my side and supporting me despite all of that.

In 2016 we decided to spend our first wedding anniversary at the end of that summer at a spa. Neither of us had ever been before and it would be the first time leaving both the kids and having a few days truly for ourselves. Obviously, I again went on a strict diet and exercise regime and worried about wearing swimwear to the point I was ruining the excitement of going. I had been in a swimming pool just once in over 20 years and had never actually wore a bikini in my life. I ordered so many items of swimwear to try and find something to hoik my boobs up and hide my c-section ‘shelf’. I worked out and dieted like there was no tomorrow and eventually found a few bikinis which looked better than the swimsuits I had tried.

When we eventually got to the spa I tried to relax – this was our first anniversary and I was determined to enjoy it. I had just begun reading The Goddess Revolution by Mel Wells and kept reminding myself that everything I was saying about my body, I would never say to a friend so I must treat my own body like a friend and be more kind. The changing rooms were communal which was my first biggest fear, but looking around me at women of all shapes, sizes and ages stripping off without a care in the world reassured me. I couldn’t quite tie my bikini tight enough at the back and walked over to the mirrors to look. Well, my bikini pinged up and my boobs popped out in front of a load of women drying their hair. I felt so embarrassed and mumbled something about the stupid bikini. One woman just casually walked up to me and said ‘let me help you love’ and tied the straps. She didn’t gawp or glare and no one looked horrified by my deflated from breastfeeding boobs. I put my robe on and met my husband outside. We went for a couples Moroccan mud rasul to begin with. I initially felt self conscious, even in front of him, but having seen how much fun he was having rubbing mud all over me I was soon able to relax and we had a really good laugh (plus our skin felt amazing afterwards!). After that it was time for the pool and Jacuzzi before more treatments later. Taking my robe off in front of other people was a bit like pulling a plaster off. I did it quickly but pretended it wasn’t happening. Again, I looked around – men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes without a care in the world wearing everything from one pieces and long shorts to bikinis and speedos! I realised everyone was more concerned with themselves and their own party to look at my stretch marks and c-section wobble tucked into my bikini bottoms! The following day was easier and we left after an amazing time feeling good.

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A few months later we were due to go on a family holiday and I knew we would be spending a lot of time in the pool. This time I didn’t go on a mad diet and exercise regime like I had at the end of August and was a bit bigger. I was still cranky and grumpy and panicked about being in a bikini in public but I forced myself and did it and we all had an amazing time with the kids and my lovely in-laws.

And so here we are. I’m still struggling to accept my body changing as I gain weight and relax my eating habits and I do have lots of times still when I am covering up and hiding myself away, but I am trying to get over it. This morning I weighed myself because I wanted to actually see that I had gained weight and be ok with it. I have and I am now 7st 8lbs. Normally that would send me into a diet panic, but instead I weighed myself, walked into the lounge in just my underwear and jumped on my husband and gave him a big hug (whilst trying not to crease his work shirt so much!) with all my lovely wobbly bits out! He was actually delighted!

I know it will take time to change my mindset as I have had a whole lifetime of not loving the skin I am in, but if I can keep making these little changes and keep moving forward then I am certain I will get there in the end. I am determined to love my body for how it is. I believe it is absolutely fine to want to make changes or improvements, but just as long as you already love the body you have and the skin you are in and you’re doing it for yourself and no one else.

Finally, if sharing my story and my experiences can make just one other person get better and head into recovery then I’ll be happy.

 

The whole story

This is probably the longest blog post known to man and I did consider splitting it into a few posts, but I decided against it as I just wanted to write it all out and get it all out into the open. I’ve found that if I’m honest about the fact I have an issue and I’m able to confront it, then I’m more likely to keep trying to move forward to fix it. This is how things began and progressed over the years.

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Growing up I was always conscious about my weight in one way or another. I was bigger than the other kids in school and would often get called ‘fat’ if playground tittle-tattle occurred. I was always conscious of the fact I never really wore the same as the other kids. I had to get expensive shoes from Clarks as I had wide feet and older age girls summer dresses from George Henry Lee (anyone from the North West will remember that amazing department store!). All I wanted was to get the cheap shoes and dresses from the local market like everyone else had. In hindsight, I should have been grateful that I had better quality clothes and shoes but at the time all I wanted was to fit in.

