Monthly Archives: March 2013

So where did it all go wrong?

Christmas 94

This blogging is having an effect on me; I’m lying awake at night and the memories are flooding back. Some of it’s good…I’m blogging in my head, my creative juices are flowing and I’m getting that whole ‘authentic self’ out there. On the other hand, I’m not sleeping very well. Best I get my life story out of the way as quick as I can so I can go back to sleeping properly!

I did worry last night when my hubby-to-be read it and said “You’ve had a sad life, haven’t you?”

No!

I haven’t. I really believe I’ve had a pretty good life, but I’m just trying to show the way food and dieting has screwed up the way I’ve lived it at times. My first marriage wasn’t so bad, we did have some good laughs. The freedom of having my own place meant I loved nothing more than to throw impromptu parties and invite people over. The logistics of this in a teeny one up, one down house were irrelevant. I did make friends in that first couple of years – one or two that stuck around for about 15 years, one of them I only saw a couple of weekends ago. The problem was that I was so miserable at work and it killed the confidence I’d started to grow.

If I’d had the confidence to stand up for myself when I started at Cambridge County Court, and believed in myself a bit more, I might have not ended up pigging out as much as I did to cheer myself up. I just put it down to classic comfort eating. I didn’t binge eat all the time, either. I did go on a LOT of diets and rarely managed to stick to them more than a week or so. I ate a lot of Lean (MEAN) Cuisine meals, half fat digestives and fat free yoghurts, none of which were very appetising. So what made me do it?

Looks are everything, right? I mentioned before that I wasn’t popular with the boys at school and felt like a bit of an ugly duckling. I wanted to be fashionable SO badly in my teens. When I got older I experimented a lot with fashion. Experiments that quite often went horribly wrong, but I still loved playing around with looks, copying styles and getting inspiration from  Vogue, Cosmo, Looks, Elle, and every other fashion magazine filled to the brim with beautiful, skinny models. I went to the Clothes Show and I was in my idea of heaven. I saw Let Loose play live there in 1994. Remember them? Here you go:

I was never interested in looking like Kate Moss but would have chopped my arm off to look like Cindy or Christy or Linda. I even bought Cindy Crawford’s fitness video. Oh my GOD. I have the DVD now (never say I give up) and that routine makes me hurt in places I never knew I even HAD places. She deserved to look that hot.

I even looked into studying fashion design when I moved to Cambridge, but it was too expensive. If I’d got on better with my mum as a teen, I would have got her to teach me how to make my own clothes…I still hanker after doing that now, when I see gorgeous clothes that only go up to a size 16.

Anyway, I was obsessed with fashion, I had a longstanding inferiority complex about my looks and I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be able to look as good as skinny women did in their catwalk size clothes. I thought I’d be happy if I could just be beautiful. I desperately wanted to indulge my love of clothes and be able to wear the clothes I saw in the fashion mags, but I had boobs and a bum that refused to cooperate. Although even in the 90s it wasn’t as bad as it is now, there was still a lot of emphasis on being slim, and it wasn’t just about being pretty anymore, the big obsession was health. Zest Magazine and Health & Fitness became my new friends and I devoured everything I could about nutrition and exercise. I thought about retraining as a nutritionist. That’d help, right? OK, so the slight inconvenience of a three-year full time university course put paid to that idea.

Everyone dieted. It was a way of bonding with the women in the office, even if I didn’t want to be there. Nobody questioned the fact I was on a diet/off a diet. nobody could stick to a diet for long, it was just the way it was. I didn’t think there was another way, although by now I’d read Shelley Bovey’s ‘Being fat is not a sin’ and did start to wonder whether I was just wasting my time trying to be skinny when I was clearly not meant to be. But I soldiered on…

I was trying to be everything to everyone. The excitement of being a newlywed was wearing off, and I thought maybe I should change…Husband #1 was pretty fed up with me being such a miserable cow about work all the time. I did apply for job after job but didn’t get anywhere, further denting my confidence. I wanted more attention from him but didn’t know how to tell him that I was feeling taken for granted. Towards the end of 1994 I finally did it..I escaped the Court and was offered a job working for Trading Standards, to start in January 1995. I was over the moon! I celebrated by going to a friend’s house, helping her polish off a good proportion of the cheap spirits her parents had just brought back from a ‘Booze Cruise’ (remember those?) and throwing up in a bucket all the way home. Husband #1 was not impressed at all, in fact I think he drove over those speed bumps a little TOO fast to serve me right.

