So the latest thing to avoid when pregnant is iodine. No, wait – I got it the wrong way round! When pregnant it’s best to have loads of the stuff. Loads of iodine, and loads of iron. And maybe all the other elements that start with “I”, just to be on the safe side (I’ve heard iridium’s nice).

As with all these things, you’re not allowed just to have supplements, though. That’d be cheating (oh, and taking iodine supplements “stuns” the thyroid. A likely story). You have to get your iodine through eating a varied diet, the kind of diet it’s impossible to eat because you’re so busy trying to avoid anything unpasteurised /raw /caffeinated /unwashed /with a high mercury content (that’s assuming you can keep food down in the first place). Anyhow, do your best, and just to help you, here’s a handy, meaningless table listing the iodine content in mcg per average serving of various common foodstuffs. Just make sure it adds up to 250mcg every day while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding; it’s easy, providing you ignore the fact that the list contains items such as nuts, shellfish and oily fish which, actually, you’re not really allowed (plus organic milk is now worse for you than normal milk, but only in terms of iodine content. Make of that what you will). But hey, in case it all seems too much of a hassle, the British Dietetic Association have even illustrated their advice with one of those photos of a headless pregnant woman. There’s a man standing behind her, hands resting protectively on her bump. So now you know just how important it is. You’re not a person, you’re a baby-brewing machine, and you run on iodine, folic acid and virtue. (more…)

Today’s Observer includes a piece entitled “Women own up to guilt over eating habits”. It’s an interesting choice of wording – are women “owning up” to the eating itself or is this some kind of meta-guilt relating to their response to food? I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s both. These days, not only is eating too much and being a porker a Bad Thing, but so too is failing to be a Real Woman who celebrates her curves. Hence regardless of whether you’re literally stuffed, metaphorically you are.

According to the piece “millions of British women have eating binges, lie about how much they weigh and have a negative relationship with food”. All pretty remarkable, when you consider that only 2,000 British women were interviewed. It’s amazing what wilful extrapolation can do:

Three-quarters of UK women – 24 million – say they often feel guilty about how much they eat. Women typically think about food 12 times a day and those under 25 have it on their minds twice as much as those over 55, the poll found. Six out of 10 told researchers they had lied about how much food they ate, almost half (43.74%) said they snacked in secret and more than a quarter (27.68%) confessed to binge eating – this rises to more than a third (36.72%) of those under 25.

Whether or not this really does affect 24 million women, it’s sad that anyone has these feelings at all. Eating ought to be a pleasurable and sociable experience. Still, at least the dieting industry is doing its best to raise awareness of all the lives it fucks up, albeit while taking the opportunity to persuade a few more people to fuck up their lives just that little bit more. (more…)

In my household I am outnumbered. On the pink side there’s only me while on the blue there’s my male partner and our two sons. Obviously this causes no end of troubles when it comes to purchasing food, but thankfully our kitchen has plenty of cupboards. Once the weekly shop is done we tend to use our space wisely to maintain an appropriate level of gender-based food segregation.

In my cupboard (painted pink) we have: Galaxy bars (for when I’m sad / wistful), Maltesers (for when I’m up for Loose-Women-style japes), Ryvita (for miserable lunches with unfunny friends) and the full range of Special K products (for when I fundamentally hate myself). Meanwhile, in the men’s cupboard (blue), we have: Yorkies and Snickers bars (the only chocolate straight men are permitted to eat), extra thick-cut crisps (since Skips are way too effete) and various Big Soups (since, unlike women, men are presumed to eat because they’re hungry – and to want to consume something genuinely substantial, as opposed to some deceitful “fuller for longer” salad nonsense). We used to have a shared cupboard for things we were both allowed to consume (it was painted yellow, obviously). Alas, it mainly contained carbs, which are now men-only and thus belong in the blue cupboard (although I’m considering creating a neutral shelf in the fridge for cheese and bacon – except I think the new rule is that women can only have these if they have nothing but these. And I’m not giving up my Galaxy – I might get all weepy and need it). (more…)

Here are some weird tips for achieving a tiny belly:

  • eat less food than you need in order to function as a healthy human being
  • think about all the food you’re not eating all the sodding time
  • feel cold, exhausted and miserable every minute of the day (and night, since hunger is giving you insomnia and when you do finally sleep, you dream of food you didn’t even like until all this started)

