There comes a time in every woman’s life when she realises she needs to make a change. It may be the simplest of things - a chance conversation with an old friend, an article read in a newspaper - which makes us sit up and realise that enough is enough. Things have got to get better.
My moment came three weeks ago. I was getting dressed when I noticed a pair of six year old eyes staring very intently at my stomach. His brow creased and his head turned this way and that before he started. “Mummy,” he said, unaware that he was about to deliver a killer blow to my already fragile sense of self worth. “I think you might be pregnant because your tummy is really, really fat.”
Merely writing the words does not convey how much emphasis he put on the “really, really” part. I tried to console myself it could, indeed, have been worse. I could actually be pregnant which would signal the loss of my sanity entirely - but then I realised something. I could be offended and hurt all I wanted about what he said, but he was telling the truth. He didn’t say it in a spiteful way - he simply, as Roy Walker would urge in ‘CatchPhrase’, was saying what he saw.
I do have a really big tummy. A really, really big tummy.
As the baby who never sleeps has now turned one year old I cannot use the “just had a baby” excuse any longer. And the truth is, I didn’t put on an ounce while I was pregnant with her due to throwing up thrice daily but since her arrival - and my ability to keep food down returning - I have seen a gradual increase in my girth.
So taking matters in hand I did what I always vowed I would never, ever do. I joined WeightWatchers. I can tell you now I was a wreck - an absolute quivering, shaking, crying, big fat eejit of an wreck - as I stood outside that class for the first time.
As I took my seat and waited for my time on the scales I felt like a condemned woman. The green mile could have held no more fear for me than the walk to the scales that night.
It was silly really. I knew what I weighed. I knew I have a lot to lose but there was something about someone else seeing that - and commenting on it - that made my blood run cold.
But I stood there and I thought of my son. I thought if he is starting to notice that mammy is overweight now then it is only a matter of time - due to the world we live in - that he is going to be embarrassed by that.
And then I thought of the baby who never sleeps - who also never eats - and I didn’t want her to grow up with a mammy with a warped body image and cripplingly low self esteem. I don’t want her to get mixed messages about food. I don’t want her spending her formative years thinking she is ugly if she happens to be taller, or a little larger, than her peers.
I have always been a grand big girl - tall and big boned but actually was never overweight til my late teens. However I always felt it - insisting as I did on surrounding myself with short, twiggy friends who made me look like the Jolly Green Giant in my Thornhill uniform
The class, after the initial trauma, actually turned out to be great craic. I have been really impressed by the wit of Derry women - who have me laughing out loud with their tales of diet success and failure. I don’t feel it’s a matter of being bad or good - just trying my best most of the time. If I mess up (you know, actually fall - mouth first- onto a Kit Kat Chunky) I hope to be able to brush myself off and start again.
Yes, there is a distinct danger I may become a diet bore. I feel sorry for my friends and family who will have to listen to me while I try and get my head around it for the next few weeks. I carry my wee green folder everywhere. I can be seen going googy-eyed over the nutritional information on food in Tesco. (Indeed I apologise to the impatient woman who was not impressed at me checked out how many Points there are in a Brunch bar while she was trying to get her Jammy Dodgers).
i’m also painfully aware that is the far from the first time I have written in this column about going on a diet, and really going for it and ra ra ra, aren’t I just class? The fact is, no, I’m not class. I’m just trying - like every woman, I suppose - to reach a stage where I am happy, healthy and able to buy skinny jeans.
As the wee sign on the wall beside the scary scales in WeightWatchers says “It’s not a sin to fall. It’s a sin to lie there”. Well, I’ve got up and I’m ready for the next round.
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