Little Old Me: why I’ll never go back

NEW mock up feature post edited 2

I stumbled upon this picture in some old files on my computer the other day. It was like being punched in the stomach when I saw it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one really is. A flood of memories came back of the day that was taken. I was about to go out for my office Christmas party in 2010 (or maybe 2009, can’t remember). The dress was just a cheap one from Primark in a size 8. In the hours before this being taken I’d eaten a green smoothie for breakfast and a very light salad for lunch, the meal wasn’t until after 7 and I’d come home feeling cold and starving. I can remember feeling a little ‘off’ (no fucking wonder right?) but at that time I still hadn’t had a period for several months, so I took what would be the first of several negative pregnancy tests. Although deep down I knew I wasn’t pregnant, I was still upset and that alongside the hunger led to me ‘bingeing’ on 2 protein shakes because they were the only thing I’d allow myself to eat before such a big meal out. 

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I look at that old version of myself now with a mixture of pity and gratitude. I guess the pity is obvious but the gratitude I feel is in looking back and now understanding that I needed to experience that rock bottom. Now, I’m (almost literally) twice the woman I was there, I’ve learned that happiness does not come with a size 8 label. I was running myself into the ground, ignoring the hunger inside me and instead feeding my desire to be more worthy with the ‘perfect’ diet.

The thigh gap has long gone, my skinny arms have bulked up and my waist is certainly more belly than abs. Yet I love it all so much, every last wobble and curve, and that is made so much easier when I look back and see that picture.

I had achieved what us women are told we should have to be happy, successful and worthy in this modern world. Thinness, the exercise regime, the ideal diet, slender yet muscular arms even the much coveted thigh gap. What the magazines and Instagram posts don’t tell you is what it might take for you to get there.

I’ve no doubt there’s many, many women who look like I did in that image and don’t need to run 3 times a week, do over an hour of cardio at the gym every day and eat a scanty vegan diet to maintain it. But I did. My body is not their body. Thanks to that experience, I know I could never be that woman again. I have neither the desire nor ability to do it. Instead I choose acceptance and love, I choose having an actual fucking life over obsession. I choose carrying around a spare 14lbs over what it would take for me to lose it – because believe me when I say, I understand what it would take for me to lose it. At the moment, it would cost my life and overall balance too much. Perhaps in the future when I’m in a new phase of life, losing that weight will become more of a priority, just now it’s just not and that’s a-ok. 

Right now I eat a fairly healthy diet, loads of plant-based foods and no restrictions on anything else. I love food and I enjoy my indulgences when I choose to have them (choose being the key word here, I’m now in the driver’s seat). I can’t remember the last time I binged. Over ate? Yes, I’m not perfect and sometimes I feel stuffed before I take that as a reminder to stop, like I said I love food! But I am accepting that at this phase of my life, when motherhood, new friendships and running a business has squeezed my time, when I choose other more soul nourishing forms of self care over intensive forms of exercise, that this version of me is the result.

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I choose the softness of my life now, over the hard edges of my old life. My old body may have been healthier in some ways (hormonally it clearly wasn’t) but I’d argue against anyone suggesting I’m not healthier now than I was back then. 

Health and wellbeing is not just a number on a scale, a BMI, a label in your jeans or the amount of miles you ran this morning. It’s not obsessing over everything you put in your mouth, it’s not bingeing every evening, it’s feeling no guilt around food, it’s knowing that you’re setting a good example to your kids, it’s moving your body in a way that feels good and not forcing it to do something that makes you feel physically sick. 

Every calorie you count and every bite you obsess over is stealing away a little piece of your life. I get that some of us need structure and guidance, especially when we need to lose weight for health reasons if our weight is much more on the higher side. But what I see are so many beautiful women with normal sized bodies, beating themselves up over this bullshit diet bollocks.

You have a choice. You can choose to see your health and happiness as extensions of one another. You can choose to see food as nourishment, whether that’s for your body, your soul or both. You can choose to opt out of being made to feel unworthy because of the way your body looks. I’m not saying it’s easy, it takes work every day. I still have to fight back against the negative self talk, the deep seated feeling of ’not enoughness’ that gets triggered sometimes. But it’s so worth the work.

Any thoughts or feelings you have on this are welcome in the comments…

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  • Sue Stenton

    Laura. I love who you are and how you look now. The first photo of you, looking way too skinny, emits no sign of the warmth of your character. For me there is no happiness in it. What a contrast to the other photo which exudes happiness, natural beauty and shows someone perfectly comfortable in their own skin. Having the “perfect” figure is not the key to happiness and wellbeing. It’s a forced perception of what beautiful is. Beauty comes from within and I thank you for being the honest, caring person you are and for helping the rest of us achieve what you have. Xx

    • Thanks Sue :-) I agree, it’s so scary looking at that first pic, it doesn’t even look like me or feel like me if that makes sense x

  • Ali C-S

    Have to say totally agree with Sue. Your second photo shines out happiness and health. I am a mum to two teens that have had/have eating disorders. It breaks my heart that there is such a pressure and every day can feel like walking on eggshells with comments or food choice. I know my 17 year old yesterday was panicking over putting on a bit of weight but also reflected on her underweight self (yes, no periods among other things) and how she is much more well now. This has to be a positive I am sure. Thank you for sharing and keep shining xxx

    • Oh I am so sorry to hear that, it must be so hard for you seeing them struggle, I do hope they both discover how amazing they are away from anything to do with their weight :-)

