“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein
Balance, however you define it, is important. But it’s also really hard when everything feels overwhelming. And oh my goodness, everything does feel overwhelming right now, doesn’t it?
As of right now, the UK is in what has been not-so-affectionately dubbed “Lockdown 2.0”. After completely failing to take care of my health in any reasonable way during Lockdown The First, I’m trying really hard to maintain balance and a modicum of self-care practice this time.
To that end, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite tips for staying balanced and grounded when things are hard everything is on fucking fire.
I put this first on the list because it’s by far the one I’m worst at. It can be so, so hard to switch off, unplug, and decide to do nothing for a while. But rest is absolutely vital. Without it, your health will suffer and you’ll hit burnout before you know it.
Here’s a hack that works for me: put time for yourself in your calendar, like a date you’d make with someone else, and stick to it. Then use that time to binge that Netflix show you’ve been saving, read for pleasure, take a bubble bath, or just take a nap/go to bed early.
Rest isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
When did you last eat? If it’s been more than a few hours or if you feel hungry right now, go and eat something! I recommend something with complex carbs and protein, rather than something that will give you a sugar high and then make you crash an hour later. But hey, if a sugary treat is what sounds good right now, have at it!
The trick is to listen to your body. It knows what it needs.
Move your body
I don’t mean “go out for a ten mile run” (though if that’s what makes you feel balanced and centered, knock yourself out.) Just move your body in whatever way feels good. That might look like hitting the gym and working up a sweat, or it might look like practicing some gentle yoga, or it might look like dancing to some music in your bedroom, or it might look like just doing a few stretches without even getting out of bed.
When I’m feeling sad or stressed out, I find getting on my yoga mat or having a play with my hula-hoop really helps me to regain and maintain balance.
If you’re feeling stressed, stretched, and overwhelmed, it might be because there are too many demands on your time and energy right now. Practice saying no.
If a client wants you to take on some extra work last minute? Sorry, no. Yet another Zoom happy hour? Pass if you don’t feel like it. Colleague wants you to pick up their shift? No can do!
If it doesn’t serve you or make you happy and it can possibly be avoided, just say no. Saying no firmly but politely doesn’t make you a jerk, it makes you a person with good boundaries.
I had to throw this one in the mix – this is supposed to be a sex blog, after all! Seriously though, masturbation is amazing. It not only feels good, it has so many benefits for your physical and mental health. Need to get out of your head and into your body for a while? Grab some porn or erotica and your favourite vibrator/stroker/hand, and give yourself some love.
Ask for help
The idea that we are all supposed to be self-reliant is so, so toxic. You know what’s a sign of strength? Asking for help when you need it. So if you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Talk to your partner or a friend, call a helpline like Samaritans, make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. Whatever it is you need to help you ground and maintain balance, you can ask for it.
You don’t have to do this alone.
You’ve got this.
It’s going to be okay.
This piece was written for Quote Quest, a weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!
CW: weight, weight loss, body shame, rope bondage, diet culture, food-and-diet-related abuse, bullying, abusive teachers. Please, if these topics are difficult for you, feel enormously free to skip this one.
Note: in this post when I use the word “fat” to talk about other people, I am using it as a neutral descriptive term. Using it about myself is… complicated. I am not at a place of being positive about it.
Note the Second: I DO want – solidarity, love, and encouragement that I can choose to change my body and still be feminist. I do NOT want – diet or exercise tips, urging to”find a different rigger” (more on that later), to be advised not to change my body, or to be told you find me hot unless we have already established a dynamic where that’s an okay thing.
I’ve only ever been “thin” twice in my life. The first time, I was fifteen and it was just the way my body was. I didn’t think I was thin at the time, of course – I thought I was huge, as most teenage girls do. But looking back, fifteen year old Amy had the body that twenty five year old Amy would have killed for. The second time was at University, when I was walking miles every day around a very hilly town and subsisting mainly off coffee, Pro Plus pills and cheap vodka.
For most of my life, my body has been what can best be described as “a few pounds over where I’d ideally like to be,” but I was rarely particularly motivated to do anything about it. I like food and (until I discovered solo, non-competitive running and tap dancing), I hated exercise. (For the value of “hated” that means “extremely deep-seated trauma as a result of horrifying abuse from fellow students and teachers, including being made to run around a track on a weak ankle until I nearly vomited.”)
I’ve been fat three times in my life. The first time was during Sixth Form, when young adulthood and increased freedom led me to eat all the things I was rarely allowed by my health-conscious parents. The second time was in 2015, after I dumped my abusive ex (more about him in a minute) and gained 4olb in six months because in my head, eating whatever I wanted was a fuck you to him. It took me two years to lose those 40lb. The third time?
