Thursday, 28 May 2009


I do not have a very healthy attitude to the size of my body. Like so many women I spend far too long thinking that bits of it are not right, as in my stomach is too big. And although this has changed over the years, the thought processes, not my stomach! And nowadays I'm far more at peace with myself than ever I used to be, it still has the power to unsettle me. Now I'm lucky as I do have reasonable self esteem, and I know that my attractiveness does NOT hinge upon the size of my stomach.
I know that other people, especially men would look at the whole package and if they did focus on any one bit it would be because they were a leg or breast man. And they wouldn't be finding fault in the way I may do.

My point is here, that I'm just part of the Western worlds obsession with how we look. We have the luxury of being like this, as on the whole we are not starving. Catch anyone in a third world country having the energy to worry about something so inconsequential as the size of their bum, when they don't even know if there will be a next meal.

The reason I'm talking about this is coming across two sides of the size spectrum in my work recently. Both female, both filled with self hate, both extreme sizes. One coming in at over 20 stone (A) and the other coming in at around 7 stone (B). (Stone =14lbs)

Client A, has no self esteem, has always been heavy, looks after the emotional needs of her family, that is her own children, her parents especially her ill mother, her brothers and their wives and children. She is bullied to take care of all their needs, and has no ability to say no. She is really angry about this treatment, but is trapped in it. So she eats her anger. She waits till everyone has gone out and binges on whatever she can find. So just before the this happens she has a moments peace as she prepares to satisfy her needs. Then the minute she has consumed whatever it is, the self hate starts back with a vengeance..... how could she be so greedy, how could she eat the kids treats,how could she have so little self control. No wonder no-one likes her and on and on.

Client B, on the other hand, has a figure to die for,and she's doing her best to get there as fast as possible. She compulsively exercises, starts the day with a 10k run, goes to the gym most days, vomits after most meals. Looks after her family, including her alcoholic mother, and is the only one of the siblings to sort out anything in the family. When she gets more stressed, as in recently dealing with an overload of problems her bulimia has got worse and she is almost out of control.

How did we get like this? How did I, a healthy size 12(8 US), get to spend so much time focusing on my perceived bad bits. How did food, something that is life giving become the enemy of so many women. A tool they use to control the rage they feel with the world. How can I be so daft that if I eat too much 'bad' food, whatever I perceive to be bad at any given moment, can I hate myself.

I'm not asking these questions to have answers about me here. I'm just, I think, expressing astonishment in the huge increase in eating disorders in today's society. And I know that if I, as a normal size person, ruminates on this then it is so much worse for women who really hate themselves, because they are the wrong size or shape.

One of the places I was shocked to see so many obese people recently was in the hospitals, not as patients, but as staff. What is happening when people who are taught the dangers of obesity in relation to increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease take no notice. As the need to eat is greater than the need to take care of themselves.

When did we loss touch with the idea that food is something that should be prepared with love and enjoyed for it's taste and texture. That to share food with others is a wonderful thing to do, the breaking of bread. The eating of food to celebrate a hard days work.

I may sound a bit puritanical here, but it seems to me that food is too easy, pick up a burger, call for a take away, buy a sandwich. There is no time seemingly to make our own food. And yet I know that it takes no more than three minutes to make home made Yorkshire puddings for example. But it is three minutes that too many people are not prepared to spend, it's easier out of a packet, with all its subsequent e numbers and weird ingredients.

We have to start loving ourselves a bit more, and treating ourselves with respect, whether that's our minds, or our bodies. And then maybe, when people do learn to self love some more they will care about what they are doing to their bodies.

We cannot eat our rage. We cannot make ourselves better by abusing food and then ourselves with that food. We cannot let go of that self hate till we learn to give ourselves respect as ok people.

There are better ways to be kind to ourselves than yet more bloody instant gratification food, how about a bunch of flowers, a new lipstick, a book, a letter written to ourselves telling us why we are worth it, whatever it takes.
We're only here for a short time so shouldn't that time be as healthy as possible emotionally and physically?


Ronjazz said...

You're not being puritanical at all, FB. You're right -- the eating disorders in the world must be at a crisis state, and we really have no one to blame but ourselves...THAT'S puritanical. I think if we approached it all from a health perspective as opposed to an appearance one, we might have more of a positive effect on it all.

As far as you personally are concerned, well... here's an old phrase: VA-VA-VA-VOOM!!!

So there...:)

Helen said...

