I’m the biggest I’ve ever been. I say ‘biggest’ rather than heaviest because I no longer weigh myself. I know I’ve put on weight though. I can tell from the reflection in the mirror and at least half of my clothes no longer fit me.
Let’s be clear; I know I’m not particularly big, yet I’ve been conscious of my body and weight my entire life.
I’ve also been on a diet for most of my life. I was either restricting food or eating excessive amounts of it. Foods were either good or bad. There was no in-between.
At my lowest weight I was consuming around 900 calories a day, but you can only do that for so long before you cave into temptation and start eating everything in sight. During another period I had a nutritionist, a personal trainer and an athlete’s body, but I was so insecure I couldn’t look at myself without finding flaws. These are just two variations in the reoccurring theme of my life.
Three years ago, I decided I’d had enough. There would be no more diets and all foods would be treated as equal, at least until I felt ‘safe’ enough to take a more holistic and sustainable approach. I lacked energy, and I longed for happiness – I wanted to feel free.
Breaking the habit of a lifetime has been such a long journey. However, to wake up without food being my first thought – or worse – a dreaded food hangover, well, that’s worth a few extra pounds. What I didn’t expect was that these few extra pounds would lead some people to believe they have permission to comment on how I should eat. Asking for guidance is one thing, but unsolicited advice is never acceptable.
Yet I’ve been shocked by just how eager others are to hand it out, even when the context doesn’t invite it, let alone the conversation. Suggestions of diets to try, foods I simply must avoid, foods I really should eat and very personal comments about my body and its composition… Always from women and delivered in a smug tone… The last time this happened, I had to quickly excuse myself to hide the tears in my eyes.
Mainstream and social media are held responsible for having a negative impact on body image and associated behavior, and rightly so. However, I believe we’re all responsible. We’re responsible for the way we speak to ourselves about our bodies, and we’re responsible when it comes to every conversation we have relating to body image.
So the next time someone offers unsolicited diet advice, I won’t remain complicit in my silence. Not only are these conversations insulting to my intelligence, they’re a veiled way of saying, “You’re not good enough.” Anyone who feels the need to give such advice isn’t looking out for you; they’re trying to make you feel small.
And I refuse to be made to feel small – no matter what size I am.
Essie, This makes me angry that WOMEN, our fellow imperfect sisterhood, feels they have the right to tell you what to eat. Grrrr…. I spent two days with you in Paris and you are a beautiful woman and you are not big!! Please know those smug comments from other women come from THEIR insecurity and perhaps even jealousy. I’d venture to say 98% of us have had–or currently have–an unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies. I have and still do. Brava for sharing your feelings. What a brave thing to do. I Love You Bunches, Brenda
Brenda, thank you so much for your kind words and for your support. After writing this I was thinking back to when I was very thin and remembered that people would make comments then too. In the end, the only thing we can do is please ourselves! However, I will be vocal in future when someone gives me unsolicited advice on what or how to eat – because whilst I may be strong enough to deal with it – imagine how damaging it might be to someone else? I love you bunches too! Essie xxxx
I can relate. I was underweight most of my childhood and in high school was called Twig. Twiggy was the hot model those days, so I was ok with it. Besides, I really had no control over my diet which was less than balanced. After my kids were born in my late teens, early twenties, I was still very skinny. But, the belly became the bain of my existence. My husband is very weight conscious, especially mine, and I allowed that for way too long. Now I understand it is his problem, not mine. So, I cavalierly say “Fuck it! I am 66 years old and look pretty damn good for my age!” IF only I could stop obsessing about my belly.
Hi Barbara, thank so much for sharing your story. I cannot imagine how hurtful it must be when your partner is conscious of your weight, so good on you for your cavalier attitude! And I’m sure every woman has a body part that she’s less than thrilled with, my belly is my least-favourite body part too. Every night when I lie in bed I place my two hands over it and say, “I love you, I love you, I love you” and I can physically feel the connection between my belly, my hands and my heart – and the presence of a peaceful energy I cannot explain. I know it sounds kooky, but it may be worth a try! Esther xx
It’s so irritating that we are so scrutinized for something so surface. My weight has never fluctuated more than 20 pounds my entire adult life and yet I seem to go from “skinny bitch” to “better watch your weight” and back again. I have no idea how a 20 pound shift makes me too skinny or too fat! I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no “just right” and this is a losing battle no matter what you do. Now I just ignore it and let my much beloved wardrobe be my guide. Whether I belt it on or stretch it on — as long as it’s on, I’m happy.
It IS irritating. And you’re right, some people never seem to be happy with our weight – so why please anyone but ourselves? I’m so happy to no longer be stuck in diet hell so I’m OK with carrying a few extra pounds, especially as I have a much better relationship with both food and my body now. “As long as it’s on, I’m happy” – that made me giggle – indeed! Esther xx
Bravo, Esther! Like you, I gave up weighing myself a while back. When my pants get snug, it ‘s time to cut back a bit! I am healthy, I have low blood pressure and good cholesterol levels, and my attitude is great because I allow myself to enjoy life! I just returned from a vacation at the beach, and didn’t try to hide behind a cover-up all week. My family loves me, in spite of my jiggly thighs! That’s all that matters.
Bravo to you, Susan! It’s hard to break habits like weighing ourselves, it took me ages to give up the ‘sad step’. I still want to improve my diet and exercise regime, but this time it’s coming from a place of love rather than because I’m trying to beat my body into submission. Isn’t it great to be able to go on vacation and actually enjoy being present rather than obsessing about what we’re eating and body parts? I’m on vacation with my in-laws this week and enjoying that very experience myself. Esther xx
It’s the smug tone! A “friend” I had for a very long time used to comment about how I was “dark,” meaning dark haired, a kind of not good thing in my particular ethnic group. She would actually call my husband “swarthy,” which he is (a characteristic of his particular ethnic group). It was the tone that I eventually realized was just plain ugly, it makes people “less than.” Ugh, and when women do it to women, it’s the worst! If a true friend is concerned about your health, that’s another thing, I think. But true friends do not judge people on how they look. Anita xx
Dearest Anita, thanks for your comment. I agree, it’s the smug tone! I could understand if someone was expressing genuine concern for me, but I know it had nothing to do with that. And anyone that makes comments about your hair colour of husband’s build are definitely not looking out for you! It makes me sad when people – especially women – feel they need to make someone else feel bad in order for them to feel good. We are so much stronger and more powerful when we support one another. I’ve let a few so-called friends go over the last year or so and realised afterwards that I felt nothing but relief. Esther xx
Anita, “Swarthy?” Seriously? OMG! Brenda
Oops, I read “Sturdy” instead of “Swarthy”!!!! xx
What a wonderful article and I feel like I could have written it myself at times…
Thank you for being so open.. I recently wrote on control and how people just feel free to offer advice when i don’t ask for it…
Continue to love yourself and others. Blessings, Kim Alexis
Kim, thank you so much for your comment. I’m positive that so many women can relate – no matter who we are or what we do – which is why I felt it was important to write about my experience. Giving advice is such a tricky thing, I’m actually hesitant to offer my thoughts even when other people ask for them! Esther xx
Great, and timely article, Esther. Their smugness has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their own insecurity and feelings of inferiority. While it is hard to cut people out of your life, it makes room for people who appreciate how wonderful you are, exactly as you are!
Good for you!