07 October 2008


A tale of numerous diets... and why they didn't work.

This one has been quite a long time in the writing. I've been doing quite a bit of thinking over the last few months, about all those times in my past when I lost weight before, and one or two things have become clearer to me. My various diets, over the years, always worked to an extent, and I'd look better, sometimes even good... for a while. Then the lbs would gradually pile back on, invariably leaving me fatter than when I started on diet X or Y or Z. Not an uncommon pattern I know. But I'd never really applied that model to me.

I guess I've actually struggled with my weight for pretty much all my adult life. Funny, but I've never really thought about it this way before. I wasn't a skinny child (not like my sister) but I wasn't fat either, just OK. I was never into competitive sport (too much of a loner, just me and my dog) but did a huge amount of walking and cycling, and I guess playing, so Mum's good healthy food, plus almost daily peanut butter sarnies with butter (by the bucketful) and big glasses of whole milk, and the chocolate as often as I could get hold of it, didn't have a chance to accumulate as flab.

Once though, when I was a teenager, I do remember a boyfriend mentioning that I'd look lovely when I shed the 'puppy fat' around my tummy. He didn't stay my boyfriend for long after that! Still, it must have made me think, as sometime around that stage I turned veggie (much to my Mum's horror!) temporarily, discovered yoghurt and calories, and morphed into a still pretty active, slinky, if sulky, and apparently normal sort of a lass. All was slender, sweetness and light until I reached my twenties.

In fact, I think reaching twenty four was the start of my fatter life. There'd been a series of difficulties in my life leading up to this age (some of them pretty darned serious) and I guess that's when I really turned to food as comfort - a prop to help me deal with the stuff going on in my head. I also became less active now I was all grown up (or so I thought). I slowly started buying larger sized clothes, often having first stuffed myself into the my usual size until it became blatantly obvious that I could no longer do that. Bust zips? Yep!

I can still clearly remember starting my first diet when I was in my twenties, having realised that I was getting podgy - working with someone with a gorgeous figure (think Marylin Monroe) opened my eyes. It was called the Big Bowlful diet and what a crock of s*** that was. I hated it! The idea was that you made a large bowl of whatever the day's recipe was and ate only from the bowl during the day. Yes, that's right - breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks, just from that damned bowl! One recipe I still half recall, and it put me off cottage cheese for years. It consisted of, ooh you guessed it, cottage cheese, plus shredded white cabbage and probably other enticing stuff I don't wish to bring to mind. For breakfast? Yummy! Well, I persevered and did lose the podge on the blasted diet, but of course when I went back to eating normally, the weight piled back on.

I tried a variety of other quick fix diets too, over the years. Just to list some of them, they included the F Plan diet, the 1000 calorie a day diet, the Grapefruit diet, and worst of all the Cambridge diet. With all of them I lost weight. Success right? Hmmm, for a while I'd be happy and feel I had this cracked. But every time, and I mean EVERY time, I'd put weight on afterwards and end up heavier that before I'd begun to diet. There's a theme here, by the way - even though it's taken me years to see it. In every case, when I went back to eating 'normally', the weight piled back on. You see, I really did think a quick fix diet was a fix for life. Poor sap, eh?

Kind of an aside, but the absolute worst of the diets, and I cannot damn this system more strongly (sorry if it pees you off but my opinion is just as valid as yours), was the Cambridge diet. Yes, I lost a lot of weight, and quickly too. Yes, at the time I thought this was wonderful and would have evangelised about this 'miracle' plan - appallingly hard as it was to follow. But, substituting their 'formula' meals and bars, however nutrient packed, for proper food (e.g. vegetables, fruit, lean meat, etc.) to follow their 'very low calorie diet' plan (think starvation!) was a path to disaster as far as I'm concerned. As for exercising - pah! I was always too damned tired even to think straight. Teaching you healthy eating habits for life, eh - in a pigs eye!

After a while, and numerous cycles of diet/stop/get fatter/do it again, I just plumb gave up trying to lose the weight. I had convinced myself that I wasn't meant to be thin, that there was obviously something awry with my patently slow metabolism - maybe a gland or hormone problem if only the quacks would believe me. I even told people that! Frankly though, I just plain quit and just let myself get fatter and fatter. I also got unhappier and unhappier.

My self esteem was pretty much lacking by now, and my confidence fell away year by year. I won't say much about personal relationships, other than to say they were pretty destructive. Mostly, looking back, I guess I concentrated on destroying myself, in part quite unconsciously using food to punish myself for all sorts of sins whether real or imagined. The funny part is that I thought what I was eating was my 'treat', to make me feel good.

It has taken a lot for me to admit to me that I am the person responsible for my obesity and that the only person who could truly help me combat it was me. Blaming other people, or circumstances, or just 'stuff' is so much easier than really looking at yourself. To get even as far as I have done to date, I've had to be brutally honest with myself and address why I've behaved the way I have. Comfort eating has been a big issue, however you look at it (and try to deny it). And my version of what 'normal' eating entailed was so far off beam I can scarcely believe it - and you know what, I didn't see it.

A 'diet' isn't the answer - it never was. But I hope that changing my life is. It's a long slow process, with many opportunities for getting it wrong. I've also had to commit to getting off my fat ass and keep myself moving again. It's not over yet, and I think it never will be - I will ALWAYS have to be mindful and not let myself fall back on the old, negative behaviours.

And now? Well, I'm a long way from when I started this journey back in June 2007. Around 25kg down (or 55lbs in old money), that's about a quarter of my body weight, but still with a way to go. Changed shape? Definitely, and a good deal fitter and healthier too.

Am I still fat? Yes, I am, but my habits have changed for the better and I'm getting less so. I'm no longer 'very obese' on the charts, or even just 'obese', merely 'overweight'... but I'm still a fat lass.

Can I keep it up? Yes, I think I can, and even when I do fall off the wagon (it happens!) I won't quit because I now recognise that I just have to kick my fat ass, get my attitude back on track, and start again.

Can I reach the final dream target I've had in my mind for a long time but still haven't admitted out loud? Yes, I think I can. Maybe I can even tell you what it is sometime.

But more importantly, can I keep the healthier attitudes this last sixteen months have been teaching me and keep the weight off, for good? This time, at last, I think I can say yes to that too.

You see, I like myself more now than I've done in a lot of years. No, it isn't just because there's physically less of me, but because I can finally see there is a person inside me who, if she were outside my flesh, I might actually get along with and respect. That is such a major change in me, but I couldn't have done it without some understanding of why it happened, how I got where I was, and how to go on from here to where I'd like to be.

Maybe the best way is to quote from Aaron Neville's song, 'To Make Me Who I Am'
Once my life was wretched
But why should I regret it
Cos, it took me who I was, and where I’ve been
To make me who I am

I am so very lucky to have my supportive, loving hubby - I cannot express how much he means to me. He has helped me more than he can ever know, not only in this ongoing journey but in all aspects of life. The fact that I can post like this, or better yet, tell you that I've lost lbs again and reached a mini target ahead of time is in no small part because of his support. He doesn't nag, has never moaned even when I was at my fattest, and always gives me unconditional love. He is the reason that I've begun to see that 'me' is of some worth in the world and this gives me a firm footing to fight the many years of bitterly destructive habits.


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