Tag Archives: body image

The Fucking Bathroom scales (and a bit about cycling)

Any regular readers of BHT will know that I’ve been on a weight loss kick since last September and so far, I’ve done pretty well. Since then I’ve lost a stone and five pounds. Over the months a few people have asked me about how I did it, what kind of diet I used and do I have any advice for them. I’m always reluctant to say anything- I’m not a doctor and I don’t know what will work for other people. I’m also coming from a place where I spent years hating my body quite intensely and comfort eating to an alarming degree. A lot of the people who asked me about weight loss were also not overweight themselves, which really changes the game. The difference between losing a stone when you’re already 3 stone too heavy is very different to dropping nine pounds from the upper threshold of a healthy weight. I didn’t really diet so much as I started weight watchers, which is cool because it’s more about monitoring how much you eat and the quality of that amount- basically what a diet should be with no gimmicks. That idea of ‘not eating like you’re preparing to hibernate’ served me pretty well, and then I started exercising, which has got me going again.

I’ve become aware of the fact that once you start losing weight, it does become a sort of personal challenge, and I’ve begun to beat myself up a lot when I don’t lose anything for a few weeks. Not out of anger at how I look (I look and feel fantastic overall compared to a year ago when I’d just eat another bag of crisps and cry) but because not losing makes me think I’ve started ‘slipping back’ on my good habits and that I’ve done something wrong. I think I’ve discovered the root of my problem- the fucking Bathroom scales.

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owning the number

We recently got a lot of work done in the house and part of the work was a shiny new bathroom with shiny new tiles and a shiny new bathroom scales. We’ve never had a scales in the house before; as a teenager I’d weigh myself at my grandmothers on her absolutely flawless set of scales from 1980 but because that wasn’t a regular thing I wasn’t able to put the number on the scale into context. Until I was 17 I didn’t know what my healthy weight ought to be. I just had the vague knowledge that I was some degree of ‘fat’ and lived with it. When I started weight watchers I got used to being weighed once a week. Being weighed once a week is brilliant. It’s just long enough to keep a watch on it but also not so long that you can do any serious damage. I’ve never gone up by more than 4 pounds in one week before I brought it back down. But then we got the scales in the house.

It started that I’d just ‘check it’ on a Sunday to make sure I was keeping on track to losing that week. Then it was every time I had a shower. Then it was every morning. The scales became a daily habit, something to tick off having done. Since we got them in February, I haven’t lost any weight. I just go up and down around the figure of 13 stone. And every single day the needle would stay on that number and madden me. I began to get very depressed. Even my dad noticed, which means it must have been bad. I started skipping meals and fasting, which is just fucking stupid. it was my dad who actually had the quote that snapped me out of the mindset- ‘Up a pound or down a pound, it doesn’t fuckin’ matter- you’re still alive you know!’

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Back in the good old days

I finally understand what people meant when they cautioned me not to get obsessed with my weight. Having a scales there every day in open view is a nightmare, because weighing in every day is pointless- having a cup of tea can add on a pound, peeing can take it off again – at least when it’s once a week you can take that number away and work on it. So no more daily weigh ins and no more depression sessions about it. The amount of frustration and reduction that number creates is frightening- no matter how fit or good you feel that day, it still marks you down as ‘fat’. Not fun. See I like the Weight Watchers model- I know it sounds strange, going in to get weighed. It does *sound* very judge-y, but I’ve always found it to be a very positive way of keeping a handle on things. The person running the class is usually someone who has successfully lost weight themselves (personally, my local weight watchers leader is HILARZ) and it’s always framed in a very positive manner. Obviously not for everyone and at a tenner a week, not the sort of thing everyone can afford, but I’ve found it useful.

So yeah, fuck bathroom scales, fuck daily weigh ins and fuck that level of body monitoring. It’s scary how easy it is to fall into that habit and how natural it feels- even now, I have the itch to go and check my weight even though I was weighed AT 6PM THIS EVENING. It’s scary. My only advice to anyone trying to lose weight is this- only weigh yourself once a week. And do it in the morning or just before you go to bed. And do a big poo before you get on the scales.