I was also always aware that my mother didn’t eat much. She was an incredibly petite woman and used to often say how she was 6 stone when she got married. I would see her skip breakfast, lunch on Slim Fast drinks and eat little for dinner. I remember her saying she wanted my brother and I to have the little food we had (after my father had drank or gambled that weeks wages away) but looking back, both my brother and I were bigger than the other kids and it was probably because we were a little over fed. Again, in hindsight, if she really wanted to she could have eaten just as much as us but I don’t think she wanted to. I don’t know whether it’s a common Mum thing to eat so little or what, but I always think of that Peter Kay joke where he’s saying about Mums being on diets and never eating and saying ‘oh I had a Ryvita last week’. You could say I was exposed to disordered eating habits from a very young age.

As I got older I seemed to gain more weight. I won’t say I was absolutely enormous, but I was certainly overweight with more than a little puppy fat. I hid behind a ‘bubbly’ personality and I was always up for a laugh and joke – it was that old cruel jibe about ‘fat people always being funny’. Later in my teenage years I started going out more and drinking and that’s when I really packed some weight on. Again, I hid behind my personality and pretended I wasn’t bothered about my weight. I would often hear cruel remarks behind my back about my size but I tried to let them go. After all, I was bullied terribly in high school and despite it not being specifically about my weight, my weight would always come in to it at some point.

In 2002, when I was 18, I met my first (now ex) husband. He didn’t seem bothered about my weight but I stopped going out as much and therefore stopped drinking as much and lost a little weight. I didn’t really have an issue at this time but that was until a visit to the Family Planning Clinic to get the pill. I was there told by a nurse/advisor (whoever it was I saw) that I was ‘much too big’ and if I didn’t lose some weight in three months time she would not give me the pill again. I think I was about 11st 10lbs at that point which is obviously overweight on my 5’3″ frame. I remember feeling so humiliated. I laughed it off but I was absolutely crushed inside by her bluntness. I was almost in tears but didn’t let on. I think that’s when it really started. I was vegetarian at the time and began eating just one meal a day and suppressing my appetite with smoking and black coffee (I haven’t smoked in 11 years now!). Three months later I went back and it was the same woman. She looked at my notes and then looked me up and down and weighed me. I was 9st 4lbs. I left the clinic feeling smug and wanted to say a huge ‘up yours’ to her, but having seen how much weight I’d lost I wanted to lose some more. I was about a size UK14 at that point but I wanted to be a UK10. That was my magic number. Being that weight I would wear all the clothes I’d always wanted to, I would be confident, happier – a better person. If I could just get to a size 10 then life would be great! And so it really began.

I skipped breakfast, lunch was a Slim Fast shake and I had a small dinner. I would restrict all week to then have a blow out on a Friday night. Everything from pizza to party food and as many carbs as I could fit in, all washed down by bottles of wine. I would wake up the following day hungover and feeling ashamed and guilty about all of the calories I’d consumed and so would spend the following week restricting again. Surprisingly I didn’t seem to drop much more weight and settled at 8st 10lbs and a size UK10 for quite a while. Despite all my initial ideals about how amazing life would be at a size 10, it wasn’t to be. I hid my wobbly bits and my stretch marks from earlier weight gain/growing up so never wore all the clothes I imagined I would. My confidence dropped more through a combination of personal issues as well as the disordered eating pattern I was now following.

In 2006 I fell pregnant with my eldest son and was determined to get healthy and eat properly and leave behind the disordered eating I had started. I quit smoking, started having breakfast again and stopped restricting food. However, I saw it as a bit of a hall pass to eat what I wanted and by the time he was born I had gained almost 4 stone. I’d never felt more disgusting. I lost 2 stone just by delivering him as he was a large baby and I was also carrying a significant amount of fluid but, despite the 2 stone of excess weight I was left with, I was determined to keep eating normally to nourish my body as I was breastfeeding. It took me 11 months to naturally lose the rest of the weight and get back to 8st 10lbs but it didn’t seem good enough for me. Shortly after, at the end of 2007, I was due to marry my first (now ex) husband and the stress of things got to me. I lost another few lbs and dropped another dress size and had to buy a new wedding dress, which was a size UK8 (albeit the top end of that size measurements wise). I actually felt really good about myself, but then a nasty comment was made along the lines of how I could have lost some weight for the big day and how fat I looked in my wedding photos. Mortified, it was like a switch flicked overnight and again the disordered eating started – but this time it was coupled with exercise.

