Nothing Can Weight Me Down | Jilly Ballantyne
Losing weight has always been a vicious cycle for me. I try to lose weight, end up miserable and binge until I’m heavier than when I started. I finally accepted that I would always be heavy and left it there. Until I booked a skydive.
I grew up being ‘fat’, but not really. My body was just different from others my age. I was well developed young and this came alongside the misconception that I was fat. I was bullied my entire school life for my weight and although I act as if I’ve moved past it, I recently discovered I hadn’t. My mum was cleaning out my old room at her and my dad’s house. She found a picture album I’d made when I was eight years old, full of holiday snaps and mementoes. She told me I’d want it because of the abundance of photos of my late papa, but what really shocked me was the pictures of myself. I was ‘skinny’. I looked like every other eight year old. For as long as I can remember, I’d always thought I was overweight my entire childhood. But I wasn’t.
The scariest part of growing up with weight issues, is a sense of ‘body dysmorphia’. When I left school at 16, I had it drilled into me by my peers that I was horrible, even obese, when this really wasn’t the case. I was an average weight, just curvier than most girls my age. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I had a body that twenty-three year old me would be jealous of. All those years of tormenting at school had really taken a hold of my body image.
Recently, substantially heavier, it occurred to me that I’d really piled on the pounds. For the last few years, I’d tried everything to curb my cravings and lose those important stones. But I couldn’t. I was defeated. I would never have the body I dreamed of. I felt disgusted when I looked in the mirror, hid behind baggy clothes and wore the same outfits on a quick rotation. My favourite clothes didn’t fit anymore. I couldn’t continue like this, and I knew it. But I didn’t know how to do something about it. It felt like every day when I looked in the mirror, I was never happy with what I saw.
Then my best friend booked us in to do a skydive for charity. The only problem was the weight restriction. You couldn’t be over 14 stone, and I was certainly over that. Finally, I found the motivation I’d been searching for. I was comfortable in my job, my home life and had discovered a passion for pole fitness. It was time. I could finally commit to a target that wasn’t unattainable. My first step would be to lose a stone and a half before May.
Before I began, I had to take a look at my past behaviour and come to terms with it. I was a binge eater, who’d have three portions where the average person would have one. I was unmotivated at work, which meant snacking all day in the office and coming home to a takeaway. Cooking had become a chore. I had lost the enjoyment of food. I had to start there. I started researching recipes, eager to bring that part of me back to life. I downloaded an app to track my calories and got a shock when I realised how many calories I’d been consuming on an ‘average day’. It was terrifying. With the way I was going, there was only one scenario. Obesity, if I wasn’t technically there already. I had to put a stop to it and this time, I was determined.
When we talk about having problems with our mental health, eating is very rarely spoken about unless it’s regarding eating disorders. I know I’ve never suffered from an ED, but I came to realise that my mental state really affected the choices that I made when it came to food. Being unhappy led to eating unhealthily and without figuring that out, I wouldn’t have ever had the motivation to make better decisions.
It’s scary how much of a difference it made, holding myself accountable for my choices. I began to tell everyone who would listen that I was trying to lose weight. I knew that if people at my work knew, I’d be less likely to choose the wrong food choices. It worked. I found myself choosing healthier options. The trick this time was that I didn’t put a label on it. I consume fewer calories and try to do more exercise. It’s not rocket science but before, every diet had felt that way. I’d be miserable, starving and unmotivated. This time is different. It’s not that I cracked some magic formula. I’m now a stone and a half down, and it’s not just due to the calorie counting. It’s my attitude. I had to reevaluate my happiness and realise that I didn’t need to lose weight to be happy. I had to be happy to lose weight.
One of my friends recently went on a weight loss journey, and she recommended taking pictures every week, even if I hadn’t lost weight. I’m so glad I did, because looking at pictures from only a month ago, I see a defeated human being. Now, I already look healthier and happier, and this is only the beginning.
Weight loss isn’t the right choice for everyone, but right now, it’s the right choice for me.