I am quite a small woman (4 foot 10 to be precise, so I'm sure there are some people out there who would have other words for my lack of height) and a number of years ago, I started to put on weight because of the steroids I was on for my arthritis and it has been a bit of an uphill battle ever since.
I'm not really into weighing myself or obsessing about it, but at the same time, I try to eat well, cook fresh homemade meals and exercise and stay fit, without going mental and possibly injuring myself.
When people see me eating a bar of chocolate (as I said, I'm not a health nut and I do watch certain things, but I will have a Kinder Bueno or a Bounty if I want it), I can sometimes see them judging me, thinking ‘well she'd be smaller if she ate better and did more exercise’, but you never know what's going on in someone else’s life.
I am relatively fit and I do go through fits and starts of exercise and diet, but because of the nature of my work and the unpredictability of my disease, it is very hard to schedule things in like classes or gym visits and I might be fine on Tuesday, but wake up on Wednesday with an agonisingly sore left hip, a gammy right knee and a swollen ankle.
On the other hand, I could wake up and feel well enough to get a walk and a half hour of intensive yoga in before I leave for work.
Along this vein, I try to do what I can when I can, but I try to avoid extreme exercise or diet programmes which involve drastic life changes. This isn't because I'm lazy or non-committal, it is because it is simply not feasible with all of the other factors that I have to consider.
The above statement or ones carrying similar sentiments are hard for extremely health conscious vegans or vigorous exercisers and gym bunnies to get their heads around, as they seem to think that everything is a matter of perspective and will power - sometimes there are other factors.
In many ways, my arthritis is an invisible disease, I look and sound fine (well not always, I am delightfully prone to looking scarily pale and washed out when I'm in pain), but in reality I might not be able to write a few sentences because there is so much fluid in my fingers or I might scream out in pain when I stand up from a chair because my joints have seized up and decided to attack my own body.
So to do what I can to keep healthy and fit, I try little things in moderation, like eating homemade fresh healthy food and/or doing as much exercise as I can without risking injury.
In terms of food, I am a great believer in eating fresh food with meals that you can make from scratch yourself - if you can't recreate something from a menu at home, I would be dubious as to what is actually in it.
My Mam makes everything from scratch and always has. Our house growing up was always filled with the delectable smells of fresh baking (we were always jealous of other kids who got to have sweets or fizzy drinks, but there would always have been things like eclairs, scones, brown bread and cakes or biscuits, which Mam had just whipped up). It's not that there wasn't any sugar in our diets, but at least she knew what was in the food we were eating and there were no nasty MSG or E numbers to consider.
Likewise, if I was to make something like spaghetti bolognese, I'd do it the way Mam does it - using fresh ingredients, tomatoes and a mixture of herbs to create a tasty and wholesome meal and if I had lots of vegetables, I'm much more likely to make a big batch of soup than I am to let them go off and have to throw them away.
I would also go beyond that by making my own home made yoghurt and fresh fruit compote, but unlike my wonderful mammy, I am not blessed when it comes to baking (as my boyfriend will attest to, I once made what was meant to be a lovely Victorian sponge cake and he still describes it to this day as a large deformed scone – I will point out that he conveniently forgets about the successful birthday cakes I have created since).
Over the years, I have noticed people looking at me with that judgemental sidelong glance and they think they are helping when they tell you gently or harshly (depending on their personality) to do more exercises, eat less crap or embrace a more active lifestyle.
I do what I can, when I can and considering that a lot of my food is not processed and is homemade, I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm also not all that caught up about my weight, I do go through bouts of losing weight, usually when I'm less busy and can dedicate more time to the things like daily walks, yoga or pilates or aqua aerobics or a bit of jog/walking (interval training) and I'm also stricter when it comes to things like eating fruit, vegetables and nuts or seeds instead of all of the lovely treats in Centra.
People would comment when I've lost weight, but it's not something I keep track of - we don't have a weighing scales, as I think it can become an obsessive thing, but if my jeans are a little looser or a dress looks a bit better then yay and if not, ah well.
I was a little bit reluctant to do a post like this, because you are literally opening the flood gates for the nay-sayers and do-gooders, but hey, on the other hand it might give people pause for thought and make them think about what someone's going through in their own life or what else they have to contend with before they make their 'well meaning' remark about someone else's way of life.