Monday, 29 April 2013

A most overwhelming response

Last night I made the decision to share this blog with 'the world'. That means that instead of simply informing a few close friends and family members, I posted a Facebook status with my blog link for everybody I'm linked with to see. This decision was made purely because I felt that enough time had passed since this program began and that there were enough people who were aware of my changing lifestyle that it made sense to let anybody who wanted to know, see what this weight loss is like first hand.

I have to say that the response I received was completely overwhelming. My readership went up over 800% in a matter of minutes and there are people reading from as far afield as Russia and Canada, The Netherlands and South Africa. This was most unexpected. Within 20 minutes I was receiving emails and text messages saying that my honesty and openness when discussing very personal details was an inspiration and absolutely fascinating to those who had never really put too much thought in to it.

The reason I had held off from releasing this information to all of my acquaintances is because I was worried of the response I'd receive. To some extent this worry was founded when a friend was fraped with a less than favourable comment on my Facebook status. I won't lie, I sat in my room staring at the computer screen wishing for the world to swallow me up and thinking "is this what it will always be like? Even if I lose weight will I ALWAYS be seen as the fat one?" After persuading myself that I had more dignity than to cry and more will power than to munch all of the chocolate and cheese I could lay my hands on, I realised it was not worth it. At dinner this evening this was all pushed home by my friend Piers who was terribly intrigued by the fact I'd written a blog and was 'fascinated' by the content. He was perhaps the last person I'd imagine calling this blog 'inspirational' and yet he did. Simply being told that someone thinks you make a difference is all the motivation you could need when thoughts get dark.

I started this blog because I wanted to inspire people, I wanted to be honest about what it's like and I wanted others in the same situation to know that they are not alone in their feelings. After the response that I got last night the last thing I want to do is give up or allow myself to feel like a loser when so many people have been so encouraging and so encouraged. Ultimately it comes down to remembering that this journey is for me and that anyone who takes an issue, whether real or imagined, is not the definition of who I am.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"

And finally, to the person who made the inappropriate comment in the first place. I forgive you. But next time I will go Jackie Chan on your ass.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

More about the 'overloaded food environment'

Tonight my friend Maddy and I ordered an Indian take-away. As I've mentioned before, this involved low choice options and I felt far batter about my portion of food than the first time I ordered a take-away on the plan. However, this instance raised an additional issue that I feel needs discussing.

With our food, despite the fact that we both ordered a side dish of rice or similar, they sent us a portion of Bombay potatoes. Now, I don't actually know what Bombay potatoes work out to on the ProPoints plan but I can't imagine it's all that low. The reason I'm banging on about this though is that we practically live in a world where companies are throwing food at you all the time. As a student, you can get some pretty amazing deals. McDonalds will give you free French fries or even a cheeseburger on production of a particular card, companies shell out loyalty cards that offer the holder a free item after X purchases and there are more buy one get one free deals than is possible to count. Is it any wonder then, that people are overweight.

Exhibit A: The Bombay Potato...what even are Bombay potatoes?!
Even going to the supermarket is a minefield out there for someone trying to lose weight. The aisles which we actually should use, the fresh food stuff on the outside edges of the supermarket ,are so spread out with rows and rows of ready meals and snacks that are provided purely to get people to spend more money. People talk about will power and yet companies are playing on people's desire for the fatty, sugary foods that our ancestors needed on a daily basis purely to survive. Taste testers exist to produce foods that are as addictive as humanly possible. I can't help but thinking as an overweight person, what would these companies do if we 'overeaters' weren't here to buy up their food?

On Friday, we had a formal dinner and I was very careful about what I did and did not eat, even going to the lengths of salting and peppering my dessert so that I wouldn't eat any more. Great idea, right? If that's what I need to do currently to exist in this world of instant gratification, then I'm going to do it. That doesn't mean that people around the table won't look at you as if you've just slapped the Pope. We exist in a world that at once likes to push people down for being too big/too small and yet when someone tries to do something about it everyone has an opinion and you can guarantee you're going to hear it when they feel that their idea is better than yours.

Food is entirely unavoidable and businesses know that. Managing to take control of this overloaded food environment is a whole other kettle of fish. It's not to any businesses benefit to get people to eat less of their product and they will continue to advertise and tweak recipes to get a maintained following. The best thing that you and I can do, is remain aware that this happens and is no coincidence. Oh, and to offer your free Bombay potatoes to a hungry friend so that the temptation no longer exists.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The end to a difficult week.

This week I have had my struggles with the plan. As I've written previously. I've tried to be bang on as much as humanly possible but that sometimes will simply not work. As such, I stayed the same this week. No gain, no loss. Now. I'm not going to bang on about staying the same all that much. As I stood with my new leader after the meeting this evening and moaned about not losing she reminded me that, unfortunately, our bodies do not work like well programmed machines. Hormonal fluctuations, not going to the bathroom before weighing in or simply wearing different clothing can all play a part.

Further to this, sometimes you will see little on the scales but will simply 'feel' different. I took my measurements today and overall I've lost just about an inch on my waist, bust and hips. That is not an achievement to poo poo. That doesn't mean that any of that makes you feel that much better. The temptation is to take the new (weight watchers) biscuits I purchased yesterday and eat them to make me feel better. Short term, great but that's going to do nothing for me next week when I find that it still hasn't changed; or worse, I gain. I need to accept that, occasionally, shit just happens for no reason. It could be a reason that will become blindingly obvious over the next few days but I have to continue on my proscribed course and wait and see.

As I HAVE behaved so well this week, I don't believe that this is as a result of my having done something wrong and as such I'm not going to be making any drastic changes. I've been increasing my activity (I walked  12,345 steps today and did a 50 minute yoga class-my arse is now unhappy as a result), eating a good amount of fruit and vegetables, limiting treats and making sensible decisions with my food. As such, I feel (and my leader agreed) that the best course of action is simply to wait and see. If next week I still haven't moved I will start making changes to diet and/or activity. Until then, it could just be one of those unfortunate blips that occur in the life of a living, breathing creature. So yes, I'm going to have a biscuit (I have 8 points left for the day) but I'm going to leave it at that, get a good night's sleep and start fresh in the morning and look forward to pushing forward next week.

Re-adjusting to university life

So far, being back at university hasn't been so very difficult. True, I can't necessarily be certain of how something has been cooked or often how much of something is in a particular dish, but I've been ticking along gently, guesstimating where I can and being very precise in the areas where I have the opportunity. In addition to that my activity levels have increased again as a result of the more active life I lead as a university student. There are always things to be done and people to see so, in general, I move an awful lot more than I did when I was at home.

That being said, as I come up to my first university weigh-in, I've realised I'm scared. I'm worried that I've not measured properly, that I've not had the facility to track things and most critically, I feel as though certain things simply have not been within my control. It is a massive adjustment, coming from home where I can measure every little thing that goes into every thing I eat to having someone produce food for me on a large scale where I'm often left wondering 'what have I just eaten?!' I've talked about strategies in the past for how to cope when things are outside of your control but that simply doesn't change the fact that some things will ALWAYS be out of your control. I suppose the best way I can describe this is to going out to eat every night. You can make sensible choices in ordering and in portioning out how much you want to eat but you're still left with some 'mystery' there and this can make me feel slightly uncomfortable.

By this evening I will know one way or another of whether what I've been doing at university has been working or not. I need to remember now that I cannot allow any bad weeks (and I'm not saying this has been a bad week-my fruit and veg consumption has been great. I've eaten breakfast every day, I drink enough water and I've still managed to live my life and get my sushi fix) to pull this down. I don't want to get to the point where I 'treat' myself for a good week and 'punish' myself for a bad week. Incidentally, the treat and punishment (in the past) have often been the same things. Milk Chocolate cornflake the box load. I have to remember that this is a learning experience, that I will not be living in halls forever and that any tribulations will pass.

