Hey all! I stumbled on this article today and thought I would share it. It's a fairly entertaining read and something most of us here can relate to in one way or another.
"Why did I get fat? Why was I eating until I hurt and regarding my own body as something as distant and unsympathetic as, say, the state of the housing market in Buenos Aires? Obviously, it's not wholly advisable to swell up so large that, on one very bad day, you get stuck in a bucket seat at a local fair and have to be rescued by your old schoolmaster, but why is being fat treated as a cross between terrible shame and utter tragedy? Something that—for a woman—is seen as falling somewhere between sustaining a sizable facial scar and sleeping with the ****s?
Why will women happily boast-moan about spending too much ("…and then my bank manager took my credit card and cut it in half with a sword!"), about drinking too much ("…and then I took my shoe off and threw it over the bus stop!"), and about working too hard ("…so tired I fell asleep on the control panel, and when I woke up, I realized I'd pressed the nuclear launch button! Again!") but never, ever about eating too much? Why is unhappy eating the most pointlessly secret of miseries? It's not like you can hide a six-Kit-Kats-a-day habit for very long.
Seven years ago, a friend of mine broke up with a pop star, reactivated her bulimia, binged and purged for nine days straight, and then admitted herself to the Priory, a British rehab center known for treating famous clients like Amy Winehouse. I went to visit her—out of a combination of love and curiosity as to what the Priory was like. I'd presumed it was like the glitzy Chateau Marmont in L.A., but with amazing prescription drugs. Full of interestingly ravaged celebrities clawing their way back to normality, in the midst of some helpfully gorgeous décor.
In the event, it turns out that, inside, the Priory actually looks, and smells, like a lower-midrange family-run hotel. Faded swirly carpets and, somewhere—judging by the smell—a perpetually boiling caldron of stew, working as the world's biggest Glade PlugIn. As my friend told me, sitting on the end of her bed chain-smoking, an institution full of emotionally troubled substance abusers turns out to be no fun at all.
"There's a pecking order," she sighed, shredding her cuticles with her opposing thumbnail. "The heroin addicts look down on the coke addicts. The coke addicts look down on the alcoholics. And everyone thinks the people with eating disorders—fat or thin—are scum."
And there's your pecking order of unhappiness, in a nutshell. Of all the overwhelming compulsions you can be ruined by, all of them have some potential for some perverted, self-destructive fascination—except eating.
Consider, for instance, Keith Richards, in his Glimmer Twins days—snorting, smoking, injecting, drinking. Everyone loves him! Even though, by any way we can calculate it, he would almost certainly have been a complete nightmare to be around—paranoid, shaky, unreliable and, a good part of the time, so deeply unconscious that the primary method of moving from one location to another would have been being dragged by the ankles—we still have a slight cultural frisson of "How cool!" when people get this messed up.
But imagine if instead he had started overeating and gotten really fat instead. If he'd really gotten into spaghetti Bolognese, say, or kept coming onstage holding foot-long meatball subs. Long, crazy, wired nights after gigs, in penthouses, nubile dollies scattered across the room, and Keith in the center, sprawled across a silk-draped emperor-size water bed, eating Doritos sandwiches.
By the time of "Their Satanic Majesties Request," what his Satanic Majesty would be requesting was a 38-inch waistband, and everyone would have mocked the Stones for having a faintly ludicrous wobble-butt on guitar who was ruining the concept of rock 'n' roll.
But, of course, all this time, Keith would have been behaving like a total darling: waking at 8 a.m., keeping his hotel rooms tidy, thanking everyone, working a solid 12-hour day.
People overeat for exactly the same reason they drink, smoke, have serial one-night stands or take drugs. I must be clear that I am not talking about the kind of overeating that's just plain, cheerful greed—the kind of Rabelaisian, Falstaffian figures who treat the world as a series of sensory delights and take full joy in their wine, bread and meat. Those who walk away from a table—replete—shouting, "That was splendid!" before sitting in front of a fire, drinking port and eating truffles, don't have neuroses about food. They aren't "fat," they are simply…lavish.
No—I'm talking about those for whom the whole idea of food isn't one of pleasure, but one of compulsion. For whom thoughts of food, and the effects of food, are the constant, dreary background static to normal thought. Those who walk into the kitchen in a state bordering on panic and breathlessly eat slice after slice of bread and butter—not even tasting it—until the panic can be drowned in an almost meditative routine of chewing and swallowing, spooning and swallowing.
In this trancelike state, you can find a welcome, temporary relief from thinking for 10, 20 minutes at a time, until finally a new set of sensations—physical discomfort and immense regret—make you stop, in the same way you finally pass out on whiskey or dope. Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction, and self-obliteration.
In a nutshell, then, by choosing food as your drug—sugar highs, or the deep, soporific calm of carbs—you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, stop in on your parents and then stay up all night with an ill 5-year-old—something that is not an option if you're regularly climbing into the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back quarts of scotch.
Overeating is the addiction of choice of "carers," and that's why it's come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It's a way of screwing yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren't indulging in the "luxury" of their addiction, making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn't inconvenience anyone. And that is why it's so often a woman's addiction of choice.
I sometimes wonder if the only way we'll ever get around to properly considering overeating is if it does come to take on the same perverse, rock 'n' roll cool of other addictions. Perhaps it's time for women to finally stop being secretive about their vices and instead start treating them like all other addicts treat their habits. Coming into the office looking frazzled, sighing, "Man, I was on the pot roast last night like you wouldn't believe. I had, like, POTATOES in my EYEBROWS by 10 p.m."
Then people would be able to address your dysfunction as openly as they do all the others. They could reply, "Whoa, maybe you should calm it down for a bit, my friend. I am the same. I did a three-hour session on the microwave lasagna last night. Perhaps we should go out to the country for a bit. Clean up our acts."
Because at the moment, I can't help but notice that in a society obsessed with fat—so eager in the appellation, so vocal in its disapproval—the only people who aren't talking about it are the only people whose business it really is."
—From "How to Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran. Copyright © 2012 by Caitlin Moran. To be published July 17 by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.