I’m a bit nervous tonight. I should be well asleep by now, but I’m having my knee surgery first thing tomorrow, and sleep is proving elusive. I don’t need to do anything by way of preparation other than just turn up so I’ve been finding other things to occupy my mind.
Do you remember last month, I mooted the idea of pulling a book together from all these words we’ve shared here in the blog over the last two years? I was genuinely blown away by the response from you lot, who came back with a resounding chorus of approval at the idea, and you know me…once I get an idea, I’m not one to let the grass grow under my feet.
Anyway, exciting news…I’ve booked myself onto a three day writers workshop next month so I can learn how to do this shit for real.
I know, right?!!
I’ve got to submit a 3000 word sample of my writing up ahead of time, so a bunch of folk who know what they’re talking about can do a proper critique on it, then I get the feedback whilst I’m there. They’ve warned me it might be brutal so I’m steeling myself…ah knickers to it, shoot for the moon, eh? But I need your help.
I can’t just launch right in with the blog posts because out of context it wouldn’t make much sense, so I’ve had to do a bit of an intro, which will use up about half my words. I’ve pulled some bits from the blog to do that and written a bit more. Then I thought I’d just pick a couple of blog posts as a sort of sample…what do you think?
Here’s what I’ve got so far…
Break Out The Skinny Girl – The Diary Of A Recovering Food Addict
I remember in vivid, excruciating detail the moment it occurred to me that I was fat. It was sometime around the top class in infants, so I must have been about six years old. The teacher who pointed it out was called Miss Baume, and the memory is so deeply engrained that I even remember the long white wet-look boots and Paisley-patterned mini-dress that she was wearing when the words came out of her mouth.
We were doing a class topic about farms, and Miss Baume called me and the only other chunky little girl in our class out to the front. Pointing towards the two of us, she announced to the class that together we probably weighed the equivalent of a fully-grown pig.
Yes, I’m serious. She really said that. I remember the sting of tears behind my eyes and the sniggers in the classroom, but most of all I remember the utter misery and humiliation of being compared to a pig. By my teacher. That moment was the first time I ever recall feeling ashamed of the way I looked.
I ran home after school in tears and my mum gave me a cuddle and a Kit-Kat to make me feel better.
Not long after that, a family friend mentioned that she was going to pass down a bag of clothes that her twelve-year-old daughter had grown out of. I was beyond excited, because money was tight in our house and new clothes were a rare event. This promised bag of clothes seemed to take forever to actually turn up, and by the time it did I was almost beside myself.
I was seven, and not a single one of the things in that bag fitted me. I insisted on hanging them in my wardrobe anyway, because one day I might be thin. To be fair, it wasn’t the last time my wardrobe would be filled with ‘one day…’ clothes, and it also wasn’t the last time I hoped I might go to sleep fat and wake up thin. I hadn’t joined the dots at that time between cause and effect.
For me, weight has been a lifelong battle. If I had a pound in money for every pound in weight I’ve lost and found over the years, I could probably give the Gates’s and Zuckerbergs of this world a run for their money. I can’t tell you how much I weighed when I was born, because I was adopted soon afterwards and back then it wasn’t the done thing to hand that kind of useful information over with the baby bundle.
There’s no doubt I was loved. My folks tried for twelve years to have a baby and it just didn’t happen. They took delivery of me at 6 weeks old, and never had a baby been so loved. Or so well fed. I’ve seen the photos, and I can say with a degree of certainty that by the time the deal was done and the papers were signed, I looked like a beach ball with hair.
Back then I was regarded as a bonny baby – these days my mum would be hauled in front of social workers and given a lecture about childhood obesity or food abuse, and to be fair they’d have a point.
I’ve dipped in and out of therapy over the years to try and understand the weird relationship I have with food, and it’s indisputable; the way I’m wired stems way back to my formative years. Feeding me was my mum’s way of showing love, you know? If I skinned my knee, or fell out with a friend, there was a ready supply of edible band aids to make me feel better. Bad times, difficult times, tears…all patched up with food. Good times? Hey, let’s go eat.
I remember confiding in an older girl once who lived on our avenue, and who used to play with me when her proper friends were busy. I was seven years old and I weighed around seven stone at the time. Pig-gate still weighed heavily on my mind, but my friend reassured me that she weighed that too, and she wasn’t fat, was she? Of course she wasn’t. But she was a good five years older than me, much taller and she’d already grown boobs. I wasn’t old enough to have a ready answer as to why it was different for me, but I just knew it was.
It’s not like I wasn’t active. When I was nine, I joined the gym club at school. Mr Roberts, the gym teacher was an absolute sweetheart, and he didn’t mind a bit that I was fat, even though my presence on the team meant that his dreams of winning any inter-school competitions disappeared like a fart on a breeze.
