If eight year-old me,

Fat, alone, sad, and scared,

Had been thin and restricting,

Would somebody have cared?

If eighteen year-old me,

Away from home that first time,

Had lost weight and not gained it,

Would they have noticed the signs?

If twenty-eight year-old me,

Purging regularly,

Had lost even more weight,

Would they have worried about me?

If thirty-five year-old me,

Had been thin, seeing my GP

Would he have advised weight loss,

Or diagnosed an ED?

If forty-eight year-old me,

Attending rheumatology,

Hadn’t been weight-shamed by that doctor,

Would I have relapsed so badly?

If fifty year old me,

Finally in recovery,

Had been thin, would I have already had decades,

not months, Eating Disorder free?

Awareness matters.


Feeling fat

What feeling “fat” meant for me when I had an eating disorder:

1/ I felt physically bloated because:

How can such a short word be so loaded?
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  • I’d binged
  • I hadn’t eaten
  • I’d drunk too much water to stop hunger pangs
  • I hadn’t drunk anything
  • I’d deliberately eaten something that triggered my IBS

2/ I was feeling ashamed, guilty and hating myself because I’d binged, purged or both, and was taking it out on my body.

3/ I was struggling to deal with difficult emotions completely unrelated to my eating disorder, such as struggling with criticism because of my perfectionism. Or sadness, or anger, or fear, or disappointment, or lonliness, or any other strong feeling.

So many people talk about feeling “fat”. But “fat” isn’t a feeling. And our bodies don’t change massively from hour to hour. So if you’re looking in the mirror, hating your body, and feeling “fat”, ask yourself what’s really going on.

Is it fullness or bloating, or are you blaming your body for something else?Because I can pretty much guarantee it’s not your body’s fault, and if it’s not, then changing your body won’t fix it.

And as for feeling “fat”, but not being fat, and not understanding why that’s an issue?

If fat wasn’t seen as a bad thing, you wouldn’t be feeling “fat” would you? If fat wasn’t seen as morally inferior, something to be feared, the worst thing you could possibly imagine, you wouldn’t be feeling “fat” at all.

And there you have it: fatphobia in action.

Eating as an act of rebellion (or you can’t smash the patriarchy on an empty stomach)

My food intake was controlled as a child.

It wasn’t as simple as being a chubby kid who’d been put on a diet. There was more to it than that. There always is. There were times when money was tight, and food had to be stretched to the next pay day. I was apparently a terror and wouldn’t sleep if I’d had too much sugar when I was little, so my parents restricted it. But the impact was pretty much the same. I didn’t feel like I had enough to eat. I felt deprived. I felt hungry. I craved the things I wasn’t allowed.

The control extended to the school day. I was sent to school with a packed lunch instead of having school dinners. So all choice was removed.

Then there were the words used. Second helpings or snacks meant being called a pig. When I said I was hungry, I was told I wasn’t. The concept of good and bad foods was ever-present.

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And so I suppose food became synonymous with control for me. Taking control of what I ate was a form of rebellion. Eating in secret was a form of rebellion. Eating forbidden foods was a form of rebellion. Throwing away my lunchtime sandwiches was a form of rebellion. I was choosing what and when I ate.

Except I wasn’t, was I?

I was a child, already stuck in a binge / restriction cycle. Skipping lunch then using my pocket money to buy chocolate on the way home. Hiding food in my room to eat when I needed comfort, when I needed not to feel. A child whose waking thoughts were dominated by food.

I wasn’t rebelling. I was ill. And I was a product of the society I grew up in.

And I grew up into an adult whose waking thoughts were still dominated by food. All those years, all those decades spent restricting, bingeing, purging, obsessing, hating myself, hating my body, wanting to be thinner, which I equated with more attractive, but unable to stop myself from stuffing my face. Ashamed, so deeply ashamed of my lack of control, disgusted that I had no willpower, distraught at my failure to be what society expected me to be.

Fast forward to June 2022, and this story starts to take on a new meaning. It becomes a cautionary tale. A parable of the patriarchy’s attempts to control females and marginalised groups, and their bodies. To keep them in their place. To re-assert and affirm its power. To shut us all up, because we are starting to shout too loudly and threaten the status quo.

