Body image is inescapable. In the age of social media, we seem to be more conscious than ever about how we look and how we portray ourselves to others. For many of us, our self-worth is intrinsically tied to how others perceive us. Despite a rise in body confidence and self-love advocates, it’s still hard to embrace the way our bodies look in comparison to others.
I’ve struggled with my body image my entire life for one reason: my weight. From about the age of seven, I’ve been overweight. This means I have always been hyperaware of how I look compared to those around me. In a room full of people, I still often think ‘I’m the biggest person in here.’ It’s something that’s so deeply ingrained within me that I don’t think I’ll ever be free of the paranoia and self-loathing that stems from my weight.
The word ‘obese’ makes me feel queasy, but I have absolutely been classified as this at different stages in my life. It’s something that is undoubtedly genetic – my Dad is one of nine and the majority of them struggle with their weight. But, my brother is fit as a fiddle, so I can’t simply blame it on that. Rather, my relationship with food is unhealthy. I use it as a coping mechanism for when I’m unhappy, which is more often than I care to admit. But, it’s a vicious cycle – I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat. I’m not the first to say it, and I certainly won’t be the last.
I’ve spent the majority of my life with next-to-no confidence because of the number on the scales. I never used to wear dresses or skirts because I didn’t want to reveal my legs. I went through a stage of never baring my arms because they disgusted me. At school, I had to buy clothes that were for older ages because ones for my age group just didn’t fit me. This led to buying adult clothes way quicker than most of my peers. Unsurprisingly, I absolutely dreaded the back to school shop.
To say I hated my body is an understatement. I couldn’t stand to see myself in the mirror. I would never take baths because I couldn’t face looking at my body. I dreaded getting my picture taken and would avoid full body shots at all cost. It’s so unbelievably painful to remember these feelings, but the thing is, not much has changed. I still can’t stand my body. I still don’t like getting dressed near a mirror or having a bath that isn’t filled to the brim with bubbles.
So, why not lose weight? Because losing weight is the hardest thing imaginable when you’ve done very little about it your entire life. It wasn’t until I reached my 20s that I found the willpower to try and finally shift some serious pounds. I tried diets; I’ve been a member of both Weight Watchers and Slimming World, but I just couldn’t maintain these. It was only when I moved to Edinburgh that I joined a gym for the first time in my life. I even got myself a personal trainer to help me figure out the best exercises for me. I worked hard, I changed my eating habits, and I saw results.
At the start of 2016, I was the smallest I’ve ever been. I say smallest because I have never, ever been slim. I was a size 12 and I was ecstatic. I wasn’t going to tell you this, but at my heaviest, I was wearing clothes that were double this size. A big deal, right? But, the problem is, I was also the saddest I had ever been in my life. My heart was well and truly broken. Getting out of bed every day was a struggle. Some days I couldn’t bring myself to eat because I felt nauseous with anxiety. I slept all the time because it was too painful to be awake. So, being overweight was making me miserable, but after losing almost three stone, I was even worse. Life is funny like that sometimes.
I sought help and my heart slowly healed throughout the year. I started to enjoy being in Edinburgh and took advantage of being able to go out for food and drinks whenever I wanted. I was still going to the gym and my weight was pretty stable. It wasn’t until the Fringe Festival that some weight started to creep back on, but I was drinking a lot, so it was understandable. I started to feel more confident in my skin. I was dating and meeting new people all the time, which also helped to make me feel good.
I started 2017 motivated and ready to lose the weight I’d gained, hopefully more. I was going to the gym at least five times a week and was calorie counting intermittently. I took my first ever gym selfie – sorry, not sorry – and I was feeling the most confident I had in a long, long time. And then, the worst thing imaginable happened: I fell off a treadmill and tore ligaments in my left ankle. For the first time in my life, I had to go to A&E and was confined to crutches for the whole of February. I haven’t returned to the gym, as I’ve only been able to start walking again without pain. This means I’ve piled on weight once again.
I’m so, so mad at myself. Of course, there’s no point in being angry, but I could’ve easily avoided my injury. What’s more, I could have realised that inactivity would result in putting on weight and taken steps to avoid it. But, once again, I turned to food when I was distressed. I didn’t realise quite how much weight I had gained until my clothes got tighter. Now, some of them don’t fit at all. I could scream. I worked so hard to get to a point where I was just starting to feel good about myself, then I lost it all. I feel like I’m back at square one, but I just don’t have the energy to keep fighting the scales.
Weight has plagued my whole life and I’m exhausted. There are those out there who will never understand what it’s like to have a terrible metabolism and can eat whatever they like, never work out and still look like a beanpole. I will never be one of those people. I have to fight tooth and nail just to keep my weight at a reasonable number. So, forgive me for not being able to do that right now. My body confidence is the lowest it has been for years, but I just don’t have the drive to do anything about it. I know I’ll find the motivation I need to start getting back on track eventually, but until then I need to appease the anger and frustration I feel for letting myself get back to this point.