For a start, there was too much body in my leotard. I couldn’t quite pull off a forward roll – which was the cornerstone of our big display piece – without either grunting, or rolling backwards because my belly got in the way when I tried to stand up. And the leotard kept disappearing between my butt cheeks, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to avoid reasons for people to laugh at you. What I lacked in finesse I made up for in enthusiasm, but let’s just say I wasn’t a born athlete.
Fast-forward a few years, to 1978 and the release of the movie Grease. I was 13, and I must have stood in line at least ten times to watch it. I was obsessed. I completely missed all the subtle messaging about not feeling the need to change who you are to please someone else…that went right over my head. I just wanted to be sexy and say the words tell me about it, stud to a hot boy who wouldn’t laugh.
Having watched the film over and over again, I nagged my poor mum half to death until she relented and bought me a pair of shiny black footless leggings. She clearly knew this purchase had disaster written all over it but as far as I was concerned, they were exactly what I needed to transform me in the same way they’d transformed Sandy.
I was very pissed off when they didn’t make me look like Sandy. Not even close. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize now that my legs were a good foot shorter than hers, and my arse was at least a foot wider. Plus, the only thing I had to wear them with was a pair of sensible Clarks’ sandals and a poncho, so how surprising that the school disco didn’t deliver me the happy ending I’d been hoping for. Said nobody at all.
I joined a slimming club with my mum after those footless leggings were consigned to the bin. I don’t remember losing any weight, because alongside the diet food that my mum used to cook, I continued to eat my own bodyweight in crap. In secret. And I got really good at wheeling out my surprised and disappointed face when it was time to face the weekly weigh-in.
I just wish I were as fat now as I was when I thought I was fat the first time. On reflection I probably wasn’t that fat at all.
Over the years I’ve tried every diet going. All the usual suspects – the ones where you rock up to fat class once a week, pay your subs and hop on the scales before sitting down for the talk. Some of them were quite good and the diets do work if you stick to them. The meal plans are flexible, and it’s normal food, but it’s just a bloody long slog when you have lots to lose.
And yes I know. The long game gets you into a healthy eating pattern. It’s habit forming, you learn about nutrition, you get support…I get it. Only I never made it to the end. I always got so far, but then I’d get stuck. Boredom, impatience, call it whatever you like but sooner or later the asshole voice in my head would land a sucker punch and BAM I’d come tumbling out of the naughty tree, hitting every branch on the way down. And that’d be it, shackles off and ready to make up for lost eating time.
I’ve also existed on packets of space dust and had hermetically sealed ping meals delivered to my door every week for months on end. Some of them didn’t taste that bad, but they cost a fortune and the portions wouldn’t have looked out of place in front of a two year-old.
The one thing I’ve never considered is weight loss surgery, because I’m smart enough to recognise that the problem is 100% in my head. I’d be the one liquidising mars bars and finding creative new ways to drink pizza through a straw if my stomach was the size of a thimble but my head was still broken.
Some of the diets I’ve tried have dipped into the psychology of weight loss. The liquid diet in particular came with an element of homework and group therapy. I found it fascinating and it really did work. For a while. I didn’t have time to be bored, in fact my journey down the sizes was exhilarating. I wish I could do it again but I literally gag at the thought of that chalky soup these days.
I guess where I’m going with this, is that despite understanding the concept of a balanced diet, and the science behind expending more energy than you take in if you want to lose weight, knowing and doing are two completely different things, right?
I’m self-aware enough to identify the triggers which set me off. I’ve spent pretty much all my adult life being pre-occupied with the size of my arse, and either losing the weight, or putting it back on again. I’ve lost and gained way north of 1000lbs over the last 30 years, but understanding the reasons why is not enough. Knowledge isn’t enough, on it’s own.
How many cycles of despair, followed by determination, hope, optimism, success, celebration, pride, self-destruction and back to despair can a girl go through in one lifetime? Lots, actually. The answer is lots. When I hit that sweet spot, and I’m in the zone and losing weight, life is good. When I’m not, it’s a car crash. I binge, so it’s either feast, or famine. I can never remember sustaining any kind of middle ground for longer than ten minutes but I really want it to be different this time because honestly, I’m too old for this shit.
And that’s why I decided to write my way to Skinny Town, one diary entry at a time. This isn’t so much a diary about a diet; it’s more a diary about what goes on in my head because I’m on a diet. If I call it out I have to deal with it, right?
*280,000 words’ worth of diary entries follow. I’ve picked out just a couple so you can hear my voice in the limited space we have…
So chaps, this is where you come in. Which posts do I include? I’m thinking Police, Fire, Ambulance, Me and Feed Me! They were a couple of fairly early posts. But there’s almost five hundred to go at and I don’t know where to start. And anyway, you lot are the experts…you know what you like.
I figured that seeing as I’m likely to be out of action for a few days, you might fancy having a poke around in the archives whilst I’m too dosed up on pain meds to make much sense.
Let me know what you think…and wish me luck with the op. I could shit a brick right about now 🙁