Or is it? Is the average person's weight and size the potential crushing blow to self-esteem and good health that magazines, journals, studies and reports would have us all believe? I am not talking clinical obesity, or worrying thinness, I am just talking a couple of stone here and there, twenty of thirty pounds.
I was a bonny healthy baby, at 8lbs 1lb, then a slightly built child and a slender teenager. My mother never had any concerns that I was too fat or too thin, I was always just about right, like baby bear porridge.
And since it has been my own responsibility, I keep an eye on my weight, don't get me wrong, but I do NOT any longer strive officiously to control it. We, it and I, vary with the seasons. It's long been part of my SAD that I can be 7lbs or 10lbs heavier between October and March than in what we laughingly (maybe even laughably) refer to in the UK as The Summer Months. Carbohydrate craving cuts in at the autumn equinox, and disappears at the spring one. It's entirely natural and an awful lot to do with my Scandinavian genes. My maiden name is of Viking origin, and families bearing it were concentrated almost wholly in the Danelaw counties until the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution created a diaspora of working people.
My weight has also varied with age, again, I believe, totally naturally. As a young mother in my twenties I ran around like a blue-arsed fly taking care of a large Victorian house over three floors, a toddler, a front and back garden, an allotment and a very demanding older husband. I wore UK size 10 trousers and never went over 9st 7lbs once I'd breast-fed off my baby weight.
Then The Daughter started school and I started what is erroneously called Work (what the sweet suffering expletive did everyone think I'd been doing the previous five years?!) which was partly sedentary, partly up and about, but all in one spot, pretty much, so the distance covered was much less than before. And then I turned 30, and for some strange reason, which I suspect is also entirely natural, the needle swung beyond 10 stones (140 lbs) for the first time ever and has never, ever swung back.
My 30s were a terribly trying time. I was diagnosed as seriously Bipolar 1 in 1990, and had six spells as a psychiatric in-patient in the following seven years. Almost every drug I was offered (actually strike the word offered, as had I refused them I would have been sectioned, so let's say persuasively prescribed) had a side-effect of some weight gain. Some I was on as a maintenance medication, others were added to control acute episodes. At top whack under this new regime my weight tipped 12st 10lbs and I was still a young woman. But I had bigger worries than that at the time, and physical vanity was the least of my concerns.
I should add at this juncture that I am 5ft 6in, so a wee bit taller than the UK female average. And, as of yet, have not begun to shrink, but it'll come...
I turned 40 and left my first marriage (and took a small flat of my own nearby where The Daughter could visit) and divorced my only child's father whilst she stayed in the matrimonial home and studied for her A Levels. Instead of cooking for a family of three and providing what the very demanding first husband demanded I only needed to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, if I wanted. Within six months I'd lost a stone, simply by trusting intuition and listening to my own appetites and urges.
Eventually, I started dating THE Husband, THIS Husband, when I was not quite 43. We embarked on living together very quickly as we'd both been married before and knew instinctively that this relationship was going to be very different, much more steady, equable and compatible than what each of us had experience before. The Husband thought every teeny bit of me, inside and out, was gorgeous. I was not about to start disagreeing with him, so became very happy indeed with who and what I was. Since I left my first marriage I have never needed psychiatric in-patient care. Go figure, as they say Stateside.
was 46 years old, 10st 9lbs and a sprightly size UK12 jean when I marred The Husband, not
quite ten years ago. I had been slightly heavier in my 40s before that, but the
dashing about and last minute organising skimmed off some inches. Now I am 12st
3lbs. I have been more at my peak. Two years
ago I was comfortably over 13st, and exceedingly well upholstered, but The Husband has always maintained I was built for comfort, not speed, so what the heck!
But my proper fighting weight since being in my middle years is about 11st 7lbs. I
feel about right when I am that weight, taking size UK14 jeans, and get around a bit quicker. Maybe I'll be that weight again this summer, who knows? Stranger things have happened.
I am happy in my own skin, and don't want to make myself miserable with
self-criticism. I find self-criticism goes hand-in-hand with diets.
And quickly becomes self-loathing. So I intend to carry on eating what I
want, when I want to. It suits my personality. And drinking what I
want when I want to. That suits it even more!
Life is too sweetly short to count every calorie, and we are such a LONG time dead...