Tuesday 27 September, early evening
Lynn opened a packet of smoky bacon crisps as she flopped on
to the couch in front of the television. With her right hand, she
dipped into the bag and with her left, lifted a full glass of Char-
donnay to her lips.
Her high cheekbones were the focus of a pretty, friendly face.
With dark, wavy, shoulder-length hair and striking hazel eyes,
she continued to turn heads at 36 – and looked as if she would
for some years to come.
But right now, an unwitting frown disturbed her forehead.
Something was niggling her.
Nicky, her five-year-old, was amusing himself with his PlayStation.
He was a bright, enthusiastic boy. His blond hair and blue eyes
often softened the hearts of shoppers who had initially stared in
disapproval at his occasional supermarket tantrums.
Tonight, he was quiet and absorbed.
The peace was broken by the phone ringing. It was Steve, Lynn’s
husband of five years and partner for twice as long.
‘Hi, Gorgeous!’ he began. ‘It’s motorway mayhem. I’ll try to be
home by eight.’
‘OK, Steve,’ replied Lynn. ‘Supper’s on.’
Settling back on the couch, remote control in her hand, she spent
the next 40 minutes hopping between soaps and reality TV.
A fight was breaking out in EastEnders. An affair was smoulder-
ing in Emmerdale.
A D-list celebrity was having a makeover. Britain’s Worst Mum
was screaming at her teenage daughter.
Desperate women queued up on the screen of Lynn’s television
to proclaim their increasing dissatisfaction with their figures. Lynn
opened another packet of crisps as her frown deepened.
In Big Brother Revisited, Emilie showed off the infected stud
wound on her belly button and 20-year-old Karina talked about
getting implants to enlarge her breasts.
Nicky had by now lost any interest in his PlayStation and was
seeking attention – but Lynn was tired. She knew it was time to
bath him and get him ready for bed, but instead she hung on for
a few minutes to watch the start of Extreme Makeovers, as she
opened a packet of biscuits.
The pounds gained when Nicky was born had proved hard to
shift. And recently, a carbohydrate fix won against another diet
The diets she’d tried had worked – for a while. And then life
would get in the way.
Lynn’s mobile sounded from within her handbag with a message.
Perhaps a text from Steve?
As she studied the screen, a puzzled look crossed her face.
A text message read:
Are you hungry for love?
‘Oh well, definitely not Steve.’ She smiled. He used to send sexy
texts, but not recently. They tended to be matter-of-fact arrange-
ments, often enquiring what was for supper.
‘So who’s winding me up?’ she mused.
The mobile was giving no clues as the text refused to reveal the
‘Must be a scam,’ Lynn decided, as her attention wandered from
the phone to the TV screen in front of her.
An advert for a new reality show began:
‘Are you hungry for love? You could be one of ten contestants
seeking the perfect partner on your very own Love Island …’
Lynn sat rooted to the TV screen – and glanced again at the text
‘ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR LOVE?’ it confirmed. Her puzzled
thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Steve’s key in the
‘Hi, Gorgeous!’ said Steve, pecking Lynn on the cheek.
‘How’s my boy?’ he enquired, ruffling Nicky’s already tousled hair.
Steve reached for the remote and flicked to the Champions
He was youthful for his age. With his milestone 40th fast ap-
proaching, only a little grey hair around the temples betrayed any
real sign of ageing.
He’d always had smile lines around his eyes – one of the clues to
his character that had attracted Lynn to him a decade ago. Now,
however, more worry lines below his mop of fair hair suggested
his troubled thoughts at times outnumbered his carefree mo-
His blue eyes were always searching the room, normally seeking
out the next one-liner.
His lack of opportunity to play five-a-side football remained a
constant irk and an explanation for the paunch now protruding
above his belt.
‘Steve, did you send me a text?’ asked Lynn.
‘No, I phoned to say it was mayhem on the motorway,’ he replied,
‘No, I don’t mean that. I got this strange message a few minutes
ago,’ she retorted.
Steve’s mildly surprised expression barely disguised his greater
interest in the football than in his wife’s puzzling experience.
‘It just read: “ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR LOVE?”’ she persisted.
‘It’ll be some kind of advertising or a scam,’ offered Steve, his eyes
fixed to the TV screen.
‘Well I thought so,’ said Lynn, ‘but then an advert began on TV
with exactly the same words.’
A sharp intake of breath from Steve caused Lynn to look back to
her husband. But he was reacting to a header whistling past the
keeper’s unguarded left post.
‘Steve, are you listening?’ she asked.
‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘You got a text about a TV show.’
‘Well I don’t think it was connected,’ she insisted.
‘Probably a new way of marketing TV,’ Steve replied. ‘It’s very
sophisticated these days, you know.’
‘But how did that text arrive seconds before it came up on the
telly?’ she persisted.
‘I’ve no idea, Lynn. Anyway, what’s for supper? I’m starving,’ in-
Now it was her turn to be distracted. She looked forward to
Steve coming home each night, but her conversation these days
seemed of less interest to him than the big football matches. Cor-
rection – any football match!
