Loitering at the sidelines at many a pool, beach or other attraction is my default position. In my mind, I'm too fat to take part. They tell me not to be so daft, to jump on in. I wish I could more. I get upset at being so stupid. I'm missing out on so much.
And boy, that ring would chafe.
Every time I tell myself our next trip will be different. This time in a week, a month, a year, I'll be, slimmer, fitter and raring to go – just like the rest of my family.
Yet it hasn't quite happened yet. I'm four stone overweight. At my biggest I weighed 16 stone, my size-22 coat straining at the chest and my rare visits to the shops for new clothes leaving me in tears. I didn't look in the mirror much if I could help it. If I caught my reflection in a window I turned away – that wobbly state of a woman couldn't really be me, could it?
I've now returned to what I'd call a healthy eating regime. I'm back doing regular exercise. I feel better for it and I know it takes work.
But life gets in the way. At least I'm in a much better place now than I have been in the past. I spent 10 years of my life stuck in a cycle of bingeing on food, before virtually starving myself in the hope of a quick fix.The guilt of a binge would spur me on so that my revulsion at what I was eating – a third chocolate bar, say, would make me eat more. On autopilot, I'd gorge enough calories to nourish a family of four in one sitting.
Thanks to genes passed on by their dad, my daughters are already on the road to a healthier future than their mum, and thank goodness they have much healthier tastes. I won't utter the word diet and I try my damnedest not to make it an issue with my daughters.
With the help of a nutritionist I began to see that my bouts of bingeing were learned behaviour. She explained to me that food is not naughty, it's just food. A light went on.
I started to understand I'm not weak, disgusting or greedy. I'm just doing what I know and even in the most determined and concerted of weight-loss efforts there are going to be slip-ups. That's why media reports about 'lazy' obese people or those considered too fat to adopt, make my hackles rise.
These families need help, not penalty and ridicule. In a recent crack down on 'benefit scroungers', David Cameron singled out obese families alongside drug addicts and alcoholics as a scourge of society. Since when was being fat such a crime?
Doctors are slammed for allocating precious resources on overweight people who 'have brought problems on themselves.' But an addiction to over eating is a condition as serious as anorexia or bulimia.
Couples have been told they can't adopt because they are too fat - but they still have lots of love to give. One couple was named and shamed. They didn't smoke or drink and were decent law-abiding citizens who wanted to offer a home to a child in need. My heart breaks for them.
Michelle, who blogs at Mummy from the Heart, has shared her journey of a battle with food. Unlike me she says she's able to do most things with her children, a son aged seven and twin daughters who are approaching four.
But she adds: "The times when I find myself feeling self-conscious are at soft play or amusement parks when I wonder if I will fit through the tunnels or on the kiddie rides with them."
Michelle also thinks about how her weight and attitude to food affects her family.
"Probably the biggest part of my role as a mum that is affected by my weight is my desire to create a good role model for my children and whilst I do not want them to think it is bad to have a bit of excess weight, I also do not want to promote being greedy and over-eating," she says.
"I worry too much about how my size and eating issues will affect my children in the future. When I see my son display his very healthy appetite or he tells me that his favourite part of a day out was the food I feel incredibly sad and wonder if my eating disorder has done that to him.
"I am trying to overcome my own addiction to food, as I believe that children learn what they live. I have to sort myself out so that I can be a good role model to them in regard to my eating behaviours.
"I'm very honest with my children and they know that Mummy's tummy is too big really but that it is okay it does not make her a bad person, she just needs to be healthier with her eating."
Are you bigger than you would like to be?
Do you feel self-conscious? Are you infuriated that your personal weight issues are treated as a crime?
Do you put yourself on the sidelines of family fun? Share your experiences here.
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