Why I'm overweight and happy
"As an overweight woman, you always feel like you have to apologise for your presence" … Chrissie Swan. Photo: Julian Kingma
I am overweight and happy. It hasn't always been this way. I mean, I've always been "happy", but I've lived with the dream of a "goal weight" hanging in front of me like a carrot (cake) since I was about 11 years old.
I recently found a diary entry from when I was 12: "I'm going on holiday and I hope to lose weight but I'm not telling anyone so it'll be a surprise." At that time I was cutting the crusts off my toast (half the calories of toast are in the crust) and spreading it with whipped margarine (whipped with air – no calories in air). How miserable.
No body, fat or thin, is without its issues - it's more about the type of life you're living
As I grew older I believed if I arrived at this fabled "goal weight", my life would be better. I'd be the sort of person who laughed loud at long lunches with beautiful friends. I'd have a string of handsome suitors and go on great road trips.
In the meantime I'd wait and starve and count calories. I was permanently on hold. I had boyfriends and flings but none were any good. I blamed my weight. If I was at my "goal weight" I'd find someone amazing and we'd drive to places for weekends away and listen to Nick Drake. Instead, I was heavy, and this was why, as my friend so aptly put it, I was a "turd magnet". Thin people had great boyfriends, didn't everyone know that?
When I met my partner I was wearing a size-20 dress and I was at a pub. It was summer and after three weeks of dating he made me a mix tape and track three was by Nick Drake. We quickly organised a spur-of-the-moment week in New Zealand. Hold on ... isn't this the sort of beautiful life reserved only for people at their goal weight?
Then I had babies. Confidence and respect for my body soared. This body, so imperfect and so far from its "goal weight", had created a human being. This human being loved my body. My body was needed. What's more, I realised it was a perfectly good body.
About two years ago I decided I was tired of waiting to live. What if I never got to my "goal weight"? I would have spent my whole life waiting. What a waste.
So I like the idea of living the kind of life you want, right now. I started putting my runners in the car so I could go for a walk when I wanted. This is the sort of thing I thought Goal Weight Chrissie would do. Goal Weight Chrissie would go to the beach with her kids and build sand castles. So that's what I do. Goal Weight Chrissie would eat big bowls of fresh salad and small bowls of delicious cheese. So that's what I do.
Being overweight isn't easy. Normal-sized people like to talk about statistics so diabolical it's a wonder we even see any chubby people at all: we should all have exploded from some cardiac-related disease years ago.
Do-gooders look at us with concerned eyes and talk about blood pressure, circulation, difficulty conceiving ... the list goes on. I can only talk for myself and say that yes, I am overweight, but my blood pressure is normal (to low), my circulation is great, I am not pre-diabetic (or pre-anything) and I conceived two children (one while I was on the Pill and the other after four days of thinking "Hmm, maybe a second baby would be nice ...").
There's no doubt overweight people can have problems conceiving. But so does my size-10 friend. No body, fat or thin, is without its issues. It's more about the type of life you're living. I eat well, grow a lot of my own food and cook 99 per cent of the food I eat. Processed food and creepy ingredients aren't good for you, no matter what size you are.
Life as an overweight woman is an exercise in apology. You always feel like you have to say sorry for your presence. That's what those sad eyes on the awkward size-18 waitress are saying: "Sorry you have to see me."
If you eat in public, you leave yourself open to screaming voices from cars. It doesn't matter if you're eating a salad roll on the way to a meeting, and God help you if it's a Chiko roll. If you must go to a drive-thru, to make sure the attendants realise you're ordering for a group and don't think the four burgers are just for you, you end up saying things like, "Let me see ... Sam wanted a Big Mac meal, didn't he?" (I'm cringing writing this because I'm guilty of it all.)
Ordering a full-cream flat white is often met with judgmental eyes, yet people at their "goal weight" do it every day of the week. So I do it, too. I'm not ashamed any more. It's satisfying to tuck into a California roll in full view of strangers.
I'm tired of maligning my size. So while I come to terms with my super-disobedient body that refuses to get thin despite pictures of Kate Winslet on my vision board, I refuse to put joy on hold for a time that may never come. I'm ordering that flat white and enjoying it. You should, too. Your Goal Weight Self would want it that way.
Chrissie Swan is the co-host of Mix 101.1's breakfast show in Melbourne and 3pm Pick-Up nationally. You can also follow her on Twitter.
This article originally appeared in Sunday Life.