Reunion Body Image Blues

Next week I will be attending my 10 year uni reunion in London. Unbelievably, it has been a decade since I left the student life behind, full of hopes and dreams, terrified of the future. Even more unbelievably, I still listen to the same music and still don’t vacuum.

“I thought I was going to be Doctor Who’s Companion or some sitcom star or, at the very least, be on Casualty.”

When I was at drama school, I felt that I was pigeon-holed in a different role to the one I wanted. I didn’t know myself very well then – I thought I was an extrovert. I thought I was going to be Doctor Who’s Companion or some sitcom star or, at the very least, be on Casualty. I was told repeatedly that I was “a writer”, and frequently overlooked for the decent roles in favour of comedic best friends and “bit parts”. I actively rebelled against being a writer. Now, as a 32 year old who is pretty desperate to be a writer, I can see what they saw back then – an introvert who would rather sit and think than interact with people. How I wish I could go back and shout (mumble) “YES! I am a writer! Let’s write the shit out of some stuff!”

I just wanted to fit in with all my classmates. As you’d expect I a drama school, most of them were very attractive, very talented, and very funny. I was a slightly overweight, socially awkward teenager who (for at least the first 2 terms) was very homesick. I was obsessed with dieting, in an attempt to be slimmer, and in my mind, more attractive. But I never felt like I compared. I felt more square peg than Simon Pegg.

“They know that I’m not a millionaire CEO astronaut with an expensive hat.”

I’m now very excited to see a lot of them again. It’s not like a reunion we might have had pre-Facebook. I’ve seen their pictures, have stayed in touch with a lot of them, and they know that I’m not a millionaire CEO astronaut with an expensive hat. But 2 weeks ago I had a panic attack. I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t breathe. I started to shake and pull my hair. I almost cancelled the trip. This is not the first panic attack I’ve ever had, but they are usually about the same thing – my physical appearance.

When I left uni I was a size 8-10. After a particularly damaging break up, and a move from an active job to an office, my weight has been something of a battle for most of my adult life. I recently lost a bit and toned up from running, but I’ve gained a little weight in the past 2 months. I realised if I didn’t do something, I might not look my best when I meet my old friends. So I signed up to weight watchers again in an attempt to mitigate some of the damage I have done to my weight loss attempts.

I will be the first to tell you that the people I meet next Saturday will not care if I weigh 66kg or 660kg – they will literally not give it one thought. The ones that like me will like me no matter what – and always have. They recognised the introverted, awkward, nerdy writer and wanted me in their life anyway. And the ones I haven’t kept in touch with – well their opinion is not going to change of me because of my weight, it would be for my mad reunion planning skills if anything! What I’m saying is, literally one person in that room will care how much I weigh next Saturday – me.

“the important people will accept you for who you are”

Unfortunately though, that means another week of damning self criticism every time I look at a slice of bread. Counting the calories of every thing that passes my lips. Scrutinising every lump and bump I see in the mirror. I need to tell my 32 year old self – just like I wish someone had told my 20 year old self – the important people will accept you for who you are.

It’s not a competition. It’s just for fun.

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