I’ve always had a problem with food. Well, probably not ALWAYS but for as long as I can remember. I prefer to call it a ‘problem’ than the D word because, well, when you’re not skinny as skinny can be people think you haven’t got one and when you are so skinny that you wear bulky clothes to hide it, you try so desperately hard to pretend you eat normally that there’s no way you’d call it anything other than a ‘little problem with food’.
It started at school (I went to stage school for my high school) and everyone was skinny. The ballet dancers ate tissues and the rest of us just didn’t eat. Or if we did then we made a bit of a deposit in the bathroom feeling guilty that we’d allowed substance past our lips. All of it was normal because we were all in the same boat and that was how it was. I loved being at my school and it was really and truly like being in ‘Fame’. But there was a dark side to it where the teachers asked us what we’d had for lunch and poked us in the bottom with pencils during dance classes telling us we needed to lose 6lb before half term. I was about fourteen when my ballet teacher did that to me and I weighed around 6 stone.
A while later at age 19 I went into hospital to have my tonsils out and I wasn’t allowed to leave until I’d eaten a good meal and put on the pound I’d lost while in there over night. THREE years later I still weighed 6 stone. I was thrilled. THRILLED!. When my friend came to visit and picked up my wrist with a sad look in her eyes and told me my wrists were too boney. It made me feel good to think I was so thin. When I left a day or so later having drunk all the water in the ward thus managing to tip that scale over one notch my Mum paid my best friend to baby sit me and make me eat food while I recovered at home. She made me a chicken burger and sat on the end of my bed until I’d eaten every last morsel. It was not a good time. We never speak about it, never ever have and I wonder if she even remembers actually but to me it is etched forever.
I remember my Mum being very sad about it and thinking she had to get me help which she threatened all the time. I know now as a parent how scared she must have been because for the most part, these days, I am recovered and I look at my babies and would kill for them to just be happy which I was not.
But these days I worry that I am TOO recovered really. You see, like with any person who struggles with food, I actually love it. I LOVE it. I adore eating and going out to dinner. These days I can even do that as I no longer feel I can’t eat in front of people. It still gets me sometimes, recently at the school cheese and wine night of all places I felt panicked at the buffet thinking everyone was looking at my plate but mostly I just eat loads and that in itself is a problem with food. I have to starve myself and then binge eat and then worry about it and then binge a bit more. I definitely have gone the other way over the past few years and I’ve eaten too much.
Remember when Sophie Dhal was ‘fat’? Well I read an article at the time saying she looked like she’d had too much of everything and wasn’t it fabulous? She looked like she’d had too much food, too much sex and too much fun. It revolted me back then and although in recent years I’ve tried to embrace it, the fact of the matter is I hate being over weight. I mean I know I’m not REALLY over weight but when you’ve been as skinny as I have been and then you’re the size I am now, it’s not a great feeling. I don’t agree with the sentence ‘nothing tastes as good as thin feels’ but only because I know I have to… I understand it’s not normal to be six stone but I don’t want to be what I am now (and no, I won’t be divulging but it’s considerably more which you only have to look at me to know)!
I worked as a P.A to a chap once who said to me ‘but it’s simple Ruthie, eat less and move more’ and it kind of just clicked at the time that this was the answer. I became a gym bunny. I was there pretty much daily and if I wasn’t I felt guilty. My reward was that I could eat at the weekend and diet for the rest. It still hadn’t sunk in even though I ‘got it’! When you’re thin people tell you that you look amazing and it’s a buzz… Food is an addiction, whether you are eating it or not. Or it is if you are me.
Time went on and Jonny would get angry with me. He hated that I never wanted to eat anything when we were out, that I would stand outside restaurants pouring over menus and then he laid down an ultimatum that I just ate or he was off. And it worked a bit. I adopted the approach of mega diet and exercise during the week and then blow out eating at weekends when I was with him as we lived in different cities. I started eating and I kind of never stopped… And I didn’t feel good about myself at all.
Then a while later I dieted again and all felt good for a bit as I was super skinny again – my super skinny is not just a size 10 I have to point out. It wasn’t really good, it was shit and I was miserable but then I fell pregnant and had someone to eat for. And boy did I eat. I ate everything in sight and put on four stone with Florence which just typing makes me feel awful but actually, I was still within my normal weight limits. I know all the facts and figures but it still made me hate myself.
I got married post baby in a size 12 wedding dress which I also hated. I was prepared to be a size 10 but NOT a 12… Yet 12 is where I’ve stuck ever since, even full term pregnant with Jimmy I was a size 12 in normal clothes and I felt hugely fat. But I can’t do it any more with the extreme dieting. I want to eat and enjoy life and I have these two little people who depend on me so I can’t get consumed with food. I don’t eat breakfast and already this upsets Florence. I know I have to sort myself out before she goes down the food hell I’ve travelled and it simply cannot include extreme dieting or over eating (gulp, I’ve just admitted that on paper haven’t I)… This time, and I’ve written about it before so I know I don’t always keep my word, but this time I AM going to crack it.
So I’m sorting myself out. I’ve joined the gym. For £54 a month for me and £10 a month for Jimmy I can work out whenever I want (peak time or otherwise), join in classes like Bhangra aerobics (made me laugh when an OAP said she was impressed I got all the moves straight away – I should think so, years of dance training and it would’ve been embarrassing otherwise) and go in the sauna which I LOVE! Jimmy can go in the creche for 2 hours a day and then he has unlimited use of the pool, soft play and a Tots Gym and a Tots Dance class per week. It’s perfect. Finally I am going to try and eat less (but not nothing) and move more and when Jimmy is in his classes I can even use the time to write. I can’t, simply can’t post a picture of me pre exercise and weight loss but I will leave you with this. A picture which despite the fact I loved being skinny, makes me feel a bit sad really. It was my 21st birthday party holiday in Magaluf, I was the heaviest I’d ever been at the time and I lived on a diet of apples and fags. I had an obsession with the sizeable gap between my legs… At the time I though I was incredibly fat. There’s no way I’ll ever be that skinny again because I have grown two human beings since then, despite missing many periods and not growing pubic hair until I was 19, I was fertile, I was lucky.
I won’t be like that again (even though part of me really wants to be) but… I will be thinner than I am now and healthier too. Watch this space of eating less (but not nothing) and moving more (lots more)!