Well I am, OK?

This week I’ve had one person tell me, in a shocked voice, “well you certainly don’t look like a size 18!” and “you certainly don’t look over 80K”

Well I am, all right?

I suppose I should be flattered that I seemingly don’t look the size I actually am but mostly I find it frustrating.

I suppose I’m not designed to be skinny. I got down to a size 8 once, which is supposed to be a pretty healthy size right? Going my BMI I was underweight and I did NOT feel good. I mean it felt good to be a size 8 dont get me wrong, but I had absolutely no energy.

Now I flip flop between energetic days and “oh god dont make me get out of bed” days… and I certainly eat a lot better now than I did then (like I’m eating actual meals) but I’m also a size 18. I think some people (normally the naturally thin people) have this perception that fat people are fat because they sit on their arse and eat all day and it;s “really not that hard, sensible diet and exercise and there wont be an issue” BOLLOCKS TO YOU LOT. Quite frankly. I mean yes, eating sensibly and getting exercise will help, obviously, but it also doesn’t stop you from being fat. Do you know what I mean?

I walk over 10000 steps a day, I go to yoga (now) I don’t eat crisps, we have takeaway probably once a month if that, I dont drink fizzy drinks, I don’t eat sweets, I can no longer have ice-cream and cheese, we almost never eat out. I cook well balanced meals with vegetables in and everything. Ok, yes, I have a chocolate problem but it’s not out of control… and yet I am overweight. Sometimes its just shitty genetics. It really is. Or a whole load of other crap. Hormones, medication, depression are all things that effect weight gain, especially in women. It’s not as simple as eat less and move more. Though the self righteous skinny people who don’t have to try hard like to make you think that’s the case (disclaimer: not all skinny people are horrid).

The last time I lost a significant amount of weight the only way I was able to do it was to lower my calorie intake to 1200 a day and go to the gym for nearly two hours, four times a week. I’m sorry that is not sustainable, especially when I’m battling with low iron and fatigue, and have a business, house, husband and child to look after…. Not to mention very shaky mental health that requires me to shut everyone away for periods of time… and thats very time consuming.

I want to be able to exercise more but I have neither the time nor finances to. “oh well you have to make time” FUCK OFF! Unless you’ve got a time machine in your pocket I don’t know how I’m supposed to do that. Yes I could watch less telly and I could be doing situps right now instead of typing this out but I already mentioned the mental health thing and telly and typing this are both things I need to do to ensure my brain doesn’t have a wobbly. At the end of the day my mental health is more important than my physical health. Some people may scoff at that but its true. Poor mental health will kill me quicker than poor physical health. Dark statement there but I’ve been on that cliff top more times than I’d like to mention so I know it’s true.

And I can still remember the soul crushing feeling of a hard month of never eating and working out constantly and getting on the scales to see my weight had GONE UP! No my poor little brain isn’t ready for that.

I would quite like to be able to afford to go to the gym again though. Its very self indulgent, I mean two hours devoted entirely to the bettering of yourself. That would be nice. No such luck at the moment… my boobs don’t fit in my sports bra anyway.

I will continue to try and spend the few moments spare I get a day equally between looking after my head and looking after my body, and I suppose I shall continue to hope that each day my mind gets a little better that, eventually, my body will follow.

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Yoga Shmoga

So in an attempt to get myself into shape I thought I’d give yoga a try.

Now I know yoga isn’t going to enable me to loose any weight, I decided to give this a bash because I thought it would help develop strength and flexibility (especially in my destroyed core thanks to being preggers) and once I’d established that the step to getting back into cardio (running and rowing) would be an easier one. Plus I was looking forward to an hour of peace and quite.

Well it turns out Yoga is fucking hard!

I mean, Jesus, if this was the beginners class I can’t even comprehend what the advanced class is like.

I found it really hard. I didn’t know the moves, I couldn’t get in and out of them that quick, I couldn’t even find my “core” let alone engage it… and breathing!? I was struggling to remember to breathe at all let alone exhaling and inhaling at the right moments. I didn’t just find it hard from a “I don’t bend that way” perspective but yoga really makes you take stock of your body and what shape it is in. After such a long time with my head in the sand I found this very difficult.

I used to be very flexible, and I do still have that flexibility in certain places (like my hips, where they went all loose when I was pregnant and never quite settled back again), but I have the shortest tendons ever, it seems, and I just don’t have any strength in my body at all. I really thought with all the walking I was doing, and being a part time cleaner, I wouldn’t be in too bad shape under the flab. I was wrong.