I called in sick the next day (well I *was* sick, and anyway, what were they going to do, sack me?) and when I returned to work, the Chief Clerk banned me from going out with the others for a Christmas lunch. Yes, really. I told you she was a cow. Then, the day I left, after the rest of the office had clubbed together to buy me a leaving present, she practically threw two CDs at me, spitting “Here you go. They’re by some band called Oasis. Never heard of them,” and flounced off, her nose in the air.

I remember as Husband #1 picked me up from work that night (I think he’d forgiven me for the vomiting incident..just) we put one of the CDs on in the car. “Whatever” by Oasis. “I’m freee-eee to be whatever I…whatever I choose…”

I stuck my fingers up as we drove away, mouthed a final “F*** you!!!” and looked foward to a new start. A new job, a New Year diet and a new me. Be careful what you wish for…

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Married….

Derbyshire

The day after I got back from my honeymoon in Derbyshire, which had been lovely, I sat in my new bedroom, sorting out some washing, and cried. To this day, I’m not sure what I was crying about, but I sat up there, alone, for ages. I wanted Husband #1 to come upstairs and tell me it was all going to be OK, but I was still crap at articulating any kind of bad feelings and I wiped my eyes, calmed myself down, then went back downstairs to watch TV as if nothing had happened. I don’t think I ever told him that. Well, why would I?

I was just a bit overwhelmed, I think. I was chuffed to bits to be married, starting a new life, independent…it was all very exciting. But I think I was on some sort of wedding comedown. The wedding had been lovely, despite the migraine that started halfway through the ceremony. At that time I didn’t even know I got migraines, I thought it was a ‘stress headache.’ I had a slight panic as I waited for the car to take me to the church, but when Dad turned to me and said, “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, and we’ll be here for you whatever happens,” I decided that my pre-wedding jitters were par for the course and I got in the car when it arrived, beaming from ear to ear.

I would have cried even more if I’d known what was going to happen the next day.

I transferred my job from Ipswich to Cambridge County Court. The best thing I can say about the place was that I only stayed there for 18 months. I met three people there who would become part of my life, but mostly the place was a complete nightmare. Whereas in Ipswich we mostly worked together, although there were rivalries, falling-outs and gossip, at Cambridge it was every woman for herself and the atmosphere was very oppressive. I hated it from the very first day. I got home and burst into tears in front of my bewildered husband as it hit me that not only was I going to be working in the shit job from hell for the foreseeable future, but I had left all my lovely friends, family and everything I knew behind in Ipswich and I was pinning everything on the man standing in front of me asking me what was wrong. He didn’t know what had hit him any more than I did.

I wanted to ‘reinvent’ myself when I moved, but I soon became really miserable. The Chief Clerk and her two deputies (or hench women) made it very clear that they disapproved of me, which was pretty unfair because I was actually good at the job. They were vocal about the fact I came from a more successful court in the ‘league tables’ and whenever I did something wrong, in the way that we’d done it at Ipswich, they’d sneer at me. Often, they’d change their ways afterwards, but not without having a right go at me first. I worked with a woman who gave incompetence a bad name, who was constantly off sick and who was three civil service grades more senior than I was.

I was still on a diet – I remember a few in particular from that time. ‘Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell’ – a strange one that involved a whole lot of complicated calculations but was essentially low fat; one that involved visualising everything you ate turning to sludge, unless it was apples or veggies; a high fibre F-Plan type thing and oh, another one, remember Susan Powter? Never let a morsel of fat pass your lips and exercise a lot. Phew!

BrightonHusband #1 and I had joined the YMCA gym, he was usually quite good at going every week but I would try and weasel out of it at any opportunity. He thought I should join a Step class to make friends. I told him I wouldn’t be able to breathe after an hour of Step aerobics, let alone talk to anyone afterwards! We used to bicker because he’d want to buy chips every week on the way home, and I was always on a diet. I would smell those chips and practically dribble at the thought of them, but my constant “I’m on a diet” meant I denied myself and got narky at him for being able to eat anything he wanted. “Why should I not have what I want just because you don’t have any willpower?” he snapped back one day. I told myself it wasn’t fair, he’d never understand.

