By Claie Wilson & Caroline Benjamin
We’ve all done it – stepped on the scales and groaned… But what does weight really mean? We asked three women what it’s like sharing one stat.
‘Bodybuilding helped me love my body’
Ronni McKay, 40, is a personal trainer. She lives in London with her children, Elliott, 14, and Gemma, 12.
She says: “When I look at my reflection I love the definition of my muscles – I think they’re beautiful and that’s something I never thought I’d say about my body. Over the years, I’ve had issues with food. I’ve been overweight – hitting 11st 7lb when I was 21 – and battled with anorexia, when my weight plummeted to 6st a couple of years later. But getting into bodybuilding in my mid-20s taught me to love my body.
I suppose food was my way of staying in control, and I’ve always done things to excess. When I ate, I binged. Likewise, when I wanted to be thinner, I would pretty much cut food out of my life. I never found a balance.
With the help of a therapist and very supportive friends and family, I overcame my anorexia and part of that recovery was getting fit and learning to eat better. The owner of my local gym trained me so I knew more about my body and muscles. Bodybuilding meant eating well and bulking up with intense exercise.
Initially, it was scary putting on weight, but after a couple of years my body looked completely different. I was neither skinny nor fat. I was muscular and I loved my physique. I may be 40, but I’m in amazing shape and feel confident. I think of my body as a machine. I don’t drink much as being sporty means that my body doesn’t take alcohol well.
I’ve realised 10st is my ideal body weight. I may fluctuate by a few pounds, but my nine-to-five job as a personal trainer means I do weights four times a week, and an hour of cardio six days a week. In a few weeks I’ll be more muscular than I am now as I’ve just started training for a competition.
I eat lots of turkey, chicken, fish and veg, but I also allow myself the occasional curry. If I’ve got a competition coming up, I have to get down to 8st 7lb. I don’t know how my body will change when I get older, but this works now.
Some people admire my figure and want their photo taken with me, while others look at me as if I’m an alien! I’m a single mum and my children love to watch when I compete. That makes me proud.”
‘I can carry 10st more easily thanks to my height’
Abbie Law-Briggs is 24, single and works in promotions. She lives in Chester with her parents.
She says: “I’ve learnt that it doesn’t really matter what the scales say, it’s how you feel about your body that counts. I know that when most people look at me they probably think I’m slim, but at the moment I think I’m a little too curvy.
At 5ft 10in I can carry 10st more easily than shorter women, but when I look in the mirror I’m drawn to my wobbly thighs. Friends think I’m mad and say they can’t see it, but I can.
Thankfully I’m a trained dancer, so I can tone up quickly just by going to the gym or walking my dogs. Dancing has given me that muscle memory, so I tend to snap back into shape quite easily.
I love going to the gym, so it’s not a chore. I feel self-conscious if I’ve been chubbier than normal for a few weeks. It dents my confidence, so I try to work out four times a week, doing a spinning class or a 5km run.
I’m consistent with my diet, but I tend to be more toned in the winter from running around and because I have dancing jobs in pantomimes, whereas I stop going to the gym when I’m on holiday in the summer. I stay the same dress size but notice the difference when I get a bit softer.
If I’m having a fat moment I will try to cut back on chocolate – it’s hard because I have a really sweet tooth!
Girls are very sensitive when it comes to their bodies. Last summer one of my male friends told me I had a jelly belly and it really stung. A girl would never have said that! I laughed it off saying I was bloated because I’d just eaten, but I did feel hurt.
When I was training as a dancer in 2008 I was at my lightest, 9st 7lb and a size 8. I could see my collarbones and pelvis in the mirror and it gave me a buzz. I was model-thin and I liked it – after all, what woman doesn’t secretly want to look like that at times?
But it wasn’t sustainable. Once I left college and stopped dancing so much those 7lb came back really quickly. It was also thanks to my mum’s amazing home cooking. She has a healthy attitude towards food and was never one to talk about dieting in front of me.
I don’t really have breakfast in the mornings, though – I’m usually rushing out the door, plus eating that
early just makes me feel hungrier for the rest of the day. Instead I’ll just have a cereal bar at noon.
But Mum’s attitude has helped me a lot. These days I refuse to let my life be dictated by diets – or scales.”
‘Having curves makes me feel confident!’
Mukta Hashmi, 41, is a procurement manager and lives in Hook, Hampshire, with her husband Rashid, 45, an IT consultant, and children Arun, nine, and Nayal, seven.
She says: “At only 4ft 10in, I’ve always been conscious that putting on even a tiny bit of weight can dramatically change my figure. So last year, as I approached my 40th birthday, I set myself a goal to slim down to a size 10. I’ve spent most of my life around a size 12 and was determined to get super-slim. So I took up running, joined a Zumba class and cut back on fatty foods. Within five months I’d gone from 9st 10lb to 8st 6lb and a size 10. I felt amazing.
But it didn’t last. I loved my new silhouette, but I love food more. Plus I’m happy with my curves. I have 32G boobs, so I need flesh on my hips to even me out. Right now, I’m 10st – the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m most confident at 9st 7lb but I wont let a few pounds bother me.
My attitude to my figure is so much more relaxed than when I was in my teens and 20s, when I’d
cover up my curves or beat myself up for not being as slim as my friends. Now, I would never wear baggy outfits. I think if you wear the right size, your clothes will work around your figure. I’ll happily wear a bikini on the beach without caring what anyone thinks.
I’ve never been a big fan of exercise so I keep my shape by running around after my sons, and trying not to overindulge when I eat. It’s easy to become obsessed by weight. But life is better with chocolate in it! And I will teach my children to enjoy themselves too. Life really is too short to beat yourself up because you’re not a size 8 or 8st.”
Weighing it up
“Height, genetics and lifestyle all determine your weight, so don’t fixate on the scales,” says David Peterson, fitness expert with Fitness First. If you’re tall, 10st may mean a low body-fat percentage.
•Calculate your body mass index (BMI) at Nhs.uk/tools. A healthy BMI is 18.5-25, (though a muscular physique can skew this).
•Your body fat percentage is a good indicator of health. For 18-39 year olds, 18-30 per cent body fat is ideal. Get tested at your gym, or if you’re worried, visit your GP.