Because people overeat for exactly the same reason they drink, smoke, serially fuck around or take drugs. I must be clear that I am not talking about the kind of overeating that’s just plain, cheerful greed – the kind of Rabelaisian, Falstaffian figures who treat the world as a series of sensory delights, and take full joy in their wine, bread and meat. Someone who walks away from a table – replete – shouting ‘THAT WAS SPLENDID!’, before sitting in front of a fire, drinking port and eating truffles, doesn’t have neuroses about food. They are in a consensual relationship with eating and, almost unfailingly, couldn’t care less about how it’s put an extra couple of stone on them. They tend to wear their weight well – luxuriously, like a fur coat, or a diamond sash – rather than nervously trying to hide it, or apologising for it. These people aren’t ‘fat’ – they are simply … lavish. They don’t have an eating problem – unless it’s running out of truffle oil, or finding a much-anticipated dish of razor clams sadly disappointing. No – I’m talking about those for whom the whole idea of food is not one of pleasure, but one of compulsion. For whom thoughts of food, and the effects of food, are the constant, dreary, background static to normal thought. Those who think about lunch whilst eating breakfast, and pudding as they eat crisps; who walk into the kitchen in a state bordering on panic, and breathlessly eat slice after slice of bread and butter – not tasting it, not even chewing – until the panic can be drowned in an almost meditative routine of spooning and swallowing, spooning and swallowing. In this trance-like state, you can find a welcome, temporary relief from thinking for ten, 20 minutes at a time, until, finally, a new set of sensations – physical discomfort, and immense regret – make you stop, in the same way you finally pass out on whisky, or dope. Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction, and self-obliteration. You get all the temporary release of drinking, fucking or taking drugs, but without – and I think this is the important bit – ever being left in a state where you can’t remain responsible and cogent. In a nutshell, then, by choosing food as your drug – sugar highs, or the deep, soporific calm of carbs, the Valium of the working classes – you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, pop in on your mum and then stay up all night with an ill five-year-old – something that is not an option if you’re caning off a gigantic bag of skunk, or regularly climbing into the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back quarts of Scotch. Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of fucking yourself up whilst still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the ‘luxury’ of their addiction making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice. All the quietly eating mums. All the KitKats in office drawers. All the unhappy moments, late at night, caught only in the fridge-light.
Caitlin Moran (2011)