On January 1st this year, I started a diet. I hadn’t done a diet for a long time, because I do this other thing which is liking myself. Which is every bit as hard and prone to constant failure as a diet but which I nevertheless think is a better thing to do, on the whole.
But I thought I would attempt some diets for my show. Because my show is called How to be Fat and is about things fat people do, or, in reality, things I think fat people do, and things I personally do, and, at points, things I personally do because I think they are what at people do.
And one of those things I did was go on a diet. First, I went on the Slim-Fast! plan. I planned to try a whole bunch of diets. I planned to try them out and see how they made me feel. I didn’t think about losing weight, really. Or, I didn’t weight myself. But i would be lying if I didn’t say that somewhere deep inside (really deep, ‘cause I am fat so there’s a long, long way to go to get to my inside), but deep down, yes, I did think that maybe, somehow, dieting ironically and experimentally for a show about being fat might be the thing that makes me thin. Because, I suppose, despite everything, I still believe in the thing. The idea that somewhere, hidden, there is an answer. That, though, of course diets don’t work – I’m not stupid – and nothing works – of course – and what even is a lifestyle change? I believe one day I will find THE THING.
And maybe I always will.
And maybe THE THING is ironically dieting for a show about how I am fat.
I chose the Slim-Fast! plan first because it’s easy. You don’t really have to do anything except buy the stuff and consume it. Both activities I have had a lifetime of experience at. Of course, buying and consuming – putting something in your body, that’s not nothing, that’s a major thing to do. But it feels simple. It feels so simple.
It’s also telling yourself multiple times a day that you don’t get to have the thing you desire, because you are shit, and you have to instead drink and drink with a name that is vaguely taking the piss out of you.
However, it also feels slightly transgressive – the Slim-Fast! Plan. As the main focus is meal replacement milkshakes. And milkshakes are the kind of thing that you don’t often consume if you are on a diet. So, it’s like, how is this a diet? You are literally living on milkshakes. That is the opposite of a diet. And as diets are awful that must be fucking excellent.
Oh, except, I don’t like milk. I don’t like dairy products much, but I have such a strong aversion to milk that my children claim I am ‘scared’ of it. I am not scared of it. That needs to be made very clear. But I once visited a dairy farm while I was breast feeding and it made me feel very confused about dairy products. Breast feeding makes you emotional. All kinds of things can happen. I got a milk aversion.
And, of course, it’s ironic that my kids are the ones who mock me for this. The ones who directly benefited from me doing breast feeding. (I’m sure you assumed that, if not, maybe leave.)
So Slim-Fast!’s exciting riot of milkshake did not excite and actually slightly repulsed me. I found the banana and strawberry versions particularly troublesome. And the cafe latte, mocha and vanilla ones easier. And, I know I could have probably used non-dairy milk to make it, but I felt that once I started modding Slim-Fast! into something less personally scary, then the closer I would be to just throwing it all away and eating proper food.
And I was quite close to that the entire time.
But it was, and this is the most important thing about it, on a basic and practical level, easy.
The first couple of days were okay. I had a bit of a headache, but it was just after Xmas and I had been mainly eating Pringles, chocolate and cheese for the past couple of weeks. (For some reason cheese does not set of my dairy aversion issues. I am not scared of cheese. But then, I am not scared of milk either, actually. Please stop saying I am just because I refused to buy you a Mars Drink.)
But apart from the headaches I was mostly fine. I wasn’t really hungry. Whatever is in the milkshakes to make you not hungry seems to work. I didn’t feel hungry at all.
But I felt ashamed.
That name, Slim-Fast!, really is pretty obnoxious kind of name. It is sort of hollowly encouraging while basically taking the piss out of you at the same time.
Also, Slim-Fast! like this is some kind of emergency.
FUCKING GET ON WITH NOT BEING FAT, YOU DREADFUL COW.
When I bought the Slim-Fast! I got the lot. I bought the milkshakes and meal replacement bars and snacks that are their versions of crisps and chocolate, and I found myself obsessively explaining to checkout staff that I was doing this for a show. I was not REALLY doing this. I WOULDN’T REALLY DIET. I AM COOL. NOT LIKE THOSE DIET PEOPLE. THOSE FAT PEOPLE.
I am not one of them. If I am fat, which okay, I may be, I am cool about being fat. I am fat because I want to be. I am not one of those sad people who are fat but wish they weren’t. Ew, losers.
I quickly got trapped in that old spiral of having to explain that, yes, I was fat, and it was okay. I was okay about it. Sort of. Mostly. But I thought I’d try this. Just to see. To see how I felt. I wasn’t weighing myself or anything. Usually the checkout staff listened to all this and then told me they would like to see my show or that they admired my will power. (It does take quite a lot of will power to make a show. It takes ages.)
Sometimes any kind of explaining what I was doing, making it seem okay, was beyond me. One time I was in Emporium on London Road and I had a pre-mixed vanilla shake in my bag. And I was hungry, it was mid morning and I’d eaten nothing, but I was too ashamed to get the shake out and drink it.
I got a glass with ice and poured the shake into under the table like a cheapskate at the pub.
The novelty of it wore off eventually. The thrill of drinking milkshakes (ew, but also, so wrong hence illicit and fun), the easiness of not doing food, the secret buried excitement that, hey, what if this makes me thin, tho? I’d end up being thin without ever having to admit I’d failed at having an okay body by dieting for real.
And then I was hungry. And I could not deal with being hungry. AT ALL.
I was travelling home travelling from London after work and it was 9.41. I was so hungry. I’d had all my food. And I didn’t know what to do. I was so sad. And the idea of staying this hungry all the way home was horrible. I just couldn’t figure out what I was meant to do. Surely I should eat if I’m this hungry?
It had been 10 days. So I quit Slim-Fast! right then. Maybe other people can, I don’t know, just not eat when they really want to because they are hungry, but I can’t.
I’m not saying this is why I am so fat. But it might be. This might be why I am so fat.