Wednesday 8 February 2012

Let them eat cake. Them, not me.

At this moment I have about 5 boxes and tins full of cake and cookies in my kitchen. I've got red velvet cake, gingerbread, banana loaf, chocolate brownies, carrot cake and good old Victoria sponge. Before you panic that I've gone a bit loopy they were left over from a cake sale to raise money for the premature baby charity Bliss.

While I type this I'm watching Gok Wan's TV show about teens and body image which is making me feel like a total pig for even having cake in the house. Like a lot of women I have a schizophrenic relationship with food, eating and my body. I took some photos at the cake sale to send to Bliss. I'm in some of them and when I saw myself I realised that I look bigger than I think I am right now. The fact that I've been exercising every day since 28th Dec and being careful with what I eat and yet I still appear to be gaining weight is very frustrating. Even more so now I have a worktop covered in delicious tempting treats.

I've never been someone who eats an entire packet of biscuits or a whole cake or loaf of bread. I am a grazer and can happily munch away without realising how much I've actually consumed. The way I've always dealt with weight gain has been to exercise (a lot) and to control my food intake or to skip meals altogether. This is simple to do when you are single, go to work and only have to take care of yourself, actually it's even manageable when you have a partner. When I was at work I'd strictly manage how much food I ate and went to the gym or for a run at lunchtime. Now I'm at home I exercise when my boy is asleep (or weather permitting take a hike up the hill with him in his buggy) and eat once he and the cat are dealt with. I made a promise to myself to never eat from his plate or to finish his leftovers. To my horror I've found a stray piece of fishfinger in my mouth as I've been clearing his plate and the justification that it's a waste to throw it away is never far from my mind.

In general I've tried to embrace the idea that taking care of my boy is far more important than worrying about my appearance. However, this falls down when I see other mums looking great and fear that the family curse has set in already and I will be the size of my Aunty Bably if I don't take control of this situation soon. I love my Aunty, but I also remember how she was just as jolly when she was young and slim. When I was 11 and went to India she hung her long chiffon scarf to dry out of the window of a moving train, she slapped a man round the face for daring to drive his moped in the road in front of where we were about to cross and she laughed more than anyone I've ever met. She also ate voraciously and was delighted when I made us chips during a power cut in the village where my Grandmother was headteacher of the local school. It never occurred to me that my family's obsession with food and eating would leave a legacy of self-loathing and fear of loss of control.

The year before I fell pregnant I lost a lot of weight and was the slimmest I've ever been (as an adult). I was wearing size ten jeans for the first time in my life. This feat was made possible by focusing entirely on losing weight and thinking about practically nothing else at all. I wore a pedometer, wrote down everything I ate (which I still do, but the list of food is longer these days) and was weighed every week. It was a miserable, self-obsessed, but ultimately successful, way to do it.

So it would appear my choice is to be happy and jolly and overweight (as it is written) or to spend most of my life obsessing about everything I eat and how much I exercise. For now I just have to stay away from all the cake in the kitchen. Hubbie's job is to take it into work and get his colleagues to eat it. A kitchen free from temptation and guilt - now that really will be bliss.

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