At the beginning of 2008 I started doing home DVD workouts. I remember that Natalie Cassidy (AKA Sonia from Eastenders!) had just shrunk down from a size 16 to a 6 and brought a DVD out a week or so earlier around Christmas. I thought ‘well if she can do it then so can I!’ I began doing it every day. Breakfast was once again skipped and lunch was a good old Slim Fast shake again. I don’t recall what I started with in terms of dinner but I remember getting to the point where I was having one of those veggie Mexican bean burgers (literally just the patty, nothing else) and from there I went to having just a bowl of 100g green beans which was about 29 calories if I remember rightly. Apart from the DVD, I also began doing Pilates DVD’s and started cycling and also bought an exercise bike. I was in a downward spiral. I would spend early mornings before my son got up cycling or sat on the exercise bike going flat out for 22 miles whilst watching episodes of Supersize vs Superskinny and wishing I was that thin too. Sometimes I would skip the Slim Fast shake for lunch and fill up on black coffee and other times I would force myself to have it. If my ex-husband made the shake for me I would tip it away and make it myself as I was utterly convinced he was putting additional scoops – and therefore additional calories – into the mix. I would do fitness DVD’s at lunchtime and prepare my own ‘meals’ of steamed green beans for dinner. This was my life every day of the week. I felt guilty if I had time off from exercise and my life and plans revolved around it. All of a sudden I was 7stone 10lbs. I was a size UK6, but the goal posts moved again. I wanted to just be a few lbs lighter.

My marriage began suffering. There were other causes as well as the disordered eating trap and exercise addiction I had found myself in, but it all added fuel to my fire and at one point I reached a UK4, the elusive American size zero. I would get furious with stores for not stocking my dress size. I was grumpy a lot. My periods became erratic and stopped for months on end. My hair started coming out in clumps. My skin was dry and cracked and my scalp flaky. I was exhausted and looked grey no matter how much fake tan I slapped on. I suffered with angular cheilitis on both sides of my mouth for months and months on end which was incredibly painful, not to mention unsightly and embarrassing. I suffered with palpitations and chest pains on a daily basis and would often worry that I was going to have a heart attack. I had black rings under my eyes no matter how much Touché Eclat I layered on. Even the outer portion of my eyebrows fell out, my teeth felt loose and my gums began to recede. The thing that upset me most though was my hair. I had always had lots of lovely long, dark hair and now it was lank strands with diffuse thinning all over. I couldn’t wear it tied up as my hairline was receding and I felt like I looked like Skeletor. I searched the internet in desperation. Back and forth to the GP, all while hiding my eating and exercise habits. I was told it was simply telogen effluvium and nothing could be done. Devastated, I began eating a little more and exercising less in the hope it would grow back.

In 2008 I started volunteering and went back to college the year later. Exercising stopped as I simply didn’t have the time. I started paying more attention to having a life. Things were much better and I gained some weight back. My hair never really recovered but after a couple of years the drastic loss slowed down. Then my marriage ended and I started uni and training to become an ODP at the same time. I felt out of control and the niggling thoughts and worries in the back of my mind about my weight and appearance soon came plummeting back. I felt in order to gain some sense of control in my life back, I would lose some weight and feel better about myself.

I downloaded My Fitness Pal, I tracked everything that passed my lips. Everything I had to eat was weighed and portioned meticulously. I would dread birthdays or celebrations or simply just acts of kindness at work when treats were brought in as I would feel out of control and end up gorging on cakes and sweets before feeling guilty and ashamed during my 90 minute commute home. I would have on average 800-880 calories per day whilst getting up at 5am, commuting for 90 minutes to work to do a 10-12 hour shift and 90 minute commute home, as well as coursework, exams, assignments on top of being a Mum and running a household. My daily intake consisted of porridge made with skimmed milk and a couple of black coffees for breakfast, a small portion of soup and a couple of oatcakes with an apple for lunch and then if I didn’t skip dinner I would have a Slim Fast meal bar in the car on the way home and take the entire journey to finish it.