Eventually you will get a tiny belly, albeit one still covered in excess skin and stretch marks. By the time you get to this point, you won’t be able to stop shrinking, but you will no longer care. The person who would have had the capacity to enjoy being thin – or indeed being anything – will no longer exist. (more…)

Many of the jobs I’ve done have involved a degree of marketing. This usually means crowding anxiously around a table, thinking about one’s “target market”, and pondering the “positioning” and the “message”. Eventually, at some point or other, one person will ask, portentously, “but what’s the actual benefit?” Whereupon we will all ask ourselves just what it is that our product is offering to those who buy it. You’d think that by this time we’d already know. To be fair, we generally do, albeit in a long-winded, wordy manner. The difficulty is translating this knowledge into a snappy message that will speak to the customer straight away i.e. a message that patronises the hell out of said customer while simultaneously looking as though it respects his or her intelligence. Such a task is, in my professional opinion, a complete and utter bugger. Now and then I relish it as a creative challenge. However, on the whole it just makes me feel like a knob. (more…)

Here is a picture of me, aged 10:
image
Okay, it’s a bit of an exaggeration – my skin was not that lily-white and I had shorter hair. Plus, I’d have killed for a genuine pink leotard. But beyond that, I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty good likeness.

I got this artist’s impression of myself – generic, miserable, cake-obsessed fat girl – from my teachers at school in 1985. It was in a booklet they gave out to everyone at the end of “the period talk”. Called Take A Look At Yourself, it was produced by the National Dairy Council and sent out to all primary schools in an effort to brainwash young girls into associating having periods with drinking milk and eating cheese. I don’t think there was an equivalent for boys.

By the time I received Take A Look At Yourself, I already knew I was fat. I can’t remember ever not knowing it. It was not a subjective self-assessment. The school nurse told my parents I was too heavy. The dinner ladies were told to give me salad instead of mash. The other children would sing the Marvel advert at me in the playground (“Somebody isn’t using Marvel, Marvel is over 99% fat freeeee!”), then launch unduly hard Special K “pinch more than an inch” pinch attacks. It was a nightmare. I knew that at some point I’d have to lose weight, to look at least a bit more like the girls in Bananarama. It was just such hard work, what with everyone around me being a total cunt. No wonder I regularly hit the biscuit barrel before stepping onto the scales, sadly, with the same old comedy knickerbocker glory thought bubble hanging over my head.

Trying to diet in the 1980s was no fun at all. I mean, it never is, but back then diet foods were exceptionally shit. There was crunch ‘n’ slim, One Cal, Lean Cuisine, Shape French Set Yoghurts and cottage cheese. Nothing else had the calorie count on the packaging, so most things were out of bounds. The only way to try and beat the system was to purchase a tiny yellow booklet called Count Your Calories, which gave calories per ounce of various generic foodstuffs, on the bizarre assumption that you’d be arsed to weigh them out. In the late 1980s the received wisdom was that 70s dieting (cutting out carbs, i.e. Atkins) had been total crap, and that the way forward lay in cutting out fat and gorging yourself on fibre. Only if you were ten and had parents who didn’t believe in diets anyhow, they wouldn’t listen and you’d be required to eat cheese regardless. And then the National Dairy Council would throw a complete spanner in the works by agreeing that this was okay, too.

I rediscovered Take A Look At Yourself recently and was surprised to discover it didn’t also contain the words “long” and “hard” in the title, given that I remember it as such a harsh, unforgiving book. It is only 24 pages long but the impact it had on my life was huge. I became obsessed with this book. Sometimes, in later life, I’d wonder whether I imagined it. What were people thinking, handing out this crap to impressionable, insecure girls on the verge of puberty?

The booklet contains loads of unnecessary bollocks – advice on clothes, hair, skincare, avoiding BO (“left to itself it can become quite unpleasant and unattractive and so every effort should be made to prevent it”) – all of it to hammer home the message that starting your periods, in making you a “real woman”, has to make you totally obsessed with your appearance. The stuff that really got to me related to diets, though. That stupid fat girl picture, and also the words.

The ‘Weighty’ Problems section tells us:

You won’t want to be overweight — not just because it’s unfashionable and unattractive, but also because it’s not good for your health (and remember, the same applies to being underweight).

