Confessions of a gay compulsive over eater

"Je Suis Fatty Gay.." Meet our new anonymous contributor who, every month in Attitude, is going to take us on a very personal journey that began in the closet – and the fridge. I’m Fatty Gay, 39 from London. Fatty Gay is a nickname I’ve carried on my back since I was a kid. Back in my first year of secondary school, my lanky French teacher asked me to translate the verb ‘I’m tired’. Apparently, I didn’t say it loud enough, so I was made to stand up in front of the entire class and repeat it. “Je suis fatigué,” I mumbled, wobbling with fear. And the class erupted. So did the teacher. I was made to say it three more times before I was allowed to sit back down in my seat, jut holding back the tears which were ready to stream down my face from the utter shame and humiliation. FoodCliffAttitude_1958_BW From about the age of 8, my weight began to increase stone by stone each year. At the time of the Fatty Gay incident, at 12 years old, I was already 12 stone. By GSCE year, I had reached 16. My height, however, was stunted. I grew outwards, but never upwards. This particular physicality, along with my oversensitivity and obvious burgeoning homosexuality, made me an easy target for pupils and staff alike. It wasn’t that I was a Billy no-mates at school. It was just that I never had any actual friends. I was seen as a bit of a class clown; part of the group of misfits who didn’t really fit in. It’s the same old story. I didn’t climb trees, I didn’t like The A-Team or Airwolf, I didn’t have scrappy fights with the neighbourhood kids and I just wasn’t interested in being a ‘lad’. Instead, I wrote poetry and sung pop songs in the playground. During kiss chase I wanted the boys to chase me, not the girls. I was called a poof, a faggot, a queer and a ‘gaylord’, the latter of which made me think I was some kind of Gallifreyan half-breed. Clearly, I wasn’t like other boys, and I felt alientated trying to play inside the lines of their world. They were quick to regularly point this out to me. It wasn’t enough that I hung out with girls, plastered Smash Hits cut-outs to my school books, and made up dance routines, but I was also ‘fat, round, and bounced along the ground,’ according to the chanting ritual that soundtracked my every day. I was essentially a bully’s wet dream. Along with the verbal abuse, kicks, punches and pushes to the ground, some of my school highlights included the suggestion that I might want to wear a training bra, that I was too fat to see my own knob, and that I’d never have sex because I would crush my partner to death. Oh, and then there was that time I had eggs thrown at me from a car window as I ran for a bus. And the time I had a milkshake poured over me on a train. The happiest days of your life? I’ll get back to you on that one. My relationships with other kids were determined by my increasing size. The fatter I got, the more I got bullied – but bizarrely, the more popular I became. I was a pathetic school mascot; the ‘fat poof bastard clown’. I rebuffed their taunts and made them laugh instead. I carried on like a crazed performing blubbery seal; slapping my fins together and oinking for attention and pay-off in the hardest currency of all – food. I struck them a deal; if I made them laugh, they had to give me food in return. And many of them did. And if they didn’t, then I’d simply steal it from their lunch plates instead. Food was my first drug of choice. I’ve performed for it. I’ve stolen for it. I’ve hoarded it. I’ve hidden it. I’ve eaten out of bins, off the floor, off your plate and off supermarket shelves. I’ve consumed it frozen, burned, stale and damaged. I’ve taken your leftovers and extra portions when you weren’t looking. I’ve emptied cupboards in the middle of the night and sneaked out early in the morning to replace them. I’ve inhaled second, third, fourth and fifth portions. I’ve dieted, starved, binged and vomited into plastic bags hidden under my bed that I forgot were there. I’ve filled my trolley, my pockets and my stomach with sweets, biscuits, crisps, bread, chocolate, chips, burgers, pizzas, ice-cream, nuts, sauces and meat. Then I’ve thrown it all up, just so I could start all over again. I’m nearly 40-years-old and only 5’6”, and my life-long relationship with food has been an awful, shameful, horrendous secret, that caused me to maim and disfigure my body to a peak weight of nearly 20 stone. FoodCliffAttitude_1831_BW I wish I could say that my weight gain was down to a genetic abnormality, or a ‘gland problem’ as one teacher once assumed. But it wasn’t. I became obese because I ate too much. I can trace my behavior right back to my early childhood. I felt uncomfortable around other kids, grown ups, teachers, and other authority figures. People provoked my anxiety. I felt different and uncontained within my family unit. I felt separate and isolated. At this stage I didn’t know I was gay; I just knew I was different, somehow. So I found solace in food. That made me feel better. I could rely on it, especially sugary foods to take away this awful, unknown feeling. Food offered ease and comfort and took away my despair. This twisted love affair began when I just 6-years-old. It was 1982. Around the same time Boy George was quoted as saying he preferred a cup of tea to sex, I realised that I preferred a bag of sweets to people. My first memory of bingeing was on a family holiday to Spain. On the airplane, I devoured an entire box of duty