*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.
If I posted a photo on Facebook, dozens of acquaintances would comment calling me skinny minnie 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.
People were still a bit rude to me about my size, but different to before. When I’d go to check my weight and measurements (I personally found this helped track my progress) I’d be tapped on the shoulder and asked “why are you here to get weighed love, you obviously don’t belong here”. There were points when my friends weren’t particularly friendly either. They weren’t impressed that I’d stopped drinking or chose meals more carefully when I went out, and they weren’t shy about letting me know. They’d 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 eating. Even now, if I bring up my weight or how I used to look, they ‘remind’ me I was not nice to be around .
My family, on the other hand, were bloody delighted with my progress. They’d never miss an opportunity to tell me “how much better” I looked and how worried they were before that I was killing myself but were too scared to say anything. So, they’d been judging me behind my back for years? STILL my Grandad wasn’t pleased – he said I hadn’t lost enough weight and was “too wobbly”.
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 again, eating more sweet/high calorie food, my clothes didn’t fit me anymore. I felt sad that I’d undone 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 smiley photos to put in my posts.
This was also the time the Facebook acquaintances reappeared. This time, their opening line was usually “so what happened to you?” or “you look different now.”
No neggy comments from the family, but don’t worry, they’ll make it back…
And this brings us nicely to the present day. Which, to be honest, 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 a couple of friends begging me to get help. When speaking to 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 gained a few ‘Furlough pounds’ as a lot of people did, and that’s when my Grandad finally decided to pipe up and let me know how disappointed he was in me. I know it’s difficult when dealing with the older generation; they have no filter or concept of how their words can be perceived, and his cut deep. Phrases such as “we need to walk you”, “So what size clothes are you wearing now?” and “I’m trying not to hurt your feelings, but you really need to do something about this” have hurt my feelings a lot. 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 has ripped my self confidence a new one? No I do not.
So after reading that, do you know where I fit in? I’m not accepted by society in body type; I cant make myself or anybody else happy. I’m fresh out of ideas on how to move forward and live my life to be honest.
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.