I'm bringing this up here because I feel like this is the first week on the current plan where I've struggled. It all just seems that much more difficult now than it ever did at home. My goal this week is simply to get to that 23 stone 4 lb mark. I want to have lost the first half a stone. Any extra is a bonus. I wouldn't be surprised if I stayed the same but I absolutely do not want to gain. At the current stage in my program, gaining would be severely detrimental to my self belief. I know this. It doesn't mean that I won't try to pick myself back up and continue on, just I fear I'd do so with a little less vigour than in recent weeks.

I fear that I'm just complaining for nothing, but this blog is here for me to voice my thoughts: both positive and negative. I know that I am not alone in feeling this way and if anyone else resonates with this, then I've achieved something. Weight loss is a difficult thing. People don't always understand and everyone is different. It's this limbo stage that starts to cause panic. I need only wait 7 hours to get confirmation either way. I suppose, as always, until then.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Weight Loss and real life.

Time and again I've seen the issue of incorporating weight loss into real life. Things go wrong or at least don't go exactly to plan. As is life. Over the last three days I've had a few examples of real life at play.

On Friday it was my dad's birthday. I made him a wonderful lemon curd cake with buttercream icing. I did the maths, and one 16th of that cake came to about one quarter of my daily allowance. I allowed for it and yes, used some of my weekly proPoints allowance. The cake, however, was not my issue. The issue came from it being someone's birthday and people often want to go out for their birthday. Fairly innocuous so far. People go out for meals all the time. Hell, I've gone out for several meals since I've been on the plan and still managed to lose weight. However, when you go to a restaurant where you have no frame of reference (i.e. the proPoints of the food is not recorded in the oh so helpful eating out guide or in one of the articles online) you're in uncharted water. You can do the best to guesstimate what you've eaten and come to a rough conclusion but it's a lot more difficult to be anywhere near as certain. You begin to come up with alternative strategies. Simply recording doesn't work anymore and you must let your natural instincts take over.

I ordered the ardennes pate which was served with two (very small) slices of brioche and a rocket salad. They hadn't mentioned the olive oil vinaigrette in the menu or I'd have asked them to leave it off. I simply decided for this part of the meal to eat as much of the pate that would reasonably fit on the slices of brioche and all of the rocket. I had about a quarter of the pate left and immediately smothered it in pepper (the one condiment I absolutely hate the most). My main was an 8oz Fillet steak, tenderstem broccoli and dauphinoise potatoes. Again, after my proPoints guesstimating I decided the most sensible option was to take the entire plate of food and split it in half. I took my time eating, drank lots of water in between bites and after finishing my half plate considered how satisfied I was. Wasn't quite there yet so again split the remaining food in half. After doing this and eating slowly, I did manage to finish my plate but I didn't allow myself to get to the point of uncomfortable fullness. You see, I've never had an issue choosing healthy foods. I DO however have an issue with portion control. For too long I've been allowing my eyes to dictate how full I am rather than listening to my body and working out from that where my comfort zone is when it comes to how much more to eat.

On Saturday I had another 'dilemma'. I came back to university. I was careful in planning to come back. I ate a reasonable breakfast and made up a salad to take with me so that I wouldn't be over hungry and make silly choices about my food. Everyone started mentioning the word 'take-away'. I had enough points and was too dog tired from driving all afternoon that I decided to go with it. We went with Chinese. I split my spring rolls with my friend Alex, had the lowest proPoints value vegetable chow mein, Pork Char Sui and a simply vegetable and oyster sauce dish. Once again I split my meal into smaller chunks and had a tupperware container ready to fill with stuff for the next day's lunch. I ate my fill, waited and wasn't hungry any more. Moreover, I felt grim. Really, rather unwell. This hasn't happened in a LONG time. Having spent the last few weeks eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, simply cooked meat and fish and (relatively) oil free dishes, the Chinese really didn't sit right with me. I did the absolutely unheard of (in student circles) throwing away of the leftovers (after offering it to a friend who'd been out hot air ballooning all day-Student good Samaritan...). I really did not want to feel that unsettled the next day and knew that after all that it really wasn't something I absolutely needed to have. Simples. Didn't even feel bad about chucking it out, though I had a pang of remorse for dirtying my tupperware container unnecessarily.

Today, I committed the absolute cardinal sin of losing weight the healthy way. I was so busy with rehearsals for Little Shop of Horrors (in addition to being exhausted from the day before and forgetting to buy milk) that I didn't eat breakfast...OR lunch. It got to 3:30pm and I decided that I needed to do something so came and ate a teaspoon full of peanut butter just to fill the void, as well as chucking in about an entire bag's worth of tangerines. I have to say, it is an absolute miracle that I managed to eat so cleverly at dinner (no gravy, plenty of veg, only two pieces of roast potatoes and a 0% yogurt rather than the usual ice cream that I so loved last term) and haven't pigged out since. This has, however, raised a VERY important consideration for my time at university. I've been worried about coming back to university whilst on the plan and I now realise the absolute need for preparedness. I NEED to have stuff in to eat, and good choices too, so that I don't run the risk of having loads of slices of bread at dinner or a dessert with ice cream. My old weight watchers' leader said all the time that, 'if you fail to plan, you plan to fail' and I've sat here this evening writing out a shopping list that will get me through the week and made meal plans for the next three days so that I don't put myself at risk of eating the wrong food.

The final, though FAR more easily remedied, issue that I've noticed is that my water consumption has dropped. I was concerned that I'd struggle to get all my fruit and veg in but I seem to be wrong. Oh well, we live and learn. And whilst the above issues are only drops in the ocean, I feel good knowing that I have come out on the other side. Will just have to wait and see what this week's weigh in (now on Thursdays) will bring.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The perils of shopping.

This afternoon, I went window shopping with my best friend in Bicester Village . For anyone who doesn't know about Bicester, it's basically a designer outlet 'village' where a good number of high end designers sell their last season/slightly less than perfect goods for discounted prices. It's about 20 minutes from home so it seemed like a good plan for her last day visiting me and my last day at home before going back to university. The sun was shining, my make up was perfect and I made clever food decisions whilst I was out. So far, so good.

After going into French Connection, this is the conversation that we had:

Sarah: How do you do it?
Me: Do what?
Sarah: Being in designer outlets even makes me feel large.

I thought about this statement for a minute and then said that it was actually easier for me to be in designer shops where I couldn't AFFORD an item, even if I wanted it, than for me to go into a high street shop with my slim friends. Sarah asked why that is and I've given some thought to that over the rest of the day. I suppose it's simply a case of, because designer shops are unattainable on a monetary basis I forget about the un-attainability from my size. When I go into H&M or Topshop and see all of my friends easily picking up an item they like, finding their size and trying it on the feeling of being unable to follow suit is more pronounced. It also comes from an issue of feeling guilty dragging my friends into the (few) plus size high street shops. This has more to do with my own sense of being different and not wanting to enforce my feelings on others but I can't be alone in feeling like this.

I have noticed that people who shop in designer outlets can appear more judgemental than those on the high street but this could be equally noticed by any person who doesn't have the money or simply doesn't fit a 'designer' silhouette. On the high street though, where the 'normal people' are, it's easier to feel abnormal. It is so unsettling being the only one of your friends who is unable to find anything that looks even slightly good on. Plus size designers, in my opinion, should (most of the time) be shot. It's like they simply look at the average clothing sizes and rank it up in measurements. Often times that simply doesn't work and it leaves you looking stupid where you just want to fit in with the things your friends are wearing. I have had occasions where I will walk into a plus size shop and try on countless things in various sizes only for all of them to look 'wrong' in some way. Too big around the bust, too tight around the stomach, straps too wide/not wide enough, neckline makes boobs look saggy. All of which does nothing for one's self esteem.

