I was a skinny child, like, really skinny. I was a slim teenager. When I was sixteen I woke up one morning with an arse the size of a DFS sofa. When I was twenty-four I suddenly grew two pendulous breasts. I have absolutely no recollection of these features developing on me. Fat snuck up on me, I never saw it coming.
I knew I was getting bigger, my clothes were, so I stopped buying clothes. Problem solved. Then all my clothes got holes in and I had to buy some more. Leggings looked so comfortable, but I refrained from buying any for years because I thought I'd look ridiculous in them, and offend the general public by deigning to wear them out. I grew livid with Topshop for only stocking clothes size 6-16, and then introducing a size 4, but not a size 18. Now I hated my body, and was ashamed of it. Me!
I look at my arm next to a normal person's arm. My arm is fat. It is nearly twice the size. Sometimes I flick it with my finger to see if it hurts like it did when it was thinner. It really doesn't. I have Fat Armour. If I was a pisshead people would feel concern for me, but because I am a carbhead people just think I'm lazy. I don't care, I have my armour, throw cannonballs of prejudice at me and they will just bounce right off.
I need to eat to be able to do my job. There is nothing worse than teaching on an empty stomach. Trust me, if you had to stand in front of a class of thirty eleven-sixteen year olds for five hours a day you'd need some fucking Shreddies inside you too. And a flapjack for elevenses. And a baked potato for lunch, with cheese. Up until recently I haven't had a penny to spare on anything other than food or bills. It costs nine pounds to attend a yoga class in Crouch End. That would buy me lunches for a week.
"The problem is cake. Stop eating cake" remarks my boyfriend, helpfully. I glance down at his growing sponsored-by-Kronenberg paunch and think 'Okay love, when you stop drinking beer'. He won't, he loves his beer. I LOVE cake. My mum used to bake once a week. Big, hulking rock buns that your teeth would crunch through to reveal a sugary-soft, almost ethereal, core. Victoria sponge with homemade jam, and sugar flowers on the top, looking like a photo from Woman's Weekly. Scones that we'd eat hot, so that the butter we piled on them would drip down our chins as we scoffed them. I swear I once found Jesus in the soft core of a meringue. Mum didn't make these to make us fat. She made these because we were poor, and because she needed to feed us. So yes, I love cake, but who wouldn't after that little prologue? My boyfriend drinks two or three cans of beer a day, I eat, at most, one slice of cake on average every three days. Who has the real PROBLEM here? No, it is not cake.
I forget all the rubbish food I've eaten the second I swallow. I look closely at my diet. I can't see that much wrong with it: breakfast, lunch, tea. Five portions of fruit and veg a day. Water and tea to drink. I am all over that shit. Apples and bananas are my best friends, I see them every day. But this is the shit that counts, this is what I CHOSE to forget, this is what I REALLY digested yesterday: Maltesers (regular bag, I was nearly seduced by the larger bag, and felt smug for rejecting it), Rice Krispie cake, ice cream (plus cone), Coca Cola x 2. The problem is I had to sit down and think really hard before I could remember I ate all that. Somewhere in my brain there is an auto-delete button that I am not in control of.
This is the problem. And yes, I know exactly what it is. The problem is, that in my mind I have not really progressed physically since the age of eighteen (or mentally, but that's another post). I look down at myself. I know It is there, it is just that It is something I choose not to acknowledge; like casually racist remarks made by my nan, or the Sun newspaper. So in my mind I am a size twelve, always have been. How would I know if I wasn't? I don't own a full length mirror. All of my mirrors are less than 30cm long. It is only after a birthday party, or family get-together, and the documentary evidence appears in Facebook albums, that I truly get to look at myself. 'That's never me!' I think, aghast, sneakily untagging myself and hoping the photographer doesn't notice.
People are stupid. They try to give you advice gleaned from too many years of watching Trisha or Vanessa and advise you to admit to the problem. Many people think that once you acknowledge a problem it suddenly floats away into the atmosphere, never to bother you again, like a vanquished demon on Buffy. This is a myth. I owned up to writing 'Bums here please' on a toilet seat at school once, and it made my life hell for at least another two years. I 'owned up' to being mentally ill when I was eighteen and I am still mentally ill now. So truly acknowledging my fatness will not bring me any kind of inner peace, looking into a full length mirror in a dressing room will not reveal any secrets to me, it'll just be boring, and a bit unpleasant.
But I think about my pancreas, glowing inside me like ET's heart and calling cancer cells to it like a mermaid singing to a ship full of sailors. It is a beacon, emitting helplessness, sending out an SOS to my brain. Being overweight causes cancer. So do drinking and smoking and an unhealthy diet. I am going to die of cancer. Or I am going to get diabetes. Or I am going to have a heart attack running up the stairs at work. I might even be found dead with cake in my hair.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am going to try and be a bit less fat from now on. Not because of how I look, but because I am scared of dying. Now excuse me while I run off and do a little cry.