I found your post today a fascinating perspective on why we abuse food .... and how we can reverse that behavior. I read your post twice and will read it again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart/stomach.

Picsie Chick said...

I *love* the idea of a letter to myself. hmmmmm..... kind of like a photo and quote to inspire my day {wink} but maybe a bit more specific to little ole' me.

As always, you are insightful, honest, and I get exactly what you are saying!

Hugs and butterflies,
~T~ the pc

lakeviewer said...

Yes, yes. We need new attitudes, new choices. We need to reconnect to simple, unfuss food.

Cait O'Connor said...

Well said FB. There are so many overweight folk around nowadays and I mean seriously overweight/obese, children too. When I was young you hardly ever saw a fat adult, let alone a fat child.

Sorrow said...

Reading a wonderful book called in defense of foods...
must be something in the air these days about food, and weight..
a wonderful post, about the way it really is!!

Paula said...

Mandy, thanks so much for giving me a different point on food. I dont find you puritanical at all. The intake of food (or the lack of it) always represent for me how this person perceives her own little world, her larger enviroment and the world as whole. Maybe that sounds now simplified. Have to "chew" it over. Big hug

karen said...

Hear hear FB!
I have to say, I also found your words in self-help-book-blog on the eating topic, to be incredibly inspirational and so sensible..

Walker said...

Society sets the bate and pitfalls for everyone to fall into.
It says this is what you should look like and after saying that it entices you with the evil pleasures of over indulgence.

I'm 50 pounds over weight, my doctor says 80 but who listens to that quack.
That's after loosing 80 pounds too.
I lost the weight not because i didn't like what i saw but because I felt like it.
You're as sexy as you feel not as sexy as you look

trousers said...

Just wanted to say that I've read this, found it very interesting too - but it's difficult to distil my thoughts into a coherently written comment: I can imagine having a conversation/debate though (and not in any oppositional kind of way - I like the comparison of personal and professional viewpoints here, which tallies with my own standpiont on such things).


Angela said...

I am with you Mandy, I don`t really understand it either. Coming from an after-war generation, food was precious to me, but I never weighed more than 52 kilos (how much is that?)for ages, until since I stopped riding horseback and grew a bit older, I gained some kilos. But I have a humble attitude towards meals and don`t gulp down fast food. I cook our family meals, can bake bread and cake, and we eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies. All in reasonable amounts. I simply wouldn`t know HOW to gain so much weight. Is everybody really so unhappy?

Indigo said...

Yeah I think because we live a world that is far from perfect we proceed to make ourselves perfect, and lets face it , with all the scrumptious food on the planet why the hell should we. We should be proud of who we are regardless of shape size or posture, love life, start livin..

Trixie said...

We use food as a crutch. Always will. Which is such a shame. And here I am, a weight loss consultant, who has been over 20 stone, who teaches weight loss, but I'm wanting a bacon and cheese butty right at this moment, because I know it tastes nice, and I've given up on men, so hey, why the fuck am I bothering to look good cause no one wants me no matter what the fuck size I am, so mose well enjoy something right?

That's how we feel.

Mel said...

Fuel for the body--complicated scenario for me, such as it is.

I don't have such a good relationship with food.
Fuel for the body.

e said...

Dear FB,

Food is all caught up with self image and self-esteem stuff, just like all the other addictions in this world.

If more people knew how to build and encourage rather than crush spirit, the world would be a better place and we'd all have a better foundation for life and could ignore rather than internalise all the messeges about "right bits."

I hope you can help those two women find some love and value for themselves. When I worked on an E-D unit, many read "Fat is a Family Affair" and found it helpful. Thanks for sharing...

CheekyDani said...

Sometimes takes me a while to find the time and head space to get around to reading your posts, I want to give them the attention they deserve. But this one in particular I have wanted to read and re-read for some time...

Anyway this is often what I come up against in my work and it saddens me deeply at the number of women who hate or dislike their bodies and as such, abuse themselves either physically or mentally (or both). What particularly saddens me is it is often the most gorgeous physically who feel this way about themselves. And I fear all of us are more inclined to look at what we perceive to be our negative bits instead of our assets. Such a shame.

Before I found out I was coeliac so food itself was making me ill, I was very sick. Every waking moment made me into a miserable creature because I was eating foods which my body could not cope with. I can't tell you what a difference eating the right foods has made to my life and how most of the time (I admit even I occasionally have the odd poor me moment) I'm just so happy and relieved to feel healthy.

Big hugs to you Firey x