My bath time read of choice today was “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth. I’ve read it before. I remember gushing about it, reading it within hours, thinking I was taking it all in. I guess I didn’t because as I read it again, I realise I remember very little.But her words hold up a mirror to me. So much resonates with my thoughts and feelings. Feeling that as a child I was responsible for so much misery because I was fat.
“I turned to food for the same reasons people turned to God: it was my sigh of ecstasy, my transport to heaven, my concrete proof that relief from the pain of every day life was possible.”
In the moment of eating, my brain can be consumed, and distracted by food. The texture, the heat, the taste, the memories of other times that a particular food brought relief and joy. But then the packet is empty, the bowl licked clean, and the cloud of anxiety and sadness can descend again. Reality returns. A reality that I feel unable to deal with.
There has been one period in my life, albeit excruciatingly brief, where food was not a distraction, or necessary for very much other than fuel. I had two children under the age of 3, and was so very busy running around after them that eating was something I often forgot, rarely had time for, and didn’t feel the need for. My life was full with caring for these two young boys, and there wasn’t time to think about, mull over, or miss food. My body dropped extra weight with no effort on my part. I never visited a set of scales, went only by the feel of my clothes, and felt content. Content and tired. I fell pregnant with my third child, and the ease of not thinking about food continued. It was effortless.
3 children under the age of 5 seemed to change things somewhat. Somewhere in my brain I started to believe I was failing. The baby weight wasn’t disappearing. Postnatal depression, which I’d suffered both times previously, returned with a vengeance, and my psyche started to feel under attack. How could I possibly look after my children if I couldn’t even drop a few pounds? Every one else managed to have it all! Why was I now failing? Useless mother, useless fat mother!!
The irony is, looking back, I wasn’t even fat. I was maybe a few pounds above the all powerful bmi recommendations. But depression can make liars of us all, and I took myself off to a weight loss class to shift those pesky pounds! And I succeeded. I was great! Amazing! The weight started to come off. I ate my points perfectly, and was the obedient student. Rarely a gain showed, nor a maintain. The pounds came off and I felt more and more elated. The culture of the weight loss class celebrates our “successes”. Of course it does. And I was the model pupil, achieving what every dieter dreams of! I remember the elation of getting into a pair of size 10 jeans. My first ever. I was over the moon. Now I had it all. I was slim, had 3 kids, a lovely husband, and I could wear so much more! My life was again revolving around food, but in the form of controlling it.
I didn’t have it all. Postnatal depression left me believing I was the worst possible parent. I couldn’t cope with the constant demands of my children, and would feel guilt at wanting to get away from them occasionally! Gradually I felt the need for foods not on the slimming club lists, but desperate not to gain weight, it was at this point I started to purge if I ate too much. Obsessed with staying slim, obsessed with staying in control of something in my life.
It has been a long journey since then. I’m now 5 stone heavier than I was, but I have managed to stop purging. I have tried dieting again, but never successfully. But I have found the anti diet brigade, and am grateful to each and every one of them in all their guises. Slowly, but very surely, the tide is turning. People are starting to lash out at the diet world, and the endless lies thrown at us. The lies that tell us that our lives will be so much better if we shift the pounds, if we attain the slim physique that they tell us will make us more attractive, happier, more successful. Women are starting to believe that they are beautiful, whatever their shape and size, and that there is so much more to life than what the scales tell you.
I’m still a long way from having a healthy attitude to food. I am still in the stages of learning why I rely so much on it to comfort, soothe, distract. But I am learning. I am becoming more relaxed and accepting of myself each day, and am in touch with some wonderfully like minded souls. I am focusing on finding ways to move my body in ways that I enjoy. I walk more, run a little, try to be a little bit more active where I can. I would go so far as to say I do more now, in terms of activity, than I ever did when I was a size 10. Being slim did not mean I was healthy.
Hopefully, in time, not dieting will be viewed as normal. People won’t jump to the assumption that not dieting = giving up on life and health! Hopefully, as time goes on people will realise you can weigh a bit more, but still have a healthy heart, because you can still get out and move.
I’m writing this today, mostly to work out, in my head, where I am at. A programme is being made on people who’ve stepped off the dieting merry go round, and so I’m thinking about chatting to them. I’m wondering how qualified I am, if you know what I mean. I haven’t got it all together. My life isn’t perfect and sickly sweet. But if I could be a voice for women, to help and give them a chance to feel empowered, is it worth it?