Maybe fat is harsh. None of the women in my family are what you’d classify as ‘fat’, more curvy, rounded, plump etc. It amazes me how one little word can have so many connotations. Fat is a word that is frequently thrown around my family – with particular regards to my mother, sister and grandmother.
Getting to the grand old age of 24, it’s a small miracle that I’ve not had a major meltdown about my weight, or (as my mother predicted) blown up to a size 18. I’ve never really bothered about my weight that much, I’ve always felt there’s much bigger (excuse the pun) issues to focus on than what I am (or not) putting into my mouth. Recently though, my genes seemed to have kicked into gear and I’m noticing little pockets of fat where there were none before and I’m spending an absurd amount of time worrying about them. I get quite excited watching programs about weight loss, reading endless articles about keeping slim and thinking about what healthy yet filling film snacks to buy.
My question is thus: is this something I can blame on my genetics and upbringing, or is this reflective of the wider culutre we women find ourselves in? It is now literally impossible to turn around without being bombarded with mixed messages and ideas on how women should look? Healthy but not too thin or fat, nice clean hair, white teeth, slim but with big boobs and slender legs. Don’t eat that, eat this, but not too much of this/ take these pills to stop you putting on weight, have you started the Pre-Christmas diet? (I didn’t know this was a thing, my flatmate now refers to me being ‘festively plump’)
It’s no wonder I take great satisfaction in devouring a whole bag of Tangfastics… the guilt that hits afterwards isn’t as fun though. I can almost feel my teeth rotting away and my heart becoming clogged with goopy goodness.
It’s never struck me before, just how food-centric our lives have become. I come from a fairly normal Scottish background: Fish and Chips are a bi-weekly highlight, lunches are usually composed of soup – chicken/fish/broth and big hearty dinners of mince, tatties and veg. We are, of course, also the lovers of traditional cooked breakfasts and the inventors of deep fat fried Mars bars. Somewhere along the line this stopped being a thing to be proud of – I LOVE my food and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I have no recollection of food being a massive source of strain and anxiety when I was growing up – Billy Bear meat sandwiches + Space Raiders + Freddos = standard packed lunch.
It seems now though that every snack, meal and takeaway needs to be carefully weighted and decided upon. Good days and bad days are averaged out in a week, snack calories are counted and measured to what can be justified as a ‘treat’. I love going home but I end up raiding the biscuit tin due living off salad for a week. Ah yes the binge eaters are rampant in us lot. My gran has been on Scottish Slimmers for 25 years… longer than I have been alive. Most of the conversations between my female family members are about food, diets and whether or not they have been good. During the course of my daily phonecall to my mum and gran I am grilled about what I’m eating, having to justify why I can eat a bacon roll and being informed that if I keep going the way I am I’m going to become “a porker”.
Maybe the most bitter pill to swallow is when I took my mums advice and slimmed down (from a 12 to a 10). I was constantly asked WHY I’d lost weight, what was wrong with me (implying that I must be ill to exhibit some form of self control) and kept being given side looks. My sister was NOT happy either. My gran however, seemed pleased – she was the only one who spoke up when my mother/sister told me I couldn’t be a fat bridesmaid and kept pinching my ‘fat’.
I do love my family so much but part of the presumed joy of living 500 miles away from them meant I DIDN’T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT BLOODY FOOD. Reading Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach has been a revelation on this topic. According to her research, our issues surrounding food, diets and self control reach far deeper and darker than we suspected… and it starts with the family.
Maybe one day I can go and get a bag of crisps from the snack cupboard without feeling guilty. Until that day comes I will relish in my secret Haribo addiction… and hide the wrappers from my mother.