Fat is my prison and only I can set myself free.
I wrote that a few months ago but couldn’t face actually writing about it. And judging by the speed at which I’m not moving through my 3 books on the subject, it’s something I find difficult to think about altogether.
I hate, loathe and despise the way I look.
I’m putting that in bold, because despite trying to persuade myself that I don’t hate my body, I do. I’m fat. And I’m getting fatter. I’m not quite obese but I’m getting there.
From a historic point of view it’s tied up in a lot of things: my mother was constantly on/off diets, ballooned and lost weight until sticking at a fat level not too dissimilar from mine. My father has always been thin and doesn’t understand the complexity. Being fat is complicated and due to emotions and feelings he hasn’t discovered.
But it’s not just that. My parents celebrated with food, constantly talked about it, and still do, and seem to value the food more than the company. They also criticised it a lot, discussing how it could be improved, by altering the recipe or cooking method. They went on about it a lot.
I was never overweight as a teenager and never really worried about it. I put on weight with each pregnancy and lost it after, for the most part. I only really piled it on after I stopped smoking. I tried dieting after I’d got used to not smoking but it never really came off and since then has slowly crept on.
I’m not attributing it to not smoking however. I stopped smoking because I’d finally got rid of my ex and was, for the first time, in charge of my own life without the control of another adult. I relaxed. The last time I had lost weight I think it was the only thing in my life I could control and I was very stressed.
I have over the past two or three years made various attempts at regular exercise of differing varieties, regulating food, diet and now Intuitive Eating. I thought I didn’t eat that badly because I don’t stuff myself with cream cakes and puddings (just like my parents). I can however overdose on bacon and in terms of overeating there’s probably not much difference. I spent years eating bigger and bigger salads because I like them and they’re ‘free’ without thinking of the larger mountain I was eating and what that meant. Most of the time I am not aware of stuffing myself. I’ll have a bowl of muesli or two slices of toast for breakfast followed by two meals in the day. I don’t snack much although if I eat dinner early with the kids I tend to have something else late at night, which I try not to, but sometimes I’m just plain hungry.
I’ve lost all love of cooking, which really doesn’t help. Although my children do not have eating problems, in that they’re all a ‘normal’ size, they are all faddy eaters and are all faddy in different ways. So I feel no reward in cooking for them at all, which means I cook less and less and their circle of food also diminishes. So although they haven’t a problem in quantity they do lack quality.
Because I’ve lost the joy in cooking I end up cooking very simply for myself, usually steak and salad or stews in the winter. Endless variety in those and my salads are wonderful, but if it takes more than 5 minutes, or needs me to plan in advance, I can’t be bothered. Which makes life very difficult. I know how to cook, and what constitutes a balance meal or diet but those aren’t the issues. I’m just not interested.
And that goes for exercise too. My parents would drag us out the house at the weekend for a “nice” walk, which could take several hours. They often ended up having a pint afterwards and since for the most part children weren’t allowed in we children huddled outside sharing a packet of crisps. Not going was not an option and as my sisters got older it was increasingly just me. My father didn’t slow down for little legs so I both learned to walk fast and to not try and keep up, but get lost in my thoughts. No other form of exercise was ever undertaken by my parents, although my mother did occasionally take me swimming (I ended up teaching myself to swim which is why I have no technique whatsoever). So I hated going for walks and never developed an interest in any other sport because they weren’t value by my parents either.
I tried going to classes of varying types locally, but found it takes up too much time and I don’t want to. So I tried a cross trainer at home, thinking that took out the travel time and I could do it in the evening when I wasn’t going to do anything intelligent anyway. Also I could watch television whilst doing it which meant I didn’t feel I was wasting time. That too is gathering dust although I’ve resisted getting rid of it. And onto the Wii, bought two years ago. It was and still is a good idea. I’ve gone in and out of the habit of using it, trying various different games. I like the Sporty ones and the keep fit ones and the game that I really enjoyed was the dance mat games. But even though I’ve found exercise I enjoy, I can’t keep to regular attendance and haven’t now touched it for months except for the occasional half hour with my children.
So, what is it all about then? I’ve spoken of not valuing myself and that’s what it comes down to, although I feel that’s too glib an answer. I’m rejecting the importance my parents placed on food, saying it isn’t the most important thing in my life and shouldn’t be. I’m stopping myself from feeling and doing the things I need to in order to be happier about myself. It’s as if I want to hide inside a blob and not come out to engage with life. But I do want to live and be alive. My father dismisses issues of lack of self-worth as being irrelevant and I think to some extent I’m saying, “Look at me, how I feel is relevant, otherwise I wouldn’t be this fat”.
I need to learn to say and feel “Look at me, how I feel is relevant and important. I feel happy and I look marvellous”.