You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but I’ve been battling with myself for over 40 years. On the one hand I love food and on the other I love being slim. I’ve never been overweight and most of my life I’ve been on the lower end of the acceptable weight range for my height. I’ve never had a full-blown eating disorder, but I have controlled my eating habits. During my late teens and twenties I was fashionably underweight, with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 18. The healthy range is 18.5 to 24.5, as almost every woman reading this will know. My current BMI is 23 and I’m the fattest I’ve ever been apart from when I was pregnant. And there’s the problem.
I’m used to being petite. I’m used to wearing slim-fitting clothes. With every decade, I’ve allowed myself to put on a few pounds. Age 30, after the birth of my daughter, I allowed myself an additional 8 lbs -about 3.5 kilos, BMI 19.8. I was a mother and I was older, I told myself. Age 40, my weight increased by another half Stone – about 3 kilos, BMI 21. I figured it was healthier for my age and a comfortable compromise. I was a little heavier but it was easier to maintain. I was slim and remained in the lower half of the range despite toned muscles, which we all know weigh more than fat. I was happy with my body until last year: I hit the menopause, age 52. I’m now in the upper half of the healthy range and I’m appalled.
I enjoy food and the occasional alcoholic drink – wine, champagne, whiskey. I’m not going to exist on a low carb, low fat tasteless diet. I’m not going to eat 100% raw or juice for seven days: It gives me heartburn and an acid environment. I feel weak and miserable, dizzy and light-headed. Don’t tell me that’s the toxins coming out because I did raw and clean for three months once. My nails broke, my hair fell out and I could barely get out of bed. It simply didn’t suit me. Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurveda would agree.
I’m at my best emotionally and energetically when I’m eating a balanced, wholesome diet. I enjoy quality food made from scratch. I eat meat, eggs, fish, salad, vegetables, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, seeds, nuts, rice, sweet potatoes, stir fries, dark 70% or more raw chocolate and sometimes a small sweet treat. I try to eat organic and free-range when I can. I feel better when I eat porridge for breakfast with a little honey and rice milk. When I slather butter or olive oil over my vegetables, I feel more satisfied and have more energy. My skin is smoother. I don’t eat highly processed foods. I don’t eat lots of wheat. I don’t do crisps or sweets. I eat very little dairy and my portions are quite small. It’s rare for me to eat more than one course in a restaurant.
I try to walk every day for 45 minutes – exercising my heart as I head up towards Table Mountain. I try to do yoga two or three times a week, and I try to dance for an hour on Thursdays. I’m pretty fit for my age, considering that three years ago I was burned out with adrenal fatigue.
So why am I beating myself up about the 10 lbs (4.5 kilos) that just won’t budge?
It horrifies me to realise I’ve probably passed my neurosis onto my daughter. It horrifies me to realise I’m jealous of every skinny lady I see who is over 40. It horrifies me that I have wasted so much time, money and effort keeping myself below my natural, healthy weight for most of my life. Has it made me a better person? Has it helped me to grow and mature? Has it contributed to society or humanity in any way? Did it make me more attractive? Probably not, but it did make me more confident… Why must my confidence rest on the size and shape of my body? What am I (and Western Society) teaching young girls?
Do I want to continue the daily battle to eat like a sparrow and exercise like a race-horse? Do I want to defy my genetic inheritance by insisting I must be thinner? Do I want to believe that every skinny woman out there is judging me because I haven’t had the willpower to exist on grilled fish, green leaves, juice and coffee? Do I want to believe I’m unloveable and unattractive because I have curves in the wrong places? I’m 53 for God’s sake! Something has to change.
I look at the world around me. Cape Town, London, any First World City. I see women. I see two categories: Skinny and overweight. I filter out the average, normal figure. I focus on the skinniness and feel shameful. Why aren’t my legs like that, I lament. There is nothing missing in my life save skinny legs, hips and buttocks. I have a feeling it’s time to let go. My health is more important: Glowing, vital, vibrant health… and the green juice ain’t doing it!