On Valentine’s Day 2010 I hopped onto the Wii Balance Board we had borrowed from some friends to try out the Wii Fit game. As part of that I weighed myself for the first time in ages, and realised that at just under 12 stone, I was quite significantly overweight.
A couple of months ago I wrote about how my subsequent weight loss contributed to my eventual conclusion that maybe the Olympics weren’t all bad after all. I had learned to embrace my new found enthusiasm for physical activity and the health benefits of losing excess weight. A few weeks before the Olympics kicked off my gym held a competition to see who could rack up the most attendances in the 8 week duration. To my enormous surprise I came 3rd. A few weeks after that I got my weight down below 10 stone for the first time since I was at university. Since that Valentine’s Day in 2010 I have manged to lose 2 whole stone.
I feel good about this. It was difficult but I managed it. It was something I decided to do for myself, and I broadly speaking did it by myself. I think that I’m entitled to feel a bit self congratulatory.
However I’m also aware I’ve spent the last 2 and a half years feeling slightly embarrassed about this endeavor. Weight loss is a vast industry, and I wonder if everyone is thinking that I’ve bought into the overpriced nonsense, which I didn’t. I’m also slightly concerned that I’m somehow selling out a bit. The problem is that for all my logical conviction that losing excess weight is healthy, is seems a bit against the mindset I grew up with. That looks don’t really matter, that it’s what’s inside that counts, and that women who strive to be a size zero are vain, foolish, insecure and have poisoned themselves on a diet of Hollywood films and anorexic models glaring from magazine covers.
I’ve struggled with concepts of feminism and femininity since puberty (I’m not saying for a moment that I think I’m somehow unique here) and mostly I get along by convincing myself that the issues simply don’t apply to me. But with weight loss I found myself wondering if I had to confront that for me fat was in fact a feminist issue. (With apologies to Susie Orbach – I’ve never actually read her book but I gather she was making a different point entirely.)
One of the things which concerned me was turning into one of those people who spent all day banging on about their diet, and obsessing over calories. I have a vivid memory from years ago of a male friend complementing me on my attitude to food over my birthday celebration. I was at the time heavier than I am now, but not as heavy as I would get before I started doing something about it. I was joyously tucking into an Emu burger (which was delicious incidentally) and he voiced his wish that more women would be like me, regarding food. Even though I was happily partnered with Terry and didn’t feel any specific attraction to this man, I remember feeling happy that my care-free approach to dining was regarded as a desirable quality.
I’ve written before about my paranoia that someone might think badly of me, even if it unspoken. By the time I started losing weight the friend who had made the remark had relocated to Australia, and I’ve had no contact with him since. But what he said was still fresh in my memory, years later, and I felt slightly ashamed that I was about to become one of those other women against which he had compared me so favourably.
A couple of months ago I was talking to an acquaintance and the subject came up briefly. I admitted I was ‘dieting’ (although I hate that term as I honestly haven’t been following any prescribed food plan whatsoever) in a slightly begrudging way, and she instantly responded “You don’t need to.” Because I am pathologically inclined to over-analyse and also struggle to take compliments at face value I was immediately concerned I was coming across as vain and desperate.
I have been telling people that I lost weight because of the health benefits, which is broadly speaking true, but I wonder if I’m kidding myself and the size-zero-striving-itis has affected me more than I realise. Moreover I also wonder why I would feel so bad if it turned out that it was in part, vanity. After all, once I reach a point where even if I let things go a bit I’m not going to go above a dangerous level, why carry on, as I am likely to do?
Being a bit vain is hardly the worst failing a person can have, and I’m sure I have far more destructive faults than that. If, ultimately, my reasoning was that I want to be thinner as I equate slimness with attractiveness and success, would that be the worst thing in the world? Somehow it feels like admitting this would be some great betrayal of the values I was brought up to hold, which makes it rather difficult to analyse dispassionately to see if that is what I actually think.