Magazine True Life & Opinions TRUE LIFE: My battle with food, body image and self worth By James Brumpton | @jim936 Body image is something I’ve always struggled with. Whether or not that’s the acceptance of others or just accepting myself. But spending 18 years of my life overweight might be something to do with that. I’ve always struggled with food. For me it was a crutch. I had depression at 14. I was bullied at school because of my size and I ‘comfort ate’ to deal with the depression and bullying. I ate a lot of junk food. I could go to Pizza Hut and have garlic bread with cheese, a stuffed crust and chocolate fudge cake to myself. I’d feel sick but I wouldn’t stop. I’d just keep going. If I couldn’t eat solids any more I would switch to something like ice cream. Ice cream melts so I’d be able to continue eating. One of my worst binges was eating eleven Krispy Kremes, Domino’s stuffed crust pizza with starters and then half a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I would eat like I was on Death Row and it was my last meal. Eating made me feel better because the food tasted nice, which in turn made me feel happy. I was satisfied, albeit for a small amount of time. Food would never make me feel unhappy or upset. It made me feel content. It became a vicious cycle. I reached the peak of my weight at 16. I remember I went for a routine check-up at the doctor. I had all the usual checks. Blood pressure, height and weight. I said to myself that as long as I wasn’t over 20st I’d be OK. To me, 20st was the marker between being overweight and obese. It was the marker in my head that said, “There is a real problem here.” When I stood on the scales the nurse told me my weight. I was 20st 3lbs. And that was the moment when I thought, “Stop. Right now.” So I did. I decided to change old habits. I cut down my food intake, exercised and it started to work. I had steady weight loss for a couple of years and a great support network from my parents, which I will be forever grateful for. By the time I was 18 I’d lost a fair amount of weight. About three – four stone. Months went by and the weight loss continued. By this point I’d lost about six stone. I met up with someone I thought was a friend one night. We went back to his. One thing led to another and we were in bed together. He was naked and wanted me to do the same. Reluctantly, I took my t-shirt off. He looked at me and said, “Errrrr. Nice arms, though.” I was mortified. He felt so repulsed by my body he verbally had to express it. Fast forward to 4 September 2010. I was eleven days off my 21st birthday. That was the day I thought would change my life. I had borrowed some money from family members to pay for a tummy tuck. I went private because the NHS said I didn’t qualify. My dream of having a ‘normal’ body was in sight but it quickly transformed into a nightmare. The short version of the story? I ended up with an infection at the wound site. I had three holes in my stomach. You could see the internal stitching. I was off work for ten weeks. Not exactly ideal for someone who just turned 21. The recovery period was perhaps one of the darkest times I’ve faced in my life. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. I had zero confidence. Body or otherwise. It made me question, “Why do we bother?” In 2013 I was back up weight wise. I was 20st 7lbs. I went hard-core on the diet and exercise and lost 4st in twelve weeks. I wouldn’t advise it... I knew why I put the weight on. I’d not dealt with the emotional relationship I had with food. This was something that needed fixing. Over the last two years I’ve maintained a stable weight. I’m happier than I was. These days I focus on living a life where I make sensible food choices and allow for meals out with family and friends. I’ve developed a healthy relationship with food. I have the odd blow-out every now and again but nothing compared with before. I have stretch marks, scars, loose skin and coming in at 6’4”/17st, I’m not small but I don’t make any excuses for that. I’m happier I’ve lost the weight, absolutely. Now it’s less about my weight and more about my body fat. I don’t know what’s attainable for my body, given the weight loss and surgery. My skin is thicker than average and has lost some elasticity. I’m excited and scared to see where I’ll be in the next five years. Sometimes I worry about my body image. I worry I’m perhaps too big. I also understand I’m naturally quite broad so if I were to be 12st with this frame I’d probably look unwell. Saying that, I’m glad that I have a more muscular frame. I know I’m not everyone’s type. But then I’m not trying to be anyone’s type. It seems a strange notion to me that you go out with someone because they have ‘abs’ and ‘guns’. I’d say to anyone who has an issue with food, write a food diary. I use MyFitnessPal. Enter EVERYTHING you eat and make yourself accountable. A lot of people aren’t honest with themselves about what they eat. “I don’t eat that much but I’m always overweight.” This sentence has often been said to me by someone as they’re eating a double chocolate muffin with fresh cream in the middle... I’d also recommend speaking to a nutritionist. They can provide a guide and say to someone, “This is where you’re going wrong.” Knowing and admitting you have a problem with food is often the main battle. SUPPORT: If you would like to talk to someone or feel you need support, the following services can help: London Friend – offer one-to one counselling and support for LGBT people. Call 020 7833 1674 or visit www.londonfriend.org.uk/counselling. London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard – Support 7 days a week about love, life and safer sex. Call 0300 330 0630.