These are some of the diets that Ms Spats has been on, and the effects of same: The cabbage diet (,unattractively fragrant) the cigarette and diet coke diet (surprisingly giddy), the wine and chocolate diet (very good fun, at least in the short term), the bread and water diet (she fantasised she was in the female version of The Count of Monte Cristo), the no carb diet (bad breath making), the calorie counting diet (excellent for increasing numeracy skills), the pining diet (headwrecking), the pizza diet (calories consumed at one sitting, at the end of the day - nauseating ), the caffeine pill diet (palpitations), the raw food diet (very expensive) , the fruit diet (gassy), the liquid diet (either fruit juice, slimfast or water sugar and lemon), the body confounding diet-(where you over consume one day, underconsume the next, in an attempt to trick the body into continuing to lose weight); The South Beach Diet ( Atkins less cholesterol with a garnish of fruit) and plain old starvation.
And throughout it all, she fantasised about eating, constantly.
Food Porn is part and parcel of dieting. At the height of her weight obsession, Ms Spats would fantasise about chicken burgers: the soft floury bun, the creamy lashings of mayonnaise, the crunchiness of the breadcrumbs and the tenderness of chicken. She would imagine her lips moist with oil, and the sesame seeds catching in her teeth. She pictured the food sliding down the gullet, masticated, in a thick glutinous glob of calorific goo. And Ms Spats, naturally, dislikes fatty foods. She never had junk food growing up. She is programmed to like vegetables. But still the allure of bad and the forbidden beckoned her. The purity of her abstention beatified her, and when she inevitably binged, it would cripple her : Sin, guilt and redemption. The basis of religion is encapsulated in a chicken burger. Who knew?
And where has this left her ? Hungry and unsure of what a normal approach to food is like. It has taken a good fifteen years for Ms Spats to recognise that her body needs food to survive, that food is not the enemy, a dangerous substance that conspires to keep her fat, but rather that which keeps her alive and feeling good.
Ms Spats has never been overweight, ever. She has no idea in fact, of what her natural body shape is. Throughout years of self imposed starvation and the inevitable bingeing stage that follows, she has fluctuated between a UK size 8 and 14. At 6 foot tall, the upper size is more to her body type, but should she ever get that 'heavy' again she would struggle to leave the house. Her perception of her body has the power to dictate her day. She wakes up feeling fat, and the day can be a write off - she wakes up thin and the world is wonderful place. And in other respects she is quite normal. To meet her on the street you would not think that she is any way deranged. But clearly she is. She has spent years disliking her body when there was no need to. She is delusional. Cracked. A basket case.
Ironically, the time that Ms Spats has spent being consumed about her body is the amount of time that it takes - according to women's magazines - to transform the body. Six weeks is when an exercise programme is due to show results, when the muscles become toned and the body leaner. Perhaps more pertinently, behavioural psychologists tell us that this is the amount of time it takes us to form a new habit. And on a more esoteric, spiritual basis, it is also the length of time for religious period of Lent and the concept of metanoia, or the transformation of the self. The time in fact, it takes to wrestle with our demons.
If Ms Spats had taken that time to revolutionise her thinking process rather than castigating herself, who knows where she would be today. Out of the house more, possibly. But she is formed and informed by today's culture. From a very young age females are taught that they have to conform to a certain type. Little girls grow up in the paradigm of pink. They are showered with stories about Princesses and Fairies-- the Feminine Archetype of the Good. They are encouraged to play with dolls, to nurture, to please and be pleasing. And when they grow up this must translate to being sexually attractive. While no woman ever wants her own daughter to carry this nonsensical idea through, society is raining it down on us from every possible angle. The phenomenon of Jordan is a case in point. She represents this crazy view, disconcertingly, in both the infant and mature form. She is a lad mag favourite (woman as sexual) and also the author of a story book franchise involving ponies and all things pink (woman as infant). Young girls cite her as a role model, which means that they are identifying (unconsciously) with the sexual element as good. And this means the body, and the fetishization of same.
And so pinkness translates to thinness. A recent survey by the Australian teen magazineGirlfriend showed that 96% of those surveyed wanted to change their bodies in some way (the majority their stomachs), 76% believed that losing weight would help their self esteem, 45% have been on a diet, 56% have skipped meals, and almost 20% have thrown up after meals. And these are adolescents who have been brought up in an enlightened age. We know more now about the human body and the benefits of nutrition than at any time before, yet our relationship with food is getting ever worse. Reported incidences of eating disorders are on the rise. With the rise of the size zero, it is getting increasingly difficult to identify a woman suffering from an eating disorder. Is she starving or merely awe-inspiringly disciplined? The pressure is everywhere -Brides are resorting to feeding tubes in an attempt to look their best for the big day, the dieting industry is thriving on the premise that the majority of dieters will fail while women attempt to get back their pre-baby body in six weeks, or increasingly, to the pre-baby body they never had. Extremely thin women are celebrated as being incredibly successful, and celebrated women are extremely thin - you only have to look to women's magazine and the pro-Ana websites to verify this : Victoria Beckham, Teri Hatcher (actually 75% of the cast of Desperate Housewives) or Keira Knightley, to name a few. Even women who are celebrated for their 'curvaceous' bodies are subjected to unending pressure: A furore broke recently over leaked photos which showed that Jessica Alba's slim body had been digitally altered for an advertising campaign to look even thinner. The ideal has to be idealised further.
But what solutions are there? The oft touted backlash has yet to materialise, at least not in any popular form. It could be that what is required is a radical form of re-education. While Ms Spats would respect the freedom of the media, she would suggest that with this freedom comes responsibility. Ostensibly the media is about transmitting public opinion, but more and more it comes to shape it. It would be nice if this was used to the good. But, fundamentally, it comes down to women themselves, making the conscious decision to reject the pressures placed by advertising and the media. After all, as consumer, we can and should dictate how these operate. Although it will take a lot longer than six weeks to effect a metanoia in this instance. But at least we can begin.
Originally posted at: http://msspatsdispatches.blogspot.com/2012/04/i-could-have-been-rocket-scientist.html