As I tried to settle my features into an expression of appropriate sympathy, I have to admit that my inner thoughts revealed more about me than they did about her. They ran the full gamut from total horror at the woman’s exhaustive pace to scorn at such a self indulgent problem. The most telling of all, however, was when, whilst drinking full fat latte and stuffing a triple chocolate muffin into my mouth, I found myself thinking, ‘lucky cow, I wish I had that problem.’ The woman you see, despite telling me how awful her life is, looked fabulous. Slim and toned with not an ounce of fat anywhere.
As I now sit rationalising my own reaction to this woman, the question that begs to be asked, is do any of us have a healthy relationship with food and our bodies? This question comes for me at a time when I am already pondering my feelings towards the ravages of time on my body or, perhaps more to the point, my metabolism. I have always exercised, although clearly my idea of exercise and this woman’s aren’t even in the same stratosphere. 45 minutes on a treadmill a few sit-ups and I think I have done a good job. And indeed, up to a point, the exercise has counteracted my gluttonous attitude towards food. More and more though, the balance seems to be shifting, and I am being forced to pay the piper for my indulgences by shoe horning myself
into clothes that are being pushed to the very limits of their fabric.
I don’t need a psychiatrist to point out the origins of my own attitude to food. The seeds were sown watching my mother on her lifelong quest for thinness. She is a sixty eight year old woman, who I have never known relax the iron grip she has on her food
consumption. A grip so complete, she is the same weight now that she was at eighteen; a fact that she delights in sharing. My mother fears fat more than she fears anything else on earth. Even worse than that, she has utter contempt for anybody who has lost the battle of the bulge. She is merciless in her evaluation of other people’s physiques and the aspect she always focuses on is their weight.
Looking back, it’s a miracle that neither my sister nor I are anorexic. Ironically, and much to my mother’s chagrin, we both have a tendency to eat and drink with abandon. She is horrified at the thought that she could end up with fat daughters and can’t seem to stop herself handing out little diet tips or, at the very moment a piece of cake is about to make its way into our mouths, offering its calorific value. My sister and I have always guffawed in the face of her body fascism and it seemed as though we had sidestepped her particular form of madness but now I’m not so sure.
A few things have colluded to make me wonder if deep down I am not my mother’s daughter. It all started in July when I attended a school prom. As my friend and I watched the young people doing their thing, we marvelled at how refreshing it was that girls these days don’t seem at all body conscious. However, I was not telling the truth. Struggling valiantly to mask my distaste, what I was in fact thinking was, how can they possibly be so self deluded? A seemingly endless array of big girls who
had squeezed themselves into skimpy dresses that did nothing to flatter. In my defence I was appalled and ashamed in equal measures at hearing my mother’s voice spinning around my head.
My fear was compounded this week, when an old photograph of my friend and I emerged. As is the modern way, it was quickly paraded all over facebook and there were the usual droll and pithy comments. Clearly neither one of us is going to see eighteen again and what bothered me more than it should have was that, unlike my mother, I am also never likely to see eight and half stone again. Which is as it should be, holding onto the illusion of youth is surely the way that madness lays but it seems that I am not as free of my mother’s brand of lunacy as I thought I was.
As I look around me, particularly at the women I know, I’m starting to wonder if we are not all secretly in fear of the fat. We all claim not to give a fig about our weight and, whenever one of us decides to cut back on the alcohol or dessert, it’s always in the name of health and never for fat reasons. Funny though, the second we have lost a bit of weight, we are straight back to our old ways. My sister laughed in my face when I confided that I could be a closet body fascist but then, without pausing for breath, told me she was starting a new health regime in readiness for our upcoming jaunt to Brighton. Health regime my foot, she wants to fit into her skinny jeans.
The truth is I don’t care at all about getting old and all that it entails. Looking at the image of my friend and me, beaming happily and oh so very youthfully into the camera, a lot has changed. I don’t care about the wrinkles, the grey hair or even the tired looking eyes. Why then, no matter how hard I try not to, do I care about the bloody weight?