I am struggling with my weight at the moment. Like pretty much everyone I know, I’m not happy with my body. I try and love myself the way I am, I try to not be overwhelmed or influenced by the media and the confusing messages about ‘real women’. But in reality, my clothes are a little tighter than normal and I am a little rounder in the middle than I’d like. And I feel bad about that. I know what caused it. Eating. Ok, not entirely true. Eating more than my body needs in order to survive. Way more. Too many treats. Pizza, cheese, wine…the list is endless. Laziness also contributes. Having to regularly buy and cook fresh produce is time consuming. Going to the gym and regularly exercising involves dedication and motivation. Two things in which I currently lack. I know I need to start to look after myself more. Being over 30 does something different to your metabolism and my jeans are not as forgiving as they used to be. Drinking and eating crap everyday and still looking good in a size 8 top, is a thing of the past.
But it is not just my body shape that I worry about. It is everything. Life in general. Not one aspect of your life is safe from the scrutiny of the media, your peers, friends and strangers. Every single person is judged on their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability and body shape. We are constantly under scrutiny because everyone has an opinion in which they want to share. Whether you’re a parent or not. If you are, then they question how you parent, what job you have, where you live, what you wear, how you wear it. And then there’s food. What you eat, where you buy it, how you cook it, how you eat it, when you eat it. If it’s not organic, raw and I chewed it 50 times before 6pm, I sometimes feel that I’m letting the side down. I feel overwhelmed about how I’m ‘supposed’ to do things and what people expect of me. It is exhausting, even for a person that generally doesn’t give a shit what you think.
One of my main bug bears is that I constantly have food guilt. Not the type of guilt where I feel bad because there is so much poverty in the world and I have the privilege of eating whilst others starve. I do feel bad about that. Mostly because I feel this is something that could change if powerful people made decisions based on morals and not money. No, the food guilt I have, relates to eating the foods I enjoy. Surprisingly, the foods I enjoy aren’t sticks of celery and bowls of organic blueberries. It is mainly the over-processed, salt and sugar overloaded foods that I look forward to. But that feeling of guilt is pushed on me by what is seen by the media as acceptable. Calories are bad, and eating for pleasure rather than hunger is frowned upon.
A few centuries ago, people who could afford food were not made to feel guilty about eating it. They embraced and celebrated it by having feasts and parties. Big long banquet tables with platters of meat and cheese and tankards filled with local mead and wine, followed by music and general merriment. They did not care if they over-indulged or if their wench sported a slightly rounder belly. In fact, the rounder they were the more it was a reflection of their wealth. I have a round belly, but I’m not what you would refer to as wealthy. I’ve just been eating and drinking stuff that my body can’t get rid of quick enough. In fact, my body loves the food so much, it wants to keep hold of it in the form of muffin tops. And not the tasty kind of muffins. But who cares? Who cares that there is now a little bit more of me to love? The only opinion that matters is my own right? Wrong. I do care and it does affect me. Whether i want it to or not.
I’ve seen those programmes about morbidly obese people who are trapped in their house because they’re too big to get out of their bed. I’ve caught myself thinking, how could they let themselves get so big? But it’s obvious when you think about it. They don’t want to be that big. But they have an addiction to food. It gives them the same happy feeling that drugs do to a heroin user. They are also bombarded by the media into believing that skinny is best and that fat is shameful. So they hide away from the judgement, ignoring the fact that the problem is slowly getting worse and their health is deteriorating. Because nothing gives them that feeling of love and warmth like a double bacon cheeseburger. The guilt that follows just perpetuates the problem and in order to feel better, they continue to eat. It is a slippery slope. They are addicted to that release of dopamine. The answer isn’t just to ‘eat less’ it is more complex than that. You have to change the way your brain works, change the way you view food, not as a reward but as a resource. I understand, because that is how I view food. As a pleasure tool, rather than a substance for survival.
The only reason I am not yet morbidly obese, is largely due to the media. I am sucked into believing than being skinny will make me happy. And I have social media to thank for that. It can be the best thing, but it can also be the worst. On the one hand it lets you see people’s achievements, it can promote a healthy body image and a healthy mind; but on the other hand you are constantly flooded with the media congratulating those who have the ‘perfect’ figures and criticising those that don’t. The idea of the perfect figure is of course, bullshit. For a start, perfection is unattainable because your perception of it changes depending on what your definition of perfection is. Everyone’s is different. In reality, the average person has an average healthy body and it looks nothing like what we see on the billboards or in the magazines. Unfortunately the average figure doesn’t market very well, and it doesn’t sell as many things, so those images are not promoted. But it is the extremes that are. The plus size model who is celebrated for her voluptuous figure, as well as the size zero model who is worshipped for her skinniness…why is it always all or nothing? Can’t we find a middle ground where you’re happy and healthy but your life is not saturated by choosing between these two extremes?
We have been indoctrinated into believing that a certain look is what is attractive and accepted. You think your opinion is your own? Think again, it is shaped by what we are fed by the media. I’m not really one for conspiracy theories, but this is true. You choose your image, based on an image that you’ve seen of someone else. Someone who conforms to the media’s idea of what is beautiful, or cool, or original. Some have chosen not to accept this, I admire those people. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. But I’m trying to be. I’m realising that behind all the lies we’re fed by the media and the consumer industry, we know the truth. We know we’re being influenced, some more than others, and I guess it depends on how much we are bothered by it. It is ok to be different, it is ok to not conform, it is good to be true to yourself. But I guess it is also ok to not deviate from the norm, to look like the media wants you to and share their ideas of acceptance. As long as you’re aware that is what you’re doing, and you understand that looking a certain way does not have an effect on your destiny or happiness. Accepting yourself does.
So, my new motto is to not feel guilty about the food I enjoy to eat. To not worry about the few pounds I put on. I need to learn how to love myself a bit more. To care less what others think. This has improved with age, but I have a long way to go yet. I just hope I get there before I turn into a cheese-obsessed wino….oh wait. Too late.