Saturday, 21 November 2015


You're in an oversized bedroom in Govan and Dave is showing off his far more grownup music collection to you, the nerdy little cuz who thinks Jean Michel Jarre is as cool as it gets. He puts on an album with a weird vase-like thing on the cover and plays a song that has a chorus that is the most outrageous thing you have ever heard. "It's called 7 Words 'cause that's how many times he says Fuck in the chorus" he says. Engine No 9 sounds like the roof is being torn off and you finally have a noise to go with how confused you feel about all the stuff you've been through that nobody wants to talk about. When you check the CD section in the library they don't have the album, and you can't remember the name to order it.

You hang round the Gallery of Modern Art, well, you do when you're not being chased off by the security staff. You can't afford the clothes yet and the older goths are a bit lacey and their music isn't much fun but you're learning how to play the bassline from Headup and your mate Ger can play a bit on the guitar so you go over to his a lot and pretend to be a band. You're wearing contact lenses now. You have an old black t-shirt so you buy a patch with their name on and stitch it on very carefully so it looks official. You sewed it on a bit wonky but nobody ever says anything. You kiss a girl for the first time, and get rocks thrown at you.

You're at uni and finding out just how much of what you heard about being a student is true. Your dad bought you a ticket to their gig and you're there with your grownup uni friends and you sort of fancy all of them in an abstract sort of way. You don't get ID'd for beer and share a few Marlboro Lights under the nasty fluoro lighting at the bar between bands. You watch a crowdsurfer plummet into a space in the crowd right by you, a few rows from the front back when you had the energy for that. Chino stops Elite while the kid is helped up, and passed to security. Your lack of ID stops you getting into the afterparty with everyone else, but you still have a great time.

You're splitting up with him and it's the kind of drawn-out, shitty process that you're hurt by for years. Your ability to drink like the students you saw on TV wasn't matched by your ability to study, and you're working in a call centre peddling satellite TV. You listen to Minerva on your CD player as you walk to the tube most days, and can't help but pretend to play the opening power chord every time, even if there are other people on the platform. You wonder what you need to do next. Maybe you should take that friend of your ex's up on that offer to crash at his place in London for a few weeks, get a job down there. That'd be exciting. You wished you slept better. You wished those sudden terrors and rushes of memory would go away.

You're at Merv's place on the south side and he gives you a birthday present because he is the kind of organised person who remembers birthdays. You've not listened to the band much since you went to London, and all that happened there. It's good though, he says. You'll like it. He says he played it in class once and when Pink Cellphone got to the explicit bit he nearly broke the computer turning it off. You give him a copy of an Andrew Bird album you like for his birthday. He's very gracious about it.

The relationship you clung to when you first arrived in New Zealand is breaking up beneath you but you're skating as much as you can and roller derby is giving you something new to hold while you finally face this country alone. You listen to Risk a lot in traffic jams on your way to training, and sing along to the chorus, wondering if someone ever will. You're not sure what you're doing so far from home any more.

Your leg has finally healed but your knee was, you said, the last straw. They all know it was the other girl's accident that meant the end though, and so do you. You ran a half marathon, and starved yourself to run it again faster, until the running and the crying and the hurt slowed you to a dead halt. You talk to a counselor. You mark days where you eat right in a little calendar. Your knee doesn't need surgery but your back needs a specialist and while you wait you can walk, but that's it. So you walk. You climb mountains. You self-rescue in Mt Aspiring National Park. Cut, muddy, exhausted, you listen to Rosemary as you drive up through Haast and think it's the first time you've ever really heard your full name, even though it's not in the lyrics. The sun comes out as you wind your way north.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

"You should just eat..."

TW: eating disorders, weightloss, food

I recently, for reasons for too personal and boring to explain here, started a very popular and expensive diet whose name rhymes with Benny Laid. I am on it despite finally having made peace with my size and weight, gaining another gold star towards being a strong independent woman who don't need no diet industry or fat shaming.

Only I do, right now.

I'm not trying to lose much, about six kilos or just under a stone if you're playing using the imperial system (why?). I have an unspecified deadline that could be anything from a few weeks to early next year, but it seems smart to get going now.

I'm using the Lenny Slade system because I need to have this taken out of my hands for a while. Years of disordered eating and one brief all-out tumble into the nightmare that is bulimia has meant that dieting is a minefield for my mental health and emotional wellbeing. Paying $170 a week for a friendly young lady to give me a week's worth of ready meals and tiny cookies means that I'm not weighing myself three times a day and lying awake worrying about how that stirfry is sitting in my stomach. If I eat what I'm given, the weight will come off. The end.

This time out from regular programming has allowed me some breathing space to consider my relationship with food, eating and diet. Why is it that it's such a spiky subject? That need we all have to offer advice seems matched only by our defensiveness when that advice is given to us. I'm as guilty on both sides as anyone. When I was trying a month of "clean eating" (yeah, yeah) I was probably the cause of some serious ocular damage to friends and colleagues from all the eye-rolling I was causing them. I still recall suppressing real, visceral rage when, after running a half marathon, I was told that if I "just" went vegan I could shit some stubborn kilos and would find it easier to run that distance next time.

That's it though, isn't it. "Just". "If you just eat......" "You should (also awful) just do......". We blithely offer our advice on whatever food we like at the time without considering the incredibly complex venn diagram that dictates our eating. My nourishment tries to balance four key, and often incompatible, aspects.

Mental health/wellbeing tells me that I can't worry too much about what I eat, but to eat mindfully and with attention to quality. Not to weigh myself, but to love myself.

Ethical considerations ask me to return to vegetarianism, if not veganism. I sometimes wish I knew or cared less about factory farming and animal suffering (even when it's free range and organic and all the bells and whistles) so that I didn't think about the animals that died and suffered for my food, but I do, and my cognitive dissonance that keeps me eating it astonishes me.

Physical nourishment sits quiet, almost unconscious.

My relationship with a meat eater who loves pizza, and friends who are wonderful cooks and love eating requests that I remember them when I think of all the above, and that we live in a society where love, and friendship, and meetings are all pinned by the making and eating of food.

I am grateful that I am financially in a position where the cost of what I eat is not an issue. This is not the case for many, many people.

How do I appease all of these? What dietary choices can I take that will not cause me harm in some way? A dietician or nutritionist might be able to help with some aspects, but all of them?

So, I compromise. Right now, I am eating for my mental health and physical self. I don't eat with my partner or friends. I'm eating frozen meals with beef and chicken and I try not to think about the quality of their lives because right now, my mental and physical needs outweigh my ethics, which is a paradox in and of itself. Once I reach my "goal" weight and pose for a photo with a little cardboard sign, I'll be able to reevaluate my needs and feed myself appropriately.

But it's never just about the food. It's never as simple as "you should". Everyone eats in a balance, even if unconsciously. Those priorities can and will change, and with that the food they eat. Education might help but unless you address those priorities, then telling someone "just eat....." is worse than useless.

I sometimes wish that for me, food was just food. Until then, I'm stuck with cardboard boxes of linguine.