Breathless

It’s been a while since I posted. In all honesty this is because I haven’t had anything to say. Things have been going well. I’m nervous about saying that out loud, but they have. Therapy’s really helping. It’s forcing a lot of things to the surface that I don’t really want to face, but that’s part of the process I guess. Whatever it is, it’s helping. There are days when I don’t do so well, but there are more days than there used to be when I’m feeling good, and I definitely count that in the win column.

I haven’t had a drink now for almost two years. That habit appears to have stuck. Healthy eating though is a harder habit that continues to beat me into submission. My personal best is 3 months, which isn’t bad, but I’ve been at it now for over a year and I should be better at it than this.

What else has changed? Well, in December, on my birthday, Tony asked me to marry him. And I, obviously, said yes. I would love to spend this whole post talking about this, because he absolutely blew me away with his proposal, I’m not ashamed to say it was perfect, because it literally couldn’t have been better. I’m writing this post for a different reason though, so I’ll save that for another time. You see, the only part of being engaged that I’m not enjoying is the obligation to lose weight before the Big Day.

I would be the first person to tell any other overweight person not to let anyone tell them how to look on their wedding day, or on any other day of their life. I would remind them of the fact that the person who wants to marry them, wants to marry them specifically because of who they are and how they look. I would remind them that they don’t owe weight loss to anyone, that any person who tries to make them feel bad about themselves isn’t worth their time. I would wholeheartedly believe what I was saying too. Unfortunately though, I don’t extend the same courtesy to myself. I am a slim person who’s gone wrong along the way. I have made myself look terrible and I need to rectify it. The thought of looking back at my wedding photos and seeing a fat bride makes me literally want to cry. I’m not good at being kind to myself. I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet.

So, what am I going to do about this? Well, I took out a class-only membership at the local gym. I’ve even been. Although only three times. I think I’ve been a member for about 5 weeks now though, so that’s better than I’ve ever done in the past.

I went to step class tonight. It’s the first time I’ve done a step class for about 15 years, but I thought I knew what to expect. The walk there was colder than I’d expected – I worked from home today so I wasn’t really aware of the temperature outside. I have asthma and the cold made it a little difficult to breathe, but I started to feel better when I got inside. The instructor was late, and all the usual class-goers were chatting and catching up with each other. I was very much the outsider. No one spoke to me, no one knew me, I wasn’t one of their group.

I took my ticket to the instructor and told her it was my first class. She looked at me doubtfully, sizing me up in all my plus-sized glory, and told me the class was not for beginners, that it was very fast. I said I’d be willing to give it a go, and she said I was very welcome. I followed everyone else, picked up my step and my mat, and my hand weights – for some reason – and went and got a place right at the back of the class, as far away from the mirror as I could possibly get.

She was right. It was FAST. I had no idea what the steps were, but I kept up as best I could. Very quickly though, too quickly, I was running out of breath. It wasn’t the exercise, it was the asthma. My chest was tight, I couldn’t take in enough breath but luckily I knew exactly where my inhalers were – one was at home in my handbag, and one was on my bedside table. I usually go to classes straight from work and so have my handbag with me, but not today. I had two options. I could stick it out until I passed out, or I could pick up my things, admit defeat and leave. Instead I chose to take a breather. Only 10 minutes into the class I went to sit in the foyer to see if I could get my breath back, and to call Tony to bring my inhaler, but he didn’t answer. I called 4 times but he didn’t answer. He’d said he might go for a swim, and that was probably where he was. With no other option I went back into the studio. I checked my gym bag in vain for the inhaler that I should have put in there, but of course it wasn’t there.

I made a half-arsed attempt to join back in. It didn’t help that they were now doing something so complicated that I couldn’t even tell there was a pattern. I hopped about a bit, eventually got into a rhythm, and quickly realised that my time was up. It was with an overwhelming sense of shame and defeat that I picked up my bag and my coat and left the studio. You see, I wasn’t an asthmatic woman leaving a class because she’d foolishly forgotten to bring her inhaler. I was a fat woman, easily the biggest one in the room, who couldn’t keep up with the class and was now so out of breath that she had to go home, only 20 minutes in.

