I’ve felt the need to write this for a while now, as it’s been something that has been bothering me lately. I’ve written about Body Dysmorphic Disorder before, but this is not exactly on the same topic.
We all have them: the ‘fat days’. They’re not the days when we are literally larger than normal, but the days when we ‘feel fat’. It doesn’t matter your size or age: if you’re a woman, you probably have them. We have them for so many reasons: we ate too much last night and our stomach hurts today (true story, thanks to Kamay recently sending me a bag of Goldfish that I devoured in 2 days), it’s THAT week in our cycle when we’re retaining water, we went out for a girls’ day and ate 3 cupcakes for breakfast (which were all GD AMAZING, thankyouverymuch), or we haven’t been able to work out in a week or so and are starting to feel it in our midsection, thighs, wherever it is WE feel it.
I think it’s important to talk about this the same way it’s important to talk about discrimination, abortion, and bad family experiences: if we don’t talk about it, we think we’re the only ones going through it. But if we can talk about this enough, we’ll understand exactly how normal it is.
Since I’ve had MS (or since being diagnosed, which is probably more accurate), I’ve gotten very good at paying attention to my body and how it feels. I know when I’m tired, or about to go over the edge, or need to just sit down. I’ve also learned to distinguish between ‘mouth hungry’ and ‘actually hungry’. And I’m very aware of how much or little my thighs are rubbing together (hint: pantyhose make it less, it seems), or how much my belly is bulging this afternoon.
So I pay attention to all of these things, and also my size. I don’t weigh myself too often, because I don’t have to: as long as my clothes fit, there’s no problem. I don’t really want or need to know my size, and I don’t want to care about it. So I generally don’t. And if I do find myself caring, I try to stop that shit.
But the fact is that we’re programmed to care about it. We’re programmed, as women, to scrutinize ourselves and flip out as soon as we gain a pound or a kilogram, and then try to get rid of it. We’re programmed to look at other women and compare ourselves to them, even though we KNOW they have different lives, or might be images made better by Photoshop.
This isn’t about gaining weight, it’s about that voice in our heads.
I recently went into a shop with my fiancé to try on some underwear. I’d seen them in the window of the shop, thought they were cute, and had come back on my day off to try them. On the way there, we got into an argument about wedding plans, and I was already feeling down. I shouldn’t have gone into that fitting room. But I did, and it was terrible. The lighting was bad, I had just drank a large frappucino from Starbucks, and I was upset and not feeling great. No matter what my weight or size was, it was just NOT going to look good on me. It never had a chance, with the way I was feeling. It didn’t look good. Of course it didn’t. And I walked out, ‘feeling fat’.
There are days when I haven’t worked out, and I swear I can feel the new millimeter of fat on my thighs. When I go running again for the first time in a while, I’m more conscious of the way it feels as it bounces up and down on the backs of my legs as I run. I always manage to look at my legs when I’m sitting down, and think that I’ve gained weight, because of the way they spread out when I sit down.
It happens to me all the time. I can’t even help the thoughts, they show up before I can stop them from coming.
And I think it happens to every woman I know, too. We will never be thin enough, or fit enough. Our thighs will not gap enough, our cankles will never go away, and we’ll forever have something that might be a spare tire forming around our midsection.
It’s normal, I think, and that’s why I’m sharing what I do to make sure it’s all in my head.
Because the woman I see when I look in the mirror will always be uglier than the woman my fiancé sees when he looks at me, I need to remind myself that I haven’t gained any weight, and it’s just my imagination.
Since living in Germany, I’ve lost about 20 pounds (or 10 kg, for those in the EU and Asia). I still keep a bin full of my BEST clothes from that size, just in case. I haven’t weighed that much in almost 3 years now, and I still have them. I have them for 2 reasons:
1. They’re awesome. If I get back up to that weight, I’ll look effing fabulous.
2. They’re a reminder.
They’re not a reminder of ‘never want to be that weight again’, not at all. I was happy at that weight, and able to dress in awesome clothes, and had no complaints. They’re there to remind me, when I have an internal flip out about possibly having gained weight, that no, I have not. If I feel like I’ve gained weight, I pull them down and try them on.
Because even though I’ve lost 20 pounds since then, in my mind, it feels like it’s all back. It feels like ‘my grey suit from S. Oliver must fit me now’. No matter what size we are, we will all continue to get these feelings once in a while. It happens, it’s normal, and it’s nothing to feel bad about. Our minds are so good at playing tricks on us, and as soon as we start to feel bad about one thing or another, it just keeps building.
And even if I do end up gaining some weight, who the eff cares? That just means I get to:
a) wear my awesome bigger clothes! –or–
b) go shopping for new clothes!
It’s a win-win.
Who cares if I or you gain any weight? Our husbands love us, friends will always love us, and clothes are made in all sizes. We’re programmed to care, and we shouldn’t.