Again and again, how many times do I need to do this?
It’s a freezing cold Sunday morning in February and I find myself on Hampstead Heath, yet again, running. Running, but not going anywhere. At least that is what the scales are telling me.
I see the familiar oak tree on the circuit, I know she is on the other side, waiting. I’m tempted to turn right and run out of the park. I wonder how long it would take her to notice? How long would it be before she judges me for abandoning her and my efforts to lose weight? Would she be disappointed in me?
I hear the lap button on the timer. “Getting quicker, Sally, nice one. Keep it up.”
I’d be pleased except I had found a shortcut to run through. Instead, I only felt shame. I had never been to the heath before January but I had already begun to loathe it: every well-trodden path, every tree, every miniature pedigree dog. In the rain, as each droplet seeps into my hair I am reminded I would rather be with the skinny girls, ordering my skinny latte mocha choca frappuccino to accompany my smashed avocado on sourdough. I look down and I am reminded I haven’t earned the privilege to brunch yet. For me, Sundays are rundays.
I had been perfectly happy with my weight. Granted I am curvier than most, with an ample breast but I am not exactly overweight. Perhaps she was right, though, I had let myself go.
I’m twenty-nine, that’s what happened. I sit in an office all day, I drink, I eat – my Mum always said it would catch up with me one day. That day came and went and I didn’t really notice. Until my sister pointed it out, that is.
Mum always complained I was a skinny bitch. She hated that I got away with eating all the chocolate and sweets. I didn’t deserve to be skinny.
Eating has become a comfort for me. It’s the one thing that makes me feel better. Eventually though, all that comfort adds up to jeans two sizes bigger and my sister staging what I can only call an intervention.
Of course it isn’t really me she cares about. My health or my happiness aren’t her concerns. She doesn’t want a fat Maid of Honour ruining her wedding photos. She doesn’t want to upset the in-laws. There was a real danger my widening waistline could end up dominating their mantelpieces for years to come.
My niece, at least, was straight forward about it. At the dress fitting she announced to the room of the bride-to-be’s closest female friends and family that I looked like Miss Piggy. That is her favourite Muppet though, she said, not that I found that any consolation. Perhaps that was why she was always trying to copy my curls, I thought, trying to recreate them in her own hair with wet overnight plaits.
“Is it because of my curls?” I had asked.
She replied, “Nope.” She blew her cheeks up, her finger pressed up against her nostrils.
If my sister‘s subtle approach wasn’t enough, then her daughter’s pig impression sure was. Kids can be cruel but at least they are honest. Perhaps it was honesty that I needed.
I need to be honest with myself; I hate my job. I eat to distract myself. Each biscuit, donut or Haribo Starmix, is an afternoon treat I look forward to. On my way into work I think about the moment that first sugary donut will hit my lips. Endorphins rush to my head. Nothing beats the first bite. I get through the day one eating opportunity at a time: late breakfast, elevenses, lunch, mid-afternoon tea break and even a light snack for the journey home.
I thought it was normal to not like your job. Work is work. You aren’t meant to enjoy it. But instead I realise it’s not just a dislike. I am overwhelmed with sadness, trapped behind a desk doing monotonous tasks for people who don’t appreciate it. The money is okay, but it hasn’t changed since I started three years ago. Plenty of new people have come in and been promoted ahead of me. I have never understood why I am always left by the wayside.
I am lonely. The only social interaction with colleagues is at the biscuit jar or when we congregate for birthday cake. I know they think I am desperate, the way I grab a slice and rush back to my desk, but I just want to get away. Making friends has never been my strong point.
I see my personal trainer in the distance. Tree trunk legs and the straightest of backs. Even the way she stands is strong, despite having a petite frame. I know I could never be as thin as her but what I need is her confidence, her strong sense of self and her determination. Perhaps that really had been what I was looking for when I decided to get a personal trainer. I needed someone to believe in me.
Why hadn’t I ever asked for a pay rise or more stimulating work? I want to be paid well and I want to enjoy my job. I need the courage to confront them. I deserve to be valued. I deserve to be given the opportunity to grow, like so many others have ahead of me. If not I will find somewhere I will be.
She signals me to stop. I hadn’t noticed the weather had worsened.
“I have been calling you to stop. Are you okay?”
I smile. I am soaked through to my skin. “I am great.” I have a plan. Losing weight is no longer my goal, but working on my self. I will run for strength and for happiness, soaking in the confidence emanating from my personal trainer. If I lose weight in the process so be it, but I am determined to walk into that wedding a happier healthier self. If I am not a pound lighter, then that is even better.
“Sally, you are doing great. Same time next week?”
I nodded. She looked at her timer. “It gets easier you know. As you get more confident you’ll be running around here at twice the speed, you won’t even realise you are doing it.”
I walk home composing my resignation letter in my mind. I know it is the right place to start.