Now, in truth, I don’t actually know what anyone else was thinking. They may have managed to read my mind and realise I was having breathing trouble, they may not have even noticed me. Unfortunately though, I’m not stupid. It is impossible not to notice me in a fitness studio. I am 6ft, very overweight and the only one wearing a dress because leggings and t-shirts aren’t built for my shape. I’m also the only one with bingo wings prolific enough to launch their own online gambling franchise. I feel as welcome as a hipster in a Yorkshire village pub. I know damned well what everyone thought – the looks were enough.

It took me half an hour to do the 10 minute walk home. By the time I got in I was wheezing so hard I felt faint. I was trying very hard not to panic and cry, and the humiliation was overshadowed only by my anger at myself.

Any normal person would have been able to look in the mirror, or at the scales, or at the fit of their clothes and see that they were not losing weight. They would see this lack of progress and recognise that this meant that they were not, in fact, making any progress. Not me though, oh no, not me. I see the fact that I’ve stopped climbing stairs and cycling to work, that I’ve once again started to let unhealthy food edge its way into my diet, and I think “Oh, look at me, I’m doing great!” Reality is not my strong suit. Nor is it my friend. In fact, I’m pretty sure it hates me.

Looking in that mirror at the over-sized, out of breath person that used to be me, I finally realised that I was not doing as well as I’d hoped. At the rate I was going I would not be the slim, toned bride I dreamed of being. No, I would forever look back on my wedding photos and curse myself for not trying harder. I have a chance to lose this weight, to improve my health and to make the actual me look like the past me that I still see in my head, the one I know is still in there, in time for the most important day of my life. If I don’t take it I’m going to resent myself for longer than I care to guess.

So, how is this a win? Well, it’s not. Not really. What it could be, however, is the kick up the arse I need to help me see the reality of my situation and start taking responsibility for changing it. I’m damned well going back to that class next week, WITH my inhaler, and I’m going to do the whole bloody thing. If only to find out what the hand weights were for.

Wish me luck, because I really, really need it.

Longing for swimwear

I’ve been stuck for something to write about over the last couple of weeks. Therapy’s going well, work’s going well, everything’s good and I have nothing to report on. Or so I thought. However, I’m currently trying to buy a swimsuit, “trying” being the operative word, and suddenly I have something to write about. Stop the press!! Yes, I know it sounds riveting, sorry.

We’re heading off to sunny climes in the not too distant future. Spain to be precise. I haven’t actually been to Spain, ever, I don’t think. I’ve been to Menorca with extended family, but I was 7 and don’t remember much, except that it was sunny and nice. The one thing that does stick in my memory about that holiday, is standing on a balcony with my cousins and my brother, looking over into an apartment opposite and seeing a gentleman getting it oooooon with his lady friend. We didn’t fully understand what they were doing, but were aware that it was “rude!”, and so we threw olives at them. Said gentleman became understandably irate and retaliated with pegs. One of them hit my finger and really hurt, which brought our parents out on to the balcony, late to the party, to shout at irate gentleman about throwing things at children. To make matters even worse, they were amazed at how much we apparently liked olives and bought us some more.

“Dear amorous Spanish gentleman,

I hereby apologise for throwing olives at you when you were trying to get your end away. I was only 7 and didn’t know any better. I’m also sorry that we didn’t tell our parents the real reason you threw a peg at me until many years later. I’m also sorry that we all laughed about it, a lot. I hope you managed to get your leg over in the end.

Sincerely,

Charlotte.”

Anyway, that has nothing to do with swimsuits, sorry. So, up until last year, Tony and I hadn’t had many holidays in our 5 years of relationship. Other than a lovely week in Brittany with lovely friends, a gorgeous long weekend in Paris for my 30th birthday (he’s an old romantic about once every 3 years) and a week at Center Parks in the Lakes (never again), we hadn’t really seen much sun. For this reason my parents took pity on us and invited us for a week in the Isle of Wight last year. It was wonderful. The weather was perfect, good enough for a trip to the beach and a swim in the sea every day. It reminded us of how nice it is to have a holiday once in a while. So, off to Spain we go, also with my parents (our holiday enablers), for two weeks. It may seem strange for a 30+ year old couple to be going on holiday with parents, but we get on with them so well that it’s not a problem. Also, they like to do their own thing once in a while, as do we, so we don’t spend every day together.

