by ALI MCGREGOR
I have spent over 20 years feeling fat. For the last 6 years I have rarely gone to the beach, rarely let anyone photograph anything but my head, rarely shown my knees or arms in public. In that time my weight has gone up and down a lot and each time it goes up it goes up a little more and each time it goes down… well you get the picture.
But honestly, I can now say that during those 20 odd years I have only really been overweight for about 4 of them. And that includes being pregnant and post baby with the extra kilos that I am still trying to shed.
For a lot of that time I have worn baggy black clothes and covered my beach body with sarongs, kaftans and shame. But that has to stop.
When I was growing up I never thought twice about my body. It was a vessel that helped me climb trees and and roller skate and eat and sleep and watch Rage. My mother and father were very present and very hands on and completely disinterested in vanity of any kind… I was a small kid, always the smallest in my class and had a group of close (and gorgeous) friends that are still my best friends today.
I remember in primary school being introduced to the concept of ‘wearing the right clothes’ and ‘looking a certain way’ but it was only in year 11 that I started to think about my weight. I was very little and my school was very into rowing so it was only natural that I became a cox (for those who are unfamiliar with rowing, a cox sits in the stern of the boat, yells at the crew and steers). You had to be around 45-50kgs to be a cox (anymore and you could slow your boat down).
It was all going well as I was very good at telling people what to do and shouting. But then, in year 12 suddenly I shot up and of course, as a result, I put on weight. To try and keep my place in the crew I started to diet, run, make myself sick (which A LOT of people do without thinking of themselves as bulimic) and even though I was tiny, my height meant that I could only really get down to 53kgs which wasn’t ideal. Now I was the same height I am now – 5’6″, and by any estimation 53kgs is tiny at that height. But in my mind I was huge and a failure and a life of poor body image had begun.
Since then I have ballooned (usually when unhappy or bored), lost weight (through diets or once from heartbreak which was scarily effective but not advisable) and have spent far too many hours thinking and worrying about my boomba-ness. I went to a diet doctor who gave little pills laced with amphetamines which made me lose heaps of weight but sent me a bit loopy (feeling speedy during the day when there is no dance floor in sight is very disconcerting). I even went to one nutritionalist who, when I had only lost 1kgs one week told me “you don’t see fat people in concentration camps!”. I left him soon after as looking like I was literally dying was not the visual image I was aspiring towards.
I have stopped eating carbs, got Giardia (also very effective but not advisable) and done Weight Watchers. The latter has been pretty good and I now have the points system in the back of my mind with diet and tend to eat pretty well as a result (nb NOT and advert, just a fact).
I have never been much into sport and LOVE my food. I love eating it, cooking it, sharing it, talking about it, reading about it, taking photos of it (food shots make up a good 10% of my holiday snaps) and thinking about it. But ever since I turned 30 my body doesn’t cope that well with all of this food and no exercise and I have become a little unhealthy in the last few years.
I had a baby nearly two years ago and I LOVED being pregnant. I didn’t care about the fatness because having a baby was all I ever really wanted and I loved eating and drinking chocolate Big M’s and rubbing my big ol’ tummy with glee. When I was breastfeeding I had a massive appetite and put on heaps of weight (I don’t know how much as every since the ‘rowing period’ I have refused to weigh myself as it does my head in). But then the breastfeeding stopped and the hormones went back to normal and I felt fat and useless again.
But here is the thing. I don’t want my baby girl to ever feel fat or useless. I want to tell her everyday how beautiful she is. I don’t want her to see her mumma worrying about her fat arms or complaining about her McFatty thighs and hips. I want her to see me wearing shorts and skirts and bathers in public. I want her to be happy and love herself and not judge others by their looks. I want her to be everything I have not been in the past 20 years. I look at her little gorgeous chubster legs as they run along the beach and wonder at what point do they become something to be ashamed of? I hope never.
So I have started running and looking after myself. I have started wearing short shorts and started playing on the beach with my baby wearing only my bathers and dodgy tan lines. I haven’t yet steeled myself to show my upper arms in public but this will come.
I have decided to stop buying the trash mags. If I see another article on Miranda Kerr and her amazing post baby body I may slap someone (side gripe: who decided that she was the ideal person to sell clothes to women? She seems like a lovely person but she has the figure of a teenager and actively makes me want to boycott DJs and Grazia mag who both think she is some sort of super-being who can change the world with her little head, long legs and hot husband – MAKE IT STOP).
This is all very personal and probably a little too much information but writing it has been my therapy and I know that so many beautiful woman around me feel very similar. It shocks me when ladies I have known my whole life confess to feeling fat. Even the one friend who has been referred to by every ex boyfriend I have ever had as ‘the pretty one’ and still looks the same as she did when we were 21, worries about her weight. THIS SHOULDN’T BE!
I want my daughter to spend her time thinking about important things like world peace, science, art and cute boys. But I can only shield her until she goes to school. What if the other kids have mothers who are verbally stressing about their weight and their looks? How will she be able to avoid it then? The only answer is if all of us mothers get it together and start loving ourselves a bit more.
I have a husband who is more than happy to take of his artificial foot and hop down the beach, I have been watching Matt Fraser ‘The Freak’ in the ‘Freak and the Showgirl’ act who was a thermaldahide baby and who is glorious on stage stripping and contorting with not a shadow of shame or embarrassment at his ‘less conservative’ limbs. How can I be worried about my slightly pudgy size 12-14 thighs and voluptuous yet wobbly upper arms without being a total dick? Because really, WHO CARES?
Not me. Not any more. I will wear short shorts. The end.
Here is Mamamia’s own positive body image manifesto. Enjoy.
What is a woman *supposed* to look like?
Ali McGregor is a trained opera singer who, after singing for years as a principal soprano with Opera Australia was lured into the dark world of cabaret by La Clique & The Famous Spiegeltent. You can find her blog here.