Why ‘FAT’ should be renamed ‘STRENGTH’ and ‘VITALITY’…

When you’ve had years of therapy, and attending your appointments becomes as a normal part of your week as changing your bedding (when I feel well enough anyway – if I do it this often it’s a positive sign… and yes, I have today so let’s get the champagne popped!), you can end up taking advice for granted.

Like the way people describe being on auto-pilot whilst driving. So I think it’s important, in recovery when you can, to ground yourself and prepare for chats with your therapist. Write notes on what went well this week, what you could do with talking through to prepare for the next. Oh, and then just chat about shit. Therapists are real people too, and often they’re very interesting people. Therapy, for me has always worked better when you talk about normal stuff too, and they make the effort to get to know you and how you tick. (But when it’s not forced effort, it has to come naturally, otherwise as a patient you begin to smell it out and then you lose the trust… but let’s not get too deep)… that’s why the best therapists are born with the desirable traits in them.

Some advice is enough to get you through the week. Sometimes it doesn’t touch the sides, but maybe you held back talking because you were struggling more than usual to muster the energy (recovery is bloody tiring so these odd sessions are understandable if when you’ve had your flop, you remember to work at picking yourself up). Some guidance in therapy helps you in the short-term, and some stuff just STICKS forever. It sticks to your heart, because you know it’s in line with your values – the ones you were born with, that were in your blood when you were pulled out of your mum’s uterus. Before mental health took a big bowl of mouldy custard and threw it all over your life. (okay, bit dramatic  but you get my drift…)

What stuck with me? THIS:

Why do you think Victorians were never overweight? Before calories were counted, when people used their hunger signals to eat, and ate exactly what they knew would fuel them for their days: toast (sliced themselves, so never in equal size) spread with REAL butter, most probably from a local farm, FULL-FAT milk from local cows (they probably didn’t know any other) before it was examined, prodded and made into a million versions… proper plates of protein (cooked in proper butter/olive oil), carbs and veg… knowing full well that their main purpose to eat was to survive, to be able to work, to have the energy to be an active part of their family-life. Food shops weren’t the gigantic super-size toy shops that they are today in the modern world, leading us to be bombarded with decisions when we already have 60,388 tabs already open in our brains.

Bread was bread. Not all supercalerfragilisticexpialidocious and bloody 50/50. Eat white or eat wholemeal – or have one slice of one and one of the other. Don’t mix the confuse the poor bloody thing. (there’s innocent tactics in this I’m sure, like getting kids to eat wholemeal when they only like white etc. etc. but I’m just done with the over-confusion)

Life was much simpler. In many practical ways, very challenging before the digital boom – but food-wise, much, much simpler. Minimal eating disorders compared to the outburst of today – yes I know there must have been some, because there is a genetic disposition, and people still had emotions – but information-wise, body-image wise and all that crap was less busy and much ‘cleaner’.

Now – things have just gone to shit in the nutritional world, let’s be honest. We’ve far too many options available – and most of them are manipulated products of the least compassionate, most misleading industry in the world – the diet industry. Business can be greedy and unfortunately that’s how it is in today’s world.

When I was prompted this thought… that were Victorians ever overweight? Did they count calories? …yet they ate FAT plentiful, and carbohydrates were just a no-brainer. They didn’t spend hours huddled over a phone with multiple tabs for different supermarkets open – comparing the calories in different bags of carrots (been there, done that – how does one equal-sized carrot even have a different calorie to another? How does that even work?)…

Throughout my phases of struggle since having this thought-provoking conversation with my therapist, yes there have been moments I haven’t been able to connect with that information at all… but I always end up finding myself coming back to it, when I’ve had to shake my head like a snowglobe a bit after a relapse/blip, coming back stronger and more equipped. Befriending fat, trying to uncomplicate food for myself… and at the end of the day – trying to live my best life. And to do that I need to put the best stuff in that’s going to get everything working properly. My brain, most importantly.

It’s taken 10 (+) years, but I can now officially have ‘full-fat greek yoghurt’ in my fridge! Along with proper butter (spreadable – just for ease, but ideally I’d love a good butter dish with a proper block on the go)… houmous and dark chocolate. (just listing the contents of my fridge currently and a little bit in disbelief that the shame has lifted enough to allow myself to have these there) Fat is authentic, and that is a quality I admire in people, let alone food. It’s strange to think back to when I was in the depths of Anorexia the first-time round, and to try and rescue me from having to go in to hospital, I was being encouraged to ‘sprinkle olive oil on your salads’ to try and get some fat in, and my blood results stable. It felt like they told me to catch the next bus on to the moon – it felt impossible, and offensive. Yet, now… I can finally do that – I put my first sprinkle of oil (and seeds) on salad the other day, just because. I was curious, and excited that it was a step further out of the shitty depths of an eating disorder. A positive move for the future.

