Bad Food Romance

I’ve always had a bad relationship with food. From a young age my mother use to tell me that I should finish my dinner because there were children starving in Africa. Out of guilt I would eat all of my food and anything left over by my siblings. As a result I grew to be on the chubby side.

It was not until my mid teens, when I started to feel my life was being controlled, my food relationship took a bad turn. My mother was making decisions for me that I wasn’t happy with and as a reault I started to starve myself. It was a way of taking some control over my life while rebelling against my mother. My teenage hormone driven need for indepenance soon developed my food relationship into an eating disorder.

(16 year old me at the early stages of my eating disorder.)

Throughout my teens no one ever mentioned an eating disorder to me. I was increasingly getting thinner and being tall I was very lanky. It was mentioned a few times by family about how I was too skinny but it was only a passing comment. I choose to be vegetarian, further restricting my food intake, and skipped breakfast and lunch every day. No one noticed.

As I hit my twenties I started to notice that I didn’t look like the men in the magazine’s and my little podgy belly suggested I was fat. I became obsessed with it. I was convince of it despite there being so little fat on me. I started to hit the gym daily in an attempt to gain a six pack whilst still restricting my food intake. I had gone back to eating meat to gain the required protein I needed to bulk up however it wasn’t working. But of course it wouldn’t. I had development a food intorlance to yeast which made me feel sick most of the time. So now I had an excuse to be sick.

Cutting bread out of my diet and regularly making myself sick had my weight drop again. I should also mention that throughout this period my weight was frequently fluctuating from high to low.

At my worse weight loss point I was taken briefly to hospital. I had picked up a bug, as my immune system was in a terrible state, and within one month I had lost 3 stone.

For those of you that have been following my blog you would know that I suffer from long term mental illness and so have been in and out of therapy for a long time. Speaking to my psychiatrist at the time about my eating habits had no impact on my treatment. They brushed it off as an eating discomfort, as I didn’t like the word disorder, and left it at that. I was given meds for depression and left to it.

I wonder now if my psychiatris ever considered that men could have eating disorders.

After a while I stopped making myself sick. The pain was to much and I was feeling too weak to do the things I wanted too. So I ate, not because I liked eating but because I had too. Besides I had other issues to deal with. My depression, anxiety and OCD were taking up so much of my time I struggled to think of anything else.

One summer I was hit with my worst episode of mental illness which found me bedroom locked for 6 months. I couldn’t deal with the world so I shut myself away to cry and eat and sleep. During that time I put on so much weight that I still carry it today. It was from that point that my overeating habit developed.

My relationship with food has never improved even though I don’t starve myself or make myself sick any more. I do however still restrict what I eat with the occasional binge eating, the shame of which is hard to deal with. I have yet to regain full control of my life so I take charge of the things I do have power over. For everything else I just get frustrated. At the moment I am counting every calorie I eat in the hopes to lose weight and one day be slim again and maybe considered handsome.

It is a wonder how something that was designed as a control factor became a form of self punishment and body appearance obsession. With so much media showing men with ripped bodies and gyms popping up on every corner it is no wonder why I often feel inadequate in my appearance.

(Me, May 2018)

I’ve taken steps to get help. It’s time for me to do something about this. One day I hope to be content in how I look and have full control over my own life until then I will keep struggling on.

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Commercial or budget travel?

Travelling back home from a round trip to Glasgow international airport I was able to reflect on my flying experience. Due to availability of flights I flew up from Gatwick using British Airways and back with Easyjet.

It’s worth noting that I have spent most of my life traveling with B.A. and from past experiences I find that I have always had the best service along with most comfortable travel. The trips I tend to take are long haul with short flights, like this, being very rare.

Over the last year or two B.A. has changed the service they offer to short haul travellers in an attempt to compete with their budget airline rivals. But have they lost a part of their iconic identity in the process?

When I think of changes I tend to be reminded of food. I first started travelling with B.A. 20 odd years, back then I remember their being a full breakfast service on their morning flights. As time has passed this dwindled down to a packet of crisps and a cookie. I can understand that a full meal would be costly in today’s economy however for them to fall to the standard of charging none first class passengers for any type of food, which is the current practice, seems a little ridiculous to me. Even water is charged at £1.80 a bottle.

