Monday, 3 February 2014

Sticks and stones

I don't own any photos of myself from between the ages of 18-20. I'm not tagged in any on Facebook, I don't have any pictures on my computer, I threw all my physical photos away. I took many hundreds, thousands of photos of my friends and I during this time but they are all gone. Therefore, unlike the vast majority of people my age, I have for the past couple of years not had a firm idea of what I looked like during this time, just my idyllic mental picture.

However, I've always thought of being 19 as the peak of my physical attractiveness. I've always thought - that was when I had a nice body. That's when I had good hair. That's when I wore my make-up well. That's why people were attracted to me at that time. I just looked better.

Tonight by chance I stumbled across some videos from when I was 19 for the first time in years. I was shocked to look at myself and see that I in fact objectively look absolutely no better than I do now. I'm probably about the same size, my make-up is terrible and I have a dodgy fringe. Why have I always remembered myself as being hot at this time?

And then I remembered, that was a time before I ever went on a diet.

That was a time where I'd happily gone my whole life eating what I wanted just when I was hungry. 

That was a time when I'd spent a couple of years cyclically going back on forth around the same half stone depending on how active I was at any particular time. That was a time when sometimes, yes, I was about three or four pounds overweight. I remember a doctor telling me once when I signed up to a new GP at university, "you're about 4lbs overweight." And I remember thinking, "It's fine as no one would ever guess that I weigh that much as I carry it fairly well don't I?"

I was 21 the first time anyone told me that I should go on a diet and since then it has not ever been the same. At my absolute all-time biggest I was about a stone overweight. I look back at that time thinking "Oh god I was hideous I was so massive how disgusting." In fact I was about a size 14. 

After two and a half years of constant binge/starve dieting and then suddenly and dramatically giving it up I think I'm finally beginning to get back normal eating habits. Well, that's not true, as my eating itself was always normal, in that I had three meals a day and never starved myself or anything. If anything it's less 'normal' now. But it was my relationship with food. Every second of my life I was acutely aware of what I was next going to eat and when. Every time I ever deviated from the plan - for ANY reason - I felt like the worst person in the universe. Every time I ever weighed myself, which was pretty much every day, and I had put on any weight, I just felt useless and unattractive and disgusting.

Now I feel like my relationship with food is much more healthy. If I want a burger, I will get a burger. If I want more chips, I will get more chips. If someone offers me a chocolate mini roll but I don't really fancy it, I won't eat it. I don't really think about food unless I'm already hungry. I've allowed myself to actually get hungry for the first time in years because before I was afraid of how much I might eat if that ever happened.  

So now I don't even know how much I weigh, I just know that I just about fit into size 12 trousers, which probably means I'm no longer overweight by prior experience. I wonder how long it will be before my body image isn't on my mind 50 times a day. 

I wonder if ever again I will be able to feel nonchalant about my own body like I did when I was 19.  

I actually don't want to feel like this, I don't want to be sitting here thinking about how much I weigh. As there's a part of me in my head that knows I am healthy and that I look fine. But there is just another part of me somewhere else in my head that just won't shut up about how much better I would look if I was thinner. About how much better I would look if I just looked like I did when I was 19. 

But the fact is, despite the way I remember it, the pictures prove I wasn't even actually thin at 19. I just didn't know what it was like to have someone call you fat.