From rowdy Newcastle streets in the early noughteens to the I’m a Celeb Jungle and SAS: Who Dares Wins, it’s hard to deny that the backdrops to reality star Vicky Pattison’s last decade have been extreme, to say the least.
There have been highs and there have been lows, with consistency and steadiness hard, at times, to pin down. And now, Vicky has chronicled it all in her first self-help book, The Secret To Happy: How to Build Resilience, Banish Self-Doubt and Live the Life You Deserve.
From her childhood to teen years she walks you through the choppy waters of her twenties and into the hard-won, relative calm of the first few years of her fourth decade.
Part memoir, part motivational kick-up-the-bum, it’s unflinching and drills down into the various frustrations, furies and failures inherent when growing up and into female adulthood during the last decade.
And, befitting of the genre, the book includes lessons and tips that readers can use to overcome their own struggles.
Expect chat about everything from mental health and period stigma to bad relationships, plus unfiltered accounts of doing the work to try and become happier and healthier.
Within it, Vicky gets real about one of her most fraught and unhealthy relationships: the one she’s had with her body.
While you might think it was tabloid body scrutiny and her subsequent ‘before-and-after’ 2013 fitness and weight loss DVD which kickstarted a troubled body image, Vicky is adamant that the roots were laid way earlier.
‘I grew up believing that in order to be happy or successful or considered desirable, you have to be waif-like,’ she recalls, referencing the size 0-fixated celebrity gossip media culture of the noughties. ‘And for someone like me, that body shape is just not in the locker.’
‘Millions of people having an opinion on your body is going to exacerbate any existing body insecurities,’ she says. ‘But I was obsessed for years before my fitness DVD, long before anything [in the public eye].’
Vicky Pattinson on the Roots of her Body Battles
It’s well documented that Vicky did diet her way down to an extremely small, thin frame – the result of which was so anticlimactic it caused real frustration.
‘I believed that when I would get really thin, like when I’d get to be a size six or see that eight stone on the scale, I’d finally be happy and accepting of myself,’ she recalls.
She continues: ‘I was so angry that I wasn’t happy. And it took me a couple years of battling that, like: I thought this was going to make me; I thought this was going to be it. And I struggled with that for a couple of years.’
But this disillusion didn’t dislodge the idea that being thinner than is healthy for you was something to aspire to. It's a piece of received 'wisdom' that Vicky describes as by that point being ‘ingrained’. Cue more yo-yo-ing.
Vicky Pattinson on Building a Better Body Image
Entering her thirties – aided by sessions with therapists and a life coach to address other concerns – proved a catalyst for reflection and a chance for Vicky to take a different approach to how she thinks and feels about her physical self.
Looking back, she understood herself as having gone to two extremes of unhealthy living. There was the 'eating, drinking all the time, eating too many kebabs' era, in which she recalls feeling 'trapped in that cycle of quite disordered eating, in that sense'.
'Then you're feeling guilty and not eating,' she continues. 'That that did not make me happy. But weaponising exercise and punishing myself for things: that didn't make me happy [either].'
'Happiness has to be in somewhere in between, which is balanced, you know? For me, it's not going to be a size six. I'm not built that way. It's being a curvy size ten; it's having cellulite; it's having some squishy bits.'
Vicky Pattinson on Finding Balance with Healthy Habits
After taking healthy habits like regular training to unhealthy extremes, it can be hard to bring them into your life in a balanced fashion. But working out and mindful eating both play a part in Vicky's current healthy living setup.
'[Happiness] is still training. Because to me exercise is so much more than a discipline that you do to reach an unachievable aesthetic,' she tells WH. 'It's a mood elevator. It's a regulator. It's something that just makes me happy!'
Vicky's final reflections on her path to finding peace with her body and herself? 'So, it took all sorts; it took both extremes, which of course I don't advocate for but [in my case were] necessary to help you work out what you don't want to be,' she says.
'But I can finally say that where I am now is by no means perfect, but what does it look like? It's perfect for me. It allows me to still drink cocktails and eat pizzas with my friends,' Vicky shares. '[It's] just a real balance. I love where I'm at.’
And we love to hear it.
The Secret to Happy by Vicky Pattison is available now, published in hardback by Sphere, £16.99. eBook and audio also available
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