The food served these days comes off from the shelves of M&S and branded as ‘the Best of British.’ I agree that M&S are a noted retailer in the UK however, some of the products in the menu are sourced from places other than the British Isles.

Now when I looked at the menu from Easyjet I found that the price list was more favourable when you took into account their meal deal offers (individually thier products were more costly). Their food included a selection of brands, some well known and others not so.

Whereas both airlines cater for the palates of the consumer one does it without the level of pretentiousness of the other.

To move away from the food side of things we can look at the quality of the cabins. On this occasion both had similar sized aircrafts which left the taller passenger feeling cramped. Easyjet are strict with their one cabin bag policy which includes a man/handbag. Needless to say overhead storage is limited.

Included within the price of a B.A. ticket you are also allowed a checked in bag. Easyjet asks for a charge. When considering the difference here it is also worth noting that B.A. flights are often, not always, more costly in comparison.

Having reviewed the experience with both I wonder what I get more from flying commercial that I don’t get with budget. It is true that the two have areas of improvement however when you consider the difference in price, for a short distance trip, you are probably better taking the cheaper option.

It’s sad to see how British Airways, the once standard of excellence for air travel, has let down it’s local travellers although I guess it’s all about getting the most profit out of fares as possible. I do worry about the further cuts they might make.

For now I think I might be more open to low cost travel. After all I can save a few quid and get to where I want to be just the same.

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He. She. We. Re?

At the moment one of the big topics of discussion is our gender identity. How people see us and refer to us is a major part of our lives. So when someone gets it wrong it doesn’t make us feel good.

I’ve been watching documentaries about this very subject a lot over the last few months in the hopes that I can understand it myself. Now, like most people, I know when people say they are male or female. I even get it when someone tells me that they were born one gender and have since began to live in the opposite gender.

Of course in these situations it is simple to know how we speak to these people and refer to them in conversation. We also know how bad they might feel if we were to get it wrong; probably more so in the case of someone who has transitioned.

But what about those that don’t assign any gender to themselves?

There are a number of people coming out as non-binary or gender neutral which, from my understanding, is a way to say that they do not wish to tick one gender box. Some might say that this is a new trend or fad that people are going through however the more I think about it the more I don’t believe that’s true. With the current environment in which people are being allowed to express their true identities freely, people are finding the courage to be who they want to be without the fear of persecution that was once the norm.

Looking back at noted artist from the last century we have individuals like Grace Jones and Prince who sported an androgynous look only to be celebrated for thier uniqueness.

Ok so we know that this is not a new thing, but why do people feel like this?

We as a race assign roles to gender. We decide what it means to look like a man or woman and also how one is supposed to behave. The way people feel doesn’t always fit in with the rules as we a more complex than that. In a world where guidelines are meant to be strictly followed, expression and creativity are stifled. After all isn’t how we represent ourselves a part of our creative identity? I am sure there are also more complex elements that also play a part, like a person’s psychology, however the basics is that it is how we feel inside. Surely that is what really matters.

Our language doesn’t accommodate this very well which tells me that it too must evolve with the times. With new words being added to the dictionary regularly shouldn’t we add one that applies to a gender neutral person. I suggest ‘Re’ as it already is often used as a short for ‘regarding’. So why not as a pronoun.

It’s really important that people are allowed to be who they really are. By trying to change or alter them to fit in with your norm you are only suppressing the beautiful person waiting to bloom.

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When do acts of respect become rituals and should they be stopped before they get that far?

About a month ago I visited my family in Glasgow. It’s been a while since I’ve been up and I wanted to celebrate Eid with them this year. It also happened at a time when I started to really miss my late grandmother. It’s been about 7 years since we lost her and I miss her all the time, some times more than others.

With that in mind I wanted to pay my respects to her grave. Now I’m not a big believer in revisiting the graves of our ancestors however I feel it is ok if it is just once in a while.

