Elina, 55

I was only a child when I was first called fat by my schoolmates. In reality, I wasn’t very overweight back then, but it already made me think I was chubby. That criticism really stuck with me. For a long time, it affected the way I dressed and whether I had the courage to pass some people in the street. I was always afraid of what they were thinking of me when they saw me walking by.

About five years ago, I had to take a sick leave due to a sciatica. The doctor told me to try to lose weight. Since my back was too sore for exercise, I had to get slimmer through dieting. My diet was very strict. I lost 35 kilos, and the sciatica went away.

But then something happened. I took a class for back rehabilitation, and told the psychologist there that I had a terrible craving for chocolate. The psychologist said that I had lost a lot of weight in a short time, that I should perhaps start eating more again.

And so I did. But as a result, I got BED, a binge eating disorder. It’s the same thing as bulimia, but without the puking.

I would eat normally at work, but when I got home, I would devour everything I could get my hands on. Not just treats, but everything. A full package of sliced ham would disappear just like that, and then a package of crisp bread. It made me feel awful. I gained back most of what I had lost.

Because of the BED, I took therapy for a couple years. It made me understand that I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I feel good, and I eat when I feel bad: food is both a prize and a consolation. I have recovered from the eating disorder to some extent, but the tendency to it remains.

For such a long time, I have been terribly critical of my looks. Nowadays I’m doing quite alright. The biggest reason is my current partner. I didn’t have to feel inadequate in my earlier relationships, either, but now I’m with a man who compliments me every day. He tells me I’m beautiful and buys me nice-looking clothes and lipsticks. It helps me be forgiving of myself.

So, I just have a belly like this and a double-chin, but that can be beautiful, too.

Getting old doesn’t bother me in particular. Sometimes it makes me think, though, because my boyfriend is 17 years younger than me. So when I’m really old, he will still be young. When I saw him for the first time, I couldn’t believe that such a young and handsome man had come to meet me. I thought it was a joke of some sort. But it wasn’t. We have been together for eight years by now. I think this relationship is better than winning the lottery.