I’ve been thinking a lot about weight this week. I’m currently reading Martin Amis’ autobiography and I stopped to think when he talked about his father’s descent, or rather expansion, into corpulence in later life as a conscious decision made as an acceptance of his disconnection with his sexual life.
That to comfort eat and gain extensive roundness was to dull his sexual urges and signal in physical form that that part of his life was over. It was something that chimed with me. When I was child I was skinny and mawkish, but once I hit 18 and started working at McDonald’s part time my weight began to balloon, and it has fluctuated for the whole of my adult life and caused me considerable psychological issues. When I’m ‘thin’ I feel good and sexy and when I’m ‘fat’ I feel slothlike, unsexy and unattractive.
I was rather staggered last year when my decluttering urges led to me to start digging around in the loft and I came across an old notebook from when I was 18. In it was a weight chart and exercises, demonstrating in paper and pencil reality that as soon as I hit adolescence I was ensnared by an obsession about weight and appearance, ‘good’ food and ‘bad’ food that would follow me around and find physical form in the range of sizes of the clothes in my wardrobe from a size 12 when times are lean to an 18 when I’ve expanded.
Having my son six years ago lead not only to weight gain but also a change in physical shape, and a lack of a sex life with my ex husband meant that I bought elasticated trousers, sheathed myself in voluminous fabrics and generally signalled through my abandonment of any pretensions to caring about my appearance that my life as a sensual and sexual being was over.
But when I look back, it was a chronic lack of self esteem that led to me feeling like that. Once I changed my job last spring and lost several stones of weight, started wearing nice clothes again and generally gained more confidence I realised that the weight acted as a cloak to hide behind and give me an excuse not to engage with the world. While eating too much was a way of both comforting and punishing myself and also not caring about my health or my body.
These feelings all came to the fore at work this week when one of my work colleagues was talking about his partner ‘carrying too much timber’, piling on the weight and generally, as a result, becoming sexually unattractive to him. All in the name of banter you understand. But I heard the words and felt chilled to the core, as my sympathies lay with his partner, who, probably aware of his feelings was taking the same path I had trodden, to self pacify with food and not go out and socialise because of a total lack of confidence.
Obviously now I newly single, my worries about weight will once again resurface, as if I do want to re-enter the shark-infested waters of dating then I’ll need to be the best version of myself that I can be, and that will include being self critical and scrutinising myself in the mirror. But I don’t actually have to take that well-trodden path, for once in my life I may just walk tall in self acceptance, however much ‘timber’ I’m carrying, and see where that takes me!