A significant and distressing moment was when we were asked to hug out knees whilst on our back. I think this was even one of the warming down movements, and I realised that I couldn’t get my chin anywhere near my knees any more. Not because I’m not flexible in this instance, but because my GUT is so MASSIVE it got in the way.

I actually had a little cry a this moment… but the lights were low and most people had their eyes closed so I think I got away with it.

By the end of the class every muscle hurt and I was a bit emotional. My first reaction is “well I’m crap at it and I don’t like it so ner I’m not going again” (child)

I got home and had a little cry at my husband, and as per usual he didn’t quite know what to make of me, but he did persuade me to keep at it. I can’t make a judgement on something from just one hour.. and i’m doing this to help me get back in shape so quitting because I don’t like the shape I’m currently in is a little foolish.

I woke up the next day in agony. Muscles I didnt even know I had were hurting… and now two days later I’m still aching. I do NOT like being uncomfortable. I’ve had some people tell me they enjoy the “post workout ache”. Nutters. Complete and utter weirdos.

Raging paranoia

One of the oh-so-wonderful side effects of self loathing and body hatred is paranoia and jealousy.

I’ve always had tenancies toward jealousy in a relationship, and I think this can all be boiled down to the fact that I don’t like what I look like, and therefore I don’t understand why anyone else would like what I look like… and so I feel like I’m permanently waiting for my significant other to find someone else more significant than me…

This was all somewhat compounded when an ex (the dysfunctional relationship I mentioned in my previous post) did exactly that.

Mostly the feeling was parked from about 18 months into my relationship with my (now) husband up until Nancy was born.

Whilst trying (and failing) to deal with the body I’d been left with I was mindful that this wasn’t just impacting me, but my husband as well… and then the depression kicked in and I wasn’t only unpleasant to look at but miserable too. I was just waiting for the day he told me he’d found someone else.. who was thinner, didn’t have boobs down to her belly button and a belly button down to her knees, and was actually happy most of the time.

He never has, so far… Bless him.

But I rebuilt a lot of walls that he spent a long time slowly taking down at the start of our relationship, and I feel so awful for that. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not squeaky clean in all of this. There were things he could have said that would have soothed my inner turmoil and things he could have done which would have made everything a lot easier for me… but he’s not the most perceptive of creatures and has a lot on his own plate with work and a degree on the go.

Like I said, I rebuilt walls.. which I think is a default reaction for a lot of people when they’re dealing with trauma, and dealing with my new body was a complete trauma. I don’t mean that lightly either. I built mine higher than before, with a concrete lining and topped with barbed wire.

I really started to feel my marriage falling apart. I desperately wanted my husband to save me, and save us, but I think he was just holding our family together with his fingertips whilst I failed at life, so I pushed him away. If he wasn’t going to fight for us why should I bother!

Its only been recently I’ve started taking the odd brick back down again but its painful and exposing… and I think he’s a bit scared of putting a foot wrong in-case I put all the bricks back again…or he’s just not noticed… that’s also quite likely! Our relationship is strained and distant but I feel we’re taking steps back to each other at last.

That green eyed monster still likes to remind me its there every now and again… like just now. I was looking for an old notebook and whilst doing so stumbled upon a wedding thank you card we received from a friend of my husbands who I know used to be an old crush of his. This wedding happened about a two and a half years ago, and I found this thank you card tucked between two dvds belonging to my husband (films he knows I’d never watch), perched right on top of one of our bookshelves (not where our dvds live). Instantly I start thinking he’s kept this because he still has feelings for her, and he’s hidden it up here because he thinks I wont find it… Actually what’s most likely is those dvds are up there because they wont fit in our dvd draws, and the card is sandwiched between them because chances are the last time he watched them was the time we received the card and they just got all bundled up together… But I still feel jealous… and I still feel like perhaps he would have been better off with her, without me, with someone who isn’t as broken both physically and mentally and then I feel betrayed and angry. Why? it’s all in my head?! But I’ll start over analysing everything, every time he looks at his phone, every minute he spends on the computer, every time he’s late home from work, I’ll wonder if he’s up to something. Then I’ll hate myself because he has never given me any reason what-so-ever to feel like that. That feeling is the result of the previous dysfunctional relationship and I hate that someone who (at the time) had so little regard for me has managed to warp my brain so very much that even now, some 9 years later, it still has such an effect. I want to take my brain out, scrub out that stain, give it a good rinse off and pop it back in my head.

