It started off well for me, with a new job, a new optimism and of course, a new diet. I picked up that strategically posted Slimming World leaflet and scurried over to the nearest class in January 1995. This was going to be the diet that worked. Of course it was.
I think I’d managed to gain about a stone over that Christmas and New Year, with copious celebrating my new job and scoffing as if chocolate was about to be rationed. So it was with horror that I started 1995 at over 12 stone, busting out of my size 14s and in a snug 16. Crap. I vowed that the new Sarah would be able to stick to a diet. Slimming World was the first diet club I’d really gone to properly, as I only made it to the Slimming Magazine club about twice in 1991. “Free foods!!!” was the boast. I sat awestruck with horror as the male club leader boasted that he’d eaten an entire Slimming World corned beef quiche out of the fridge that week and it was ‘free’. YUCK. It also sounded vile. I was even more horrified when he told the class not to bother with exercise as it “makes you gain weight.”
I did carry on going for a bit, and met a couple of new friends, who were the only reason I stayed. I went to the classes on and off, lost a bit of weight, and spent the first half of 1995 alternating between Slimming World and calorie counting. I ate a lot of Quorn in 1995, and walked EVERYWHERE. I went into Next in Cambridge once a week and tried on a dress I liked until eventually I could get into it and do it up. I didn’t buy it though – I already had a glamorous dress I’d bought for Christmas 1994 and been unable to get into. It was a size 14, fitted Next dress that was too tight for the 1994 Christmas parties.
My new job was bloody brilliant. I got my own caseload, and friendly managers who gave me lots of responsibility. My line manager was fun and we’d have a really good laugh when we weren’t busy, and often laugh at the customers too. I mean if you’re going to show up with bits of frozen green bean stuck to an A4 sheet of paper and complain that the strings affected the weight of the 1kg bag, you’re going to get laughed at when you leave the office. We had a good time, she trusted me and I felt like I was doing something useful again.
My confidence was getting higher because I was getting on so well and although I did diet that year, I don’t remember bingeing that often to be honest. I’m sure I overate but I seemed a bit more settled and happy workwise and by that summer I was slim. Properly slim. A size 12-14, in jeans. I wore a little skimpy dress to see REM and Blur at MK Bowl that summer, and I had some lovely summer dresses that I would never have dared wear the previous couple of years.
Things at home weren’t so good though. I take full responsibility for not actually telling him how miserable I was, but I wanted to have fun and with the best will in the world, Husband #1 was a bit of an introvert, unless he was playing a guitar at the time. I was finding my feet, getting my Mojo back and at the same time I felt under immense pressure from his family to be a ‘perfect’ wife. I was admonished for not baking cakes, and when his sister became pregnant, there were so many hints dropped that I panicked. I did want kids but not then. I was only 24. I was spending more and more time with friends in Ipswich and Loughborough, and my brother in Norwich, and I realised I actually had more fun when he wasn’t with me. This made me feel very sad and very guilty, but I didn’t really know what to do. My friend, ‘L’ wasn’t a big fan of Husband #1 and took the opportunity to stir it as much as she could.
I won’t dwell on all that but I was a confused bunny towards the end of 1995. I was still trying to lose’ just a bit more weight’ although I was hovering around 10 and a half to 11 stone at the time. Have you noticed that at no point yet in this story am I actually FAT?? Hmm. Anyway. We booked a holiday to Tunisia…it was a bit of a ‘make or break’ in my head and I hoped some time away would sort us out. It didn’t…I remember we did have a good time though. I also remember getting a LOT of attention from the young Tunisian guys when I was wandering around on my own. I wasn’t quite bikini-brave but I alternated between a crop top and shorts or a gorgeous Marilyn Monroe-esque 50’s style swimsuit. I did enjoy being chatted up…perhaps a little bit too much…
We got home to a dreary UK in October and I still wasn’t happy. Work was fab – they were putting me forward to study the official Trading Standards qualification and talking about promotion the following year. I’d also taken on a Fitness & Nutrition Diploma through ICS early in the year and was doing well with that. I did start overeating again though, especially when a friend of mine used to come over. He had the biggest appetite of any man I’d ever known, and he’d come over, at first when H #1 was at home, but then he’d come over when he was out playing guitar and keep me company. I remember very well one night H #1 had come home early while we’d been sitting on the floor looking through loads of old photos and I sprang up, looking guilty. The thing was, I hadn’t been up to no good with my mate at all. There was nothing going on apart from he was turning into a bit of a shoulder to cry on. I looked guilty because as well as the photos we were surrounded by the detritus of an almighty junk food binge; pizza boxes, sweet bags, crisp packets and biscuits. I hadn’t actually considered that it looked suspicious until then!
By November my body was telling me in no uncertain terms how unhappy I was. It has a nasty habit of doing that, I’ve since found, if I try and ignore my feelings. You see, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I was such a people-pleaser that I couldn’t bear to be the bad guy and although I was really not happy, I couldn’t see a way out. I didn’t think anyone else would want me anyway and I shoved down the bad feelings with food. Until I got ill. First it was flu, a week before I was due to see Oasis in Leicester. I fought and I fought and I made it back into work the day before the gig. I felt like crap but I still went, forced myself to sing my head off and then got a throat infection. For another week I was off work, unable to eat anything, in bed, feeling rotten. I was bored though; I finished my ICS course while I was laid up and once again made myself go back to work. Told you I loved that job.
My body was determined I needed more thinking time though and I was forced into bed rest again by the most painful bout of infected sinuses I have ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever been in as much pain as that before or since. It hurt to touch my face, rest my head on a pillow, move my head, talk, cough, everything. I was double-dosing different painkillers and waking up in a Sarah-shaped pool of sweat. Eventually, after another week off work and some antibiotics I was back to health again and I knew I wanted out of the marriage. I just didn’t know how to do it. Confrontation wasn’t my strong point.
On the plus side, I was down to 10 stone and wearing the little black dress I’d bought the year before…and I’ve never got down to that weight again so I only wore it once. And I got so drunk, because I was so confused that Christmas, that I threw up all over it anyway. Classy.