Shaky Shergill opens up about the roots of his relationship with food and his own body.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m hitting middle age, because I’m overweight bordering on obese, or because one of my cousins is getting married in May next year (It’s not just the women in our family who are wondering what they’re going to wear). However, thoughts regarding my body shape, weight and my relationship with food are surfacing in my conscious mind with increasing regularity.
I readily acknowledge that part of this may be the usual procrastinator’s ploy to not actually do something about a problem. However I really do feel that I need to bring my relationship with food out into the open and see where that takes me.
Like many other children growing up from the 1970s onward I took for granted the variety and range of foods that were available. Each new addition, especially candy, was treated as what was due not only to me but I’m sure to the millions of others who would get caught up in the seduction of each advertising campaign. Each sweet, each brand, I was convinced would make me feel happier, cooler and maybe even more accepted to both myself and others.
In hindsight what I didn’t realise (and I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this) is that each brightly coloured wrapper promised so much but delivered so little. Each manifestation of chocolate or sugar covered in a brightly coloured wrapper offered deliverance from the mundane life of a loner whose immigrant parents were trying to deal with a country thousands of miles away from their origin and a culture that was different too.
Each incarnation, each bar of chocolate or piece of candy and its advertising would take me away from what was going in my everyday life on a journey which never ended as before it’s culmination I would be under the spell of the next embodiment.
This went on not only for most of my formative years but until (I’m ashamed to admit) very recently. It’s only now that I’ve started to look at my relationship with food and certain types of food at that I’m beginning to learn.
I’ve realised that my relationship with food isn’t one that is particularly healthy one which at times can be downright ‘toxic’. I imagine that some people have a relationship with food which at its most basic level is; I feel hungry, I will eat. For those people I have nothing but respect and admiration.
My relationship is a lot more convoluted. There are times when I go through the “I feel hungry, I will eat’ process. However more often the process is I feel bored/sad/lonely/angry etc I must eat. To combat the feelings of boredom/anger/sadness/loneliness I will rather than acknowledging them attempt to counteract them. Usually what I reach for is some form of candy/ junk food which the global advertising industry has spent millions telling me will miraculously make those feeling disappear.
Guess what, it doesn’t and so the cycle continues. There have been times I’ve destroyed packets of biscuits, large bars of chocolate and so in an attempt to bury a feeling of anger/sadness/loneliness/boredom.
Some people describe their eating habits as a monster that needs to be satiated. For me it would be more accurate to say that it’s a little boy who wants to be acknowledged and listened to. Rather than be handed a piece of chocolate and told to go away and not cause a fuss.
For years, I’ve heard from both myself and others that it’s not OK to talk about how I’m feeling, where I am or what I need. To compensate for this ignoring I made myself a suit of armour (a fat suit if you will) with which to protect the little boy inside. The sad thing is that the suit got bigger and bigger while the little boy got smaller and smaller. However being tenuous as only children can be the voice remained as insistent as ever.
I think there’s a preconception that fat people enjoy their food which is explains their size. I often am so worried about how people are judging me for my size that I will eat less as there’s often a large side order of shame around my size to digest too.
For me it’s more the case that I was so busy ‘shovelling food’ onto the little boy so that I wouldn’t hear his voice that I didn’t even stop to savour. I’m now learning to slow down and taste my food.
I believe that it feels contrived to write this and it feels even more so to have to ask myself whenever I’m hungry, are you really hungry or is something else going on and through the process I’m learning to listen to the little boy too, and I’m contemplating the joy of being able to buy an off-the-rack suit that I like, rather than having to settle for something that is in my size.