During my short 4 day visit my family decided it was best to go the graveyard on Eid shortly after our prayers. It was the only time that we were all going to be together as a family and as some of us didn’t know where to look it was helpful to go together.

What I saw when I got there made me question if I was doing the right thing or not.

In the graveyard there were other big groups of people, all of whom were also celebrating, hovering around the graves of their loved ones with offerings of flowers.

Was this a custom for people here to visit at celebrations? Religiously speaking we are not meant to visit graves at all. This to me seemed like a deliberate act on a religious holiday. I felt like people had added a custom to their beliefs that should never have been there in the first place.

Now expanding on what I mentioned earlier, I believe that you can pray for someone regardless of where you are in the world.

You are going to ask me why then did I feel the need to go to the graveyard in the first place, right?

Visits to graveyards are not essential although they can give a feeling of closeness to those gone.

After my experience that day I think my compulsion to go again has been subdued; for now. There is a part of me that feels that being near my grandmother’s grave brings me closer to her but, as I type, the other part of me tells me to think of how stupid that is.

I believe deep down everyone should remember their departed as they see fit. The only exception of this is when they make it a part of their religious duty.

I can’t say I won’t go back to visit the plot that my grandmother’s headstone holds, although I will be more mindful on how I do it in the future.

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We Represent

I believe that we all play the role of ambassadors. We represent our social group, religious beliefs, gender identity, political views and so much more. When someone sees how we behave they are inclined to judge all people akin to us in the same way.

The other day my sister told me about a conversation she had with her hairdresser. It’s not clear how the conversation started however the discussion about sexuality and religion was talked about. The lady mentioned how in the past her views on gay Muslims were that they couldn’t exist. She had struggled with accepting LGBT people in her life to the point that you might say she had a prejudice towards them.

“It’s a very difficult to accept,” she told my sister, further explaining how she struggled with understanding her daughter’s boyfriend’s gay mother. “How would your mother deal with it?”

“Well now you mention it,” my sister answered. There was a moment of realisation when the hairdresser discovered that she knew me as well.

“I love him,” she exclaimed enthusiastically.

Over a year ago we had a whole conversation about how (even though I am gay) I pray regularly, fast throughout the year and some other details I fail to remember that reflect my religious devotion. I remember her being shocked by this but clearly something about our meeting hit her in a positive way.

She told my sister about how her daughter now had a two year old son and how she had un-friended someone who was gay fearing that it would influence her child.

“I told her,” she began. “That it doesn’t matter who he falls in love with I will still be there to support him.”

When my sister told me all of this I was truly humbled by it. I couldn’t believe how much of an impact I had on that brief meeting with the hairdresser. It made me wonder how many others I have also influenced in the same way.

There are times I question what importance I have here on this world. I’m not the best/greatest/most anything. However, knowing that I can make such a positive impact on peoples lives (even if it is just one every so often) then it is all worth while.

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On the 18th of May I, together with a group of my friends, went out into our local town centre to give away free hugs and flowers all in the aid of Mental Health Awareness week.

The week, which started on the 14th of May, saw campaigners up and down the country encouraging people to talk about their mental well-being. But why?

Well we talk about our physical health openly so why not our mental health. If you have a cold everyone knows about it (especially in the case of man flu) . Broken bones are not hidden away in shame, we get everyone we meet to sign the cast. And the plaster industry make millions with the funky prints they now sport.

Cancer, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases were all once thought of as taboo topics to talk about but now we discuss them more openly than ever. By doing so we are also more likely to seek treatment which can lead to a fuller life as well seeing the symptoms long before they become dangerous or even life threatening.

With the event I hosted through my campaign, @TrueMinds2017, we were trying to show that a small act of kindness can go a long way. A single flower can make someone smile which in turn can change their perception of the day.

This simple gesture was enough to start a conversation which is something my friends found out.

Raff, pictured below, had the following to say about the day.