But it’s all those dysfunctional relationships and “brain stains” that make us who we are… and I’ve just got to keep trying to stay positive and keep blocking out all those nasty thoughts because my husband deserves better. Although I may not look the way I did when we first got together, I can at least be slightly less of a moody, jealous, cow.

The current state of things

So it’s 00:25 in the morning, I’ve got a hacking cough which has kept me up night after night so I’m sitting here writing a thing because its been on my mind and I might as well. I’m not a body, beauty or lifestyle blogger. I have nowhere to put this but I need to write it so here we go.

Oh where to begin. It’s a long, complicated and mixed up feeling and I’m no good with the words.

I’m 31, I have a 3 year old little girl who I love, a business in it’s infancy, a husband and I am overweight. I think that defines me pretty well right there. I struggle with all of these things at various different points but its the last one I have, and continue to struggle with the most.

The concept of being “overweight” or whatever you prefer to define it as, is a difficult thing to pin down. The NHS defines it as someone who has a BMI of over a certain number. This is infuriating. Most people who have a high muscle density are classed as obese by these standards which is completely insane. So I’m entirely dismissing that highly convenient way of pigeon-holing people.

I work as a corsetiere, I spent a lot of time looking at women’s bodies, their natural shape and desired shape. Curvy women are more appealing to me, no offence to the slimmer ladies out there but I prefer the hourglass silhouette. I mean I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t. These days “curvy” has come to mean so many different things. “Plus size” is starting to be considered a derogatory term and so more and more clothing companies are defining there 16+ size range as “Curvy” (which is nuts because 50% of the time they’re the same shapeless cut as their 16- sizes just scaled up, please address this issue high-street clothing stores) To me, though, curvy isn’t anything to do with overall size but the relationship between measurements. You can be a size 8 and still have a perfect hourglass figure…. Anyway I’ve gone off on a tangent here.

I follow A LOT of plus-size (oo dirty word) bloggers and models, and body positivity bloggers and such and they’re all amazing. I think I initially started doing this with the weight gain I experienced post baby, to try to come to terms with “The skin I’m in”… yeah it didn’t work.

I so want to be positive about my body but its hard to when all the people are up there going “yeah I’m a size 18 and I love myself and you should to”. That’s totally awesome but look at yourself for a minute there. Yes you’re an 18+ but look, just look, you’ve got a magnificent bosom, lovely full hips, amazingly round bum, small waist and almost a flat tummy. Your face is stunning, you’ve got hair that wouldn’t be amiss on a “gives a shiny coat” dog food advert and you’ve totally got your wardrobe sorted. You look AMAZING at your given size and it’s totally not hard to be body positive when you look that good. Some of us at a size 18 are a f*cking mess and are completely not coping with it one little bit. Honestly, seeing you being all redonkulous at the same size as me is making me feel a little worse about it all.

Perhaps I feel this way because the “skin that I’m in” isn’t as straight forward as having put on a bit of weight (though is it ever, really?)

I love my daughter to absolute pieces, lets just clarify that first, but being pregnant and giving birth completely destroyed my body. And absolutely no one prepared me for that.

I’ve always had a slightly dysfunctional relationship with my body and weight. My boobs came in early and BOY did they come in. My first bra at the age of 10 was a D cup would you believe. I got fitted professionally at 14 and put into an E. They’ve got bigger ever since. I spent most of my life fluctuating between a size 10 and a size 14 (I very briefly flirted with a size 8 for about 3 months at the end of a very dysfunctional relationship in my early 20s). Because of the UBER BOOBS I’ve always felt I looked fat, or hefty. There is nothing “delicate” or “elfin like” about massive tits and I felt elfin like on the inside and so I struggled with that. I wanted to wear delicate summer dresses and strapless things but I always had to have a substantial strap to keep the girls in check. I wanted to be able to buy a two pack of tshirt bras from New Look for £12… but no it was £30 a bra from bravissimo right from the early days. Don’t get me wrong, Bravissimo are amazing but £30 is a lot when you’re 16 (it’s a lot when you’re 31 lets be honest)!

