What I learnt from my involuntary weight loss

Content warning: Weight loss, eating disorders, fatphobia, discussion of physical and mental illness

We’re all screwed up. Honestly, we are so brainwashed it’s out of control.

In the last year I’ve lost 20% of my body weight then gained it all back. I went down two dress sizes then went back up them. I lost most of the fat on my body, then I got it all back. I lost the natural shape of my body, then I filled back out.

It all happened through the extremely enviable combination of the onset of an Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the invasion of an unwelcome rare parasite.

The symptoms included months of explosive diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, extreme bloating, aggressive cramping, the inability to eat many foods, intense fatigue, a creepy pre-occupation with food, plus depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

This really hurt (both parts)

So some might say, it was a bloody amazing time.

The worst of the the symptoms are a few months behind me now thanks to modern medicine and I’m eating all the food I like now with my nice, soft body.

With this sort of mental and physical trauma, you can’t help but learn a lesson or two. The lesson that slapped me in the face like soggy kale was suddenly really seeing this horrible diet culture we live in so clearly.

We live in a world where being skinny is revered so much it’s wildly unhealthy. I swear we are all super messed up.

When I first had my first intense weight loss (a painful 7kg in 7 weeks due to the rejection of all food and constant diarrhoea), I ended up getting a lot of compliments. And the compliments hurt.

“You look SO great!”
“I wish I had a jawline like yours”
“You just look so much… smaller!”

How wild is it that we think of “thin” features as so desirable, we’ll compliment someone on their newly acquired thinness without thinking about what happened for them to appear.

I was extremely ill and my weight loss was a symptom that was sickening to be complimented on. It’s a dangerous place to compliment weight loss – you never know if the person has an eating disorder that you are encouraging, or another mental health issue that you are undermining.

We are so unhealthy with our perception of weight and size that we actually hurt people by glamorising it.

We talk about food (and it’s always the delicious food) with so much judgement and disdain.

Someone brings out cake and it’s suddenly the choice to eat a slice or not is this intense moral decision. A “guilty pleasure”, or it’s “naughty”.

“I could be bad and eat the cake, but I’ve been so GOOD this week so I shouldn’t!”

From what I’ve learnt from months of being physically unable to eat any delicious food, is that if we can, we all need to just EAT THE F*CKING CAKE.

Holy shit guys. Chill out. You’re not kicking a baby, or putting a cat in a wheelie bin. As a friend said “You know what’s bad? Climate change. Restriction to safe abortion. Poverty. Racism. BAKED GOODS ARE NOT IT.”

So many people are on all of these wild diets – intermittent fasting, Keto, low FODMAP, no sugar, juice cleanses, no meat, only meat, vegan, raw vegan, pescatarian, gluten free, dairy free, or the diet of any convincing person with a website or podcast.

Some diets are literally to help specific medical issues (shout out to my Dad on a Mediterranean diet), but many of us could probably chill on the diets. Look up intuitive eating this is the sort of non-diet we all need.

Let’s be real, we could all get a sudden onset of an IBD and a parasite and never be able to eat cake again. I promise you, you’ll WISH you had eaten all of the cake when you could. I literally cried when I couldn’t have ice cream in summer – it’s not a fun time.

It’s also important to remember, global warming is happening, Trump is in power and we’re all dying. We could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Eat the food you want to eat today.

This diet culture seeps deeply into how we talk about our bodies.

We talk about our “flaws”, “problem areas”, dressing “appropriately” for our size or body shape, our “muffin tops”, “bingo wings”.

We talk about bikini/summer bodies and are unable to say we’re thin/skinny cos we’re never enough. We get no time off either cos “a summer body is built in winter”.

We say things like “I feel fat” (fat isn’t a feeling, it’s a description), or what about the sneaky “I don’t want to lose weight, I just want to tone up” – we all know what that means. Or the immediate desire for post-pregnancy weight loss. The race to pretend that you never created life.

We used to talk about “thunder thighs” or having a “fat ass” but now it’s all about being “thicc” (which I think I’m too white to write down). We’re all about booty gains, but wanting a thigh gap (like f*cking how?!).

Cos we’re all supposed to be lifting weights and doing squats, doing spin and HIIT classes, and of course, functional training cos we’re strong independent women.

There’s the hip-to-waist-ratio to prove that you have sexy baby-bearing hips to the male species, and also, everybody wants a nice big bosom for a pillow. But keep that BMI within that meaningless range that everyone knows is bull.

Pop on some Spanx to hide your real shape, or chuck on a waist trainer to completely change it.

Oh and those terrible wrinkles all over our faces. “I’VE SMILED TOO MUCH IN MY LIFE AND NOW THERE IS PROOF OF IT, I’M HUMILIATED!”. Get needles stuck in your face to fill those in.

And brows are in, but as long as they bushy and a cute shape that isn’t actually how they look. Sorry if you over-plucked in the 90s, you’re an embarrassment now, better tattoo some hairs on to make up for it.

But not on your upper lip, get rid of that. And while you’re at it, remove every piece of hair that isn’t your long luscious locks or around your eye area. The goal is to look like a really sexy baby.

