Tuesday, 5 June 2007

women and weight

Why are women so odd about their relationship with their bodies? Actually perhaps I shouldn’t generalise, I don’t know about you, you may be perfectly relaxed, but I wish I were more like my husband. When he thinks he has put on a bit of weight he cuts down for a month or so and loses it. A couple of years on he might say again “Think I am getting a bit too heavy” and back he goes, cuts back a bit on the cream and the beer and the second helpings and gets back into his 34” waist trousers. None of it is very extreme or intense. Mostly he just eats what he likes, is very active and doesn’t think about it too much.

I, on the other hand, think about it a lot. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t look in the mirror and think I could do to lose half a stone. The odd thing is that I think I have been doing this all my adult life although I am now about a stone heavier than I used to be. So that is thirty years of there being an elusive perfect weight at the end of the rainbow, never reached and clearly not a real weight, more a sense of never quite being satisfied. Sad eh?

When I was ill I lost over two stone and was the weight I must last have been at about thirteen. My collar bones stuck out and you could see my ribcage. My trousers hung sadly around my non-existent bum and my jawline was sharp for the first time for years. I hated it. There were many reasons at that time for not feeling like me but my thinness was certainly part of a sense of frailty. I felt I would break if you dropped me.

As I got better I moved through “ideal weight” territory, somewhere around nine stone, and kept going slowly upward, deliberately indulging in doorsteps of Ian’s homemade bread with great wodges of butter, my particular weakness. I ate chocolate and cheerily made cakes and had several slices. I have a friend who, like me, had a cancer scare and who says she felt that she had wasted so many years of her adult life dieting, going to the gym, determinedly keeping herself at the eight stone weight she had been when she was twenty. When the cancer struck she felt her body had failed her and as she recovered she decided she would just give up weight control and eat whatever she liked. Now she is about two stone heavier than she was before her illness and, with her calm and beautiful face, still an attractive and striking woman. The only loss she says is that she has stopped being interested in clothes, as in fashion, because clothes shopping depresses her now she is heavier. So she wears a sort of uniform of soft linen shirts and trousers and is happy in her skin.

I am now about a stone heavier than I used to be and have been thinking in recent months about whether I want to do anything about it. I understand my friend’s point of view and see what she means. Do I want to do it her way and let it go, accept that I am older now and lucky to be here and stop weighing myself and looking in the mirror? Or do I want to return to the way I used to do it, always slightly restricting myself, never really satisfied with my body but liking being a size twelve and regarding maintaining that as a priority? Or is there any chance at all that I could do it Ian’s way, a man’s way? More low level but constant activity, a pair of trousers as a guide, just eat a bit less. Not a big deal.

Answers/experiences/advice on a virtual postcard please. What do you do?

25 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I spent my 20s and 30s trying to be thinner, never satisfied with my weight. If I 'take my eye off the ball' it all creeps back on again. My husband is like yours, maintaining his 32" waist through excercise and eating what he needs. I'm trying to like my body for what it is (aided by books by Gok Wan, Paul McKenna and Lighten Up by Pete Cohen) and trying to stay fit and healthy. I don't think the fashion for extreme thinness does anyone any favours. Some are naturally that way, others (like me) are not! Above all, I don't want to pass on my hang ups to my two little girls - I think the media and school will do that without my help. My aim is, as the French say, to be 'bien dans ma peau', to feel happy in my skin. I think the most important thing is to be fit and healthy (and worship Gok Wan for an hour of unmissable TV that makes me feel so much better about myself)!

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  2. Ah I would be happier in my skin if French clothes were made to fit it!

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  3. I've put on weight since living in Wales, although I'm a fairly disciplined eater. I think running has added some muscle weight too (or is that an excuse?!). On one had it annoys me that the trousers I used to go to work in are too tight but on the other hand I'm grateful for having a strong, serviceable body that does all the things I ask it to do. Psychologically, because I know I'm carrying an extra half a stone, I 'feel' fat which is ridiculous. I shall be watching Gok again tonight too, hoping to change my mindset!

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  4. Oh heck, Elizabeth, I could have written this blog (except without the illness and with a few extra stone added twixt teeange and now). Adrian too can self-regulate which is SO annoying. Though I notice a small 'bol' appearing of late which is gratifying. I would love to be able to wear nice clothes (I have a HUGE stomach, vast boobs and skinny legs so nothing looks right). I would like to be healthy and know that being overweight is not healthy. Yet I would lvoe to be able to say 'sod it, I am what I am' and just get on with it.
    btw, I have absolutely NO idea how to find blogs on particular things. I did find out once but have promptly forgotten! I quite like the unpredictability of following the odd stray comment.... @themill seems to have interesting people commenting on hers and I followed a few from Chris's too.....but fear it might be horribly addictive! Janexxxxx

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  5. Isn't it crazy the way we attach such importance to our weight ? I have just enjoyed reading some of your blogs and then clicked onto your lovely website. We have just elected to go into Alastair Sawdays Guide to France, surely all this hard work should make those excess pounds just drop off ?

