Monday 27 January 2020

I will always be the fat imposter

It's time to repent for a summer of steak, spuds and ice cream
It's time to repent for a summer of steak, spuds and ice cream
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I've been wondering what the weight thing is really about for me. You know the way for entrepreneurs, the money is often not really about having money, it's about keeping score of what a winner they are? I wonder if there is an element with the weight thing of me keeping score, morally, self-esteem wise, of my health, of how well I am doing at denying that I am going to die.

There is no doubt that the culture has infected me with unhealthy notions - like that when I am fat, I am a less successful person all around. Deep down fat has come to signify laziness, lack of moral fibre, lack of virtue, inefficiency, sloth, lack of self-control, lack of self-respect. I'm not saying this is right, but these are the powerful tropes that the culture engrains in us. So do I equate weight loss with being a good person, with success? Do I view putting on weight as some kind of moral failure on my part? And when I look at pictures of myself fat, somewhere deep down, am I thinking that I am a better person now?

The trouble with this keeping score is that the game is never over. If you are one of those people, like me, who tends to weight, you will know that it's a lifelong project. And sometimes you think you have won and you have finally conquered your inner fat person. But if you let your guard down at all, he is waiting there.

There are, of course, many sound reasons to keep weight off. Apart from all the worthy health ones, there are - just as importantly - the superficial ones. You look better, you fit your clothes better, you fit a different kind of clothes. You feel less messy in yourself, better put together. You fit into the world more easily. You feel that people judge you differently, that they are more likely to think you are on top of your game, in control of yourself, disciplined, that you have more self-respect. Again, I'm not saying this is right, but the fact is that the world is a different place when you are fat. Other people can unthinkingly make all those same judgments that I can tend to make on myself. These are powerful archetypes we all carry around. We fight them, but they are there, in our subconscious, far more powerful than the compassion we should aspire to, which is that we don't judge people and we don't judge them on their weight.

I have been on both sides of the scales, and I know how people generally just look at you differently when you are fat.

I also think that once you have been fat it can take a long time to stop being that person. You always feel like a bit of a fraud not being fat. It's as if you are pretending to be one of the normal people, but it's merely a disguise. And your real tribe are the overweight ones. And even they can tell, that even though you may be temporarily camouflaged in a slimmer body, you are one of them.

And don't get me wrong. There are different reasons we get fat, but I am one of those who gets fat because I enjoy food and drink and sitting around too much. And there is great pleasure in sensuality and abandon, and in refusing to buy into these Victorian ideas about virtue and fitness and denial. These Calvinists in their lycra doing their ironmen, frenetically running, cycling and swimming, to cheat death, will never be my tribe. I will always be one of the ones who does not know what enough is, and who loves all kinds of food so much that to think of it as just fuel makes it joyless. I will always be one of those people for whom enough is boring, for whom more is an addiction.

But still I must keep score because I never want to go back there, to being fat, and to feeling like an unmade bed in my clothes, and to feeling that the exercise is not for people like me.

So I keep score. After my latest dalliance with Ken Taylor's Taylor Made Diet, which is definitely the only diet that really works for me, where someone else does the work, I promised myself I would be relaxed, but would keep things within certain boundaries. I am currently a few pounds above the maximum weight I agreed with myself. This might seem a bit controlled, but I know I have to take it in hand now. Because once you let it go, I know where it can go. It creeps up on you and it's hard to lose. So I must set my limits and repent now for a summer of steak and spuds and beer and ice cream. God, help me get closer to you.

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