In 2012 I began a relationship with my (current – amazing) husband and I would try and make up for all the meals out together by restricting on other days of the week. It wasn’t really hard for me to eat so little. I never had an appetite and never really wanted food anyway. It got to the point that food was a means to an end for me – just something to basically stop me from dropping dead! I thought I was fat enough and didn’t want to gain any more weight so just kept my calories low. I was a small UK6 and although I still had some wobbly bits, I had bones jutting out of my collarbone and hips. I tried to relax a bit more about food and after a few conversations with my (now) husband I decided that being vegetarian was doing me no good after about 16 years and started to eat fish again. It was soon followed by meat and I stopped tracking things so much in My Fitness Pal. I still never ate a great deal when I wasn’t with my husband (then boyfriend) but it was just normal to me and I didn’t think I had a problem as such. In fact, I didn’t think I had a problem at all.

Despite my erratic periods which turned up for about half an hour every few months I soon fell pregnant with our youngest son. I vowed that I would eat well and gain the recommended amount of weight. I found that I was actually craving all the foods I’d developed an irrational fear of – sandwiches, crisps, pizza and generally anything carb related! I think it was when I turned up to work with a load of crumpets and peanut butter for lunch that colleagues guessed I was pregnant as they’d got so used to seeing me with ‘green soup’ day in, day out, for the previous few years.

I gained the recommended 2 stone during that pregnancy and with breastfeeding and somehow sheer luck (as I was eating chocolate bars and cakes on a daily basis post-natally seeing this period as a free hall pass to have ‘time off’ from the constant dieting), I’d lost all but 1lb of that weight after 4 weeks and the last lb came off a fortnight later. Breastfeeding seemed to take everything out of me this time and my weight kept plummeting – even more so after a personal family crisis which caused me to lose my appetite with worry and stress. The following year in 2015, I went for a course of CBT to help deal with my issues, in addition to the cleaning OCD I had, but the practitioner seemed to focus more on the cleaning side of things rather than my low self-esteem and whilst it helped a little at the time, the exercises soon became another normal habit and seemed to stop working. By the time my son self weaned from breastfeeding at 10 months I’d gone back to being really skinny and gaunt looking. I was underweight at under 7 stone with a low BMI. I felt breathless just going for a walk with the pushchair, I was tired all the time and my hair was pouring out again. I kidded myself that I was meant to be this small (and indeed I wanted to remain that small) but then the palpitations and dizziness and headaches started again and I correlated this with my low weight. In a panic, I started eating more and accepted all the lovely treats my husband kept bringing home. I’d soon gained enough weight back to JUST reach an acceptable weight for my height, but still felt really unfit. I took up running with the Couch to 5k program and after three months of beginning it I ran my first 10km in under an hour. Soon I was running at least 6.5km every other day in just over half an hour and regular 10kms. The weight was falling off me again and I started controlling my food again – I don’t know why. My self esteem had dropped after a few personal issues and I was fixated on being thin because I thought thin was beautiful and if I felt unhappy at the weight I was then surely losing some weight would make me feel good like it used to. My husband and I were engaged, we had two amazing sons and things were generally good, but I still felt the need to control SOMETHING and it always fell back to my weight. As well as the running, I began doing daily fitness DVD’s again in the run up to our wedding and drinking protein shakes – but instead of using them as a supplement, I was using them as a meal replacement.

We married in the summer of 2015 and although I still look back fondly on our wedding photos, at the time I thought I looked so fat and I felt quite embarrassed that I hadn’t put in enough effort to lose weight to look good for our big day. At the end of that year I fell pregnant again, but sadly suffered a miscarriage. I was convinced it was my fault because I’d been exercising too much and not eating properly and I tore myself up about it.

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Since then I’ve had ups and downs with my low self esteem and my weight. I’ve obsessed about tracking every calorie consumed on My Fitness Pal, I’ve over exercised to the point of exhaustion to get my weight low enough for certain events so I didn’t feel ‘fat’ or ‘bloated’, I’ve secretly taken diuretics and laxatives again – you name, I’ve done it! But then something happened.

Last Autumn, I came across a book by Mel Wells called The Goddess Revolution. I read it in a matter of days and it felt like I had written every line myself. It was reassuring to see I wasn’t the only one who had suffered with those thoughts, feelings and obligations to rituals for years on end. I won’t say the book cured me, as I still have a long way to go, but I feel it was certainly a turning point for me. I became more relaxed about things and ditched all the tracking apps. Weighing myself daily became once a week or maybe fortnight. Calorie counting stopped. For the first Christmas in so many years, I ate and drank what I liked without worrying (too much) about gaining weight. I lessened my exercise regime and relaxed more.

