There I was feeling full up after eating breakfast (was I really full?), wondering why I had stuffed so much food into my gut. The fact is I hadn’t eaten much. Breakfast for me consists of a small piece of fish, a solitary sardine or maybe a small piece of tinned mackerel, and half a slice of toast spread with Marmite. For midday lunch I have a fig and two prunes with spoonful of peanuts, then five Mini Shreddies or Minibix and a small scattering of Bran Flakes. I have the usual foods at dinnertime (around 5 AM): a small dish of vegetables, meat or fish and potatoes. I prefer meat or fish heated in a wok with vegetables and rice. Once a week I have fish and wholemeal spaghetti, the spaghetti spattered with garlic salt, black pepper and olive oil. I never eat to excess. This is more than ample for my needs and I wonder why many people living in Western societies eat more than is necessary? There is a finite amount of food that one needs to maintain a state of homeostasis — a healthy equilibrium that is sustained only by constant adjustment of food. To compensate for overeating at one meal you must under-eat at the next, thus precisely maintaining your body’s needs at all times and adhering to the Quantity Theory Of Food Consumption.
Why do I feel like a glutton when I eat? I’m perturbed and uneasy if I eat confectioneries like cake, sweets or chocolate. I don’t need biscuits and yet I’ll have a biscuit every night. I also have one sweet every night, too. I’ll either have a chewy mint sweet or a chocolate lime. It never varies. I make them last as long as possible, rolling them around my mouth and sucking on them until they completely disappear.
Eating junk food at regular periods can be habit-forming. It’s fatal when trying to maintain or lose weight. At precisely 7 o’clock I’ll have a sweet. At 8 o’clock my brain will tell me that it’s time to have a biscuit. Why? I don’t need them and yet I eat them and then I feel guilty. I also feel a mild sense of self loathing. I tell myself that it’s greedy to eat food that has no value. People all over the world are starving and here I am gorging myself unnecessarily. Gorging myself? Really? It’s unhealthy and that’s a fact. The trouble with Western values is that we have none where food is concerned. We consume far more than we need. Treats like sweets and biscuits used to be eaten occasionally, and enjoyed more because of their rarity, but not any more. Takeaway meals are commonplace, too. They are no longer regarded as extravagant indulgences. They have become a necessary part of our lives.
This guilt about eating stems from my childhood. I remember once my sister and I having an egg on toast for dinner. I didn’t like eggs and so when my mother’s back was turned I threw mine out of the window. At the time I never realised it was the only food in the house and that my mother was actually going without so that we might eat. She found out of course and was furious, accusing me of wasting good food and telling me that I was wicked. I can’t blame her for that. She was right.
We never had much when I was a child. I don’t remember eating proper meat, like chicken, beef or pork. I do remember having plenty of jam or lemon curd sandwiches. And spam. Always spam. I hated spam — spam and luncheon meat. Sometimes we had sausages. The sausages were tasteless, squidgy, and cheap. Horrible! I hated beans, too. I don’t know why I hated beans but I did. Beans and spaghetti. All the cheap foods. Beans are good for you but I didn’t realise at the time.
I rarely had sweets when I was a child. I don’t ever remember eating chocolate. Fruit was something that other people had. You were privileged to have fruit. The only fruit I ever had was fruit that I could steal: pears and apples growing in people’s gardens. Scrumping. Climbing over people’s fences and picking as much fruit as I could, then running away as fast as my legs would carry me. I did con my school into giving me a harvest festival basket of fruit once. I was around six years old. On harvest festival week I told my school teacher that my father had had an accident at work and was at home recovering. That qualified me for a basket of fruit, which the school were giving away to needy families. It was a lie, of course. On the way home from school, I hid amongst the hedges, crouched down in the darkness, and ate as much fruit as I could, gorging myself on oranges, bananas, apples and grapes. There was a pineapple in the basket but I didn’t have a knife, so I left it. That afternoon I ate and ate until I felt sick, then hid the remainder in the bushes. Should have brought it home for my brothers and sisters but I was scared of being questioned. Somehow, though, my parents discovered what I had done. I was suitably punished. I never let on where I had hidden the rest of the fruit. I never went back to eat it and always wondered, to this very day, whether it lay there rotting or whether somebody else found it, perhaps another poor wretch like me. I hope that was the case. I hope he or she took it home and shared it with their family, unlike me who was too greedy and too scared to do so.
In my teen years I ate as much food as I could get my hands on. It was never enough. I remember buying a huge lump of cheap steak and cooking it in a frying pan. The meat was tough — I mean really tough. I had to chew it so much that my jaw ached. I used to buy blocks of Cornish ice cream and sit out the back garden, leaning against the wall with the sun beaming down on me, mixing the ice cream with cola in a pint glass and spooning the contents into my mouth. That was my Saturday afternoon treat and it was bliss.
In my early 20s things changed. Something snapped in my mind. I began to under-eat. This was the beginnings of my anorexia, which was to last the rest of my life. At one stage my weight dropped to 55 kg. I was 5’11” tall and looked like I had just crawled out of the Dachau concentration camp. One of my daughters was mildly anorexic too. We used to joke about our eating habits. In fact the jokes were so numerous we compiled them into a book called: “The Good Anorexic”. I enjoyed being hungry, then subjugating my body’s needs. It gave me a sense of euphoria, of power of mind over matter. My will to control was stronger than my innate will to consume. You had to consume to live. It is a powerful, perhaps the most powerful, urge to control. Deliberately going without became a game, a battle between mind and body.
Over the years I have honed my Quantity Theory Of Food Consumption. I know exactly how much to eat, what kinds of foods I should and can consume for my body’s well-being, and precisely how much junk I can have. The junk has plateaued at one sweet and one biscuit every day. I have fruit but not in excess and I rarely if ever eat chocolate. When I do it’s always just one square. “The will to overcome an emotion is ultimately only the will of another emotion or of several others”. Thus said Frederick Nietzsche. My will to power overcomes my will to eat. The question is, is it good or bad to live my life as I do? I’m happy. I’m in control.