Tag Archives: psychology

Becky says things about … the human brain

O sweet and graceful listeners, let us speak of the human brain.

I’m a big fan of the brain. There are many things that that lump of moist cauliflower is good for; namely, and in no particular order:

  • coming up with sassy comebacks to impertinent comments
  • knowing not to eat things that wouldn’t agree with us, such as exposed wiring, or brick

  • remembering all significant dates in the world wars, or the dates and fates of Henry VIII’s wives, or the crucial cinematic progression of important Disney films between 1938 and 1952
  • recognising mistakes and rectifying them accordingly, such as ensuring that you write ‘kind regards’ and not ‘king retards’ in an email to the CEO of a multi-national company (NB. the human brain occasionally falls short on this one)
  • understanding when it’s appropriate to greet someone with a polite, palm-tickling handshake, and when it’s appropriate to use another form of greeting

  • being able to apply the correct sentences to correct situations, such as ‘I’m so incredibly happy for you’ at a wedding, and ‘I am deeply, deeply mournful’ at a funeral, and not the other way around
  • keeping you entertained with hilarious jokes

But sometimes the human brain doesn’t cooperate. Sometimes it gives up, or sabotages you, seemingly deliberately, out of spite or apathy.

I was recently in a very important meeting where I was a trifle out of my depth. I was being asked questions that really tried to fly over my head, but my brain was somehow managing to net them and fire back reasonably intelligent responses. This was a textbook example of teamwork: my brain and I were happily working together, and we did a small high five every time I responded to a question with actual words that made moderate sense and not complete hogwash.

And then a difficult question was thrown at me. It’s okay, I thought, my brain’s got this. It’s ready with its pen and pencil, scribbling down an answer, and my synapses will take but a milisecond to transmute an answer to my mouth.

But instead of filing a response into my mouth, my brain sat back, crossed its arms, shook its head, and proceeded to tell me this:

I tried desperately to clamber over my uncooperative, starved brain and fumble for an answer, but my brain stood up and plonked its fat behind on the question, and instead of words coming out of my mouth, there came…

…nothing.

Nope, not a thing. For seconds, I stared dumbly at the asker of the question, while my brain stopped telling me I was hungry, and instead helpfully started pointing out that

Finally, after what seemed literally weeks, I slapped my brain quiet, and gave a response that made it very clear to everyone in the room that I had no idea what the question was:

The human brain can also be pretty ruddy irritating when one is trying to get to sleep. Why, why, when a brain can literally spend all day saying ‘I am just not going to do anything today, you’re on your own, you pitiful creature’, does it then suddenly come alive the minute you get into bed?

Here is an excellent example of the acrobatics my brain can do when I’m trying to get to sleep:

God I’m tired what about boats in a nice turquoise sea oh that holiday to Austria in 2002 was lovely I wish I had a dog not been to the Hart’s Boatyard for dinner in ages mmmmmm scampi I wonder what the temperature is in New York right now Christ space is massive what about that guy who jumped out of a rocket that’s mad I must start running again and get a massage what’s that tune in my head I think it’s Mozart I really should take moisturising more seriously ahh those house parties we used to have with alcopops were great where has my youth gone ooo if I could have one sandwich right now it would be salt beef with mustard must get some kitchen towel tomorrow God I love flowers especially blue ones

When you’re brain is doing that to you, you may as well try to get to sleep like this:

See, look, here’s a prime example of the human brain not cooperating: I’m trying to think of a brilliantly inventive and amusing way to end this post so that my lovely listeners will think ‘God, she’s a terribly comical wag, that Becky’, but all my brain is saying is ‘I can’t think of a brilliantly inventive and amusing way to end this post’. See? So unhelpful. And there’s literally nothing I can do about it, so I may as well just jack the whole thing in and go and make myself a cup of tea.

I’m sorry, faithful ones, but don’t blame me for this heinous anti-climax, blame my stupid lazy human brain.

 

Bimble wallop.

 

Oh shut up, brain.

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Filed under Embarrassing Revelations, Life eh?, The Beauty of Life, Thoughts and Musings

Becky says things about … the epic fail of an eating disorder

I greet you, dearest Listener, a perturbed Becky. Something happened yesterday that has made me want to say some very important things.

Whilst in a shop, I overhead the following conversation between two young teenage girls. I’m appalling at judging people’s ages – I thought Mick Jagger was 348, turns out he’s only 70 – but I’m guessing these two girls couldn’t have been more than 14.

Girl 1:  I really need to lose weight.

Girl 2: Do what I’m doing.

Girl 1: Yeah, you’ve lost loads of weight.

Girl 2: Yeah, over a stone! Seriously, just spit everything into a tissue, you never actually swallow anything! I’ve been doing it for ages.

Girl 1: I might start doing that.

Girl 2: Do it, we’ll be well skinny.

Girl 1: (Smiling) Yeah.

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Listener, this conversation left me colder than a polar bear who’s fallen into a frozen lake, climbed out, spent all night in the rain, then been told the local shop has no woolly jumpers left.

These two girls were healthy-looking and slim – in fact the one who said she’d been hawking food into tissues was erring on too-skinny (unsurprising, as she’s probably ingested about 7 calories in the last month) – and neither of them needed, by any stretch of even the wildest imagination, to lose even an ounce.