I have gotten to the point now where I dread clothes shopping. I generally assume that I won't find something that fits me right and would rather leave empty handed than look like I'm making a poor effort at a particular style. As someone who has always been seen to have a good dress sense it makes you feel like you're less of a person. I can bang on about wanting to be an individual until I'm blue in the face but I cannot deny that there is just a wish to be a 'normal' person, who can do things that normal people do. Until plus size designers and those responsible for producing bigger sizes in normal shops learn better, that just doesn't feel attainable at a larger size.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Setting goals

On Tuesday evening I sat down with my best friend Sarah and talked about goals. Everyone trying to lose weight has some kind of goal. It could be a case of being able to wear the jeans that fit you when you were 22, getting to your healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) or could be a case of being fit enough not to run out of puff when you go up the stairs.

For me it has always been difficult to set specific goals. My healthy BMI is between 8 stone 3 lbs and 11 (ish) stone. The trouble is visualisation. I have no idea where in that range my body will look and feel its best. I could look perfectly fit and toned at 11 stone and look completely skeletal further down my healthy range. I came to the decision of the arbitrary (end) goal of 150 lbs because it's on the higher end of my range. Once I am in my healthy range I can wiggle around with my weight until I get to the point that I feel at my best.

In the interim period though, it is important that you have 'mini' goals to keep you going. When we discussed goals on that Tuesday evening, some were major landmarks and others were more trivial. All of them are important. If I simply look at the 177 lbs I have to lose, I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of the ocean with no sight of land wherever I look. I could be getting closer to land but the challenge could also make me drift further afield. As I mentioned yesterday, that first 7 lbs is an important goal to me. Yes, I just missed it this week but I now have a goal to get there for my next weigh in (which will now be on a Thursday as I'm going back to university on Saturday). After this is my 5% and 10% of starting body weight and I look forward once again to not having a 3 as the starting number of my pound weight. I remember when I lost the 50 lbs before. I felt so much like I'd made this enormous achievement. I framed the certificate and proudly hung it on my bedroom wall and then looked towards my next major goal. 75 lbs. Those next 25 lbs were nearly impossible to shift but finally, one day I stood on that scale and I was there. I'd achieved my goal.

75lbs remains a line in the sand for me. After I attained that goal I plateaued big time and would gain a pound and lose a pound over and over again so that I stayed at around 75-76 for over a month. That disappointment, plus the start of a relationship, meant that losing weight became less of a drive than it should have been. It will probably take me just over a year to get to that 75 lb weight loss again and this time I need to have further goals to keep going. Had I looked at my overall weight loss and looked at the percentage between starting and my ultimate goal, I would have realised that at 75 lbs had I just kept going a little while longer, I would have been at the half way point. Now that I realise how truly close I was I have no intention of giving up so easily again. I think I may have some kind of party when I get to the half way mark or finally make it out of having a 2 as the starting number of my pound weight. I cannot remember the last time that was the case.
Goals. On a handy Excel spreadsheet...

I respond well to these particular number goals. I vary so much with dress size that simply monitoring my dress size decreasing won't be enough. I've designed my goals to occur at regular intervals to make them easier to maintain and I look forward to ticking them off one by one. I'm sure that soon enough the goals of being able to wear normal high street clothes or falling out of a pair of jeans will follow and I will keep a close eye on when that does happen. I just can't get bogged down by it not happening quickly enough.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Dealing with success, coping with disappointment.

Weigh in number two. Two full weeks into weight loss and I've lost 2 lbs this week. Two pounds is not an insignificant number and I should be happy to not have those two pounds still on my body but I can't stop the slight feeling of disappointment. I had a really, REALLY good week this week. I measured properly, I tracked everything and I chose the healthiest foods. Lots of fruit and veg, lots of lean meat and fish and yet I only get two pounds off.

This is one of the problems that comes around with weight loss. We are all so eager to change, and do it quickly, that we forget the primary function of the process we are undergoing. This is not some kind of race to the finish line, the goal here is to make healthy decisions that will result in a healthier body over all. I've been talking with my best friend over the last few days as she's visiting with me and we've both stressed the over arching importance of striving for health rather than 'skinniness'. My doctors continuously tell me that my weight will eventually play a role in my health, even though currently my blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and Vo2 max are spot on perfect. The only glitch in my otherwise healthy body is my weight. Certainly there are times when I can feel it. I can feel the weight in my back and on my knees, when I injure myself it takes longer to recuperate and I sometimes feel sluggish and lethargic when I should be active and energised. It is particularly important that I continue to remember this as I am not currently (nor will I be for several months yet) in a position where I can 'reward' myself with clothes/shoes etc. for a thinner body. The ultimate goal may include a desire to wear nice clothes and feel comfortable in higher heels but, at this point anyway, that most definitely needs to take a back seat in this journey. Otherwise there is a risk that I will get down on myself for not being there yet when I really need to celebrate the 'minor' goals in between. 

And so, it is the loss of 2 lbs here and there which will eventually get me to the position where I can be energised and active and can, finally, be fully classed as 'healthy'. 

In the face of disappointment (and trust me, had I gained I really don't know if I'd have been able to stand up to what I'm about to say) it is important to rise against the issue and just keep going. Nine times in 10 by the time you've got back into the swing of things the issue will resolve itself. It's just a case of not being disheartened. I also believe that on some level of being goal oriented, an extra pound this week would really have done wonders for my self-esteem. At that point I would have lost a stone and I think somewhere in my head I would have felt more like I was actually absorbing this process into my life. On this level it's easy to see where my trepidation lies as I return to university from the Easter break this Saturday. I've had times during university where I've specifically stayed away from losing weight because of the potential pit falls in losing weight in catered halls. I think on some level I'd just feel that bit more comfortable with continuing at university if there'd been a bigger difference this week.

Regardless, I refuse to be held down so early on. If I allow myself to be deterred now then I will be straight back at stage one and will have to go through the issues all over again. And so, dear readers, until next week. I'm assuming that the next 10 weeks will be make it hard to keep going but I do not wish to look back on this time next year and wish that I'd kept going because things could have been so much different. I suppose, ultimately, learning to deal with minor disappointments will make the victory at the end that much sweeter.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Is it better to do x or y?

I was having a conversation with my mother as we came back from shopping earlier today and it's something that's struck me. I don't know about you, but I certainly feel from time to time like I feel obliged to eat something, for better or worse. I know plenty of people who hate fruits and vegetables but feel obliged to eat them because they're healthy. Whilst I struggle to come to terms with hating fruit and veg (big fan) I certainly know the feeling of being made (by yourself usually) to eat something that you otherwise wouldn't pick purely because of its 'health status'. A few examples come to mind.

When I was on Weight Watchers back in 2008 I remember going for a meal at Wagamamas with my best friend. Gone were the days when we could order the duck gyoza and fried noodle dishes. I'd identified on the menu the two lowest point options for main. One of them was the seafood ramen at something like 8 points. The other option was a Ginger Chicken Udon which was around the 12 mark if I recall correctly. Despite my gut reaction telling me to go for the Udon I opted for the ramen purely because it was a lower points value. I knew full well that I did NOT like ramen. I just don't. Tried it, failed to like it, won't go back. I sat there pushing my food around the bowl thinking "what an absolute waste of money". What I didn't realise at that point was that I'd actually wasted my points on something that I genuinely didn't enjoy.

Another example comes from a not so distant sushi experience. I'd gone through the menu and looked at all of the proPoints values. Instead of going instantly for the salmon sashimi or soft shell crab handroll which would normally be my instant grab I went for the spicy chicken salad...What on earth was I thinking? Yes, it's low in calories and is a salad so 'looks' better but it just wasn't what I wanted. As I came to the end of that plate I felt like I'd wasted my calories and my money. And this is a key point when losing weight.

