Last week, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a desire to weigh myself. In my usual feckless way, I succumbed and hopped on to the bathroom scales.
Do you ever do ridiculous things on the scales to try and make the numbers go down? I have a wonky wooden floor and fairly ancient dodgy scales, so if I indulge in some creative contortions I am able to lose and gain several kilos in a mere matter of minutes. Fortunately, my better self usually prevails, and I take the mean weight to be the accurate one.
On this occasion, I was relieved to find that the figure showed a small weight loss, but it struck me with some force that I had had absolutely no clue beforehand what those scales would show. I seem to have a some completely disconnected wires in my brain.
Firstly, I can’t feel or see if I am heavier or lighter. I need numbers on a scale to tell me what is going on with my weight. I suppose I have usually relied on the tightness or looseness of my clothing to give me an indication of my size. But this summer, I have discovered the absolute joy of wearing loose, linen shift dresses. I have never before felt so comfortable, cool or free. But without a tight waist band warning system, I could, as far as I was aware have loaded on ten kilos.
And this points to the second disconnect. I clearly do not fully believe that if I eat a bit less and a bit more healthily that it is in fact inevitable that I will lose a little bit of weight. Instead I, like many long-term dieters, seem to have swallowed this mad idea that there is a kind of magical alchemy about weight loss that I don’t fully understand.
This “magic” explains why sometimes I don’t lose weight even when I’ve been “good”. It consists of eating at the right times, of excluding certain food groups entirely, or only eating certain “fat-consuming” things. It is the magic of the keto/cabbage soup/Atkins/5:2 diet. Somehow my brain cannot grasp the simple fact that if I eat fewer calories, I will lose weight. There is no magic about it. The explanation for gaining weight despite being “good” lies in a less than honest memory of what has actually been consumed, not in anything mystical.
No, there is no miracle “cure” for fatness. It’s such a shame, because if there were, and I knew what it was, I’d be a very rich woman. Many people are extremely rich today simply by virtue of being able to convince me and those like me that they hold the secret to weight loss. If I just follow their programme, drink their milkshake or buy their books, I can be a sylph-like goddess. Ha!
At the end of the day, I think we need to be honest with ourselves, and really try to start believing again that fatness is the result of the amount of calories we consume being greater than the energy we expend. Until we can make that connection in our heads, no amount of weighing, measuring, planning and plotting is going to help us.