Well, spring is sprung, the grass is riz….. and sure as the earth orbits the sun, and sleep deprived night shifters orbit a chocolate cake, social media is awash with fabulous “new and improved” eating and exercise programs, so that you too can be bikini ready by December. And, for just three easy payments of $29.99, you can gain exclusive access to the online community, too!
Now, before you are overwhelmed with concern, I am not about to attempt to sign you up for my latest ‘kale and carrot smoothie’/’coffee up your arse’/’eat only foods that begin with q, x, and z’ diet/cleanse/socially acceptable eating disorder. I am also not going to go into the public toilets, strip my kit off, and take a photo of my body, stretch marks and all. I don’t need to. It’s been done, and the fantastic women who did it did it far better than I could. Plus, the lighting here is all wrong.
In my adult life, I have been a whole bunch of different sizes. I have weighed 65kg. I have weighed 95kg. And, I have been just about everything in between. And, while people make assumptions about happiness, and insinuate that thinness is a requirement to obtain it, I can’t say that I agree. I know many people who are thin and miserable, and I have met just as many overweight people who are happy, and full of life.
At my thinnest, I was 65kg. I’m 175cm tall, and pretty solid, with broad shoulders and big, muscly legs. So 65kg is positively skinny for me. It was a brief period of my life. One where I could comfortably fit into a smallish size 10, and even the tightest of my size 12 pants would quite literally fall off my non-existent behind. It was probably the closest I have ever gotten to being a legitmately “hot chick”. When I tried clothes on, it often felt like they were made for my long legs and lanky arms.
I was 21. I had just come out of the awkward chubby years that had endured since my HSC. I had discovered controlled eating, and exercise. I was childless and single, and outside of my working hours, I had two hobbies: exercise and partying. Especially partying. It was something I had an extreme talent for – I still would, if I had the time. I was, however, extremely unhappy.
Hard partying takes it out of you. I was out every weekend, from Thursday to Sunday. Smoking at least a packet of cigarettes a day. Prioritising money for for booze over money for food. I would often get to Sunday, and realise that I had consumed less than five food items since Thursday, and those items were generally not meals- potato chips and a slurpee, the free biscuit from the top of my coffee. I would frequently turn up to work on less than three hours sleep, only to make it through and go out all over again.
In true 21 year old style, my friendships were tumultuous, and my relationships more so. I had just ended my first ‘adult’ relationship with he who would become known as ‘Worst Boyfriend Ever’. My friends and I bickered constantly. My best mate and I could go from virtual sisters to sworn enemies in the space of three days. My relationship attempts were pathetic – several “sort of boyfriends”, who would let me tag along as their “kind of date” to a few things, before eventually giving me a manly pat on the back, telling me I was a great mate, and asking me to hook them up with one of my friends. I was lonely, and my self esteem was pretty much in tatters.
I don’t have many photos of 65kg me. It was the early 2000s, and digital cameras were both new, and shite. I also despised the look of myself, and destroyed as many photos of myself as I could. On the outside, this was thin, popular Rissa. What a pity it is, that it was a giant sham.
This is 69kg me. I’m 25, and in a pretty great relationship with a guy who will eventually bend to public pressure, and put a ring on it. I have just gotten a great new job (one I still have today), and I have just handed in my resignation at my old job. I’m not going to lie, things are going pretty well for me here. It’s also probably the first period in my adult life when I was genuinely happy with the way I looked. I’m not an idiot, I am well aware that Vogue is not planning on hitting me up for a cover any time soon. But I’m fit, and healthy, and it shows.
This photo comes off the back of some pretty shitty times, however. It doesn’t show that I had spent the last 2 years in a job where I was sexually harassed, on numerous occasions. It doesn’t show that the sexual harassment got pretty serious. It doesn’t show that, when I reported the harassment to my superiors, it was swept under the rug. That I was told that my harasser was blameless, because he was going through “some stuff”. That I was told that my outgoing nature and relative youthfulness had been the problem, and that I was, therefore, indirectly to blame.
