Whilst away on holiday recently I became aware of the near-constant narrative that goes on in my head about food, weight, and appearance. This is my attempt at faithfully capturing the narrative in order to explore my eating issues which are, I am told, subclinical, despite how much they dominate my thoughts.
I feel great this morning. I feel good about myself and my body. I’m never going to be thin again, but I am deliciously curvy. I complain about my breast size, but that’s disingenuous – in fact, I take a sneaking pride in my cup size, which is ever-expanding as a result of the Seroquel. I’ve decided once and for all, no more diets. I love life, I love eating, and I love cooking for my family. I’m not going to restrict what I consume any more. Plus, look at this buffet breakfast! Amazing! I’m going to have a croissant and a pain au chocolat while I’m waiting for my pancakes. And after a breakfast like this, it’s not like we’ll need lunch.
Oh wow, look at that woman. Her thighs are enormous. I hope to God my thighs don’t look like hers, but I’m pretty sure they do. Not that I should be judging. Ugh, I hate myself. I’m supposed to a feminist, a stigma-busting activist, and here I am, judging and fat-shaming another woman. I am awful.
The scenery up here is breathtaking. What a fool I am, what does it matter how much I weigh or how I look? Do the mountains care? Why do I waste so much time on this stuff? Just smell the fresh mountain air…. You want to do what? You want me to pose for a picture? I know this is what people do on holiday. I do know that. But I can’t remember a single holiday photo of me in the last five years that I haven’t wished you would delete. Because I don’t see the mountains, and I don’t see my smile. I see fat. I see a tiny head balanced on what seems to be an inflated body, tiny hands emerging from bulging sleeves. If I were tall, if I were better proportioned, statuesque, maybe I could carry it off. At 5’ 4” with size three feet and enormous boobs, I haven’t a hope.
The idea was we would sit down and get a drink. Certainly not food. How about a salad, you say, and I think, well, a salad between us – what harm could it do? The waiter approaches. You order two salads, which come smothered in Italian dressing. I really should give all this worrying up. I’m on holiday, right? The whole point is to enjoy myself. If I’m really worried about my weight, I can do something about it when we get back to reality.
I just saw myself in a shop window. Oh God, oh God, oh God. Is that really me? Why on earth do you stay with me? I’m double the woman I was when you met me. Swiss women just don’t seem to be fat. All the fat women here are British or American. What must the locals think of me? They must be appalled, disgusted. This settles it. I haven’t followed a diet plan for months, although I’ve been continuing to pay for WeightWatchers online. I can’t seem to bring myself to stop the PayPal. That would be admission that I’ve given up, half way through the task of losing the Seroquel weight, that I am in fact going in the wrong direction, away from my goal weight and back into BMI realms that worry my doctors.
It’s so pleasant, sitting out here on the terrace, watching the moon come up over the mountains. We’ve made a good dinner and now the waiter hovers; would we like dessert? Truth is, I’ve already perused the dessert menu. I looked at it, surreptitiously, even before we ordered our drinks. I have my eye on the summer special: a duo of mousses, one milk chocolate, one white chocolate with pieces of Toblerone. It sounds delicious, and very, very Swiss. There will be nothing like it on my return to the UK, so I should take the opportunity, seize the moment. The mousses are heavenly. “This,” I tell you, “has to be the dessert of the holiday.” Because that’s what we do when we are away; we rank our every meal.
In so much humidity, a shower before bed is very welcome – if only I could avoid seeing myself in the mirror. Look at my body, my pale, puffy body (the one I have to spend 20 minutes slathering with SPF50 before I can go out in the sunshine). As I undo zips and unbutton buttons my body spills forth like mounds of rising bread dough. Whose body is this? Can it really be mine? It looks more like I remember my mother’s looking when I was teenager. I recall being a vegan in my twenties, how I used to monitor everything that went into mouth, how I used to do an hour’s yoga every day, how frightened I felt if I couldn’t keep to my ethical diet, if I couldn’t do my yoga. I remember the disdain I felt for the people who wondered aloud if I could be anorexic – my dietary restrictions were all about the animals. Not about me, oh no. My skin was awful (I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed) and my periods had stopped. I had a BMI in the underweight range. But I would do anything, anything to have that body back. I don’t care that it’s unrealistic, that I am almost twenty years older now and have birthed two babies. When I was thin, I was never ashamed. And now I disgust myself.
When the lights are out, I am free, free-floating, a mind full of valuable thoughts that is no longer tethered to a carcass. It’s liberating, like being a brain in a jar. I would happily live in a jar, up on a shelf, communicating with the other free-floating minds. I am decided: I am going to liberate myself from my shame. As soon as the plane wheels touch down at Heathrow, I am back on my diet.