Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Somebody up there was listening when I claimed that greed was a deadly sin I didn't have. I was sorely tested yesterday. When I returned home from work John met me with the bad news that while he was in the house - either inside the house playing card games on his computer with the door shut, or outside gardening - his wallet had been stolen from his jacket pocket where it was draped over one of the dining-room chairs (near the front door).
At first we thought it had simply dropped out of his pocket, and the first half hour was spent looking in likely places. But then I had cause to walk about 10m to the other end of the house and I realised it was serious - all drawers had been opened and some contents were strewn around, and my jewellery box was upside down and almost empty: worthless trinkets had been left behind.
How they got away with it with John around is a total mystery, but it was probably for the best that they did. He's the sort of person who would have confronted them, and at 81 with a heart condition, despite the fact that he used to box in the army when he was young, I wouldn't have reckoned his chances were very high at getting them to return stolen goods - in fact it's more likely that they would have responded with violence. He just shrugs his shoulders and says it would still have been worth it... (what is it with you men for goodness sake?)
They took every last piece of jewellery I possess, except what I was wearing. There was my mother's jewellery, including a little gold ring with her initials given to her by her father which she had worn as a child, and after being worn by my sister for a while, was worn by me until my fingers became as fat as the rest of me - it used to make me smile that the initials were "GAS". Also her engagement ring, in the family for at least 100 years that we know of, and I was very proud of being the custodian of these beautiful items which would be eventually passed down to the only grandaughter, my niece. There was the pink topaz my father gave me on my seventeenth birthday, the stone for which I had chosen myself (the biggest I could see - greed again...), the peridot I inherited from Granny, and a whole series of pretty stone rings, earrings and pendants which I had bought on eBay some years ago when I was better off. Nothing flashy you understand, just stones of different colours to match whatever outfit I might be wearing - I was secretly proud of my taste, and adored wearing them. One of the rewards I promised myself after having the lapband fitted was that I would one day return to my "friends" and wear them all again.
I'm taken by surprise as I remember them in turn today while doing other jobs, and grieve for each and every one, apologising to the spirits of my parents for being so hopeless at looking after them. At the same time I acknowledge that at the time I was buying them on eBay I was clearly displaying that which I have claimed not to recognise - greed. I just didn't expect the lesson to be so hard.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins – random thoughts (Part 2)

Envy, Wrath, Pride and Lust…

A bit of it is fine, as long as it doesn’t take you over. I reserve my strong envy for people with strong dieting willpower, who are enthusiastic about putting up with physical discomfort so as to become fit, and for those who have used their intelligence to do worthwhile things with their lives. I’m so glad I grew out of envying people who were better off than I was, had prettier dolls and bedrooms, and lots of new clothes (and the latest Beatles records!)

There’s also the harmless envy of other living creatures that makes your imagination work – of the cat that gets away with sleeping by a fireside all day and whose looks alone usually ensure its survival among humans; the bird that can hover on a thermal as it captures the view below; the exhuberance of a dolphin that can streak through the water, diving in and out; the dog whose affections are so black and white and uncomplicated; the horse that can travel at speed, not with the intention of catching a meal or escaping pursuit, but just for the sheer exhilaration of it.

Anger yes, temper no. I stuttered a lot as a child – I still do sometimes - and learned that you can’t lose your temper in an articulate manner when you know there’s a word coming up ahead you’re going to get stuck on. In addition, my older sister unintentionally forced me to abandon temper as a way of getting what I wanted or letting off steam - she usually managed to make me feel very small if I lost my temper, by use of the method I now know is a classic one used by children – spite: to respond to criticism by counter-criticising twice as hard. It was very bad for self-esteem.

But now I’ve discovered that I have the capacity to feel a great depth of anger towards people who have hurt me badly and refuse to discuss it rationally. To digress briefly from pathos to bathos, perhaps I’ve learned this from watching the ideal world of TV soaps where these things are resolved! However, whereas in soaps characters are forced to talk through whatever it is, my own (relatively recently acquired) coping mechanism is a strong determination to avoid people, situations and jobs that make me angry or unhappy. I ought to add a footnote here that I have not had children, but would like to believe that they would have been an important exception to this attitude.

The most difficult to discuss. Dignity is immensely important to me, as I would discover every time I had my heart broken. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself because I needed to feel that I was better than the person who was hurting me. And yet when I was made redundant in 2007 after 19 years with the same company, it affected me in a way that left no room for dignity, and I felt cast out of a trade I genuinely loved, which was the agricultural industry.

