When I was about 12 years old my mum came home with a new recipe book called “Cooking to Make Kids Slim”. The front cover was a photograph of an unhappy looking plump-ish child dressed in tight shorts and a straining t shirt, standing on a set of scales. As the podgy girl who always got picked last in PE I completely identified with this picture, it sowed the seed that fat=sad and thin=happy and marked the beginning of my dieting journey.**
Thirty four years later and I am still trying to reach the thin=happy part of the equation. I have been on some sort of diet for most of my adult life; from mad ones that precluded all foods apart from tomatoes and edam cheese, too good to be true ones that allowed cream, chocolate and wine, to highly expensive ones that involved weekly visits to a suspicious looking ‘clinic’ somewhere off Great Portland Street.
I have been a size 8, a size 18 and spent my entire adult life madly yo-yoing between the two.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, I love food. Not just because it is food – I am not gratuitously mainlining Dominos pizza and Krispy Kremes. I also love all the happy associations that come with the stuff on my plate. Family mealtimes, great nights out with friends, new tastes in another country, or simply the comfort of a bar of Dairy Milk in front of a good film. Definitely what you would call an emotional eater.
I am fully informed. I know that to lose weight I have to put less in and expend more, there is no magic solution to shedding the pounds. The only real value that the bonkers diet plans hold for me are the change in routine and break in habits and, with something like Weight Watchers, the weekly weigh in of shame – nothing like the disappointed sigh from your WW leader to focus the mind.
I know I am not alone, I don’t think I have a female friend who is not on perma-weight-alert, so why do we do it? I don’t have a burning desire to look like a particular celebrity, I am not medically obese and in a ‘diet or die’ scenario.
Do I think that if I was my perfect weight then everything else in life would fall into place and be perfect? To be honest? Yes, probably a little bit. Because the self-esteem demon that has a cosy home in my brain’s frontal lobe keeps telling me so. If I was thinner I would be happier, more successful, more liked and loved.
I will never actually find out if this is true because I will never feel that I am thin enough. I have a postcard that someone sent me once that says “I wish I was as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat”. This about sums it up. If we took a straw poll of 100 women I wonder how many would answer yes to the question ‘are you at your ideal weight?’. And of those who answered yes, would they also answer yes to ‘has it changed your life and made you happy?’.
So as I embark on a six week pre-summer diet jaunt (giving Slimming World another go, haven’t tried them for a few years) wish me luck and, if you have the answer to the thin=happy conundrum I would love to hear it.
**Disclaimer – this is not an exercise in maternal guilt, I’m pretty sure I nagged her to buy the book…