Let’s assume we have a friend called Jane. Jane has been trying to get into shape. She’s a size 16 and desperately wants to be a 12 and for about four weeks now she’s been having a damn good go at getting her eating back in order.
The trouble started with Love Island. She’d been joining her teenage daughter each evening for the toe-curling steamy episodes and had got into the habit of TV snacking. Chocolate peanuts, biscuits, even crisps and half a bottle of Prosecco (special treat for the final) but once that was over, Jane declared enough was enough and the booze and choccy were consigned to the loft. Jane’s health kick (lots of protein, lots of veg, and either oats, potatoes, rice or pasta, once a day, depending which meal it is) was going really well – still is I believe, but one of the biggest issues was managing other people’s opinions and sensitivities.
Top of the list is her 14 year-old daughter whose favourite words at the moment are ‘flat stomach’ and ‘skinny’. Jane has nipped this in the bud and talks non-stop about health, energy and how you get out of your body what you put in. She uses phrases like ‘God I could eat a horse’ and ‘Blimey, look at how many press-ups I can do now’.
Then there’s Jane’s friends, who have noticed (not without a little envy) how her white jeans adorn her firm thighs and how her vitality and cheerfulness have hit another level. They watch her every mouthful at girls’ lunches and with a show of jealousy thinly disguised as concern, declare ‘isn’t it about time you started eating properly?” – meaning her determination and saintliness are making them feel bad. Jane smiles and ignores it. My message to everyone getting into shape is to eat well, move your body and the rewards for your health and body-shape will be huge, but tell no-one. Once your efforts start affecting those around you, then other emotions like guilt will colour your triumphs.
The best attitude to adopt is one of carefree jolliness. No-one will suspect anything. Be up for all the socials, the lunches, dinners, book club outings, but manage the food side quietly to yourself. Decline the wine (“not sleeping well, so I’d rather not”), eat slowly, so you finish after them, refuse seconds (“I’m stuffed to the gills”). All without showing you’re missing out. As for young daughters, use words like strong, fit and how eating properly gives you energy. Hide the scales – you don’t need a number to know it’s working – your clothes will tell you that.
(originally written for Woman magazine, summer 2022)