He got me one of those ‘stepper’ things for Christmas the first year we were married. It’s OK, I did want one, it wasn’t a hint. I had tonsilitis all over Christmas, which I tried to make go away by drinking a lot, and eating Pringles. Our heating packed up at 6am on Christmas morning and I was at the doctors first thing because it hurt so much I couldn’t swallow and I couldn’t even breathe without coughing. He gave me Co-codamol and told me to drink gin. I still managed to cook my first ever Christmas dinner, like a good wife.

We started going swimming together in about 1994. It was the first time I’d been fitter than him, I’d stay in for the obligatory 50 lengths of the pool and he’d get out halfway through and sit in the sauna. I also started walking to work a bit more often – I lost a bit of weight after noting in horror that my weight had gone up to almost 12 stone a few weeks after the wedding…and I was edging into a size 16 for the first time ever.  We ate out a lot on the honeymoon, and the freedom to be able to eat whatever I wanted, comfort eating at work and wanting to prove that I could cook all contributed to the situation. Another contributing factor was the fact that Husband #1 went out most weeks to a ‘jam session’ as he was a guitarist, and I would use those nights to either invite my new friend, let’s call her ‘L’ over for dinner, or stock up on junk food at the corner shop as soon as the car was out of the driveway and eat until it was all gone.

If ‘L’ came for dinner we’d usually drive to Tesco, get custard doughnuts and other treats and both scoff them, vowing that we’d go on a diet the next day/week/millennium.

The only good thing for my crappy eating habits was that I’d started to read a bit of feminist literature, Naomi Wolf’s ‘The Beauty Myth’ and Susie Orbach’s ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ included. They planted the seed of the idea that diets didn’t work, but at that point it was just a vague idea, because if diets didn’t work, I could never be slim, right? How else was I going to do it?

I thought that being married meant I’d never feel lonely again, that I’d feel loved and that I’d be more confident. In all honesty, nothing had really changed. I didn’t really know who I was, and I was losing my identity because I was unhappy every day at work and couldn’t really explain why I felt so lonely to my husband. It was never going to end well, was it?

PS: I have to keep saying this but I’m absolutely NOT blaming anyone else for my weird eating habits or the way I felt about myself. I expected being married to make me feel better about myself…but only I could do that!

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Nobody listens to Tori Amos when they’re happy

cover-cosmopolitan_september_1989I was lying awake thinking about all this last night and I couldn’t sleep. All the lovely things that you’ve said so far about the blog posts are spurring me on. So far though it’s all been pretty upbeat and I think it sounds a bit like an amusing diary. That’s good, the last thing I want is to turn my blog into one of those godawful ‘Misery Memoirs’. But there’s more to my story than bad haircuts and eighties music.

So, why was I scoffing Hobnobs one day and dieting the next? You couldn’t really see it on my body, probably because I was still very young, very active, and living with my parents so there was a limit to how much I could binge without it being bleeding obvious. I got quite good at it though, probably because I was responsible for tidying my own room. I knew where I stashed all the wrappers and I made sure I got rid of them  regularly. I hovered between 10 stone and 11 stone, mostly nearer to 11. So from 1987 to 1993 I just yo-yoed really.

I’m sure Mum must have guessed that I was eating junk in secret. Mum and I shouted at each other a lot when I was  in my teens and early twenties. I remember a lot of “What are you wearing?” and “You look a mess” type slanging matches. It was a two-way thing, I was obnoxious, hormonal, stroppy little cow at times and Mum was dealing with working full time, commuting to London, and trying to keep tabs on three very different kids. Dad had his own problems – his job was slowly being phased out by the government and money was tight too. To be fair, I think they’d agree that they were really strict with me, too, so I was always trying to push the limits and assert a bit of independence. This usually backfired and I’d end up slamming doors and yelling. Or going out. Or eating.

Sarah2

1992. Still no dress sense.

I’ve tried to go back into my head at that age and remember how I felt. Honestly? My whole self-image was tied up in how I LOOKED, because I didn’t think I had anything much going for me, and I’d just realised that looks-wise I was OK after all. I grew up with a bit of an inferiority complex. When I was younger I was ‘the clever one’ but of course I’d flunked a few of my O’ levels and ended up working in a shop at 16 – I was distinctly average on that score too. I felt a bit crap, to be honest.

