John Prescott's Ugly Common Person's Guide To Coping With Eating Disorders

Illustration for article titled John Prescott's Ugly Common Person's Guide To Coping With Eating Disorders

Remember that deputy Prime Minister who resigned two years ago with Tony Blair only to resurface a year and a half later with a memoir about his decades-long struggle with bulimia? The British press sure does! And while coverage of this confession has generally fallen into the category of "merciless mockfest", an interview in the latest British Esquire convinced me he was doing bulimics of the world a service. Because while writing about your eating disorder isn't really a British thing to do, John Prescott's method of dealing with his eating disorder is kind of hilariously British, starting with the way his wife caught wind of the problem: she noticed symptoms she'd learned about from Princess Di. Which is, of course, the grand irony: the kids all assume eating disorders are the path to looking like Di and Nicole Richie when, ha ha ha, Prescott pukes his food too! Herewith, John Prescott's Stiff Upper Esophagus Guide To To Coming To Terms With Your Puking Problem, culled from Esquire.



So it doesn't take Frederic Jameson to recognize in John Prescott some maaaayjor class issues. He talks on and on about his problems with "grammar" which the writer suggests he is actually mistaking for "syntax." The son of a Welsh railway worker and child of divorce, the "defining experience in his life" was failing a test sixty years ago and he only got to Oxford through some deal set up with his union. "I didn't feel adequate. I felt inferior and guilty, and I've always had a chip on my shoulder," he admits to the writer, who helpfully calls him "conspicuously working class." But did any of this secret shame/unease within his context/impostor complex play into his compulsion to consume barbaric amounts of Peking Duck and Digestives cookies only to — essentially the dietary equivalent of cheating on a test — puke them all into a Parliament latrine later on? Nah. Says Prescott of his first visit to the eating disorder clinic:

They ask you about your parents. I wasn't too convinced about all that, and walking into a room full of women was a bit embarrassing, but I did it.

A better idea: maybe get more sleep..

This is a good if obvious point. People always eat more when they're tired because the extra energy/indigestion keeps them awake. But when it's time to sleep, the indigestion is less helpful:

I get so tired. The only thing that stops me working is eating. Remember my box [his red ministerial box] comes at 11 at night, and I'm up at seven. I work my box [until] one o'clock. If you want to relax, you eat. Then you begin to find you've eaten too much and actually get a relief from expelling it, and then you're into that.

Focus bile on the haters. (Who are probably just as fat as you.)

Prescott points out that a lot of the shame of admitting one has an eating disorder is the fact that a lot of eating disorders, for all the psychic havoc they wreak, do not have the desired effect of making you thin, rendering the act of keeping them up absurd. But like, yeah, motherfucker, of course eating disorders are absurd; that's why he wrote the book!

They say I'd failed because I was still fat. Notice how fat they are, the ones who are writing it. You can gain weight. The mistake to make is you assume you expel the food immediately. You don't. You wait. If you look at the letters that have arrived, you're staggered: 'I'm so glad that you've said it. My daughter, who's 19, she's been doing that and now she's come to me and said: if John Prescott did it, it's not so abnormal is it?"




@shesafire: I think what the British Press has been having such a grand time about is that an eating disorder is consider a woman's problem and therefore Prescott is like a woman (to the press). They think it's funny. Get it? A man who had such power actually has women's problems? Ha Ha! Also I think that EDs have always been connected to dancers, college girls and celebrities (you know, attractive people who don't know they are attractive . . .). Please don't think I agree with any of this, because I don't. The thing is, and I've really noticed this in the 2+ years I've lived here, that the UK really is quite behind when it comes to discussing mental illnesses. I found it to be the same when I lived in Ireland. I actually had a male friend who told me that if the US one day decided to outlaw psychiatry, the entire country would shut down within 24-hours.