Hi, hello.

I wrote this short thing while I was noodling about with writing prompts (thoroughly recommend Writers HQ if anyone’s looking for good ones!). The prompt was “convex or concave” and as you can see, I opted for the latter. It got me thinking about my less than stellar relationship with my meat suit over the years, and the few paragraphs below are what came out after I set a ten-minute timer and started scribbling.

I just want to say up top that this post is not an attack on smaller bodies. It’s a result of years of assuming it was necessary for me to shoehorn mine into a shape that it didn’t want to be via a host of ridiculous and unsustainable means (hello, Special K diet!). M’kay, thanks. Here goes:

When I think of the word “concave”, it puts me in mind of begging. I imagine the hollow created by two cupped hands in a silent plea for more. “Concave” indicates both a lack and a need. No one begs unless there’s some underlying sense of desperation they need to address.

So then why did I spend all of my teens and most of my twenties hungering after a concave curve in my middle? I’d fantasized about wearing little tops that would “show off” a begging bowl of a midriff to everyone around me. I thought that once I’d somehow scooped the flesh from between my ribs and pelvis, I’d never need anything again: I’d be filled with unshakable confidence and inundated with admirers, all because my stomach no longer perched atop my jeans when I sat down.

At thirty-three, I now know that, for my body at least, I would need to be especially under-nourished to get to a point where I’m presenting like an apple with a chunk bitten out of it. I’ve learned that during all those years, my desire for hollowness was linked with begging: Begging for respite from my chattering worries (translation: generalised anxiety), begging for acceptance, and begging for validation.

I’m so fucking grateful that I’ve since accepted that I don’t need to eat only cereal for two meals a day, go cold turkey on snacking, or chew each mouthful of food thirty times over like a cow chewing cud in order to get those things. And that I sure as shit don’t need to beg for them.

An open letter to my meat suit

Dear Body/Meat Suit/Spam Robot

My relationship with you has always been a complicated one. We’ve been together since before I was born, but this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to write to you.

I’ve not treated you as well as I should have done, for as long as I can remember – or at least for as long as I’ve been made to pay attention to you, or “keep an eye on” your size; specifically when we were 11 and came back from Ibiza, slightly softer round the edges on account of the entire glorious adult sized pizzas we ate every night for 2 weeks.

Someone commented that my crush du jour wouldn’t like the look of me when he saw me next at school, because you were fatter. They were trying to protect me from embarrassment or shame, and I wish I’d had enough experience behind me to be able to see it as the earnest, protective attempt at kindness it was. Instead, I got annoyed with you for betraying me and then proceeded to try and control you at every turn more or less every day since.

If that specific interaction hadn’t happened, that kind of messaging would have only introduced itself to me in some other way – probably via the TV or one of the magazines I’d read at that age. Bliss and Mizz weren’t exactly doing their bit to fight the patriarchy at the time either.

I remember being a teenager and bawling to my mum that I “just can’t stop eating!” – an idea that’s ridiculous to me in hindsight. Why would anyone actively wish to be able to avoid eating? Wishing to be able to not eat is just a long-term, socially acceptable death wish.

I’ve periodically starved you, stuffed you and left you on the precipice of hunger for days, sometimes for weeks on end, never once admitting that I was on a diet, because I’m too anti establishment for diets. Obviously.

Logically, I always knew I’d eat again soon during these spells of attempted dietary control, but you mustn’t have felt that way – you wouldn’t have known why you were being deprived. Your only job is to keep me alive. Everything else is secondary, including logic and the desire to shrink down to some arbitrary number on a scale or clothes size. I treated you with disdain and neglect and willed you to be something you weren’t, no matter what shape you were at any given time.

I was so busy trying to mould you that that I forgot to admire you for how you looked and felt in the moment. You looked great! You might even still look great, despite taking up the most space that you ever have, but even now I feel like I’m groping through a thick fog of bullshit to be able to see you for what you are. I’m also struggling to accept that how you look makes zero difference to anyone who matters, including myself – seriously, how would being smaller make my life any better? Who would it make happier? Would I want to make those hypothetical people happy if the way I looked shaped how they saw me so much? Would I fuck.

I’ve come to a point where I feel like I don’t have another attempt at controlling what I eat left in me. The ability and desire to do that has left me, but not the desire to have a narrower waist and smaller stomach. Our belly is visible now – even under T-shirts, and I’m pretty certain I am the only person who notices it because who cares? Apparently I sort of do. I Sometimes catch myself glaring at you in the mirror for allowing this to happen, almost in spite of the fact that I actively enjoy going to the gym and keeping active. I’m sorry about that. I know it’s daft to hold these 2 contradicting thoughts simultaneously:

1. Dieting is stupid, futile in the long run and a waste of our limited time and energy on this planet

2. No matter what mode of thinking I try to adopt, and how many steps I’m taking away from diet culture, I still crave having a skinny middle.

I don’t know why that’s so important to me, but I know I need to let go of that ideal.

I’m getting there, though. After 20 years of ignoring you and driving you to the point of gnawing hunger over and over again and then judging you for wanting to be fed until you’re stuffed in reaction to that, I owe it to you to at least try.

You are totally able, you work so well in spite of my best efforts to sabotage you, and you’re getting physically stronger all the time. While this relationship we have isn’t exactly unconditional love, I hope you can accept the following as an olive branch at least. I promise:

  • To stop deliberately letting you stay hungry for longer than you need to be
  • To remember that being hungry is a good thing that means you’re working as you should be
  • To mourn the flatter-bellied version of you and then move on – not constantly compare how you are now to how you were “then”. This is us right now, and 20 more years down the line, I don’t want to be pining for how we are now and regretting that I wasn’t appreciative of you

You don’t have to forgive me, and I’ll make many more mistakes as I learn to treat you with the trust and respect you deserve. Thank you for housing my insane impulses and incessant contradictory thoughts for all these years and for not opting to simply outright eject me from your skull in response to how you’ve been treated. I hope we can learn to trust each other. Maybe someday eventually, we’ll even be able to give that unconditional love thing a go. It’d be nice.

Becky x