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Cycling

One thing that has become clear to me is that eating a healthy diet, avoiding fast food and just generally trying to moderate my comfort eating has taken me as far as I can go with this whole journey. I still feel quite doughy and unfit, while having this lighter, more mobile body that I can put to use. So I tried running for a bit which was a disaster. I’m just still too darn heavy and my knees were bearing the brunt of that. Swimming is a lot of fun but it’s a pain getting out to my pool now so instead I managed to get what I’ve been hankering after for a while- a brand new bicycle.

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Me last summer pre weight loss on the most ridiculous bike ever.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a shop that stocked Penny farthings (Actually that was fortunate because they’re actually really hard to ride). It had to fit two important criteria

1- sturdy enough to cope with moderately long cycles

2- girly enough so that my brothers wouldn’t ever be inclined to ‘borrow’ it.

The second criteria ruled out anything like a racer and my childhood of bounding around on a series of rusty mountain bikes has left me with a bias against them. I finally found a nice heavy roadster that looked nice.

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They see me rollin’, they hatin’

So I set out for the first time and tried cycling around my area. The great thing about cycling is that you can feel like the cat’s pyjamas rolling out of the drive way and speed through your estate to the coast all in fifth gear, then you turn around to go home and find a subtle uphill climb waiting for you. There’s something very satisfying about it. It’s the same sort of satisfaction I got from walking, except you go faster and farther. There is a strange, simple satisfaction found in bringing yourself to a new place by the force of your own feet (and some forgiving down hill slopes). As exercising, it’s rewarding. You sweat all over and your knees feel like jelly.

The honeymoon was short. After a day, I had my first puncture and after 2 days had my first crash into a parked car on an empty road. The next day my mother came home with a hi vis vest and shouts at me if I don’t wear it.

BUT, the best thing about cycling everywhere isn’t the weight loss part of it (I actually haven’t gotten any lighter since I started- I’ve gone up a little bit because I’m eating more and making myself crave sugar). The best part is after three weeks starting to feel my body get a bit leaner and fitter. Hills are still an absolute BASTARD but I’m recovering faster and I’m lasting longer. now that I’ve got a feeling of control over my weight and my body, I can actually do fun things with it. That was my problem all along- I didn’t have a weight problem, I had a control problem. I felt utterly powerless and out of control when it came to my body. I was a slave to my compulsive eating, which meant I was a slave to being overweight, and then a slave to whatever clothes they had in my sizes.

It’s nice to feel like you’re putting your body to good use rather than just losing weight to sit around and look better. Being lighter means I can actually do stuff that before was just so fucking hard. Seriously no lie, I had a mountain bike last year and every hill I came to I had to get off and wheel the thing up. I was just too goddamn heavy to pedal myself up the hill. The bike was constantly punctured and I’m pretty sure that was a combination of being an old bike and being unable to carry my weight. Probably the best thing about getting fit again though is all the time I spend on my bike is time spent thinking about blogs and writing, which I’d fallen out of doing since my commute ended.

So in summation- Bathroom Scales bad, Cycling good.

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Niamh ‘Can all car drivers please look for cyclists before they fling their doors open onto the road’ Keoghan

 

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Bank Holiday Tuesday 26th February 2013

This column originally appeared on the StudentStandard.ie on 26th February, 2013.  Additional editing by Keith Broni.

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I think everybody likes breasts.  Who wouldn’t?  They are providers of food, arousal and can be all-in-all aesthetically pleasing.  Let me just make that clear: I’m very pro-breast.  I am a tits-positive feminist.  But also increasingly, I feel like I have less and less ownership of my girlies.  Generally when I see jokes made about boobs, they’re all made by definite non-breast owners. Like Seth McFarlane who had a whole song dedicated to lady bits at the Oscars.  Unless Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had a song dedicated to the cock when they did the Golden Globes, I am going to absolutely 100% file this under ‘sexist bullshit’ (McFarlane was also heaps of unfunny overall, but lets just focus this on tits).

I’ll concede the point that tits are just a lot more aesthetically pleasing than penises (up for debate but generally, I mean), but that still doesn’t condone their massive overuse in media, marketing and advertising. And alarmingly, I don’t feel like I’m in control of mine a lot of the time.  They are disembodied from me: my disembodied tits, if you will.  Floating just separate from the rest of me, two ghostly orbs to be objectified. Both slagged and admired.

