Like many women, I’ve been on a diet for most of my life. Even though I was a skinny child with hip bones that jutted out and long gangly legs, I’d already learnt from my mother that it was a ‘bad thing’ to be fat. She didn’t eat anything but slices of apples or tiny cubes of cheese, and for months our house smelt of boiled cabbage as she made it into soup – the latest fat-loss fad at the time. As I grew into a teenager and developed puppy fat, I was horrified, and ate smaller and smaller portions until I was skipping meals entirely. It wasn’t unusual – my friends were the same and we’d compete about how little we ate per day. I became so painfully thin that my mother begged me to eat, and when I did, I piled on the weight. I’ve been overweight ever since, forever battling to get my mucked-up metabolic rate under control.
I thought I’d kept this hidden from my children until my five-year-old daughter announced she wanted to go on a diet in case she developed ‘a fat tummy like Mummy’. She’s very thin, tall for her age and pretty, and yet she already has body image anxiety, transmitted, according to the experts, by me.
But I’m not alone. In our feature on page 16 on the modern epidemic, journalist Kate Birch reports that most mothers are to blame for their daughter’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. It’s a scary legacy to pass on, so I for one will be practising the tips on how to combat body image anxiety on page 22. Let me know what you think of our special body issue. Until next week,