Before I had children, I was convinced I was fat. I spent most of my 20s wishing I was smaller. Sure. my BMI was fine and I was a classic size 10/12, but it wasn't thin enough. I stressed about eating junk food, hated most photographs, and weighed myself daily. I spent years not eating cheese, and was always on a diet, about to start a diet, or berating myself for failing at yet another diet. I used to go to the gym often, but it was about losing weight more than being fit.
Fast forward six years, two children, many sleepless nights, buckets of self-neglect and countless pies later, and here I am. I have rediscovered cheese, and while six years has passed, I eat it like I am making up for lost time.
The result? I am bigger. My hips are wider. I like to think of it as my baby weight, but it's more likely to be the lasting remnants of the daily macaroni cheese habit I developed in both of my two pregnancies. I have dodgy knees, which the physio ascribed to the 25kg I put on in 9 months while carrying my first. I recently tried on my favourite shirt from pre-child times, and the button over the bust popped off.
A couple of weeks ago, an old colleague sent me a photo of myself in my 20-something glory. It was a photo I had never seen before, and my first thought was how thin I looked. So thin! Then, I felt sad for me of then, as well as a bit cross. How could she not see how good she looked? How could she not understand that she was probably a total bore with all the thinking about diets and calories? How did she not realise that a life without cheese is not a life well lived?
But then - I felt grateful. Grateful that although I am much bigger now, I have discovered a body confidence that I never had before. Who cares if I am bigger? My body is awesome. It grew two people, after all. My wide hips are testament to that. And now I know that my body is awesome, I am kinder to myself. I enjoy food so much more, and am not always starting a diet. I don't exercise to be thin; I exercise to be strong, to clear my mind, to get out of the house.
I still don't much like photos, but that's OK. I may never like photos taken of me, but many people don't. What does matter is that I am so much happier now with the body that I have. And that's pretty cool.