When I was growing up in England in the 1970s (the olden days) there were no fast food outlets. Although I do remember on more than one occasion sampling vegetables which came in a tin. Shudder. Meat was expensive so rissoles and cutlets were frequently served up, next to grey mash potatoes. Or when we were on holiday in the caravan, a lump of ‘Smash’, the preferred food of Darleks. I’d never heard of mangoes, prawns or red wine jus. Avocadoes, mung beans or beetroot that didn’t come in a jar.
If only we hadn’t been seduced by supermarket chains dangling crappy sweet biscuits and a thousand ways to serve bread. If we’d not queued up for beef burgers in a sugary bun. I remember being dizzy with excitement, and with an air of sophistication meeting my bestie at the Wimpy bar. But I was almost sixteen before my first McDonald’s. I was very quickly addicted to thick shakes.
I had, and I’m not boasting, an eating disorder years before it became commonplace. I’m sure that’s what buggered up my metabolism. And I’ve been on every diet know to woman. SlimFast, Lite ‘n’ Easy, The Mayo Clinic, the blood group, the vegetable soup, raw food, Dukan, South Beach, CSIRO. I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained weight and never felt more down than on opening up my Tupperware in the office to find a few spinach leaves and a hard boiled egg.
My mum was constantly on a diet. I’m not saying it was ‘the sins of the mother’ but something happened to women in the sixties. Striving to keep a good house and producing perfectly crispy roast potatoes was superseded by the need to be beautiful. And somewhere sandwiched in the middle feminism was re-born (we can’t overlook our suffragette sisters). In the words of Naomi Wolf:-
‘During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fast-growing medical specialty. During the past five years, consumer spending doubled, pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal. More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have even had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers. Recent research consistently shows that inside the majority of the West’s controlled, attractive, successful working women, there is a secret “underlife” poisoning our freedom; infused with notions of beauty, it is a dark vein of self-hatred, physical obsessions, terror of aging, and dread of lost control.’
An excerpt taken from “The Beauty Myth’. This book was written over two decades ago but those words are as true today than they ever were. I also think that Naomi hasn’t been taken more seriously because of her obvious beauty. You might not agree. Nigella Lawson is another looker who has copped it. Yes, she’s a TV cook and food writer but she is also a former journalist who graduated from Oxford with a degree in medieval and modern languages.
I’m as guilty as the next person, passing my own insecurities onto someone else. Someone prettier or thinner. There’s a lot more of those types around me than there used to be! Time is marching on and I’m heartily sick of my poor body image. I’m setting myself free. I have a sizeable arse and thighs that look as if they are slathered in porridge. My breasts are still good, if the scaffolding is firm. I’ve finally decided to be a grown-up. No more eating only protein and washing it down with diet cola. No more drowning in shakes and being bored to death by plain poached chicken breasts. I’m giving away my scales. The tape measure disappeared (cut into tiny pieces in the dead of night) years ago.
You might see me on the beaches or in the park, walking with my head in the clouds. I’m going to eat real whole foods, the best dark chocolate I can afford and enough vegetables that you might be wise to avoid sharing a lift with me. Wish me luck. I won’t be wearing a gold bikini by Christmas and those mini-skirts (did I really wear them so short?) are going to a new home. If I can find my waist without having to lift a breast and not feel compelled to wave a white flag two feet in front of me when I hit the beach in my fifties style swiwear, I will be a happy woman. See. It’s not so bad being sensible. Just don’t expect me to give up the champers. You can take some things too far. Chin chin.