Or, 'On not being Fat any more' as this blog should perhaps be called. Because I was fat you see, and now I'm not. In fact, a little under 12 months ago, at 12st 11lb with a BMI pushing 30 I was very nearly what they call obese. And I'm very sorry to all those fat people who don't agree with the categorizing and the labels but I was fat, and I decided to do something about it once and for all.
I've talked about my issues with my weight and food before and it is something I've struggled with for a long time. But 12 months down the line I now weigh under 10st for the first time since I was 19 – which is 13 (it seems, very long) years ago. I've been on a bit of a roller coaster to get here though. (Please note however, that I have not been, nor never will go, on a 'journey'). I lost 24lbs last summer but then I got to a point where, although I hadn't lost as much weight as I wanted to, I felt and looked so much better than I had (and I quit my job, and the Edinburgh Fringe arrived with all its opportunities for drinking delicious (and very calorific) pear cider, and eating chocolate crepes and giant baked potatoes) that I kind of gave up. I just thought, 'that'll do for now'. I let myself indulge in all things I'd denied myself for the two months before. I went a bit crazy...but I think I learnt a valuable lesson; I'm not very good with moderation, but, if I deny myself of something (mostly chocolate) for long enough then at some point I will crack and a raging beast will emerge screaming 'give me all the chocolate, and give it to me now!'
So, what happened? Over the summer I put about half a stone back on. No, problem I thought – I can fix that. But I didn't, I started at university and I went on my first, stressful, school placement, and I went right back to what I'd always done...I tried to fix myself with food and booze. Before I knew it I was back to eating a chocolate bar every day (and then some) and drinking every weekend. In fact, I was now drinking alone which I had never done before, but telling myself it was OK because I wasn't 'alone', I was in the company of my friends on Twitter. I was in a downward spiral again and I couldn't seem to stop. When I'm like that, and unfortunately I have been many times before, it's like I've pressed a self-destruct button. I'll go to the shops and buy a tub of ice-cream, and think 'well, if I'm having ice-cream I might as well have a family size bag of Maltesers as well'. Then I get home and think 'well, if I'm having Maltesers and ice-cream I may as well order pizza, and I can't just order pizza because they won't deliver, I'll get potato skins too, and while I'm at it I'll have a glass of wine, and I've opened the bottle now so I might as well finish it....' and so it continues. Until you find yourself 6 months down the line having put a stone back on and almost being right back where you started.
It was a situation I'd been in so many times before, but this time something was different. Maybe I had learnt something after all. Because every time I've lost weight in the past I've put it back on, and added a bit extra just for good measure. But this time, when I saw those scales head back over the 12st mark again, I said no. I wasn't going to let it happen again. So I went back to Lighter Life, tail somewhat between my legs, and I started again. I know (and I've said before) that a lot of people don't really agree with the concept of meal replacement diets but by god it works. With two shakes, a bar, and a meal of protein and vegetables every day it's really easy and it means you don't really have to think about food.
What I did this time, which has been a bit different is not follow the programme quite so strictly. For example, you are only supposed to drink water or tea/coffee, but I've been having diet drinks and sugar-free juice as well. And I've had quite a few breaks when I've been away from home and it's just been impossible to follow the programme. But during those times I've tried to stick to the principles as much as I can, and do as much walking as I can to make up for what I'm putting in my mouth. And all this has meant, that although it's maybe taken longer for me to lose the weight than it might have done otherwise, I don't feel I've denied myself. And crucially, I haven't put on any weight since I got back on the wagon in January. There have been a few weeks where my weight has stayed the same, but that's OK, because that is what I'm aiming for in the long term anyway.
The other thing about Lighter Life is the group therapy (for want of a better word) sessions that go with it. I've always been a bit cynical about things like this, and I still think that some of it is nonsense, but a lot of it is good stuff. It's not like WeightWatchers (or lots of other weight loss groups) where you are in a massive group and most of the discussion is about food, and how you can still try and fit the 'naughty' foods into your diet. Lighter Life looks more at the underlying issues to try and get to the bottom of how you ended up overweight in the first place, and how you can stop it happening again.
I mentioned in my last blog that something had happened last week at one of the group meetings that surprised me. We had been talking about over-consuming, about why we had done it in the past, and how we might have been feeling at the time. There had been quite a lot of specific talk about food, and things we had eaten. And I had been talking about a few days earlier when (despite what I've just said about not denying myself and so not cracking and going mental) I had lost the plot somewhat and eaten a whole tub of Ben & Jerry's. I don't know what being a crack addict is like, but I imagine it's a bit like what I felt like the night I virtually ran across the road to Asda in search of something to fill the hole in my tummy. Talking specifically about food is something Lighter Life tries to avoid, because it just makes you think about, and want to eat the things you've been talking about. So towards the end of the meeting, the counsellor (that's what they call the leader woman) wanted to do a little exercise to show how thoughts can affect us and she needed a volunteer. I was it. So I got up and she got me to put my arm out at shoulder height and told me to resist the pressure as she pressed down on it. I did. So far so good. Then she told me to say out loud ' I am a weak and vulnerable person' and to keep repeating it. Which I did, three or four times....and here's the weird bit. It felt really strange, I didn't like saying it. I was telling myself it was only words but I didn't like it. She told me to say it a few more times....and I started crying. It was so strange. I don't know why I was crying. They were just words, but maybe they struck something in me that thought they were true. The counsellor was really surprised too – she said she knew it was a powerful exercise but she'd never had anyone cry before. We carried on to the point of it, which is after saying the first statement, you do the arm thing again and you just can't resist at all. Then you repeat 'I am a strong and confident woman' over and over (like you mean it, as they kept telling me) until you do the arm thing again and can resist it again. So there we are. I never really believed stuff like that would work with me but a few simple words had the power to make me cry.
Which brings us to now. I said at the beginning of all this that my goal weight was 'anything with a 9 in it' but now I'm at 9st 12lb I actually want to lose a few more pounds. I want to be at the bottom of my 'safety zone' – this basically means I can fluctuate by a couple of pounds without ending up over 10st again. But I'm definitely happy with what I've achieved. I feel so much better about myself, shopping is fun again because I can go into any shop I want and know that a size 12 will just fit me which is just a brilliant feeling, I'm more confident, less self-conscious and all those other clichés, but then why wouldn't I? I look fucking hot!
I look like me again, or the image of me that I had in my head. I think I had some weird kind of reverse body dysmorphia. I know it's often seen in people with eating disorders who see themselves as fat when they are actually dangerously thin. But when I was fat, I still had a picture of myself in my head, and that person looked like I do now. I would look in the mirror and think I looked OK, and to be honest I mostly avoided having my photo taken because I knew that a camera would tell the truth. But like I say, now I look like me again....and that's the way I plan to stay.