Eat to the Beat

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I can remember reading something online, many moons ago, about someone who admitted that during their fights with weight loss the plot was lost and two whole ‘serves six’ cakes got scoffed in a sitting. That image has stuck with me for a long time, not simply because the desperation it set off within me remains palpably and frighteningly real. Sometimes, what’s wanted the most is what will eventually destroy you.

I have never been happy with my body. It would be the most gross of fallacies to sit here and type that there is peace now between self-image and reality as it presents itself, because it would not be accurate. Most days, yes, I am enough. My fears or concerns no longer stop me working, or adversely affect my dietary habits. There is peace on more days than not. All the other times, there’s a dance I willingly partake in.

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After my kids were born, the body that used to be mine vanished: an obsession with getting it back eventually destroyed my gallbladder and forced surgery. Before that happened however, my brain was a bigger obstacle to healthy living than anything else. It’s taken this long to pull both back into something approaching harmony: keto diets, 5:2 diets, any diet where the emphasis was on loss and never prevention. 

Nobody taught me how to live well in the first place.

Exercise really has become a foundation on which everything else is now built, and yet there are the extremists here, as existed in the dietary camps back then: you have to lose it all. No sugar, no carbs, this is never gonna work unless that bacon butty is removed and only then came the bigger revelation: everybody’s out to sell you their lifestyle. It’s just commercialism in another form. Nobody listens to the real issues.

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I absolutely fucking love cake. Existence would be far less interesting if chocolate wasn’t available. Having healthy and unhealthy side by side is possible, and the fact it has taken this long for the people who sell you products to lose weight to grasp that is significant. Yes, I feel better when my body’s not running on sugar but some days a craving is something to give into. Abstinence, as an addict, does work, but only to a point.

Of course, you can’t sell lifestyle choices on moderation. Nobody’s interested in normal or boring, you all want EXTREME and LIFE CHANGING and having a slice of cake once in a while is never going to make you a millionaire. You’re either or. There is no halfway. Except, I can deal with cravings by being sensible and eating what I want, but in a more mindful way. Mental training, yet again, you have become salvation.

You shouldn’t think too much though, that’s dangerous. That’s just eating cake because it tastes great for the 5 minutes you’re doing so, and then you’re fine. That’s having a sixth and wishing it was a quarter, or maybe the whole thing, because the hit of sugar you get is never enough. You’re not cured, and maybe you don’t want to be. That’s up to you, and it’s totally fine. Here’s how I eat my cake.

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I have it in eighths, cut horizontally. That gives me the top bit with frosting, and the middle filling with a bit of cake on top. It gives me two pieces of cake from one, so my brain thinks it hit the jackpot. The, I make myself eat it over 30 minutes, maybe an hour. I taste the flavours, appreciate the fact I’m able to afford cake in the first place. Not too worthy, just appreciative. It is, in the end, a luxury item.

I eat cake this way because, after half a century, improving my mental health’s a fight that needs to happen every day, until it becomes habit. There’s a long way to go, but on that journey without rewards, there really is no point. This is how there is sugar and still effort expended to be healthy. This is how self image recovers after decades of being told ‘you can’t eat that or you’ll get fat’ when I was a chunky girl since birth.

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Genetics are inescapable, but free will helps. I do not want to be thin any more. I need to be strong. Whatever form that takes is fine, as long as I can still eat as I wish and nobody tells me I’m doing it wrong. Nobody likes being told they are wrong, but I am particularly sensitive in that regard, for other reasons that may never get better. Maybe it can be better forgotten if the cake’s reward remains under my control.

Maybe all of this gets better when I’m the one dictating the terms.