My friend Leanne and I met last week for coffee and, in amongst chatting about various things, we started discussing size, weight and shape. Nothing new there for a female, or perhaps indeed a male.
Whilst I was pregnant with my youngest daughter eight years ago, I piled on the pounds. I was signed off work and laid up with a pelvic disorder, and once I gave birth, I took on the almighty task of losing the weight. I’m now nearly 7 stone less than I was on the day I gave birth, but that’s my personal choice. I’ve also been a stone less than I am now, but again, that was my choice.
But weight, size and shape are not concepts that are easy for women. When I was huge, I expect people commented upon it behind my back, and when I was thin and running tens of miles each week, I know for sure that they commented behind my back.
One person suggested that my husband needed to ‘man up’ and ‘make me eat more’, but given that I was still within a healthy weight range, had a blood pressure and a heart rate that the GP congratulated me on, and was asked by a surgeon at QA to consider talking to bariatric surgery patients about how I’d managed to rely on willpower, I think my husband was reassured that I was fine. (And isn’t that an interesting concept in itself? That my husband was somehow less ‘manly’, whatever that may mean, if he didn’t sit me down and force-feed me Ben & Jerry’s?)
Bizarrely, not one of the people who was rude about my appearance behind my back ever thought to question if I was indeed ok. In a world where eating disorders are now rife, you would imagine that – if someone cared – they might ask after you, and express concern. But with women and weight, nastiness often rules.
Let’s face it: we’ve all done it. We’ve all looked at someone and expressed shock at how large or small they are – and often the latter occurs through envy. People can be beautiful either way, and as long as you’re the size you want to be, and you’re healthy, should it concern anybody else? After all, to be nasty about someone who may be an inherently good person, purely because of what they weigh, and not because we have taken umbrage at an immoral act or instances of diabolical behaviour, is, in itself, pretty petty.
Having experienced both sides of the weight spectrum, I am also amazed at how people find it ok to tell you to eat a pie, but they never wrestle the Mars Bar out of your hand when you’re obese. It astounded me, whilst I was looking online writing this article, how many ‘body positive’ fat women post skinny-shaming images on their instagram; where on earth is the positive message there? It’s just setting one side of the scales up against the other.
So far, my little girls have never been exposed at home to words such as ‘diet’, or ‘bad’ foods. We’ve tried very hard instead to speak about being ‘strong’ and ‘healthy’, and our scales are hidden away except for the rare days when I step on them, dependent on how my jeans are feeling. In an age where Daisy Lowe, size 8, is being described by the press as ‘curvy’, this seems all the more important. I truly hope that they grow up with healthy attitudes towards not only their own size and shape, but other people’s too, and an equally healthy attitude to all kinds of food. Above all, I hope they grow up liking people for who they are, and not what size of denim they fit into.
First published in the Portsmouth News, Tuesday 16th February 2016
Image courtesy of london.endangeredbodies.org