Friday 18 January 2019

Bairbre Power: Women are either very secretive or totally chatty about two things in their lives: their weight and their love life

Bairbre Power Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Okay, it's time to fess up. All my friends know and my colleagues too, and the reason I haven't shared it to date is because I've been a total failure at it... and the 'it' is losing weight. That picture below was taken over a year ago when I still had something resembling a waist, but even that has deserted me.

My 'waistline' used to be a nicely indented point in my midriff. Now it's more of a notional point somewhere between my bustline and my hips. However, all is not lost and now that the sunshine's back, I'm going to fast track my way to summer fitness and start by walking off some of the nasty, winter-warming fat.

I wasn't always prone to putting on weight. In fact, as a young wan, I rarely tipped 9st on the scales and when I took up cycling for a Christmas cycle, I went down to 8st, 4lb. At the time, an outspoken pal chastised me for "looking like a sheet of paper" when I stood sideways and last week, she was equally vociferous, but when the subject of buying new clothes and weight came up, I found myself doing all the talking. How typically me. "My life is an open book, Bairbre", just ask me and I will tell you, she had implied. That was fine, but she was revealing nothing. Nada. This was not a weighty two-way street.

There are two things women either love or hate talking about and that's their weight and the state of their love life. They will either have lots to say and share, or they will purse their lips, lift their chin and look the other way. Years ago, people were kind of precious about discussing money and how much they had. There was that old school attitude that discussing one's finances was rude and vulgar, but the Celtic Tiger put paid to those discrete sensitivities. Now female friends are almost always happy to discuss anything - from how they intend to vote to their dating disasters to how much they spent on their ridiculously high designer shoes now lurking at the back of the wardrobe because they cut the bejaysus out of their heels.

But ask them straight out about their weight or if they're happy with their love life and often they will clam up on the spot and go all silent on you.

In my case, I have no problem declaring that I am currently a size 13, and single! "What in the name of god is a size 13?" the aforementioned pal boomed caustically down the phone line at me. I was naked in her line of fire so the only response was to be calm, cool and collected. "Well," I explained, "I'm currently a size 13 because I'm pear-shaped and while I need a size 10/12 on my top half, a high street size 12 is usually a bit tight for me , so I buy a size 14 and get it taken in."

There, it was said. I was out of the closet, size 13 but for how long? This spring, I decided I wanted to lose the wine waist and after lots of prompting and encouragement from people for whom it worked, I took myself off and enrolled in Slimming World. It was a totally new experience for me - I'm really not one for night classes because I don't have a regular schedule week to week.

So I enrolled, got weighed, the information written silently into my book. I came home filled with zeal and armed with detailed books about the dos and don'ts, the list of 'free' foods, the 'Syns' which we could make allowance for. I enthusiastically set about prepping food and compiled menu lists for the week before I ever set foot in the supermarket.

Ladies smiled with that 'I'm in the same boat' kind of smile as they saw me stopping to consult my lists. I liked batch cooking Sundays and swiped through recipes on the bus home. In fashion, I always say the devil is in the detail but with this system, it was all about being prepared. There was excitement when blueberries were officially declared a free food at the classes which meant we could indulge.

Going to a class to be weighed and to share my experience was a new venture. The second week, the lady across from me was the first one to be called out. She, it turned out, had put on weight. I stared at my shoes praying desperately that my industry at the hob would pay off. Then came my name. A pregnant pause. It was like that moment on Operation Transformation when Kathryn Thomas calls out the name, "And this week, your weight is..."

I was down a paltry 1.5lbs but at least I was down. I did feel a bit of a con merchant as the class clapped and swore I would do better, maybe like the pal who lost seven pounds in her first week. It was uncanny how many people around me were talking the lingo. At the hairdressers, three ladies at the sinks were swapping advice on free foods.

That was the plus side. On the minus side, I was finding it hard to make the early evening classes. It was like the gods knew that Monday night was my weight night because suddenly everything that popped up in my diary was on Mondays. One week I found myself in London interviewing a leading designer at a posh event where they served afternoon tea. I skilfully pulled the smoked salmon and then the paper thin cucumber out from between the buttery finger sandwiches. My stomach started to groan as the speeches began. Clean food is so hard to find on the run and in a last-gasp attempt, I surveyed the four-tiered china and reached for a scone. It couldn't be that bad, I thought, if I didn't have it with the tempting clotted cream and that fruity jam.

I leaned forward, extended my hand to extricate the smallest, plainest scone I could see and an incoming message buzzed on my phone. I looked down only to see a message reminding me about that night's class and weigh-in.

I sat bolt upright, guilt written all over my face. Of course, they didn't have a camera on me watching my every move. It was just synchronicity and unfortunately, I had the naughty crumbs on my fingers. Since then I've gone back on the straight and narrow and last Monday, I weighed in again, paid my money and vowed to shift that weight on my tummy I call my 'rubber ring'.

Next time my curious pal calls, I intend to be a size 11. Life is never an even number!

Irish Independent

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