Raising a fat child who likes food

I am fat. I call myself that provocatively, inspired by zine writers who have embraced the term over the more polite “overweight”, “big”, “solid”, “full-figured and you name it euphemisms. I choose it also over the medicalised “obese” which sounds so smugly factual. “Fat” harnesses some of the stigma coming from the eye of the looker. By medical definition, I am fat. I should way x to be “healthy”, and instead, I weigh xx. I can’t remember a time after age 12 or so when I was slim. As a kid I was all skin and bone and up and down trees like a monkey, completely lacking in self-consciousness. Then as a teen, I got plumper, filling out with the curvy hips, the belly, the breasts which are my own.

The thing that astounds me about all of this is that I have had such little trouble from the outside world for being fat. That I have a great love for food, and most of the time, a love for my body too. I love the strength of my legs. The way I can walk, and walk, and walk and not get tired – or dance and dance. I love the fullness of my cleavage. I like the soft pear of my hips. I love eating, and the pleasures of cooking, or being cooked for by my lover. I love

I got disheartened writing this, because I realized that it is a half truth. Here is the other half: I am conscious of being fatter than my girlfriend, and think that she is more of a “catch” than me because of her slim size. I hate very fat people in my head, watch them with morbid fascination, and think – well – at least I’m not THAT fat. At least I can walk easily. I wish I could lose a few kilos and go back to my 3 years-ago weight (which I din’t appreciate at the time). I have even been reading this Dukan book, which proposes eating only fish, non-fat dairy, prawns and a spoon and a half of oat bran for a week, and considering this proposition seriously. That is the other side. If someone said: press this button and get thin! I would do it.

I had an eating disorder for 2 weeks when I was 16. I was driving around the wet Irish countryside with my parents for weeks on end in a “mind-broadening” trip abroad, following my dad on tour. I was despondent like only a 16-year old can be: thoroughly. I had just heard that the person I was besotted with was having sex with someone else. I was far away from all my friends and in the full-time clutches of my family. I decided to do the only thing I could control: I would have an eating disorder. For 2 weeks, I ate carrots, drank black coffee and smoked. Everything I ate, I wrote down in a little book. I don’t remember what my parents thought of all this but I can guess they were bemusedly indulgent of the whole experiment. I went on long jogs along the rugged cliffs, and drank coffee and smoked in pubs, while scrawling in my journal. I got thinner. I felt powerful, miserable, strong, alive.

2 weeks later we went to Barcelona, another part of the tour. There I met the children of my parent’s friends, Adrian and Sara. 18 and 16, they were the perfect age for me to hang out with. They were also worldly, sophisticated, fun. Their parents had a bohemian den of a flat, covered in art and filled with actors. Long dinners took place round their dining room table full of red wine, cigarette smoke and food, food, food. Adran and Sara loved food. While teenagers I knew went out to drink, Spanish teenagers went out to eat. Late at night at balmy tables, we would eat: manchego cheese and salad and asparagus covered in mayonnaise and crispy calamari hot on the plate. My diet dissolved in Barcelona, when I realized that those pleasures were what life really should be made of.

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