It’s early morning. As my eyes blearily focus on The Wiggles and my hand aches for the weight of a Sports Direct mug of coffee, I stroke my neck in self-comfort. A movement I have done since babyhood, it became a sensory-seeking manoeuvre once my teens accosted me and raised my testosterone levels, producing a grainy stubble of jet black hair bulbs.
But this sensation didn’t fade into the subconscious of old routine, it jumped out and shouted “Different!”. Instead of my hand being met with the familiar fullness of my double chin, it was left wanting. A distinct lack of softness was found with a concave tautness, my body having seemingly changed over night.
My progress on my weight loss journey had been hard-fought, starting first with getting my pain levels under control for the first time in a decade. My mindset changed from self-doubt and blaming, where I had previously blamed myself for my uncontrollable pain, to an acceptance that I needed medication to be able to live without crippling joint pain. I’m unwilling to take full responsibility for blaming myself, after a dozen interactions with disinterested medical professionals who ‘just’ diagnose Hypermobile Joint Syndrome and sent me on my hobblin’ way.
One piece of advice from a rheumatologist struck a chord, because when there’s logic and biology involved, I’m game.
“The stronger your muscles are, the better, because they’ll hold your joints in place”.
I found the perfect exercise in Aqua aerobics. Being in water is always sensory bliss: one cool uniform sensation enveloping my body, clicky joints supported into fluid movement. The practicalities of changing rooms, timetables, two babies to arrange cover for and the loud 90s pop music were obstacles worth overcoming.
Months had passed and I began feeling different. Changes to the way my clothes felt meant my leggings no longer gave me a comfortable cling but baggily shifted around. T shirts sleeves stopped protectively capping my arms and blew in the breeze with the other new spaces around my body. My satchel handbag gave up feeling like a leathery ‘social seatbelt’ that buckled me in for shopping centre trips, and now swished across my front carelessly.
The weight loss has forced me into clothes shops, despite my aversion to the process, motivation coming from the fact I’ve been having to hold onto my leggings, trousers and underwear while walking to stop them falling to the ground. Feeling the breeze at the school run would shock all of us involved. A new raft of leg-hugging leggings and bum-covering pants have been drafted in, but another issue my weight loss has created isn’t so easy to fix…
“You’ve lost weight, haven’t you! Wow!”
“Yes. I have.” (Why have you been looking at my body?)
“Aww lovely!” (Puppies and flowers are lovely, not my clothed Mum Body)
“Thanks…? I have exercised more, I love swimming.” (That’s what you want, isn’t it? My ‘secret’ to weight loss?)
“Suits you!” (Was I unsuited to my body before?)
These awkward encounters happen about once a week. I’ve only lost 10kg so I wearily anticipate more of these chats. For once scripting has failed me because I find the ‘compliment’ so baffling. My mother insists I take it positively, yet I find the ‘I approve of your body more now there’s less fat’ rhetoric too strange. I want to tell them about how it means my hips fall out of the sockets less now I’ve established weightlifting at the gym and my back, destroyed by two pregnancies in three years, is on its way to improvement. But these would be ‘unsociable’ and too personal, despite having to gratefully take communion at the altar of Slim Female Body Preference.