(TW - Calorie restriction/body image)
It started, as it does for most of us, when I hit puberty. The wider hips and larger breasts I was promised in powerpoint presentations at school never emerged. Instead, I just gained weight and cried a lot. I wouldn't know it for another 12 years, but I had polycystic ovaries, causing fat to gather disproportionately around my middle. The Sunday newspaper had a calorie counter book free with it one weekend and I carried it around in my school bag, underlining the foods I ate regularly and pulling it out to check if eating a banana was really worth the guilt. My boyfriend dumped me for my best friend. She was thin.
When I was in my early 20s, my (simply horrible) boyfriend and I went to the gym together. He'd lean over and increase the speed on my treadmill to what I should be achieving. If my 5K took longer than he thought it should, he'd berate me all the way home. Once, as we ran round the park near our flat and he whispered derogatory comments in my ear, I stopped to kick him in the shin.
It's six months until I go to Hong Kong and Australia to visit my sister and best friend. I imagine what I'd like my body to look like by then and start listing the exercises I'll have to do and foods I'll need to eat less of. I consider getting a fake tan before I go to make me look slimmer. When I realise it will be too hot to wear long sleeves, as necessary to me as armour in battle, I get a lump in my throat. As the trip gets closer, I spend more time crying and wishing I could cancel the whole thing. Just because I don't like how my arms look.
It was my cousin Jack's 18th birthday at the weekend. I went through my wardrobe to pick out an outfit and realised all the reasons I was coming up with to not wear the clothes I own.
"Sleeveless...I bought it, telling myself I'd do press ups..."
"Too tight; you can see the big roll of fat round my middle."
"Those trousers don't even go over my calves."
When I lived near real-life shops in big towns and cities, I had very strict criteria for buying clothes. They had to be comfortable and make me do a dance of joy in the fitting room. As a result, the only clothes I owned were ones I felt thrilled to wear. As my reliance on online shopping grew, my standards slipped. Without trying the clothes on, I was imagining them on the body I wished I had; a body that was purely theoretical. So when I go to put those clothes on, they don't fit the figure I actually have and I cry and loathe myself. And so the cycle continues.
And I'm bored. I'm bored of logging the food I eat in a fucking fitbit. I'm bored of wishing for slim arms that are a biological impossibility because I'm just not built that way. I'm bored of the clothes I wear. I'm bored of sucking in my stomach at work because my trousers are too tight. I'm bored of cheap spanx that cut off the circulation to my thighs. I'm bored of taking quizzes to see what bikini I should be buying for my body type. I AM BORED.
My epiphany was this: I am going to buy the clothes that make me feel good. I am going to eat the food that makes me feel good. I am going to keep going to the gym, because it makes me feel good.
How obvious is that, huh?
I separated my wardrobe last night into two categories:
- Can pretty much wear any time, any day without supportive underwear or skipping breakfast.
- Clothes that make me cry when I imagine having to wear them in public.
Category two clothes are going up on Depop or to my local charity shop. Farewell, clothes. You will make someone very happy.