This post is one of the hardest things I have ever written.
(At this point, you may be sceptical, as clearly I haven’t actually written anything yet. Technically, you're correct (not to mention pedantic). But the difference between us is: I know what’s coming.)
I know that I am about to admit out aloud that I am disgusted by the way I have neglected my body. That I feel total shame and embarrassment every time I see myself in a photograph or look at myself (like, really look at myself) in the mirror. My total lack of regard for my own well-being is written in every excess inch of my reflection.
So, the ‘happy big girl’ lie has to stop. Today.
1. This is not about being someone I’m not
Until now, this blog has only given you half the story. Let me be upfront here. I love my big bum. I love being curvy and I love that I’m not someone else; that I’m just me. Yes, I have legs that are so short and stumpy that I’m nicknamed the Shetland Pony. Yes I have a big nose and hairy forearms. I’ve had a big bum, short legs, a big nose and hairy forearms my whole life.
But, today - like, right now – I am fat.
2. It's about being who I really am
You see, the Hayley in my head is not a size 20. She ranges somewhere between a 12 and 14 (although, the number itself is irrelevant). The kicker is, this dream-state Hayley has actually existed in real life. She is not a thing of fantasy, but, in fact, the real me. The real me that exists when I eat healthily and enjoy food, when I exercise, revel in the strength of my body and look after myself. The real me who is not making excuses and eating her fears.
I was nearly winded recently when struck by the thought that my partner Lisa has never even seen this Hayley. The Hayley who is happy in her own skin, who feels strong and capable and who wakes in the morning feeling rested and refreshed. The Hayley who is always up for an adventure, who is the master of her own destiny and who genuinely believes that anything and everything is possible.
3. I need us both to be honest for this to work
Please, I implore you. Please resist the urge to call or text or email or comment and tell me that you love me just the way I am. Because you’re a good person you want to cheer me up and make me feel better. I get that. And for the record, I’m totally of the narcissistic opinion that I’m awesome. But this (the ‘being fat’ bit) is not a subjective issue: I am overweight and unhealthily so. Let me own this and if you like/love/can bear the sight of me, agree with me.
I have a weight problem and I don’t just need to, I want to address it (some of you may be thinking to yourself – “it’s about time!” and – you’re right, it is about time). Conversely, if you see me standing in the vicinity of a salt-beef sandwich van, please assume I’m either a) just walking by or b) have made the positive decision to eat said sandwich as part of an overall balanced lifestyle.
4. This will be a very public journey
I’m not being funny here, but when you struggle with weight, you can’t exactly hide it. Unlike other well-documented demons, the great burden (and, in some ways, the great saviour) of battling obesity is that it is literally written all over your face (not to mention your neck/s and jowls…).
You will be keenly aware of every step I take in regaining control of my physical wellbeing. You’ll see it when it works, and you’ll see it when it doesn’t work.
5. Accountability is my new best friend
I want to introduce you to my friend Laura. Laura encapsulates everything I imagine the ‘real woman’ moniker to imply. She is smart, beautiful, vivacious, hilariously funny, strong, opinionated and entirely original. Oh, and she really likes cats. I will never forget reading the first and subsequent Facebook and Instagram postings Laura made in documenting her commitment to getting fit via #projectdatass. I read that first post and my blood ran cold: “how could she say that… so…. so publicly”. What if she fails? What if she gives up? What if it doesn’t work? These, the thoughts of a woman who, at a size 16-18, was too embarrassed to eat overtly healthy food at work for fear of being pigeon-holed as the ‘fat girl on a diet’. The woman who would much prefer to be the ‘happy fat girl’ who orders the burger and chips because then she’ll never disappoint. She’ll eat the burger. She’ll shovel down the chips. She’ll be fat and happy and funny and she won’t fail at it. She’ll succeed with every extra mouthful.
If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result (etc etc), then it is time I make this commitment as loudly and openly as I can. If struggling in secret has led to more and more weight gain, then Laura, I’m reopening #projectdatass !
6. It’s not really about failure
The truly painful reality is that hiding behind my weight has been less of an exercise in avoiding failure as it has been in avoiding success. I’ve joked for years that my dream is to become the London-dwelling Aussie version of Ellen DeGeneres. Better yet, the London-dwelling Australian love-child of Ellen and Oprah. The thing is, this isn’t a joke. This is my real and genuine dream. To make people laugh all the while doing a little good in the world.
How convenient for me that the media loves to fixate on the slim and beautiful (despite neither of these great women fitting into any perceivable media stereotype). How convenient that I can hide behind my extra-comfy exterior layer and tell myself that I simply don’t fit the ‘television mould’.
Like this is the only reason I’m not currently shopping for Oscars outfits.
I would suggest my complete lack of trying has been a much greater contributor to me being no closer to this dream than I was a year ago, 2 years ago, 10 years ago. But that’s a story for another time.
