Project Me

Throughout my life I’ve struggled with eating. I’ve been dramatically under and overweight but my body image always places me as fat, ugly and childless. It’s the thing that I worry about after infertility in the early hours of the morning.

It stops me standing on stages, going to events, meeting people and seeing my family because I feel that they judge my weight. I know that some do because I hear and see them and it has to stop. I remember being dressed up for a family wedding and thinking I looked acceptable since it was the first day of my last cycle of IVF and I needed a dress I could take off in the loos to do my injection, only for a close relative to roll their eyes at me. It may have been an eye roll for other reasons but I immediately decided it was weight and remain hurt to this day.

My mum remarked on it often and only backed off when she gained weight herself having always been slim during her life. I’ve been called fat on the street by strangers.

Steriods from IVF and an underactive thyroid which was diagnosed until I had IVF treatment caused a lot of my weight gain. Periodically it plays up and I gain weight. These medical terms stopped a lot of the fat shaming I had as if a medical cause was more acceptable than a mental one.

But I’ve caused it too. Before treatment, when I was going through hell and miscarrying, I began to drink too much. The weight piled on and I felt better for keeping everyone way including my husband. I didn’t want to get pregnant because I knew I’d fail. My health began to suffer. Bits of me that didn’t hurt, ached physically. It was about three years of this when I saw a photo from my husband and realised that I had done too much damage.

Then began a succession of diets. Weight Watchers lost 2 stone, only for me to pile it back on when I got sick of the pronatal attitude at the classes. I tried a range of diets with food alternatives only for my husband to threaten to leave me when my breath was so bad and he got tired of eating alone and having no social life with me. My hair started to fall out and I was exhausted.

A period of time with Slimming World dropped another 2 stone and I’ve mostly kept the weight off but I have felt unwell. Tired and tearful, not where I wanted to be. I associate my weight with IVF. It’s a reminder.

Around me we’ve changed the house decoration to remove that bubble, adopted Molly our dog and I have started to make changes in my working life but I felt that my body wasn’t changing. I can’t make myself run better, I’ll never be able to do a step class and Zumba is a mystery to me because of my balance issues.

The abuse of my body didn’t affect my chances of being a mum, I have had enough reassurances from the doctors that this wasn’t a factor. My condition of recurrent miscarriages is not affected by my weight and each cycle I was the right BMI. But I knew I couldn’t carry on.

This year I had pneumonia. I spent almost two months on antibiotics and came out of eventually weaker and thinner. After this I was asked to stand on stage and talk about my journey at More to Life in front of an audience. It meant meeting up with people I had only met online. I immediately panicked. I knew I’d be fine with the words because I was worried I’d look dyspraxic with my mad hair, that I would fall over or I am too fat.

Of course, despite reassurances, I thought all these things in all the photos and still do. But I tried to make a negative into a positive. In my head I developed ‘project me’ and I wanted to share my (unqualified) advice.

Project me is a lifestyle change. I didn’t want to go back to Weight Watchers or Slimming World. They work for some but I have some ethics on food buying that meant it didn’t work for me. I like to be seasonal and locally shop and rarely use a supermarket. They don’t work for me and I find the meetings to mumsy. In dog training we talk about setting our dogs up for success, these do not do that.

The biggest change for me was finding The Doctor’s Kitchen. Dr Rupy Aujla is an A&E doctor who vlogs about eating well and has written a book with over 180 medical references. I have a huge suspicion of wellness writers who have no qualifications for their work so this book is reassuring and the food is wonderful. I will advocate this book forever.

I eat a plant based diet and I have reduced my gluten intake dramatically. I have always cooked and grown vegetables so I use my skills. I have also started to see a dietician (qualified!) who has praised me for having a great framework in place. This is the first time I think anyone has had belief in me apart from my husband.

I stopped drinking during the week and now only have red wine or beer as a treat maybe once a month and it’s often a taste of my husband’s pint. I do prefer a cup of tea – I’m 90% Earl Grey and there are worse things to be. I have noticed that when I have a glass of wine and adopt my kettle chips eating habit I feel awful the next day and I am amazed I did such a thing for so long.

I have a water bottle with day and time measures on the side to ensure I keep on track with my water. I am hoping to buy an Apple Watch to help me track progress.

Exercise isn’t so easy but I have two friends, one in particular, Elizabeth, who has written for World Childless Week who inspires me. We have much in common and through her friendship on Facebook I’ve been inspired to start running. I’m getting through the ‘nothing to 5k’ app in the darker evening when nobody can see me! I hope that I have the confidence to join a local park run soon.

I also practice yoga, not very well, but I was inspired by World Childless Week Champion Lesley Pyne and her book which talks about her journey. I realise that it’s not about being the best at something but investing in ourselves physically helps.

I have also found a gym. We have many locally but they are a completely sensory overload for someone who prefers to walk. But I need to do more weight work to counteract poor muscle tone and doing kettle bells alone resulted in shoulder injuries. I love this place for being quiet, cheap and friendly and as much about the mind as the body. But I also do what I love, running outside is wonderful and my trainers are in the bag already for my holiday in Cornwall.

I always hope that each year, I’ll turn up to a Christmas party looking amazing but the truth is there won’t be any Cinderella moments here but waking up feeling a tiny bit better each day helps me to cope. I also know that I’m doing the best I can right now for who I am and it feels like a life I can manage. If that’s for 80% of the time, then it doesn’t matter what the size says on my dress label.