I’d spend hours in my bedroom listening to music and daydreaming. I didn’t want anything to do with my family.  I felt a bit of an outsider – Mum was really close to my younger brother and my sister had special needs so she needed the attention more than I did. I  hid myself away with my magazines, a Tori Amos CD and piles of hoarded junk food, or went out. Husband #1 lived in Cambridge and I lived in Ipswich so I only saw him at weekends before we got married – we were controlled then, too. We were chaperoned most of the time, never allowed to share a room or be in either house alone for long, and as for moving in together – that would have been out of the question. I DID love him, I really did, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that when my parents started asking when we were going to get married so that they didn’t have him staying every other weekend, I started to think “Hmmm. There’s an idea.”

I can see it really clearly now. I couldn’t communicate my feelings for toffee. I was terrified of confrontation and constantly looking for approval from wherever I could get it. I was frustrated with the lack of control I had over my life and my standard response to any kind of bad feeling was food. Either going on another diet or stockpiling cheese and onion Walker’s.

I devoured fashion and women’s magazines. I loved Vogue and Elle and longed for the day when I could afford designer clothes, even though I was a lowly, very badly paid civil servant at the time. I also spent a lot of time staring at images of models. I bought into every new diet going and looked forward to January every year when all the weight loss editions came out and the new diet books were displayed in the shops. I knew I looked OK but if I just lost a bit of weight I could have been perfect. I tried Callanetics – remember those? Ouch. I wanted to look like Cindy Crawford. Remember the slogan about “There are three billion women who don’t look like supermodels – and only eight who do” – I could have done with reminding, actually.

Supermodels

But on the face of it I was pretty happy. I had a good job, lots of friends and I was getting married. I can see now that there were two Sarahs – the one I showed the world, and the one who sat in her bedroom eating biscuits. The public Sarah was great fun, always up for a night out, cheeky, flirty and responsible for throwing up in a waste bin in the office on her 21st birthday after going out drinking at lunchtime. She could stand up to stroppy judges and disgruntled members of the public at work, didn’t bat an eyelid when confronted with difficult situations, went clubbing, got drunk, never got a hangover until her 21st birthday and loved life.

The Sarah behind the mask was screaming “like me, like me” and trying to please everyone at once. She was opinionated but didn’t have the guts to express her opinions, said what she thought people wanted to hear and did that thing where you look in the mirror, grab your tummy and exclaim “Yuk” every morning.

I thought getting married would make everything better. So I got married.

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Teenage Angst

I’ve had to work myself up to writing this…mainly because yesterday I was feeling mahoosively sorry for myself after having a gastroscopy. I still have the horrible feeling you get when you have tonsilitis; like I’ve got something stuck in my throat and it’s a bit sore. but I’m immensely glad I did it. I was scared to death, and now it’s all over and as expected (hooray) there is actually bugger all wrong with me. So BIG WHOOP for that.

After sitting around pouting and eating ice-cream last night, and catching up with work this morning, I think it’s about time I stopped procrastinating and started talking about how a reasonably slim, pretty 17 year old managed to transform into a diet-obsessive with a food issue as big as a house.

It took years. And to be brutally honest I don’t really know. This was me at my 18th birthday party.

18th Birthday

Let’s be honest, only a rabid Daily Mail commentator would call me obese. I had biggish boobs and a big bum. I was curvy, certainly. But I wasn’t fat. The boy who called me fat not long before this picture was taken soon fell off the radar, as boys often do when you’re 18. He was replaced, a couple of months later by the man I was going to end up marrying in 1993.

So although that incident sticks in my mind, it wasn’t his fault. Anyway, I said right at the start this isn’t about blaming anyone else.

Another incident a couple of years later that sticks in my mind was reading the front of Slimming Magazine in about 1990/91 and seeing “MY 11 STONE NIGHTMARE!” from Beverley Craven. Remember her? Well, clearly she was that much of a mega-star that she could only get a front cover on a diet magazine, but anyway, there she was telling the world that being 11 stone was a nightmare. And I wasn’t far off that. Shit! What was I going to do about it? Diet, again, I expect.

