It’s about 3 years ago and I’m two stone heavier than I currently am. My pug needs the Vets again so there I am standing in reception making small talk with the lovely receptionist who is glowing in mid stage pregnancy. “Oh I see you’re in the same predicament as me” she smiles rubbing her bump. She instantly knows that I’m not expecting and she has put her foot in it, probably by the look of sheer horror on my face and the split second pause as I stand there, my mouth gaping open, grappling for something to say. She tries in vain to claw back what she just said whilst in fact digging the hole much, much deeper in her flustered state. “Oh sorry, it’s just, oh, em, the dress, oh, no, I mean that’s a lovely dress, mutter mutter mutter” I’ve stopped listening by now, I’m responding with similar babble “Oh you’re ok, don’t be worrying, blah blah blah” My teenage Son is standing there in silence, even at his tender age he is well aware of the awkwardness of the exchange occurring in front of him and in all his wisdom he stays silent. I stick my debit card in the machine to pay & stand there going redder and redder in my shame willing the machine to spit out the customer copy receipt which suddenly takes 3 billion years to happen. “Thanks” I mutter as I pull on the dog lease & spin around lunging for the door, which has metamorphosed into being 7 miles away, with the Dog and Son in tow. We climb into the car & I secure the Dog, all the time the tears of shame and embarrassment dangerously close to spilling out but I compose myself in front of my Son. “Mammy, did you hear what that lady said to you? The cheek of her” “I know Son, the cheeky, wagon” I reply with a strangled laugh, trying to brush it off as if I wasn’t bothered. “and you just after losing 10lbs recently too” he says “I know pet, what is she like” I croak vowing silently to never wear the stupid dress again (it wasn’t the dress but I never ever wore it again). I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me, the mortification was unbearable, it stung for weeks when the memory popped, uninvited, into my brain and a short while later when I was in fact expecting, I always put a protective hand across my bump in public so people would know I was pregnant and not just fat.
Today, the memory is raw, even though I’m two stone lighter. I feel just as heavy as I did that day. How can this be? How is it possible? Self perception is a fickle thing. Weight seldom has anything to do with the number on the scale (even though we get unreasonably fixated with it) and everything to do with how you feel in your own skin. Some days you can feel lovely & slim & the next feel huge and feel like you haven’t lost any weight at all even though the figure on the scale hasn’t budged. For a lot of Ladies particularly (sorry blokes) there’s a certain week every 4 weeks or so that cruelly haunts us. You feel bloated & humungous and incredibly cruelly, you also feel emotional and tearful & a strong irrepressible desire to consume the entire contents of the fridge over powers us. I waded through the contents of my wardrobe this morning & settled on a maxi dress. Everything feels wrong so it doesn’t really matter what I chose to be fair. I stand on the scales amazed that it reads slightly lighter than it did a few days ago (how can that be? Sure I’m massive today!) I put on the dress and it skims over my belly and my mind instantaneously flips the memory of the Vets forward from the far reaches of some repressed corner of my mind. In truth everything would make me feel that way today so I battle on & drive to work. As I make my way across the car park several cars are lining up to drive in, “Oh God, I have to walk across in front of them” I think, I start hobbling a bit faster (I hurt my leg a few days ago) willing myself forward to the comfort of my desk where I can wheel my chair all the way in & conceal my belly. Then the though suddenly occurs to me “Oh God my arse somehow feels more gigantic too” I want to be inside away from the perceived scrutiny when in fact nobody is passing any remarks or paying the slightest bit of attention to me at all.
The thing is I’m not any bigger than I was yesterday. The feelings I am having, that we all experience, are in fact in my own mind. They are in my head, my emotions are taking over and all rationale has promptly gone out the window. I have had friends say to me before “Oh God, I feel so massive today, I’m so bloated” I look at them perplexed “You’re not, you look lovely” I respond in all honesty and truthfulness but they don’t feel it or see it themselves. I know in my heart of hearts if anybody tells me I look nice today I simply won’t believe them “they’re just being nice” I’ll tell myself. Why we do this to ourselves & why we sometimes feel this way isn’t quite clear. You can drink all the anti bloating lemon water and green tea you like it won’t help the way you’re feeling because it’s mostly psychological. The things I have found that help me are accepting the fact you are going to feel this way sometimes. Recognising that it is in your mind & trying to think positively and quell any negative comments that you might recite to yourself, they only make you feel worse. Know that this too shall pass, in a day or two you will be back to your old self & feel more confident and motivated. Keep your chin up & try to keep perspective and know it is just self doubt crippling your thoughts. Your Self perception is playing tricks on your mind. Plaster on a smile & fake it till you make it. Try your hardest to stay on track in the knowledge that this is the most difficult time to do so but it will be over soon and you will feel much better, the feelings becoming nothing but a distant memory. Know that we all feel this way occasionally and the struggle is part of the journey. Be kind to yourself. What I have also learned is never, ever, ever, ever ask a lady if she is expecting or make any comments in that regard even if she is quite obviously heavily pregnant and about to give birth any day now! Unless, of course, they mention it first, even then proceed with extreme caution!