Of course, you COULD just go on a quick fix diet where you can only eat a series of things that are seemingly unappealing for you. And yes, it may get you to that destination quicker. But what do you do when you get there? Continue to eat the food that you dislike for the rest of your life? I don't think so. Food is fuel yes and we must be careful that we choose wisely the fuel that we put in our bodies. But does that mean that we must eternally forfeit the foods that we really REALLY like? Surely if we do eating healthily will become a massive chore and as a rule people will do whatever possible to get out of doing things they dislike.

Personally I would always rather have a smaller amount of something that I really love than a larger amount of something that makes me begrudge food. One of my school friend's mothers summed it up pretty well. She was an absolute raving chocoholic but would go out of her way to source really good quality dark chocolate because she knew that a little of the good stuff was better than a lot of the really cheap confectionery (or worse, the fake chocolate that health food stores were trying to sell her) that is lurking out there. It is simply a case of will power and avoiding temptation. So tonight, despite the (what felt like) primal need for another piece of ciabatta or to eat the whole block of mozzarella instead of the 40 gram portion I'd allotted myself I resisted. Did I enjoy resisting it? Not particularly. Will I regret it in the morning, absolutely not. Because I can sleep soundly knowing that I still can have the things that I really absolutely love and that ultimately I am the only one who can control whether I have to go down the route of cutting back on the things I love or eating something else entirely that I don't want. I certainly know which route I'd prefer to follow.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The temptation to cheat

For successful weight loss, it is important to monitor your food intake. In the initial days you go in full of determination weighing every little thing that goes into your mouth and (hopefully) you reap the rewards on the scales.
As you move forward though it can be easy to cheat on tracking. There are two ways that people do this:
1) With purpose
2) Accidental

When you cheat with purpose you are saying categorically that if I measure this way rather than that way it'll turn out differently. This happens even with people who are not attempting to lose weight. It's the 'oh, this hasn't that many calories and serves six' (takes a quarter of the item) pretending that it's not actually that much different in the long run. Another example of this is one that I came across back in August- October on Weight Watchers attempt #3. I love Percy Pigs. For anyone who doesn't know what a Percy Pig is they are fantastic pig shaped fruit gums with different coloured ears and when I was in sixth form everyone would rave about them and run off to Marks and Spencer to get their Percy Pig fix.
Exhibit A. The Percy Pig (
On Weight Watchers one Percy Pig sweet is 1 proPoint. However, when you're on Weight Watchers online you quickly learn how to tweak the measurements for more bang for your buck. You'll have a slightly deformed Percy and you'll decide that he should go under as 3/4 of a sweet. Meaning that you can get away with eating 2 pigs for the price of one. Bargain. However, once this habit strikes it's easy to spiral out of control. It's the same with sliced bread. One slice is 2 proPoints, two slices are 5. If you record them as being eaten at different times of the day suddenly you're not tracking a point. Those add up slowly and if you're not careful they undo some of your good work.

Accidental cheating comes from a belief that you've already worked out the content of something so can 'guesstimate' it in the future. One such example is cereal. On Weight Watchers my 30 grams of Cheerios in the morning will cost me 3 proPoints. 30 grams in a bowl doesn't look like too much but slowly, as you grow more confident (cocky maybe) it's easy to pour an arbitrary amount into a bowl and say 'that's a serving'. In my experience it very rarely is correct. It may seem fairly innocuous at first but again it adds up over time. The single BIGGEST reason for any weight loss plateaus that I reached came from not weighing or tracking properly. Once you get back into doing it properly things often get kickstarted again.

What I would love to avoid is the need to kickstart my weight loss again. It'd be great (though overly optimistic) to believe that it'll continue at the same rate week in, week out.

The reason that this is important to me today is that I had two times today when I could have cheated.
The first incident seemed innocent enough. I recorded a recipe on the online plan manager that came in at 13 proPoints. As I had this over the day (rather than in one sitting) I thought I'd put it down at each of the individual sittings. As such, each half serving came in as 6 because there are no half points on this plan. "It's only one point difference" I thought but then I remembered that it is that one point that could creep on me later on in the plan. I need to start with the good habits now and try (as hard as is possible) to stick to them.
The second occasion came at dinner time. I successfully survived my first takeaway on Weight Watchers tonight. It was Indian which, to anyone who's been on a diet before will know, ranks fairly highly on the calories. I carefully perused my guide as to what the points were for each dish and decided on Chicken Tikka (8 pieces) 14 points and Aloo Saag 8 points. That's a lot for one meal when you think about it in the maths but is a smidgen in comparison to what I'd previously have eaten. Indians for me used to be all about the king prawn butterfly and lamb samosa starters, complete with mint sauce, mango chutney and poppadoms. For main it was usually butter chicken (health status implicit in the name) or other cream based curry sauce meat dish. Plain rice, tarka dahl or paneer (indian curd cheese) and a keema (lamb mince stuffed) naan or chapatti to finish it all off. I dare not even think of the points for that. It'd be astronomical. Probably a good few days points.

The opportunity came when I felt begrudging of my teeny amount of food. I'm a girl who's used to starters and mains (though I'm not a dessert person). Having 8 pieces of chicken and some spinachy potatoes seemed at first like I was being punished. I looked longingly over my usual order thinking 'oh but it's only one day and I don't weigh till next Wednesday, it won't be that much harm'. Once I'd knocked that idea out of my head my mind wandered to the idea of having my usual starter as a compromise. Ultimately instead of straying into un-pointed territory I decided to add a plain rice at 12 points to my meal. Even then feeling slightly guilty for my last minute ordering. It was only once I started eating that I realised full well that I'd made the right decision. I didn't have to guesstimate a starter, only ate 9 of my weekly 49 points and knew I could track as effectively as possible. What's more, when I filled it all out with the free salad leaves they send you there was plenty of food available. I was left satisfied, though not fit to burst as I would usually have been.

So there we have it. There will be times in this process (as in life itself) when I will want to cheat. There will be times when I will give into temptation (I'm only human) and that's okay. The only temptation I cannot give in to is the one to give up when things get more difficult. I read a statement earlier about losing weight that decided that term was an incorrect one.
"I'm not losing weight, I'm getting rid of it. I have no intention of finding it again'. Ultimately it has to be this that will keep me going when the temptation grows stronger.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The question of a goal.

As someone who has spent her entire teen-adult life as an overweight person, it can be quite difficult to focus fully on a goal. I don't simply mean 'to lose weight', after all that is the overall goal of this process. No, I'm referring more explicitly to the physical goals we set ourselves. Having been around people in diets for a reasonably long time (I'm a woman, and some women like to complain about their weight even when to me they're perfect) I know that for many this physical goal is a particular dress size. Either it'll be a size that the person once was or it's a size that they've aspired to be. For me, this is a good deal more difficult. For the last 10 years I have shopped exclusively in plus size shops. I cannot buy clothes in 'normal' department stores because they just don't have my size. I do not remember what it was like being at a particular 'normal' size and as such don't know what is a reasonable goal to set myself.