When I met husband #1 in 1989, I was on a diet. Before I go any further, yes, I have been married twice. No, I’m not married to either of them now. Yes, I am getting married again next year. No, I don’t particularly like wedding cake.

So, I met him in about May 1989, and I remember I was on a diet. I was always on a diet. My heroine at the time was Sam Brown, who was in the charts with ‘Stop!” I also had a weird obsession with a band called Climie Fisher, and I don’t know what made me think of it, but this song of theirs popped into my head while I was in the shower this morning and it sort of sums up what I’m doing with these blogs. If you can forgive the hideous 80s production, the lyrics are actually quite good. I just listened to it myself for the first time in YEARS and it actually brought a bit of a lump to my throat…or is that just bruising from yesterday?

The diet I was on then involved me eating barely anything all working week, and then anything I wanted at the weekends. A kind of reversal of the 5:2 diet that’s doing the rounds at the moment. I was eating a lot of Boots Shapers crispbreads, with their ‘bag of air’ crisps and disgusting cheese spread. It was all low-fat this and low-fat that in the late 80s and early 90s. They brought out ‘Flyte’ bars – remember them? They were disgustingly sweet and probably just as high in calories as most normal chocolate bars but we were all eating the damn things because they were LOW FAT.

pigletI’d started a new job at Ipswich County Court, and  I remember that time as one of the happiest in my life. Most of us were in our twenties and thirties, the social life was good, and we mostly got along really well. The work could be pretty stressful sometimes but the people were great and I was happy there. Most of us were on and off diets all the time but none of us were actually fat. Go figure! At one point in about 1990, I got down to under 10 stone for the ONLY time in my entire adult life and it lasted about a week. Unfortunately, I didn’t use my new-found figure wisely, as the picture on the right proves.

It’s hard to recall what was going on in my head back then. In my very early twenties I still wasn’t that bad, really. Quite apart from that diet I made up myself, I also tried The Junk Food Diet, Size 12 in 21 Days (I wasn’t), and countless others. I did the Slimming Magazine Diet – I’d buy the magazines religiously and attempt the diets, but they seemed to like peanut butter on everything and being severely allergic I remember getting a bit annoyed. I went along to the club once or twice, too and hated it. They put me on a diet of about 1000 calories a day. I mean, look at the size of me! I was barely out of my teens and hardly ten and a half stone, and being told I had to lose two stone (yes, really) and eat 1000 calories a day. As you can imagine, that didn’t last.

I joined a gym in 1991. Didn’t go very often. I relied on a girl I used to work with taking me, and her willpower was as shaky as mine. More often than not, we’d end up in the pub.

So, I was in love with Husband #1 and you’ll be wondering whether he killed my confidence? To be honest, no, not really. He was a lot slimmer than me, and could eat anything he wanted but he didn’t really go on about my weight, in fact he seemed to rather like me as I was. Not only that, but I was going to college after work to study A level English and I started hanging out with another group of people about my age who used the word ‘study’ as loosely as I did. When we weren’t sniggering at the back, we were skiving off, again down the pub, or to Felixstowe sea front. It was all very innocent but there were two guys in the group who were like rutting stags competing to impress all the girls, including me. I got to be really good friends at the time with them, so they’d take turns inviting me out to lunch, which led the girls in the office to roll their eyes and exclaim “You’ve got another man here to see you, Sarah.”

eliott3

That’s me on the right. Apparently.

I can’t pretend I wasn’t loving it. One of them told me I looked a bit like Evie from The House of Eliott, which was my FAVOURITE programme at the time (and probably of all time) and if I hadn’t been engaged I probably would have kissed him. I was the most confident I’d ever been – and I even forgave them for the time I went fishing for compliments and asked,”Does my bum look big in these jeans?” and they replied, “Yes!” in unison.

It was a good time in my life. Work was good, I was in love, I was young and healthy, slim, confident and happy. I still lived with my parents, got engaged in 1991 and was planning a wedding. Which of course I was on a diet for. But if you’d asked me back then whether I had a problem with food I’d have said no. Despite the way I used to sneak food into the house when nobody was looking and eat it all in my bedroom, then hide the wrappers so that nobody knew I’d been pigging out. But I was happy, so why was I bingeing?

