Food and happiness

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I wanted to do a quick update on the, for want of a better word, diet. (I’ve tagged these posts diet, but really it’s an overall thing with food and exercise and general me-time. But there doesn’t seem to be a word for that.)

I wanted to say a few words on food, weight loss, fitness journey or whatever you want to call it. Because I think to the outside world, for anyone going on a “diet” or doing a “transformation” or getting into “clean eating” there is an assumption that what it (my body) or I (me) was before, was somehow bad. And that’s not how I feel about it at all. (For more details you can see my old blog post here – on my Zero to Zygote blog when I did the 8 week transformation programme last year.)

A few days ago it was my uncle’s birthday and I posted a picture of myself with him last year when I had made him a birthday cake. And I did do a slight double take because I thought, wow – my face looked different then. It looked bigger and my chin looked fatter. But you know what? I was happy and I didn’t feel bad about myself. I felt pretty awesome because I had made my first ever vegan birthday cake (one of his grandchildren is vegan) and I think it turned out nicely!

I look back at pictures of B when he was first born and for the first two years of his life I look much larger than what I am now. But I don’t look unhappy and I wasn’t unhappy. I look absolutely overjoyed because I was finally a mother! I have a child who looks at me with love and I never thought I would get to experience this and it’s the best!

Shortly after posting that picture I got a WhatsApp from my friend and she said, I didn’t want to say this on Facebook but you have lost so much weight and you look amazing now! I said I hadn’t even noticed before looking at that picture. And it’s strange to most people but I didn’t feel fat then. I felt “out of shape” in the way that I felt sluggish and not very energetic, and I also felt like my clothes were more often tight in that kind of uncomfortable way, and I just didn’t feel like doing loads of sports or whatever. BUT 16kg down (currently 13kg down as I put on holiday weight), I don’t think I am a better person now than I was then.

Has losing weight made me happy? No – honestly, this is hard to believe in an insta-perfect world, but I was happy before. Ever since I became a mother I’ve been a baseline level of happy because having a child makes me happy. Yes, I get that it isn’t for everyone and I get that Post Partum Depression is a thing and I get that some people don’t really enjoy motherhood and some people don’t have children and that makes them sad/neutral, but genuinely I LOVE being a mother and I was lucky enough not to suffer from PPD or any troubles becoming a new parent really.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy before. I had a lot of things that brought me joy. My partner. Our dog. My friends. Sometimes even my work! Meeting people. Doing fun stuff. Having adventures. All those things were contributors to my happiness but I’d be lying if I said anything contributes quite as much as our child B does. It’s why my last blog was called From Zero to Zygote. Because I was hoping one day I’d get to be a mother, and now I am. I’m constantly aware of how lucky I am to be in this position and so there is always a thick vein of happiness running through me.

So, now we’ve established I wasn’t unhappy being “chubby”, let’s look at the other side of things. I was overweight, not just by insta social media standards but by medical standards. I wasn’t obese, but I was pretty high up on the BMI scale for overweight. I’m short AF so this means I could still be a UK size 12 which is not considered a big size. But I felt kind of uncomfortable with the flabby bits, not just because they don’t look the best (a mindset I’m trying to get myself out of) but they also made me feel uncomfortable in my body. I spent most of my life well within the “normal” range and would even be considered fairly petite, so to go from that to having a large overhanging belly was not the best feeling.

I want to stress that the discomfort was much more to do with how it felt in myself to be carrying more weight and not a value judgement on my own body. I was super grateful to my body for giving me my child. I don’t want to waste time hating it for that, for the changes that came with motherhood for me. (My cup size went from a C/D to something like a J and is now a H. Breastfeeding will do that to you.) But I didn’t like the feeling of having to tuck my belly into my pants, or the jiggling around when I did exercise, or a feeling of tightness in my clothes (and yes I did buy bigger clothes). I felt fine with myself and I dressed myself (I think) reasonably for my size, but I didn’t feel super cute and it’s hard for me not to want to feel that, even if I recognise that it’s not a noble ambition.

