Silencing the critical voice…

This afternoon, we have a post that is honest, meaty and powerfully thought provoking, from a legendary writer, Anna K. Many of you will already know her via Any Other Woman, but if you don’t and you enjoy what you read here, go on over and check it out. It’s like medicine for the mind with refreshing, sometimes challenging and always life affirming essays from a host of intelligent and brilliant women. Thanks for sharing your story here today Anna and I’ll be looking forward to landing and reading the comments later this afternoon.

For a long time, I was undecided about what to write for my guest post for Florence Finds.  I write a lot about feelings and being a woman and about people’s stories for Any Other Woman, and I wanted to take the chance to write something different, to try something new, to push myself.

So I wrote a post about makeup.  But Rebecca could do it better.  I wrote a post about dressing for anything above a D cup.  It sounded hollow and I got bored.  I’m not good at style, fashion, beauty.

Sod it, I thought.  The best blog posts are the ones you have to pull out from inside of you, kicking and screaming because they don’t want to come out.  I’m going to do what I do best, and tell you all a story.

A story about who we are and what we stand for irrespective of style, fashion and beauty.

It’s about me, because that’s what I know best.  It’s not particularly remarkable, but it’s mine.

When I was younger I was a competitive swimmer. I trained every day and competed most weekends. It was all I knew.  When I was 14 I was diagnosed with a severe form of scoliosis. I underwent major spinal surgery.  This pulled me out of training for many months and subsequently ended my intended career as a competitive swimmer.  I have no idea if I’d ever have made it professional; statistics say probably not, but I’ll never know.

I went from training an extortionate amount of hours every week to training not at all.  And here’s the mistake I made: upon stopping training, I ate the same amount as I always had done.  I ate the same because I had no concept of the amount of fuel needed to power that kind of strict training regime – I just thought everyone ate what I did.  I whacked on stones and stones of weight and the consequences of that weight gain defined me and who I was for the next seven years of my life.

 

How I looked overshadowed who I was and what I stood for.  It influenced the decisions I made, the places I went, the people I loved.  I looked at other women in the park ,on the tube, in work, and I compared myself to them.  I avoided places with mirrors.  I dressed in black, to blend in.  I carefully orchestrated a social life that avoided any attention on my body. 

I developed the strongest of the strong political stances because no-one would think about how I looked if I could capture their attention in another way; with my mind, with my beliefs, with my convictions.

I thought constantly about what it would be like to be thinner.  It’s so hard to describe what that crippling obsession is like if you’re one of the lucky ones, who doesn’t live with this particular demon.  You live for an impossible dream and it dissolves all that you are inside but you don’t know it.  Next week I’ll stop eating junk food.  Next week I’ll be a better person.  People will love me more if I’m thinner, once I’m more beautiful.
People will know I’m not lazy if I could just lose weight.

You get sucked into a cycle of feeling like crap about how you look so you eat to make yourself feel better and then you look even worse so you eat more and it’s a never-ending spin cycle which mangles up your self-esteem and hell, even your sense of self, and spits it out into the utility room floor, unrecognisable.

When I was 22 I lost (most of) the weight.  Over the subsequent years I reached the stage where I could get through the day without thinking about my body and what everyone else thought of it.  It was joyous.  Still is.  I still count myself lucky that I climbed out of that spin cycle relatively unscathed.

But the point of this post is not to talk about body hang-ups.  We’ve talked about this previously on Florence Finds, and we’ve said what we can.  It’s to point out my real regret of this whole situation.  This is what my subconscious whispers in my ear when I’m feeling down, when I’ve had a bad day, when things look bleak.  Just think, it says, just think what you could have achieved in those seven years, if you hadn’t been thinking about what you look like.

You could have written a novel.

You could have travelled the world.

You could have been someone, someone who changed the world, rather than someone who hid in the shadows because you believed beauty was a judgement upon women.

The sheer time, effort and blind commitment that went into caring what I looked like breaks my heart.

And this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it.  We are so, so lucky.  We are, and I mean this in all sincerity, phenomenally talented woman with opportunities of which those that came before us simply could never have dreamed.  We forget what mountains we could climb if we just tried, if we just ignored the everyday noise and our inner critical voice.

That voice is there, it whispers in your ear every day. You can be the most savvy, together, self-confident woman in the world and the whisper may be more hushed, but it’s still there. It’s fed every day by images of impossible beauty and stories of women who achieved so much more than you did, are doing, could ever do.

And it stops us. It stops us achieving greatness. It tells us we can’t, we won’t. It says “never”. And we listen.

This is a call to silence that critical voice. Why should we listen to it?

Isn’t life hard enough? Isn’t it hard enough to find beauty without that voice on our shoulder chipping away at our sense of self? That voice isn’t in our blood, under our skin, in our DNA. It is not part of us. We choose to listen to it. We make that choice.

You may not be able to drown out the voice completely, but you Can refuse to listen.

