Questioning body image
Penny wasn’t the only one to notice I had a problem with food and I knew it didn’t look good to others. People often remarked that I looked thin or unwell. In my bid to take some control of the situation and de-emphasise my focus on what I was eating or not as it happened, I decided an exercise programme was in order and discovered the joy of aerobics, the forerunner to pretty much every exercise class going today. A group of us joined, so it was the social thing as well as immensely beneficial. We’d cycle there and back, usually risking our lives but reaping maximum rewards. I was delighted to feel my body moving and it had the effect of making me feel positive, indeed I began to evangelise about it. Sometimes I ask myself where this intense desire for control came from. I knew the regime I set myself – and broke on a regular basis – was not a totally healthy way of living but it gave me some power, not just over my body but over my mind and hence seemingly put me in control of my life. I wonder now if my early days at school, the spite and nastiness I felt from Tanya and others at such a critical stage had something to do with it. On the other hand there was the possibility that I was kind of messed up but it baffled me. My parents had never asked for perfection or put an emphasis on such things and for them looks were not the end game. They always encouraged me to develop my character and brain. I had a strong, loving family, friends who embraced food happily so I couldn’t excuse myself on the grounds that my peers were influencing me. As for the era we lived in, well it was no different to any other era. Sure there were women’s magazines but if you think back to the twenties when women went mad over the skinny flapper look, there were no celebrities in magazines like today – or on Instagram. The funny thing was that even if I achieved some control on a daily basis it didn’t make me particularly happy. The achievement itself wasn’t worth the agony I put myself through. I was also drinking too much and I wasn’t really enjoying it. The two were definitely connected. It’s funny but for someone who wanted to be in control I really wasn’t and the fact that I would sneakily drink before I went out and sneakily eat when I came back in, was symptomatic of something I was sure. Perhaps it was just that big, yearning, gap of emotion that exists in all of us and that we all try to push away.