I guess I’ll never really know….still, I had a wedding to diet for and things were looking exciting…

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Alien concept

image

Imagine you’re an alien. You’ve been sent on an assignment to Earth, and your mission is to live here for a bit and observe. You’ve got to fit in, and you don’t want to scare anyone by showing up as an alien, so you’re going to take the form of a human female. You’ve done your research and so you know what the average size of a human female is in the part of the planet you’re going to live in, which just happens to be the UK. Of course, it could be anywhere in the Western world but for the sake of argument, Mrs Alien finds herself in the middle of an average UK town.

You know that humans have to keep refuelling constantly or else they die. Tedious as this sounds, and pretty backwards, you go with the flow and decide if you’re gonna do this thing, you have to do it properly. The first thing you do when you get here, once you’ve figured out the whole currency thing which is also a few millennia out of date, is head to a supermarket, which you’ve worked out in advance is the best place to get your fuel.

Oh my God. Where do you start? There’s stuff everywhere, so many different things to eat, and you’re not actually sure what’s edible or not. You spot someone eating out of a bag of crisps, and decide that will do, as it’s clearly food. So off you go, buy yourself a bag of crisps and go away to do some people watching.

As you look around, you notice that there are people of all shapes and sizes here. The sheer diversity of humans amazes you, they all look completely different to you. You’re transfixed by the different shades of hair, different builds, heights and features. Some people are round and soft, and seem to bounce as they walk. Some look muscular and hard-bodied, and others are delicate or petite, or slim. Some people are in wheelchairs. Lots of the women look a bit like you. You don’t feel weird, you feel as if anything goes on Earth.

You find a coffee shop, order a water (you know it’s essential for humans) and tune in to what people are saying.

“I really fancy a muffin but I can’t, they are so naughty” says one teenage girl to her friend. “Oh go on, I’m gonna have one. You can get back on the diet after the weekend.”

This sounds a bit odd to you. You have no idea what a diet is. You decide to listen a bit more.

“I lost three pounds last week but I think I’m going to put some of it back on again after everything I’ve eaten in the last few days. I’ve been such a greedy fat cow,” says girl number one, as she picks a chunk off of the muffin she ordered, and pops it into her mouth.

“You daft cow, there’s nothing of you. You’re not fat. I’m fat. I couldn’t get into a size 12 in New Look last week.” The girl who didn’t order a muffin after all is staring at the cake as if she wants to swipe it out of her friend’s hand more than anything in the world.

You’re a bit confused now. It seems like these women are talking about restricting the amount of food they eat but you don’t really understand why they would do this. Surely if they need fuel, they refuel? Nobody told you about this. You’re going to have to do some investigating.

So you decide that watching TV is the way to go. The people on TV are all different too, although they all seem to be small. You saw a lot more large people when you were out! There are a lot of interruptions to the TV programmes you’re watching, which show people eating. You make a note of the products; something called KFC, Galaxy chocolate, Pringles. There are some strange products too – something called Special K that seems to make women very happy, and crisps that ‘love you back’. Again, you see images of women stepping on some sort of measuring device. This is clearly what women do, they seem to have to rate themselves according to what they weigh.

You’re not sure if you fit in anymore, because all of the women you’ve seen on TV seem to be so small compared to you. You’re a UK size 16. The girls in the coffee shop seemed unhappy because they were a size 12. It doesn’t make any sense that people want to restrict their fuel and make themselves smaller, but if that’s what humans do, you have to do it. You’re here to observe.

You head back to the shops to get some food. There are shelves full of magazines, most of them have small women on the front. A lot of them talk about ‘diets’ so you decide you’ll buy some of them and find out what a diet is, and why humans seem to want to be small.

The food shopping is still confusing. You notice there’s some produce – fruit and vegetables – but you ignore it, thinking nobody eats this stuff. You notice some ‘healthy’ foods in boxes – you know ‘healthy’ must be good so you buy some Weight Watchers ready meals, some fat free yoghurts, and some of those crisps you saw on the TV that love you back. You see Pringles and chocolate too and decide to try those as people seemed to be enjoying them on the TV.