Often I have reflected, while lounging in the bath pouring water over my head from a plastic jug because our showerhead doesn’t work, that my girls are a good reflection of who I am.  They’re a bit lopsided and awkward, but they dress up nicely (in a nice bra they can be killer). They’re a bit small but they’re also resilient and determined. Essentially, my breasts are just some plucky kids trying to make their way in a crazy mixed up world.  I can empathise with their struggle.  But sometimes even though breasts are everywhere in our culture, I often feel like my girls are not my own.  I feel like they’re out there in the public realm despite the fact they live here, under my shirt and very few (very lucky may I add) people actually see them.

I see a lot of dudes making the breast-related humour and breasts being used to sell to them.  I read the A Song of Ice and Fire series (on which the Game of Thrones HBO series is based) and have often noted how Daenerys Targaryen seems to be extremely aware of what her tits are doing at any particular moment. Are they swollen, bouncing, swaying gently in the breeze? Doing their accounts for the year? Sometimes the way they are described is as if they’re like a little principality beyond the rest of her body: sharing a landmass but also a state unto themselves.  This is a mistake a lot of guys make about breasts: they assume that ladies are super aware of what they’re doing at all times. I think a lot of guys assume tits are the same as their penis.  Having to gently explain to a seventeen year old boy that no, squeezing them will not arouse a lady nor is it a particularly pleasant sensation was quite mortifying.  It took the girls a full year to recover from the awkwardness of that ill-advised grabbing.  [EDIT- After being told by a good griend that this seems to generalize a bit on what ladies like done in the boudoir, let me expand just a tiny bit on the story.  I left this part out of the standard column because it is a reputable publication and not a place for my sexual misadvantures to be recorded- that’s what this blog is for. The unfortunate boy I was referring to here grabbed onto my girls as we had an awkward, unpleasant shift in an alleyway out his back garden.  He, not being schooled in the ways of actual subtlety or indeed, basic human biology, sort of kneaded my girls the way you’d test a melon for ripeness or a piece of bread for freshness, and then asked the immortal question- ‘Are you gonna come?’ No.  No, aimlessly poking at a girls boobs is not the way to make the vast majority of women orgasm.  This is also the boy who could not locate my vagina while his hand was up my skirt.  ANYWAY.  Poor boy.  Left my girls in a state of trauma for years.]

It’s like we all love tits, but they’re public property so we’re not allowed own them.  The sort of tits you see exposed (in mainstream non-porn media anyway)  are a very specific kind of tit. Usually white, not too big but not too small.  Kate Winslet and Emilia Clarke are both famous owners of great tits and I’m struck by how similar they are.  Again not too big, small or ethnic.  Just your good garden variety, well-proportioned, English breast: the sort you’d grow in a garden or buy from an organic farmer’s market.  They are the golden ratio of boob.

Because most things are advertised to the heterosexual white male, the power and appeal of the boobs are placed solely in their hands.  I’m not allowed to make jokes about tits aimed at other women. How many comments are there going to be about this very column calling it ‘brave’ or ‘honest’ or indeed ‘fucking disgusting’ when ALL I’M DOING is talking about these poor beleaguered breasts that I’ve been hitching along for the ride since they arrived from the puberty fairy in 2004?  This isn’t bravery: it’s just me owning me bleedin’ body, lads.

Tell me anyone who doesn’t like breasts?  Straight men and lesbians of course like them and within consensual jolly sexy times they are a wonderful thing to share.  Children like them because food and the often overlooked fact that they make a lovely soft pillow with built in mother’s heartbeat to fall asleep to.  Gay men and straight girls can appreciate tits for their aesthetic qualities: how they look in bras, how they move and how women can just rock them.  I know there’s a whole spectrum of people I’m leaving out here but I still stand by my point: give me a person of any gender or sexual identity and I will give you back a person who can appreciate breasts.  Of course individuals can not like breasts, but what I’m saying is, we’re generally living in a pro-tits world. But maybe we’re just a bit boob drunk, and we need to lay off them for a bit. Maybe we need to get off everyone’s tits, collectively.

We also need to discard the idea of the ‘perfect tits’. It’s a fallacy and we’re only limiting ourselves.  We need OWNERSHIP.  We need a revolution in private ownership of the breasts.  I now implore you all, as I oft implore, to stand on a chair/table/raised platform, grab your breasts through your shirt with both hands and scream “THESE ARE MY GIRLS AND I WILL HAVE AGENCY OVER THEM.” We need to reclaim our girls, ladies.  It’s okay for us to share them with our partners and our children and everything, but we need to do so with the firm conviction that they are OUR girls.