I’ve spent nearly all of adult life on a diet, and as someone who genuinely doesn’t like vegetables, I have always found this very hard. I don’t enjoy eating healthy, I have to force myself with steely reserve. I see all these people on low sugar, vegan, raw diets sharing photos of the super-food salad with “mmm I can’t wait to tuck into this” captions… and I don’t get it, I’m sorry. I’d rather have a curry and a giant bag of mini eggs (and half a bottle of wine…or a whole bottle of wine)! I’m not that megga into the exercise either. I was always the one with a million excuses as to why I couldn’t partake in PE when I was at school. I didn’t like sports. It was only when I met my husband I started to get into it… and that’s purely because he was SO involved with rowing I remember thinking a few months in “I really like this guy but I’ve got to make a decision; I can either become a rower and we can have a relationship, or I don’t and we split up”. So I became a rower. I got into running too (well bumpy walking short distances and then throwing up really, not what most people would call running) and I even joined a gym. Fitness was a big thing for him so it became a big thing for me… but after going on many runs together, and attending gym sessions together, it quickly became apparent that I’m not normal (as if we didn’t already know that). We’d finish a run or whatever and he’d be all jazzed like “yeah endorphins! that was amazing!” and I was all “shut up, I’m going to dye, once I’ve thrown up I’m going to eat my body weight in pasta”. I don’t know if it’s a case of me not getting endorphins or if I’m just not sensitive to them but I NEVER feel great after a workout. EVER. I remember finishing a 10k run, being in the most horrific mood, demanding a big mac and then falling asleep on the sofa. The only thing I enjoyed from doing all the exercise feeling strong. I mean I wasn’t strong… I couldn’t lift significant weights or anything… but I felt stronger.. and that was nice.

I’ve gone off on a tangent again….

So with an already mildly unhealthy relationship with my body I fell pregnant. I was overjoyed because I’d been told I wouldn’t be able to have children due to PCOS (thats a whole other story). I had horrible morning sickness in the first (and part of the second) trimester so I didn’t gain much weight at all… but I was very “bumpy” from early on. As my pregnancy progressed it became more and more obvious I was going to be MASSIVE. I slathered myself in body butters and oils three times daily… and all the stuff that’s recommended to fight stretch marks.. but at the end of the day skin is only going to stretch so far and I really was HUGE. I’d say I got to a normal “full term” look when I was about 7 months. I still had two months to go. I don’t know why I got so massive. My little lady was a healthy (but not huge) 8lb6oz when born… there was an awful lot of water though.. like I could have filled a swimming pool.

I didn’t really notice the stretch marks when they started because the were all the lower hemisphere of the bump and I couldn’t see that bit. I do remember as I hit the 8 month mark feeling very sore right at the bottom of the bump, just above the pubic bone, and I thought it was because the seam on my leggings was rubbing.. turned out it wasn’t, my skin was tearing. I now have the most epic stretch mark that is over an inch wide and runs right down to my lady parts. I embraced my massive bump though and enjoyed pregnancy once I stopped vomiting, but no one prepares you for what your body is going to look like once you’ve popped out that sprog. I went to NCT, we went over everything to do with labour and the early days of baby but didn’t even touch on the “what the actual F has happened to my body” moment.

Its such a shock. It happens so fast. When you gain weight normally its a relatively slow process and you come to terms with it and the effect it has. Even pregnancy, yeah bumps appear and grow rapidly but it’s still a process. Labour and birth happens in a matter of hours (20 and a bit hours for me) and I went from a firm if significant bump to something akin to road kill. I remember being wheeled around to the recovery ward, I felt my tummy and completely freaked out asking the nurse to check because what the hell has happened to me? My middle feels like a bowl of custard and what is this hard bit? “That’s just your uterus dear, it will all sort it’s self out in a couple of days” WHAT?! NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT ANY OF THIS!

It’s hard enough to cope with this new bundle of screaming fury (I mean joy) you’re bleeding everywhere, you’re pelvic floor has run away, you can’t stand up without feeling like your organs are going to fall out and then you’re boobs start leaking. Its horrific, you are a mess. A complete and utter mess… but it will be OK. Everyone says things will slowly return to normal, or a variation of it..

It didn’t for me.

As the weeks past, I started to notice my NCT friends post baby bumps rescinding, but mine wasn’t. With every passing day my tummy was looking worse. I was now able to asses the stretch mark damage and, frankly, it was horrific. I remember at about 6 weeks laying in the bath in absolute floods of tears mourning the loss of my baby bump, because that was the last time I’d felt OK about my body. It was shortly after that I was diagnosed with PND.

I spoke to my GP about the condition of my body “will it ever get any better?”

