My relationship with food has historically been a difficult one.
As a teenager I went on a strict diet – mostly made up of cottage cheese, crispbread, lean meat and fruit – to keep me at 7/71/2 stone. That was the only way I could feel reasonably good about myself and my body.
Even so, I didn’t think anybody could possibly find me attractive, and I struggled with a very limited life.
If I ever did ‘let go’ and start to eat anything even remotely fattening, my mood plummeted as my weight gained. The only way I could cope was to start restricting my eating again. I had no concept that help or support of any kind might be available; it was a very private and lonely struggle that went on until my mid-40s. After an almost catastrophic catalogue of failed relationships and career stalemate I realised that I had to push through the internal barriers, and keep going until I came out the other side.
20 years on, at 66, I believe I have finally arrived at that point.
I weigh five stone more than I did in my teens, and though I am aiming to steadily lose some weight this won’t be my starving myself – not just of food, but of life.
There are many factors and influences that have helped me to get through, not least in recent years that of my partner, Trev, who makes me feel beautiful just as I am, inside and out. That’s a great gift to get at any age!
I’ve taken on board Buddhist teachings of all kinds, with one fundamental phrase being an enduring fallback: “The mind is a muscle and it can be changed.”
I’ve had to fight and work hard to train and change my brain and was fortunate to find the fight associated with a strong survival instinct when I needed it.
That isn’t to say that I haven’t had moments of self-loathing that threatened to be overwhelming. But I kept looking for and finding ways to be positive, including reaching out to others who were also struggling in the extreme.
I still won’t try clothes on in a shop changing room, and feel no need to put myself through that ordeal. So while this may be evidence of ‘avoidance’ lingering in my psyche, it’s a minor issue as far as I’m concerned, and doesn’t get in the way of me living my life in a full way, including enjoying delicious food.