I am not on a diet at the moment. Although, to be honest, I never am. I am frequently, however, attempting to “cut down”, to “eat healthily”, to “learn good nutritional habits that will last a lifetime”. I’m not doing that at the moment, though, mainly because I’m now too thin. This will last about a week, then I will be normal aka “too fat”, and it will start all over again.
Being marginally underweight is ace, at least briefly. Several slices of cheesecake separate you from the horrific mundanity of having a “normal” figure, and each one tastes bloody delicious as you chomp your way back. This is different to long-term thinness, of the sort I “enjoyed” in my anorexic teens. Back then I was too damn hungry to be happy. I never allowed myself back to normality. Now the times I’m at my hungriest coincide with me being at my biggest, and feeling at my worst, while my skinny self always tucks into food with gusto.
The journalist Polly Vernon is thin all the time, but where’s the adventure in that? What a monstrous amount of mental effort to waste on staying in the same place, when you could be relishing the highs and lows of constant loss and gain. I like being thin, but I also like not being hungry. I don’t like having to choose, and I’ve spent years trying to think my way out of this.
This is the thing “they” never admit, none of them, all the slimming magazines and diet food manufacturers and nutritionists and gurus: being thin involves being hungry and being hungry involves feeling crap. It’s not something you get used to. It’s not something you can get around by eating particular sorts or combinations of food. It’s not a mental challenge you can intellectualize your way out of. Every diet “success story” involves a person thinking about food all the fucking time. It’s a triumph, of sorts, to do so and not to eat, but it’s not much of one. No one should underestimate how awful feeling hungry is. It’s not just physical pain, it’s mental torture.
Don’t believe that if you were a better person, morally stronger, an apple could make you feel full for hours. It’s not magic. It doesn’t work like that. The same goes for a protein bar, a bag of Special K minis, a Weight Watchers pro-points “treat”. Each is only that big and your needs are greater (but don’t forget – you also need to be smaller).
Don’t believe either that if you were a better person, morally stronger, you wouldn’t care about your size. You don’t live in a cultural vacuum. Being told to “celebrate your curves” is as meaningful as being told to celebrate all your other “failures”, because hey, they make you the beautiful person you are. And you’re meant to think that that’s not patronizing, not at all. It’s just an admission you’re not one of the special people, and somehow it feels arrogant not to accept this. But it’s normal not to want to feel invisible, or mocked, or pitied. It’s not arrogant at all.
The starve/binge cycle I’ve settled into these days is marginal, as is my weight gain and loss. Perhaps no one even notices it but me, but I’m glad I do. That way I can enjoy my cheesecake. And on the days when I’m not desperately hungry or feeling fat, it frees my mind up to think of other things. Like, what does it feel like to be Victoria Beckham or Kate Middleton, with all that money and nothing to eat?
I bet it feels crap.