The amount of poor individuals that must be conflicted with yoghurt debates down the fridge aisle… all of these perfectly innocent, fat-containing tubs being shouted down by the greedy business-people behind the ‘fat-free’, ‘low calorie’ rascals. I’ve also been there, done that. When in recovery I’ve gone in to the supermarket, with my value-aligned shopping list, reached for that full-fat yoghurt with anxiety but determination… and then the diet-company yoghurts pounce on you like baby tigers, and you run away with your basket of pretend-proddeded-with-yoghurt, defeated by the buggars.

Yes I have Bulimia, yes I am a normal weight (although I struggle with thinking and worrying I am obese quite a lot at the moment)… but I still fear fat. Yet I’m choosing now to face it. If there’s someone reading this that doesn’t understand eating disorders, although you people that follow this blog (thank you) probably know them inside-out now from my babbles… when we restrict foods, we are driven to eat more of that food because naturally our body is scared of being starved. So with Bulimia, mine leads to binging and purging, and the cycle continues. Butter has been part of that – toast lathered in it, full-fat milk to dunk biscuits in to… chocolate… all fat/food stuff that I wouldn’t allow myself in my usual day-to-day diet. This happens to a lot of people – even if it’s without the binge/purge part… and that’s why so many of us struggle with our weights.

When/if we have the diet-mentality of thinking ‘I feel less guilty eating this because it hasn’t got this in it, and it’s less calories’, then although that seems good in theory if you’re trying to lose weight, we then later, likely feeling hungry due to depriving ourselves end up eating MORE of that thing… whereas we may aswell have eaten that PROPER bar of chocolate, that PROPER butter on toast in the first place… and actually because it was PROPER would have satisfied our hunger enough not to eat any more. (over time anyway, because our bodies are very clever at getting in to a clockwork of hunger signals – or lack of – when we mess with our diets too much…)

I’m still in a battle with fat. It’s still difficult when I struggle with my body and still desperately crave to be smaller, to buy fat products to put in my fridge. But I am now consciously planning it into my meals and snacks for the week… because I now know that fat doesn’t make you fat. As in the article I read last Sunday in a magazine, fat should be named “vitality” and “strength”. Eating too much of ANYTHING may make you put on weight. But at the end of the day – what is too much?? It depends on all-sorts. But you have to trust yourself and be honest with yourself, because we know deep down what looks like a normal plate of food/portion. Move in a way that fits your lifestyle so that your body thanks you for it for health – don’t fill yourself with dread about going to the gym if you know that you’ll always not enjoy it – choose an exercise that is fun, and you know you’ll commit to for your own health and well-being. Or something that is easy to do because it fits in – like walking to work/college… walking a dog. (getting a dog has been one of the biggest, if not the biggest benefit to my mental health of 2019)

But before I leave you here… (I was just going to write a quick paragraph to introduce the article I read last weekend that I mentioned and post it here in the same thing, but that kind of went out the window, so I’ll post the article in a next blog post if anyone is interested…) I just want to list a few benefits of fat, to reassure you:

  • We need fat to help absorb other vitamins and minerals… if we don’t eat fat then it’s pretty pointless going all out with the fruit and veg!
  • It can help LIFT OUR MOOD – it creates chemicals in our brain that lift depression.
  • Reduces ‘bad’ cholestrol and increases good cholestrol
  • It gives the body essential acids it needs, that the body cannot produce itself.
  • Including it CAN HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT BETTER – from mental causes (deprivation, then eating it in excess, creating guilt and the cycle continues)… but also physically, because it improves your metabolism and gets everything in your body happy and working properly.
  • It’s bloody tasty! And I think that’s the shame around it… anything that taste nice we beat ourselves up for and assume it’s a ‘bad’ food. But give yourself a break, because fat is deffo our friend.

Obviously there are different types of fat, and it’s certain ones that have these benefits (and many more) but there’s no way I want to over-complicate here. There’s plenty of that out there. Basically… any food that is a NATURAL fat… i.e… animal fat (butter/milk)… fatty fish such as salmon, avocados etc… dark chocolate, olive oil, yoghurt… has all these natural benefits. Anything that has been messed with and has a long self-life like cakes etc, STILL NEED TO BE ENJOYED but the majority of your fats should come from any fat above that is in it’s natural, or close-to-as-possible form. PLEASE NOTE: CAKE SHOULD ALWAYS BE ENJOYED. ANYTHING SHOULD BE. THIS IS JUST TO GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES OF WHY FAT IS GOOD, AND THOSE THAT ARE EVEN BETTER FOR YOU INTERNALLY, THAN OTHERS.

And breathe. Over and out guys – this blog post wasn’t planned but my head went off on one, and I hope it was an enjoyable and/or informative read. 🙂 I’ll now post the interesting article, so keep an eye out if you’re interested… (it was written to target people that want to lose weight, so if you have experience of an eating disorder please be careful, but I also feel like it comes from a very reasonable and scientific place to reassure us about fat as a good thing, rather than encourage weight loss – please only embark on weight-loss with the aid of a doctor/nutritionist if you are overweight and struggling with your physical/mental health – other than that, enjoy yourself, enjoy your food, and forever enjoy being interesting in what food makes your brain, heart AND soul happy.



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