Yet here they were proudly discussing the merits of what is essentially a form of bulimia. In a bid to get ‘well skinny’.

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Every gram of fat, every ounce of muscle in my body wanted to grab them by their perfectly lean shoulders and yell

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T EVEN GO THERE. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, STAY WELL AWAY FROM ALL THAT, AND JUST EAT.

The thought of these two healthy girls slipping into the bony grip of an eating disorder was horrible. Depressing, and horrible. Two words that exactly describe an eating disorder. Or, if you’re less wordy, the word

SHIT

will do nicely.

I’m not just having an aimless rant, I know what I’m talking about: I spent nearly two years in my early 20s starving myself in a bid to get skinny. At the end of 2005, the world had a healthy, happy, curvaceous, 9 and a half stone Becky. By mid 2007, the world was frankly bored and rather irritated by an unhealthy, miserable, bony, 7 and a half stone Becky.

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What started as a bid to ‘lose a few pounds’ and ‘tone up’ plummeted into an uncontrollable need to control what I put in my mouth, and before I could say ‘I don’t have an issue with food and I could never be anorexic’, I had a monumental issue with food and I was anorexic.

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An eating disorder is basically the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors. In fact, I’m surprised some English literature professor hasn’t written a thesis entitled “Feed Me, Seymour: Audrey II as a Metaphor for Anorexia”. (That one’s mine, hands off.)

It starts as an innocuous seed in your brain: I want to lose weight. You start eating less, you start losing weight. You get smaller. The seed gets bigger. It wants more of your flesh, more of your blood. You duly provide. The less you eat and the smaller you get, the more it consumes and the bigger and more monstrous is becomes, until it’s got you dangling from its greedy, slobbering lips and you realise with a sudden terrible certainty that there is no escape.

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At this point you may as well say goodbye to everything that shapes you as a person. Any aspirations, hobbies, enjoyment, pleasure, hopes, sparks of character, or that fire that burns inside you with your name on it – forget it. You are one thing and one thing only: an eating disorder. Every single second of every day is consumed with focussing on losing fat, with not eating, with trying to avoid eating situations. Food is your nemesis. Yet you can’t think about anything else. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing, who says what to you – there is only one thing you can think about.

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The enjoyment you took in everyday things – hanging out with friends, dinner with your family, shopping, lounging around being yourself – disappears. Suddenly everything is a terrifying problem. An invite to a house party becomes a desperate quest to look skinny and avoid those evil plates of nibbles on every surface. A harmless question from a parent – ‘Are you in for dinner tonight’ – is a gut-punching, brain-screwing imperative to lie. And lie you will. You will become an expert fabricator of life’s minutiae, and you will be ruthless. 

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To avoid having to stay in and eat what was put in front of me, I once told my mother I was going out for dinner with friends. I wasn’t going out for dinner. It was a massive, slimy lie. I borrowed her car and drove round the streets of South West London for three hours, then came back and gushed about what a lovely meal I’d had. Not only did my eating disorder turn me into a slithering, pathetic liar, it rendered me single-handedly responsible for England’s carbon emissions.

An eating disorder makes your once happy, sparkly life utterly miserable. And now let me tell you what you achieve in your diehard quest to be skinny:

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The tragic irony is that in your quest to be skinny, there is no such thing as ‘skinny’. There is no single weight, no end goal, that will satisfy an eating disorder.

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‘Skinny’ is a terrifying, bottomless concept that you will never, ever reach. Even when everyone in the world is telling you

YOU ARE REALLY SKINNY

it is never enough. Comments like that are a sign you are doing well, and you should carry on. Basically, in today’s lingo, an eating disorder is an epic fail. Before you even start, you have failed. You will never reach your goal because your goal will scuttle off into the gloom like a cockroach. Even when you can happily see your cute little collar bones strain through your skin, and you can admire your twig-like arms in the mirror, it still will not make you smile. I have never been so miserable, so wretched, or cried or shouted so much, as I did during my eating disorder.

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Eventually, if my experience is anything to go by, your willpower and your self-control will snap like a piece of taut string – it may take one year, two, ten – it may never happen – and you will plunge into a desperate, blacked-out world of uncontrollable, panicked binge eating. Late nights in the kitchen, tearing through cupboards like the Tasmanian Devil, shoving anything and everything you can get your hands on. I probably owe my parents hundreds of pounds in binged-on food. And the bitter truth is that I have lost more hours to the blind frenzy of binge eating than I have to starving myself. An eating disorder has one hell of a long hangover.

And even if you make a full recovery, like I did (and guess what: I love food and I’m bloody happy about it), and get back to a healthy weight and stop viewing food as the Devil incarnate, your body image and your self-control will always be a little bit broken. 

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I didn’t say anything to the two girls in the shop who wanted to be ‘well skinny’, and I spent the day wishing I had. True, they may have told me to Fuck off, and remarked amongst themselves that I could do with dropping a few feet from around my bum – but on the other hand, they might have thought about the stranger that felt strongly enough to say something, and they might, just might, have packed the whole thing in and gone for a pizza.

So I’ve said it on here instead. Trying to be skinny is shit. It is impossible. You will never reach it. It will get hold of you, and it will never quite let go.

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Filed under Food, Health and Exercise, Life eh?, People, Thoughts and Musings