I think, since around my second year of university, I’ve been overweight. But not just in a “couple of pounds” way. I’ve not been healthy. A new lifestyle, a new freedom, and a taste for onion rings and too many alcopops, led me to pile on the pounds pretty quickly.
And I’ve always labelled myself as curvy in private. “It’s okay Charlotte, eat that extra slice of pizza. You’re invincible. You’re curvy remember?” It’s been a label I felt more comfortable with. Except I would self-depreciate publicly so I could beat other people to it. It was a defence mechanism. I said it first, so you can’t hurt me.
And yes, I’d like to say that you can be any shape or size that makes you happy. This isn’t me saying that big isn’t beautiful. I’m saying that this is my body, my weight and my journey.
And boy it’s been one hell of a journey.
Roughly around this time last year, I finished work and went straight to my grandparents’ house to see my cousins and my auntie who had come up from Radlett to visit.
I was playing with my son and my cousin just so happened to snap some photos of me and Bill on my DSLR and, only when I flicked through them did I realise how big I had gotten.
And it caused me to look back at photographs of myself and really see myself clearly. And it hurt.
Because I had been damaging my health. I was a mother. And I was eating myself into an oblivion. I was not giving a second thought to my future. I just cared about the food in front of me, and whatever excuse I could use not to exercise.
That’s the good and honest truth.
Looking back again, at the photographs below, make my face flush crimson. I feel ashamed.
I was still the exact same person inside, as I am now, but I was so unhappy, because being the fat girl does make people see you differently.
I used to get abuse in the streets. I tried to run once and I was yelled at and laughed at. Once, walking down the street, a man felt the need to roll down his window and shout to Bill’s father: “Your girlfriend’s got a fat ass!”
And that’s not fair. But I’ve come to learn, in the harsh way that you do when you’re an adult, that I can’t change society. But I can take a long look at myself and change myself. Because their words, though hurtful, weren’t making me unhappy. My weight was.
It wasn’t really, until Boxing Day last year, that I realised that, for the most part, it was just me and Bill from now on. So I owed it to him to be a healthier and happier mother.
And slowly, but surely, it also made me realise who I was again. I felt more confident, bit, by bit. And I remembered how it felt to leave the house and feel happy and healthy.
And, if I’m really honest? I was falling in love with someone. And I wanted to feel like I was beautiful enough for him. Not because he made me feel like I wasn’t. But because I couldn’t, and still can’t understand why someone like him wanted someone like me. You can frown at that all you like – but find me one woman, or man, who hasn’t wanted to look good for the person they love. You can’t.
I still have days where I feel like the girl in the photographs above – it’s a very hard image to shake and I have become very aware of my reflection. Not out of typical vanity, but out of that sort of feeling where I need to check it wasn’t all a dream sometimes. It’s actually why I take so many selfies – as I want to capture my good moments as a reminder to my less confident self.
All of the above photographs were taken in the last two weeks. And I have to stop and scroll up and down as I write this, because I know there’s a big difference there.
Even if I still feel like I have far to go.
Before, I was an 18 pushing a 20.
Today I’m a 16, sometimes a 14 if I’m lucky, but someone that keeps buying size 18 out of habit.
But this is the difference, side-by-side.
You can see that my stomach is still a little plump. And my thighs are pretty chunky too. But – you know what? They’re improving.
So what did I do?
Honestly? I changed my diet and quit lying to myself.
- I don’t drink wine every night anymore. I have it Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, if I really feel like it.
- I have cut out fizzy drinks, pretty much all of the time. Aside from treats or mixers.
- I drink much more water than I ever deemed possible.
- I’m making the very taxing journey of cutting my one sugar in my coffee down to zero. I’m at half a spoon now. Go easy on me.
- I don’t eat sweets or chocolate often anymore. I’ve actually found sweet joy in strawbs. I love the things.
- I just think about what I’m eating. It’s actually very easy. I don’t put a load of cheese on something that’s already got some good carbs and protein going on. I don’t need it.
- I’ve swapped my lunchtime meals of burgers and heavy food for salads and healthier sandwiches if I really fancy some bread. But I’ve noticed that wheat makes me sleepy and sluggish. And so I avoid it where I can.
- I do eat a pizza when I want one. Because what is life without pizza?
- I try and keep moving in the evenings and weekends. Park trips and walks with Bill. Endless chores or DIY. And it helps.
- I don’t starve myself.
- I haven’t tried crash diets.
- Because they don’t and will never work.
- And they are bad for you.