My bubble has been burst and I'll tell you why in a minute.
I am usually a fairly upbeat person and as far as weight-loss goes, my mantra has been "Do not obsess about it. You are more than your flabby outer casing."
I am bright enough to understand all the 'eat healthily' messages we have been bombarded with over the years. I know which foods are 'super foods' and which ones are good for us. I can even look up their vitamin and mineral content. I know the foods to avoid. I understand that an exercise programme must accompany a diet. However, I have been scathing regarding gym freaks, people who live on water and lettuce, size zero models and the way we have been lead to believe that our lives are pretty dysfunctional if we carry excess weight. I wonder if we are all being conned - fat people are the ones to demonise. The beautiful people of the world are the thin ones. They are successful. You are nothing if you are fat. Even if you are wealthy you are still fat and wealthy. Your fatness labels you. Photographers delight in finding cellulite on the thighs of celebrities. 'Oh how dreadful, how disgusting, a flaw..she is imperfect!' we are made to think by the mags that print the pictures.
It's all very sad, so to some extent I have fought the subliminal messages. You have to aspire to be thin, and if you are thin, you aren't thin enough. I have no time for it. It's dangerous thinking. All of a sudden, everyone is on a diet and everyone owns walking shoes and lycra work-out clothes. People carry water bottles. Is it an affectation, a signal to others that they are on the programme? Or are they just thirsty and feel they can't be without their water? We never used to carry water with us. It comes out of taps.
All of a sudden people seem to have a monstrous amount of self-obsession. Self-obsession - is it good to be self-obsessed, to want to look good, or is it mentally healthier to accept yourself, warts, blubber and all?
Those trailing in the water-carriers wake - the fat people too ashamed, scared and out of condition to try and compete - are life's losers it would seem. Everywhere you look it's about being slim and healthy. Fat and unfit people are second-class citizens - to be pitied or scorned.
Well, we are to some extent. We do miss out on life if we are fat, for all sorts of reasons...all the reasons you and I KNOW which make us feel like we live on the sidelines and can never be a competitor - at least not a serious one. Being fat brings us down, but I'd like to bet that almost all fat people wear a mask. To the world they are OK, getting on with things, and some fat people (and thin ones too) are larger than life characters, but all of a sudden the world has changed. We have to be the very best person we can be. That's a big responsibility and many of us fall short. Behind closed doors we know we just don't measure up. Literally. We are the people making up the numbers and perhaps our purpose is to make every person who doesn't carry excess weight feel a whole lot better about themselves.
However- read on. I am one of the fat people who can rise above all this, right? I have a handle on it. Not for me the media hype - oh no. Not for me a sheep-like acknowledgement that to be a winner I must work out and carry water. "Ha ha," I sneer. "Those people have been taken in. How gullible they are and how self-obsessed. Vain people aren't nice. Ugh. They believe image is everything. How shallow. Poor pea-brained fools."
Anyway, I have been able to tell myself I am just fine as I am. Yes, I am fat, but I am a good person, a reasonably successful one when all is taken into consideration and I am happy enough with my life. being fat isn't a crime. There are one or two things I'd like to change, but for the most part I am doing OK.
I had a good day yesterday. For a while. I blogged, had fun, laughed and joked, did a few things in the garden, planted up some things that would bloom in the summer, put some geraniums in pots, hung some washing on the line, and I sat in the sunshine with tea, talking to my cat who lazed in front of me in the sun, like a mini-lion. Life was very good. My fatness wasn't an issue. I looked up at the clear blue sky, listened to bird song, chatted with a cheeky robin who despite my ginger cat, perched on the bench nearby and fluttered in and out. A friend called and it was good to catch up, then I went for a long walk. The house wasn't cleaned yesterday because I was busy with other things, but that was the plan for the evening. The boys came home and I cooked a healthy evening meal...and my man phoned me, as he always does if we are not getting together that day. I had my feet up on the sofa then, and noticed how puffy my lower legs were. So puffy in fact that I had cankles - big tree-trunk-like ends of legs - no ankle bone to be seen. Not nice. OK, so that can happen occasionally, but it's usually when I have had a sedentary day that I notice (and feel it) more.
I also noticed blue veins, red blotches, felt dry skin and noted that I needed to pamper my legs and feet. The fruits of growing old. The skin is bound to age when you hit your half century. "I know," I thought, "I'll get on the bike and work those lower legs." Positive all day, huh? :)
This is where it happened, where my bubble burst despite getting my act together a bit that day.
Son had used the bike, so he'd moved it slightly and adjusted the saddle height. It was OK, My feet still touched the pedals and it felt good stretching my legs to the max. However...the bike is in the sitting room, in front of the fire. Above the mantelpiece I have a large mirror. Usually when I am pedalling, I see my shoulder tops, my neck and my face. I can live with that. Now I could see myself to my waist. I could see all of my arms. I was sitting at an angle so could see my back slightly, and just under and behind my arms. There was more of me reflected in the mirror.
Oh. My. God.
I wish I could draw for you the shape I saw before me. It was triangular almost...fat face, puffiness in the cheeks, narrow shoulders but a body which spread out below. Round football-like head, short neck, narrow shoulders - all recognisable so far - I see that in the mirror - but leading to huge top arms, flabby hanging flesh below, elbows with plump dimples when extended to the handle-bars and rounded lower arms, the fat nipped in at the wrist. My back was very thick and rounded and flesh bulged over the back of my bra. I was wearing a summer t shirt with capped sleeves, which only served to accentuate my enormous arms and bulging back. However, below my bust was my mid-section which was rotund. It was as big as my chest, round, swollen and huge....like a loose but enormous tractor tyre around my middle. I bobbed from side to side, short and squat as I pedalled, and was appalled.
The sight was plain hideous.
Don't say "Don't be too hard on yourself" because all my fat life I haven't been hard on myself at all. I have gone with the flow, deliberately. I always try to accentuate the positive, with others at least. I have allowed myself to get to this. It is NOT a pretty sight, no way is it a pretty sight, despite knowing that my face is my best feature.
I cannot tell you how aghast I was...and how I despised what I saw. I look at other fat people and think "Ah well. At least I am not THAT big." Now, all I could see was a very round, noticeably fat, out of condition, chunky woman. I was that BIG woman people notice, that I notice.
I pedalled for half an hour, looking at myself in the mirror, all the time noting my roundness, hugeness, flabbiness and lack of elegance as my upper body bobbed about on that bike. Am I REALLY that big? What a shock!
Wake up call. Today I feel chastened and down. This is going to take a lot of work. I don't mind growing old, I don't mind losing my youth, but I do mind losing me. That fat woman in the mirror last night looked like a slob...and despite the OK face there was one massive stomach and the look of a person who had given up on herself. This body showed neglect. I was disgusted.
Perhaps I need to cultivate a little self-obsession?
When I walk today, I'll carry water. I have succumbed. This isn't about vanity, this is about getting my body back. I look like I ought to be insignificant, and I look like my label....the label I am sure most onlookers give me, the overweight one, when and if they take note of me as we go about my life. I am not me, a worthy person, a bright woman, a person who can laugh at herself.
I am "Oh Hell. Look At Her. She Is So Fat!"
I had a shock when I saw myself in that mirror. No more messing about for me. No more resistance. I don't want to look like I do any more. I am not one of life's losers - very few of us are, but I am going to be a loser for the time being. I have to be.
It's a new day, a new start. I learned a lot last night, reflecting on my grim reflection. I give you this, and I am sure it applies to a fat middle aged woman too :-