Wednesday, 23 March 2016

There is nothing wrong with being fat.

So picture the scene: I'm in an odd little antique (well, junk) shop in York, wandering around with my girlfriend, when we happen across the owner. Somehow he hears me make a comment about how I'm from Scunthorpe and so can't tell what's decent and what's not (trust me, if you've ever been to Scunny, you'll understand. Not exactly posh). And this happens...

Owner- Oh, you're from Scunny? I'm from Messingham!
Me- Cool. I used to go running there.

[the guy looks me up and down in a way that made me feel particularly uncomfortable and way more like the lesbian feminist that I am]

Owner- Looking at you, I assume you stopped running?
Me- Jesus. Are you implying I'm fat?
Owner- Hey, you said it, not me!

[I exit and find a corner to have a quick cry in. Eventually, with the help of my girlf, I calm the fuck down, hold my head up high, and begin to leave]

Owner- I'm sorry, but you're the one who said you were fat.
Me- Seriously, I'm recovering from anorexia and I really did not need to hear that. You need to watch what you say to people because-
Owner- I'm sorry.
Me- Whatever.
Owner- It was you who said it though, so you can't get offended.

The whole exchange has left me rattled all week. On one hand, I'm revolted because I'm not sure I've been called fat (to my face at least) in 10 years, and I really am at my highest ever weight. On the other hand, I'm more revolted that the idea of being fat horrifies me so much. How shallow and vain and horrible does that make me? What am I so afraid of?

And why? Why is being fat the thing I fear most?

The answer is... it's really not. Being fat is not my biggest fear at all. But it is the easiest to cope with and the easiest to 'fix'. The things that really scare me- the past repeating itself, esp in the sense of abuse; nobody loving me enough to rescue me from a fire; taking up more space and energy than I deserve; being an altogether Bad Person- are harder to face and more abstract than spending a week obsessing about what a stranger thinks about my weight. 

Eating disorders are never just about weight. They're mostly about pooling obsession into something that you can really dig your claws into. They're the ultimate red herring. Even in recovery, I worry about my weight most when I'm trying to avoid worrying about something else.

I'm beyond tired of battling myself. 

There is nothing wrong with being fat. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Eating isn't cheating.

When I was a teenager, I was brilliant at pretending to have eaten. It was probably my biggest talent, drawing on my habit for dramatics and my complete shame of who I was and where I was going. That's pretty sad, no? I was ill and I didn't understand the long term ramifications of allowing these lies to grow; I was determined to allow my eating disorder to exist tucked away within me, fearful that if it was common knowledge it could somehow be snatched away from me.

I needed shame to perpetuate the lies, and the lies to perpetuate the disorder, and I needed the disorder to perpetuate the idea that I could be destroyed. And there was a lot of reassurance in the idea of a violent, drawn out, painful end.

I'm not alone in this, secrecy is a pretty integral part of any ED. For some, it's a shame of how much they've eaten, for others it's shame at how little. Over the years, there have been times when I've lied and said I've eaten more than I had, but there were also times in my bulimic periods when I lied and said I'd eaten less. The thing each lie had in common though was the ability to further push me into the illness.

But I don't think that this shame is exclusive to those with EDs. I think the reasoning and severity I'm speaking of might be, but the general concept of being ashamed of your calorific intake is common to a lot of people, especially women.

11% of those diagnosed with EDs are men and I'm not wanting to diminish their suffering or belittle them, but I'm willing to bet it's more the ladies I know in the general population who feel shame over having eaten too much or the 'wrong' food than the men. 

As women, we're taught that we should say we eat a lot of pizza and look like we only eat a lot of celery. We're meant to say we love food, but look like we hate it. We're meant say that we eat like a man, but look like we have the thighs of a child. 

It was always easy to lie about my intake, because it's always seemed like everybody- healthy or not- does it. And when people aren't doing that, they're justifying what they've eaten, again through shame: 'the diet starts tomorrow!' or 'it's ok I'm eating this, I missed dinner!' or 'I've been on my feet all day, I've earned this!' It's been programmed into us and that's pretty sad. 

