Ordinary Transformation for Midlife
Stuck. That’s where I was when I looked down and saw the biggest number on my bathroom scales that I had ever seen. 115kg.
I was 55 years of age, post-menopausal, dissatisfied and frustrated. As I looked at those bathroom scales, I was overcome by feelings that ranged from horror, weariness and deep sadness to overwhelming fear. There was a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I looked up and gazed at myself in the mirror. How did I get here? Who is this bloated person gazing back at me with fear and tears in her grey blue eyes? I had once sworn with the confidence, disdain and arrogance of youth, many years before, that I would never let myself get this big after watching my mother struggle with her weight all her life. Many hours of my childhood were spent searching racks and racks of cheap Kmart clothing for the elusive size 24 for my mum. I knew the heartache of obesity through my mother’s experience and believed completely that I would never suffer the same fate. Yet here I was - exactly the same.
I looked more carefully at myself in the mirror.
My eyes were still beautiful, they were just disappearing in a face that was getting rounder and slowly swelling with excess weight. I had more than one chin and my once slim neck was now much thicker than it used to be. My hair was a mess, somewhere between mousy brown and grey with no discernible style except a badly cut fringe I’d mangled myself some time before. How did I ever think that was a good idea, that it somehow looked all right? I knew that under my voluminous pink pyjama top that was a relic of my maternity wear, that my breasts were saggy, scarred from multiple lumpectomies and two very different sizes. My once flat tummy now had the proverbial spare tyre, my hips bore various ‘love handles’ and I’d had to give up wearing dresses or skirts years ago because my thighs rubbed together so badly it was excruciatingly painful – what a cliché I had become!
I had to do something.
I looked into my eyes and silently told myself that I would NEVER DIET AGAIN. I had to accept my body and my weight for the size that it was right now, because if I kept dieting, I would only get bigger and that, I couldn’t afford. I could not afford for the number on the scale to grow any further – it was unacceptable, profoundly depressing and would simply lead to poor health outcomes and a crippled old age. There would be no world travelling adventures with my growing sons and husband, no retirement spent as a digital grey nomad in Europe or other far-flung exotic locations because I would not be physically able to cope. My dream of living overseas as I grew older and having adventures with my family was in danger of never getting off the ground.
And I believe in making dreams come true.
That moment right there was my turning point. I had finally understood that every time I dieted in a misguided attempt at losing weight, I would initially lose it, then I would regain it, and then I would gain just a little extra.
Every. Single. Time. The number kept inching higher with every diet that I attempted.
I could not get fatter. It was no longer an option that I would risk. I would not risk my dreams or my health. It was time to love the body I was in, to embrace my curves, to be grateful to it for carrying me through my life despite the abuse it suffered at my hands and to let the idea of a slimmer me go forever. I swallowed down a profound sense of loss and pretended to myself that loving my obesity was all about empowerment – even though it felt like defeat.
I had once been beautifully slim. I could eat and drink whatever I wanted and never gain weight. Tall, blonde, curvy in all the right places, it was never in my life plan to find myself in a suburban bathroom, three minutes away from where I grew up, middle aged, menopausal, overweight and unsuccessful. Like so many other middle-aged women, I’d lost my sexiness – I was frumpy, fat and invisible to everyone. I had become lost in a raging sea of changing hormonal levels as menopause doubled down on my obesity and my once fine brain would occasionally take a holiday, leaving me straining through the fog of half glimpsed thoughts as I desperately tried to locate the words and clarity that I needed.
Not only was I ordinary, invisible and lost, but I’d also given up on myself.
That moment in my bathroom was my turning point, my light bulb moment, but it had been coming for quite some time, and in fact, my transformative journey had already begun, creeping up on me and slowly altering my trajectory over years. I just didn’t know it at the time.