It’s nice that a thought is spared for the underweight as well. Even so, there is not a picture of a skinny girl on the scales fretting about lettuce leaves. Perhaps there was an issue with space on the page. The book goes on to tell us:

If you are inclined to put on weight too quickly or too easily, the best thing to do is to cut down all round on the amount you eat. This means cutting down on the size of helpings at meal-times (except for most vegetables and fruit) and cutting out snacks between meals. Remember, you’re eating to be healthy as well as to be the right shape, so it’s important to have a variety of foods. Never go on crash diets – these can be dangerous. If you have eaten correctly from an early age, slimming shouldn’t be necessary.

I can see how to some people, all of this might sound fairly benign. To me, though, it wasn’t. It was the last line that killed me, the sense of blame and responsibility, as if at ten I had somehow already fucked up on the diet front. And the fact that, however much of a comedy leotard-wearing fat girl I was, I wasn’t permitted to ease the pain quickly with a crash diet. Oh no, these can be dangerous. And on top of all this, all the other girls got this booklet, the thinner and prettier ones. It was like a public shaming. And worst of all, none of the boys, fat or thin, had to deal with any of this.

Fuck them, I thought. Or rather, I didn’t. I didn’t think “fuck” back in those days. I don’t know if I ever got so far as to think into words the anger that I felt. Instead I just stopped eating anything. To do otherwise had just become too confusing.

Twenty-six days after my twelfth birthday I began the first of three long-term hospital admissions for anorexia. I do, in part, blame that fucking book. I also blame myself. And I blame the Nancy Reagan, 1980s Kylie Minogue, Special K and the whole of the Sweet Valley High series.* But mainly Take A Look At Yourself. Because it was given to me by figures of authority and I thought it therefore mattered.

On the bright side, it all meant I didn’t get those sodding periods after all! Way-hey! I didn’t get them till I was well into my twenties, at which point I forgot to stop eating and got fat again, only this time very, very fat. In particular, I ended up with massive, back-breaking breasts and eventually saw a consultant regarding a breast reduction. He agreed it was advisable, but also recommended trying to lose some weight: “Try drinking less lemonade and eating fewer jam tarts” (bizarre, I know. Do I look like an Enid Blyton character?). Anyhow, I didn’t answer him back, because fat people know their place (but that’s all they know, what with being fat and therefore stupid and doughnut-obsessed).

The happy ending to all this is that I did lose the weight, and I did it without developing full-blown anorexia again. Want to know my secret? Smoking! What’s dying of lung cancer in your mid-fifties compared to being a fatso? You know it makes sense! Or at least, it makes as much sense as all the diet crap does. It’s pointless and hurtful and mean. Anyhow, I don’t smoke any more. I’m now fat in the “normal” sense (in the same way that any woman who is not about to drop dead of malnutrition is fat).

I don’t really know how to end this post because I don’t think it’s any better now, not even with proposed “body image classes”. It’s just different. A different type of meanness. We don’t give girls stupid booklets but Heat and Closer body hatred is in their faces all the time. I suppose what I’m really wondering is, why, in all this time, in so many years, haven’t we just evolved? WHY AREN’T WE BETTER THAN THIS?

Well, that’s just what I think. But what would I know. Most of my thinking space is taken up with knickerbocker glories.**

* Of the Sweet Valley High books, the worst one is called Power Play. A fat girl called Robyn starves herself to Wakefield-twin thinness and gains the life she’d always dreamed of. Somewhat amusingly, a few years later (perhaps when the publishers realised just how monumentally awful this book was) a sequel was released – The Perfect Girl – in which Robyn develops anorexia. Only it isn’t that funny, really. I’d have preferred a book in which she got fat again and walked all over the Wakefields and their shitty little crew.

** A comedy foodstuff which no one ever eats. I’ve had two goes at being fat and still haven’t had one. Perhaps they’re mythical.

Unless you’re David Cameron, life on Earth is but a vale of tears. Famine, war, injustice, sorrow, all culminating in infirmity and death. It’s a total bummer. How do we manage, each one of us, to get through each day? Well, I do so by blogging about the things that matter. Such as the correct naming of the substance applied to lips in order to make them a more appealing hue.

Can I ask if you’re wearing any of this substance right now? Or at least if you were doing so, earlier today, before drinking, eating, snogging etc. rubbed it, and all promises of 12-hour endurance, away? What was it called? What word, precisely, followed the prefix lip-? Was it pencil, gloss, stick, balm, tint, stain, shimmer? Or was it butter? That’s the trendiest one, I reckon. It’s also by far the worst.