When you’re overweight it’s a wobbly knife edge you walk on if you tend towards self-consciousness, and if in addition you want to keep your dignity as well. You end up being forced into using your sense of humour as a way of getting there before anybody else does. British comedienne Jo Brand uses this method to great effect.

On the other hand one of my pet hates is when people are unable through pride or simply lack of guts to look at you in the eye, and apologise with meaning, or don’t know the significance of the word ‘humility’. Add to the list those who feel themselves to be superior because of position, money, status, qualifications, and so on. Sexism, racism, elitism and bigotry all come from misplaced pride, and I frequently seethe with inward rage when I see them in action.

Last but not least: Lust
There are many adjectives with which I could describe what this one is for me, most of them positive, but deadly ain’t one of ‘em. I would like to think that it’s meant as a deadly sin only when it provokes crime or elicits behaviour which harms another person. It’s one of those physical pleasures which help us get through life. I'd like to explore the general topic of how overweight people view physical pleasure generally in a future post.


I think I’m guilty as charged on all the deadly sins except perhaps greed. However there are a host of other unofficial deadly sins, aren’t there? Let’s see… here I scribbled a list of other ones (intolerance, making war, etc) but these early Christian thinkers had it worked out, because they can all be ascribed to one of the above.

Except lying. Where do you put it? With all of them perhaps. Thinking in the context of this blog, don’t say – as I could not – that you haven’t lied so that people don’t know how much you’ve been eating, or what treat you’ve hidden somewhere, or that you’re too proud to admit defeat, or because the truth would make your anger collapse like a pack of cards, or to hide the slothful fact that you simply can’t be bothered…

Nuff said I think.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins – random thoughts (Part 1)

Gluttony, Greed & Sloth

Well, it’s brought us to this blog, hasn’t it? The desire for physical pleasure which is most easily satisfied, the conjuring up of comfortable and comforting childhood when there were no responsibilities and your feeling unhappy was of great concern to grown-ups, who usually solved the problem by giving you something nice to eat. Then you got older and you discovered that you were expected to keep yourself happy, and that being miserable was no longer pitiful, but actually annoying to others – so you used the same methods, and gave yourself something nice to eat.

Gluttony is the logical outcome: the feeling of anxiety if we’re not full to bursting. This anxiety is the hardest of all the feelings to overcome when you’re overweight.

Yes, we’d all love to be multimillionaires and are convinced that it would “sort out” every single problem we’ve ever had or could have. In our heart of hearts we know that it wouldn’t really, but wouldn’t it be nice just to… sort of… well… find out for ourselves???

Greed is also what slim people see as the behaviour and motivation of overweight people (“You’re just plain greedy”). Not so. If it were we would be greedy at every level – money, attention, affection, satisfying every whim. It’s back to that anxiety again, the anxiety about feeling hungry and the threat of being excluded from the pleasure of eating.

Oh dear, big black cross against my name here. Horrible word dating from an era when most people had few resources, and if you wanted to enjoy a decent standard of living you had to work very hard for it. Being lazy was therefore a Bad Thing, because it meant that it would inevitably result in your sponging off someone else who had worked hard. However I believe they meant it to be physical laziness – sitting around. Modern life is very conducive to not having to race about, on the whole, and now we see nothing wrong in having time to sit and reflect, and to sit and study in later life is positively encouraged. But sloth has got me -weightwise - to where I am today.

I do feel a nagging irritation towards some people who are mentally idle, and can’t be bothered to think something through, read a book or feel curiosity about the world outside their immediate circle. They’re generally very inspired about improving their physical fitness but make no effort to be better at their jobs, or learn anything new, not to mention what life is like in the rest of the world.
To be continued...

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Restriction yet no restraint, control yet no self-control

On the occasions when I listen to my inner voice - for which I need a hearing-aid most of the time, it must be admitted - I start a meal too fast, the discomfort and threat of PB appear, I slow right down and eat very slowly, and soon I feel full and able to leave some of it. John takes the plate away and I reach after if whimpering... but my brain has caught up with my stomach, and with minimal willpower I am able to accept that I don't want any more to eat.
That's on good days. Even on medium days, the fact that I deliberately don't buy wrong foods serves to help my wavering willpower. But most of the time it's a fight I rarely win, and the most I achieve is that my weight stays level. Some days I'm actually sick ... "how brave you are, to put up with all that discomfort" they say. No it's not. It's humilliating because I know I'm not listening. The band is saying "I'm here to help you, slow down, you stupid cow", but my brain is slipping back into the old mode and saying "See? You deserved that, it's a punishment because you're plain greedy and you'll never change."
My next fill is Wednesday 18th March. I hope it will be a step on the road to restraint and self-control, and to liking myself a little more.
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