What do you hear when you listen to ads telling you that you have "4 weeks to fit into your LBD", or to "tone your tum for Christmas", "drop a dress size before Christmas", or advising "how not to ruin your diet during Xmas". Me? I heard fear, failure, and the reinforced message that I could not be trusted around food. That I needed the rules of a diet to tell me what and how to eat, or I'd eat everything that was not nailed down (looking back, not true!)
There are very few photos of me at my biggest, as I became quite adept at the head and shoulder selfie, or I insisted on being the one to take the photo. Several women have mentioned to me that they hide in photos, with their children as little props in front of them. I also hid in black clothes; black trousers were a staple in my wardrobe and I have a memory of constantly tugging down my top so it covered my bum, which I believed was the size of a small island.
I was intelligent, well-educated and fun-loving, but I felt fat. I was acutely conscious of the reactions of others towards my body and my eating. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me when I overheard a family member say "she's eating AGAIN" or when a complete stranger looked in abject horror at the plate of food in front of me and then at my face. It seems that the acceptable reaction of people around overweight people is to be disgusted, and the dutiful place of an overweight person is to feel ashamed and small, very small (oh, the irony!) I felt so painfully inferior.
I was obsessed with counting calories and points, of trying to be in control but then losing control as I shovelled food into my mouth. I lived in fear that that my weight and fat would never change. After all, I had tried every diet and none worked. I didn't want this body, but I didn't know how to leave it behind. I felt utterly helpless.
Yes, it was indeed my choice to eat. But fat and weight loss, or the struggle to lose weight is not what it is all about. I spoke to a Heyday client recently who revealed that part of the reason why she has remained fat is because she is in an unhappy relationship and that extra weight means that intimacy is less likely. Meanwhile, a 34-year old man mentioned that staying fat is a reason for him not to start a relationship.
If we allowed ourselves the space to understand our weight, instead of constantly piling pressure on ourselves to lose it, it would bring us closer to a 'normal' relationship with food. I learned that you cannot lose it until you first own it. For me, my weight meant that I could stay in the background, without attracting much attention. I hated my weight and my body and I didn't want to be fat, but I was still attached to that extra fat (pun not intended!)
How we eat mirrors what's happening with and around us. So suggestions such as "move away from the table fattie" or "how does someone allow themselves get so fat?" (which I have been asked) implicitly lack understanding and convey a very narrow belief that fatness and being overweight are all about gluttony, lack of discipline and willpower. But that makes no sense given that you have discipline to do so much else in your life, such as raise a family or go out to work, and given that willpower is only a short-term burst of energy that usually ends quite abruptly.
So to the adverts that urge you to "lose weight in time for Christmas", to hell with that. That diet mentality only feeds into an all-or-nothing mentality around eating. It also implies "be good until Christmas, then have a blow-out for 2 weeks", then "lose weight as your New Year resolutions". The best you can do right now is to start liking yourself as you are right now, and not wait until you have lost the weight. Start to give yourself the change to understand what your extra eating and weight is all about. After 15 years of experience I realise that you are far more than what the scales tell you that you are, or what the looks of others tell you what you are.
Join my campaign to lose weight for yourself and not for Christmas www.facebook.com/heydayworld. Or email me your comments.