“No” was the resounding answer, whilst looking at me with a “what did you expect?” expression. Some sit-ups and core exercises might help a little but it wont ever be the same. The size of my bump… yadda yadda… damage to connective tissue… yadda yadda… irreparable damage… mumble.. only surgery will fix. I zoned out at the realisation this wasn’t going to get better.

I’d expected a bit of tummy wobble, a pooch, a bit of mum tum. I was in no way prepared for this. I think its most commonly described as a “mothers apron” these days. And normally occurs in women who’ve had a c section. The tension in the scar tissue from the wound means the loose skin sort of flops over the top. I didn’t have a c section, but the damage done to my skin from the sheer volume of the bump created the same effect, and apparently mine is worse than the average. I am stretch marks from nipples to knees (most of which are an inch or so wide) and I have a 2 inch deep overlap of skin. 2 inches! This is more than most peoples boobs. I need a tummy bra. Or a gut underwire… I dunno.

I simply COULD NOT COPE with this. It seems pretty shallow to be so effected by the change in my body. I should just be happy to have such a healthy and happy little girl… and I was… but…

So many mums post up photos of their (very small) stretch marks with all this “I love my body, I created life, these are my tiger stripes”. Great, wonderful, I’m so happy for you that you can deal with that but this is more than I can take. My already dysfunctional relationship with my body was now completely torn to shreds. Every single ounce of confidence had gone. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror, or be seen without clothes on. I couldn’t even think about it… so I ate.

Seems odd really, I didn’t put much weight on whilst pregnant other than bump growth. Mine all went on in the following year. Part of me wonders if I ate because I was trying to find comfort in something when everything around me felt like it was falling apart, or if I ate in some way to try and fill out my sagging stomach again. Perhaps if it was “fuller” it would be less offensive? I dunno I’m grabbing at straws here. I should have had counselling but, hey it’s the NHS, so it didn’t get offered, and I couldn’t afford it. Just higher and higher doses of antidepressants which I hated taking. Its like someone throwing a damp blanket over your head. I’m a creative person, and it felt like the pills turned off that creativity tap… I felt less and less like me with every passing day. For so long it was just one step in front of the other. Don’t look in the mirror. Leggings and baggy jumpers. Don’t make me go to an event where I have to look nice I can’t cope with that trauma. Don’t touch me.

I actually remember standing in-front of the mirror holding my fabric scissors (they’re very sharp for those who don’t know) wondering if I could just cut off the excess skin. I mean… scary head stuff right there!

I constantly blamed myself. There is this idea that if you’re not back in your skinny jeans by 6 weeks post-partum you’ve done something wrong. I felt like a failure. Not only because I hadn’t been able to stand the pain of labour (I ended up with an epidural and forceps, as my daughter decided to come out face first) but I’d now let myself and my husband down by turning into this round sagging mess of a human… then to be diagnosed with PND, one more tick on the failure list, and shortly after returning to my old office job, I had to make the decision to leave for my own mental health (again another story) and yet another tick on the failure list. I felt like I was failing at every single aspect of my life. No one prepared me for any of this shit!

I ended up burying my head so deep in the sand I was half way to Australia… and I continued to gain weight.

It’s only been since I dragged myself off the antidepressants and my daughter turned 3, that I’ve started to feel like I need to sort this out. I still can’t look in the mirror, I still hate events I have to look nice for, I still don’t like being touched, I still cry in the bath… but I can’t carry on like this. I’m trying to take baby steps, increasing the amount of exercise I do until I feel strong enough to tackle some of the eating habits. But everytime a little weight comes off, the gut looks worse, and I emotionally eat the cadbury factory.

I get so much advice from people who I know only mean well. “You need to do this exercise and eat these meals”. Thanks, I know you’re only trying to help… but I know all of this. I know what exercise I should be doing, I know what I should and should not be eating… but issue here isn’t a lack of knowledge… its a deep psychological issue that I’m trying to work out all on my own because I can’t afford the professional help. I am not going to go cliff diving into the sea of healthy eating and high intensity exercise because I know I will drown in it. I need to take baby steps in the shallows if this is going to work.

The funny thing is I am less bothered about my size, as I said earlier I like a curvy look, a “plus size lady” is fine with me. I am more bothered about the “state” of that size.. but I can control my size (to a certain extent) I can’t control the state short of paying for surgery, and that’s not going to happen.

I just cant help wondering if perhaps I would have dealt with this all a lot better if someone had prepared me for it.

At the end of the day I will never have the same body and I need to find some way to come to terms with that. I have no idea how. I really cant see how I will ever be able to “Love the skin I’m in”.