At Weight Watchers meetings you have a few options. If you're not too far from a particular goal weight you can stride right in and declare that you will have reached goal at 9 and a half stone. So long as this is in the healthy parameters of a person's weight scale that is fine and a person will simply continue until they attain that goal. When you go to a Weight Watchers meeting and it's obvious you have a bit more to lose you will be given a 5% or 10% goal. This simply means that your CURRENT (not end) goal is to lose five or 10 percent of your current body weight. As such, my current goal at 5% of my body weight is 22 stone and 8 lbs. Obviously, this is not the weight that I want to get to and stop. Medically to be at a healthy weight for my size and age I should be no heavier than 10 stone and 11 lbs. I have absolutely no idea what that weight will look on my body and that's truly daunting.
Me, about a month and a half ago-for reference purposes. 2013.  Andrew Cumming

So, I know I have about 183 lbs (total, including the 4 lbs I lost over the last week) to lose to be considered in the healthy category. The trouble is visualising that. When I lost the weight before I struggled to see how much I'd changed physically. This is simply a case of perception. As a person who lives in my own body I see myself every single day. The tiny losses that happen day by day don't seem as evident then as they would to a person who hasn't seen me in a few months. I remember the looks of absolute shock when I'd suddenly appear, significantly lighter than before when people hadn't been around me. Looking back it's clear to me now that my body had changed, but it is so incredibly difficult to see that at the time. I was in ballet classes 4-5 times a week and had some serious muscle definition in my arms and legs, my collar bones were significantly more visible, my skin was radiant (I've always had good skin but this was something else) and my hair and nails were shiny and strong. It was only when I tried to lift a 70 lb garden feature that I realised just how much I'd been carrying around with me. I was fitter, I was healthier and I was better looking. There's no denying that.

You see frequently in diet shows a successful person coming across the amount of weight they'd lost in terms of packets of sugar or butter or something similar. Unfortunately (?) that is something that the average person losing weight does not have access to. As such, seeing a pound of sugar before you doesn't really make the point register. You can't take that one pound and add it up on your body to see what it actually would have been. That just doesn't work. The last time I lost weight I tried some kind of financial incentive. I bought a beautiful Tuscan money box (the kind you need to smash open) and vowed to put in:
£1 when I lost a pound
£1 for every week I did the program
£5 for every stone I'd lost
£2 for any lbs I'd gained
I had thought that this financial incentive would drive me to work harder because I could buy lovely things at the end of it. Unfortunately, I started losing track of whether I'd put money in or not, at weeks I didn't have the change around and there were times at uni when I could really use £10 and would go thieving from my own money box. All in all, didn't work.
I came across an idea on Pinterest the other day that intrigues me. It's obvious to me that simply seeing a graph change is not enough to really see a marked difference so I intend on creating weight loss jars.
Weight Loss Jars (
Hopefully, once I've bought the raw materials, it will keep the motivation up and I have no reason not to participate. Any little helps.

So finally, goals are important but it's all so easy to be side swept by your goals. In this life we need to be flexible to what happens and take the good with the bad. I continue this journey in that vein. So one day, in the not too distant future, I will have turned this 23 and a half stone woman into a 10 stone 10 lbs woman. Whatever one of those may look like.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Initial victories.

Whilst I don't want this blog to be a food diary of any kind it will be a place where I will upload my progress.  I started Weight Watchers again last Wednesday. As per usual when starting weight loss programs it is easy to start out with all the zeal of Mr. Motivator. As has been the case over the last week. When I started this blog I had intended to point out all the hardships of losing weight. Losing weight is hard, don't get me wrong, but when I remember that one simply needs to take it one week at a time it is difficult to remember where the problems come from. Of course there will be problems but one week in and 4 lbs lighter I can't imagine them as clearly.

I have never been hungry over this last week and even managed to have sushi twice and stay within my daily/weekly points allowance. This is something that I have always struggled with. As someone who has always had a weight problem you start to feel that food is your biggest enemy. The only means of keeping it off is to cut down to this arbitrary number and stay there. The thing is, biologically, that's just not how it works. This arbitrary number usually exists around the 1200 calories per day area. Don't believe me, look at any commercially available diet supplement and it'll advertise an average of 1200 calories. The principle of this is a simple one. The average WOMAN needs c. 1800 calories per day simply to survive. Those calories go in to everything from breathing to sleeping to digesting. One pound in weight loss terms comes from a loss of 500 calories per day (or 3500 calories over a week). In simple terms if you cut out 500 calories per day, in a week you will lose that one pound. Unfortunately, 1200 calories simply is not enough for many people to lose weight, and in some cases may be too much of a drop in daily caloric intake. As such, (I just did the maths) I need 2692 calories in a day JUST TO SURVIVE. This is why most commercial weight loss plans simply do not work for everybody.

Now, I hear the dissenters say "but surely, if you need over 2500 calories in a day to survive, cutting over 1300 will only increase your weight loss?" Indeed, initially, I would lose more weight but then my body would cut down into starvation mode, the huge weight losses would cease and, in most cases, I would gain weight as my body stores more fat. This is why fad diets don't work in the long run and why many people have destroyed their metabolism through yo yo dieting.

As it is I have my daily points allowance and my weekly allowance to keep me going. I remember when I first started Weight Watchers properly in 2008 and in the first week I never, not once, ate all of my points. It was only when my leader told me that it won't work properly in the long run as my points allowance goes down that I realised I was actually, for the first diet ever, allowed to eat. Starting a different plan last August, with a weekly allowance through me. We're told we get 49 proPoints a week for special occasions and generally 'living' whilst losing weight. I steered entirely clear of those thinking that it would negate the work I'd done in the week. This time round I actually used some of those weekly points. And to my surprise, I still lost a significant amount of weight in my first week. It is now a case of continuing on, making the plan work for me and not being bogged down when things go wrong (which they will-we're only human) that I need to work on. I know this is the plan for me and my first victory came this evening. Not when I got on the scales and saw that I'd dropped 4 lbs (even though I was absolutely bursting for the loo-probably would've knocked another pound off...a girl can dream) but rather the much more utilitarian victory of standing on our home scales and it once again being able to register my body weight. Yes, it was still a 23 stone 7 lbs but you have to start somewhere.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Who's fault is it anyway?

People, on the whole, like to have someone to blame. We like to be able to hold people accountable for their actions. More often, people like to have a scapegoat. Someone who can take the blame to make their life easier to accept. Whilst I wouldn't wish to place weight gain in the same category, one could argue that this accountability bears similarities with the Nuremberg war trials or the famous Milgram experiment. 'I was only following orders'.

When a person attempts to consider why it is that they gained weight initially it is easy for people to blame the people and environment around them. I cannot deny that the habits which I developed as a child, those which I had no real control over as a dependent on the adults around me, have impacted the weight I am today. But to say that this is the whole picture would be deeply ignorant of me. I cannot sit here and say that my path was chosen when I was 4 years old. That's the coward's way out and will simply not work for me. At least not any more.
When I was a teenager and people asked me why I was the weight that I was I instantly sprang for an excuse. I'd lie about having an underactive thyroid or issues with my metabolism caused by some mysterious illness that I no doubt picked out of the most recent medical text book I managed to scan over whilst in a doctor's office. I never once, as a teenager, accepted that there were decisions that I was making that would have a negative impact on my weight. I believed that it was just 'puppy fat' and that by the time I came to adolescence it would all magically just melt off. Again, I must stress that this acceptance is no easy task and certainly is not one that can be (only) dealt with by 'eating less and moving more', the good old government adage. I'm going to be controversial here and say that obesity is as much a psychological eating disorder as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. It's also much like depression. Whilst treating the symptoms are a short term goal, you will not have won the war until you treat the cause. People, on the whole, do not gain weight purely because they choose to eat too much and move too little. Like it or not, there is ALWAYS a reason; both for why people choose their lifestyle in the first place and for why the decision to change their lifestyle often meets with a psychological barrier.

I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Whilst this condition itself is not something I understand all that clearly, one of the major symptoms, as well as the major contributor to the condition, is weight gain. I flash back to when my weight gain really became a major issue. Puberty. I would love to be able to tell myself that my weight gain was purely as a result of the PCOS and that losing weight is more difficult as someone suffering from this condition but I just can't. The triggers and environment around me do not define who I am, and it is once again simply a way of backing away from taking responsibility for one's own life.