That’s where we are now. I’m struggling some days to come to terms with the weight I’m gaining and how my new figure looks. Some days I feel sad that I don’t have a thigh gap anymore, others I like my big, strong legs which carry me where I want to go and keep me moving. Some days I wish I could suppress my appetite like I used to be able to and others I enjoy eating anything and everything. Some days I feel like I look bloated and my face really round, others I think I look healthier and alive. I have somehow managed to reset my appetite and find that I get hungry every couple of hours now so make sure I eat. I’m not counting calories, but if I thought about it I’m probably having around twice what my body requires naturally at this weight. I’m still exercising 5/6 days a week but I’m running only once and for short distances (as I know regular running causes me to drop weight) and the rest of the time I’m mixing it up and only doing around 20 minutes just to give me an endorphin boost to lift my mood. I don’t feel that I NEED to workout on a daily basis now, I do it to give me a boost and because I enjoy it and want to maintain my fitness. I don’t feel as guilty as I did when I take a rest day, although there is a slight niggle there. I need to really work on my self love, self confidence and self worth though as that’s something I’ve always hugely struggled with. But, I am a work in progress and I know if I’ve been able to come this far, then I’ll be able to go even further.

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#bodygoals

#bodygoals I’m seeing the use of this # becoming increasingly popular across social media in the last year or so and the more I see it, the more it has got me thinking about what ‘body goals’ really are.

I will base this blog post around the attitudes of women since the majority of these tags are made by women (and young girls), sharing pictures of other women or commenting on other pictures of women with certain physiques. Whether that physique be lean and ripped (the current apparent trend), rake thin with bones jutting out and clearly airbrushed to within an inch of the subjects life or 50’s icon worthy hourglass curves which not even wearing three waist trainers could create on most women’s bodies. Women are sitting there, passing judgement on another woman’s body, striving to look like this and feeling inferior in their own skin.

It is sad that society has become like this. When did we stop being happy with how WE look and start wanting to look like someone else? Every single one of us is totally unique and even if we did everything exactly the same as the women we see as having our total ‘body goals’ – that’s eating the same diet, doing the same workouts, sleeping the same amount of hours, using the same products etc etc – we STILL wouldn’t look like they do.

We, as women, need to be more comfortable on our own skin. It is GREAT to see so many of us inspired by the health and fitness regimes or figures of others but instead of saying they are our goals, we should be appreciating them but also ourselves and how great we look or how strong we are. So, the next time you’re looking at the (sometimes heavily edited, overly posed and often unrealistic) photos of others on social media and you’re thinking how you wished you looked like them, remember to tell yourself that whilst they do look great, so do you and you’re just as every bit amazing.

The great unfollowing

I think part of my low self-esteem and issues around eating, dieting and lack of self worth are kept afloat due to social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge social media fan and it has so many positives, but when I’m scrolling down my Instagram feed and I end up closing the app’ and feeling a million times worse about myself, it made me think. Something had to give.

As I said, there are so many positives to engaging with social media, but when you have issues like me there are plenty of negatives too. I began to be more mindful whilst using app’s such as Instagram and Facebook and started really thinking about how I felt reading each post or scrolling past each image. I found a lot of images and captions or status updates were making me feel inadequate – I was there looking at selfies of women with clearly tiny waists and amazing bodies coupled with captions suggesting they were ‘just so out of shape right now’ or photos of weigh in results with captions about how awful it was that they’ve gained a pound or two in the last week whilst they’ve been on holiday and how they’re going to ‘punish’ themselves at the gym and restrict their diet until they’ve lost ‘all that horrible weight plus more!’. All this stuff was reinforcing my demon’s beliefs that we all need to look like fitness models with teeny tiny waists but huge glutes and biceps and how weight gain is so bad that we should PUNISH ourselves should that number on the ‘sad step’ creep up. Totally unhelpful.

