Two of my favourite bloggers have triggered this post: Pat and Kim. In Pat's latest post she mentions the notion of cleaning one's plate and in a recent post Kim writes that the way to keep off weight lost is to define yourself as a healthy eater rather than a dieter. These things interest me because I have been struggling with my own weight since I was nineteen.
I remember the exact moment when I realised I can no longer eat whatever I want whenever I want. Wimbledon was on and I was watching it with my sisters and brother when the doorbell went. I got up to answer it and as I did so I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the couch. I looked fat. My stomach bulged under the waistband of my skirt and the battle commenced. I went on a diet and lost the weight I needed to regain my self esteem, but after a while some of it came back, so I went on another diet and lost it again. And thus, for nearly thirty years, my life has gone. I never let myself get really overweight, I began to check the scales daily and eat accordingly so no one ever knew about my battle, but it was a constant.
When I went to work in a Glasgow office I was seven stone two, I'd been seven stone two for years. I guess I thought that I had got the hang of things and instinctively knew my weight and what to do about it because when our scales broke I didn't bother to replace them. Big mistake. Working in an office in the city centre there are just too many temptations: a latte and muffin for breakfast as I planned the rest of the day, a sandwich, snatched at my desk, for lunch, a 'treat' of chocolate or cake mid afternoon to help me get through the rest of the day, on and on it went. Friday night beers didn't help either. By the next time I got on the scales, about four years later, I was eight stone seven. I didn't understand, I had actually dropped a dress size, from a ten to an eight, in that time, I thought I'd lost weight with the stress of working. How could that be? I bought a new set of the best quality scales available. They confirmed the worst: I was, for all intents and purposes, a stone and a half over weight. Looking in the mirror I saw my blubbery self in all my hideous glory. Fat had won the war, and fat was building a palace on my thighs, bloody tyrant. Thin was going to have to gather all its resources and start a revolution.
But thin was in a very weakened state and was unable to see the full strength of its enemy. It really believed the number on the label of a dress: 8. It thought that that number 8 meant that it was the true prince, that somehow those other numbers, the ones on the scales and the tape measure, were lying. I had to give it a serious talking to to stir it into action. There ensued a long battle of arbitration.
I got my weight down to seven stone twelve and there it stayed. I told myself I was a healthy eater who could be allowed the odd treat and when I dropped a dress size, to a six, I believed I'd made it. I was perfectly happy to be a size six and seven stone twelve and went back to my daily weighings and that was that. Except when I saw photographs of myself when I would starve myself for a week.
Then I started my degree course and once again, with tea and cakes available in the coffee bar between classes, the weight crept up and I struggled, then gave up. Physical appearance was shallow I told myself, I was now a philosopher and so had much greater things to concern myself with. Anyway I had noticed that the size sixes in the shops were a little loose these days so I really had nothing to worry about. I unfocused my eyes when presented with a photograph of myself and got in with my studies. Then suddenly this time last year I found I was six stone nine.
And I remain between six stone nine and six stone eleven. Now I have to search out size fours. The odd thing is my waist is exactly the same size it was when I was eighteen and wore a size ten. I still have a denim jacket that I bought when I was seventeen and it still fits me in the same way it did then. So what happened?
Well, I think Nietzsche's theory of becoming fits here. For thirty years I have been trying to keep my weight down, I have tried dieting, exercise, thinking of myself as a healthy eater, I have come upon obstacles that have stopped me and others that I was able to get over with ease. And now being the kind of thin I want to be has become second nature. It probably helped that with the studying I stopped consciously thinking about my weight, so the things I'd learned were unconsciously assimilated. I don't need to weigh myself everyday now, I don't need to say no to chocolate, I don't need to think 'I am a healthy eater'. All I need do now is listen to my instinct: I know when I've had enough to eat, so I can eat anything at all, and I have found a form of exercise which I love, and therefore don't have to force myself to do. It's all just a matter of drawing all the threads together and then blending them in with the rest of your life. You have to really want it though, and really work on it for a very long time. It's no different to practising your art.
Which all probably makes me sound rather sad: for thirty years I've been practising the art of being thin. Good god, just how shallow am I?