By popular demand - the post that appeared in 2002 in Sunday Life Magazine:
I've always been what you would call a big girl. Not exactly fat, just well rounded. A size 14. I've been overweight for most of my life.
For as long as I can remember, I've longed to be slim, but I never actually believed it could happen. It was like yearning for Tom Cruise to whisk me away in his private jet - a wonderful, unattainable fantasy. Thin girls were as strange and unknowable to me as movie stars.
But two years ago, after the birth of my second child, I finally lost weight. Over the course of a year, I shed almost 20 kilograms. So, for the past 12 months, I have been living in a skinny body. A size eight body. And it feels absolutely bizarre.
After being overweight for most of my 34 years, I find that I can't think of myself as a slim person. In my mind, I am still the big girl that I always was. The only difference is that now I am a big girl living in a thin girl's body.
Being seen to be a thin person evokes in me the same feelings I had as a 15-year-old sneaking into nightclubs with a fake ID. There is the thrill of getting away with something, the fear of being caught, and the constant underlying anxiety about the real me being exposed. These feelings follow me wherever I go. Clothes shopping, for example. When the sales assistant asks me my size, and I meekly answer, "An eight", I tense up, waiting for the snort of derision. "You? A size eight? Yeah, maybe in a shoe!" But the snort never comes. The sales assistant trots off obligingly and fetches me an eight, which - to my never-ending astonishment - always seems to fit.
The feelings of deception are particularly potent when I'm around naturally thin women. These freaks of nature seem to accept me unquestioningly as one of their own, as if I'm now a lifetime member of the Thin Club. You know the Thin Club - lots of thin people get together, stand around in thin clothes, do thin things like go to the gym and shop, and eat thin food. Or maybe they don't eat at all. Remember, I'm only new to this. I feel like an impostor. I feel I have as much right to membership of the Thin Club as I do to the Olympic wrestling squad or the Russian space program.
There is a name for my condition - I have what is referred to as a "fat brain". In other words, my brain hasn't caught up with the changes in my body. So even when the scales and the mirror and my clothes tell me I am thin, my brain still tells me I am plump. In many ways, having a "fat brain" inside a thin body makes me feel like a visitor to a foreign country. I can appreciate the culture and remark with objectivity about the way of life, but my unfamiliarity with the customs has led to some trouble.
I have learnt that being thin changes the way that both women and men respond to you. For example, many thin and gorgeous women who weren't friendly to me when I was bigger are much nicer to me now that I'm slim. I find this kind of horrifying. I now know that thin people are treated with more respect than fat people - they're seen as being more . self-disciplined and competent. But I also know that I'm still the same person I was before I lost weight, so I can't understand how becoming slim has made me more likeable. Is it because there is less of me?
Interestingly, my relationships with my plump friends have also changed. For a start, they don't talk to me about their dieting issues any more. Even women who knew me when I was big seem to regard me as having crossed over to the other side. When talk turns to. food, they say things like, "Yeah, look at you, you lucky thing" and "Oh, you wouldn't have to worry about what you eat." They don't recognise that I am still one of them - that the torment and struggle of all those years of being overweight will stay with me forever. Nor do they understand that my current state of slimness could all be temporary, that at any time my body could revert to its previous size by a process of spontaneous eruption.
Then there are my interactions with the opposite sex. I've always enjoyed a bit of harmless flirting, but it has taken on a different meaning since I lost 20 kilograms. Giving men my full attention, laughing at their jokes, being vivacious ... It used to make men think I was a nice person. Now it makes men think I'm coming on to them.
It took me a long time to recognise this because I had had no previous experience with sexual power. At first I thought I was making lots of new male friends - some of whom sent me dirty emails and made appreciative comments about my midriff. But then I realised that the discussions with these friends turned to sex more than the law of averages would predict, and I detected the occasional wary look from girlfriends when I was engrossed in conversation with their partners. By the time my husband commanded me to cease, I had already realised that my behaviour needed to adapt in accordance with my weight.
Losing weight has also changed my relationship with my husband. Apart from his lack of tolerance for my flirting, he is absolutely thrilled with the new me. I receive far more compliments these days, often without even having to ask! I receive the occasional gift of sexy new clothes. I also receive many, many invitations to experience my husband's-appreciation physically (yes, he wants to have sex with me all the time).
This is all very gratifying to my thin body, but my fat brain has mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I'm delighted that my husband enjoys my new look, because I do too. On the other hand, I almost resent him for it, because I feel like it shouldn't make a difference to him. If he loves me, shouldn't sex be just as enjoyable with me whether I'm a size eight, 14 or 24?
It's the age-old dilemma. We all want to be considered attractive and we all want our attractiveness to be appreciated and recognised. And yet we definitely don't want to be loved for our looks; we want to be loved for who we are inside. It's as if we want our physical attractiveness to be a kind of bonus for our partners, their reward for loving us for our true inner selves. I know that I, for one, get perverse satisfaction from knowing that, even if my husband loves my new slim body, at least he married me when I was big. He passed the true love test.
Losing weight has also affected my relationship with my mum. I have learnt a universal truth: that if you are not overweight, then your mother is required to be anxious that you are too thin. Suddenly, after years of supporting me in my numerous attempts to lose weight, my mother is fretting. She pushes second helpings of dessert at me, exclaims "Good!" when I complain that I've eaten too much, and worries out-loud that I'm looking tired.
But living as a thin person is a very pleasant experience. There is the intrinsic satisfaction of moving around in a body in which I feel comfortable (even if my brain hasn't adjusted to it yet). There is the relief of not being burdened with excess weight - of not having my thighs rub together when I walk, of not having to worry about whether my bum looks big in those pants.
Then there is my new-found passion for shopping. In the past, I prided myself on not being focused on clothes or material possessions. But now I understand that shopping simply wasn't fun when nothing looked especially good on me. Now that clothes fit, shopping is a joy. I love my low-slung jeans, I adore my off-the-shoulder top, I worship my knee-high boots, and I am horrified by how shallow and materialistic I have become.
I have also learnt some tough lessons. One of the main problems is that the etiquette of being slim does not come naturally to me. I now know there are countless rules of conduct that apply to thin people; for example, as a thin woman I must demonstrate that I eat a great deal- although logically one can't eat a great deal and remain slim - or people, particularly my mother, will think I have an eating disorder.
At the end of the day, as pleasant as it is to have a thin body, it is, after all, just a body. It still has the same old me inside it, and I am far from perfect. I still have irrational worries. I still fight with my husband. I still speak without thinking. I still get nervous before parties. And I still have days when I feel ugly.
Oh, and finally, for those of you who are wondering, I lost weight because I stopped eating so much food. Sadly, it still seems to be the only way.