It’s pool season again. This means packing and schlepping the belongings of three small people, plus snacks and towels, off to the local pool (Mummy as Sherpa). It means covering four people – here include self – with suntan lotion. It means getting two aspirant swimmers togged up in their swim belts, equipped with their pool noodles and keeping a beady eye on them while introducing a third small person to the delights of really cold water. It means taking the whole family to the loo when one person needs a wee. On the plus side there’s fun in the sun for everyone.
Being poolside in Germany is refreshing, however, because Germans are extremely unselfconscious about their bodies. Big or small, heavy or slim, brown or pale, tatooed or not tatooed, they’re all there in the smallest of swimsuits, splashing about and having a fine time. I like this. I like a society where bodies are not judged and where everyone is having fun no matter their physical characteristics.
What I can’t quell is the judge in my own head. My background is this: I come from a family obsessed with weight and after a random comment from an adult (who should have known better) when I was twelve, I spent my teens, twenties and thirties believing I was fat. I now look back on photos of myself as a teenager and I was a sylph! All those wasted years thinking I was fat. I started dieting at 17, was sub-anorexic for a few months (an apple, a health-bar, and a few vegetables as my daily quota) but luckily liked food too much to really succumb. I have been food-obsessing, dieting, weighing myself and being depressed/delighted with the daily numbers ever since.
So while I watch happy Germans cavorting, there’s a sane side that wants to celebrate the variety of shapes on display and there’s a twisted side that’s comparing my thighs to someone else’s, thinking ‘you are too fat for a bikini’ or ‘can you really afford to eat those chips?’. It’s like weight’s my filter – I just can’t help it being important to me. I don’t want it to be, but it is.
I recently told a friend I was going to shake the hold that weight has over me and love where I am right now, because I don’t want to waste the rest of my life obsessing with the scales and what I’m eating or not eating. It made me feel good for a while. But since in the last few weeks, the scales have been telling me I’m carrying a couple of extra kilos, I’m back to food hyper-consciousness.
I have many positive experiences with food. I like to make food that makes people happy. I love cooking something my kids like. I like planning, preparing and serving food to my family and friends. I like finding a great recipe, sourcing the ingredients, making it and enjoying it. I like food books and TV programmes. I love going to my local market twice a week and selecting beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables to cook and eat. I like talking about food to my foodie friends. I love it when my husband has one of his creative moments in the kitchen and cooks us a great meal.
I keep my weight madness internalised because I don’t want it to rub off on my children, especially my daughters. I never say anything negative about my own body or anyone else’s. I always tell them that they’re beautiful (and they are). I encourage them to eat healthily but don’t ban sweets either. I think I’m managing to raise them with a balanced attitude to food.
I just would like it if I could manage to go to the pool next time and not play ‘spot who’s fatter than me’. I would like it if being three kilograms over or under my ideal weight didn’t cause me such disproportionate misery or joy. And I would like it if, for once, I didn’t care whether there was chocolate in the house or not.