The world gotta understand that there are ours; that we are sole purveyors and monopolists of breast. We need to topple this empire of the golden ratio.  I want to see everyone with ownership over their respective girls: big, small, black, white, working class or high society.  But always owned and operated solely by the body they’re attached to.  I’m calling this social movement pro-tits feminism.  Say it with me now (if you’re still standing on that chair/table/raised platform so much the better) loud and proud: I AM A PRO TITS FEMINIST!

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Niamh ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ Keoghan

Advice for misfit teenage girls

Do you ever feel like you’re not really as smart  as everyone thinks you are, and that you’re just fooling everyone?

If you ever have, I want to talk to you.

Life gave me a lot of things to hate about myself when I was fifteen- I was some wanker, all things considered.  I was a teenage girl, which means inevitably that I was emotional and irrational.  My voice was too loud.  I was really fat.  I had horrible hair.  I thought I was gay because the sight of boys my age made me heave with revulsion (I later realised this was actually due to lynx body spray).  I had no friends that weren’t caught up in a quagmire of mean girls level political intrigue.

The world is not a kind place for a fat, awkward, loud, precocious teenage girl.

I’ve since met the type of kid I was; bursting with ideas and excitement and OPINIONS about THINGS and FEELINGS and speaking in a LOUD VOICE about everything.  They’ll talk your ear off for hours about their favourite obscure media, they’ll tell you ALL ABOUT the novel they’re working on, how much they CAN’T WAIT to be in college and out of school.  Christ, they can be nightmares.  it isn’t their fault.  They have yet to grow into the massive amount of personality they have developed in just over a decade of existence.

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On the other hand, girls at that age are wonderful.  They can do ANYTHING.  They’re writing novels (albeit mine all had unfortunately problematic gender relations and some slut shaming that I’m not proud of) and poems and getting jobs and buying CDs.  Usually if they’ve navigated through the junior cycle of school without much injury (or too much) at fifteen they’ll be finishing up worrying what other people think of them and asking ‘well what do I think of myself, actually?’  If they’re anything like me, they’ll look at themselves and not like what they see at all.

It’s a rough age for boys and girls (I focus mostly on girls on account of having BARRELS of embarrassing experience.), But I have constructed here a few pointers that I wish I had lived by when I was fifteen.

You are not going to look like that for the rest of your life-  I know your parents and friends will reassure you that ‘you’re lovely!’ every time you express concerns over how you look.  So let me give it to you straight- You probably are a bit weird looking. Everyone is a bit weird looking when they’re fifteen.

We had a femmy lumberjack phase back in ’07

You’re in that uncomfortable stage of looking a bit adult but also still childlike, while acting a bit adult and childish at the same time.  You’ll know what I mean when you look back on photos from this time when you’re 20.  It’s disconcerting, particularly if you’re prematurely articulate and clever. You are also likely to be overweight, suffering from acne, or have braces.  I am telling you that is both

a) totally okay

b) totally temporary

you will not look weird for the rest of your life because as you grow you’ll realize that good looking people are often not the ones with perfectly proportioned features, but simply the ones with a bit of personality.  The ones who are all laughing, smiling, having fun, asking you how you’re getting on.  You cannot imagine the beauty to be found in a pair of bright, alert eyes that are full of fun.  It’s also not the be all and end all to be good looking.  There are worse things to be.  If you’re not happy with your body, tell yourself it’s sleeping.  Be kind to it.  It’s as confused as your head is.

Trust me, the braces will come off, the fat will roll off, you’ll get a nice haircut and discover what clothes actually suit you, and you’ll be looking FAB.

….Most of the time

Listen to the music you like, not what makes you cool. This piece of advice actually comes from a girl who was a few years ahead of me at school who gave me a cascade of useful advice around 2006, and this is probably the best and most long reaching wisdom she gave me. Who you are when you go to school is not going to define you and your relationships for the rest of your life.  Seriously.  It’s fucking brilliant.  But the reason the music advice is so good is part of the reason I love music as a conversation topic- You can bullshit about your favourite bands for HOURS.  You can dissect and analyse and share interpretations for hours, and there’s always more to discover.

