I can vividly remember being about 14 and my mum buying me a pair of TopShop tartan trousers (on trend in the 90s I’ll have you know). She bought me a size 12 and they didn’t fit. I’m not sure if I was bothered more by them being too small or my mum’s reaction that I must have a bigger bum than she thought.
I’d always been self-conscious that I had bigger boobs and a bigger bum than my peers at school. I wasn’t in the ‘popular’ group that wore tight, short skirts. Also, I am a redhead, so I had the triple whammy of what was deemed ‘unattractive’ amongst teenagers at the time.
I don’t think I ever felt ‘ugly’ but I was always self-conscious, and clearly looking back, insecure with my body image.
Through my teenage years I learnt to use my boobs and my wit as weapons of mass destruction, and though I didn’t ever think of myself as ‘the funny one’, I was certainly the upbeat friend that would corral others into having fun.
I moved to London in my early twenties and the combination of walking everywhere, living in a fourth floor flat plus having no money for food equalled weight loss and an increase in my general fitness.
I began to enjoy how I looked and the clothes that I bought. I felt comfortable in my own skin for probably the first time since ‘tartan-gate’.
And then I met Peter – now my current husband (he’ll love that).
We moved back to Rugby, the food portions increased and the exercise stopped. I piled on a lot of weight in a short period. And thus began the internal conflict of wanting to diet and the lack of will power to make something stick. Combined with daily commuting into London and bad food choices made for an unhappy body image.
When pregnant with my first child I developed symphysis pubis disorder (which is where the three joints in your pelvis wobble about), which meant I was wheelchair bound at 20 weeks. My mobility was severely reduced.
Post-partum, I lived on mince pies for energy as chocolate equalled a colicky baby. But I kept the belief that when you breastfeed the weight just ‘drops off’. Well I think that only works if you’re not consuming 12 Mr Kipling mince pies a day and a 2am McDonalds twice a week…
My relationship with food had always been to excess, if I started eating something ‘I shouldn’t’ then I would think ‘sod it’ and finish the pack. Unhealthy in so many ways.
At my heaviest post-partum I was over 230lbs and looking back, desperately unhappy at my weight but conflicted with wanting to breastfeed and enjoy my daughter.
I breastfed Etta for over two years, pumping when returning to work. And when thoughts turned to baby number two, my husband gave me an ultimatum: lose weight and get my pelvis sorted before we even contemplated another pregnancy. He was right.
So, in the May, two years after Etta was born I vehemently committed to doing something positive for me. I lost approximately 26lbs in about three months. I felt happier, more energetic; attractive even….!
Then I fell pregnant with Elijah and due to the weight loss and being treated by a fabulous chiropractor my SPD was nowhere near as bad.
Fast forward to May last year, one year post-partum from my son, and I began training again. A great friend who is a personal trainer gave me a really simple ‘at home’ plan to follow. I started to eat less and listen to my body. Understanding what triggered my endless eating, what made me feel like crap and what worked from a quantity point of view.
I signed up to climb Kilimanjaro for charity in September last year and then really began to focus on my fitness. Not weight loss necessarily, but improving my general health.
And here I am today, nearly 60lbs lighter than when I was at my heaviest. My boobs have been ravaged by gravity and breastfeeding, and I have a lovely ‘shelf’ of a stomach due to two c-sections.
But my body is bloody amazing. It’s going to get me up a mountain in August – higher than Everest base camp. It’s grown and fed two human beings. It offers comfort. It’s covered in stretchmarks (and bruises – wtf) and I will NEVER be the thinnest page in the book. But I’ve learnt to embrace who I am and understand there is no quick fix – it’s a journey, and we are all so much more than a number, a size, a weight.
I feel most confident with my John Lewis ‘light control’ fat pants, a good dress and some killer heels. Make- up and hair on point, but most importantly, surrounded by the people I love because they are so fucking awesome and simply don’t care that when I take my bra off my nipples graze my belly button.
I know it’s never as simple as this but fundamentally I believe that if you are healthy – you should be happy. And if you are neither of these things then make a change. You are in charge of your own well-being, no one else is responsible for that.
And in the end, we are not defined by how we look, we are defined by how we love.
Holly will be climbing Kilimanjaro to raise money for Trekstock, a small cancer charity that supports young adults through their cancer journey. Use this link to sponsor her and show her your support.