“Today helped show me how a small act of kindness can inspire and influence others. Happiness is infectious , by making someone happy they in turn would spread that positivity to another person and the cycle continues. E.g: I make a person very happy by giving her a rose , she goes to the shop to buy milk and is extra happy so would be more polite and happy to the cashier , the cashier would take note of that and can be inspired so the next person who she serves : she will be extra nice / polite to and the cycle can continue.”

He also noted the following about negativity.

“This is also true for negative energy but negative energy is less likely to spread further as it can stick to a person and ultimately do them some harm.”

Some people even took the time to sit with us for a wee chat and one man even bought us a drink, which proved to me that what we were doing was working. For me it was wonderful to give people a little bit of happiness in their lives, inspite of my own anxieties of not giving them enough indivdual attention.

Overall the day was a great success with the public being empowered to talk about their own mental health journey or about those they support. I also heard from local store owners about how their customers were positively effected by our work.

My team were only there for one gloriously sunny day but I think we have made an impact on our little town.

However you decide to start the conversation on mental health remember that support is always at hand.

For further guidance check out the Time to Change website.

You can also follow my campaign.

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In the eye of the beholder

I have lived with the feeling that I am not good looking for longer than I should. Through my years it has led me to try and alter my appearance. Some were harmless, like wearing make up or changing my fashion style, others more dangerous.

(As I looked in the past – a once frequent gym goer.)

I spent much of my teens and early twenties with an eating disorder. Skipping meals days in a row or making myself sick felt like they were just normal things to do to lose weight.

No pain, no gain.

The agony I was in meant nothing if I wasn’t thin and if I wasn’t thin I wasn’t attractive.

It got to the point I lost 3 stone in one month. Too weak to move I was taken to hospital. That was the turning point for me.

The sad truth is I’ve done loads of damage to my body as a result. I put on weight now quicker than before, for a long while my immune system was shot meaning I got every bug going. My teeth used to hurt ( I assume that’s because I damaged them with all the vomiting) and I’m tried so much of the time.

It’s been years since I officially had an eater disorders but the effects still remain.

Recently I’ve noticed traits coming back into place.

For one I am again watching what I eat. Not just health consciously but to the point I am counting calories. I’m monitoring the how many of them I burn and consume. Now I know for most people that might sound normal, especially if you are a gym goer, but this is different. I am fixating on the pounds that are coming off ( or sometimes on) and stopping myself from eating or exercising more to compensate.

The second point is that I sercutinise every picture I’m in. My eyes honed into the fatty bits and nothing else.

It’s getting me down so much.

Why is it that my appearance is so important?

Media has a place to play but I can’t blame it only on them. It’s also our social concept of beauty that tells me only buff men and slim women are worthy of our admiration. Gyms with these creatures pop up everywhere beckoning them in like moths to the… Well you know.

Have you ever tried going to the gym as a regular person? It’s intimidating as hell. I feel like a fraud whilst I do bench presses next to a man who has arms the thickness of my waist.

Over the years I’ve tried to take note as to why I feel like my appearance matters so much. Why it matters if I’m toned or handsome or my hair is properly style to fit in with the latest trend. The only thing I come back to is that it’s because I’m single which in turn makes me think that no one wants me because I’m unpretty .

Having spent so much of my life on my own I question why that is. I like to think I have an nice personality, only people don’t get to see that as they take one look at me and ‘swipe left’. That is if they look at all. So I concluded that it must be my appearance.

(As I look now.)

The strange thing is I don’t think I do the same. Of course I recognise conventional beauty and admire it although I have seen beyond that point too.

There have been times that I have met someone who is unquestionably handsome and then got to know them to find out that they are arrogant, rude or conceited. All of that veneer melts away to reveal their true nature and I’m totally turned off.

I think it’s really important to see beyond the profile pic and read the profile itself. After that make the decision on what you want to do next.

If only, eh? Maybe then I would stop questioning whether I am handsome or not and just move on from it.

It might be a bit late for me, seeing as though I have had a few decades of it drummed into my head. Maybe the next generation will have a better shot at it.

We can only hope.

So tell me if ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ what do you do when you look at yourself and all you see is something ugly?

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