*This post is about body image and weight loss. Please don’t read it if you feel this may negatively affect you.*
If you’re a long time reader of my blog, or you’re a friend of mine in real life, you’ll know I’ve been through a few changes in my life. We all have I’m sure.
What you may not know is that I still don’t feel like I fit in. I don’t feel like I know what my place is, or should be in the world, because of how I look. Or because of how others feel about how I look.
A bit of a walk through the past explains the why, but not the where. Please read with an open mind and an understanding heart.
I had a distinctly average looking body for my age (I’m cringing at how awful that sounds to say, but this is where the mind of childhood Jenny in the 80’s/90’s went, as well as those who looked at her) in some photos you could even argue I was fairly slim. But, not as skinny as some of my classmates it would seem, even then. Girls at my school learnt very quickly that the best way to hurt someone’s feelings was to insult their size. I was told I couldn’t play leapfrog in the playground because my ‘bum was too fat’, when I started dance class I was called ‘elephant in a tutu’ both by girls who were supposed to be my friends. Once, I was even punched in the stomach by a boy in my class.
So, things got better for me at high school? Did they bollocks!
Boys were interested in girls bodies, girls knew it, and girls had further refined their weight-related insults. When I was about 13, I was with a group of friends when one said “let’s all say how much we weigh” so we went round the table, and when they got to me I told the truth (which was about 8st and I was a size 10-12). After a few moments, one of them said “oh no, Jenny is the heaviest” and they all gave me a sympathetic smile. I knew for a fact some of them had lied but didn’t say, because I didn’t want them to be embarrassed, or to look vengeful myself.
It was around this time that my Grandad started to make regular comments about my weight and how I looked. He’d recently gone on a much needed health kick, gotten fit and lost weight, and I was apparently his next target to ‘fix’. Even my mum made the odd comment – once she said if I lost enough weight over the school holidays she’d buy me a whole new wardrobe and all the boys would fancy me.
Came out of a serious relationship, lived alone, thought nobody cared about me, ate what I wanted and partied hard. During this time I received probably the most horrific comments I’ve ever had, some from people I didnt know. At work I was described as someone’s before image, “she looks amazing now, she looked like you before”. Someone else asked why I was so fat when I ran around busy all the time, and an older gentleman who had health related weight issues told me “we have to to be careful, people like us, fatties”. This was around the time I was newly in a relationship with the man I’m now married to and I was so worried all the time thinking ‘why the hell does he want to be with me when everyone else clearly has such a low opinion of me??’.
Mid to late 20s
I was married, had an active social life, and was (now I can look back with a more objective eye) a pretty average body size. Because I consumed too many sweet and high calorie things, towards my later 20s I decided I had to change how I looked after myself so that I could feel more positive and less lethargic. I figured making changes before I hit 30 would be easier than making them later.
I’d made the aforementioned changes, feeling more lively and I looked different. Quite different actually. It was the first time I’d ever been considered a ‘slim girl’ in my whole life. I went through moments of being proud of myself for making changes I felt I needed and sticking with them, actually looking in the mirror and feeling aright about myself, yet confused by how other people’s opinions of me suddenly changed.
Any time I posted a photo on Facebook, dozens of acquaintances would comment calling me a skinny minnie, saying I looked amazing and asking for my ‘secret’. In the real world I had strangers come up to me to telling me I looked good, van drivers honking their horns at me when I went for a walk. One time, a car full of blokes stopped in the middle of the street and shouted things about my arse out of the window. I’d NEVER dealt with anything like this before and I felt overwhelmed and embarrassed by it. I wasn’t doing anything to invite attention, I was just out in the world going about my life.
Despite this, people were still mean sometimes. When I’d go to check my weight and measurements every week (I personally found this helped track my progress) I’d be tapped on the shoulder at least once and be asked “why are you here to get weighed love, you’re already dead skinny?”. There were points when my friends didn’t seem particularly friendly either. They weren’t impressed that I’d stopped drinking, chose meals more carefully when I went out, and they weren’t shy about letting me know. They would make neggy comments to me, or say our other friends looked nice but would never say it to me like they used to. They told me I was boring or acting like “a bit of a pyscho” about my diet. Even now, if I bring up my weight or how I look, they will ‘remind’ me I was “not nice to be around” .
My family, on the other hand, were bloody delighted with my progress. They would never miss an opportunity to tell me “how much better” I looked and how worried they used to be that I was killing myself before but were too scared to say anything. You’d think that’d be nice, but it made me feel almost as awkward. Had they all been judging me behind my back for years? But STILL my Grandad wasn’t pleased. He still thought it I hadn’t lost enough weight loss I was “too wobbly” (I was, so what) but I’d learnt to tune him out a bit by then.
I re-entered the world of work (after spending 5yrs at uni) and had to deal with some very toxic people. The result? Started drinking, eating more sweet and high calorie food, none of my clothes fit me anymore. I felt sad that I’d undone a lot of my hard work and angry that I’d let hateful people drive me to such a low and vulnerable point. By the time they exited my life (not nearly soon enough) the rot had set in quite severely. I’d been blogging about three years at this point, yet could barely even look at myself in the mirror and before taking photos and going places to write about in my posts.
This was also the time the Facebook acquaintances reappeared. This time, the opening line was usually “so what happened to you?” or “you look a bit different now.”
No neggy comments from the family, but don’t worry, they’ll be back soon…
And this brings us nicely to where I am today. Which, to be honest, probably isn’t that nice.
One toxic work situation ended but I somehow found myself in another about six months later. This time it was much, much worse and lasted twice as long. I comfort ate my ass off, got the biggest I have ever been, hated myself and the rest of the world for pretty much everything. And I must’ve fallen pretty hard into the depths of despair, as I had family and close friends begging me to get help. When speaking to my friends about wanting to lose weight and feel more comfortable again, the response I got was “yeah definitely, but don’t go crazy like you did before. You got too skinny and it wasn’t nice.”
I then gained a few ‘Furlough pounds’ as a lot of people did, and that’s when Grandad finally decided to pipe up again and let me know once and for all how disappointed he was in me. I know its difficult when dealing with the older generation; they have no filter or concept of how their words can be perceived, but let me tell you his cut deep. Phrases such as “we need to walk you/weigh you”, “So what clothes are yoy wearing now?” And “I’m trying not to hurt your feelings here but you really need to do something about this” have hurt my feelings a lot, to the point where I’m welling up as a type this. I have a mirror; I know what I’ve looked like before and I know what I look like now. I know what my goals are and how to achieve them. Behind the scenes, I may even be quietly doing just that. But you think I feel like turning into Jane Fonda after someone I love has ripped my self confidence a new one? No I do not.
So after reading that, do you know where I fit in, how I should feel what I should do? I figure I may as well invite comments at this point; enough people have given them anyway up to this point and I’m fresh out of ideas at this point!
Thank you for making it to the end of this post, and for getting here with (hopefully still) an open mind and understanding heart. I appreciate it lots.