The Glorious Isle of Wight

The Glorious Isle of Wight

I’m excited about the holiday, I am, but I’m also quite apprehensive. The weather in the Isle of Wight was a complete surprise, so this is the first time I’m actually expecting sunshine and heat, and planning my wardrobe accordingly. Now, fat people don’t do well in the heat, at least I don’t. Hot, sweaty and bothered is not a good look on anyone, and even though I’ve lost about a stone I am still not what ­­­­Protein World would call “Beach Body Ready”. Incidentally, for anyone who hasn’t seen the nation’s response, please click here as it is nothing short of wonderful.

Don’t get me wrong, I fall firmly into the camp that believes that the way to become beach body ready is to put your body, whatever it looks like, on a beach. I struggle with my own body image though and am not brave enough to wear a bikini, as many awesome women are. While I think they look fabulous, and am sure that the world would not end if I put a bikini on and joined them, I just don’t have it in me, not yet. For this reason, buying summer clothes I won’t overheat in, but that don’t show too much of me, is a horribly daunting prospect, and that’s before we even get to swimsuits.

So, plus sized swimsuits. There are some really great options available these days, and I should be spoiled for choice. Simply Be have a brilliant range with some really nice choices, as do M&S and Long Tall Sally. Yes, I’m sure there are more retailers catering for the bigger girl, but the reason I’ve used these three as examples is that I’m not only plus-sized, but I’m tall as well. Longer length swimsuits are few and far between – I mean swimsuits that are actually longer length, as opposed to those that say they are but fall short of the required length by enough centimetres to render the wearer a hunched-over Quasimodo impersonator. The alternative being standing up straight and choosing between your boobs popping out of the top, or giving yourself and atomic wedgie. Yeah, not ideal.

I’ve bought two swimsuits from Simply Be in the past, Exhibit A and Exhibit B. While they’re perfectly nice, well-made suits they each fall into the Quasimodo category. Neither are long enough, and while the purple one is wearable due to being fairly stretchy, I have encountered many an almost boob appearance whilst swimming. The black and pink option is not serviceable at all, I don’t believe that it is, in fact, longer length.

Not wanting to encounter this dilemma again, I chose to buy my holiday suits from Long Tall Sally. I’ve been buying from them on and off for about 20 years now, and they not only have great quality clothes, but they really are longer length and comfortably so at that. I chose two swimsuits, Exhibit C and Exhibit D. They were lovely, the fit was comfortable, the fabric nice, the designs attractive, and they were definitely long enough. However, for the larger busted amongst us, they are fairly obscene. Rather than having one of those clever shelf panel things to sit your boobs in, each suit had only an ineffectual, soft piece of foam on each side. The foam was not supported by a band underneath, neither was it stiff enough to actually support a boob. I wish that my breasts still defied gravity as they did when I was 18, but alas I am now 33 and they are considerably bigger, and therefore heavier. Unsurprisingly I chose to return these rather than to give everyone a show they didn’t ask for.

I’m still awaiting my latest choices. I’ve decided to turn to that old favourite, M&S, the place where Britain buys its underwear. You can’t go wrong with Marks & Sparks. I hope. Their suits are generally long *enough* – there isn’t much leeway, they could stand to be longer, but generally they’re alright. They also seem to understand the boob issue quite well, so I have high hopes for Exhibit E and Exhibit F (in red) and even higher hopes that they won’t exhibit my double Gs!

A very trivial blog post I know, but there we go. Wish me luck…

Me and The Girls

Me and The Girls

Not cool

So, today I read an open letter from a J Barlow to Katie Hopkins. For those of you who haven’t read it, you can find it here, and you really should because it’s ace. However, I’m not (currently) going to get into the debate about mental health, or to add my opinion to J’s, because I agree wholeheartedly with him and he’s literally said everything that needs saying. Instead, I’m going to write an open letter of my own, one that I’ve been wanting to write since I started this blog, a letter with a very different subject. A letter to the woman who publically fat-shamed me just over a year ago:

Dear woman in charity shop with impressionable children in tow,

At first glance you seemed to be a pleasant person, you even blessed me when I sneezed upon entering the shop, for which I thanked you. I must admit that I didn’t really pay any attention to you though, following that short interaction, for no other reason than that I was going about my business of being fully engrossed in cheap cardigans and questionable DVDs, and you yours. To say that I was surprised therefore when, upon exiting the shop, you shouted for me to “keep my f*cking germs to myself” would be a massive understatement. I didn’t actually realise it was me you were shouting at, I even turned around to see if I could spot your  unfortunate victim, only to realise it was me when you looked me straight in the eye and added “yeah, you, you fat cow”.