I’m the kind of person who works best with an end goal and clear results during a defined time period. So I signed up to do an 8 week transformation. It was a programme aimed at mums, and I learned a lot from it, but I’m not following that programme any more – I’m doing my own thing. I think some aspects of extremely restrictive diets are counterproductive for the mental side of things. Some people can thrive on structure but others like me need to adapt it otherwise we end up being a bit extreme, and it has to be something that can fit in with your life and be sustainable.

So now I’d say I’m on a moderated version of what I was doing last year, which was a carb/sugar/alcohol/dairy/grain restricted (everything!) eating plan with some fitness thrown in. For ease, I guess I’d call it clean eating but I think there some bad associations with clean eating, because it implies other food is “dirty”, but I can’t find another easy way to describe it. And the word “diet”. I’m just trying not to eat processed food and I’d like to lose weight – not because I think it would make me a better person or because I have some kind of value judgement on fatter me or anyone else, but because I think I could do with losing some weight to get within the healthy range of BMI and because I personally enjoy the process (which I think is okay, to enjoy weight loss). 

Last year after I lost a lot of weight, I went on a big holiday and went to a big wedding and I felt great. I am pretty sure I’d have felt great at my previous weight and fitness level, but losing the weight meant I didn’t feel as self conscious getting my arms out or whatever. (Because the patriarchy has told women we can’t have anything less than defined arms!) And then something strange happened: I got to that country and it was hot and I got my arms out BECAUSE IT WAS HOT! And I wore a swimsuit because I was on the beach! It was the most freeing thing to be in a society where people are Body Positive in the true sense. Yes there were a lot of conventionally beautiful bodies. But everyone wore the clothes suitable for the heat and situation and nobody gave anyone a second glance because they were all too busy living their lives. The first time I saw an old woman in a string bikini, I did a double take. The second time, I just thought, you go girl! Because who says you can’t wear a bikini on the beach because your body doesn’t look a certain way? It made me realise how much toxicity there is in the British media that we are fed this constant stream of values that are placed on a woman’s appearance as if that makes any difference to how happy we should be or how much we should be valued as people.

Another thing, I did a huge amount of work on my headspace last year. Again not because I was depressed but because I wanted to be a nicer happier person. For example I did a complete FB detox for months at a time and it really helped. I didn’t feel that I was giving the best to my offline life because I’d get caught up in silly debates. And also, FB is extremely triggering for me in many ways (primarily about race and adoption, subjects discussed on my old blog) and so for my own happiness to be maximised, I felt like it was worth taking time to be away and break that dependency. Now I’m back on periodically but I don’t have that same involvement any more and I feel that it made a positive difference to my life. 

So the 8 week transformation was great for me last year because I needed a short sharp shock and something to work towards. But now I’ve broken the dependency (wasn’t really a dependency – I mean everyone’s dependent on food! – but cutting out the junk I used to eat a lot of, and doing some exercise) I can be more moderate. I guess that is what works for me in my life – make a big change, see some results, moderate my behaviour.

I’m sort of befuddled by some of the fitness and weight loss / body positivity movements especially on Instagram (because I don’t really spend time on FB much any more). The two movements seem to be polarised and it’s almost like you have to pick one or the other. There’s this idea that fitness people are anti-fat, and then if you read any of the body positivity stuff it’s a lot of the time about “skinny privilege” and thin people being awful. And the problem is, it seems to be difficult for you to be able-bodied, on any kind of transformation / fitness journey, and not to be perceived to be aligning yourself with the “body negative”. (Nobody uses that word that I’ve seen but it’s the kind of thing I see posted on a lot of the body positivity / fat acceptance accounts, that they think “fitspo” is negative.) 

It sort of makes me feel torn because I feel like I shouldn’t want to lose weight. Because I don’t think my body is bad. And I’m a cis-gender female-presenting able-bodied person who conforms to broadly accepted norms for body appearance. I have privilege. I’m not some fitspo or anything but I can go into any women’s clothes shop and find outfits that fit me. I don’t need to buy special clothes. I fit into seats on public transport and in theatres. I never worry if I’ll be able to do up a seatbelt or if there will be a lot of walking.

It’s weird for me to feel privileged in that way because as a [NB]POC (non black person of colour) and female I often feel that I am in marginalised groups. I’m used to feeling that I don’t have white privilege or male privilege so it feels weird to think that some little diet/fitness plan I am doing might be oppressive in some way to fat people. (Yes apparently fat people in the fat acceptance movements prefer to be called fat than “curvy” or other euphemisms.) So I’m trying, but I’m sure I’ll be screwing up at some point along the way.