free Milky Bars. I couldn’t tell you why I did it. I just knew that I liked the feeling it produced in me. Relief. Safety. Excitement. As the plane landed, mum asked me where the chocolate was. I simply shrugged and denied any knowledge. I felt ashamed because I knew I’d done something wrong. Of course, I already sensed that there was something wrong with me. In that moment, shame buried itself deep into my psyche, forming a layer of ‘shitty-velcro’ to my soul that would later attract all kinds of other negative emotions that stuck. Eating – and more specifically, bingeing – made me feel better about existing in the world, even though I felt worse afterwards. And, of course, it caused me to continue to gain weight. I’m not blaming anyone else for that. I put every single extra calorie and ounce of fat into my body. Even as a kid. No one forced me to overeat. You might ask where my parents were at the time? How can a 6-year old kid eat his way a stone heavier year on year without any intervention at home? Fair question. They tried. Honestly, they really tried. They put me on diets from an early age. They sent me to doctors. Mum never bought sweets or biscuits in her weekly shop. She cooked healthy meals. Yet I found ways to get my stash at school. Dinner ladies loved me because I finished everything off my plate. I bought ‘tuck’ with my lunch money at break time and munched on Kit Kats, Drifters, Giant Strawbs and Pink Shrimps stuffed in my blazer pockets and hidden in my locker during class. I manipulated gullible classmates and teachers to lend me lunch money that I’d ‘lost’. I never paid them back. I performed songs and impressions on buses and people paid me for making them laugh. I sang Christmas carols in the neighbourhood on my own in a desperate effort to collect money to buy sweets. Any method of funding my habit I tried. The fatter I got, the more I was bullied and the worse I felt, so the more I ate. I was 10-years-old when I first acknowledged to myself thatI was gay. I looked the word up in the dictionary and read that it meant someone who was attracted to the same sex. I felt an odd mix of excitement and disgust. “That’s me,” I said to myself. My head was full of confused feelings and by now I was starting to crush on boys at school. At last, some hope and understanding about what it all meant. But, hang on. This was exactly why I was getting bullied. I was met with more anxiety. Oh, but wait – I had a solution for that. Three Wham bars and a Wispa later, it didn’t matter anymore and I got lost in a world of TV fantasy. Eating and TV pretty much went hand in hand. By now, I was growing up in a single parent family with mum working full-time to pay the bills. I came home to an empty house after school and had free reign of the fridge. While school was a blur and often traumatic, TV provided me with a backdrop of fantasy, escape and drama. I wrote endless letters to Blue Peter begging them to let me present the show. I cast myself into soap operas as Pat Butcher’s son in EastEnders, and Kylie’s English cousin in Neighbours; I lived for my weekend sofa binge from 9am Saturday with my friends on Going Live! to 10pm on a Sunday with Esther Rantzen and her boys on That’s Life!. And by my side during all this was food. Don’t go thinking that it was just junk food and chocolate that I feasted on. I’d eat anything I could get my hands on. It was entirely normal for me to go through a bag of six Granny Smith apples, a bunch of bananas and some low-fat crisp bread in an hour if there were no sugar reserves. I didn’t stop to acknowledge what I was eating, just as long as it was something. Any time spent without me chewing, biting, dribbling or swallowing, was time I’d have to feel that terrible and awful fucking feeling that was my existence. I wasn’t aware of it at the time because I was always so intoxicated on food; I never knew any better. I was eating just to survive; and in my case, it was survival of the fattest. Yet, I couldn’t see that over time in to my adulthood, my eating habit was actually killing me. By it’s very definition compulsion is addiction; an irresistible urge to do something or behave in a certain way without any say in the matter. It’s a sense of getting locked into a pre-programmed state of being or doing. By the time I was 12, stood in front of my class having to repeat out loud ‘Je suis fatigué’ or rather, what they wanted to hear ‘Je Suis Fatty Gay’, it was already too late. I was locked into compulsive overeating and couldn’t stop. What’s desperately ironic is, as I stood there with tears streaming down my face, I was indeed very tired. At just 12-years-old, I’d been bullied and browbeaten so much, that I was exhausted. Yet, the uncontrollable trigger to overeat – to sedate myself and push down all those feelings, had only just woken. Inside, I felt dead. As I got older, I’d describe myself as emotionally disabled, like a robot, I drifted far from reality and far from humanity. Darker days lay ahead. But for now, the thought of food excited me. I lived for it. I wanted more and more. I couldn’t stop. And I’d go to any lengths to get it. Fuck you all for making my life hell. And fuck you if you stood in my way. My life as Fatty Gay, the Compulsive Overeater, was only just beginning. Helpful links:  Overeaters Anonymous Men Get Eating Disorders Too Beating Eating Disorders The Second instalment of Je Suis Fatty Gay is available in the September issue of Attitude (261), out on August 14.