Lip butter – it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? What next? Lip margarine? Lip lard? Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. After all, it’s such a stupid naming strategy. The product is meant to make your lips “baby soft”, which sounds creepy enough in itself. But this doesn’t even take into account what butter is like. It’s not baby soft and shimmery. In fact, it’s rather greasy, in a way that works fine with toast and fried mushrooms, but not with lips. It’s important to recognise this, people; let’s not confuse our lips with toast.

I’m writing this now because this morning I found myself in Boots and nearly fell into a lip butter stand on my way to select a suitably low-calorie lunch.* And of course the irony of this hit me. Here I am, surrounded by lip butter and 2000 Calorie Mascara, and in practice I’m meant to be starving myself. What the hell is going on?

In a culture in which the beauty ideal for women involves being thin, it’s interesting to note how many beauty products are marketed using the desirability of things we’re not meant to eat or be. As well as the 2000 Calorie version, we have Fat Lash Mascara. Clinique sell us Chubby Sticks, while Benefit give us a blusher called Sugarbomb. Lancôme Juicy Tubes offer all the sweet delights you could ask for. And then Bourjois produce Délice de Poudre, a face powder made to look like a chocolate bar. To be honest, all this is starting to get to me. If chocolate’s so bad, why should my make-up need to look like it? And if it’s not so bad, why can’t I just sodding well eat it?

Other than in early 1990s Boddington’s adverts, you never get beauty products that look like cigarettes, booze or savoury food. I don’t know why this is. The Cornish pasty would make an ideal shape for an eyeshadow palette. And what about lip ketchup? Or cheek pesto? I imagine none of these foodstuffs are considered girly enough. Sweet things are what we’re mean to eat for indulgence, even though we’re told not to. We do it because we don’t measure up.

I think, though, even after we’ve stuffed our faces on Galaxy in secret, we’re still hungry, because however much of it you eat, that food remains, psychologically, off-limits. So we fetishise it all the more and buy products that continue to “feed” us (I wonder if following the Atkins diet would make one less likely to purchase lip butter, but more likely to go for Délice de Poudre?).

At the end of it all most of us are fat. Fat, and wearing products labelled “fat”. And thus we shuffle through this miserable life. Still, at least there’s Jarvis Cocker.


* Note the term “found myself”. Being in Boots is never my fault.

Two weeks ago my moisturiser ran out and I’ve yet to buy a replacement. Thus over the past fortnight I’ve noticed the following things: an increase in the “appearance of visible fine lines”; a decrease in “radiance”; the terrifying onslaught of the “seven signs of ageing”. Actually, none of that’s true. All I’ve noticed is that I have fewer spots, presumably because I’m no longer clogging my pores to treat a moisture deficiency that doesn’t exist. Perhaps I’ll never buy moisturiser again.

Now, obviously, you may be thinking “that sounds a bit rash. What about the long-term signs of ageing – the ones she can’t see yet? Shouldn’t she be protecting her skin so that the damage that is inevitable doesn’t become even worse than it will inevitably be, or at least we assume it will inevitably be, not that there’s any way of proving this unless she has an identical twin to use as a test control, and even then we’d have to make sure they were both smoking, drinking, exercising, breathing in exactly the same way, all the time…” Hey! Just chill! I’m on the case. My foundation still has SPF. And besides, the weather’s shit so the sun’s never out anyhow.

Of course, there’s another reason I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about tackling the onslaught of time. I’ve just finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. Her chapter on ageing – called “Interventions” – is fucking ace. You read it and think “hey! I want to be a wise wrinkly sage, not some insecure girl-woman! Saggy jowls? Bring ‘em on! It’s a sign of having finally made it!”. Alas, for me at least, this effect hasn’t lasted. I look at pictures of Caitlin Moran and think “yeah, it’s okay for you. You have great hair and superior eyeliner skills. When you are old you WILL look like a wise woman not to be messed with. Me, I’ll just look like some old biddy to whom no one listens. And I won’t even be able to complain because no one will be listening”. So that’s not the reason I’m more relaxed, not directly. The thing is, though, in the absence of How to be a Woman, I’ve started flicking through that June issue of Marie Claire in bed (i.e. the one I go on about so much on this blog they’ll probably start demanding some copyright fee [lawyers, that's a joke]). And perhaps it’s reading it in a different context (in bed, that is, rather than in the bath or on the loo, which is the normal place for magazine-reading), but for some reason, it’s like a lightbulb has gone on. Yes, women’s magazines are offensive. Yes, the beauty advice is unrealistic, bullying and inconsistent. The one thing I never realised quite so much until today, though, is that it’s also absolutely fucking insane!

