Obviously, she’s not. And in the interests of historical accuracy, when this picture was actually taken, in July 1987, I didn’t think I was fat. A couple of months later though, and I was on my first ever diet, aged 16.
Just so you know, although I’m spilling the beans now on my curvy life, how it feels to be fat and what it’s really like to have an eating disorder that makes people think it’s alright to call you names, I might mention a few people or events that affected me over the years in the next few blog posts. I’m going to add a HUGE disclaimer here and now. Although I won’t name anybody anyway, I want to make it totally clear that I don’t blame anyone for anything. My problems, my journey and my feelings are all mine, and if other people have inadvertently messed with my head or flicked the wrong switch, it’s not their fault. Right, now that’s out of the way, I’ll begin.
Where do I start? I guess that picture? 1987 was mostly pre-diet or PD. I’d been a skinny child, short and flat-chested until I was about 15 years old. I wasn’t one of the popular girls, although I was really good at being best mates with all the lads, because most of them wanted to go out with my best mate. I say ‘best mate’ with my tongue in my cheek because she was actually a bit of a cow to me, in the way that only a 16 year old girl can be to another 16 year old girl who she thinks is beneath her. She used me because my English coursework was way better than hers and I used her to get access to all the people that wouldn’t have spoken to me if I didn’t hang around with her. If that meant I had to face the occasional no-show or leaking of an embarrassing note I’d written her to the entire fifth year, at the time I was OK with that. Mostly.
I had never been described by anyone as fat when this picture was taken and the thought had never crossed my mind. Blissful times. It all changed when, after I’d been to stay with my Nan in Brighton for a week, my mum casually informed me that Nan had remarked on the size of my legs. OK, from that picture you can see that they aren’t the skinniest of thighs but I was mortified.
“I’m not fat” was my response. “Get the scales down from my room,” Mum insisted. “We’ll see how much you weigh.”
To cut a long story short, I weighed a smidgen under 10 stone and went on a diet. This diet involved a lot of Edam cheese and tuna in brine, with Ryvita. I think I’d copied it out of Just 17. I lost sod all, despite a bet with Mum and Dad that I couldn’t lose a stone in a month. I probably still owe them that tenner. Sorry!
I don’t know to this day whether my Nan REALLY said I had fat legs. It was fair to say that as a teenager I didn’t see eye to eye with my mum and at the time I didn’t believe her, but I still wanted to impress her and get her approval…and I think that’s the root of a lot of my foodie issues. I wanted to be thin because I thought people would like me more. I know how silly that sounds and as I’m writing it now I’m thinking “I’ll have to take that out. I sound neurotic.” Still, in the interests of being ‘real’ I’ll leave it in.
So, how did things change? Not a lot, after that first failed diet. I hardly lost anything and then I put it back on again. To be honest, I wasn’t all that bothered. I knew I wasn’t FAT exactly, although I was starting to get really conscious of my legs and bum now. It didn’t stop me eating for long. I just overate for a bit and then cut back a bit, then overate, then dieted for a day…you can imagine. I’m going to admit this now, because it was a long time ago. Mum, I used to go to the bakery on my way to work most days when I worked in the chemists shop, and buy a steak and kidney pie. Hot. And I’d eat it for BREAKFAST. *the shame*
I was a big eater from a very young age. Mum told me that when I was about 18 months old she and Dad left me with my doting grandparents for a week or so while they went on a delayed honeymoon to Austria. When they came back, I’d been overfed and put on rather a lot of weight, even for a baby. Although people weren’t so obsessive about fat babies and children in 1972, Mum was still horrified. We’ve talked about it since when I’ve been trying to figure things out, and we both think I probably got a bit stressed and panicky because I thought I’d been abandoned. Of course, I hadn’t, but all I knew was that mum and dad weren’t there and so I probably cried. A lot. And got very clingy. And got fed. So from a very early age, being upset meant being fed. And I always got overfed at my Nan’s.
I had a happy enough childhood. I was always on the lookout for an eating opportunity though. As soon as Mum’s back was turned I’d have my paws in the biscuit tin. If I found 50p down the back of the sofa (thanks Dad) I’d be straight down the corner shop and spending it on sweets. Mum was always watchful of her weight and mine, and we (me, my brother and sister) were brought up on healthy food (well, typical 70s- 80s food really but we very rarely had takeaways or a Wimpy. And there wasn’t a McDonalds in Bognor…)
I remember Mum telling me I’d get fat if I didn’t watch it. And she was right….
(More next time…)