Embracing being 'roundy' - the first year I haven't started January on a diet

After growing up forcing myself to fit a certain mould, it was time to care for my body instead of torturing it.

A happy woman on a dancefloor
Image: Laughlin McKee

Hello! I’m Áine and I’m ’roundy’. And for the first time in this futuristic year of 2022, I am in the very middle of January and am yet to be ‘on a diet’.

I mean, I have a diet, in that I eat to nourish and enjoy myself and be alive and feel good. But, I’m not counting anything. I’m not logging anything on any app. I’m trying to be, well, free.

I can’t remember when I started referring to myself as ‘roundy’, but, it seems like the most appropriate word for how I feel about myself. ‘Fat’ terrifies me – teenage boys roared it at me with disgust as I grew up. ‘Obese’ horrifies me – an imaginary death sentence, getting lifted out of my home by a crane. But, roundy! It is gentle. I like round shapes. Boobs are round – love them! Round shapes are soft, comforting. Roundy doesn’t frighten me.

But if I’m honest, since I was about 11 – and discovered heating up a tiny bread roll with a generous dollop of Nutella – I’ve been a bit, well, fat. Horrifying to write that and know I’m sending it somewhere where people might find out that I am a bit fat! Despite having worn this bit of fatness for nearly 30 years, I’m still terrified someone might recognise it. I mask it with the right kind of dresses, a good chin angle in a photo, the careful process of approved photo tags.

I remember the moment I realised I was different from regular people in my larger body. I was watching all these girls from my school walking past and realised they were all smaller than me. And here I was, lumpy, full of Nutella and worthless. No restraint! No willpower!

My teens were in the very epicentre of the heroin chic era. Skinny equalled worth and beauty. Nicole Richie was the big one. (Until she wasn’t.) Naturally, this led to a time where I lost all the weight. Like you see on those weight loss magazines – clown pants gaping, skinny grin. From the ages of 15 to 17, I counted food points and walked 90 minutes a day. I did this completely in private.

Stealing my mother’s weight watchers’ guidebooks, I would have a solo bottle of coke for my whole entire breakfast (5 points). I would feel this smug sense of success when my stomach would rumble. I had lots of branded ready meals (12-15 points). I trusted these weight loss people to track my nutrients. And it worked! I lost five whole stone. People started telling me I was beautiful for the first time.

My life was restraint, willpower, five litres of water a day, 15,000 pees. Nutella became No-tella (I still fear it.) I would finally get a boyfriend because I was skinny! Note that I was yet to examine the fact that I never really fancied any boy (because I was gay!) no, no, that was because I was fat.

I still felt fat though, swanning off to college only just turned 18. Newly skinny. My mother would look at me with concern. “You’re not going to lose any more now are you?” She’d commend me for refusing dessert (while offering it). I had watched her all those years. She had this little naked shuffle she used to do from the bathroom to her bedroom. Holding her big boobs, her big bum bouncing. One of my very favourite memories of her.

a woman sits at a table on her holiday with a cocktail in front of her

I grew up to the soundtrack of her worrying about her weight, worrying about mine. But, if there’s anyone I’ve ever loved unconditionally in this world, it was my beautiful mother. And she was always absolutely gorgeous. Her crystal blue eyes, huge big forehead, angular chin, glamorous wrists and velvet voice always made sure of that. She was never not beautiful to me. And I see now how many years I have tortured myself the way she did. When really, she is a part of me, and really-really, I should recognise my own beauty as I did hers.

College progressed. I discovered beer. My friends would ask how gay I was as the evening would go on (Percentage would go up as pints went down). I started to explore food, drinks, sexuality and I relaxed. I still stayed away from No-tella but I started to gradually get back to being roundy again. The years went on and I ate and drank my way around many different countries and experiences.

I settled into my hourglass shape. Accepted myself as the lipstick high-femme I have always been in my soul. I found the perfect dresses for my shape and soul. (Special thank you to the inventors of the 1950’s and Rockabilly for all you do and how many girls have kissed me as a result.) And I haven’t taken those dresses off in about 13 years.

But it was always ever-present. That panic of a horribly tagged photograph. That anxiety of walking past a group of teenage boys. The friendlier, more subtle comments about what a pretty face I had. How slimming that outfit was on me. How if I lost a few pounds people would comment on it, and the hollow silence when they wouldn’t comment anything at all.

And January was always the worst part. New Year, grotesque me.

Right before all of this *gestures at world*, my work job arranged a Health Screening for all staff. It included a weigh-in. Oh dear. Fortunately, it was in inexplicable kgs unlike my weight watchers’ days. So, at least it was abstract. But there it was, in bright red, my BMI.

What I neglected to focus on though, was that despite many years of being a bold brat, dancing ’til dawn, drinking and eating and consuming this precious life I have, everything , and I mean, literally everything else, in the screening was perfect. Some actually better than perfect. I was in perfect health. The nurse told me to continue as I was but maybe to incorporate some more exercise.

And I have. More than commute walks, I now exercise like a person who uses their whole body. I’m still roundy, though.

One of my favourite ever compliments from a friend was that she really enjoyed eating with me because I enjoy food so much, and I love that. I love food! I love how it nourishes you, makes an occasion special, comforts you or gives you a memory of your beautiful mom.

I’ve been tentatively trying out this intuitive eating thing I see lovely people on the internet talk about. Intuitive eating focuses on nurturing your body rather than starving it.

It’s completely abstract to me. Particularly after one million years of punishing myself for everything. But my understanding of it is that it’s just about being gentler with yourself, really. Not being violent and horrible to yourself. Because I honestly actually really do like myself. I’m nice. I’m fun. And I am so much more than my body. So I try sit with it, listen to what my poor bedraggled and long imprisoned body wants to eat today. If it’s full, if it’s not.

It’s so hard. I can’t believe something that simple can be that hard. And trust me, the feeling of being a gigantic blob after many Christmas treats is still there. Like a little ’90s demon whispering to me about how good skinny tastes. But, I was skinny for a while, and it wasn’t very nourishing or tasty, I assure you. Ready meals are not it. I do like the feeling of success/smugness from getting a bit of exercise though. And it definitely helps you sleep better, along with other bed based activities.

So for now, I’m going to try to look at things I consume as nourishing. Not points, scores, apps or red warning signs. Because I don’t want to waste this perfect health I have! All for the ridiculous reason of being frightened of someone seeing my beautiful roundy arse?

If I take away all the external things I’ve been programmed to think about myself, in my heart of hearts, I am enough. And, for now, that’s enough for me.

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