I will write a full blog later on whether or not it's the parents' fault. Though my opinion on this is clear. You do not need to be held down by the decisions of your parents and to continue to use that as an excuse is purely an easy way out. That does not mean that parents shouldn't be providing healthy options and incentives in their children.

Once more I reference Super Size Me from the other day. One of the first statements in the documentary is the lawsuit of two young women against McDonald's for making them the way they are. Whilst I'm sure that their unhealthy lifestyle was a huge contributor it is once again ignoring the main issue. There is a reason that they or their parents chose to frequent McDonald's and we must live with the consequences of our own actions. No matter how unfavourable those consequences may be. Of course fast food outlets should have a responsibility to give people the choice of the healthy option, but if a person chooses to go down the path of fast food meal three times a day they cannot claim that a company made them do it. Advertising (at least in liberal countries) should not be a form of dictatorship.

Finally, I wish to pick on the government some more. In the last week my local council has had the responsibility of healthy lifestyle advertisement handed back to them, rather than being the charge of the NHS. Those in power are asking for what the answer is to our current obesity epidemic. The truth is, there will always be people who are just bigger than others but when the issue clearly comes down to the environment in which they live, there is work that can be done. People eat at fast food restaurants because it is cheap and efficient. People are forced into weight loss programs without first being given any grounding on how to cook or source healthier food in a cost effective and time efficient way. Fat abuse is still one of the forms of national bullying that is seen as acceptable. How are our children expected to develop the self worth needed to care about their lifestyle when from a young age they are told they are fat by their peers, doctors and (god forbid) teachers? Anthropologically, food is a universal comfort. Even slender people acknowledge feeling comfort in a particular item of food. How are we so surprised that the much abused, often self loathing overweight person would reach to something that gives them comfort so easily. I'm talking about changing the entire view of the public to the overweight person. Only once we give people the room to be accepted for who they are, with the issues that they have or do not have, can we possibly hope to make any real difference. And if a person doesn't want yourself or is (heaven forbid) HAPPY the way they are then leave well enough alone. No one cares if you have an issue with someone else being happy and seeking to break this down in order to stop the rise of the obese person will only work to perpetuate the current, unhelpful, view.

As such, perhaps it is best not to look at who is to blame here. Dwelling on naming an antagonist who can be a scapegoat solves nothing. Know your past, accept your present and take responsibility for your future, whether or not that means any great physical or emotional transformation. No one else can (or should).

Friday, 5 April 2013

A word about support.

We live in a world that would like to believe it's terribly altruistic. We like to think that if someone needed our help we would be able to offer it. Here comes a slight rant, though it is said with the deepest love for all of those who have ever tried to help me.

A secret known to therapists the world over; there is a right way and a wrong way of offering support.
I mentioned my best friend in my last post and just how much of a rock she was to me in 2008-2009 when I was on Weight Watchers properly the last time. This is a woman who has talked with me and listened to hours and hours of my feelings and opinions about being overweight and the weight losing process. As such, after years she now knows what does and, more importantly, does NOT work with me. She has confessed though that this did not come naturally to her as she didn't know how to feel when she met me at 21 stone.
When we go out to eat now she will never comment or criticise, whether I'm having healthy food or just want the chips at Nando's. What she will do is make me feel loved and supported, often without having to say a word. It's hard to say what it is that she does so very well to support the good decisions I make but for me, as a girl who hates being told what to do, often the best thing is (and I hate to quote Ronan Keating) saying nothing at all.

On the converse, I have had so many friends who will try to be 'supportive' by trying to dictate what I can and cannot eat. I have had, incredibly well meaning, friends tell me that since they are skinnier they know better of what is good to eat or not. Sadly, all that this method of support does is make you feel worse about yourself. As most regularly sized people will never have to embark on a long term program of losing weight they live strongly in the 'diet' method that simply will not work when you have over half of your weight to lose. I did some quick maths whilst looking at a Body Mass Index chart today. In order to be a 'healthy' weight I need to lose 13 stone or around 180 lbs. That is more than many healthy adult males weigh. This requires an entirely different mindset than a short term diet does. As such the diet's method of entirely cutting out items of food will simply not work when it's something you will effectively be continuing for the rest of your life. There is no rest when you were a fat person. Once you have the fat cells they're still there, they just shrink themselves down. Lurking in wait until the bad habits you used to have start to trickle back into your day to day life.

I watched Super Size Me for the first time last night. Within minutes the surgeon general of the US is referring to the toxic food environment that we now live in. When he said this it struck a chord with one of the first things that is now in the Weight Watchers material. Weight Watchers refers to this as an 'Overloaded Food Environment'. Our world is apparently being faced with an Obesity Epidemic and yet we are constantly flooded with TV advertising for fast food, stores strategically placing food so that they will buy products together and eating out is one of the key acts of socialising in our modern world. It astounds me, and I'm using this smoking example again purely because someone on Super Size Me used it, that cigarette adverts have been eradicated from TV and magazines and yet we are constantly having food adverts (usually unhealthy ones) shoved down our throats. Overweight people go to the doctor and are made to feel insignificant. It was only when I started crying in a doctor's office that my doctor realised just how devastatingly hard weight loss is. We are not made to feel supported, because only good people who've made good food decisions and are thin as a result deserve to be supported. I put to you, leaders of our world. Those of you who are trying to work out how to 'deal' with this Obesity epidemic, talk to an Obese person. Actually try to open your minds to what does and doesn't work to support the continued good decisions a person needs to make and stop making us feel like naughty children. Realise it is NOT as easy as eating less and moving more and have a little compassion and humility. You're not so much better yourself.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

And to your starting lines...

Last night I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting since October. This heralds the beginning of my fourth attempt at Weight Watchers in the last 10 years. I filled in the forms, took off all superfluous clothing and stepped on the scales. I looked away from the scale, not out of any form of shame but because my head movement seemed to be making the scales take too long to settle. Suddenly the beep, announcing that the scales had finished assessing your weight, rang out. I looked down and saw 23.11. There was the information I needed. The scale at home was not broken and as such it wasn't all that much a surprise. 23 stone 11 lbs. "Well" I said "I've seen worse". 

I should say now that I've had success with Weight Watchers. The fact that this is my fourth membership has more to do with the difficulty of maintenance and the fear of the 'plateau' that most people experience during their weight loss, than problems with the program. Indeed, I've often said 'I'm good at losing weight', it's staying there or continuing when things don't go to plan that cause the problems. That being said, I have never been as successful as in 2008. 

I joined on the first Thursday of September and I was so very ready. I followed the plan to the letter and lost 5lbs in my first week. By the second week of October I had lost the first of 5 stone and 5lbs. I had all the support I needed and my best friend Sarah was my rock. I started going to the gym and working with a trainer, Ann, who was the most vivacious afro touting woman I've ever met. She made me feel beautiful and every time we'd work together she'd comment on how well I was looking. I started ballet classes and fell in love with dance. It got easier and easier and I got stronger as the weight melted away. I got to 50lbs and got my oh so exciting Weight Watchers certificate. I made the decision to get rid of all the clothing that was now too big for me. I weighed it as I went and 7 bags later I had thrown away as much as I'd lost. I picked it up and struggled. It amazed me that 7 months earlier I'd been carrying that weight on me. My leader's 8 year old daughter weighed as much as I'd lost. The next 25 lbs were an absolute nightmare. It took another 6 months and I'd have weeks where I'd lose 2 lbs only to gain 1 back the next week. At this point I started cheating. I'd think each Thursday was my 'treat day'. I'd binge on Rice krispy treats from the Sainsbury's that was next to the meeting centre. I'd say to myself 'well, it all starts tomorrow' and would then be surprised when the weight wasn't coming off. I met my ex boyfriend and the weight loss came to a screeching halt.