In my fifty years on this planet I have never known a time when there have been such extreme attempts to control people’s bodies. Fatness has been categorised as a disease in its own right. Unprecedented numbers of people are having parts of their stomachs removed to meet society’s expectation of thinness. Others are going under the knife to appear younger or change their body shape to this year’s ideal. People are having their fat literally sucked out. People are taking pills with horrific side effects in an attempt to lose a couple of pounds.

You can’t even escape diet culture when buying a birthday card.

Diet talk, and diet culture, are everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid. Calorie counting is now sanctioned and encouraged by the UK government in every environment where food is present. The mainstream and social media bombard us daily with advice on what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, when not to eat, all to meet the ideal of a thin and healthy body.

But whose ideal are we trying to attain? Who benefits from all the money spent on the surgeries, pills, protein powders, supplements, and superfoods? And is all that time, effort and money actually making us any thinner and healthier?

Whose ideal? The ideal of those who hold the power, of course. Who benefits? Again, those who hold the power. The people who benefit are the diet companies, the drug companies, the beauty companies, and the rich, mostly white cis men who own them. And then in turn, the politicians and lawmakers they fund using their profits.

And is it making us any thinner and heathier? Study after study says no. We’re being sold lies. There is no effective long-term method of weight loss for 95-98% of the population. These methods are all much more likely to make people fatter in the long term. The most common result, weight cycling, increases the risk of a number of health issues, including the diabetes we’re all so desperate to avoid. And the impact isn’t just physical: psychological impacts include a massive rise in the number of eating disorders like mine.

But the benefits for the patriarchy aren’t just financial. People’s obsession with weight loss (and by people I mostly mean those identifying as female) is helping to ensure that those in power stay in power.

My eating disorder, my constant pre-occupation with food, took away my voice. I had nothing to say. I didn’t have space in my head to even figure out what I wanted to say. I didn’t believe in myself, didn’t have enough self worth to think that anyone would want to listen even if I did speak up. I was fat, useless, a failure, because I couldn’t control my eating. Even at the times when those around me considered me a success.

I know dieting isn’t an eating disorder. There are clear differences. But I’ve dieted and restricted, and I’ve learned about its impacts in recovery, and our bodies and brains fight back with hunger and preoccupation with food. We are hard-wired to seek out food in times of famine, and dieting is essentially a time of famine. Non-essential systems in our bodies shut down. We lose muscle mass. All of these things hold us back, keep us down. They rob us of strength and brainpower to think for ourselves and fight for our rights.

If our values are based entirely around the way we look; if our self worth is based on achieving an ideal body, yet the ideal is constantly changing and unachievable for the vast majority; if our brains and bodies are being starved of nourishment as we attempt to become that ideal; if our self-worth is purposely stripped away because we are failing our life’s purpose; how can we find the strength and capacity to examine and unpick what is going on in the world, to look for alternatives, and to fight back?

It’s time to fight back. Fundamental human rights are being eroded right now. The right to autonomy over our bodies, the right to refuge, to freedom of speech, to protest, to live and love according to our own values and beliefs.

And in order to fight back, we need to eat. Regularly and unapologetically. We need to accept that it is OK to take up space, as much space as our fed bodies need. We need to redefine success so it’s no longer about shrinking, and becomes about growing. About finding new values and aims, about finding our voices, about figuring out who we want to be, regardless of what we weigh.

These were the principles of my eating disorder recovery. They have served me well, and helped me learn. They have given me self worth, a voice, and the courage to use it.

Those principles taught me that eating is an act of rebellion, not in the way I thought it was as a child. No, it’s much broader and more powerful than that. Because you can’t smash the patriarchy on an empty stomach. And that’s why the patriarchy wants to you stay hungry.

