Dear Expanding Waistline . . .
Did you know? I’m kind of into you.
I know I’ve given you a hard time over the years. I know you’ve been the vampire to my hastily crossed fingers at virtually all points in my life.
Except this one.
You see, I’ve been taught to hate you since I was naught but a small slip of a girl. There have been books and research papers written on this stuff, by people far cleverer and better informed than me, but I know what I know. And that is that, I, as a woman, have been actively encouraged to hate you, to deter you, to prevent you from happening at all costs. I’m so sorry. This was hard enough for me, but it must have been heart-breaking for you.
Now that we’re in a period of enforced lockdown, and the whole family is left to breeze in and out of the kitchen at any time, perusing the shelves of the ‘treat’ cupboard at our leisure; and now that my body isn’t rushing around in a manic ‘which-effing-after-school-club-is-it-tonight’ type of way, I know you’ll probably be making an appearance. And today, finally, I think, so what?
If, at the end of this, you spread out a bit, and are ultimately held more comfortably by my extra-large Lidl sweatpants than you are by the usual drainpipe jeans, then I will count my blessings. It obviously means I have enough food during these hard times and I will remember that not everybody is so lucky that their tummies will bulge accordingly.
I will not pounce onto Amazon like a wildcat (as I have been known to do in the past) and desperately search for solutions to ‘fix’ you. I will not deny myself breakfast only to gorge on fifty-seven custard creams before lunch. I will not stand sadly slumped in front of the mirror every evening before pulling on my pjs, wishing I was in another body. Enough. Of. That.
It’s a good thing I stumbled across the #BodyPositivity movement online a year or so ago. And since then #EverydayLookism and #FatLiberation and a whole host of others . . . I love them because they’re powered by the passion of people who want to change the way we place an astonishing amount of value on external looks. Now I’ve got nothing against a swish of glittery eyeliner or a knock-out LBD if that’s what makes you feel good . . . Hell, during these times of isolation I have been getting my mascara groove on as well as the next person . . . but I’ve had it with judging people (and myself) solely on how their body is presented to the world.
It’s boring now.
So thank god I drifted into that world before Boris told me to lock my doors. A couple of years ago and I would have been on lockdown with my body-image demons and God knows how that would have ended. I can imagine millions of people right now, locked-in-tight with such demons and I know it won’t be easy for them. Every weight-gain meme they see on Facebook, every fat joke that’s been thrown out casually as someone’s latest post, every sickly laughing emoji guffawing about over-worked scales will harass and plague eating disorders and body dysmorphia. I’m lucky that you’re growing around me with love and tenderness now . . . because it will be the exact opposite for so many people.
Instead, here you are. I like your folds and your curves. I like your softness and your stubbornness. My husband loves holding you in the night as he cuddles up behind me, and that is not something I would have ever allowed in the past. I always thought the key to accepting you was just to ignore you and pretend you didn’t exist. I’d move his hand to another body part and mask it as swiftly-found passion rather than disgust. This was not an easy skill and took years to perfect. But I don’t need that skill any more.
Now he takes his massive hands and he holds my massive belly. In celebration. In jubilation. In love. And yes, in lust.
Who’d’ve thought it?
So, next time I see a post on social media, about somebody panicking or joking about their own expanding waistline, or thickening thighs, or multiplying chins, I will try to feel real compassion towards them. Because I get it. I do. And I know they don’t mean to show fat-phobic behaviour, or trigger someone else’s deepening body shame. I know they don’t realise they have been grossly misinformed about the importance of weight in terms of their health AND their self-worth. They’re just victim to the same fat-shaming, body-judging, Lookist societal-system that I have been. And like a good nip of whisky, it’s strong stuff.
No doubt, when this period of self-isolation is over and we could be celebrating a new-found closeness with each other, when we could be partying in the streets and having music festivals and playing in parks and gathering to hear stories and hugging everyone silly, there will - in sickening parallel - be a surge of ad campaigns for weight-loss programs, for home workout equipment, for gym memberships, for zero-calorie powdered shite.
But don’t worry, my love, I will fill you with all the good and tasty food you like, I will remember to stroke you gently and place you in those Lidl joggers and give you all the space you need. Because after all this, you deserve it.
Big love and go well,
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If body image issues affect you then the first thing is to know you are not alone. Reach out to a loved one if you can (I know the words are hard to find), or perhaps speak with somebody you know has had issues themselves and will understand. You could also call your GP and ask to talk a specialist or a counsellor (yes, you can still access these services during lockdown). Otherwise, try these websites, which have some great information to help:
People I follow on Instagram (and who have really helped) are: