Based in Frome, somerset, #fitMess is a blog by Joanna Beale. Her posts draw on her work as a personal trainer, as well as her own personal past experience of significant obesity.  Her general focus is overall wellness and body positivity.

a weighty issue

At the bottom of this post are two photos of me.  For reference, I'm 5'6".  In one, I'm pushing 21 stone (pretty much 300lbs), and in the other, I'm in the region of 12 stone/165lbs.  This is my favourite side by side comparison, even though I have photos of myself where I'm 3 stone thinner than that.  This is really important for me to stress because all too often we are being told that thin = healthy. It does fucking not. Thin can be incredibly unhealthy, and BMI, for example, can be misleading as fuck. 

By no means am I trying to tell you that 300lbs is healthy. Let me tell you what it is.  It is constant joint pain, neverending sweating and boils, yeah that's right. BOILS.  It is always having to shower and never quite being able to reach anything that you really need to wash.  It's sitting in a chair and your belly reaching your knees.  It's hearing your family talking about you in hushed tones.  It's having strangers insult you in the street.  It's not fitting in the plane seat and being moved by the stewardess.  It's fitting into a different plane seat and having to use a seat-belt extender.  It's being too ashamed to eat in public.  It's having to ask your best friend to paint your toenails (thanks Emma). It's giving up on your toenails and deciding never to leave the house.  It's both the by-product and a cause of giving up on your life.

I spent a decade putting on that much weight, at my biggest in my mid-twenties, when I made a snap decision one day to change. I had a 'last supper' of 2 chocolate chip cookies, and I vowed tomorrow would be different. 11 months later, I'd lost 11 stone with low calorie meal replacements. I was thin. Well, thinner. My mind had not caught up with my body. I was still picking up the largest size in the shop, still avoiding looking in the mirror, still envious of my petite friends. I was still not good enough, not pretty enough, not normal enough. I was devastated emotionally to find nothing I'd sought at what I thought would be the end of my journey. So, I reduced my intake further in an effort to lose more weight. I kept going. Six months later, a size 8 from any shop was too big. Still, I was not perfect. By this point, my hairline had begun to recede. My skin was grey - so much so, I always had to wear a maximum coverage foundation. I had to sleep a minimum of 14 hours a day because my energy levels were so low. Still, I was not perfect. I did 10 hours of martial arts every week and walked everywhere. I was exhausted, strung out, desperate and still not fucking perfect. I was freezing all the time. Four tops in the height of summer, heater under my desk in winter. The stunning hourglass figure I imagined hiding under all the fat simply wasn't there. My tiny frame was narrow-hipped, slim-shouldered, lacking any of the curves that body fat would have provided. No boobs, just padding. No ass, no hips, not even really any waist. Straight up and down. All that work, all that horrific, exhausting, neverending effort and I was not perfect. Not only that, but I was now scared to go anywhere. This terrifyingly diminutive stature afforded me no protection against the world. This body was foreign, it was frightening and it was not goddamn perfect. Size fucking 6 (from a 28). 8.5 stone (from 21) and I was more miserable with my body than I'd ever been. My own mother didn't recognise me. Nobody did. Some people were too scared to ask about my weight loss because they presumed I was seriously ill. Others had no qualms, bestowing constant attention on me, congratulating me for my efforts, my strength, my discipline. And that's how I self-destructed. Every compliment burned painfully, reminding me of my fraud. They thought I was perfect, they thought I was a swan; I felt like I was the ugliest motherfucking duckling fooling them all in an elaborate costume made of nothing but imperfection and lies.

Until, one day, it became too much. I ate again, and I could not stop. 

The yoyo years followed; ironically containing some of my happiest times. Whether it be body fat or muscle, around 12 stone is a place my body feels happy, content. A large size 12 is my happy aspiration when I'm carrying a few extra pounds. It's where my spirit comfortably seems to align with my body; where I enjoy the space I fill. Without bouncing from it and to it a couple of times, I would not know this. Without the agony of being in the wrong place, I may not have found the right one. However, without accepting there was no perfection at either end of the spectrum, I would never have found peace. The obsession that drove me out of obesity and into excessive control was one that had no happy ending. I put my life on hold while I waited to reach perfection, and that moment simply never came. 

So, that's why you'll very rarely see photos of me at my thinnest. I know that thin does not necessarily equal healthy and it most certainly doesn't equal happy. I have seen both places - excessive control and its gluttonous opposite - and neither is an existence I would wish upon anybody. Often I'm asked what the quickest way to lose weight is, or variations on that theme. Some people get cross because I won't recommend meal replacement diets or slimming clubs. Some don't understand why I try to find out what's making them unhappy first. Some cry. Some just want me to tell them where to buy thermogenics. 

But I sit there, comfortable in my skin, as imperfect as I may be, and I try to help them in a way that will benefit their entire lives.  Wellness is more than one size, it's more than a curve on a chart; misery is more than a numerical threshold.  There are a thousand trainers who will try to sell you perfection and it is your choice if you want to buy into that.

Because I have listened to every body I have lived in, my purpose is to make you well and keep you well; I want you to be healthy, fit and energised when you find that place where you no longer question if you are good/thin/strong enough. I love your imperfection, and believe me, you are most fucking definitely enough♡


Empty cups