People stared, people giggled, I was suddenly immensely and painfully aware of my boyfriend standing beside me and the fact that he’d heard what you’d said, seen the stares and witnessed the giggles.

Yes, surprise would be an understatement. Amazement is closer to the mark. That is why I stopped and stood bemused outside the shop until you came out. I wasn’t hoping for a confrontation, and please don’t mistake my bewilderment for bravado, I can assure you that I felt only shocked and humiliated.

Of course, you couldn’t possibly have known that I was on the verge of losing my job, that I had been diagnosed with some pretty serious mental health conditions only 3 days previously, that I was yet to start treatment or have any support whatsoever, and that my self-esteem was, at that point, akin to that of an unemployed, smelly, weedy cockroach whose girlfriend has just left him for a considerably younger and more virile cockroach, taking all his money and leaving him with a massive pile of debts and a severe case of leprosy. For you, a stranger, to shout at me in public was bad enough, that I had no idea why was worse, but for you to proceed to personal physical insult was the crowning turd in the water pipe (thanks Blackadder).

I’m actually glad that I stood outside the shop, frozen to the spot with my mouth hanging open, for long enough for you to emerge. At least it cleared up what I was being accused of. When you laid into me again for being a “fat cow” and “coughing” and “bringing my germs out in public” it was quite satisfying to be able to tell you that the cough you heard on our way out of the shop wasn’t actually me, it was my boyfriend, and that neither of us were even ill. Heaven only knows what possessed me to do what I did next, put it down to a very strong feeling that things couldn’t get any worse, but sensing the hesitation in your face when you realised you’d yelled at the wrong person (not that you would have been justified in yelling at the ‘right’ person) I took the opportunity to tell you that the fact that I’m fat has nothing to do with the reason you were angry with me. That my appearance shouldn’t come into it at all, and that it was an incredibly unfair bring it up.

I would genuinely like to thank you though, for standing and listening to me while I bundled up all my accumulated anger at the myriad people who had felt the need to mock my appearance over the years. Thank you for not simply walking away while I told you that all you’d succeeded in doing was ruining my day, humiliating me in public, knocking my self-confidence down to zero, confirming all my worst fears about myself and the way I looked and making me want to go home. Thank you for answering “no” when I asked if I really deserved that just for being fat. Or if my being fat was any of your business.

I may have walked away from you in tears, I may have felt like going home and eating an enormous pizza seasoned with my feelings, I may even have spent the rest of the day in a state of itchy paranoia every time I heard a giggle or saw someone look my way, but the fact was that I didn’t go home. I didn’t give in. The pure fact that you listened to me and admitted you’d been wrong gave me a bare ounce of my dignity back, which turned out to be enough to get me through the rest of the afternoon.

The real magic though came an hour later when you saw us again and purposefully crossed the road to apologise once more. You sounded genuinely regretful when you told me that what you’d said wasn’t fair, and that I could call you a “skinny cow” if it would make me feel better. As I ineffectually tried to explain though, that wasn’t the point. I wasn’t interested in calling you names or making you feel bad, I was interested in making sure that the next time you got angry with a fat person, you didn’t succumb to name-calling and public-shaming if it wasn’t relevant to your anger. My intention was to help you to understand that a person’s size, just like their gender/religion/ethnicity/sexual preference/dress sense or anything else so wholly irrelevant should never be brought into an argument as a weapon. Beggars are seldom allowed to be choosers however, and I was just very grateful indeed to you for being the first person ever to apologise for publically fat-shaming me. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you’re wrong, and to do so to a stranger, in front of your children, must have taken even more.

Sincerely,

Charlotte.

Incidentally, I think we had a Chinese, not a pizza.

Happy Easter, Easter-celebrators. Happy Bank Holiday, non-Easter-celebrators. I hope that whatever you do is enjoyable, relaxing and covered in sunshine x

Phil

A picture of Philip as, contrary to my claims at the beginning of this blog, he hasn’t been in it at all yet.