Boobs, bottoms and buns

When I was at school, I could eat whatever I liked without putting on a pound

This week should be a good one for me, as it is my birthday. I am now at that age (actually, I’ve been at ‘that’ age for longer than I care to remember) where celebrating another passing year is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it is a good excuse to make my boys do as many chores as possible on the day itself while I sit back, relax, and indulge in various unhealthy treats that I usually deny myself.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that I am another year older, another year stiffer and another year wrinklier. I do try to keep myself fit, and to eat fairly healthily, but there are those days when I just cannot be bothered with all of that, and accept that with those extra few chips on my plate will come an extra few inches on the hips. I’m not sure when I went from being able to eat whatever I liked without adding a pound, to simply sniffing a piece of cake and putting on half a stone.

The thing is, as long as I work hard in the swimming pool I can keep it off. I treat my time in the pool like others treat a gym workout, and swim non-stop at a fast pace for between 45 minutes and an hour. It’s hard work, and I imagine those around me watch in awe as I glide elegantly up and down. I’m sure they don’t really see a slightly dumpy and knackered middle-aged woman struggling through the lengths. Despite the effort, I do feel fantastic afterwards, and strut out of the leisure centre feeling like an Olympic athlete.

What disappoints me though, is that all that work doesn’t use up as many calories as you might think. An hour of front crawl uses up far fewer calories than a Big Mac meal or a 200g bar of milk chocolate, both of which are over 1000 calories a pop. If I want to continue to enjoy the nice treats in life into old age, then it seems I will need to be swimming a marathon every week.

It never used to be like that. In my school days, I could consume crisps, sweets and chips to my heart’s content. I went to a weekly boarding school, and we would have tea at 4pm which was usually cakes of some kind. My favourite was the iced sticky finger bun, and sometimes there were a few left over. On those days, I would always go in for seconds, or thirds, and I remember one day I even had fourths! And yet, I never put on any weight.

As with many things, that began to change with age, yet the bad eating habits of my youth did not, and so the pounds gradually crept on. Once I was a couple of stone heavier, I began to realise that I had to eat less and exercise more if I wanted to retain my shape, and that has been my battle ever since. I could blame my three pregnancies, but looking around, there are plenty of slender woman who have three or more children, so it’s not really a valid argument.

Part of me likes to blame my gap year for the start of the rot. I went to live in Greece, having been inspired by my older sister Tricia. When she was 18, she had gone to live in Italy, and one of the things I noticed when she came back was that, having left a skinny girl, she came back with the body of a woman. By that, I mean, she had developed a pair of proper boobs. She put it down to the fact that Italians used lots of olive oil in their cooking.

I wasn’t very blessed in that department, and over the years had been teased by boys for being flat chested. So when it was my turn to go abroad to Greece, I remembered what Tricia had said, and was delighted to discover that the Greeks used copious amounts of olive oil in their cooking too. So, with the goal of growing my boobs, I indulged very enthusiastically in whatever food was put in front of me.

Needless to say, at the end of the year, rather than gain an ample bosom, all I’d gained was an ample bottom.

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This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 27th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 25th May 2022.