This is a particularly personal and difficult post to write. Looking back on 18 year old me I don't feel any connection to her, she doesn't look or feel like me and I'll tell you why. In the last few years I've lost a significant amount of weight (4 and a half stone to be exact). Before I start, this isn’t to say there is anything wrong with being a bigger or curvier figure, as long as you are healthy and happy. For me that wasn’t the case. After just finishing college, one shopping trip I found myself squeezing into size 16 jeans. I broke down, cried and realised something had to change.
I wasn’t happy. I always strived to be the best in my work and succeed academically, but after leaving high school I completely lost control of my weight (puberty didn't exactly help matters either). It’s funny how it only takes one photograph, or one nasty comment, to make you suddenly miserable. I’ve spent the past few years trying to become happy with my appearance. I’ve slowly come to the realisation that it’s impossible, but that's OK.
I’m now a size 8, but to be completely honest I'm more paranoid about my weight and appearance today, than I ever was before. It doesn’t help that we live in a world where size, in the media at least, seems to be the only thing that matters. We try to promote body confidence, celebrating plus size models, but when a slimmer celebrity puts on weight we instantly bring them down for it. At my lowest point, I was working out 5 days a week and eating less than 1000 calories a day. I spent all my time being meticulous about what I was putting in my body, avoiding carbs, chocolate and anything I wanted because I assumed that if I wanted it, I probably shouldn’t have it.
At my heaviest I was around 13 stone 7 pounds (I’m about 5 foot 5 inches just so you know), at my skinniest I was approximately 8 stone 10 pounds. I’m now sitting somewhere around 9 stone 7 pounds but it goes up and down. I run a lot and workout, which can be stressful because whilst my body isn’t necessarily getting bigger, the number on the scales is (muscle weighs more than fat remember). I was always fighting myself, to improve, get healthy, get skinny (more importantly) and I did it. In the process I got comments like ‘you’re so skinny’ but people would also ask ‘Do you not think you’re taking it a bit far now?’ Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Now this isn’t a rant at anyone in particular, I just wanted to share a little insight into what losing a lot of weight is like and the impact it can have on you mentally more than physically. I often get told that the pictures don’t look like me; people don’t remember me that way, it's a nice sentiment. I guess. Exercise has helped me to accept myself more. When I run or workout, I feel healthier and that overshadows my need to be skinnier.
It’s funny that in losing the weight I have lost that self-confidence I used to have. I don’t ever remember thinking this much about how I looked to everyone else. When relationships have failed I often blame myself, I’m not pretty enough or skinny enough (especially that) and I punish myself after, not eating properly for days. It surprises a lot of people that I'm so insecure about my body, especially whenever I start a new relationship (even more so when its a romantic or physical one). I don’t really want people to know how I used to look, because I don’t want to remember.
I’m training myself to become stronger, putting weight on and remembering it is muscle is harder than I anticipated. In the last 2 years I don't really recognise myself, I'm not the same person and I find it hard to relate to the me, that I used to be.
I have this weird relationship with food now though that I can’t shake; for the most part it’s good. I eat a super healthy diet 90% of the time. However, the days or weeks when I eat the bare minimum and then run to burn off the guilt, still happen intermittently. ‘The Internal Struggle’ as I often call it, do I eat the dessert and have to run 6 miles? or just not indulge. Don’t get me wrong I go out for food, buy icecream, appreciate pizza as much as the next person. There was a point when I wouldn’t even touch these because in my mind it wasn’t worth it. I’ve come a long way since then. Working two jobs (3 if you count blogging), running, hiking and training as well as socialising with friends and family, I know my body needs fuel to keep me going.
'There’s this person inside my head. She’s brilliant, capable, she’s me only so much better. And I’m afraid I’ll never become this person.’ – Meredith Grey
My Instagram is full of travel, fashion and the outdoors (I always seem to be running), but social media doesn't show everything. When I have those days that I can’t bare to look at myself in the mirror, I try to remind myself how far I have come. Take a step back and appreciate what my body has done for me. Taking part in Tough Mudder, mountaineering and hiking... I am in awe of the strength I didn't think I'd ever have. A couple of years ago I couldn’t run for 5 minutes. Now I can run 5 miles without breaking (too much of) a sweat. I don’t hate my body, but I’m pretty sure I don’t love it either (most of the time).
I’m at my happiest when doing the things I love. I want to fill the next 5 years with adventures, focus on being healthy and having new experiences. I’m not looking to settle down anytime soon, why when there’s so much of the world I’ve yet to see. I’m finally in a place where it feels like I can actually do the things on my bucket list. My size doesn't hold me back anymore.
Losing the weight has made me jump out of my comfort zone, and I’m so thankful for the drive it has given me. Was it worth all the hard work? Absolutely. Nothing in life is easy but I'm writing this because without going through it I don’t know who I’d be right now. It’s shaped me (literally) into the person I am. But here is the point I want to make being skinny isn't what makes me happy. What does is travelling to new places, exploring, challenging myself and appreciating those moments with family, friends and boyfriends. If I hadn't lost the weight I wouldn't be here. While I love fitness and being healthy, no one judges me as much as I judge myself, I know that. Don't live in fear of the number on the scales or what dress size you wear, there is so much more to life.
‘People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute.’ – Logan Huntzberger
I’m beginning to accept myself and focus on filling my time with experiences rather than living in the gym. I want to start vlogging but that means getting in front of the camera, which will be nerve wracking. There are things everyone wants to change about themselves. I've learnt that the problems I see with myself, most other people don't. I'll never look the way I want to in my head, it's an impossible goal, because we tend to focus on the negative.
My career, my family, relationships are so much more important. Fitness is part of my routine now and I know that I'll never be that person again (I don't understand how I ever was). Yes, I still have days when I feel very insecure about my appearance. It's not about having a perfect body, what's perfect? Would I be happier looking like a Victoria secret model, maybe for a little while but I highly doubt it would last. It's about accepting my body now, not being too harsh on the flaws that I have and owning it. Your life is so much more than numbers.
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.