The surprising things that can happen when a plus-size positive blogger turns up to a weight management class.
I have a happy job. Whether I’m writing brochure material for people choosing their next holiday or website content helping walkers to find the best baths and breathtaking views, the words that help make someone’s day brighter, also pay my mortgage.
Lucky as I am, there are gremlins in the tools of my trade: namely pet hate words. The first two on the list are ‘nice’ and ‘tasty’. Rather benign words and their bland nature is exactly why they rarely come across my keyboard.
Third on the list is the word ‘slim’.
Let me explain.
I’m a bit of a liberal feminist in that I believe the spirit of equal concern extends across all of humanity, not just womb-men but during my studies I was fascinated by texts by the likes of Jeanette Winterson, Susie Orbach and Michelle Boulous Walker. A vast area of reading, discovery and discussion, I was intrigued by how society tells us what our body means and how to use it.
For example, take the backlash against plus-size model Tess Holliday Instagramming pics of herself at the gym or blogger Callie Thorpe looking fabulous in her curvy, white wedding dress last year. These are women getting on with their lives, being creative, making waves. Why is their size the first thing people think about? Why do everyday people suddenly turn into metabolism consultants, all concerned about their health? Would people dream of giving feedback on any other aspect of someone’s life? Like high-profile people who drink, smoke or take drugs? What about shifty politicians who take away benefits from vulnerable people and call it austerity? All that cortisol can’t be good for them.
So, back to the word ‘slim’. What does that word mean?
A child of the 70’s, to me it conjures up slacks -beige, tailored polyester trousers with an invisible support panel. It’s rows of women on their backs in a church hall, raising their leotard clad legs in unison: “and lift, ladies, lift”.
Slim is the goal, slim is acceptable, slim is what women should be. The onus is on us to be slim – whether pushing a small child in a trolley around the supermarket or pulling a workbag on wheels into a conference room, valid women are slim. Why would anyone want to take a fat woman seriously? We’re mumsy, ill-disciplined and have clearly let ourselves go.
And this is my problem with slim. It’s a political word. It doesn’t just mean you’re lean – you’re also hard working, controlled, an achiever.
But where does that leave the rest of us?
Should those of us who’ve fought podge since childhood be left on the heap? I have a First Class Honours Degree – I earned this while I was a single parent to a toddler and holding down a part-time job in order to survive. I think I have self-discipline aplenty. I enjoy my job, have a happy family and now post-forty I’m more comfortable in my fat body than ever before.
But I’m not slim.
I have not achieved slim.
And the outrageous soul within doesn’t want me to conform. Even if I lost all the weight, I don’t think I’d ever want to be considered slim. It’s just not me.
So, when I found myself sat in a Slimming World class for the first time earlier this week, I thought “why am I here?”.
I thought I’d feel compromised but I didn’t.
I thought the inspirational chat at the beginning would make me run out through the community centre fire doors screaming but it didn’t.
I thought the terminology would annoy me (as so often jargon does) but it didn’t.
And now I’m left wondering why.
And I think it’s to do with my mate who brought me along. She’s a savvy lady. Seen a lot, done a lot. There’s little she doesn’t know about raising plants, nurturing children, crafting and ushering warm dishes to the table. But she’s also a trusting soul with a realistic view of the world – she knows where to place her cynicism, where to make compromises and she has a deep perspective that reaches out into the long-game.
And my childhood friend who made me feel a foot taller with one phone call earlier this week. This body is beautiful, it’s valid, I’m loved.
It’s also that the focus of the eating plan (‘diet’ is naturally my forth most hated word) is all about nourishment, not going hungry and realism: cocking up is not just tolerated, it’s expected.
I know that I have an intricately marvellous vessel (check out You Are Already Amazing) and it’s bumps and curves tell its story of survival. I believe that we all can feel good now. Right now. Not in some far-off future. And without this belief, you’ll make minor changes that bring temporary results but to make a lasting change, you have to be convinced of your value. Right here, in this moment.
Like everyone, I forget this sometimes: and I think the word slim just doesn’t help.
But I also have diabetes peppered throughout my family – something I can’t afford to ignore.
So, because I love this body and I want it to continue, I’ll put up with the word slim. Perhaps I’ll reinvent it, make it mine, unload it. Who knows.
I’ll check back in and let you know about slim when I get there.
How do you feel about ‘slim’? How do you feel about ‘nice’ and ‘tasty’? Do you feel like you need to defend them? What are your pet hate words? I’d love you to share them.
And if I’ve made you think about what values are written on your body, check out some of my other ideas on being body positive like The Tibetan Proverb and What I’ve Been Doing Wrong All This Time and The Damaging Lack of Control that Could Sink the NHS.