Eating isn't cheating. Food is fuel, not something with a moral value attached. And you know what? There are days when we all go over our allotted 2000 calories, and that's ok. The world won't end if you eat an extra slice of cake. It's fine, and you're fine. An extra inch on your thighs is an extra inch to be loved and nothing at all to be ashamed of.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

International Women's Day 2016.

When I was a kid, I thought I was dead smart for asking my mum why there was a Mother's Day and not an equivalent for children. We're not that arsed about Mother's Day in my family- my mum always says it's a rip-off and besides, we're major Christmas people- but I've never not marked the day in at least some way. So, to be honest, I don't know that I was really that bothered about not getting a card (let's be honest, when you're a kid the only point of cards is to have somewhere for people to tuck money) and a crappy pot plant or even- as me and my brother tried to give our mum one year- washing up gloves, but I was pretty proud of my reasoning.

My mum rolled her eyes at me when I asked her about it. So far that they virtually rolled up into her head, in fact. Give or take a few bloodys, her answer was, "Bloody hell, Rebecca, every bloody day is bloody Children's Day." It's a little exchange I'd completely forgotten about until International Men's Day last year. 

Today is International Women's Day and it's a pretty sad state of affairs that we still need the day. It's somehow even sadder that the response by a lot of men to the day isn't to knock down the barriers to the development of women's equality and rights, but to come up with an official International Men's Day because the 364 days a year that are unofficially IMD just aren't enough. International Men's Day. Puh. Lease. 

To paraphrase my mum, "Bloody hell, every bloody day is bloody Men's Day."

I identify as a feminist and when I tell men that, I immediately see eyebrows raise. Sometimes in a way that indicates the person is threatened, but generally more in a patronising way, which is even worse. I cannot abide being patronised. Men look at me almost pityingly, as if I obviously don't understand the world we live in or get angry that I want supremacy- as it happens, I want equality, thanks- as if they're scared that if feminism prevailed, they'd be treated the way that they treat women now. 

Just to warn you though lads, as much as most of us want equality not supremacy, you can't keep treating women how you do and then bob yourself at the thought of us treating you that way. It's the old adage about treating people the way you'd like to be treated. I cringe when men say they're feminists because they have mothers or daughters because that's only recognising women by their relationship to you, not as people in themselves. I'm not a daughter or sister first, I am a woman first and everything else comes afterwards. I am strong, I am worthy, I am deserving.

So mark today by doing absolutely nothing... that you shouldn't already be doing.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Palming off misery.

I wouldn't wish anorexia on anyone. I wouldn't wish any illness- mental or physical- on anybody, don't get me wrong, but there have been times when I've really, really, REALLY wanted someone to break their nose just before their wedding. I'm prone to giggling hysterically when people fall and it's always entertaining when the person who always claims their cold is the flu gets real bona fide flu, let's be honest.

But I'd never wish an eating disorder on anybody. Usually.

I say usually, because if there was a way to palm off how much I'm currently struggling with my body onto somebody else, I would leap on it. I'm really, really horrified both at feeling that and at expressing it but the truth is, if I could give my bad days, blips and relapses to a stranger and never have to look that stranger in the eye, I probably would. I have to remind myself, because I start obsessing about how awful I am as a person for wanting to throw my misery onto somebody else, that it doesn't work that way and so this is a moot point, but it's kind of scary thinking that other people could/do go through all of this too. 

For a while, I was certain that I was going to be in the number of the 1/3 people diagnosed with anorexia who go on to die from it. As if by dying myself, I'd be saving 2 other people from the same fate. It was comforting, as if I was doing something worthwhile and honourable. In a way, not playing the martyr is maybe a sign that I'm growing in self-esteem. I don't have to die. Maybe. It's a confusing idea.

And as much as I know it's not true, I've been thinking a lot about whether or not misery is finite. If there's always the same amount in the world, is it my duty to take up more than my share to protect other people? Is that arrogant or selfless? Or both?

Sorry, this is all really garbled. My head is going a million miles per hour and my body can't keep up so I'm probably only typing about half of what I'm thinking. Today just isn't a good day. It's the kind of day that makes me scared that my recovery is fragile. It's the kind that makes me want to hide in bed for a year, until I've lost 'enough' weight. It's just not good.