You can choose how you spend your time. You can waste the one life you have criticising yourself, and worrying about how you look or are or should be.

Or you could change the world. Your world, the world of those around you.

Take a deep breath.  You are the most phenomenal human being.  Rip it up. Let it go. Be proud. Strive further. Live harder.

Don’t let what you could be drown out who you are.

Going back to my original point. Clothes, makeup, beauty. It’s all meaningless if you don’t genuinely, truly believe you have the power to change yourself, each other, your world.

You do. You can. Make that choice. Who’s with me?

Read more from Anna at Any Other Woman and follow @AnyOtherWoman and @AnyOtherAnnaK
*image via here

The Weigh In

Last week’s post about feeling comfortable in your own skin and the fact that I am definitely not happy in mine, rang true for quite a few of you. As promised, here’s the update. Each week that I update you I’ll be sharing a little tip or insight into things that work for me when it comes to shedding a few unwanted pounds and hopefully get you all sharing more tips and tricks.

So, I’m sitting here writing this and I am starving. That kind of hungry you get when you’re dieting because the outrageous gluttony of your ‘must-leave-behind eating habits’ has stretched your stomach beyond reasonable proportions and it’s begging for a massive bowl of mashed potato, or gnocci, or fresh bread. Sorry, you came here for help, not temptation so I’ll wind up the carb chat. (I should also point out that although that was evidence of a serious carb craving right there, I don’t routinuely ditch carbs as a diet trick, because although, sure, it makes you lose weight fast, as soon as you start eating white foods again, those pounds go right back on.) And that kind of feast or famine dieting is exactly how you ruin your metabolism. So don’t do it kids!

I got weighed this morning (cue party poppers) 2lbs off and I’m feeling pleased with myself.


Image Credit: Constant Motivation

So what have I been doing? Well, it’s mainly been about food and breaking my habits of a lifetime. I’m a big snacker and I also boredom eat. I graze the fridge as soon as I get through the front door each the evening and more often than not I put food in my mouth without thinking about it. So I’ve made a real effort to stop that. Did you know, by the way, that real change in behaviour takes 30 days, or so they say? After 30 days past habits can be erased and your new healthy change becomes your habit, making everything easier, so you’ve only got x more days to struggle through!

A lot of my personal sucess rate with dieting is down to planning. This week instead of leaving the shopping to Pete I made sure I had healthy lunches (Delias Root veg fat free soup) to take to work, fruit to snack on (pink lady apples and juicy seasonal clementines) and planned our evening dinners. Here’s an idea of what I ate:

  • Monday: Tom Yum Soup (look out for the recipe later this week)
  • Tuesday: Baked cod with a potato and celeriac rosti on swede and carot mash – using up the veg left from the soup
  • Wednesday: Gnocci with puttanesca sauce (both from Morrisons) and parmesan shavings. Although not a classical ‘diet dish’ it’s fine as long as you watch the portions.
  • Thursday: Salmon Steak with stirfried savoy cabbage (mounds of it) and leeks.
  • Friday: Treat night – Turkey breast fajhitas (Just an old el paso kit and I limited myself to 2, with loads of peppers and onions.)

I’ll admit, I didn’t really want to diet, but after a couple of days of trying to be good but with mountains of food around the house post-christmas, I was still grazing. My solution to that is to keep a food diary and so instead of returning to Weight Watchers, I decided to give My Fitness Pal (on my iPhone) a go. Lots of you have recommended it and I actually had downloaded it a while back on my phone but not had the motivation to really use it. It’s free which was perfect as my bone of contention with WW was that I really didn’t want to pay for something I knew how to do, I just needed to do it. That said, if you’ve never had to diet before and need pointers on where to start, WW can’t be faulted and I’d definitely recommend it.

So far, so good. Ive used the app most days. It lets you list all you’ve eaten, tells you how much you should eat to lose the weight you want and adds in health information too, like if you’re going too far and underweight. Nearly all foods are there with the calories and if you do any exercise you record that too and get to eat more. Bonus! There’s also a little progress graph and you can diet with friends. By the way, if you want to look me up it’s RebeccaFF 🙂

I’d love to hear how you have all been getting on this week. Have you been dieting or focusing on exercise, or have you tried My Fitness Pal? What is your secret to diet success?

Of course I’ve also been upping my game when it comes to exercise but I’ll save that for next week 🙂

Love,
Rebecca
xo

In your own skin…

I am struggling right now. With what you might ask? Fashion. Writing about it, I am just about managing, but wearing it? Buying it? It’s just not happening.

I kid you not when I say I bought no new outfit for Christmas – something I have done for as long as I can remember and strange as it may sound, really put a dampener on my Christmas. I’m seriously struggling with New Year as I write this and considering hiding in a bin bag until the whole thing is over, and I’ve lost some weight. I’ve said it, I am just too heavy right now.

