ANATOMY OF A WEIGHT LOSS
It was my 16th birthday and I received my very first diet book.
Puberty had slathered layers of fat on a body that had previously sported lean legs and bony hips.
I had been totally ignorant of my changing body but mum and her cohorts hadn’t. I imagined them gathering in small knots of concern in the kitchen, whispering about Womanhood’s bad intentions and how they should stage an intervention to stave off the blubber.
So they presented me with a veritable Pandora’s Box of neuroses and obsession in the form of the 28 Day Weight Loss book.
From the moment I opened its glossy pages and saw bubble-permed ladies standing proudly next to their saggy, grotesque old selves I was done for. Calories, weigh-ins, fat-free food, aerobics – all tools to get me to the Promised Land.
A place where milk and honey were off limits but a size 6 dress was up for grabs.
I started fantasising about reaching my thin place. Huge golden doors would open. Beyond the doors lay a better, more gorgeous, more popular me. I would be physically smaller but life would be bigger. An entire galaxy of opportunity and cute boys would be mine if I could just subsist on fuck-all food for a month…
…and here I am some 20 years later and frankly I’ve not really changed. I’ve been on the diet treadmill for two thirds of my life. I’m infinitely savvier than my 16-year-old self. I know about photo-shopping and extreme dieting and the perpetuation of body ideals.
And yet I STILL believe life will be a hunky-dory swell fest if I can get to X kilos.
I’m not fat, I’m not over-weight but there’s a part of my brain that’s turned its back on pragmatism and is sitting with hands over ears going ‘blah blah blah can’t hear you’.
My beautiful best friend recently separated from her husband. She’s rebuilding her life but the anxiety from the split has left her very thin. Too thin. She is aware of it, but the notion of allowing her body to get bigger is a complete anathema. In the back catalogue of conversations about our bodies, putting on weight has only ever been acceptable when we were pregnant.
I have struggled to talk to her about it. I’m scared the part of me that refuses to acknowledge sensible thoughts regarding diet would take over. I’m terrified it would reinforce the belief that happiness is inversely proportionate to the numbers on the scale… no matter how small they are.
And that’s the rub. It’s a numbers game.
A few decades on and my dieting (and I suspect that of many of my friends) actually has a nebulous connection to the achievement of a body ideal or even a smaller dress size (although that was definitely the catalyst when I was younger).
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