Honestly, WHAT ARE WE DOING?

Why can I lose 20% of my body mass due to uncontrollable diarrhoea, and have someone tell me that I look “incredible”?

Why did I even have my doctor telling me he wishes he had my gut issues so he could lose weight? (“But… only for a little while”).

Why did so many people see the trauma I was going through as a cloud, with the silver lining of weights loss?

Why, when I finally could eat again and was in starvation mode, eating 10 meals a day, did people tell me to be careful “to not go back the other way”? i.e. you were unhealthily skinny, but you don’t want to eat till you’re fat.

Guys, I was literally STARVING. Do not come between a starving person and their bagels with your fatphobia. I’ll eat all the carbs and cakes I damn well please. I hope I get fatter than I was and I will look in the mirror and love myself for it.

We are messing people up. We are forming a space where eating disorders are common but we do nothing to change our language and perception of weight loss and, if anything, push people into them.

There are people who think their babies are too fat. Children grow up hating their bodies. They’re dieting before they’re in high school. As a society we literally mock fat people and deny that they’re humans who deserve love and to just exist like anyone else.

What world have we created that we have a hundred impossible goals for our bodies. We’re plucking, drawing, waxing, shaping, shaving, exercising, and dieting to within an inch of our lives and for what?

FOR. WHAT?!

I’ll tell you what for. For nothing. It’s all a lie. Thinness does not equal happiness. I repeat. Thinness does not equal happiness.

Depriving yourself of food you love feels like deprivation, not like joy. It sucks. That quote is wrong – Toffee Pops taste better than thin feels. Fact.

Another fun fact: dieting doesn’t work. Read this article, it has some eye-opening info, like this:

“Since 1959, research has shown that 95 to 98 percent of attempts to lose weight fail and that two-thirds of dieters gain back more than they lost. The reasons are biological and irreversible.”

There is new science that says that our bodies have their own set weight range, if we do lose weight below that, our metabolism drops and our hunger increases. We can’t help returning to our natural weight.

For some that weight is higher, for others, lower. This explains why there are some salad-eating, green smoothie-drinking, super fit fat people, and KFC-eating, beer-drinking, lazy ass skinny people. Cos their body looks like their body 🤯

I’ll let you in on a secret. Having abs does not feel like happiness. I was still self-conscious. But with a body I was allowed to Instagram.

Abs by 6 months of the shits

Having less fat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – bony butts are uncomfortable to sit on and I swear you bruise more easily when you knock into stuff.

And then you might like to say “but it’s healthy”. What is? Undereating? Avoiding delicious food? You can still eat salads and açai bowls. All I’m saying is, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, eat a balanced diet, and skipping out on the treats is a shit life with no good payoff.

“Being fat is bad for your health”. Is it? Research shows that an unfit thin person is twice as likely to get diabetes than an active fat person.

Stop judging fat people and pretending it’s concern for their health. No one tried to educate me about my health just because they saw that I was thin. No one gives a damn about a stranger’s health unless they’re fat.

Go for a run, go for a walk, dance around in your undies and enjoy the ways your body moves and jiggles. It’s damn cute. Try do 30 minutes of any type of activity a day if you are able to – now that is healthy self-care.

I really, REALLY would love everyone try unpack their personal relationship with diets, food, their reflection, and their judgement of other people based purely on their looks.

Stop complimenting people for their weight loss or thin features, for so many reasons – even if you know they wanted to lose weight, you NEVER know what they went through to get there. No one wants to reinforce an eating disorder or upset someone who has a disease. There are so many other ways to compliment each other that are 100 times better.

Stop judging people for what they wear, eat, or do with their bodies if they’re not hurting anyone. And, yes, honestly, it’s not any of my business if you eat the cake or not… Some people prefer chips 😉

All I’d like to say is, I hope that, if you are a person that thinks that different types of food hold moral value, or if you think thin = good/healthy and fat = bad/unhealthy, you try unpack that.

If you talk to yourself about how you look/what you eat/how much you exercise in a way that you would NEVER talk to a friend, please try unpack that and be kinder to yourself.

If you feel you need to look a certain way and that you need to deprive yourself to get that, please really think about why you do, and who benefits from that.

My guess is that the people that benefit are those that are monetising our self-hate and the people objectifying us for their own selfish desires. We do not benefit – we remain self-conscious and wanting more.

You do you babes. Your FUPA is cute, your thighs are strong, your wrinkles and stretch marks show you’ve done things and a chiselled jawline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

If you’ve got fat on your body, you’re more insulated against the cold and you float better. You’re softer and you should know that you’re beautiful at any size.

And that, my friends, is what I learnt from 7 months of diarrhoea and a round trip of 12kgs.

Charlie xx


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One thought on “What I learnt from my involuntary weight loss”

  1. Yay Charlie, good on you.
    I’m 72. My great joy is doing aquarobics with a bunch of people. Oldest 93. All shapes and sizes and none of us care about our wobbly bits. Just enjoy the water, the execise and friendship. Sometimes it sad to see gorgeous teenagers embarrassed with their bodies at the pool.
    Eat up and enjoy. So glad you are recovering. Xx

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