It’s not that you can’t afford these over-priced serums and moisturisers. It’s not that even if you can, and use them religiously, you’ll never look like these models. It’s that, at its most basic level, what you are being told doesn’t make sense! It’s practically another language! Once you start looking at it with fresh eyes, it really is quite remarkable how far they’ll push complete and utter bollocks. Here, for instance, are just a few of the Rules of Insanity that all beauty editors must learn (all taken from June’s Marie Claire – see, lawyers, I’m acknowledging my sources):

1. Throw in some real science to try to mask the completely made-up science

… the tuning forks are activated at different pressure points to stimulate the waters that make up 80 percent of our bodies. This is called Sonopuncture and I’m told it will be as relaxing as an hour’s meditation.

Extreme Beauty, p. 246

Our bodies are 80 percent water? Don’t they cover that at Key Stage 3? And also on the Lucozade adverts? Well, I’ve always believed that to be true. Must mean that the rest is. Even though it’s obviously total crap.

2. Don’t answer basic questions – just say something completely unrelated

Q. I have only two weeks to lose 7lbs. Do you think that’s possible?

Susie, 36, on p. 232

To which they answer is “yes, Susie. Get your head amputated, that should do the trick”. Or, perhaps better, “yes, Susie. But it is a ridiculous idea. Unless this is a legal requirement and you’re facing the death penalty, please don’t do it”. The answer most definitely is not “The antioxidant-rich Radiance Cleanse Juice Diet – £395 for a five-day plan – packs vitamins and minerals into a tasty five-a-day menu. The Pure Package is a bespoke menu and delivery service designed to address personal goals such as weight loss and detox, while the Beach Goddess Programme  – £399.50 for ten days – is a vitamin-rich diet to give you a holiday glow” (and no this, wasn’t taken from an acknowledged “promotional feature”. This is a genuine “Ask the beauty editors” response. To which this is a genuine “me” response: what the fucking fuck? You didn’t even mention the 7lb!).

3. For every social problem, remember there’s a beauty product to be recommended

Or several, in fact. On pp. 249-250, you are asked which type of boozer you are – “Whinge Drinker, Oversharer, Dancing Queen” – and given advice on how to deal with this. This clearly disregards the fact that if you’re pissed, you don’t have the self-awareness to note and later reflect on what drinking “type” you’ve just represented. The only reasonable advice to give is either drink less or stop giving a fuck (the latter is always easiest when you’re off your face). Rather creatively, Marie Claire have found five different ways to say this, each suited to a particular drinking persona. Even more creatively, they’ve added in an “erase it” feature which tells you which beauty products to purchase in order to lessen the effects of a heavy night. Even more creatively than that, they’ve matched them to the different personas, although without any particular logic. If you tend to overshare when drunk, for instance, you need Dermalogica’s new Overnight Repair Serum, £56, whereas if you get all whingey when drunk you need Nanoblur, £19.99 from Boots (obviously from now on I’ll aspire to be a whingey drunk – it’s much cheaper). I’m wondering what’ll be in July’s issue. Which drug addict type are you? With a special on the best concealers for track marks.

4. Bear in mind that it’s okay to be offensive on several levels if you’re talking “skin science”

There are times we’d all like to take our skin to one side, and, in the words of Michael Winner, tell it to just ‘calm down, dear’. But, stop for a moment and consider that your ‘schizo’ skin might actually be trying to tell you that trying to juggle a work presentation/dinner party for 12 is just way too stressful for your complexion.

Face Savers, p. 242

To be honest, while my skin irritates me at times, I have never wanted to subject it to sexist or ablist abuse. I just haven’t. It’s not just because it’s part of me. It’s because it is wrong.

5. Never challenge celebrities over their complete failure to understand basic words such as ‘lazy’

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to skincare. I’ll start with Aromatherapy Associates Renewing Rose Cleanser (I’ve got one of those Clarisonic things but I think I was going a bit overboard with it) and I love Skin Ceuticals stuff. But my favourite serum is one by Linda Meredith, which I add to my moisturiser. I also take Suqqu’s Lip Essence Cream everywhere I go.