After that, every weight loss program I undertook would be held to that standard. I'm an entirely different person 5 years later and yet I will always think back to that stretch of time and compare my current progress to that of the past. This has held me back continuously as it gets me down when I get on the scale and see a 2 as the first number. I try to squeeze myself into the clothing I wore in June 2009 when I was 60 lbs lighter and wearing size 18 shirts. 

Whilst I can't stop myself from thinking about that past experience, I need to try not to hold myself to the same standards my 18 year old self achieved. That experience taught me plainly that I CAN achieve these results and I will. My 18 stone self just needs to stop making me feel bad about myself so that I can get further this time and learn finally how to keep it off.

So, on my first day of this (hopefully) final attempt, I know that I can do this. It will be difficult and there will be times when I will sob my eyes out with frustration and wish that things had been different. I need to remember that this is all a learning process to make the end result happen when it's meant to. Instead of waiting for my life to happen, I need to make it happen. This is my starting line.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

'Courage is not the absence of fear...

... but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear' Ambrose Redmoon

It needs to be understood that when someone intends to drastically change their life, there is necessarily some trepidation there.I remember when I was 15 and working part time for my mother's company. One of her colleagues was taking a new job and was afraid that this might not be the right path. At that point in my life, I was under the impression that all adults had everything together and always knew the answer to any question that you might put to them. My mother told me later that she had told him that a little fear is always necessary when you are changing your life. A lot of fear may be pushing you in another direction, but it is perfectly natural to fear change. It is our responsibility to accept that fear and make the change anyway, hoping that it'll all turn out for the best in the end.

Yesterday when I told my mum that I was writing this blog she made an analogy for losing weight that related to my comment about smoking earlier. Whilst obesity and smoking are often seen as comparable to each other in damage to people's health, it is entirely possible for a smoker to give up smoking. Food is fuel. Expecting a person to lose weight is like telling a smoker that they don't have to give up entirely, only cut down to 5 a day for the rest of their life. If smokers were given that choice, I think it would be entirely more difficult for them to quit. It is with that trepidation that many overweight people enter into a path of losing weight. Food is ALWAYS going to be there and there will always be the risk that bad habits will creep in when you've had a bad day, or simply want a break from the exhaustion that is holding back what seems so natural to you. This is why it is so very important to go into a weight loss program with a positive mental attitude. If you go in hating yourself and feeling like you're unworthy of something greater you are doomed to fail.

A few years back I went along to a LighterLife meeting. The whole premise seemed completely alien to me as the program relies entirely on replacing food with pre-portioned soups and milkshakes. My goal is to be a NORMAL person and it is my understanding that most normal people eat real food. This to me was conditioning people to struggle after they'd got to their goal weight as the transition back to food would be so difficult to maintain. At this meeting, when I discussed my concerns with the councillor I was informed that I couldn't possibly be happy the way I was and that the only way I would be happy is to lose weight. This infuriated me because it is this negative attitude that makes countless overweight people feel like they have no worth. How can a thing with no worth possibly hope to make change for the better? I told the gentleman to stuff it and not impose his own self loathing on to me, what he felt as an overweight person does not and should not define how all overweight people are meant to feel.

This is not the be all and end all of my life. And whilst I have some fear that I will make the same mistakes all over again, I can not allow that to hold me back. My mum once described long term maintained weight loss as a miracle because it is so very difficult. I am afraid of failing but that should never be reason enough to not try and this applies to anything that is important to you. So, tonight I will walk in to the Weight Watchers meeting I have located near me, worry that everyone is judging me; realise I'm being ridiculous and get on that scale. And then I will try. Because that is all anyone can ever do.

Finally, to all of the people who have tried and failed and fear that failure another time, remember:

"When life tells you to give up, hope whispers 'try it one more time' "

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

It's a minefield out there

I had a thought the other night as I was starting this blog; every overweight person has at some point in their life felt like everybody is looking at them. It starts with us eating. Despite the fact that biologically everybody needs to fuel their body if you are fat and are seen eating, you have a serious problem on your hands. Going to restaurants becomes a stressful occupation because you feel that people are judging what you eat or the quantity therein. Furthermore, if you choose something really unhealthy like a McDonald's burger you get called out on it and if you only eat a salad leaf, people ask if you're starving yourself.

Another peril of eating out is negotiating your way around the restaurant. In my life I've noticed that most people don't tend to tuck their chairs in all that well and when combined with a full restaurant, this is an overweight person's nightmare. You just want to enjoy a meal with your friends/family/significant other but all you see is a minefield of blocked entryways and embarrassing 'squeezy' moments where you try to fit between two people's chairs and hope for the best. You feel like everyone in the room can smell your fear but I have been told that no one ever really notices this panic I (and others) have on entering a crowded room.

Then you get the times when people genuinely are looking at you. Or at least, that's how it seems. You could be at a local bar with some friends and you'll notice someone looking in your direction. They might have a sour face on and the usual reaction on my side is "is he looking at me and if he is am I causing that face he's pulling".You'll look around the room like an animal caught in a trap just hoping to find an answer for why this person is looking in your direction.Usually, it has absolutely nothing to do with you, but with enough experience of the stranger looking in your direction, you start to get a bit paranoid.

Sometimes (and for me, this is the hardest to bare) someone WILL be looking at you. With purpose. They'll smile, you'll hide your face in your glass because there's no way that this person is at all looking at you like that. Why would they? Here's the truth ladies and gentlemen, despite my overtly confident exterior inside I have extremely low confidence when it comes to the opposite sex. Whilst I have a truly winning personality (...) I know that it is not possible to see that purely from the outside. When men (sometimes rather good looking men) smile at me or come over to talk to me I panic. It's like what they say about when you die and you flash through memories of your lifetime. For me, when a man comes over to talk to me I flash back to when I was 12-13 and would go to school discos. I think about never being asked to dance before and then being asked by all of the boys who we associated with. One by one, I was forced to suffer some kind of ritual humiliation. Either there would be bottom pinching or skirt lifting incidents which everyone would watch or my partner would simply get bored of being lumped with the fat girl and move on to someone else. All at my expense. I now see approaches from the opposite sex as someone playing some kind of cruel joke on me and I have turned people down for fear that they are playing a game.

Finally, come the haters. For as long as I remember, when you are a larger person there will be people who like to remind you of that fact. I don't know why they like to remind you of this, but there are people who will go above and beyond the call of duty to tell you. A question to these people, do you think I don't know? The problem with these people is they do absolutely nothing good. For many being overweight is not simply an issue of eating crap and not moving. There are countless people who have tried and tried to lose weight and have been knocked down continuously. I remember one incident when I was walking down the high street in Wimbledon and a woman decided to tell me that I needed to "lay off the McDonald's". At that point, I hadn't eaten a McDonald's in over 3 years. Worse of all, I had lost over 50 lbs. You try to act like it doesn't phase you but you start wondering if all your hard work is even worth it because you will always be something bad to someone else. This got me thinking, you hear people say that they're trying to be 'helpful' by telling people that they're fat because it'll give them the drive to change. Really though, you're about as helpful as a person informing someone that they're wet when they're stuck in a rainstorm. Furthermore, the health risks of obesity are consistently being compared with smoking. You won't get certain treatments for related issues unless you've undertaken a weight-loss program/stop smoking plan. I dislike smoking but I have never once seen a smoker suffer from the indignity of being aggressively called out on their smoking by a complete stranger.

As I continue on this new journey, I am aware that people are going to be looking at me. People are going to comment on my losing weight and that will be great but there will always be the people who make you feel worse about yourself. To the woman with the McDonald's comment back in 2009, I do not do this for you or anyone else that I've experienced like you. I do this for me and no one else. So, to slightly alter Winston Churchill "yes madam, I am fat, but in time I shall be thinner and you will still be nursing your ugly personality". Good luck with that.