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  6. My GOH cuts back and loses weight as and when he thinks he need to.
    I am was 8 stone 10 when we married and now over 10 stone - I want to be 9 and a half - to no avail. Whatever I do the weight will not shift - I think it is an age/hormone/chocolate thing!!
    I dont drink so cant even cut this out - dont eat gluten, dairy etc - so what the hell and I eating I wonder - I am now trying a smaller plate but with the same food!!

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  7. I'm fairly laid back about my body these days, I never worry about what I eat, just as and when and enjoy it. But as a teen I was constantly on this diet or that diet, my mum kept tellingme a i needed to lose weeight she did the diets too, but no sooner did I lose then i would gain again, I balloooned at Uni to over 11 stone, which is big for me at 5"4"
    once I married and had children the weight just fell off and has stayed off mostly, probably start putting it on now I'm on Tamoxifen, but usually stable at 9 st to 9.5 st, I eat loads of biscuits and chocolate !

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  8. Thanks Elizabeth, wouldn't have hurt you for anything.

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  9. Sorry, me again, I just wanted to add this fact. I don't notice other people's weight. I only mind fat when it's on me! How often have we all been in the position when a friend is saying "oh, I'm so fat, I must lose weight" and you think: "from where?" We are all too hard on ourselves. Perhaps it is because the tabloids carry "news" stories pointing at some celebrity twiglet, accusing them of being "fat"? I watched a programme on BBC3 recently where a journalist went off to Malaysia for a tummy tuck. Her best friend's reaction was that she had never noticed any 'problem' with the tummy in the first place and didn't really see any difference. We are what we are, not what we weigh.

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  10. I feel i must be close to 12 stone now but i binned my scales and feel happier not knowing for definate,I can't exercise anymore i fall into bed exhausted and aching most nights from labour and i don't have a sweet tooth. I drink and eat bread why should we worry? i'm at that invisible age anyway and only i notice the podge and 18st colin darnt complain,,..
    Are you going to the open garden on friday and yes i do still want some geraniums,Theres a ceiligh on in cefn on friday as well a little village hall thing but fun.xx

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  11. Such a deep subject and so complex. I always feel a bit wary of saying this, because I know it can sound smug, but I was a skinny teenager/young aadult (though suffered all the usual insecurities about that, skinny wasn't quite so fashionable then, I always wanted boobs and curves!)and I never dieted. Then I started to pile on a few pounds post childbirth, but found it fairly easy to shift through excercise. The last couple of years though - I cannot shift the weight from my middle. My body has changed quite a lot. I have phases of being OK with that, and phases of not. Having never had to watch what I eat, I find have no discipline and love rich, buttery food. R, of course, was lean and stayed lean.

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  12. PS Totally agree with Presli Mags's last comment.

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  13. I've just been watching Gok with the pretty little curly haired (red-head?) girl who hated her legs and thought they were fat. Fat?They certainly were not. Em and I couldnt believe she thought they were. Mind you, Em moans she is 'fat' and she has a completely flat tum and a 23" waist. I used to be very slim. 24"waist at 16 I remember that, and remember being under 9 stone when I went for first preg appointment when I was 21. Now I am 11 st - was 10 and a half for my wedding last year after 3 months of cutting down. Would rather be 10 and a half again. I'm 5'8 and watching the Gok prog tonight and seeing the tester ladies I can feel quite good about myself, and yes I DO look good naked!!!!

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  14. Hi Elizabeth - well you have certainly hit a nerve here! What is it about our various cultures that incites this fear of the size of our body among women? Until I was ill ten years ago I was obsessed with my body size. Recovery made me, like you, just so happy to be healthy and to be able to enjoy life, food and drink! I try to get the exercise I need to feel healthy and to eat what I enjoy. My doctor always says to make sure that if I'm having a treat that it's really something that I like! When I look at women my age I find that the ones with a few extra pounds are much healthier looking than the ones who have dieted themselves to skin and bone - and I'm not talking about the ones who are natural skinnies (I have a sister who battles to keep it on, she is younger than I but looks older because she is so thin). As Sophia Loren said "after a certain age it's your face or your hips". I am so grateful to be healthy and to have a body that works for me - life is short and I try to be happy with myself, as Preslimags said so well!

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  15. Oh yes - I meant to say - thanks for the note re my Lillypad. She didn't get to the UK, but that is planned. Her boyfriend's family is from England and they'll be over there one of these days visiting family - as well as to Denmark to visit the Great Dane's family. I have only ever been to England once and am longing to go again and to get out of London (fabulous, but there is so much more!).

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  16. Oh you've hit a nerve with so many of us here. I had four children and got back to size 10 after everyone of them, but at 38 had to have a hysterectomy and have been on HRT ever since. I have piled the weight on and hate it. I walk miles with the dogs, am on my feet all day(apart from the blogging which isn't helping) yet it all resolutely refuses to move. I'm trying to stop thinking about it and hope it goes away!