‘What are we having?’ asked Steve again.
‘Spaghetti Bolognese. But I’m not particularly hungry,’ replied
‘You’ve been at these crisps again,’ was Steve’s insightful response;
he lifted the near-empty family pack wrapper accusingly.
‘Well I never know when you’ll be home,’ hit back Lynn. ‘And I’m
hungry long before you sit down to eat.’
‘No point complaining about piling on the pounds, then,’ Steve
replied, less than helpfully.
If anything bothered Lynn it was her weight. From being a size
10 before Nicky’s birth, she was now a 12. Hard to imagine that
at one time she’d been an 8. Most of her clothes were too tight
for her and every time she stood in front of the mirror, she felt
depressed and disgusted.
She knew this wasn’t the ‘puppy fat’ her mother had so often
teased her about in her teenage years. This seemed determined
to stay and scream at her, every time she looked at her reflec-
The love-hate food relationship
Lynn’s in conflict with food
And she constantly worries over what she’s eating.
Sometimes it’s simply at the back of her mind as she negotiates
her way through another busy day … but often it dominates the
forefront of her attention, to the extent of being an intense and
There are just so many questions and concerns buzzing around in
her head all the time:
‘What to eat – how much – and how often?’
‘What size of helping should I have – how many calories does that
contain – just how “fattening” is this?’
‘What will be the result of eating this – and how will I feel after-
wards if I do?’
‘If I eat this now, will it go straight to my waist, hips, thighs or my
bum – and can I find the time to “work it off” tomorrow?’
‘Will the cellulite on my thighs make them look like orange
And so on. And on. And on it goes!
These are just some of the myriad worries at the back of Lynn’s
mind, sapping her energy and taking the edge off her pleasure in
Robbing her of some of the joy in life itself.
To eat or not to eat?
Make no mistake about it – Lynn loves food!
And she really enjoys preparing meals for others.
For her, it is an expression of her love for her family, for Steve and
However, since she was a teenager, Lynn has become increasingly
wary of food.
She’s become fearful of eating too much during a meal – even un-
sure what ‘too much’ really is.
She’s also concerned about eating the ‘wrong things’ and at the
‘wrong time’ of day.
Every TV programme she watches seems to be sending her mes-
sages that she should lose weight or that she needs to change her
body in one way or another.
Glossy magazines propounding the crazy world of the ‘Eating Se-
crets of the Supermodels’ have virtually taken up residence in her
doctor’s surgery waiting room, somehow lending a degree of cred-
ibility to their confusing and conflicting dieting claims.
On occasions it all becomes ‘too much’ to take in.
Unable to reach a decision about what to eat, she often decides to
eat nothing at all and skips lunch instead.
To her disgust, by evening she is sometimes so hungry she ends up
overeating while watching TV.
Lynn sometimes wonders if the world has gone diet-crazy.
But then she reminds herself that all her friends are dieting too. So
it ‘must be OK … mustn’t it’?
Steve’s already joked that new diets were being created deep un-
derground during the night, only to emerge at daybreak in the
morning newspaper, in order to give Lynn the magic answer to
all her weight worries: the quick, easy and hassle-free way to lose
Lynn tends to feel ‘at her fattest’ just before going on holiday with
She’d love to be able to fit into the new red bikini she’s bought, and
wants to look good on the beach and by the pool.
Lynn snacks on crisps and packets of biscuits when she feels tired
and fed up.
She’s comfort eating by using food as a way of trying to change the
way she feels at a particular moment.
It’s an understandable attempt to boost her flagging energy after
an exhausting day at work, further depleted by looking after de-
It also helps to lift her mood.
However, Lynn’s unhappy not only about her weight and shape,
but also about the current state of her relationship with Steve.
Comfort eating provides her with a way of feeling better – quickly.
And it works!
But here’s the catch – only for a while.
Soon after overeating, Lynn feels annoyed and even disgusted
with herself and within a few days or weeks she goes on yet an-
Lynn’s pattern of spells of comfort eating, followed by the adoption
of the next dieting fad she comes across in a glossy magazine, is her
way of trying to feel better and happier about herself in general.
In fact, Lynn’s comfort eating is an attempt to fill an inner empti-
ness or vacuum – to satisfy a form of emotional hunger.
This sense of emotional emptiness is being created by the absence
of real self-love and a more loving and satisfying relationship with
Lynn took a copy of Zest magazine to bed with her while Steve
watched the late night Champions League highlights – despite
his impending early-morning monthly sales meeting.
Restlessly, she flicked through a piece about comfort eating, but
quickly put it down.
‘Are you hungry for love?’ she considered again.
Was it a secret admirer? Chance would be a fine thing!
She felt less attractive than ever. And Steve’s obvious lack of inter-
est only confirmed her feelings.
She was sure he still loved her, but it would be nice if he would
show it just once in a while.
Still, she wasn’t one of those women who comfort ate, Lynn told
herself. She just snacked because she was hungry.
She was hungry for food, not hungry for love.
Or so she thought.