In January, many people were posting on their Facebook and Instagram pages the ’10-year-challenge’. Two pictures, side by side, 10 years apart. When I posted my own pictures, most people said “wow, that’s great”. Clearly, I have lost a lot of weight in 10 years and I’m happier and more active than I was then. Everybody loves a transformation picture.
But interestingly a couple of my friends said “Shut it, you were just as gorgeous then”. I responded by saying “but it’s not about being gorgeous – I was unhappy then and I’m happier now”. Simples.
BUT… IT’S NOT SIMPLE. First and foremost, I would like to categorically state that any happiness I have gained since that picture was taken 10 years ago is NOT because I look thinner. And I think, as a feminist striving for greater body acceptance in this world, that it’s VITAL I say, I did not magically become thinner overnight and immediately happy.
In fact, I went from being quite unhappy when that picture was taken, to progressively thinner and even more unhappy. I made the mistake many of us make, time and time again (and I made only last year AGAIN) – thinking losing weight will make your life better. I’m going to give you a brief overview of what life was like in between then and now, to really hammer home why you should never take transformation pictures at face value.
Below I have noted some key stages in this journey and rated my happiness level out of 10, one being about to jump under a bus, 10 being best-day-of-my-life level.
So, there you go, a long diatribe of 10 years of incredible change, both good and bad. If you’re still with me, the moral of the story is that being active contributes greatly to my happiness, but my size doesn’t define it. And if you’re still struggling with your weight, I hope you can see that too.
I was active and thin in 2010 but I was incredibly unhappy. I punished myself for eating instead of just enjoying my food as I do now and enjoying exercise for the sake of it. Over the years, even after I had Eilidh, I have let my size and shape affect my mental health. I bought into the notion that is continually forced down our throats that if I lost weight I’d be happier, and I never was. When I hit my pre-baby weight again in 2016, I remember really clearly feeling empty with the result – I still could barely walk and my dog was still dead. It made me realise more than anything that it’s the movement and lifestyle I enjoy, not the dress size.
I’m not sure it’s possible to ever be truly happy with your body – we all have bits we’d like to change if we spend time looking in the mirror. I’d like to have slimmer legs that moved significantly faster with no risk of injury. Maybe a smaller nose and no more spots. I’d also like to stop those grey hairs from creeping in and maybe not getting arthritis when I’m old.
And even though I preach it for fear of my feminist membership being revoked, I think you can’t just go from using the words “I feel fat” half your life to “ok I totally love my body now, cellulite and stretch marks and all”. It’s not as clear cut as that.
But from all of this I hope you see that being thinner does not lead to supreme happiness and if you think it does, if THAT’s the only reason you exercise or diet, you might find yourself sorely disappointed.