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  17. Absolutely agree with everything said so far; I feel I have this dialogue between my "good" self and my "bad" self running in my head all the time about my weight.. and it's such a waste of time and energy! I am by no means overweight but there is a big lady struggling at all times to get out of my petite 5'2" frame.
    I realised I had to be careful what I said when my perfectly formed 8yr old boy with his muscular body and chiseled abs said he didn't eat any chocolate birthday cake at school as it would make him fat. Ooo, that was a slap to wake me up. Bad enough if I had daughters but sons, who are slim and fit from just doing what boys do? They have a healthy enough diet with a few treats but I didn't think my prejudices were that obvious. So we immediately went out and bought 12 Crispy Creme doughnuts and we scoffed the lot in one sitting!
    Having said that, I'm just off for a run with the fittest dog in Berkshire. She jogs along with me or my husband, about 30 miles a week between us at the moment and is hardly out of breath. Any other lady in training for the Race for Life 1st July? I'll be wearing a purple ribbon!

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  18. It's a difficult one to comment on when you are someone who can lose weight at the drop of a hat, but can't put it back on. Sounds bliss and would be if 'normal' for me didn't mean gaunt of face and hollowed of cheek. Legs too thin and ungainly, hips too wide in contrast. Are we ever happy? I can dress the whole up well but can't do casual without looking like a bag lady! xx

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  19. Aargh. I, too, know exactly what you mean. My baby is now nine months old and I still have a good stone to lose (to be fair I never really lost it after the last baby 8 years ago). What is it about women and their weight? Do you think it is just women who were born in the sixties who think like this or is it all women? Now I have a daughter I absolutely hate the fact that celebrities strive for the so-called size 0 and as I am 5'10" my little girl is hardly going to be small in stature. I think being fit and toned is the answer and eating everything in moderation (well, apart from chocolate and wine, of course, which I am eating and drinking as I write.....)

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  20. I am like your husband, if I get a bit fat I just eat less and I only ever eat when I am hungry. When I was young it was easier to stay slim of course. Yoga helps now and exercise, if I lay off that for a while the fat goes on round the middle/tummy mostly. I saw a photo of myself on holiday in France and I looked so fat round the middle (Tamoxifen induced) it frightened me into cutting down! I can recommend that as an incentive, a 'fat' photo stuck in a prominent place.
    Caitx

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  21. For me, being healthy is the most important thing, and if that means a few extra pounds (like you, I was a skeleton when I was seriously ill) then, so be it. Everything in moderation, was my nan's moto, and I really think she was right. Wintertime always puts weight on me - sausage and mash, casseroles and rich, heavy food, but in the summer I adore salads with chopped up bacon and avocado, couscous, barbeques and more salad (a bit of theme going on....) and loads of fresh fruit, so I do lose a few pounds then........ but hey, we're still here, kiddo, and that's the important thing!xx

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  22. Me again, Elizabeth. I just wanted to thank you for the lovely, supportive comments you left on my blog on Wednesday and couldn't think where else to post it. I taught Access to HE for a year as well and found it great fun. I just think the confidence has taken a bashing and I need to let it all go for a bit (and take much of the wonderful advice I received from the purple gang). Feeling so much better now. xx

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  23. I've always been thin. But now am reaching the stage where my body looks fine (clothed) but my face is scrawny and gaunt, and old looking. they say you can't have the body and the face as you march through life, which is a shame. Perhaps i can wear a mask, be the Isabella Blow of North Devon. Thanks for your comment, would def be good to compare notes!

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  24. Can so relate to your blog about weight. I watched my friend starve herself through our teens, only eating a pack of bombay mix a day sometimes. She now has osteoporosis, she broke her back as she lifted her newborn baby from his cot. She is fine now, but I am sure it is related to her horrendous dieting. The happy farmer just cuts out coffee when he diets, he takes sugar in coffee you see. I go for a run each day and am now totally happy with my sixe, could never go without food, I love it too much.

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  25. I'm another annoying skinny one, but with a tummy to show where I once had a baby. I have never ever in fact had a flat stomach, and I won't get one now. I had to have a little, er, help in the boob department to get a curve or two because I was literally straight up and down, ironing board flat, with the only bump being my tummy (and I was very unhappy that way)!
    Hormones are to blame for most of women's weight problems. I have a 45 year old friend who's gone from size 8 to 14 around the waist thanks to peri-menopause and it won't shift with exercise or diet.
    I have just started taking a mini-pill again and have shrunk dramatically, a dress size in four days, around the waist and bottom. Hormones again!
    I looked healthiest about three months after having Henry, a fat face did wonders for me, like Devonlife I can look scrawny very easily, a bit of stress and I look haggard.
    If only we could choose where and when we wanted the extra weight, move it around a bit!

    Hmm, too much information here? Oh well, at least I'm honest.

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