Post by CM
This past weekend I went on a fabulous weekend away with some of my very best friends. We laughed, we ate, we drank and documented it all on our camera phones, all the better to share via our WhatsApp group. What I saw, from the perspective of one said friend, shook me to my very core.
I have put on a little bit of weight over the past six months; nothing earth shattering, and my doctor says I’m not overweight by any means, but the vast majority of my clothes are definitely that bit too tight and sucking in in pictures isn’t cutting it anymore. The offending photo was taken from behind, as a nice people-in-motion set up, and I had the misfortune to be closest to the camera whilst being squeezed into a pair of jeans that could have done with being a size bigger. The worst part of it was my lumpy, bumpy torso, made to look much larger than it is, because I was also squeezed into an ill-fitting bra. If that damn bra fitted properly, instead of sending handfuls of flab over and under the back strap, if I had worn a pair of pants that had a bit more give, I would have looked fine. The photo has been both haunting me and forcing me to face up to some simple truths.
There is NO shame in sizing up. I have been a size 8 for most of my adult life, which suits my 5’2″ frame, and have often bought size 10 and 12 clothes knowing that they look better than insisting on fitting into the single figure dress size. The thing is, I’ve been neglecting exercise and chomping away on junk food and snacks since (well) before Christmas (not even stopping to look red-carpet ready for TM‘s wedding, loathe as I am to subscribe to the societal pressures on looking stick thin in a bridesmaid dress) so it’s entirely my fault that I’m not the size I want to be, which is really just a few pounds, some healthy meals and an exercise regime away. I am in my 30s now, and my metabolism is nowhere near where it used to be. I have a feeling there are a lot of other women out there facing a similar issue – used to not having to worry about weight, in denial that your body is changing as you get older and not facing up to the fact that your clothes and underwear are getting too small, and you’re beginning to look like an over-stuffed sofa. This essay is really for you.
Like there’s no shame in sizing up, I don’t think there should be any shame in admitting you want to look your best, and while I really do detest the demands for perfect beach bodies, at the same time I don’t want to have curves where they shouldn’t be; like my feckin’ back. I can and will live with a tummy roll or two; a crash diet is an idea for chumps, and would ultimately get me right back where I started when I give up and reach for the pizza again – working out like a demon isn’t going to work for me either, because I know in my heart of hearts that I won’t keep it up. My plan is to stop the snacking, ditch the takeaways and plan proper, healthy meals. Start eating a good breakfast and not deny myself a desert or drink, in moderation and within reason. Get out and about and moving, increasing my heart-rate for at least 30 minutes a day. I want to be healthy and look healthy and be realistic in how I can achieve it and keep it up.
So, back to where wearing clothes that actually fit comes into it. I think any Irish consumer knows that you’re not a one size fits all – you could be an 8 in one shop, a 6 in another and a 12 somewhere else. Likewise, you might be generally a size 12 and struggle to fit into a 16 in a certain outlet, like this woman did. It’s a real, huge pain but you just have to try stuff on, and prepare to spend time doing it. Get fitted for a bra every time you buy a new one – again, as you get older your body is constantly changing, and that includes your boobs. If you’re in a ‘transition’ size and intent on returning to your already established wardrobe then buy a couple of pairs of trousers and a few tops to tide you over, they can go to a charity shop when you’re finished with them. But seriously, don’t mess around with the undies; when they fit properly, everything else has a good foundation to work with.
One of the things I’ve taken away from the re-evaluation of my current self-image is that I focused on that one photo out of a great many of my friends and me smiling and having a really good time together. In the moments that those photos were being taken I didn’t care a jot about how I looked, although of course my outfits had been planned (I am Country Mouse after all!), that one not carefully enough owing to an unexpected change to the weather forecast. It’s sad, actually, that it was that one moment captured on camera that overshadowed the rest, and says a lot about how much pressure we put on ourselves, that I put on myself. While I am still going to adhere to my idea of how I want to look – when I feel like I look my best I do feel better about myself, let’s face it – I’m also going to take stock that it is certainly not the be all and end all, and being surrounded by people you love, care about and enjoy the company of outweighs, in the end, everything else.