Well, the third time is now.
Let me back up a minute and talk to you about my ex. He was fat when we met, and gained weight steadily over the first three years or so. Then he suddenly decided to lose it all, began to religiously count calories, and took up hardcore exercise. Unfortunately, these traits combined with an addictive/obsessive personality quickly let to what I can only describe as a raging eating-and-exercise disorder. It “worked,” in that he became thin and muscular, but the punishing regime made him miserable and with that misery, he treated me and his wife even worse than previously (which was pretty badly already, TBF.)
With these behaviours directed towards himself came greater food and exercise scrutiny directed at me. At one point, he was making me weigh myself in front of him in the morning when he slept over. Weighing less than me, a 5’4″ woman with no muscle to speak of, became a point of pride for him and a point of criticism to level at me, all at once. I once asked him why he slept with me if he didn’t like my weight, and he countered that he couldn’t afford to be picky because fat women were all he could “get”.
So when we broke up, of course I went a bit mad with freedom. I ate everything I wanted and sat on the couch as much as I wanted, with an “I DARE you to judge me” attitude. But the net result was that I gained over 40lb, as I mentioned above. Then I lost it all, with two years of calorie counting and step counting and punishing gym workouts.
Until a few months ago, when I started putting it all back on. At first it was a few pounds, then a few more, and now… now I’m almost back where I was at the end of 2015, less 5lb or so.
And I’m angry. I’m angry with my ex for putting me in the position of getting into this yo-yo cycle in the first place. I’m angry with the kids who bullied me and the teachers who abused me into such a fucked up relationship with exercise. I’m angry with myself for ruining all my hard work and getting back to where I started. I’m angry with myself that I am now even further from the body I wanted.
I’m angry that I can’t stand being hungry, because if I could just ignore the pangs then I could go on the starvation “shakes and meal bars” diet my colleague keeps trying to push on me every time this topic comes up. I’m angry at the marked difference in how I am treated in this body shape, even aware of the relatively huge amount of thin privilege I do still enjoy compared to many other folks.
But more than angry, I’m grieving. I’m grieving for the body I wanted that is now even further away than it was before. I’m grieving for the delicious meals and treats I can no longer enjoy without a painful twinge of guilt in my gut. I’m grieving for the people who used to find me attractive and now reject me and my partner because I’m a fat girl and that apparently tells them everything they need to know about us. I’m grieving for the privilege I enjoyed when I was thinner, the marked difference in everything from romantic interest to professional respect. And I’m grieving for the pretty clothes I can no longer wear, the things I can no longer do, the things I can’t even hope to do unless something changes.
Rope is one of my passions. It has been for a long time. And rope is one of the things that is markedly harder for me – and for my partner, my Top and rigger – at this weight. Some of this is small things – ties that took two ropes now use three, positions I could hold when I was fitter and more flexible are now next to impossible.
We’ve been starting to explore suspension in workshop settings, and it’s wonderful and I love it. We want to explore further. Unfortunately, we discussed this at length and realised that there is no way we can safely do 1-to-1 suspension scenes at the current time. Due to physical limitations the details of which are not mine to share, if something went wrong and we had to cut the rope or get me down very quickly, there’s no way my partner could support my current weight. There would be a risk of serious injury to one or both of us.
We can still do things with a second person on hand, of course, but a lot of our best play happens in private and I would absolutely love to be able to be suspended in private. For those of you who haven’t visited us, we have a Victorian house with gorgeous high ceilings and we’ve been looking at putting a suspension hard point in one of them for exactly this purpose. But this dream will have to wait, possibly for a long time, until I can get my weight under control and back to the place I want it to be.
I am aware that “too heavy to suspend” isn’t really an objective thing. That’s not the issue here, exactly. The issue is that my current weight and my partner’s current legitimate physical limitations are not going to play nicely together – that’s no-one’s fault, but it is a reality.
I cannot express how much shame this fills me with. I feel that by letting myself get to this weight, I have failed not only myself but my partner as well. I can’t do the things I want to be able to do, and I can’t give him the things I want to be able to give him as his partner and his submissive.
And that is breaking my heart.
I have a hard road ahead of me to get my body back to where I want it to be. I want to be the particular number that has been sitting in my head for the last three years, the number that currently feels impossibly low and far away. But more than that, I want to be able to float blissfully in his ropes without anyone else needing to be around to “rescue” us if something goes wrong. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see again.
A few nights ago, my boyfriend looked at my naked body and called me beautiful. I couldn’t explain why I looked like I might cry. I hope this post goes some way to explaining it.
Heads up: this post wasn’t sponsored but I’m really spilling my guts here. If you felt inclined to buy me a coffee, I would super appreciate it.