I have a love-hate relationship with food. I love to eat it, but I hate the way it makes me look if I eat too much of it. Most of the time, I’m not aware of it, but when I’m feeling most tired and vulnerable, I obsess about food, either eating too much of it to ‘treat myself’ or barely eating anything to try and be slim.
Although by no stretch of the imagination do I have disordered eating habits, I still hate the fact that I do this, waging war on myself and my appetite.
This weekend I’m very tired, and so all of my thoughts, evil and good, about food and my body have been at the forefront of my mind. I had a hen day to dress up for yesterday and my overwrought and feeble self struggled not to experience a minor meltdown over the inadequacy of the contents of my wardrobe to make me look both fabulous and slim, while being comfortable enough to accommodate the fact that I was planning on eating steak and chips and cake.
Over afternoon tea, with scones and jam and cream, I got chatting to one of the girls about how we perceive ourselves. I explained, that outside of London, I look in the mirror and see someone who is slim and dresses reasonably fashionably. But in London, I look in the mirror and see someone who needs to lose a stone, and whose clothes don’t fit or flatter.
Which is the true me?
In some way, shape or form, this battle to work out what is the truth about my physical self rages daily, leading me to eat or not eat, to choose between cheese or spinach, to do mad bouts of exercise or to feel so fatigued I can barely move, to shop for new clothes or to pull on that skirt with the elasticated waistband…
The endless quest to feel settled and content in my own body is exhausting.
And this afternoon, after baking three cakes and makes two lots of soup, I find myself writing about food for Blog Action Day, knowing full well that my anxiety is a luxury, the consequence of an immense privilege. To know you can always have food to eat, and whatever food you want, is a gift only a minority of people on this planet enjoy.
Not having ready access to food is a source of mental stress and anxiety too. More so, because survival depends on it. A survey this week showed Britons were the most contented people in Europe after the Danes, the only thing that upsets our equilibrium being the absence of food. Meanwhile a famine rages in the horn of Africa, something quite unbelievable for our times.
How would it feel to be obsessed with food because you had none, and you were dying?
How does it feel to be tired and vulnerable, and so overwrought that you struggle to get your feeble self to a place where there might be food?
Wouldn’t that be exhausting?
So then, how do I reconcile the nagging feelings I have about food, when I have access to plenty of it, with my conscience about those who have nothing to eat?