You’re getting a bit hungry now. You’ve got no idea how much to eat, so you decide just to eat enough to stop that rumbling noise in your stomach. This seems to work, and you read the magazines. Being a very clever alien, you can absorb a magazine in one go.

So now you’re really confused. The information in the magazines all contradicts itself. Your brain is bombarded with ‘eat less’ or ‘weigh less’, as well as images of very thin women, and pictures of food called ‘recipes’ and other pictures of foods like the ones you saw on TV. ‘Chocolate’ seems to make people happy. There are also images of not so thin women and sometimes they are called ‘curvy’ – other times ‘fat’. Some women were big and now they’re small, and say that they are happier now, others appear fat after being smaller before, saying they are happy with their ‘curvy’ bodies. There’s this thing called ‘obesity’ which seems to apply more to females than it does males. You don’t understand.You’re really confused about what to eat and whether you fit in.

The food you ate didn’t seem to last long. It made you feel kinda nice, you had a burst of energy, but afterwards you felt a bit flat and now you’re feeling hungry again. This was the first thing you were supposed to learn about human behaviour, the basics of how they re-fuel to stay alive. The information you read before you left just said it was called eating and you had to do it when your energy ran out, there was nothing about how complicated it was.

Now you wish you hadn’t agreed to this mission. You don’t know what to eat, or how much, all you know is that you shouldn’t eat too much because if you do you’ll be big and you won’t fit in. The healthy food looks just like the other food but for some reason the unhealthy food is cheaper. You thought you’d fit in at an average size but you really don’t know now because you’re bigger than almost everyone in the magazines and on TV. What’s more, you’ve found out that every women seems to judge her value by her body mass, as does everybody else, and these ‘diets’ that are supposed to make people smaller don’t seem to work because the people in the magazines go on them, then get big again and say they are happier bigger.

“Sod this” you say, “I’m going home.”

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The Ginger Experiment

Just because it’s Friday….my scanner doesn’t work so I had to take this picture on my phone, but this is one of only two photos I know of that feature me after the experiment with ginger hair that went horribly, horribly wrong…

Dogshit Ginger

(PS: I also apologise for that enormous crucifix. What was I thinking?)

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Filed under General, My weight story

Growing up in the eighties

T'Pau Bridge Of SpiesI said it in the last post but I’ll say it again for effect. Back in the eighties, when I was a teenager, the fat-phobia we accept as being normal now just didn’t exist. There were diet magazines, only one I can think of, but although you’d also see the occasional diet in a woman’s magazine, you didn’t often get them in newspapers. There were diet books (The F-Plan, Scarsdale, that really silly one with grapefruit and black coffee) but nowhere near as many as you see when you walk into Waterstone’s these days. And of course there was no Internet and only four TV channels.

I sound all nostalgic don’t I? Before I start talking about Spangles and children’s TV, I’ll try and remember back to when I was in my teens and how I actually absorbed the idea of being slim/dieting being the way to go.  I was a voracious reader, and despite the fact my mum told me all the time to keep out of her magazine rack, I still went straight for it as soon as her back was turned and I did read her Woman, Woman’s Own and Slimming Magazines. I used to leave Women’s Weekly alone though – too many knitting patterns for my liking. I read the other women’s mags, usually heading straight for the problem pages where they sometimes mentioned s-e-x. The diet magazine fascinated me even as a girl. It was full of pictures of Farrah Fawcett and Jackie Onassis, with adverts for things like Slimcea and Nimble. I’m going to have to find one of those so that anyone who has never seen the pure cheesiness of the ads can see it.

Nimble ad from the 70s…

That ad was from the 70s but you get the picture.

Dieting seemed impossibly grown up, something women did. The celebrities were so glamorous, and I suppose I wanted to be part of this club, when I was younger. The only hurdle was that clearly I wasn’t fat, and so I got round this by copying a diet from Slimming Magazine and giving it to a shy, overweight girl at school that nobody talked to. I can’t remember her name but I thought I was doing her a favour! I cringe at the memory now, but I was only 14 at the time and trying to help her. Of course she didn’t follow the diet or lose weight. She was probably sick to death of people putting her on diets already. She was very nice about it, mind you.

