A Big Woman
A couple of years ago, at an advanced Train The Trainer Seminar, I stood on a stage ‘enjoying’ being coached by Blair Singer in front of a group of 16 other participants. I had made a mess of my presentation and in the ensuing conversation realised that I was reluctant to let people really see me because I was scared they wouldn’t like me. (The history of that particular neurosis is another story for another time). That afternoon Blair made me, stand on the stage, in front of the 16 other people and say
‘I am a big woman.’
‘I don’t wanna say I’m a big woman,’ I muttered almost to myself.
‘WHAT?’ said Blair
‘I’m a big woman,’ I replied really quiet. He made me repeat it several times, each louder than the last until finally I shouted.
‘I AM A BIG WOMAN!’
I was not happy. I was about 2 stone heavier at the time, I did not want to be referred to as a big woman and I certainly didn’t want to admit it to myself and the other people in the room.
Blair wasn’t being mean, and it had nothing to do with any opinion he might have had about my weight. He was trying to get me to see that I am more than I thought I was. But the problem for me was that I didn’t know who I was. My body had changed and I didn’t know who that made me anymore.
As a teenager I experienced the usual puppy fat. I lost that weight as I entered my twenties. In my twenties, into my thirties and forties, I constantly veered between slim and stick thin. I didn’t have to diet and there never seemed to be a particular reason for weight loss; it didn’t matter if I was eating a lot or not. If I was eating rubbish or not, sometimes I would be slim and sometimes I would be thin.
This was the case until I was about 49ish. It was the period I had stopped working in a regular job and was trying to figure out what I would do next. I was no longer smoking and Skittles had become a key addition to my daily diet, I jokingly referred to them as my ‘drug of choice’. I was doing Bikram Yoga at least 3 times a week as well as walking as much as I could.
One morning, it was early summer, and I was getting dressed to go out. I wore a gypsy skirt and a white fitted T shirt - I loved my fitted T shirts - and I noticed that I had developed a bit of a tummy. I wasn’t bothered because I knew it would go down in a couple of weeks max.
It didn’t go down, instead it grew and grew.
That wasn’t all.
A couple of years before I lived in Brazil for 6 months and I walked a lot and took a Samba class 3 times a week. That and my natural tendency to lose weight for no reason meant that when I returned to the UK a friend looked at me and said
‘You’ve left half of yourself back out there’.
The weight didn’t return immediately, so much so that six months later, tired of the jeans I could remove without undoing the button (OR the zip), I bought clothes to fit the smaller me. Fitted trousers, skirts, a couple of dresses, you get the picture.
Flash forward to my expanding stomach and butt and boobs (didn’t mind the boobs), and within six months of my first noticing the growth the clothes I bought the year before were not only tight, I couldn’t get my leg into trousers, skirts wouldn’t fit over my butt nor could they be pulled down past my boobs (did I mention that I didn’t mind the boobs).
What was going on????
By now the Skittles were joined by big bags of Minstrels.
‘That shouldn’t matter,’ I kept telling myself, ‘I lose weight very easily.’
It was probably another six months, as I rolled into my fifties, after my regular sized clothes started to feel tight and I had succumbed to buying a pair of size 16 (UK sizes) trousers, that I accepted that what I had been doing before wasn’t working, wasn’t going to work and I actually had to do something about it.
In this time I found out that I had fibroids and that they played a large part in my looking 4 months pregnant. That helped, because it gave me an excuse, but I knew that I had to differentiate between what was fibroid belly and what was the spread of the middle age. I was able to get to a point where I was okay with having a belly if it truly was the midlife thing but I wasn’t okay with just allowing the weight to build up.
Trouble was I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really know how to diet and I walked everywhere - that was exercise, wasn’t it?
But the reality was that I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t accept where I was. I couldn’t accept that I now had to pay attention to what I was putting into my body. I had always been slim and I had to get used to the fact that middle age spread was setting in. And I had to mourn the loss of my flat belly.
The grieving process took longer because I didn’t realise how much I had enjoyed people exclaiming about how slim I was. I didn’t realise that a lot of my identity, was wrapped in me having a slim body and flat stomach, so I didn’t realise that when they were gone so would a small sense of who I was.
But eventually it clicked, and it was as I was coming to grips with acceptance that Blair had me declare my bigness to the whole wide world (or so it felt).
Fast forward a few more months and I did some more training with Blair which included being put on a diet that would help us with energy and stamina for 4 ½ days (see Day 47 of Every Day for 5ifty Days). That began a complete change in eating habits which led to my dropping the excess weight.
Although I’m not as slim as I used to be I like where I am. No one tells me I look unhealthy anymore and I feel fantastic.
The fibroids are still there, and the belly is still big. So it won’t be until the fibroids shrink (now that the meno has paused) that I will know how far midlife has spread in my belly. But the important thing is that I rode that transition from slim young thing to having a bit more meat on my bones. From telling myself I didn’t care about my body image to acknowledging that I really do and allowing myself to work through the discomfort of not having the body I once did.
From hating what my stomach had become to loving and embracing it as a part of me.
From using what I look like to define a part of my identity, to getting that definition from within.
I AM A BIG WOMAN