Sienna Miller, p. 239

Quite honestly, I’m appalled at Sienna Miller’s skincare laziness. She should be washing her face in fresh mountain dew collected by elves. And I’m not interested in just the “favourite” serum; I want the full top ten. And as for carrying one lip treatment everywhere she goes; I’m never without at least six lip glosses. Always mistaking them for pens, though, of which I’m always short. Juicy Tubes are rubbish when it comes to taking minutes.

Conclusion

It is rare that I will quote Peter Andre to sum up my view on an issue (perhaps I should do it more often). Anyhow, I’m doing it now: THIS IS INSANIA! :

Take a look around, at what technology is found

Is it what we need or are we killing the scene?

Dictated by the screen, no more following your dreams

The world has become a difficult place to be

Where are we going, does anyone care?

Hold on to real love, there’s so much to share

Thank you, Peter. Never a truer word was composed in a fake jungle and later released as a single. I open Marie Claire and I think “this is insania!”. Especially when there’s so much love to share. And so much money to spend on working out what my drinker type is, now that I’m no longer throwing it down the drain on moisturiser.

When I was suffering from anorexia, people often asked me what I ate during the day. Usually said people were doctors, dieticians and worried friends. At no point was I asked by Now magazine to share my “top-to-toe health secrets”, including my height, weight, clothing size and how many calories I’d recently consumed. That would just have been weird, right?

Apparently not. This week’s Now currently features an “Oh. My. Bod.” special with Nikki Grahame, ex-Big Brother star and recovered anorexic. Only she’s not actually recovered. This isn’t just me going, “ooh, she’s still a bit thin, must be ill”. Beneath the title and sub-heading – in fact, directly beneath the bit that says “top-to-toe health secrets” – there’s a quote from Nikki:

My anorexia is going to be there for a long time.

Oh dear. Perhaps this feature isn’t such a good idea? Still, we’ve started so we might as well finish. It’s not like we’re about to do something ridiculously crass like put your height, weight and dress size in bold in a pink box at the top of the page. What’s that, we are? Well, what harm can it possibly do?

I’m not going to say what these figures are. If you’re interested – for instance, if, like Nikki, you’ve got an eating disorder that makes you paranoid about that sort of thing – you can always look them up. They’re on page 81 (I’m only giving that bit of info so you can quickly flick through to it in WH Smiths without having to spend money on the damn thing first). There’s also copious detail on how much exercise Nikki does, how many grammes of fat, protein, sugar and salt she consumes, and generally everything that goes towards keeping her figure enviably slim, period-free and osteoporosis-ridden. Oh, and the opposite page features an advert giving you the calorie count of Subway’s tasty low-fat range, although really, if you were as dedicated as Nikki, you’d know it already.

Why am I remotely surprised at any of this? After all, it makes perfect sense. Fuck the usual “nutritional advice.” This is what you actually need to do if you don’t want to end up  looking like those caught out by the “Zoom of Doom” (pages 19-21). Oh, and Now’s “email of the week” is all about Lauren Goodger being too fat for her playsuit. She could do with turning to page 81 as well, the porky loser.

As for me, well, thanks Nikki, but no thanks. I hope next time she shares her diet secrets it’s with someone who can help her. Failing that, at least someone who isn’t a complete and utter exploitative bastard.

 

… and some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.

So sang Morrissey in 1986. I love The Queen is Dead – it’s one of my favourite albums – but I’ve never quite got this song. Is it a metaphor? If so, for what? And if it isn’t, isn’t it a bit bloody obvious? Well, evidently not. It might seem obvious to you and me, but some girls being bigger than others is a source of endless fascination for readers of Closer, Heat and the like.

Sometimes, when I’m getting dressed, I stand in front of the mirror and pretend I’m a celebrity in Closer (look, it gets boring round here. I get lonely. Don’t judge me). Wearing just my bra and pants (“beachwear”) I breathe in, clench my stomach muscles and picture the headlines: “the return of size zero”, “lollipop ladies at large”, or, if I happen to be flavour of the month or they want an interview with me, “best beach bodies”. Then I breathe out, relax my gut and picture next week’s issue: “piling on the pounds”, “lovesick Glosswitch turns to comfort eating”, or, if I’m in favour, “celebrating her curves”. It really is that easy. The strange thing is, at no point in this process do I look simply “okay”. That measure simply does not exist.

Anyhow, now I’ve written all this, I bet “some girls are bigger than others” is a metaphor and I bet it’s really obvious and I look really stupid.

Hmm.

Just to change the subject, is it just me, or is it quite bizarre how much of a tosser Morrissey is these days?

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.

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