Updated: Jun 25, 2021
It had been 10 years, I was set to return to the paradise land, my home for four blissful years of my twenties, Thailand. I had been hungry, running, lifting weights, dancing and contorting my way toward the perfect bikini body for months. Of course, I'm a woman, so I wasn't totally happy, despite looking the best I had in years.
Then the news came that foreign travel was cancelled, and I would be spending the next year imprisoned at home instead of enjoying three magical weeks in Asia. I was devastated, not only because I was pining for the exotic beaches, but I would not be seeing all the friends I had left behind all those years ago, my children would not be experiencing the magic of Thai culture, and my husband would not see the places that changed the path of my life forever. I was crushed, and left utterly demotivated by life, diet and exercise.
Even if I had wanted to keep up my fitness routine, my gym was closed. I tried, along with the nation, to follow Joe Wicks, but didn't get past week one! Working out in my lounge, trying to avoid the inevitable bumps and scrapes from the coffee table, not to mention the carpet burns on my butt, grew tiresome quickly. So what did I do to soothe my spirit? Take up meditating and yoga? Discover mindfulness? No, like most of the world, I put down my dumbells and picked up my biscuits.
I was spending day after day, performing like a monkey for my children's entertainment, who seemed to neither enjoy nor desire my gameplay, teaching or pitiful attempts at upbeat storytelling. At the end of every stress-filled day I would collapse, defeated and reach for food that brought me comfort and a glass of wine that helped my unease, ease, if only for a moment.
It was only when restrictions lifted and I tried to squeeze into my beautiful summer wardrobe, purchased for my Asian adventure the previous summer, that I realised the true extent of my indulgences. Nothing fit me; I was out of shape and immediately felt like an utter failure. But why? How can a few pesky pounds (in my case 14, eeek) leave us feeling so awful? Who decided that 'comfort food' was bad and should equal shame? If a roast dinner with apple pie to follow brings you joy, should it not be garnered with the same worth as a tasteless grilled fish and quinoa salad should. 'Who has decided that one is better than the other? that we should be applauded for avoiding anything that could be considered... dah dah dah, high in fat!
Now, I'm not one to advocate gluttony or obesity. I love to run, and I enjoy the gym, but the food that got me through lockdown is no longer the enemy. This year I refuse to be told my body is nothing short of amazing. It has given me two children; it has served me well my whole life and survived Covid. I want to stand in front of a mirror and celebrate what it is. AMAZING. I will look after my body the best way I know how, regular exercise and lots of fruit and veg but if I want chocolate to cheer me, that is what is firmly back on the menu.
Is it solely down to the demon diet industry that we believe our 'indulgences' are loathsome, purely because they might hinder our endless pursuit of the 'perfect body'? I fear it is more down to ourselves, for holding ourselves to impossible ideals. It is only ourselves who are stopping us from loving ourselves, love handles and all.
I, for one, am planning on filling my hours of newfound freedom with lunches with friends, celebratory bottles of champagne, BBQ's with family, freshly baked baps and oodles of fresh Cornish ice cream. This year let's stop with the self-loathing because this year, we have been through enough already.
Let's embrace the extra pounds that make us extra squishy to hold and hug. I say let's eat, meet and be merry!