The question that makes my stomach drop, my sweat glands open up wide and my eyes lube up in preparation for a full-blown breakdown.
Why do people think it is acceptable to ask such a horrifically personal question? I don’t begin a conversation by asking how you’re feeling since your father left for milk and never came back. Why, you ask? Firstly, I don’t think you or I want to bring up such an awkward topic to be discussing so it’s common sense to divert from it. Secondly, who thought it was appropriate to acknowledge someone’s potential failure? Yes, I have been indulging on chicken kebabs every week since Christmas, I have eaten a twenty-four pack of Wotsits in one day with pride, so yes, my figure has taken the brunt of my New Year’s resolution to become a pig. Does this somehow give you permission to point it out like a cruel bully in the playground?
Whenever I am asked the dreaded question it is usually followed up with ‘You look better for it.’ No, I don’t. I looked great before, not because of how my silhouette wove in and out in an hourglass figure, but because my confidence with that shape shone through. So what you are really saying is, ‘I’m so glad you have put weight on, you made me feel rubbish about my diet whenever I saw you.’ Do you know how I know that? I was that person thinking those exact thoughts when I was obese in my late teens. Yet when my dream finally came true and I lost the weight (and by dream, I mean willpower) I treated people differently. I stopped having bitter conversations in my head and I would be happy for people after I found out what it was like on the other side. I’ve been called a bitch, I’ve been accused of not eating properly and absolutely every person had an opinion about how I looked. In fact, looking back I had more comments about how I looked when I was thinner, the highest percentage being back-handed compliments. I used to read stories about young, beautiful women in magazines who were bullied for being too good looking and I used to scoff at it. Now, let me explain, I am by no means on Angelina Jolie’s level of beauty. My passive aggressive comments came from people I know, not strangers in the street and there was never any malice behind them, just girlfriends giving digs. To me those ‘digs’ hurt, I constantly wondered why my friends weren’t happy for me.
Then I gained some weight back, I am now rounding off (excuse the pun) at eleven stone when I had been level at ten stone for a few years now. When I was younger I peaked at sixteen stone and vowed never to be that size again, which admittedly began the greatest love affair I have ever had with my scales. I was very cautious of my weight and made sure that if I gained any that I lost it immediately by sweating out to Just Dance 3 (who needs expensive gyms). This time, however, nothing appears to be spurring me on, not even the cruel comments and lack of compliments.
Since the beginning of the year when the scales and I began having a strained relationship, I have had three obvious comments about my weight. One was from a friend who has always been a friend of the description above, as soon as I lost weight they were always telling me I was too thin and that I needed to eat something yet I was also told how great I looked. Now this threw me completely, here I was smiling hard as I was being showered with compliments of how well I had done while simultaneously being told that I should eat the four cupcakes that are in front of me. So when I did gain the weight there were no beaming smiles and the compliments treadmill was out of order. Instead, I was met with a tilted head and eyes darting across me like a sniper in the night, and then it came, ‘You look better since you have put weight on.’ I froze, unable to decide whether to have a full blown tantrum, argue my case (who was I kidding, I had gained a stone) or just go with the flow. So my response was,‘I know, yeah. I was so uncomfortable being that size, my bones stuck out and I didn’t eat properly. Now I eat three meals a day and I feel great,’ I believe this is when my pants set on fire, I didn’t believe a word that had come out of my mouth, but I felt like I had been cornered. I then spent the rest of the visit with my hand placed strategically over the base of my stomach so that I could both hide my belly while accessing the fatty damage.
After this incident, I decided to go on a diet, which was something that I hadn’t done in a very long time because, well, they are shit. Desperation had kicked in and I was willing to do anything to gain the figure I wanted. The diet consisted of shakes, yes, shakes. How would my body feel full when my jaw may as well be wired shut? Surely a large part of feeling full is the brain recognising chewing as refuelling. That’s my excuse for not completing the drink diet anyway and I will stand by it infinitely. While in the midst of swallowing shakes for main and fresh air for dessert I met my next negative source. A woman who worked for me prior to this had popped into my work to visit me and we were catching up. To add a little context this lady was always begging me to eat breakfast or put the pasty away and eat some greens. So there I was on my good old foldout pedestal (I needed a compact one that could travel as I do love to be up there) grinning like a school child about to tell their teacher something to be proud of. I shook my shake in her face with a smug face to boot to which she replied ‘You can tell you’ve been having breakfast, you’ve put weight on.’ Oh, the crushing disappointment of what could have been, where was the praise for taking her advice? She was so quick to magnify my thin figure on a regular basis and as soon as the weight had piled on I got one rude response and my body was never mentioned again.
I would like to think that I don’t live my life purely on other people’s compliments, but I will admit that everyone adds a little to the confidence bar and who doesn’t want that? I’ve noticed in the past few months that I no longer get told that I look great or that I always look fantastic. Now I get recognised for my comfort rolls on first seeing me since the blubber rolled in, and then I am never complimented. So, you can see how my confidence has plummeted ever so slightly of late.
‘You must be a size 14, surely.’ This was the moment yesterday that made my throat close up and my eyes open wide in confusion. Who the hell did this dude think he was? Yet that wasn’t what went through my mind until much later after being taken over by the incident for my entire evening. Let me set the scene for you, I was at work (I am a retail manager for a charity) stood behind the till and a man came over to be served. He seemed nice enough, we made small talk and we ended up talking about how sizes differ greatly between shops. Normally when I have this conversation it’s with a woman because the size 12 dress didn’t fit her, and it must be incorrectly labelled, but not the extra Christmas weight that she had yet dissolved. However, I don’t care if people lose or gain weight as long as they are healthy. I do care that the society we live in now is forcing us to always have an excuse for our appearance, even to shop workers like me that they have never even met before.
So, here I was staring open mouthed at this guy. He obviously hadn’t realised that he had said something wrong, but I didn’t care about that and I snapped. ‘You should never ask a woman about her size, do you know what that does to a person?’ Now, I understand that isn’t the kind of snap that you would have seen while watching Green Street, but remember I work in an industry that revolves entirely around customer service. He looked at me in confusion and proceeded to shrivel into a bumbling mess, made his excuses and left. I was absolutely crushed, I had been a size 8-10 until recently, and as much as I had gained some chocolate cake and takeaways in places I was most certainly not a size 14.
Since the incident I have managed to eat an entire pack of pancakes, a family sized bag of peanut M&M’s and a large bag of Kettle Chips. This took me back to the old days when I would be stuck in the loop of insult, eat, gain weight, insult, eat, gain weight…you can see how that worked out. I am so frustrated, yet if I am being realistic I know that I am using these people and their comments as an excuse for my weight gain, much like the women in my work who blame the shops.
So I have decided to take responsibility for my weight gain and I now weigh myself weekly, watch the numbers tot up to the same number and I’m becoming ever so slightly more comfortable with how I look. I could lose the weight, but right now I have absolutely no desire to do so. I am fit and healthy, I work on my feet and I exercise regularly so that can be my solace for the time being. This has taught me that I need to be looking at how I perceive my body and not how others do in order to have a healthy balance. Now, I am pretty sure it is treat day so I am off to call the takeaway who now know my voice and order without as much as a ‘yes’ thrown in where appropriate. I’m going to enjoy my comfortable stage and then maybe, just maybe I will lose it, but I won’t be doing it until I am ready to do it in a healthy manner…chicken kebab please!