Last week I caught myself chanting the following as a kind of motivational mantra: “Five weeks, five kilos, five weeks, five kilos.” Yes, you read that right. The person who is NOT on diet and is not trying to slim down for an arbitrary deadline is, in fact, doing both those things with a vengeance. No matter how vehemently I insist that this whole endeavour is primarily concerned with a change in lifestyle and an adoption of healthier habits, it is quite clear that I am fully immersed in the dieting mind-set of old, which, in theory, I utterly reject.
That dieting mind-set is the product of years of participating in the diet industry. Popular dieting clubs and programmes were first developed in the 1960s. By the time I joined up for the first time in the 1980s, they were well established and many of their features had become deeply entrenched in our dieting consciousness. The weekly weigh-in is a good example. Back in the day, you were weighed publicly and your weight loss or gain was announced to your fellow dieters each week.
Over time, the idea of shaming people into losing weight waned in popularity and the weigh-ins became more discreet. But in the big business world of dieting, they remained an invaluable tool, providing a boost to morale when the scales showed a loss, or a useful kick up the jacksie when they showed a gain.
I decided some years ago that paying someone to stop me from over-eating was an almost obscene concept in a world where so many go hungry every day. As a result, I haven’t been near a weigh-in or diet programme meeting for some time. Yet I still find myself very wedded to the idea of the weekly weight check. Since I embarked on this particular journey, I have been struggling to resist weighing myself too often and have been very affected by what I see on the scales – celebrating a substantial loss by allowing myself extra treats and responding to gains with depression and despair.
I have also found myself moving the scales around the bathroom in order to get the “best” reading. How utterly stupid. I know very well that the number on the scale is not the point. But I bet I am not alone in falling into the trap of concentrating on numbers to the exclusion of everything else. I did a bit of reading on the internet about current dieting programmes and I see that Weight Watchers, for example, have rebranded their weekly weigh-ins. They are now marketed as “Workshops” with the emphasis on wellness rather than on weight loss. I wonder if the participants have managed to shift their mind-sets accordingly? I know, from my own experience that it is a lot more difficult than it seems.
The only time I have ever lost weight without thinking about it at all was just before my wedding. I was too absorbed in other stuff to spare a single thought to what I was eating. And interestingly, I am unable to tell you how much I weighed at the time. I simply had not bothered to check. In the photographs I look like a person with a healthy weight, but I have never again managed to be that unconscious of my weight – fatter or thinner, it has remained a big issue for me, front and centre in my consciousness.
So, I have had a big re-think and have made a few decisions.
Firstly, no more weekly stats. I am going to weigh myself once a month from now on and may eschew the scales completely if I am brave enough.
Secondly, I am throwing any notion of a timetable or a deadline out of the window. I did not, thank God, gain weight at the rate of a kilo a week, and it is quite mad to expect to lose it at that speed. I also know, from past experience that weight lost quickly as a result of a strict diet goes back on just as quickly once normal service is resumed.
Thirdly, I am sad to say that my original bright idea of saying “No” to sugar, seconds, snacks and sauce, must be abandoned. By this I do not mean that I am going back to gorging on all four of these things. But I am not going to attempt to give them up completely. Right now, I feel like I am at a reasonable level with all four. This week, for example, I had some wine on Sunday when we had a barbecue and I ate a meringue. That’s it, and that is just fine, I think.