I’ve spent the past four years or so constantly telling myself that I’m a failure. A nice, happy, fairly attractive failure, but a failure nevertheless. The self-flagellation is hidden underneath a bubbly, legitimately confident exterior, but the welts run deep.
I considered myself a failure because I wasn’t the ripped, lean, athletic shape I was four years ago.
Never mind the fact that I overcame morbid obesity to get to that stage; I had fallen from glory. Rightly or wrongly, I was a poster girl for weight loss and now look at me – not fat, as such, but certainly not the athlete I was, quads padding out my jeans and boulder-shoulders stretching my t-shirt.
Now I’m soft around the edges, slightly rounded, happyfat. Still strong, still capable, but you could now definitely believe you were looking at a former fatty, as opposed to the open disbelief people would exhibit when I was leaner. The “that’s never you!” has stopped.
I’m about to sound the truth klaxon, bear with me…
Addiction is never something that’s taken particularly seriously unless it’s drugs, alcohol, or smoking. Maybe gambling. But food addiction is thrown out as something a bit whimsical, a ‘weaker’ addiction, or a false one. Put down the fork, right? How hard can it be?
I am a food addict, a glutton. I was a dangerous one, now not quite so bad. In the middle of those two levels of addiction was an addiction to exercise. It’s taken the crystal clarity of hindsight over the years to make me realise that I was always an addict; I just changed my focus. And, effective and outright enjoyable as the exercise addiction was, it was merely a sticking plaster for my food addiction. It was allowed to rumble quietly on, unchecked, as something else took the wheel. Remove the exercise addiction and there’s the food addiction in the corner, biding its time, waiting for its moment in the spotlight again.
I’m euphemistic, to say the least. “Oh, I’m a real foodie.” “I love good food.” “Food is one of life’s real pleasures.” It’s not one of life’s real pleasures, however, to shove fistfuls of tortilla chips into your face when you get a moment alone in the kitchen. It’s not one of life’s pleasures to treat a Malted Milk like a Ritz cracker and slather it in butter so thick your teeth leave marks. It’s not one of life’s real pleasures to see a pile of wrappers and be crushed by a huge wave of self-loathing, all for the split second of reward or false pleasure. And yet, on I go. No biscuit barrel is safe with me.
Real Talk: I’m about a stone and a half heavier than I was at my lightest four years ago. No big deal, right? But it is. My life has been dominated by my weight; when you’re binge eating at age 11 after thinking you’re fat since the age of 8, the roots don’t half go deep. A stone and a half, 21 pounds. You could easily shift that in three months.
Yeah, you could. You really could. You could if you had your shit together, and I don’t.
I’ve been dieting, in some shape or form, for the past four years. Half-baked (wnaar) attempts at whatever appeals at the time – the cult of Slimming World, the high fat high protein diet that got me to Lara Croft levels in the past, cutting out sugar. And I’d last about a fortnight, crash, loathe myself, AND REPEAT. Lawd, the diet industry is just a bunch of marketeers, isn’t it? Waiting for us to fall from unrealistic heights and consume (food) consume (media) consume (materials).
I got stuck in a cycle of failure. Something would work for a bit, yay! Check me out! And then I’d find it too restrictive, and fall into the warm embrace of a brick of Dairy Milk, and scowl at my weak, fat self. Believe me – no-one has ever been anywhere near as cruel to me as I have. And failure became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wash, rinse, repeat. Run because you’re FAT. Undo the day’s eating! RUN RUN RUN. A complete spiral of trying to balance everything out, and failing.
Anyway. That’s enough background.
J is a former smoker – a non-smoker, let’s rephrase. He’s not smoked for over a year, and while this was inspired by something separate, his previous attempts came off the back of Allen Carr’s hugely successful book. I’d heard of him, but never really paid him heed.
I fell down an Amazon rabbit hole last week and stumbled across his ‘The Easy Way for Women to Lose Weight’ book.
Short version: I ploughed through half of it last night and felt genuinely happy and positive about food for the first time in my entire life. Food was not an enemy, or a crutch, or anything emotional – it’s fuel, and why on earth would I subject myself to anything less than the best fuel? One of the messages is the unoriginal but no less true fact that if you had a top of the range car, you wouldn’t fill it with cooking oil. Our bodies are the finest machines on the planet, yet I have a very nasty habit of filling mine with the food equivalent of, I dunno, melted-down Vaseline.
There’s plenty of articles out there about Allen Carr’s approach to all kinds of addiction, and I don’t want to be too evangelical one day after reading it. But today was the first day I have ever woken up and looked forward to making the best choices (it even happened last night – I made a big batch of chocolate fridge cake, and J cut off a chunk to take up to bed with a cuppa. “Want some?” he asked. And for the first time ever, I said no and felt no food FOMO. I had to keep the excitement off my face). I felt proactive rather than reactive, free from the trap of food, free from being brainwashed and not having a clear perspective on what food actually is. It’s not a stress reliever, it’s not a pleasure giver, it’s not a cure. Food has only ever made me very unhappy indeed, or falsely happy for the briefest of flashes, and it shouldn’t have that power.
For someone like me, governed by esteem and food and a complete slave to my emotions, this is a game changer. Beyond early days, for sure, but I have never, ever felt like this. I always wanted to be one of those people who saw food for what it was: fuel. Now, I feel like I can do that. It’s not something that simply happens to other people.
I’m going to report back on this one. I’ll happily admit failure, but honestly? It doesn’t feel like I’m going to have to. Famous last words…but let’s see how we go.