I always umm and ahh over writing posts like this. I’m more than aware of the influence print and film media have over their viewers and blogging is no exception. I’ll come right out and say it, I am not over weight medically, or unhealthy. The bottom line? I just don’t fit into my clothes and it’s pi$*ing me off.


Pinterest

Let’s get the details out here first. I’m 5ft 6 inches and right now, butt naked on the bathroom scales first thing in the morning, I’m tipping 10 stone 2lbs. Again, please don’t think this is a judgemental post, I’m fully aware there are plenty of you reading who are happy at heavier weight than this – whatever works for you is what I say. I certainly don’t look at women walking around at a size 12, 14, 16 and think, look at the size of her. All women can look good, even at the curvier end of the spectrum, as long as you’re fit and healthy.

I’m not one of those women who stands in front of the mirror prodding myself and bemoaning a muffin top or making myself miserable… I just don’t wear stuff that makes me feel like that. In fact, I realised the other day that I haven’t worn a single pair of jeans for over 2 months which is quite something given that they are my usual hang-about-the-house-or-anywhere-else-for-that-matter clothes. My current pairs are too tight. Uncomfortably tight. Not just a muffin top, but uncomfortable to sit down in tight. And because I am convinced this is the wrong size for me to be and I will eventually sort it out, I have refused to buy some.

The only other place it bothers me? The changing room. This might all sound like ridiculous ranting because I’ve never heard anyone say this before, but half a stone makes a massive difference to me buying clothes. Let me explain. The Ted Baker NYE jumpsuit I posted for Friday Frock a while back? A size 2 was too small, just too small. A bit tight around the top of the thighs/groin/bum and the zip did up but was un-breathably tight at the waist. Size 3, baggy and too big. I have a real ‘thing’ about clothes fitting properly and hate seeing people in tops that gape or trousers straining across the front. But that’s the situation I’m in right now. I love shopping and I love clothes, trying new looks, experimenting and looking good, but I’m frozen between sizes and it’s making me really fed up.


Pinterest

Looking back, I’ve lost weight in the past, most notably during a stint on Weight Watchers mid way through uni, when I realised that I still had 3 years to go and couldn’t keep eating like a dirty student or I’d exit uni looking like a house. Back then, I went from 10st 4 (my heaviest ever) to 9st 3. And I felt great, even though I was a little obsessed with counting my points! I kept it off for a while then gradually crept up to hover around 9st 7, which for me, is my ‘happy weight’. I can eat pretty much what I want as long as I’m exercising and fit all my clothes. I’m a happy bunny. Before my wedding I lost weight again, stress-induced, falling from 9st 12 a few months after we got engaged (the heaviest I can be and still fit my clothes, just,) to about 9 stone on my wedding day.

I kept that off too, you see I used to have one of those metabolisms that makes people really jealous. Or so I hear people say, because in actual fact, I was just really active. I went to the gym 3-4 times a week but more than that, I was watching what I ate and I never. sat. down. Until then, my day job was something that meant I was always on my feet, walking between departments, even running sometimes. Come 2010 and I found myself changing jobs to one that meant I barely sat down and then, along came blogging. RMW was so busy, so quickly, that I spent every minute that I wasn’t at work (sat on my bum,) in front of the computer screen. You guessed it. Sat on my bum. And now I’ve been this weight, or thereabouts for the best part of 2 years.


Dope Stuff

If this all seems a bit over the top, although this is a lifestyle blog, Florence Finds is also a fashion blog. Achievable fashion, but fashion all the same. I love clothes and I want to wear them in a way that makes me feel good about myself instead of feeling miserable about it. There’s nothing wrong with that. I really dislike when women (and we all know someone like this) don’t live their lives because they fear putting on a pound or two, won’t have a glass of wine because of the calories or share a slice of cake at a coffee stop on a girlie day out. But I can’t keep using my dislike of that kind of behaviour to pretend ‘living my life’ is an excuse for feeling like this.

And why haven’t I done anything about it? Several reasons. Until Florence Finds and me spending more time on clothes, I really didn’t give it much thought, I don’t obsess over it. And 7 lbs? It’s such a small amount it’s hardly worth losing, right? I’ll just watch what I eat? Wrong. I love my food and I have a really thing about self denial… life is short, I think you should enjoy it while you can. In the moment, cake is always going to win out over feeling virtuous. But I’ve started to realise that the cake gives me 5 minutes satisfaction then when I can’t fit into the clothes I want, half an hour of frustration over why I haven’t done something about it.

So I’m going to. And to make me, I’m going to keep you all updated. January is about fresh starts, new beginnings, good intentions and I needed to get the party season out of the way first, but from here on in I’m going to be tackling my spare half stone.

I’m guessing there are more than a few of you reading who will be thinking the same thing, so if you would like to join in and get a bit of group motivation then please drop me a comment to keep me going and I will tell you how I go about it in regular posts throughout January.

Lots of goodbye spare pounds love,
Rebecca,
xo

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