I struggle with my weight. I always have. Sometimes I’m just fine, other times my weight shoots up faster than I would believe was possible and I am very not fine. It mostly hangs out around my boobs and arms but since hitting 40, it’s doing a fairly good job to remove my waistline as well. Stepping on the scales recently and not recognising the numbers in front of me has made me finally admit I have been in one of those ‘very not fine’ cycles for a while now and three things have conspired over the last few days to make me want to write about it.
The first was my anguish at realising my ‘work’ staples for photography jobs weren’t going to see me safely through my shoot at the House of Lords last week. When you pull out clothes that you happily shlepped around in at the last formal gig and realise they no longer fit, the weight gain sort of hits home.
The second was seeing a former colleague I hadn’t seen for a while doing that double-take thing when she saw me. She didn’t do it on purpose of course, she was just surprised and couldn’t hide it.
And the third was overhearing one of my husband’s friends hilariously saying something along the lines of ‘that’ll take a long time to find' as my son stuck an ice-cube down my top at this weekend's Cornbury Festival.
I’d like to think the latter was friendly banter but it wasn’t directed at me as something we could all chuckle about, it was about me, said as an aside to someone else. I have big boobs - I always have had - and overhearing that comment shot me straight back to the early years of secondary school. I was the first to develop boobs and perhaps not surprisingly therefore, the first to attract the attention of boys.
So far so good? Well not really. Being the first object of boys’ attraction tends to alienate you from the other girls. And early teenage girls can be cruel and not all boys are kind with their appreciation of the burgeoning female form. So my feelings towards myself in my formative years can be summed up as pretty disfunctional really and overhearing that comment this weekend threw me back into the mind of thirteen year old me, desperately wishing I could disappear into the ground and hating myself for being who I am.
I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say my weight is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I lay worrying about at night. During the day, it must flick through my mind at least a hundred times. I’m not so heavy I can’t move, but I am too heavy for me. I’m ridiculously self-conscious and under-confident in any social situation. Almost thirty years of practice has helped me put a lid on the panic attacks and wear a mask over how I really feel, but I still think people must look at me and pity me, having to carry around and clothe those big boobs. I have lost count of the number of social events or holidays I have avoided because I don’t feel confident enough to wear a cocktail dress / whack on a swimsuit / fling on a strappy little number.
And when I gain weight, the problem is so much worse. So this morning, I drove to school in tears, drove to town to buy school shorts in tears, wandered round M&S in tears and came home to write this, still in tears.
I don’t think I will ever be thin although I will once again join Weight Watchers and try to do all that I can to lose the weight that I don’t need. But I have a lot to lose, I’m over forty and I have to work really hard at it. I comfort eat when anything out of the normal conspires to change my routine - good or bad - and so I have psychological habits to break as well as physical ones. Even as I’m writing this I am doubting I will do it. The self-loathing and feeling that ‘this is all you’ll ever be’ is deeply ingrained.
But I want to be so much better than I feel. I want to be strong, happy in my skin, confident and more than anything, I don’t want to be ‘the one with the big boobs’. That tag has defined me my whole life and I just want to not be that person any more. I know I’m not the only person in the world who feels like this about themselves and I know there are far more serious things in the world to be worrying about, but there comes a point, doesn’t there, when you realise that you have to change what’s not making you happy.