Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'If I didn't have a mirror and I lived on a desert island, I would still feel unhappy with excess fat'
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The Independent Online

This week my brain has been stormed with one image of a thin girl after another. On the TV, on the news, on the radio, in magazines, in newspapers. Slinky hips running down the catwalk. Jeremy Paxman umming and aaahing. Size zero this, size zero that, which is a British size 4. I'm a British size 12. A 14 if you include the bosom acreage. Well, I tell you, this skinny model thing sent me straight down to the gym to get a personal trainer.

I've had personal trainers before. One of them actually made me cry. So this time I was very clear with what results I wanted. After filling in the forms, I said to Phil, my new personal trainer: "Four years ago I weighed seven stone. I now weigh 10 stone."

He looked at me, scrunched up his face, and said: "You want to be seven stone again?"

"No," I said, "I want to be happy."

I'm carrying around the equivalent of a bag of cement in fat. To put on three stone in four years would mean that in eight years' time, or (let's get really scary) in 12 years' time, I would have to be lifted out of my house by a crane. And in between the folds of my flesh, they'd find my cat Docket, who had apparently been missing since 2010. There would be big newspaper stories: "Cat survives in folds of flesh for nine years - living off sweat."

Phil asked if I had tried yoga. "Yoga?" I said, "I fucking hate it." It was like someone asking me if I thought Pol Pot was a nice man. He said there are lots of different kinds of yoga.

"Yeah," I said, "I've tried it and I don't like it. There's no satisfaction in having someone fart in your face, being surrounded by loads of middle-aged, dumpy mothers who constantly congratulate themselves on their core stability and actually haven't done anything in their lives apart from having a few children and getting high off their sun salutations. And then saying stuff to me like: 'What's wonderful about yoga is that it's a great leveller. It's for everybody - the novice, the beginner, the hard-core Buddhist monk. You just go into the class and take it at your own flow'. What it actually means is you are in a room full of show-offs and you are made to feel like a physical retard. And the one time I ever triumphed I was accused of being double-jointed. No, Phil, yoga is not for me."

It's weird about body weight - carrying it around. It actually feels like carrying a dead body. People have to understand that some are born to feel thin and others are born to be chubby and cuddly. When it comes to sex, I find very skinny people very unsexy. Getting into bed with a bag of bones is not my idea of a turn-on - eyes popping, teeth jutting, like a demented skull resting on the shoulders of a corpse. But anyone who has ever been very, very thin will tell you how good it feels. You don't sleep, you don't eat, you just float. If I didn't have a mirror and I lived on a desert island, I would still feel unhappy with excess body fat, because it makes me feel like a slug. A depressed, moody, emotional slug.

Phil said to me: "Where do you think the excess weight has come from?"

"My age," I said, "I think it's a hormone thing."

One minute you look in the mirror and you're a girl. A few years later you've shrunk, you have rolls of fat, and the posture of a grandma, and I reckon it's because I've missed out the middle man - the middle man being motherhood and giving birth. It's like missing out on being a teenager. One minute I was innocently playing netball and my periods had just started, the next I was having my brains shagged out in the back of a red van outside Hades nightclub. Girl to woman in no time at all. And now mentally I feel like I'm thinking as if I'm 20 years older than I am.

Lots of my closest female friends are around the 60 mark. They are the women who I feel most at ease with. I like their worldly, take-it-or-leave-it attitude. And they are not petty about anything. It's a shame the majority of women, in these times that we live in, consider self-improvement to be in the way they look. Whereas before, when the babies had flown the nest, a lot of women would have gone and done that flower-arranging course they always dreamt of, or finally had the courage to enrol in that yoga class, or maybe taken up a degree. The pressure on how women look is phenomenal and has got completely out of control. It's incredibly sad and it has very little to do with internal self-preservation.

I swear to God, I can lose 1,000 calories just by thinking really hard, by stretching my mind and expanding. But even me, with my slightly higher than average IQ (based purely on my ability to think laterally), still, with all my mental agility, I find it almost impossible to look in the mirror and see what is actually there. And that has nothing to do with media bombardment.

It has more to do with me wanting to have more control. Going to the gym, making an appointment, having a routine, is the start of all that. I want to grow old and agile. Slugs don't grow old, they have salt thrown over them.

It's a very complex issue.

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