I hate the word ‘fat’. How cruel does it sound when you say it out loud? Almost as harsh as it actually is. To most people ‘fat’ is merely an adjective but for those that have struggled with their weight; it’s far deeper than that.
It’s a tormenting insult. It’s upsetting enough to physically hurt. It’s not only a visual form but a complex feeling too – a mind set in its own right. As blogging is my getaway, writing about my weight feels as though I’m inviting my troubles into my escape. At the same time however, I know that it helps others. I’ve blogged about my weight issues before (click here to open in a new tab). Although I found it difficult to share my personal experience of such a sensitive subject, the post itself received an amazing response and it taught me that sharing your problems really can help other people to confront theirs. As I discovered from letters and emails that I received from sufferers of eating disorders, it can show a person that they’re not alone. It can reassure them and better still push them to recover. For those reasons, I’ve decided to speak up again about my obsession with my body and my weight.
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The mind is an amazing, powerful tool and as the saying goes, you can achieve anything you set it to. I believe that and I practice it too. On my very first night as a Fresher at university, I told Darren that I would eventually graduate with a first class degree. “But you don’t know how hard it’s going to be yet,” he said. “I’ll work as hard as I have to,” I replied. And I did. I stressed, I cried and I really felt the burning pressure I had placed on myself. Above all though, I felt driven and three years later absolutely euphoric when I finally got that first. A few years previous to this, I set my mind to achieve something far more impacting on my life: weight loss. I was absolutely determined to rid what I realised was being perceived as a ‘fat’ image. As a result I became utterly obsessed with losing weight as detailed in the post referenced above. Something that I didn’t share at the time however as it felt far too personal, is something that I will reveal now.
People often ask me how I lost so much weight and I repeatedly lie when I answer. I lie because the truth is far from pretty. In fact, it’s utterly embarrassing – but here goes. A voice helped me to lose so much weight so quickly – a horrible chiding voice inside my head, the purpose of which was to remind me that I reflected that awful word: FAT. To be honest, it was incredibly motivating at first. I mean, who wants to eat when they’re repeatedly being told they look fat? If I craved junk food, the voice would tell me I was disgusting. If I enjoyed a meal, it would order me to take laxatives. It made me feel like failure even after four stone had dropped off and people told me how great I looked for it. In time, the voice became an existence in its own right – something I didn’t want, something I couldn’t control. It overruled everything and sometimes it was the only thing that even mattered to me. When I slipped under eight stone, feeling faint from lack of food and wearing a size six t-shirt that was hanging off me, I could hear “you’re still fat!” ringing around my head. In that moment, I realised how truly awful eating disorders can be.
I like to think of myself as intelligent but I can’t understand my issues with my body, weight and food. I’m fully aware of them, I feel them there constantly but I can’t fathom the extent to which they control me. How can something be happening inside my own head that I can’t understand? How can a voice be overriding my thoughts and overruling me? How can I be expected to explain all this to someone else when I’m not even sure what’s going on? Darren has yelled at me many times over the years and from that alone I know I’ve driven him crazy. I realise how frustrating it is for him to watch me relapse – to see me abusing myself all over again and feeling powerless to stop it. He has always been there to wipe away my tears and tell me how beautiful he thinks I am, but he has never understood the true extent of my struggle. That is not his fault. He didn’t know because I didn’t tell him. Until recently, I had never told anyone – not even my counsellor. I was terrified that I’d be locked away in a mental institute if I did.
Eventually I reasoned that Darren was my exception. Surely I could be brave enough to tell him. Surely it would be alright. He always assured me that nothing I could say would scare him off. He always told me that he would love me no matter what. As he begged me once more to confide in him, I suddenly blurted out that there was a voice. He asked instantly what the voice sounded like, desperately trying to understand once and for all what was happening inside his girlfriend’s head. I was in tears, unable to speak as sobs shook through my body. I gasped for air and tried to calm down so that I could answer him. He watched, held my hand and waited patiently.
Me. It sounds like me.
He looked confused. My cheeks burned with embarrassment but I continued. I told him that this menacing voice helped me lose weight all those years ago, essentially bullying me into not being fat anymore. I told him that it helped me at first and I found it comforting, but that now I couldn’t stop it. I explained that I could still hear myself in my head – my own voice calling me disgusting, ugly and of course, fat. I felt incredible relief from opening up to him and best of all it helped him to understand. I wasn’t locked up in a mental hospital and he didn’t run away. For the first time, he told me he got it. It finally made sense to him. Now he understood why I sometimes insisted on playing loud music when we sat down to eat. He understood why I went silent and sometimes cried when we’d finished our meal, why I would run upstairs to weigh myself and why I went through a phase of drinking a lot. He realised it was all to try and silence the words I was hearing. He understood the frustration and the humiliation I felt as a result of it all, and why, regardless of how many times he told me I looked beautiful, that I would change my outfit and cry in front of the mirror because I looked and felt – yes, you guessed it – FAT.
Unfortunately, there is no euphoria at the end of this mind set. No throwing a mortar board in the air and feeling immense pride that I obtained that all important grade. Instead there’s the brutal realisation that to my mind, my body will never be good enough. I will never be slim enough and I will always be fat. As I said at the beginning, fat is not just a visual form, it’s a feeling and a mind set. Fat might no longer be how I am perceived but it will always be how I feel. In a sense, I am haunted by the insecurities I had when I was bigger. The voice that I thought was helping me to rid them, instead imprinted them. As I said earlier however, you can achieve anything you set your mind to and I do believe that in time, my life will become less dictated by all of this. That’s because I’m determined to get better, to be normal and ultimately, to be happy.
My advice to anyone suffering with a similar issue is to do whatever helps you as an individual. If you find something that enables you to escape for a while, use it to your advantage. It might be writing stories or listening to music. It might be watching films or taking photos. It could just be taking a walk or having a nap, socialising with friends or spending time alone. Whatever it is – if it helps you to feel in control again and it doesn’t jeopardise your health, then do it. The one thing you must not do is give up. Remember that every tear, every meal time and every new day is all proof that you are still here and moving forward – that in itself is progress worth celebrating.