Ramadan means socially-accepted binge-eating and Sally Sampson doesn't need much more temptation in her life...
I work early mornings, which means that when most people are still in bed, construction workers, drunks and myself are up and about doing our thing. I wake up every weekday at 4AM to be able to get everything in order and to start my day on the right foot and whilst this may seem sadistic in many senses, (believe me, sometimes I’d rather have a full on Brazilian wax than have to get out of bed!) it is what I need to do so that I can then do my job properly.
It usually means a couple of things though: that I will probably be in bed by 9PM (sad, I know…) and that I am usually most vulnerable in the afternoon when I am in desperate need of a siesta…or a Grande Caramel Frappuccino with an extra shot of caffeine, hold the whipped cream (because that shit is nasty)!
Anyway, overall I would say that I am quite a difficult person to shock. I’m very honest and so when people extend me that same courtesy and are just as brutally candid, I am often prepared for both the mundane and the outlandish. Every once in a while though, something breaks through my carefully constructed I-don’t-give-a-fuck network and takes me by surprise.
And this week, the award for startling me out of my thoughts and appalling me in an impressively nonchalant and detached way has got to go to one of the drivers that takes me home after work. This week, as I was sitting there in the bus, watching the cars go by, pondering something or another (I have no idea what; I was so tired, I had the brain function of a goldfish at that particular moment) my bus driver turned to me and said as unperturbed and as casual as is possible for a living organism with a pulse on this earth:
“‘You know Sally, you’re much rounder in the middle these days than you used to be!”
WHAT??!!! I looked up at him and laughed. It was better than crying I suppose or beating him to death with a shovel. And he clearly didn’t fully understand the extent of the accusations he was making! I found myself immediately rushing to my own defence. The conversation that ensued went as follows:
Sally: Are you serious?
Sally: Are you serious?
Sally: You’re sure you’re serious?
Sally: It’s probably what I’m wearing, you know. Maybe it’s the cardigan…?
Driver: No, it’s not. I noticed it a while ago.
Sally: Well, why didn’t you tell me before?
Sally: You’re making me feel self-conscious about myself!
I spent the whole bus ride back holding my handbag in a bear-hug over my lap, hiding my middle and attempting to recount everything that I had eaten over the duration of the last month and when I couldn’t really remember what I’d had to eat the night before, much less over the course of the previous month, I moved on to trying to justify the extra weight.
It’s everything that’s been happening in the country - that’s why I’m over-eating! Plus I wake up so early in the morning; my body naturally needs more food to kick-start itself. So what if I pre-emptively kick-start my morning in the evening? The body stores anything extra as energy so it can use it later or in times of need anyway. And, it’s healthy to have some fat in the body. I don’t want to look like bony-ass Paris Hilton after all!!
And then when the justification thing didn’t succeed in making me feel better either, I moved on to my favourite part of the ‘How to diagnose if you’ve got a distorted body image 3-step program’: blind self-hatred.
I’m so stupid! How many times does my weight need to fluctuate for me to get the hint and lay off the potato chips! I’m such a fucking lazy cow! One of these times, stretch marks just aren’t going to cut it for me; I’m just going to explode like those Angry Birds one day whilst sipping on a milkshake and then no one will love me because I won’t even be a real person anymore. I’ll just be a crater in the ground where a person once stood with her ass and love-handles hanging over in an eternal salute of submission to gravity.
I think it’s safe to say that I felt awful! In fact, I felt so awful, I couldn’t wait to go home and show my driver how wrong he was by eating everything in sight (I know; it’s logic for the insane!).
The thing was, I wanted to know how I had got to the point where my driver (my DRIVER!!) felt that he had to take it upon himself to point out that I was moving away from the hour-glass shape that I’d come to make my peace with and love, and was steadily moving towards a much more circular and squidgy form that I’d spent the last year and a half trying to distance myself from!
