I wasn’t always fat, although I never knew that until after I got this way. As a child, I was very normal. I always had a sense of my size though. When I started wrestling competitively when I was 11, I got to know how much I weighed on a regular basis, and was given my first incentive for weight loss. Lighter opponents would surely be easier to floor.
I must’ve been 14 when I first consciously ate less in order to slip into a lower weight category. I consumed nothing but fruit for an intense training week before a big competition, lost about 5kg, fought in the lower weight class, and, yes, I won.
Aged 15, I went on my first proper diet.
This makes me sad now. There was nothing wrong with my body at that age – I was actually very fit – I needn’t have bothered.
When I was 16, I experienced my first break-up, had a very dodgy friendship with an older man crashing to a painful end amid accusations of having had an affair with him (I had not), and epilepsy stopped me from exercising. I went from athlete to amateur cook and gained a phenomenal amount of weight. I’ve always hated having my picture taken, so it’s hard to track, but I think that’s when I went from just believing I was fat to being fat.
I’ve been trying to lose that weight ever since. It’s been five years now. I’ve fluctuated wildly. I was the heaviest (and probably saddest) I’ve ever been last year, and although I’ve lost a 2 st since then, I’m still overweight, probably by at least as much again. It’s okay. It’s not great.
My sister and mother are also big. My mum morbidly obese – she’s been fat as long as I can remember. My sister probably got fat at about the same age as me, and I suppose we must be about the same size. Comfort eating was always a big thing in our house. We always cleared our plates. I’m not saying this to place blame on my mother – our youngest sister is very slender, it can’t be all down to genetics and upbringing. We’re adults, with personal responsibility for what we do to our bodies.
I think the most formative food experience I had though was when my epilepsy was treated by diet.
I ate no carbs for 2 years, aged 17 to 19. Think Atkins, but with more cream and fewer vegetables. It worked incredibly well, but was also incredibly restrictive. I was at boarding school, and the school cooks didn’t know what carbs were, so although they did their best, I very often went with very little or no food, all week long. I gorged at weekends, eating way past my hunger, imcapable of quelling the panic and anxiety scarcity of food instills in me.
I broke the diet two years ago and gained a lot in the ensuing glut, and thankfully my epilepsy stayed quiet.
Not knowing where my next meal will be coming from, when it will be, what it is, still terrifies me. I find it hard to travel anywhere without a snack on me. Emotional stress brings out the binge eating. Sometimes eating to the point of illness is the only way I can take time out for myself. The only way I can make myself lie down and do nothing. The only way I can calm my thoughts.
Yeah, it’s a serious problem.