Fury, fibromyalgia, and the big fat Twitter storm

I woke this morning from a dream where I was manhandling a doctor who had looked at my body and laughed when I told him I had had an eating disorder. Screaming in his thin, male face, I grabbed him by his collar and wanted to smash the back of his head against a wall…

And in that instant knew why I’ve been “off” recently. Why I haven’t been eating properly over the last few days, ignoring my body’s requests for nourishment and instead feeding it either too much or too little beige food. I knew why I’ve been avoiding feelings over the last few weeks, as documented in my last post.

It’s because the feeling I’ve been avoiding is the one I’ve always been the most afraid of: anger.

So where is it from? The white-hot fury I allowed myself to feel in that dream. The lump in my throat as I type. What has caused it?

There’s my recent diagnosis. I have fibromyalgia. I finally have to face the fact that I’m not going to get better. There’s no cure. My constant pain, fatigue and other weird and wonderful symptoms will be with me for the rest of my life. Now I finally know what has been wrong for the last four years, I get to go through the difficult process of grieving the permanent loss of old, healthy me. The me who didn’t know what they had till they lost it. The me who wasted all those years of physical good health punishing themselves and their body with an eating disorder.

It’s a lot to take in. And anger seems like a perfectly natural response. But there’s still that part of me who is terrified of the emotion. And I’m certainly scared to publish a post this raw after all those decades of eating down and hiding my darker side from everyone in my life.

Because let’s face it, we’re all taught that girls are “sugar and spice and all things nice”. The image of a chubby little girl screaming into the abyss with uncontrolled fear and rage is unacceptable in our society. So I didn’t. I buried this and every other feeling with food instead. Because I felt like I never really fit in, but maybe I’d be tolerated as long I acted nice and played by the rules.

But where did playing by the rules get me? Living a lie, hating myself, alone, in mental and then physical pain? Looking back, the trade-off wasn’t worth it.

I don’t want to play by the rules any more. The rules aren’t fair. They change depending on who you are, how many privileges you hold, what you LOOK LIKE! As if that has any bearing on whether you are a worthy person or not. Especially as I’m learning that the more privileges a person has, the more reluctant they appear to be to look inside themselves and acknowledge the harm they cause.

Oh yes! The recent Twitter storm between its fat and eating disorder communities has forced me to face a lot of things I have been hiding from my whole life. It was yet another place where I wasn’t always quite comfortable in the community I had found. Another place where I felt the need to play nice to fit in. To bite my tongue and ignore the occasional red flags.

And then, in a flash, my online world was being torn apart. People my size and bigger being accused of bullying, lies, and aggression for daring to challenge the status quo. Being gaslit when they spoke about their experiences. Thin people – medical professionals no less, insisting on perpetuating the myth that they were there for those very same fat people, while simultaneously practising and teaching “o*sity medicine”, which is specifically designed to wipe fat people from the face of the earth.

It’s been ugly and upsetting and it’s forced me to question everything I thought I knew. While those who hold all the power have refused point blank to listen, or change, because they can. Because change is not to their benefit.

So I’ve had enough. I’m playing by my own rules from now on. If I need to scream and shout and be angry, I intend to try to do this. I’m not going to take those emotions out on myself any more, because there are way too many people ready and waiting to do that to me. Telling me those feelings aren’t justified, that it’s all in my head.

I know there are people who will be upset by this, but I have no choice but to deal with the fallout if I am going to be my authentic self, if I am going to try to help make this world a safer place for fat people like me.

So accept me as I am, an angry fat person. A person with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. A person who’s not always going to play nice. Or don’t accept me at all. I’m going to have to find the confidence and self-belief to live with that as best I can.

Because this is too important. Fat people exist, we’re not going anywhere, and the status quo is hurting us. We deserve better. We deserve to live our lives in safety. We deserve the same access to all spheres of life, to our basic human rights, as straight size people. Weight stigma is a legal form of discrimination. It’s even government sanctioned, FFS! All so that some multi-privileged middle-aged men can get even richer than they are now.

So those people on Twitter hoping I’d just shut up and go away have failed. I’m not going anywhere.

If I have to live out the rest of my life fat and disabled, then I’m going to do the very best I can to make it count. And if that means unleashing my fury and not playing nice from time to time, so be it!