I was horrified, but, thinking back, I’m also impressed at his nerve and gusto because he chose to tell me this, one day before Ramadan started! Now I know Ramadan is traditionally a month of fasting, but in Egypt, we all know that’s not really the full truth, is it? Ramadan is, of course, a holy month where people, from all walks of life, come together to fast from all their bad habits and carnal lusts just to remind themselves of how the less fortunate feel on a daily basis and to bring themselves closer to God, but by the same token, Ramadan is just as much a month of socially-accepted BINGE EATING!
And it doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim or Christian, Ramadan will get you! You will undoubtedly be invited out to iftars left, right and centre, where there is more food than is humanly possible to consume! And in addition to that, many Christians, out of respect (and possibly fear) for all their nicotine-deprived, starving Muslim friends walking around with blood-shot eyes counting down the seconds till sunset, will avoid eating or drinking publicly but will still probably consume large quantities of food and drink before leaving their homes during the day. Consequently, no one is immune to the binging and no one is exempt. We all just do it at different times during the day.
So my driver’s impeccable timing, telling me that the little fat girl inside of me was starting to take over the outside of me again, was in many ways genius (self-loathing aside), because now with Ramadan upon us, and with dinner parties being thrust in my direction, I am able to avoid certain pitfalls that I’ve often found myself getting into, time and time again.
For example, I’m now very aware that my clothes are not an invisibility cloak and that I can’t really hide that much extra weight behind them (should’ve learnt that from the failed Kirstie Alley project -elastic waistbands are not your friend)! I now have also registered that I need to stop ordering in deep-fried-everything in Cairo when I host my own eventful evenings that consist of me sitting in front of my television watching the Kardashians talk about how misunderstood they are. And of course, I am now clocking that, in addition to pulling the brakes on my insatiable desire to devour everything in sight, simply watching Cher fitness videos is not going help me get into shape. It actually mostly just makes me want to wear ridiculous skimpy outfits and sing in a man’s voice at the top of my lungs!
To be honest, I don’t even eat that much when I’m out of the house anyway. Most people I work with can attest to the fact that they’ve probably never seen me eat in the first place and I’ve actually worked hard to curb my bad eating habits because I know what I am capable of.
In my heyday, I could finish off a large pepperoni pizza by myself in front of the television and be hungry again half an hour later. I could go through two McDonald’s meals and still have room for a sundae. And I’m a small person! I’m so small, I’m pretty sure I’m a descendant of hobbits. In fact, I make Frodo look like he should’ve been cast as one of the elves from the movie! (Fun Fact: Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo, is actually 5’6’’…I’m 5’0’’! Whoopee-fucking-doo-dah!)
So yeah, I’ve taken a lot of time to myself trying to sort out my eating habits in the past, but now thinking about it, I really think I’ve been almost bamboozling myself because I haven’t really changed my eating habits at home…just in public. It’s like if I don’t eat in front of people, they won’t know that all I can think of is how to get from meal to meal. It’s twisted and fucked up, and it’s a masquerade I’m tired of being a part of. I’m tired of living to eat, not eating to live.
As funny man Louis C.K. is quoted saying, “I don't stop eating when I'm full. The meal isn't over when I'm full. It's over when I hate myself."
I just want to add as a disclaimer here, before the hate-mail comes through, that currently, I’m not fat. I’ve been fairly overweight in the past and I am certainly still very squishy in places and could use a little toning here and there, but by all means, I know that I’m not fat. I just feel fat and when I feel fat, I comfort eat and then I feel fatter, and so I comfort eat some more and then I feel even fatter….you get the idea. Eventually I end up putting on ridiculous amounts of weight in small amounts of time without realising it, and then one day I’m lying down on my back on the floor, sucking my stomach in and contracting every muscle in my body, trying to get my trousers to come up past my thighs.
So yeah, I need to break the cycle. And I’ve decided this week to bitch myself out and expose myself for the fraud that I am.
My name is Sally and this BITCH has an eating problem.
Thank you insensitive mister driver man.
Also, I’m still pretty sure it was the cardigan’s fault!