April 8, 2010

Spring is Here (and We’ve Got it Twisted) (Natasha)

Ah, sunshine. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have it’s soul-lightening warmth beating down on my (immensely grateful and vampirically pale) skin. I’m also, as I type, being terrorized by my first irritating wasp of the season. Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. The Easter break, during which it is decreed by God Himself that we should spend, as a nation, a minimum of 48 hours sitting on our collective arses eating snacks shaped like baby wildlife (I can’t find the bit in the Bible where it actually says this but I’m sure it must be in there somewhere) is officially over and it’s time to repent our sugary sins.

The multi-billion pound “health” (please note inverted commas have been used for a reason) and fitness industry has two times of year when it uses all its marketing resources to shock and shame us into investing in their products and services. The first is post-Christmas. Every TV screen, billboard and magazine ad has been screaming at us to consume vast quantities of luxury food for months (the build-up now starts in August) and then, suddenly we are expected to snap into a disciplined and unsustainable routine of detox and cardio the moment the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. By January 5th, naturally, that’s all completely forgotten and we’re gorging on cut-price mince pies to compensate for the trauma of returning to our work routines after 2 weeks of lay-ins and watching re-runs of Only Fools and Horses all day.

Then, of course, come March (usually, although this year is not providing much empirical evidence for my musings) the sun makes it’s appearance and the marketing powers that be leap on the opportunity to exacerbate our natural “impending summer/flesh on show” fears. “Get Your Perfect Bikini Body in Six Weeks!” is actually code for “You Only Have Six Weeks until You’ll be Virtually Naked and Judged by Strangers!”

As I remarked to a Christian friend of mine the other day, I’m not sure that this perpetual and ever-momentum-gaining cycle of bingeing and deprivation in recognition of his birth/death is exactly what Jesus had in mind for the entire Western World. She told me to shut my heathen cake-hole, so probably the less said about that the better.

What is, however, abundantly clear (and considerably less controversial) is that we have our priorities twisted. Mark Newey (you’ll know him Winning Minds’ brilliant therapist, I know his as ‘BossMan’) has helped hundreds of clients shed unwanted pounds over the years, by enabling them to stop focusing on what they eat. It might sound insane to say to someone with an overdeveloped fondness for food “now go away and eat whatever you want” but it works.

Diets are doomed to failure – Our minds naturally draw us towards whatever we think about most and we’re rebellious creatures, who tend to think most about the things we’re not allowed. Don’t think of a pink elephant. Don’t eat cheese. It’s all the same principle. Every time you fail to lose weight, or lose it and then become so crazed with starvation you cave in and gorge on cream cakes, having done irreversible damage to your metabolism, and pile it all back on again, this damages your self esteem. Dieting ultimately makes us feel rubbish about ourselves. And when you don’t value yourself, you could look like Angelina Jolie and still be dissatisfied with what you see in the mirror.

The key to long-term health and real beauty (I’m talking head-turning, birds fly into lampposts as persons of the opposite (or same, depending on preference) sex swoon in your path and make declarations of undying devotion beauty) is High Self Esteem. I know I harp on about it, but self-esteem can never be over valued. When we respect every aspect of ourselves, including our bodies, we naturally want to take care of ourselves.

The prevailing attitudes in our culture have created the illusion of an “all our nothing at all” mentality. We’re either glutinous sloths who eat nothing but KFC and drive ten meters to the corner shop or we’re maniacal health nuts who subside only on items purchased from Holland and Barratt and visit the gym on a daily basis. Of course, this doesn’t reflect reality. Contrary to what we might have been led to believe, (Daily Mail readers of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now) it is possible to be fat and healthy, just as it is possible to be fat and beautiful.

If you chose to lose weight, for acceptable reasons (not so that bloke down the Dog and Duck will fancy you, or because you want to emulate some plastic princess from the pages of Heat Magazine), then the simplest, fastest way to do it, is to love yourself just the way you are. Self esteem comes first and then weight loss, if viable and necessary, will naturally follow. Most of us have it entirely the wrong way round. Women everywhere are procrastinating, refraining from partaking in activities they enjoy, going for that promotion or on that date, for the sake of some (usually imagined) physical imperfection. “When I’m skinny/toned/whatever” they think “then I’ll get on with my life”. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

That’s why I’m so proud to be an in-house journalist for Evolve Magazine, aimed at women size 14 and over. Evolve are hosting a Full Figured Funk workshop on 22nd May in Central London (because “you’re never too chunky to get funky”), self esteem workshops in association with Winning Minds this summer and are currently recruiting a bevy of plus-size beauties for their modeling agency. Email me at if you want further info about any of the above and in the meantime remember the Evolve motto: Be proud, be you!

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