  • As a long-time follower of your blog I remember that post – can’t believe how long ago it was! Everything you have said here is so perfect, heath isn’t about a size or a weight – it’s so easy to get caught up in the idea that being a smaller size is somehow preferable. You look so happy and glowing now and sound so “sorted” and like you’ve finally found happiness and balance with your body. x

  • As a long-time follower of your blog I remember that post – can’t believe how long ago it was! Everything you have said here is so perfect, heath isn’t about a size or a weight – it’s so easy to get caught up in the idea that being a smaller size is somehow preferable. You look so happy and glowing now and sound so “sorted” and like you’ve finally found happiness and balance with your body. x

    • Blimney I know, it’s been a long long time (thanks for still reading!) I do feel sorted, actually that’s a really good word for it :-)

  • Keri Jones

    You don’t look very happy in the first pic. Your smile in the second pic is so genuine and happiness shines right out of your eyes. Thank you for sharing this post xx

    • Lol nope I definitely don’t! I think you’re right, other than the obvious changes in shape the second biggest change is my smile I think :-)

  • You’re such an inspiration :-) I love love love this post. You are clearly so much happier and, most importantly, healthier today than you were in that photo. I think you look far better in the second photo. Your happiness just radiates.

  • Cat

    Too much love for this post Laura! I particularly love what you said about being ‘in the drivers seat’ now – it strikes me as ironic as many of us (myself included) have been clung to habits that end up being far from healthy, just because it gives us a sense of control.

    What we fail to realise is that those habits and restrictions etc are what controls US! True control (IMO) means being able to let go of those, and regain the right to choose. As ever, an inspiration Laura!

    • Thanks Cat! Oh the control thing is so interesting, I like to think of it as being in the drivers seat cause just like driving you can steer the car but not control the traffic!

  • Rachel Cunningham

    “Every calorie you count and every bite you obsess over is stealing away a little piece of your life” that hit me to the core, I’ve been there, a good 9 years of it, my liver nearly failing all over a fear of having some body fat. Thank you for being brave to post these kinds of things and help others feel ok about the need to actually gain some weight in the face of all the messages out there telling us to do the opposite!

    • Thanks Rachel, I’m so glad you resonated with the post, I know I felt like I was swimming against a powerful tide when I had to gain weight and it was tough, glad to have this post out there to offer a different perspective x

  • Maria B

    I think you have the perfect mindset- you are way healthier than you were, and things are not all about being the skinniest person in the room- it’s not about looks at all but how you feel. It can be hard to accept this though when there are so many images of the so called perfect body.

    • Thanks Maria, that’s definitely it, self acceptance is so much harder when we’re bombarded with images of so called perfection x

  • Lauren

    I love this post Laura, thank you for sharing it. I can relate so, so much to this whole post and I am in a very similar space to you now. I am probably around 30 pounds heavier than my lowest, restriction weight and I could not be HAPPIER and have never loved my body more. I think you hit the nail on the head with “Every calorie you count and every bite you obsess over is stealing away a little piece of your life”. That is just absolutely it. Obsession over food and weight is stealing many women’s lives. And that’s where posts like this are so important. To help women loves themselves regardless of their size and to help make food choices that feed, nourish and honour your body, mind and soul. Peace over all this has to happen in the mind and you are right, it is an ongoing journey as the thoughts still pop up time to time, especially in the society we live in. Love this and love you!!

  • Amanda

    Laura, thank you for your honesty. I have always struggled with my weight – being on a diet, less fat or overweight all to varying degrees for the last 35 years but never feeling ‘good enough’. Your personal story is true for so many others and you have put things into perspective for me. Being kind to yourself and nourishing your body is definitely better than comparing yourself to others; but Its not easy. Thanks so much, you are an inspiration and we love you!!

  • I love this so much! I already commented many times on your site saying the same thing but really you’re such an inspiration! I’m glad you found “you”!
    Clem x

  • New to your blog, but I just had to pop in and say I completely agree with you about health, and how it is so much more than being skinny. I was overweight are the start of my twenties and am a “healthy” weight now I’m a few months from 30, but I still struggle to hush up the little niggley voice whenever I have a few days of eating less healthily. I am optimistic that the older and more comfortable I get, the easier I will be on myself too.

    • Hi Gwen, lovely to have you here as a new reader! I definitely think you get more comfortable and confident as you age. My 30’s was a big changing point for me x

  • Sophie

    Hi Laura. After reading your article in Natural Health magazine I decided to take a look at your website…this post is incredible! I, too, dropped down to that ‘me’. I wanted to reach that perfect look; I wanted to create someone who everyone else wanted to be. Instead I created someone nobody else wanted to be. I’ve recently experienced a complete break through with me and who I am… and how I can help me be me! Thank you for this post ❤

  • Nicky

    Hi Laura, I’m a long time reader of your blog but never commented before, hello! This has really struck a chord with me as I also used to be smaller than I am now from unsustainable levels of undereating and over exercising, and I’ve been feeling down for having put weight back on – even though I know I don’t want to go back to living like that, I am struggling to come to terms with it. You have made me feel encouraged to accept myself the way I am now, and stop wasting time thinking about calories and the size of my hips! There are more important things in life. Thank you, Nicky :)

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  • What a bloody fantastic post, Laura. We’ve had such a similar journey and it’s so refreshing to hear other people saying what I’m thinking.

  • Love this post! I hope you can help more people choose self love and no restrictions over unattainable ideals!