[This is a syndicated post from the blog: Talkin' From The Heart.]
For years now I have lived in jeans. I just love them. When I am not wearing them, I wear trousers. Before this I lived in combats, well they are the old skool ravers choice after all I have always been a tomboy. Always.
Over the last decade I started to wear bangles, drop earrings, a variety of rings and necklaces and flower brooches. I started to have confidence in being feminine, something my mother never taught me. Pink was not allowed – of any shade. Being girlie was just not for me. Only for my sister. Over the last 5 years I have added patterns to my clothes, somewhat intimidating for me, but I got used to it. I still prefer block colours but I am learning how to wear patterns and put them together. The clothes have been getting a little more feminine as I have gone along (thanks to a Vogue subscription!). Long gone are the days of me hiding who I am under ponchos.
You see I have never liked the way I look. Even when I was thin (and I think most of you will agree a UK size 8-10 is thin!) I used to think I was fat. I had proportion distortion BIG time. I suffered from Bullimia, and thanks to a girl at school called Emma, who I thought I could trust, I got bullied for it during the last 2 years of school. I have not thrown up for a long time, well not intentionally anyway, and I feel better for it. My jaws don’t ache for one thing.
After having 2 children, a life threatening illness and a lack of time to workout as I used to, my body has changed beyond all recognition. Finding a gym or place of exercise here in Cairo suitable for my schedule is near impossible, simply because many places put classes on during the day – because none of us women work obviously! I don’t want to be surrounded by other ex-pats. I want to integrate, but I want to do it in places where I can work out properly. I want a spinning class, a rowing machine, a treadmill, a free weights area, some kick pads and a punch bag and I want to be able to work my but off in a combat style class. Oh and I also want a sauna, steam and jacuzzi to unwind in and relieve my muscles after my workout. Not too much to ask is it?
Before children I used to do 100 crunches followed by 100 planks every morning and night. I loved my 6 pack (not washboard stomach – too manly) and I long to see it again. I used to work out with free weights for 30 mins, do an hour of high impact aerobics, followed by a mile swim 3 nights a week. For the nights I wasn’t in aerobics I did an hour and a half of Ju Jitsu. At the weekend I would dance all night Friday and Saturday… and I mean proper dancing to full on techno with the bad ass bass lines and hip hop rifts provided by the legendary Producer, mental, cheeky tunes supplied by the superb Scorpio and the mental mayhem of Mark EG. I miss me. I miss the person who I think I am inside.
3 and a half years ago I started to walk every where. After being told by the Dr that I should take it easy, this was all I was ‘allowed’ to do. Then when my lung capacity increased I was allowed to start swimming, then I started to increase my exercise regime reading to start training for a half marathon. My first ‘competitive’ run.. or rather jog I fell in love with running. I used to go running through the parks in Sheffield and through the woodlands, up Bannerdale Road, along Ecclesall Road, through Endcliffe Park, along Rustlings Road then onto Hangingwater with a nice walk back to Bannerdale to cool down, with some mad dash sprints in between. I felt alive! I felt amazing. The only frustration is even though I was relatively fit, I could not lose the weight I had gained during my 2nd pregnancy and life threatening illness 5 and half years ago. I had ballooned from a UK size 12 (post first child figure) to a size 22 in 7 months. Add to this all the medicinal drugs I took, a lack of activity and deep depression. I didn’t know who I was when I looked in the mirror. I hated what I saw. I knew it was not entirely my fault, I mean who asks to have a life threatening illness!?But I still hated what I saw.
Hating what you see in the mirror is sole destroying. You have to learn to love yourself. When you gain weight this quickly, you have to learn how to dress again. You even have to learn how to move around properly. Becoming that overweight in such a short period of time when you have always been energetic, slim (even if you didn’t realise it at the time) and able to wear pretty much anything you wanted and still look good, if not great on the odd occasion, is a very scary thing. People stare at you. People are nasty to you. You feel guilty about eating, even the smallest things. I ate healthily: fish, chicken, salads veggies, red meat occasionally, all of it grilled or raw (with the odd roasted chicken and potato Sunday dinner thrown in for good measure!) I would have fish and chips maybe once a month if I was lucky. Calories input were a lot less than calories output. You’d think simple calculations would work… but it didn’t.
Then 1 year ago I discovered I had a wheat allergy. I stopped eating wheat every day, and stopped completely (until my friend Yasmine tempts me with freshly baked croissants and besboosa the last twice she has seen me!) When I stopped eating wheat I lost nearly 16kg. Now I am back to a size 14-16. I still have about 10-15kg to lose which will hopefully drop off when I join the gym in August after I get back from Lebanon, or at least tone up my body after having lost all this weight. I know I will never be as thin as I used to be. In all honesty, I don’t want to be. I would rather carry a little extra weight and have the 2 wonderful children I have, than be skinny and childless. I would rather come home and have a hug from my husband who understands my struggle and situation than go home to an empty house night after night. I love my life and wouldn’t change anything, except maybe the wheat allergy!
My journey of self image has changed so much over the years. I have learnt to value who I am regardless of what I look like, but in an image conscious world it is one of the hardest journeys I have ever been on. I think the most surprising thing for me is that in the last 2 weeks I have brought 2 dresses. Yes you read that last bit correctly all my friends in the UK. Dawny is wearing dresses!!! I cannot believe it myself, so I do not expect any of you to believe it. I had to wear a dress for my friends wedding a few months ago. I bought a new dress last week and secretly enjoyed wearing it, even though it was the most alien thing in the world to me. I even looked lady like, even though I am not the most lady like person you will ever meet! I have another wedding this Sunday where I will be wearing another new dress, which I purchased today. I saw it, I loved it, I bought it. It looked good, felt and looked strange to me but it looks good.
Now all I have to do is get a box of hair dye, get my hair restyled and tone up this body so I feel good and look good for me, not for my hubby, but for me. I want to kick the crap out of the punch bag. I want to run my 6 minute miles again. I want to be able to complete a 45 min, high intensity spinning session and feel the burn in my butt. I want to swim my 20 minute mile again. I want to know who that person is looking back at me. I want to see me again, because God created me the way I am. To not love me would be insulting to Him, and insulting to all those who do love me, especially my two boys and my uber gorgeous hubby Give me 6 months and I guarantee I will be back to a size 12 again. But in the mean time, I will love myself just because I want to.