Sadly, my size has influenced my whole life. I vividly remember crying to my Mum because one of her friends said I was fat. I was a very little girl of three or four years old. I was not fat, I’ve looked at the photos, and I was a normal healthy little girl. I don’t know what I did to piss her friend off, but she chose the insult well. My mother hated her body, and was permanently on a diet, and that barb helped it became my problem too. The next clear memory I have of my size being an issue for me was maybe a year later, when I was sitting on the loo, I looked down and saw my little girl thighs spread on the toilet seat and was filled with hatred, they looked fat and boyish to my already fractured view.
After that, it was a background issue humming in my subconscious as I changed schools twice while my family moved around. Until I was ten and my family disintegrated. While my mother was pregnant she discovered my father gambled on fruit machines, a lot, which led to their divorce three years later. When my sister arrived she had very severe colic, and screamed almost continually for about a year. Which is a very long time when you’re ten.
I was unhappy at home, and being bullied at school, and at this time I caught sight of myself in a full length mirror in a shop. The curve of my little girl tummy repulsed me. I decided I was the fattest, ugliest girl in the world, and put myself on my first diet. I was remarkably sensible and just cut out sugary treats. It didn’t last long, but that was the start of thirty years of starting and falling off diets. The majority of which were nowhere near as sensible. A cycle of hope and determination, followed by guilt and disappointment.
I wasted my adolescence, twenties, and thirties waiting to be slim. Everything was always: I’ll try that when I’m slim enough, I’ll do it when I like how I look. I had an entire separate wardrobe of lovely clothes that I have bought at the start of each diet, ready for when I was slimmer, clothes that filled me with guilt and misery every time I saw them.
The most horrible thing of all is that when I look back at photos of myself I really wasn’t that big. I’m five foot seven, and very voluptuous, so a UK 14-16 was not disproportionate. But at seventeen, when I went to the G.P and mentioned something about being fat, she checked me on the BMI table and confirmed I was a stone overweight. So I spent the next twenty five years trying to lose that stone, and got bigger with every failed diet.
When my life fell apart a couple of years ago anxiety and depression started and I started taking medication. For the first time ever I didn’t hide from my problems by over eating, and then losing myself in that all engulfing over-eaters hatred. In the past, while I was seething with self-contempt, I couldn’t worry about anything else: terrified of failing my A ‘Levels- eat loads of chocolate and cry about my weight instead, had a row with a boyfriend, eat the words back down my throat. I don’t know if it’s the medication which has helped, or if the terrifying twists my life took after the diagnosis?
My husband faced a false allegation from a foster child, and had a heart attack as a result of all the stress, lost his brother and uncle within the next three months, while we desperately tried to sell our house before it could be repossessed. Then my best friend died of a brain aneurysm. Was it the medication? Did my weight fall into insignificance in comparison to real terror?
Or was it the writing? I had finally, after decades of planning to do it tomorrow, started writing again.
It may have been all of the above. All I know is that it finally stopped being the biggest factor about me in my own mind. Which means I’m no longer convinced that’s the only thing people think of when they look at me. I also stumbled across a plus size support group on Facebook that supports plus sized women to just be who they are without being throttled by self- hatred. The positivity, and cooperative support these women offer and share is life affirming.
How has this impacted on my writing? When I started writing I was the biggest and unhealthiest I had ever been. I used these experiences to write about Rae’s misery, and originally wrote about her losing a great deal of weight, and only leaving her husband and starting her new life once she was slim. I could only imagine being happy when slim, but with my maturing attitude, I have amended that. Rae drops some weight as she becomes more self-aware, and less unhappy, and as a vampire she is as firm and sleek as a dolphin, as all the vampires are. But she is tall, and strapping, dancer fit, Amazonian. My beautiful, plus size heroine.