“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.”
Simone de Beauvoir
I’ve always had a rather unhealthy view of weight, I suspect I’m not alone. I grew up in central London, surrounded by skinny. I went to private schools where statistics at the time showed that one out of every seven girls had eating disorders. I remember being thrilled when people told me I was too thin, believing that was the only acceptable size to be.
After a whole life of being naturally slim, with minimal effort on my part, I fell pregnant. And put on 30kg (nearly 5 stone, or 66 pounds). I wept with my sister one day towards the end of my pregnancy because she was trying to convince me to buy some clothes – I’d refused to go shopping for months. I also hadn’t had a hair cut, wasn’t wearing makeup and had stopped looking in the mirror. On one level I was happier than ever because we were finally having a child, on another level (that I was ashamed to admit to myself) I was filled with self-loathing for my physical appearance. I would look at pregnant women who had a delicate bump jutting from a still-perfect form and felt, in a place that I wasn’t admitting to anyone, that I was failing at being pregnant.
I was comforted that once I gave birth and started breastfeeding the weight would fall off. I’d join the ranks of yummy mummies and my success as a hybrid mother/attractive woman would be assured.
Except it didn’t happen. I lost 8kg during birth, but no more. As I’ve written many times on this blog, my son’s been a poor sleeper for most of his life and so my body craved high-calorie food as a replacement for sleep. I’d also been diagnosed (utterly unsurprisingly given the lack of sleep) with mild post natal depression, a classic vehicle for a slower metabolism.
I felt ashamed that I was ashamed of my weight. As a right-on women’s lib modern thinker I make a point not to judge others for which hole their belt fills. But it became apparent that I was near-incapable of practising even a basic level of self care while I was overweight. Granted, I wasn’t helped by some in my community, but the truth is that in all the emotional growth and shifts I’ve had over the years, one thing I never challenged was my belief about thin being best.
I started work on self acceptance, on seeing myself as the same person I was before the added weight. But I couldn’t break through the feeling I’d lost my femininity and the shame that I couldn’t fit into jeans. And the truth, that I wish wasn’t the truth, is that I didn’t want to accept myself. My whole life has been geared towards being slim and I still struggle with the belief that self acceptance is the right and healthy way to think.
Six months ago my son’s sleep improved. It took a couple of months to find my feet from two years of chronic sleep deprivation and then I started to change my eating habits and up my exercise. Four month’s on and I’ve only a few kilos left before I’m a weight I feel comfortable sitting in (although I could always go thinner, I need to be careful to follow my doctor’s guidance instead of basing my ideal weight on exiguous girls in magazines). I tried on a pair of jeans today that I couldn’t have gotten over my knees a few months ago and they fit — I was so excited that I wore them out for the day, even though I probably need to lose a bit more weight to do them justice. The goodies you get on this blog are almost entirely given away to friends and family these days (and my invitations have risen accordingly!). I test my recipes extensively before posting and taste constantly through that process, but other than that I’m pretty healthy.
Well, I say healthy, but is it? Really, my aim is to be thin. All other health benefits are secondary to my weight. Can I claim health-consciousness if it’s just a bi-product of my vanity? Logically I know that slim should be a side effect of health, not the other way around, and the feminist part of me snarls at my shallowness, but I just can’t seem to marry up my logic with my feelings.
I know I usually have a resolution at the end of my posts, and intellectually it’s clear what I need to be feeling, but I haven’t managed to walk the journey from my head to my heart on this one. Not yet.
What I do have are these amazing cookies. They’re not a health food, I think we can all safely agree that’s not going to happen on this blog — and why should it? But they’re a small bite of incredible flavour. Sweet strawberry, creamy coconut and tangy balsamic vinegar all cased in a super light cookie made from egg whites and sugar. The Cheergerm & The Silly Yak reminded me last week that I’d been meaning to make some old school macaroons since I made the curd for my Lavender, Honey & Lemon Curd Madeleines. Being a sweet-toothed sort, I enjoy traditional macaroons (and if that’s what you’re looking for, I suggest you head straight over to Cheergerm’s page because her recipe’s spot on) but I’ve designed this version to lengthen the flavours across your palate; turning this childhood classic into a rather special grown up treat. Enjoy.
- 2 egg whites
- Pinch of sea (kosher) salt
- 100g caster (superfine) sugar
- 100g fine desiccated coconut
- 1 tbl sp freeze dried strawberry powder (either buy, or make your own at this link)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- About 1 tbl sp balsamic vinegar glaze to finish (either buy, or recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 150˚C / 300˚F and line two baking trays with baking paper
Whisk the egg whites and salt in a medium sized bowl until stiff peaks form
Gradually beat in the sugar and strawberry powder
Gently fold in the coconut and balsamic
Using 2 teaspoons, shape heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place on the trays, about 5cm apart
Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through
When the macaroons are dry and cooked, cool on wire racks before drizzling with the balsamic glaze
Store in an airtight container
- 500ml balsamic vinegar
Pour vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer
Turn the heat to low and reduce the vinegar for between 30 and 40 minutes, or until it has become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You should end up with about 125ml
Remove from heat and allow to cool
If sealed in an airtight container and kept in the fridge, a balsamic glaze should keep quite happily for a year or more