There have been three large boxes sitting on top of the wardrobe in the spare room for a few years now. They were put there after a renovation project and while I’ve always had a vague idea of what they contained, the individual items were a bit of a blur. I did know that one box held all the photo albums. I’m useless for taking photographs at events. If I do remember to bring the camera I forget to take it out and yet strangely I’ve always been careful to document holidays. Before the digital revolution we would just pick up some disposable cameras in duty free and while it might take months to get them developed on our return, eventually I would do it and carefully place the photos into books.

One day recently I felt compelled to explore the boxes. When the photo albums came down of course I had to look through them all. There were memories of lazy sun holidays, reminiscences of late summers in the US and Canada and spring and autumn strolls through Europe’s capitals, all neatly documented. Good grief, I was much slimmer back then compared to what I am now.

I sat there admiring the good figure in the photos and it suddenly struck me; hang on a second, I’ve never been slim! I’ve always had a weight problem, believed I was a fine big girl/well built/big boned. I can guarantee you that at the time the photos were taken I would have been complaining about my girth. This was a huge, breathtaking revelation to say the least. I really felt something was calling to me from those boxes on the particular day and so I felt sure I was going to find a forgotten envelope with a winning lottery ticket or cash. While I didn’t find that kind of treasure I found something much more valuable; the realisation that at one time in my life I definitely wasn’t fat and because it was only a few years ago it wasn’t too late to go back there again. I still have several items of clothing I was wearing in the pictures although they are at the end of the wardrobe that I have long since stopped looking in.

Unnecessary unhappiness

It saddened me that I had spent so many years so dreadfully unhappy about how I looked when I was actually grand. Fortunately my poor body image never translated into an eating disorder, but I do know for hundreds of others it has. You see I never believed I had a poor body ‘image’ I just always assumed I had a poor body ‘reality’. I then of course had to deal with the bloody irony that now I really do have a weight problem and it is no longer in my head. Since giving up the cigarettes my weight has crept up. I just replaced the twenty fags with twenty chocolate biscuits a day, swapping one addiction for another; no wonder I found it easy to quit smoking.

The old photos gave me the push I needed. It’s not that I’ve ‘always been big and have to live with it’. No, no, no; I once was relatively slim and I can be again. This time however I’m approaching it with a genuinely different mindset. During the other times in my life when I have chosen to diet I’d just smoke more and eat less. This time I don’t have that comfort. My previous attempts would also be quite self sabotaging in that a diet mentality has never suited me. I associate the word diet with self control, restriction, deprivation, mean little portions, hunger; when as a person I believe in, gregariousness, generosity, abundance, flexibility and being thoroughly full and satisfied. I’ve always believed that the unfairly thin and beautiful (mainly magazine models) pay quite a price in maintaining their looks.

Gospel according to Kate

As Kate Moss is quoted as saying, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. Such a statement is quite telling. It suggests a will ruled with iron and one wonders if life can be thoroughly enjoyed inside such self imposed parameters. We also know that Kate Moss has fought her own demons with illicit drugs. As with all addictions, it would suggest an underlying unhappiness about something. Once again it proves that just because the outside package ticks all the boxes of the perceived western beauty ideal, inside peace and happiness doesn’t necessarily follow. And maybe that’s the key to the whole mystery; happiness is an inside job after all and if you get that right maybe the outside will naturally fall into place.

So essentially I’m back to fighting the flab at Weightwatchers because it makes sense to me and I personally need that weekly accountability. On the first day I was weighed the only word to describe how I felt at the number is ‘traumatised’. Someone mentioned I carried it well. Perhaps I do but it’s an unhealthy weight to be carrying at all. This time though, I’ve put down my weapons and I refuse to engage in that all consuming passionate war where I have, in the past, lost many of the battles and retreated defeated. This time I’m riding out calmly with a more long term view. This isn’t about losing all the pounds quickly and then once again eating all the foods that I like. I enjoy cooking and have an interest in food and eating goes hand in hand with such pursuits. I am also beyond watching others indulge in tasty dishes while I munch through a bland grilled chicken breast and a mountain of vegetables. Eating for fuel alone has never inspired me. This time I’m just making choices, one at a time. I’m consciously adapting my favourite recipes, changing an ingredient here and there and actually having fun experimenting with lots of different things. While weight loss is the ultimate goal I’m hoping that by the end of this particular journey I will also have achieved a true lifestyle change. Maybe I’ve just grown up. This time I’m just walking it out one day at a time for however long it takes.

Wish me luck.