7. So, how’s about it?
So, how’s about we ‘seize the day’ and all that and start being a bit better to our bodies? I’m up for the challenge and I commit to starting today. Want to join me? I’d love to hear from you with any hints, tips, dos, don’ts, your own experiences or just a whole bunch of stock images of things I probably shouldn't eat anymore (I'm a very visual person).
My bum is already excited at the prospect of living 4 inches further from the ground.
17/9/2014 02:46:31 pm
Well Well Well Miss Hayley... Have I got something for you to put you on the right path for this great journey ahead... It is coming your way tomorrow so check out your email my dear... It's hot of the press!! Xx
17/9/2014 02:52:10 pm
Oooohhh.... I'm excited Gina! Can't wait to read it. :)
17/9/2014 03:12:08 pm
1. Let science guide you and call in the professionals- exercise physiologist or weight specialist and dietitians and behaviour change counsellors too if you like. Let them do all the number crunching/organisation and then they can feed that info to you. We call in the professionals/best for other aspects of our lives (like tax specialists, hairdressers) then it makes sense to do the same for something as important as this!
17/9/2014 03:51:49 pm
Kate, you are absolutely spot on. It is nonsensical how willing I am to spend money on the superficial and how utterly loathe I am to invest in my own health and wellbeing. Aside from a few brief interludes with Lite'n'Easy, I'm not sure I ever have. Truly - thank you for this, it's a point I hadn't even considered. That and how snappy I would look in a tweed jacket and medicated shoes.
17/9/2014 07:32:46 pm
Hi Hayley, I totally identify with every word you have written! However, I have a good few years on you and believe me, the effects increase with age and losing weight and becoming healthier gets more difficult so 'good on you' for doing what you are doing!
21/9/2014 11:10:35 pm
Hi Di Honey
17/9/2014 07:34:58 pm
Foody not foods!
18/9/2014 12:32:31 am
From someone who is 15kg down and back to a healthy weight, I say go for it. After looking in the mirror in February and seeing a fat middle aged person staring back at me I was horrified. I now see the person in my head! The best part is it's actually pretty simple - less in, more out. It just takes time.
21/9/2014 11:36:23 pm
Hi Kerrie, thanks so much for your comment and well done you! 15kgs would see me considerably closer to the Hayley in my head, that's for sure. You're so right about it being simple, though. It's funny, a change for me already has been acknowledging that I can actually have what I want, I just can't have everything I want, every moment of the day! I'm not sickeningly indulgent in other areas of my life - if I want something, I plan for it - so just trying to take that approach with food now too. Honestly - big congrats to you Kerrie, an amazing result in just 6 months. :)
18/9/2014 01:01:12 am
What a glorious surprise to wake up with my coffee and read such lovely things about me.
21/9/2014 11:51:27 pm
Oh, shucks Miss Billington - thank you. Honestly, that is very kind of you (I'm commissioning a run of #WWHD patches to sew onto every item in Lisa's wardrobe) #projectdatass going well so far... I'm only grams away from being back down to double-digits! (either that or my pound-shop weighing scales are wildly inaccurate. Eh, I'm running with it). Sending you lots of love for your morning coffee. xx
18/9/2014 06:18:12 am
I love that suggestion about asking the professionals. Use the tools that want to be on your phone too. I've been amazed seeing friends and family who have used a tracking app to record what they are eating shed kilos. They started planning their eating, rather than going with whatever their mood or location dictated.
21/9/2014 11:59:57 pm
Hi Caz - you're right, I'm using an app to track my food and exercise and it is absolutely brilliant. It's really got my thinking about not just what but how I eat. Tomorrow night I'm out with the girls for a curry, so have planned my brekky and lunch to accommodate. Whereas I would have previously said something insanely ridiculous to myself like "well, you're having a curry tonight, so you may as well just eat this whopping plate of fish and chips, with a chocolate mud cake chaser. You've ruined the diet anyway". Things don't have to be all or nothing, do they?
18/9/2014 04:15:38 pm
22/9/2014 12:11:27 am
Oh, great to hear Sue and thanks for your encouragement. You're right about that rebellious streak... at different times in my life I have seen food and my weight as 'MY thing' and have most certainly sabotaged myself under some utter delusion that I was demonstrating control. I've also selfishly used it to test boundaries. Like you, it's all about lifestyle change for me now and for the first time, in a long time, I really am in control. Good luck to you Sue!
I've known most every iteration of Hayley since the year 2000, and I have loved every one of them dearly, but the best Hayley is the one who loves herself the most, so bring her on! (What frigging horrid sentence structure - how's that book going, me?)
23/9/2014 09:11:27 pm
Trace - I'm not sure what to say other than: there will always be titty hugs. Also: thank you. Also: my abs hurt.
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A big dollop of love from my finger tips to your screen (I promise that's not as creepy as it sounds). xx