Early days

I decided that I need to explain a little about myself and talk about why my weight has been a struggle for such a considerable period of time.

As you all know, my name is Florence. I am studying archaeology at Bristol University and I have wonderful friends and a family who love me. I have an 18 year old cat who is like my child. I have been privileged enough to have a good education, a nice roof over my head and doting parents who have always given me everything I need, and most of what I've wanted. In general I've been very lucky.

I wasn't always a chubby child. I remember looking back at photos of my infancy a few years back and feeling incredibly resentful that 'my life' had been stolen from me as a result of my weight. I was a perfect little girl with bright golden hair that seemed to glow in the light. I was wearing a princess dress (complete with tiara) and was dancing with my grandfather with the biggest, toothiest grin I have ever seen. I saw this photo as a sign of the person I was meant to be and this got me down considerably.

When I was 2 years old my mother went back to work. This is a decision that I struggled with in my teenage years but one I have come to respect immeasurably as I've grown into adulthood. A nanny was required to look after me in the interim period of coming back from nursery and later school and the arrival home of my parents. Many were interviewed and one played with me when there was an accident and I accidentally put my tooth through my lip. My father (as a first time parent) went into protective bear mode and that nanny was gone. After that, came Nanny Linda.

My mother never trusted her and always thought she was slightly mad but as a new mother she was convinced that this was just guilt or depression of having to leave her child and the issue was brushed off. During the time that I was under the care of Linda I developed some very bad habits. She was convinced I was going to marry into Royalty and as such should not be permitted to wear 'boy clothes'. Instead I was dressed in hideous dresses that she bought for me and the play clothes that had been designated by my mother were disposed of. 'Treats' were an everyday thing as opposed to a 'treat'. She wrapped me in cotton wool so that I could never hurt myself and she continued to push me in a stroller far past the point of necessity. My mother protested repeatedly but to no avail, Linda would continue on her chosen path.

I started gaining weight and had a genuine hatred of exercise and as a result of her desire not to see me hurt, I never learnt to ride a bike. The concern my mother had that this woman may not be 'quite right' struck again when she allowed me to cut her hair. After this my parents started looking elsewhere and there was a week when Linda was on holiday and a temporary nanny was looking after me. Linda was found wandering the streets of Brighton late at night because she was convinced that my parents intended to replace her. When my parents did replace her, she was found months later having killed herself on my birthday. I didn't seem all that upset about her lack of presence in my life.

For years I had a great deal of resentment towards her as the catalyst of my weight gain. Had she instilled in me the need to exercise and have fun with it, I believe I would have continued to enjoy it until the present day. I also resented my dad a great deal for not believing my mum when she voiced her concerns. I have learnt to move past this all, but I often think of what my life would have been like had circumstances been different.

This is why that photo of me dancing with my grandad was so important to me. It was that photo that made me realise that perhaps my life wouldn't have been so much better had I not gained weight during my childhood. Perhaps, had I been the 'perfect' skinny child I would never have developed my love of acting or performing music. Perhaps my sense of humour would be lacking because I would never have needed that push to get to meet new people and most critically, perhaps I would have been one of those girls who needs to pick on the fat girls in school just to make herself feel better. In short, my weight (and the lessons I have learnt as a result), has made me who I am today and, whilst I wouldn't wish a chubby childhood on anyone, I respect the importance it had on me during my formative developing years.

Monday, 1 April 2013

I like sushi...and smoothies.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I like sushi...a lot. My friend Lucy and I go for sushi and smoothies a lot and this is one of the things that always gets me down when I think about losing weight. How often will I be able to get my sushi fix? What can I actually eat and stay within my daily allowance? Then the delusion hits. "I know! I can just go for a run afterwards to work it off". That never happens. Whenever I'm about to embark on a weight loss journey (of which there have been many), I think about my last sushi.I think about what I'm going to have, when I'm going to go and despite the cost I will go and eat sushi until I can eat no more sushi. And the thing about sushi is I never feel guilty about it.

The reason I'm writing about sushi is because I got on the scale today as a beginning of my new start and the scale wouldn't register. That means that I currently weigh more than 23 and a half stone. I would love to say I was completely horrified but that'd be a lie and this is not the heaviest I've ever been. Back in 2008 I made the decision to start Weight Watchers (again) after I came back from a month long family visit to the USA. I remember standing in line, feeling good about myself and thinking "it can't be that bad. I can't be THAT much worse than I was last time I was here". I hadn't weighed myself for months because, much like today, the scale was no longer registering. I thought it was just broken. I never in a million years thought it was because I was too heavy. I met my new leader (Natasha), she handed me the pack of everything I needed and I got on the scale. 24 stone and 7lbs. I could not have been more horrified at the number before me. I was wearing size 32 clothes, usually just to hide my 'wobbly bits'. I committed to the plan and over the next 11 months I lost 75lbs. I think that I remember it being easier than it actually was and this past (very successful) attempt at weight loss has made me feel bad over the last 5 years as I've slowly put on everything I lost. 

So, this is the start. Today. I am not thinking about my 'last sushi' because I've realised that the attitude of saying "I can never again have that thing that I love so much" is exactly the thing that has held me (and countless others) back. My goal is not to go on some kind of amazing 'diet' that will get me to a size 12 in 4 months because they don't exist and never work. It's a huge cliché, and this is something that many people who have less to lose don't realise, but when you have more than half of your body weight to lose a 'diet' just won't cut it. You need to change your lifestyle entirely. That means exploring why an unhealthy relationship with food exists, and taking it slowly but surely so that (eventually) the tortoise will win the race.

I remember, back at that first Weight Watchers meeting in 2008, a charming woman telling me that I should do this now whilst I'm still "young and beautiful" because she was going to be attending these meetings for the rest of her life and she didn't see how she would get any great or lasting results. This is, I'm sure, the feeling that many overweight people have because it is an incredibly long and difficult slog. This attempt is as much for them as it is for myself. Because if I can show even one person that it IS possible that will be wonderful. And if I can change my lifestyle now, so that I do not have to feel the pain of believing that there is never any chance of losing weight, then I will be for the better for (hopefully) the rest of my life. At 22, I can't imagine the idea of being in my 50s and thinking that there's no way out. 

I will still be having my sushi...just maybe not the hairy prawns.

**Edit 28/04/2013: Having started the program I can firmly say that hairy prawns are back on the menu. In fact, I've had experiences for the first time ever where three plates is sufficient for all I need and I can assure you I NEVER thought that'd happen.**

New Beginnings

This is a story of a girl. This girl has been pushed and pulled in all different directions for as long as she can remember. Or, if we're being specific, since she was 3 years old and her whack job nanny told her she was going to marry Prince William. Damn you Kate, he was meant to be mine...

This is a story of a girl who has tried and tried to be everything she was always meant to be. This is a story of a girl who has succeeded and failed on these paths, but has always learnt something in the process.

This is a story of a girl who has decided to try once more to lose the weight she has been carrying since her childhood, which has held her down repeatedly (though she always got back up), caused strangers on the street to point and ridicule and also taught her more about herself than she ever could have imagined.

So, this is a story (hopefully) of victory. This is the beginning of a new chapter of my story. It is not one which I will allow to be scuppered by thoughts of the past, nor by fears of the future. So, dear reader, I welcome you on to this ride with me. My intention is not for this to be some kind of food diary, but rather an in depth look into why I, personally, am the weight I am and how I intend to change that. It is not intended to make anyone feel bad about themselves. Instead, I would have this as a sign to the countless others in this world who have felt like their appearance isn't good enough. This is about being who you are and changing (or not, as the case may be) for yourself and no one else. This is for all of those who have been made to feel that the opinions of others is more important than the acceptance of oneself. If this inspires even one person or makes someone feel that they are not alone I will have achieved something very great.

My name is Florence and welcome to my very much unexpected journey.