Efficient Body

I am trying to lose weight.

I gained about 30kg since both of my pregnancies. In my second pregnancy, rapid weight gain gave me lots of issues. I was mobile, for sure, but so big that it was hard to be active for long. Once I gave birth, the weight did not drop off like it did the first time round.

Sixteen months later, and my body is still clinging on.

Why, body? Why do you need this extra fat? Are you worried you may starve if it slips off?

I joked to my husband that my body is such that if we were in a famine, and everybody became bags of bones, I would probably put on weight.

My body clings to fat in a most efficient manner. If I go into a calorie deficit, I can lose weight consistently for 3 weeks. After that, my body adjusts to this and I plateau or even start going up in weight!

My research tells me that some bodies are more efficient than others, built to last through seasons of no food, built to carry boulders on low energy. I know this to be true. I ate so little for a month, and yet piled on the weights at the gym, leg pressing up to 150kgs, muscles growing stronger, bigger, more defined – and I could be satiated on so little.

But I want to shed these heavy 20kgs. They feel uncomfortable on me. They make my face look unrecognisable, and my legs feel bulky, and I feel like I am dragging my body around. I want to feel free of it, to run fast across a field like before and not worry too much about uncomfortable jiggles and things falling out of place.

I don’t want to lose weight for looks or because I feel insecure. I want to do it for comfort.

Yet when I mention this, the immediate response is wide eyed surprise, and exclamations that I don’t ‘need’ to lose anything and not to ‘buy into’ our appearance-obsessed culture.

I get it.

But since when does wanting to change how your body looks and feels equate to a bad thing?

Why rush to tell someone they don’t need to do something, when they really want to?

Why assume that one wants to change the shape of their body purely due to insecurity or appearance-obsession?

Is it unhealthy to want to lose weight?

If it is unhealthy for some, why make it so everybody feels weird about trying to lose weight, one way or another? Do we apologise for this desire, and assure the ‘Body-Positive’ community that we aren’t mentally ill, and aren’t harming their agenda, but just want to change something for us?

Thin Wrists

When I was about 13 years old, I used to ride the bus home from school everyday with this girl who lived in one of the apartment block buildings in our complex.

She was thin, so pale, with large brown eyes and the longest, curliest lashes you ever saw. Her mouth was a little wide, and she had dimples. I thought she was gorgeous – all the girls did, in fact. She was so pretty. Looking back as an adult, I can see she was painfully thin. Her bones jutted out at the collar, shoulder blades and wrists.

It was the wrists, though, that I used to feel inadequate about.

I would squeeze the skin around my own wrist tightly, so it wrapped around the bone, wishing my bone would point outwards like hers did.

I told myself if I skipped breakfast and lunch every day for a month, I would get to that stage.

So I did. I took one green apple to school with me everyday, and did not eat breakfast or lunch for a month. I lost so much weight that my uniform hung off me like a sack.

When I compared my wrist to hers in the bus, though, I did not see my bone. What a fat ugly wrist you have, I told myself, squeezing the skin back to see the shape of my bone.

I am 28 now, and I think of that story and feel very sad and angry.

What business does a child have to be worrying about the size of her wrist bone when there are mountains of books to read, tonnes of trees to climb, hundreds of puzzles to solve, heaps of games to play?! Why wasn’t I thinking about those things? Why was I so hyper focused on my wrists? I was clearly built heavier than that girl, both of us beautiful in our own child-like way.

I think and think and remember girls talking about diets and weight loss and spots and who was fatter than whom and how much everybody weighed. So much shame in a number. We also played games, we tore through corridors and played KINGS and netball and amazing games of hide and seek in the maze-like grounds of our school. Yet when we went back to the classroom and stood in front of the air conditioning, guzzling bottles of ice-cold water, our conversation went back to who was pretty and which hair salon her mother went to.

I see children being mislead, somehow, and I can see how that has clawed its way into adulthood and adult life.

This obsession with appearance.

This lack of adequacy.

I don’t need to say I am grateful we didn’t have phones or social media back then. We all know what children today are subjected to.