Last weekend I received in the post a dress I had purchased online. It’s a very pretty vintage reproduction that I thought would work well for a number of weddings coming up this year. Having looked at the online size guide I could see that the 14 would probably be a little big, the 12 a little small, but due to the 14 being out of stock had to order the 12 if I wanted it at all. It arrived, and it is, in fact, a little small. ‘Little’ enough for me to hope that a couple of weeks of really good food behaviour and good gym going to behaviour could just about make it fit.
I had mixed feelings about it being small. I was pleased that it was a little small and not a lot small, but at the same time I was annoyed with myself for having got quite as lumpy around the middle as I have. Since the roller derby ending knee injury last year I have found it really difficult to get back into shape again. Actually, no. That’s not true at all. It goes further back than that. In actual fact my lumpyness has been creeping up on me over the last few years – since my first serious derby injuries two years ago when I broke my rib at a practice session a mere 3 months after I broke my hand (also due to derby). I exacerbated the rib injury – turning it from a small crack into a long winding kidney-threatening fracture – by ignoring the pain at practice and playing an all day endurance event. It took me a long time to get back to my regular gym sessions and skating practice, and I think if I am really honest I never regained the joy in derby afterwards, and could never quite get my increasingly wobbly bottom back into a gym routine.
That gym routine only really existed because of roller derby. I’ve discussed my aversion to any sort of exercise regime previously on this blog. This last week of Mission Make Dress Less Small has actually been a great reminder that while I hate the thought of going to the gym, and sometimes I hate being there, I always feel FANTASTIC afterwards. I feel like I could run home. I feel strong, powerful and good about myself, and I sleep better. I don’t hold out any hope that I will find it any easier to make myself go in the first place, as that’s always a struggle, but I know that kickstarting my gym routine will definitely make it easier to keep going once Mission Make Dress Less Small has reached a deadline.
Along with getting my lumpy bum back to the gym, a colleague kindly assisted by taking on my terrible eating habits – the main rule being NO SUGAR. She shouted at me every time I transgressed, which was rather motivating. I refrained from all sorts of sugar just so she wouldn’t shout at me again. I’ve long suspected I’m over reliant on sugar, and have wanted to try to cut it out for a long time but never seem to get past the first day. But now I have Mission Make Dress Less Small and something to aim for. When I am tempted by sugar, I remind myself that if Mission Make Dress Less Small fails then I will be wearing a slightly too small dress at two weddings.
I’m keen to not make this A Diet though. I don’t like diets. I am rather scared of them. I need to look at the long term situation of me making better choices about what I eat even after once Mission Make Dress Less Small is complete, whether I succeed or not. Giving up refined and added sugar and eating more protein and fewer carbs is part of that, but it has to be long term and not A Diet. It is vital that this remains about my health and my fitness (and fitting into the clothes I already own that used to fit) and not about losing weight.
From when I was very little, I believed that (not fat = better). That (thin = everything is ok). Of course, much of this comes from SOCIETY, but some of it (sorry Mum) may have came from seeing my Mum battle with her own weight issues. I entered adulthood having always been veering between a little bit and a fair bit overweight and with a cast iron belief that if I wasn’t overweight, everything would be ok. I was fond of my food and fearful of exercise, so I spent my late teens and my early twenties overweight and wishing that I wasn’t, because then everything would be fine. Much of my difficulties I experienced in other areas of my life – relationship breakdowns, stress of my final year at university, family bereavement, permanent money worries, housing issues, job stress; all of those things that come with suddenly being a grown up and thinking “oh god, how can I be a grown up? I’m not a grown up” – well all of those things I knew, somehow, deep in the very make-up of my being, would be FINE and not so bad if only, IF ONLY, I was thin.
If I was thin, I could wear anything I wanted and look great. I wouldn’t think people were looking at me and thinking “what is she wearing?”. I could wear zip-up boots instead of having to always get lace ups. I could wear tight jeans and little shorts. I could wear skirts and shorts without having to wear leggings to prevent my thighs chafing. I would be able to buy tights without having to snip the waistband and then wear pants over them to keep them up. People would tell me I looked good, and would mean it. People would want to know me. No one would look at me and call me fat. All my difficulties and insecurities would diminish and fade away in the face of the beautiful THINNESS.
And then, one day, I decided to do it. To not be overweight any more. I don’t remember why, or how, or where the determination came from. I became obsessed. I got a Weightwatchers calculator. For a year, nothing would be bought in a shop without being run through the calculator. Shopping took 2 hours longer. Nothing would pass my lips without being recorded on my food spreadsheet. Over the months, I started looking good in trousers. Getting compliments. Fitting into size 12s. Feeling like I didn’t have to breathe in all the time. It took me much less time to get dressed to go out, as I started looking better in clothes. Ok, so I was hungry pretty much all the time and all I ever thought about was food, and I kept fainting, but It Was Happening! The rest of my life was starting! Here I go! I am NOT FAT! HELLO WORLD!
And then, a bit like a wave that starts from far, far away, slowly at first but growing in size and pace until it finally crashes with immense destruction on a tiny fishing village, came the realisation that everything is not ok. All of the other worries were still there. All of the anxiety. The self doubt. The grief. The unresolved issues from deep, deep inside my childhood years. My relationship problems, The money worries. The crippling low self esteem. It was all still there. Being ‘thin’ hadn’t cured it. It had maybe hidden it for a little while, but about as well as an elastoplast on a broken arm.
This might all seem very obvious to you, but to me it was catastrophic. Remember, my entire world view and firmly held belief was that everything is fine if you are thin. I was thin. And everything was not fine. I don’t know if you’ve suddenly had something you’ve believed your whole life suddenly been proved to be not just a little awry but completely and totally wrong; if you haven’t I hope you never do. It’s not a good feeling. I can pretty much pinpoint that time in my life that the depression took hold, and thus followed many years of ill health, physically and mentally. It didn’t help that I have a small boned top half and at the “right weight for my height” according to Weightwatchers I actually looked half dead. I don’t think that all this was the reason I became depressed, I think there were many reasons, but I do now look back at this as a catalyst.
It took me a long time and a lot of tears and therapy to crawl my way back to mental healthiness, and along the way the weight all came back too. Along with my improved mental wellbeing these days I feel much more at peace with my own body. I now know that the only thing that is different about my life if I’m less overweight is that I am weigh less. Getting back to the gym won’t make me thin, and at my fittest when I was training 3 times a week and at the gym the other 4 I wasn’t ever thin – and I was significantly happier as a heavy curvy fit person than a hungry all the time fainting person. What it will do is make me happier because I am healthier. The desired result of Mission Make Dress Less Small is purely and simply to make the dress less small. And if as a result the rest of my clothes fit better, and I have fewer sugar crash headaches and a bit more get up and go, then Bring It On.
Moral of the story, boys and girls. Being thin, or being not-fat, will NOT make you happy, and it will NOT make all of your problems go away; unless it is the only thing in your life that is making you miserable. And if it really *is* the only thing in your life making you miserable, then cheer up, because you have a really great life!