Not really sure what I’m getting to here but I guess I’m saying I am doing this for me. I hope it’s okay to feel proud of my achievements that I’ve worked hard for (not eating pizza being the main one*) whilst also acknowledging that it is much easier for me than for fatter people and that also I don’t consider anything about my weight loss “fitness” journey to be a comment on anyone else’s body or habits. I’ve been happy at all weights and I’ve been sad at different weights and there isn’t really any correlation to my happiness than the amount of love I’ve had in my life at the time.

For now I’m going to carry on with this journey but I hope that gives a bit of insight into how I feel about my body and weight loss / exercise, and people seemed to find it interesting last time. But also just for my own records because I can’t really remember anything from one week to the next!

(*Because I want to lose weight by not eating pizza so I have a buffer so I can eat more pizza.)

7 Comments Add yours

  1. kimi says:

    I really love this post. I can relate to all of this! I am on a “diet” but it is 100% for my gut health and not for weight loss. I have endometriosis and SIBO and those things suck and if I avoid eating the wrong foods they suck a little less – but people get in a huff about me restricting what I eat because I am not “fat”. I also feel the trouble with people confusing fitspo with thinspo. Fitness is a huge part of my mental health, and it does not mean I want to look anorexic. I recommend following Anna Victoria on Instagram. She is a fitness instructor but stresses all the time about being happy in your body no matter where you are at. Also, she shared last year that she was having fertility issues with her husband and has been sharing their IVF journey pretty openly, so I think that’s pretty cool of her to be open with it. She is just recently pregnant so her IVF worked. Anyway… I am starting to write an entire blog post of my own on your blog post! Haha! I just wanted to say that I feel you on all these things. You are not alone 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nara says:

      Thank you! That’s really interesting and I’ll look her up. I do get a bit conflicted between “dieting” and self-love/acceptance, but I hope I have a balance. I too enjoy my exercise – I used to go overboard but now I mainly do it just for fun, I find it good to have a bit of “me time”. I have endo too but I haven’t really seen any connection with food. I do genuinely feel better when I’m eating less processed stuff though… even though I love processed food! I think we all just have to find our own balance. I look forward to reading your blog post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Weight is such a tricky topic, isn’t it? I’m naturally quite slim and over the years I’ve yo-yo’d back and forth between a UK size 8 to 12. I try to focus on having healthier habits like walking more and cutting desserts or processed foods when I want to feel better about myself. I feel quite self conscious if people comment on my weight though. I’ve had people mention with envy how “skinny” I am but there have been times when I’ve been trying to put on some weight particularly after I had surgery and I don’t actually want to be that skinny. Reading your post makes me think I should try a facebook ban for awhile too. Anyway, you can definitely feel proud of what you have achieved! x

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    1. Nara says:

      I haven’t had a Facebook ban lately which is what my last post is about, haha! I really should though as I think it helps me have a healthier attitude. Also this week I’ve let loose a bit because I had finished up one DietBet and I just felt like relaxing it. But I do feel like I want to get back on plan. It sounds like we are similar sizes – I’ve gone between 8 and 12 too. I never thought 12 was big but when I look at photos of me one year ago, it’s quite a shock! I totally get the feeling self conscious thing. I saw some old pictures of myself and thought how slim I looked and remembered at the time I felt really self conscious of my “chubby” arms! It’s strange how we feel differently to how we look, probably. Thanks for the encouragement! X

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  3. I had a student give a presentation on the destructive side of social media and body image was a big part of it. I think it was the first time I realized how seriously some young people take facebook, instagram and the like. It came as a surprise to me because I never thought of those things as being part of the “real world”, but for many, they obviously are. Since then I know more and more young people who are absolutely addicted to their phones. Taking a break from all that was a great idea.

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    1. Nara says:

      I don’t feel that social media affects my body image that much, I just feel it’s linked to my mood and happiness (getting involved with online drama and so on) so I can be more regulated when I’m not on fb a lot. I don’t feel pressure to be a perfect model but I do think you probably get some subconscious messages about being slimmer is better…

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