Listen to the stuff you like because when you talk about stuff you honestly enjoy, you’ll be more interesting.  People will open up and share what they like.  Don’t subject yourself to bad music- it is in fact damaging to your health (I am not making that up).  Music is something people get passionate about and love discussing, it’s a great conversation topic.  When you find people with similar taste in music, you’ll never feel as alone again.  Best advice I ever got- listen to music you like, not the stuff that makes you cool.  I am an EXPERT in sleeper indie hits on the Top 40 charts, for instance.  If you like it, you don’t have to apologise for it.  Rock bands are at least as over produced as pop music these days, there’s nothing more inherently honest about it.  So yes, go and listen to Born this Way, we’ll be waiting with coffee to discuss.

Cover your bedroom in posters.  You will regret it if you don’t; curate a fucking exhibition of yourself in that room, mark it out as yours.  You will never have such a license to throw whatever you want up on a wall ever again, unless you become an eccentric billionaire.

Nobody gives a shit what you did in secondary school. No, read that again.  None of that shit matters.  Read it again.  NOBODY CARES.  You cannot begin to imagine the pettiness you’ll identify when you look back on your teenage years.  Keep in mind always that school ends- you leave when you’re 18 and you don’t have to meet these people EVER AGAIN.  You can go to college and start over. You only have to keep in touch with the people you want.  This doesn’t give you license to be an arse, but keep in mind that no matter how bad it seems, usually that stuff won’t carry over into college and the real world.

Do things for your personal happiness.  Do things that make you feel good, and understand that it is not your job to only satisfy other people’s needs and whims.  Friendships are about two people enjoying one another’s company.  You’re not anybody’s lap dog, nor are you anyone’s boss.  Don’t do things that make you unhappy.  When you’re fifteen you’re allowed be a bit selfish and live for yourself, so do that!  Try not to be too much of a dick.

Relax.  The way you feel right now?  That’s not how you feel forever.  It’ll return now and then, in dark moments of self doubt and come creeping back, but that’s a temporary feeling.  You’re going to be okay.  You are going to do a lot of things you regret, but that’s okay because you’re allowed.  We have all been there.  We are scarlet for the things we did, said and believed when we were fifteen. That’s not  to say what you believe in and want and feel isn’t important- a lot of things you decide now will stick with you, but not all of it.  You will discard those things you don’t enjoy like a snake sheds skin.  You’re only starting out.  You’re going to be fine.

Oh, and under no circumstances should you wear jeggings.  You’ll be scarlet you ever wore jeggings for SURE.

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Niamh ‘I was quite the looker’ Keoghan

Memo to my body, from my mind

Hi, body, listen. It’s mind here. I know we’ve been going through some downsizing lately- you’re six pounds lighter all over, productivity and overall efficiency is way up- we’re just thrilled. However, you seem to be… Resisting our ah, new sleep policy, of getting at least 7 hours a night. I know these are trying times, and you’re worried about the down sizing measures- please rest assured, there will always be a place for you in this organisation, body. Your vital masturbatory sector is something we here at mind are very keen to utilise to its full capabilities. I would however like to remind you that our own arousal centre is the provider of materials that help along this process, along with the secretions of various hormones that allows you to function to full power. As you can see body, our relationship is wholly mutually beneficial.

Which is why I really need your support, from all over- thighs, upper arms, tummy- we all need to pull together for this program. I must admit while mind has been working hard and indeed, so have you, Ive been sensing some resistance from you. I understand it’s difficult to get used to a new streamlined model, but we all have to cope with this change- the old model Niamh was simply too clunky, body and mind- don’t think we haven’t had some serious changes going on up here, either. In the space of less than 2 years Ive had to contend with five changes of heart on EU membership, three abysmal romantic entanglements, an entire feminist software upgrade not to mention a 180 turn as regards abortion- Its been tough all around.

But body, this period trouble is going to have to stop. We understand you’re not happy with the downsizing, but please look to the benefits- these severe aches and back cramps are simply unhelpful industrial action, and Mind will not stand for your unbalancing of our careful hormonelevels.

Have you any questions, we can have a proper meeting some time into next week- gym perhaps? Maybe the pool. Body, please remember you are a valued member of our team here at Niamh, and nothing would please me more than to see you happy with our restructuring.

Best,

Mind

Niamh third notch in on my belt Keoghan