People should realise how they’re appearing to others online (and indeed in real life too) and how they’re potentially making others feel when they’re being so negative and critical about their physique when they have so many followers who would do anything to look that way. I now have begun to understand why so many people grew to dislike me or became frustrated with me when I would constantly bang on about being ‘fat’ when in reality I was either just at the lowest point for a healthy weight for my height or even underweight. I now see it was annoying (and boring!) and may have had an effect on the self esteem of others – and for that, I’m really sorry. We should appreciate being able to work out, eat well and enjoy ourselves. Exercise should be done to celebrate what our bodies are able to do, for enjoyment and to keep fit and healthy – not used as a punishment for over indulging or just to maintain a low body weight. Food should be enjoyed and used to nourish and fuel our bodies and not seen as some sort of evil thing which makes us *gasp* GAIN WEIGHT which must immediately be lost! Our weight does not define our self worth. The number on the scales doesn’t show how we make our kids or our friends laugh until they cry or how kind hearted we are, how much we are loved or how good we are at our jobs or hobbies. It is nothing but a number showing your effect on gravity!

So, with all this in mind, I began ‘The Great Unfollowing’. I looked through my lists and began to remove all the people and brands which made me feel any negative emotion at all. I felt quite guilty at unfollowing certain people but I had to do it for my own sake. I don’t believe I will ever be able to keep moving forward whilst looking at things and reading things which are going to hold me back. I’ve made a pact with myself that from now on, anyone or anything that makes me question my appearance, my worth or my weight will be removed from my life.

I feel a bit better already – I guess it’s like a clear out of things you don’t really want but keep them anyway for whatever reason or you feel guilty for getting rid of it even though it’s not useful to your life. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do what you need to do, because you can’t go forwards whilst looking back!

Being positive

Last year we did a Happiness Jar in our household. Each day we jotted down a few notes from the day which were positive things about the day or things we were grateful for or made us happy. Every single day of 2016 one of us found something to jot down on some paper and pop into the jar – everything from fun things during our time on holiday together to smaller things as simple as the kids behaving well all day. It certainly made me reflect more and see the silver lining in things I would normally feel quite negatively about and it also made me actively LOOK for the positives in each day.

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This year I decided to do pretty much the same thing, but to note everything down in a small journal instead of having another jar. It’s going well so far and I’m managing to keep trying to see the positives in each day.

Along with this, I decided to do something just about me (given I’m the one with the issues!) – a sort of self-esteem boosting book! I bought another small, undated journal which simply has a number on each page from 1-365. I’m aiming to fill it full of positive memories and feelings. Everything from remembering how I achieved something I thought I couldn’t to remembering how beautiful I felt on my wedding day. The purpose of this book is to remind me on days I’m finding particularly hard that actually, I am worth something. I am intelligent, beautiful, loved and appreciated and I do have accomplishments, drive and determination. It’s just sort of a little pep-talk book to me, from me to keep me going when I hit a low ebb.

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I’m not sure how long it will take to fill it all, it may take years, but the main thing is I have started it and have a handful of memories written in there to start me off. I’m hoping it will also help me when it comes to recalling things in that I will begin to recall more good things in my life rather than the bad. Small things like this can help to make the biggest impact.

In the beginning…

So I’ve decided, after some encouragement, to delve into the (perhaps a little self-indulgent) world of blogging in a quest to find self love and leave behind past issues with eating disorders and low self-esteem.

Towards the latter part of 2016 I decided that enough was enough after spending the majority of my adult life (I am now 32) battling with issues surrounding low self-esteem and disordered eating. These issues have cost me relationships, jobs and friendships in addition to the detrimental effect to my health over the years and I hit breaking point. I think when you sink that low you know the only way is up, so off I went on the task of self-care and self-love.

Over recent months I have managed to ditch the food tracking and calorie counting, lessen my exercise regime and begin to change my mindset around it all so I do it for enjoyment and to keep fit now, rather than to stay a low weight. I have also attempted to be more positive about myself, though this is proving incredibly challenging.

It has been really difficult already and as I’ve gained weight with my more relaxed attitude, it has brought further issues to the surface. But, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I can’t expect a total transformation over night.

I will blog mainly around the issues I am facing or related to what I’m going through or have been through and hopefully it will help me work towards the end goal of feeling good about myself and having a positive relationship with food and a higher level of self-esteem. I will share past experiences and issues that have lead me to this point, when I feel more comfortable,  so you have an insight into the reasons behind things. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing. Here goes…