My third year of University was marked by several life-changing events. It was the first time I had my heart broken. It was when my singing ability was noticed by visiting theatre directors (thus beginning my rather ill-advised later foray into the music industry, convinced that it was my destiny). It was also the only time in my life when I have ever been actively thin.
There’s a huge misconception when it comes to bulimia- People put it in the same bracket as anorexia, and assume that the physical symptoms, which include extreme thinness, will be the same.
Bulimia, in the classic sense of the word, doesn’t make you thin. There are certain bulimia sub-types that do, but they’re more closely related to anorexia than anything else. The body is a wise beast, and will hold onto as much food as it possibly can, when it knows it will later be deprived of it. Bulimics may think they’re being clever (I certainly did) by ensuring that they purge everything they have eaten, but the body will, according to Professor Janet Treasure (eating disorder expert) find ways to retain about 60% of what you have eaten.
The reason I became thin at this juncture in my life was because I didn’t have time to be bulimic for a few months – The pressure of my studies meant I was always on the move or in the library and I shrank to a size 8 – miniscule for my 6 foot frame. (The first thing my genuine friends said to me when I returned home from holidays was “my GOD are you alright you look AWFUL!” Harsh but fair.)
So, the time came for me to get my results. Formerly a straight A classic perfectionist/overachiever type during college, my eating disorder had eroded at my ability to study during my first two years of university, where I’d barely scraped passes. In my third year I’d still had enough sense of self to pull my proverbial socks up and give the whole academia thing some elbow grease, meaning I managed to pull off a respectable 2:1. Delighted, I dashed into the kitchen of my family home to break the news to my Mum and brothers.
A family friend had popped over for coffee, as I bounded into the room, waving my results aloft and squealing with barely contained glee this family friend said “Natasha! You must be so PROUD of yourself! You are STICK thin!!”.
The incident took place almost a decade ago, yet I can still remember the all-encompassing feeling of shock and the crushing disappointment. I remember distinctly how the message permeated my every fibre and from then on, for a very long time, I believed that it didn’t matter what you achieved in life, all anyone would ever notice about you would be the size of your thighs.
Of course, this was UTTER BOLLOCKS, as are most of the body beliefs we tell ourselves on a daily basis. And yet, for the next 6 years, I continued to misguidedly live my life by this false premise.
You might believe that a casual discussion about the circumference of your belly, or your diet and exercise routine is part of life. You might reason that it’s an aspect of how we communicate and bond. In fact, this is FAT TALK.
Fat talk is more damaging than we can ever know. It helps perpetuate all the evils of a society ridiculously obsessed with image. By engaging in fat talk, we become complicit in a process which most of us are diametrically opposed to.
Crucially, we don’t know who is privy to our fat talk. A vulnerable person, or a child, might absorb our flippant comment – They might live their lives by a false premise and it might do them a world of damage.
So, blog readers – I challenge you to this:
This week is Fat Talk Free Week. It's a global event being launched in the UK by the Succeed Foundation and culminating in an event with some of the UK's leading body image movers and shakers on Friday and Saturday.
For one week, we at Body Gossip want YOU to give up repeating one derogatory body comment you regularly say. It might be “I need to get to the gym, or I’ll get fat”, it might be telling a friend “look at you! You have lost so much weight!” or it might be “I wish I had his or her bottom”. (At Body Gossip Ruth’s behest, I hereby pledge to give up saying “television makes me look really jowly”).
Follow @BodyGossipSarah on Twitter to join the discussion and tell us what YOU will pledge to stop saying this week.