My first diet linked memory comes from when I was about 5 years of age. My mum had bought a pinafore from a nearly new shop round the corner, that was aged atleast a year older than me. She tried to squeeze it on my portly frame, unsuccessfully, and unable to do the zip up. So came the immortal words “That’s it, you’re going on a diet.”
And so there it was. The start of my love hate relationship with myself and with food. At the age of 5 I started to learn quickly about good foods and bad foods. I wasn’t allowed tuck shop money to buy crisps, so I’d scrounge off my peers, feeling separated, and isolated. Early on, the restriction nurtured the desire for the things I wasn’t allowed, and demonstrated to me I was bad for being this size, and if only I was good I’d be slimmer. I don’t remember every meal time, I won’t tell you that I was given nothing but salad, but from that time I became alot more conscious of the differences between myself and other children. I’d sit in PE class, noticing their ribs, and prodding myself to see where mine were.
But calorie counting was a very normal thing in my house. I distinctly remember a tiny, bright yellow book. A calorie counter. Everything you needed to know was in that little yellow book. A small boiled egg? 57 calories. An apple? 54 calories. Now at the age of 5 I couldn’t read all this, but I still remember it’s importance, like some book of religious value. And Jane Fonda. Mum had a massive book, and audio cassettes. Maybe with all this paraphanalia it was inevitable that I’d develop issues with my body? But then, there were alot of other factors at play, divorce, bankrupcy, moving houses and schools several times over my childhood. Maybe it was inevitable that food would become more than fuel.
At the age of 11, I was no thinner than at the age of 5. But now I was at secondary school, and even more conscious of my failing body, my disappointing frame, ugly features, inability to be thin like all the pretty girls. Calorie counting became second nature to me. Packed lunches became ryvita, low fat cottage cheese, and a piece of fruit. Even now I baulk at the thought of low fat cottage cheese (especially having I’ve tried it sevreal times since). But no matter what I tried, I did not lose weight. At one point I remember my mum telling me she’d give my £2 for every pound I lost.
So there we go. A wee snap shot of my first years of dieting.