Lukewarm is no good.
‘I’m so scared of going. I’m just so, so scared. What if everything comes undone and then all these months and months of hard work just count for nothing?’
He pulls me in closer to him, kisses the top of my head and tells me not to worry. He wraps his arm across me and says that it’s natural and it’s just part of life. I snap that he just doesn’t understand and that these thoughts have been plaguing me for weeks. I am so scared to go. I am so, so effing scared to go.
And the terrifying journey I’m losing sleep over is?
A hop, skip and a jump on a big orange 747 from Gatwick to Milan.
It wasn’t the journey itself I was anxious of- I’m not exactly a seasoned traveller but I’ve lived abroad twice and have dipped my toe sheepishly in a few different seas. I’m not worried about being away from home or language barriers or large crowds or overpriced tourist souvenirs.
What I was scared of was pizza.
And I was scared of pasta.
And I was scared of gelato and pastries and risotto and all of the things that are basically a compulsory component of an Italian holiday.
In the weeks before what promised to be an excellent five days of sight seeing and sipping Aperol whilst visiting an excellent pal, I had agonised over the fact that even though this well earned hol would bring me a bit of R&R and some time in a new city, it might also, diet Gods forbid, make me pile on a few pounds. I wouldn't be able to control my food intake, I wouldn't have access to a gym and boy oh boy was that terrifying to me.
For the few months prior to this, I had been trying my hand at a few diets to try and shift some weight that had crept on due to my stress-induced Kelloggs dependency that the final year of university brought on (I owe my degree primarily to Sainsbury’s continued offers on family-sized boxes of Crunchy Nut). It started innocently enough; a few more trips to the gym, a little more veg, a little less refined sugar. I stopped snacking. I started tracking my food intake. I read up on ‘clean eating’ (vom vom vom vom vom) and the 5:2 and low-carb and calorie restriction but couldn't really find anything that stuck until I came across one plan that held the sweet promise of a ‘cheat day’.
For one day a week, I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight. Nothing was off limits, no chocolate bar too big, no cake too sugary, no sarnie too overstuffed. The only thing overstuffed in fact, was me. Critically aware of the fact that treats came but once a week, I had to maximise. I had to eat everything available to me. I had to keep going and going and going until my stomach hurt and then wait a while, and then eat some more.
But of course, the diet had its downside. The 24 hour window of unlimited treats however was only available to me given I stuck steadfastly to the following rules six days a week:
- Thou shalt not consume any refined sugar. No sweets, cake, chocolate, biscuits. I mean, this one’s obvious- sugar is evil and we are mere slaves to its Satanic sweetness.
- Thou shalt not consume any refined carbohydrate. Kiss the doughy embrace of bread goodbye, chuck out the fusilli and don't you even THINK about potato, don't you know what glycemic load is? Remember that chickpeas and some vegetables are high-carb too, so you won’t be seeing a humous snack-pack or beetroot cube around here for a while.
- Thou shalt not consume any fruit. Eventually I reasoned with myself that I was allowed a banana on the days I worked out. At the time I called it a lack of willpower, but it could’ve well been the fact that my cells were screaming out for any form of glucose so they could, y’know, take on the minor challenge of keeping my body running but hey, you say potato, I say potato. Oh Christ, there goes me blood glucose levels.
- Dairy’s out too.
- And any soy products (save for a few Linda McCartney sausages which I consumed and in turn, let myself be consumed by guilt).
- Thou shalt not snack. Big luv to Amelia Freer for this one and instilling the notion that if I ate in between meals I was essentially a garbage human.
- Thou shalt work out at least 4 times a week.
- Thou shalt sign up for a half marathon because if you’re going to eat bread one day a week, you should probably work it off by running 10 miles.
- Thou shalt punish yourself relentlessly if you don’t stick to these rules.
And to me, all that stuff, was ‘normal’. I realise now that I was, and probably still am to some extent, in the throes of disordered eating: a binge and restriction cycle.
I'm lucky enough to have now found literature and resources and experts who I'm learning from and I really do think I'm getting better. But I'm so aware of how much these rational, sane, educated voices are drowned out by the health 'gurus' and the Insta accounts and the diet plans that promise you a six-pack, the fountain of youth and the meaning of life.
I decided yesterday that, like Roald Dahl said, that when it comes to things you're passionate about 'lukewarm is no good'- if I want to try and make a tiny difference, I need to start doing. I want to show that there is (chocolate fingers crossed) a way out of this all consuming mindset that so many people find themselves in: that you can accept yourself as you are, that there is a rational, non-weight oriented approach to diet and fitness, that you can come to appreciate that you are so much more than your weight. You are not your body. You are what you say and what you think and how you make your friends feel and how loud your laugh is and how often you call your Grandma. A scale cannot measure those things. These are things that I need reminding of everyday- I am by no means fully recovered but I wish that when I was at my worst, crying over the prospect of eating a croissant, that someone had said to me that it’s totally OK, normal and bloomin' necessary to
This is all a big learning process for me- I'm sure that there will be huge peaks and troughs but the main thing I know at this point is that I will categorically, never, ever go on a diet again. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt in a size that was slightly too small so it would act as a ‘motivator’.
I don't know what this blog will be, but I know I want to write about body positivity and self-compassion and intuitive eating and saying an enormous, unrelenting, jam-filled, chocolate sprinkle-covered EFF YOU to diet culture. So stick around. I'll write about other stuff too, I promise.
So until then, big love, iced donuts and double cheeseburgers,