I’m Thinner. And I’m Not Happier.
I convinced myself that if I made myself smaller, there would be less of me to hurt. Taking up less space would mean I’d be less noticeable. I fantasized about shrinking myself down and disappearing. And so it was decided. The key to happiness was thinness.
I gave birth to my daughter in July 2019 and one of my first thoughts was about weight loss. I was desperately unhappy and developed postnatal depression. Although my postpartum body wasn’t responsible for this, it was the only thing I could control in the midst of the unpredictability of motherhood.
I was diagnosed as being Pre-Diabetic and advised to go on a low sugar diet. This started off healthily, but then I got a taste for restriction. I liked having an excuse to refuse certain foods. Then I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I had to restrict my dietary options even further. It was perfect. Until I started to reach the point of no amount of weight loss being enough.
“Nine months on. Nine months off.”
This is a common expression said to new moms. The intention is to be supportive. It took nine months to gain the weight, so you can’t expect to lose it overnight. I heard this expression a few times and I couldn’t let go of the number nine.
I need to be thinner by the time my daughter is nine months old.
I need to be nine stone.
I don’t know how much I weigh. If I weigh myself I know I will get obsessed with the numbers. But I know I am smaller. I know I am taking up less space. But I haven’t found the happiness I crave.
I spend my days worrying and overthinking.
“If I gain a couple of pounds, everyone will notice.”
“I’m not losing weight quickly enough.”
“Why am I still sad?”
“Why did this outfit look fine last week but today it makes me look fat?”
“Am I a terrible person for thinking being fat is bad?”
I cannot work because my mental health is in tatters. I returned from maternity leave in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. My world was turned upside and everything felt out of control. I tried my best to cope with the unpredictability of being a working mom, but I began to crumble.
I stuck to my diet religiously, naively hoping if I could control my body everything else would fall into place. But in becoming less of me physically, I have become less of me mentally.
I hardly go out. I don’t reply to messages from friends. I snap at my husband. I get impatient with my daughter. I’m tired all of the time. I’ve never been this unhappy in my life. Because thinness wasn’t the answer.
There is less of me. Less laughter. Less motivation. Less concentration. Less emotional regulation. Less intimacy. Less enjoyment. Less fulfillment. Less hope. I got what I wanted. But I have suffered great loss in the process.
The answer to my problems does not lie in the abuse of my body. It lies in connection with others. Connection to my support network. But thinness has severed these connections because they were getting in the way of the pursuit of less.
Despite this, I can’t bear the thought of relaxing my eating habits. It’s a sad reflection of the society we live in where gaining weight is more frightening than losing people.
Although I am afraid, I know how to be brave. I get through each and every day, even though I am afraid. Reaching out to my support network won’t take as much bravery. They have missed me and will be happy that I’m making the effort to return, even if I am less of the girl they once knew.
And one day I will be more of me again. It won’t be dictated by the size of my clothes or numbers on the scale, but by how much love I allow into my life and how much love I give to my body.
If you are struggling with similar issues, help and support is available from Beat.