I wasn’t overly confident as a teenager, I always felt a bit out of the loop. I adored fashion and spent hours and hours copying pictures from Jackie, then Just 17 and Mum’s Littlewoods catalogues, drawing and customising the dreadful eighties fashions and adding my own touches. I knew week to week what was in fashion and desperately wanted to be a fashion designer. This didn’t go hand-in-hand with my school reputation – the girl in a home-made skirt and clumpy ‘sensible’ shoes who sat in the corner, afraid to be noticed. I so wanted to tell all the other girls that I KNEW I looked like I didn’t care, but I really, really wanted to be like them, with their trendy perms and mullets, long hobble pencil skirts and patent shoes. I would have sold my granny for a ‘Choose Life’ T-shirt in 1985 – and I really loved my granny.

I always wanted to fit in, be liked, be like the others. I managed it as I got older, started working on a Saturday and buying clothes for myself. Even so, I was still shy. As I grew up, left school and started work at 16, I blossomed a bit in confidence but I was still the archetypal people-pleaser. If my so-called friend stood me up outside the pictures when we were supposed to be seeing ‘The Lost Boys’ I didn’t make a fuss in case she didn’t like me anymore. I could slap myself now, but at 16 I just accepted it. I even went out with her boyfriend’s ugly mate more than once, so that we could ‘be a foursome’. I had to snog more boys I didn’t fancy than I care to admit due to that girl. *shudder*

So there I was, a people-pleaser with a bit of an inferiority complex, who’d grown up fascinated with her mum’s diet books and magazines and just about to start her diet career. If I could go back to September 1987, grab that confused girl by the shoulders and shake her REALLY hard I’d freaking well do it. But I wanted to be slimmer. I had fat legs. And I wanted to impress Mum and Dad because after ballsing up and only getting five O’ levels when I’d been expected to get 8, I felt like a bit of a disappointment, really. Dieting – how hard could it be? EVERYONE did it, didn’t they?

It was a disaster waiting to happen. I wanted to look like Carol Decker or Belinda Carlisle…Belinda Carlisle had just lost a shed-load of weight and Carol Decker was tiny. I daydreamed that if I could get down to a size eight one day, and turn up at my first boyfriend’s front door all red hair and stonewashed denim (channeling my inner Tiffany?) he’d want me back there and then. I didn’t and he didn’t. I did turn up once, all enormous size 14 of me and sat in his bedroom while he leered over Kylie Minogue on TV, though. I couldn’t watch ‘I should be so lucky’ for MONTHS without scowling at poor, innocent Kylie.

I tried to go Belinda Carlisle red once too. I ended up with a head of what someone unkindly described as ‘dog-shit ginger’. More Basil Brush orange than glamorous redhead.

The funny thing was, I still didn’t feel THAT much pressure, but I was only around ten and a half stone I think. I tried Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh diet (damn that arse of mine) when I started working in an insurance office, which was easy enough as the canteen had loads of salads and veggies. I was bored out of my tiny mind though and used to quite often raid the snack shop to alleviate the urge to stab the chain-smoker who sat in front of me with a sharpened pencil. One day I was so bored I ate a whole pack of Harvest Chewy bars in one go and made myself feel so sick I had to go home early. I was on the diet-binge cycle and spent more of it on ‘binge’ than I did ‘diet’.

In 1988 I sent off for some ‘Cal Ban 3000’ pills which apparently soaked up excess fat and calories so that I could eat anything I wanted and still lose weight. There was a money back guarantee; I thought this meant they must work. I sent them my hard-earned £17 and took the pills for two weeks. I ate what I wanted. I didn’t lose weight. To their credit, they did at least issue me with a refund after I sent them a snotty letter…

It was when I was 17, in 1989, just before my 18th birthday, that the real obsession probably kicked in. I’d met a boy (of course) and he’d taken me out for a walk in the local park on our first ‘date’. I was quite shy and inexperienced, so when he started lunging at me and shoving his hands up my top in full view of the dog walkers who were frequently walking by, I got a bit annoyed with him, moved his hand and said, crossly, “There’s people watching!”

He was unimpressed with this. He dropped me home, promised to call me and didn’t. He told his mate, who told a friend of mine, who told ME that he’d said he didn’t really fancy me because I was too fat. And that he’d only gone out with me because I had big boobs.

That did it…

 

 

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Filed under Food and diets, General, My weight story