I call what happened to me an ‘ordinary transformation’. It is ordinary because there is nothing exceptional about it. My ordinariness is the very thing that makes my experience universal. I am every woman. Middling. Average. Ordinary. Invisible. It is in the ordinary that we find the truth – it’s just that no one is ready to hear the truth. The truth requires facing your fears, taking your time, doing the work, challenging yourself and feeling uncomfortable. It also means you have to stop lying to yourself. But I’ve discovered that we don’t have to do this alone. That there is a strong sisterhood out there of women who have travelled this path before you and are ready to support you through your own journey of transformation. The voice of this sisterhood is getting louder, and I want to be part of that – with searing truth and painful clarity – I want to shout my support for you from the rooftops – to kill the silence about female midlife once and for all. I want us all to stop hiding. To take back control of our lives. To do the things that make us happy. To finally understand that you put your own life support system on first before you help those around you – that by lifting yourself up, you lift up others.
My own personal journey had me adventuring down pathways that confronted issues of weight, sobriety, self-esteem, visibility, creativity and of course, menopause and aging. In fact, I believe that no part of my life was left untouched by my journey, that every win helped uncover another part of me that needed to be healed, seen, heard, let go of or embraced. I’m going to try to capture this journey in words that make sense so that others can steer a more confident path of their own. I don’t want women like me to be stuck the same way I was. I want to show them the way forward because there is an entire industry that relies on us never knowing the ordinary truth and an entire world that prefers older women to be silent. Once upon a time they burnt us at the stake.
And the truth looks like this:
There are no quick fixes.
Transformation begins within.
Facing your fears is the only way.
Understanding yourself is the key.
Loving yourself is essential.
It takes time.
There are tools that can help, but you are responsible for you, and only you can do the work.
I became aware of my own journey when I was forced to seek a solution for my obesity and as I did, I slowly started to unpack parts of myself that I thought I would never see again. I’m just a normal, ordinary wife and mother, living in the burbs doing life the best way she can.
But – in the past 12 months I have:
Lost 25 kgs and counting
Been featured in an international television commercial for a weight loss app
Changed my negative habits
Built my freelance business
Given up something I love to make space in my life for new things
Joined a choir
Become much more visible
Found my voice and refused to be treated badly by others.
None of these things are extraordinary but together they have required me to change the way I see myself and to let go of past modes of behaviour, many of which I thought defined me. Some things were painful to let go of and some of the new things in my life continue to challenge me. As I transformed, people started to see me again. I was no longer Mrs Invisible. Anyone can do what I have done, it’s so completely ordinary, and because it’s so boringly ordinary, no one ever hears about it. We are all transfixed by the extraordinary, by celebrity, by the fads and the promise of something for nothing.
Now, I’m not a psychologist, sociologist, fashion and beauty expert, coach, doctor, dietition or any kind of expert, so please know that everything I write is my humble opinion derived from my own lived experience. If, after reading my posts you are inspired to make changes in your own life, please seek out the expert advice that is relevant to your experience – doctors, coaches, dietitians, whatever that may be. I’ve read a million books by a million different coaches, and I’ll share the ones that really made a difference.
Before I started on this journey I weighed 115 kilograms, easily drank one bottle of wine a night, I was stressed, burnt out by work, angry and completely at a loss as to how to change any of it. I’d given up on my dreams and I was literally too scared to attempt to lose weight because every time I did, I gained more weight.
I've started a Facebook group called Ordinary Transformation for Midlife by Liane Morris - feel free to join. It may be useful for you if you:
Have given up on losing weight because you just keep getting bigger
Have gained post-menopausal weight
Drink too much and don’t really want to stop
Not sure what to do with your life now that your kids have grown up
Find yourself at a career crossroads
Can’t find your passion
Have low self-esteem
Want to change your habits
Feel unheard and badly treated
Need some inspiration to move forward with your life.
The group is there for simple support and inspiration. I am not selling anything. It is competely free. It is for women 40+ who may simply want to connect with others at the same stage of life. We share the things that support our transformation journey.
The areas of transformation that we tend to cover are:
I am a truth teller so if you are brave enough to seek the truth, come and join us.