For the past nine years of having a binge eating disorder, my life has been divided into ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days. ‘Good’ days are when I eat well under the calories necessary to sustain my weight. ‘Bad’ days are when I reach or exceed this calorie limit.
It’s crazy: my eight-year-old daughter could be cuddling up to me, saying ‘Mummy, I love you so much, you’re the best mummy in the world!’ – but if I’d had a binge that day, I would still be feeling bad.
Yesterday I met up with my friend Charlie Brooker for lunch. I told him I’d already eaten a 100g chocolate bar for breakfast and described myself as ‘hopeless’. He gently pointed out that I was beating myself up needlessly.
I don’t think anyone had ever said that to me before – not even a therapist. People have said ‘you’re still beautiful’ or ‘you’re not fat’, which are very well-meaning things to say, but still prioritise good looks and slimness over being fat and ugly.
What Charlie said hit home. I thought about it for the rest of the day – the way in which I’m putting off my happiness until I’m skinny. The way in which my size invalidates the rest of my life, no matter how luminous it is. The way in which my scales dominate my existence and dictate my mood.
The fact is, I’ve been through some seriously shitty things: an abusive childhood, two abusive relationships, one of which included violence during pregnancy, one rape, hundreds of sexual assaults while working as a dancer in clubs, 12 sexual assaults in everyday life, a major nervous breakdown and serious mental health issues… is it any wonder that I subconsciously feel I need physical ‘padding’ like a suit of armour to keep me protected from and invisible to men? Or that binge eating is my way of coping with life?
My favourite thing I’ve ever done is be a mum to Lily. I love her to infinity and beyond, and she loves me right back – and for most of her life, I’ve been plus size. She’s the best and I’m so, so lucky. I have great friends, a beloved grandmother who I see each week, I write for a living (it’s not much of a living, but I love it) and I have every right to be happy.
So, for the first time in nine years, I’m throwing out all my scales (no more pictures of the scales on this blog – whoo-hoo!). Yes, I would prefer to be a normal weight for the sake of my health, but I’m certainly not going to put off my happiness until some distant point in the future. I’m going to stop going to Slimming World and counting calories and Syns, and will instead try intuitive eating – eating when I’m hungry, not eating when I’m not, and trying to eat my five-a-day.
And if I fancy a piece of cake and a hot chocolate, I’m damn well going to have them, enjoy them and not feel guilty and as though I’ve ‘ruined’ everything. For the first time in a long time, I am going to be properly happy.
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