I am very lucky. I have never been overweight, despite for years sustaining myself on a diet of sweets, crisps and junk food – thank you genes. And I can only say that now, looking back, but had you asked me when I was younger (or even a few years ago) I would never have been able to admit I was slim. I always saw something that needed to be smaller. I could tell you about the time I was in the sauna with my mom, with my legs stretched out in front of me, pinching the skin on my knees. “Look, I am so fat!” I complained. My mom told me to bend my knees and the “fat” disappeared. I was 8. Or I could tell you about how I asked for (and madly, got) a Thigh Master for Christmas when I was 10, “to exercise those floppy inner thighs”. The same year I decided to become a vegetarian, thinking this would mean I would lose weight or would not put any on (I was a vegetarian for 10 years). Oh how crazy, how delusional, misinformed and how wrong. So, so wrong and on so many levels.
I think I was always, from a very young age, defined as the skinny one. My auntie would call me the pee-worm (kusimato in Finnish) in a voice that betrayed hints of jealousy. And when you are told over and over again you are something, then that starts to define you and that is what you feel you need to be. But what I felt I was never quite enough. So whilst I would keep on eating my sweets and chocolate (never being able to give those up), I would cut back on the “real” food to try and balance things out. I don’t think I was ever anorexic, really, and definitely never a bulimic (I hate throwing up) but it is fair to say that my relationship with food was not healthy. And of course my relationship with my body was just completely messed up.
When I hit my 30s, they hit me back with the realisation that padding was, genuinely, visibly, starting to accumulate in places never seen before. Shocking really. I had never really done any sustained exercise before, except for a few short-lived attempts to go to the gym. It was when I had my bilateral bunion surgery in 2012 and was left unable to even walk properly for weeks (months) that I really got very unhappy with myself and decided to do something about it. And that’s how I started running. The same Nikes that I had bought to be my transitional shoes from the surgical boots, became my running shoes. We were on a holiday in Cornwall and within a few weeks I had gone from no running to 3 km, to 6km to 10km to 12km.. And soon 16km. In the beginning I was weighing myself regularly, but only got upset when the numbers went up instead of down. A combination of muscle mass and me rewarding myself with food, probably..
But the more I was running, the more my mentality has changed. I have lost all interest in weighing myself and in fact I am firmly in the school of thought that weight is the most ridiculous and inaccurate way of measuring your health or fitness. Or anything really. I can tell when I have lost weight by how certain clothes fit or by having to buy jeans in a smaller size. But the key thing is – I don’t care. I don’t care how much I weigh or if I weigh less than I did a week ago – or *gasp* more. I do know that my body is different from how it was before with all the running, the gym and the exercises I do. I have more muscle mass, my legs are pretty solid (though not slim) and my arms are starting to show definition from the the small weights I work with whilst I do my squats etc. But I don’t want to be the skinny one anymore. I want to be the hardcore, the strong one, the fit one. Without even really thinking about it, my eating habits have changed and I am avoiding processed foods, junk food and am having a homemade (super) green juice every day. I just want to be healthy and to be able to run. So I try to get enough sleep and I don’t really drink. I may have become more boring but my reward is that I feel much more balanced, both in body and in soul. And how I view myself has completely changed; where I saw myself as the lard ass before, I now feel like a bad-ass. I put on my running kit and I feel whole and invincible. And accompanied by the RunMeter announcements from 1km to 21km (or whatever), every kilometer both breaks me and makes me. The aches and pains in my muscles have become confirmations of the fact that I didn’t give up. They remind me that I get out there, even when I don’t feel like it and I run, even when it isn’t easy.
And that is the mother I want my kids to see as they grow up. And hopefully, in my small way I can at least help them to break this cycle of skinny worshipping. For my daughter to feel good about herself no matter what size her jeans are and for my son to choose a partner based on who they are, not what they look like. It’s time to see past the numbers on the scale.