I have had anorexia. Not a silly diet gone too far, not a teenage rebellion against mummy, not a control thing. The full-on adult (I got it when I was 24) anorexia that took over my very happy life for 6 years. I would not, could not, was terrified of, weight gain. Fat became a feeling associated with my self-confidence, self-identity, my happiness and outlook on life and a cause of great stress. Fat became an inevitable unsuccessful identity I saw myself having, a negative spiral I was doomed to sink into.
To be honest I still, even now have a negative voice in my head that says “when you read this in 10 years time at forty stone, all your fears will have come true and you’ll be fat alone nobody.” It says “there is no point you giving nutritional advice, as who will trust an obese ex-anorexic fuck-up like you.” It says “you might as well sell your whole wardrobe as soon none of the clothes will fit you.” Every day is a battle against this negative inner monologue (the Jekyll to my Hyde) as I choose not to “feed the Jekyll bad wolf” and instead to focus on the positives and cultivate the good. To put on my yellow jumper, face the sun and see the good. I had to gain weight to get healthy from anorexia and I am happy I did this or else I faced infertility and osteoporosis. I had no choice but to gain weight. I am fatter and this is something I still struggle with. I am less happy with my body but I accept it in this form. This does not make me a bad, shallow and awful person as my fear weirdly comes out of love.
I want to be clear when I say this. I do not hate fat people and I do not think that fat people are worth any less than thin people. It is not really about what other people look like or really even about how I look. It is about how being fatter or fat makes ME as a person FEEL. It about the fact that I fear myself getting overweight because of the way society treats overweight people like they are worthless; like they are less worthy of respect and love and I don’t want a future without self-respect, respect of others and without love.
All my life, there has been an undercurrent linked to body size and success. I will never forget the moment in my office at age twenty-one when my twenty-three stone 5ft2 colleague/friend Rosie broke an office chair and these unkind office people laughed at her for weeks. I will never forget my guy friends on Tinder and Bumble dating app taking the piss out of an overweight girl and saying “we will leave that one to her cats”. I grew up with a grandma that called overweight people “lardy” and “large” and who took cake away from my overweight cousins, giving it to me as I was the “thin and pretty one.” I grew up with overweight aunties who were always on diets and hiding behind big towels on the beach and never showed their arms as they “felt ashamed” of them. I used to run and I overheard my running coach say (about a more curvy girl in school), “she is too fat to run, poor girl” and my overweight friend at school never got asked to dance at school discos or on dates when everyone else did. I always think that what a charity shop sells, tells you a lot about the community of the area around it. Charity shops in rich posh areas only sell small clothes. Charity shops in less affluent areas sell plus sizes. Even now, big signs all around my area from cancer charities read “obesity kills.” To me, my whole life, subliminal messages have ingrained in me- thin is success. Thin is men, sex and friends. Thin is attractive. Thin is love. Fat is failure. Fat is loser. Fat is shame. Fat is worthless. Fat is alone. Fat is unloveable.
This messaging is almost impossible to avoid. Statistics show that overweight females are deemed less attractive than the opposite sex (Wang et al, 2015). Less attractive people are less likely to secure a partner, less likely to marry and less likely to have offspring. Children love you unconditionally and I want to one day have a family and to have this love, and so for me weight and love seem very linked. Obese people are more likely to die earlier and obesity is linked very closely to depression and low social-economic status and so fat is linked to physical and mental health and happiness and wealth. I don’t want to be unhappy, I don’t want to die young and I don’t want to be financially stressed and worrying about how to pay basic bills. My fear of fat is not about how I look. It is about my anxieties that my life will not go the way I hope it to and that I will not have the family, friends and security I so crave. It is about my fears that I will become bitter, disillusioned, alone and unhappy and I so do not want this. Fat scares me because I have a fear of losing my loved ones and of being alone (one of the most common fears according to Carleton, 2016) and of uncertainty, and the future is full of uncertainties. I fear the future, I fear falling through the glass flooring instead of breaking the glass ceiling. I fear never living up to my potential and my expectations of myself and I fear all my worst fears coming true and becoming a fat, alone, teacher (FAT) with no friends or family in a tiny flat as a depressed disabled person (crippled by osteoporosis from my anorexia), unable to add value to society. I fear being a burden on people and I fear that my life will spiral into the darkness and none of my dreams will come true.
That’s what fat is for me. A fear. I have built it up so much in my head that it has taken a life of its own. It is not about how I look, but how I feel. Fat has become a feeling which I can either feed or starve. My recovery has been about separating food and feelings and realising that I am so much more than my job, my weight, my social status, my appearance, my accolades. I am the way I treat others. I am the value I add to society. I am the way I spread kindness and encourage love. I am fatter but I am not a failure. I am not anorexic and I am not obese. I am not the most successful person in the universe, but I have achieved many things. I am enough, regardless of my size. I am not fat. I am healthy. I am healthy and I intend to stay healthy and whatever size I am I am worthy of love if I am kind, loving, positive and peaceful. I am not my anxieties. I am enough. I am good. I am loved and I love and I spread love. Love is all there is.
- Wang, G., Djafarian, K., Egedigwe, C. A., El Hamdouchi, A., Ojiambo, R., Ramuth, H., Wallner-Liebmann, S. J., Lackner, S., Diouf, A., Sauciuvenaite, J., Hambly, C., Vaanholt, L. M., Faries, M. D., & Speakman, J. R. (2015). The relationship of female physical attractiveness to body fatness. PeerJ, 3, e1155. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1155
- Carleton R. N. (2016). Fear of the unknown: One fear to rule them all?. Journal of anxiety disorders, 41, 5–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.03.011
COPYRIGHT LAURA CAMPBELL 08/03/2021