When the harassment occurred, I did what I assumed was the best thing to do: I admitted it to my supervisor. After blaming the whole situation on me, my supervisor apparently took it to the rest of the supervisors. Not to address it formally. To address me formally. My reporting of the issue had labelled me a trouble maker, and led to me being bullied, for two solid years, by the entire management team. I was micro-managed, often punished, and regularly threatened with termination. I was not trained adequately to perform my duties, and then disciplined severely when I made mistakes I had never been taught not to make. I was unofficially demoted from the role I was hired for, and given lesser duties, more often than I was contracted to. It was workplace hell.
It wasn’t always bad. The role I performed was diverse, and required me to spend most of my time on the road. Given the nature of the organisation, my employment came with a heavily discounted gym membership, as well as ample opportunity to run through my frustrations on the beach-side paths of Cronulla. While my job made me miserable, challenging myself physically made parts of my life pretty tolerable. And as a result, by the end of two years, I was fitter and stronger than I had ever been. And while I wasn’t happy with everything in my life, by the time this photo was taken, I was getting close.
This is me, two years ago. This is Rissa, at 90kg. Other than my brief, pregnant tipping point of 95kg, this is about the biggest I have ever been. See those tired eyes? They are the eyes of a mother of three. See that smile? It is as genuine as it looks.
Was I happy, with my body, at 90kg? Not really. Not because I mind being overweight, specifically. More because I was aware of what my body had been, and what it could be. I missed being the person who would set off for a run, and made it at least 5km before stopping. I missed the pleasant side effects of healthy eating and regular exercise. However, I was also realistic. This is me, having had a baby five months previously. I had three babies in five years. My body had worked hard, while gaining this weight.
I knew, from previous experiences, that it would eventually fall off. I knew that despite all the claims that breastfeeding would make the weight magically fall off, it didn’t always work that way, and wasn’t going to for me. I knew from experience that the minute I stopped breastfeeding, I would lose my appetite, and the weight would fall off me rapidly, with only a little effort on my part.
The woman in this photo has three kids, all of whom are pretty fantastic. On the night this photo was taken, this woman was having a night out with a group of friends, who happen to be some of the best friends one could ever have. The kind of friends you hope stick around for a lifetime. And at home, this woman has a fabulous husband, who is parenting her kids like a boss, while she goes out and has (more than) a few schooners at the local club. The woman in this photo has a life that is pretty damn good.
This is the most recent photo I have of me. I’m about 76kg. I took this photo after running 5km, just before I ducked in and picked up my eldest from her school. I am generally the one taking the photos, not in them – so it’s hard to find a proper photo of me. Here are my legs, though:
That’s kind of like an actual photo of me, right? I’m a big head, and a couple of rainbow legs. This is not me at my thinnest, nor is it me at my fattest. But am I happy with my body? You know what? I am, pretty much. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t mind dropping maybe 2kg. But it’s not really a priority in my life. And it isn’t exactly going to break my heart if I don’t.
I am strong, I am healthy. My friends and I have featured regularly in our gym’s Instagram feed, as well as appearing on marketing material. I train several times a week, and not in a desperate attempt to become bikini-ready: I just like to. I like being the mum who has the fitness and energy to run around with my children. When we go to trampoline parks, my kids wear out before I do – I like having that kind of energy. Recently, my 7 year old and I did Little Big Dash, and both of us ran the 3km with energy to burn. Our entire family plays soccer, we ride bikes, go hiking. It feels good, being this person.
Is my body bikini ready? Probably not, because it’s something I would rarely wear. I’m pretty pasty, so the more skin I cover up, the less I spend on 50+ sunscreen. Rashie ready, more likely. However, if I were to feel the urge, I am not afraid to flaunt it. In my humble (admittedly hetero) opinion, people of all shapes, sizes, and gender identities, are capable of rocking a bikini. Without needing to spend the entire of spring trying to convince themselves that kale chips in coconut oil are a satisfying substitute for the odd bag of Smiths crinkle cut. No coffee enema necessary: just a healthy amount of self confidence and support is required.
The moral of this post? Don’t get sucked into the hype. I have, many times, and the truth is this: being thin won’t necessarily make you happy. Being happy will make you happy. Instead of focusing on being bikini ready, focus on doing the things, and being the person, that makes you happy. And there you go. Bikini ready, all along!