Fat is a 4 letter word

Well I've done it. I've joined the gym......again. It's been a while since my last visit - years in fact. But I had reached a point where I was feeling like rubbish, and the only person to get me out of that is me.

I was reading an article in OK magazine on the weekend, where Kate Winslet was saying that she still feels like 'a fat kid'. Yep - even though she has fame, fortune and happiness - she is still plagued by those thoughts. Can we ever escape it? We all have moments where we look in the mirror and are horrified by what we see. Why is that? Nature or nurture?

I've always had a difficult relationship with food and my body. I look at my primary school photos and depending on my health, look normal or bloated. As an asthmatic child there were many prescriptions of cortisone in my childhood. Even in the early years of high school I was still carrying 'puppy fat'. But somewhere between year 8 and 9 there's a change. I lost weight and started all those great adolescent interests like makeup and posters of bands on my wall. I see those photos now and think how thin I look. But of course at the time I still felt like the chubby girl.

I got my first boyfriend when I was 15. He was 20. I was quite amazed at this fact, as I was used to playing the role of goofy sidekick tomboy within my group of friends - who all seemed prettier or more confident. I was with my boyfriend until I was 23 /24. I know how unusual it is for a first relationship to last that long. Maybe in hind site it should have finished years before it did - especially when I remember certain things. Like the first time I joined a gym. I was about 19, and back then had a much faster metabolism. I toned up and was really pleased with how I looked. I remember standing there in my undies one day, joking around flexing my muscles to show my boyfriend how chuffed I was. His response 'You look great! But you know, if lost more weight off your thighs, you'd be perfect!'. I was crushed. How did my deepest fear come tumbling out of his mouth? Yep - I could try all I like, but I just wasn't good enough.

In my mid to late 20's, when I was single I actually had a lot of time on my hands, and not a lot of money. I think I spent that time peeling off layers of self hatred, and that coupled with exercise and being out a lot, meant that again I lost weight. But funnily, when I hung out one day with a guy I liked, the thought of eating in front of him terrified me. I was too shy to speak very much and too embarrassed to eat. When I got home I was starving. I had been socializing in pubs watching bands, where it's dark and I'd usually had at least one drink and was with my friends. These three things made it easier for me to talk to people. But I was still more comfortable sitting on the sidelines.

When I met my current boyfriend I was size 12 going down towards a 10. I used to joke around a lot, usually at my own expense. He sat me down and said how much it upset him that I did that. I guess I'd gotten into the habit of putting myself down before anyone else got a chance to. He said he loved me, and loved my 'chunkiness'. Ok - now on hearing that word I felt dismayed. But he explained that stick thin girls didn't appeal to him. Natural shaped and sized women did. 'Women are supposed to be soft' he kept telling me. There was an all female band around at the time called The Chubbies - and he thought it was the greatest name. In time, words chunky and chubby lost their emotional sting, and I began to embrace them too. I'm now size 16 and he says that he can't see any difference in me from when we met. So - that old saying IS true - Real love is blind.

I suppose as I've gotten older, I've learned to intellectualise how I feel about my weight. I'm a huge fan of Dr Rick Kausman who started National No Diet Day. He talks about taking the emotion out of food and not seeing things as good or bad, just everyday and sometimes food. It saddens me that the word diet is used now more in the context of things to avoid eating, rather than merely what you eat. I truly believe that fat is a feminist issue and one of the best pieces of graffiti I ever saw was 'Don't Diet - RIOT!'. Saying that still puts a smile on my face. I don't want to be defined by the number on the label of my clothes, but there are times when I look in the mirror and feel trapped in someone else's body.

A friend once said I should think of women who I find attractive. And interestingly they are usually normal shaped and sized - no blonde barbie dolls. I love celebs like Angelina Jolie (who doesn't?!) and Nigella Lawson. Polar opposites in the weight debate, but it's who they are as people that interests me. Nigella has been quoted recently saying that she has a personal trainer as she was putting on a little too much weight. She is admittedly greedy and wants to be able to eat everything she wants to, but to stay healthy (not stick thin) she needs to move more. I like this approach to life and food. It's cheques and balances - not the numbers game of clothes sizing and guilt.

When I moved house a number of years ago, I was unpacking boxes. Some of these had been stored for years. I was discovering lot's of hidden treasures from my past. I came across something that looked vaguely familiar. I saw my Mum's hand writing at the top - with my name written. I read further and froze. It was a calorie counting book, with the numeric values of all things digestible. I then looked at the date, also written in my Mum's hand. Brow furrowed I did the maths......and wept. I was eleven. Eleven. I couldn't believe it. At a time when the biggest worry in my life should have been homework or who to play with this week at school - I was forced to count calories. I remembered Mum trying to convince me that cottage cheese was tasty. I was having none of it. Had I had this strained relationship with food and my body since I was eleven? It saddens me to think that even now she feels it's OK to comment on my weight or asks about my diet. Am I less of a person when there's more of me? I have really mixed emotions about this. I don't want to blame her - as frankly I'm an adult now and in my heart I know that the only person responsible for my own happiness is me. I embrace the Eleanor Roosevelt quote 'No one can make you feel inferior without your permission'. But I just wish I had the guts to tell her how I feel.

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