What is it about fat that makes it such a super-sensitive topic? If I had a septic toe that I was refusing to treat and it became life-threatening, no one would think twice about telling me in no uncertain terms to get it sorted out. Yet, when someone is quite visibly and obviously putting their health at risk by eating too much, no one says a word. Not even health care professionals. Every time I visit my GP, I expect him or her to say something to me about the elephant in the room (which I have at times closely resembled), but not one has ever even hinted that a change to my eating habits would have considerable health benefits. And to be fair, if someone did broach the subject, I wouldn’t react in the same way as if we were discussing my toe. I would likely be highly defensive and probably a bit angry or offended.
Fat is never straightforward. There are so many layers to the problem (excuse the turn of phrase there!) and often quite deeply seated reasons for it.
So, hats off to Slim Sister who was brave enough to bring up the subject one day and come right out and say that she thought I should take some more definite action with regards to my weight. This blog, and my slow and steady approach was sort of working. I had lost a bit of weight over a long period. But then along came Coronavirus and it all went to hell in a handbasket. Over the course of the first UK lockdown, I put on nearly 10kg!!! (No, that’s not a typo – 10 kg in just over 6 months.) I am not entirely sure why, because I continued to walk the dog every weekday and stopped eating out and entertaining, the latter two having always been high calorie activities for me. My alcohol consumption definitely went up (well, everyone was drinking, weren’t they, so why not me, too?) and I suppose I wasn’t running errands or doing anything like as much calorie-burning trotting about as usual. Those online exercise sessions that I was talking about in my last blog didn’t last because my dodgy ankle became so painful that I realised if I didn’t stop, I soon wouldn’t even be able to manage the dog walking.
So, I swelled. Alarmingly.
Fortunately for Slim Sister, when she brought up the subject, I had already decided that I was going to have to break my vow to never go on diet again. So I was receptive to her words, rather than defensive. I had already decided what to do. I could not bring myself to go back on my decision to never again PAY for a diet (if you have read my previous blogs, you will know about my discomfort with the notion of fat, over-privileged people paying to eat less while others starve). But with a little research and reading of reviews, I found a free calorie counting app and a free exercise monitoring app, and I was good to go.
That was on the 1st of September and now, two months later, I weigh 10.8kg less than I did then.
The app I use allows you to set a desired rate of loss, and I set mine fairly high at 1 kg a week. I wanted some quickish results to help motivate me and inspire me. But the main reason this has been successful is that I have adopted the same mindset that I used when I gave up smoking 16 years ago. I may have mentioned before that I achieved that (my one and only shining instance of really exercising self control) with the help of the Allen Carr method for breaking addiction to nicotine. I can’t really summarise everything he says about controlling one’s behaviour, but there were a couple of things that really struck me, and that I have been able to use again now, when it comes to food and booze.
Firstly, he asked the question, how bad are those feelings of wanting a cigarette really? Yes, they feel urgent, maybe uncomfortable, but they are not painful or overwhelming. They certainly are not as bad as say, having a really bad cold, are they? But if I asked you if you would be prepared to experience bad cold symptoms for two weeks and after that you wouldn’t crave nicotine at all, would you agree to it? Of course. It’s a very small price to pay to be rid of such a horrible addiction. Who really wants to be spending a lot of money to go around coughing, ponging of smoke, causing damage to the health of loved ones and oneself and generally being a bit of a social outcast?
Being fat has just as many unpleasant and damaging consequences as smoking. But being asked to “slightly reduce” one’s calorie intake and “slightly increase” one’s physical activity is really not such a big deal, is it? No one is asking you to starve yourself or actually go hungry. You are not even having to stop eating or drinking anything you like. You just have to fit what you consume into a framework of a certain number of calories a day. You are being asked to think about what you eat, and do a certain amount of weighing and measuring, but with all the fabulous technology we have at our disposal these days, that is really not much of an ask at all. I spend far more time playing Solitaire on my phone than I do working out how much and what I should eat every day.
The other useful takeaway from Allen Carr was the idea that the decision not to smoke was mine and mine alone. And if I did have another cigarette after I had said that I would never again put one into my mouth, then I had only myself to blame and I would have to live with the knowledge of my own pathetic weakness for the rest of my days. When it comes to diets or eating less, I am the QUEEN of excuses. My kids are giving me trouble – I deserve a nice glass of wine. I am stressed/exhausted/sad/in the mood for a celebration – bring out the ice cream. And on and on. This time round, I am taking ownership of my actions. EVEN IF SOMETHING REALLY, REALLY bad happens, it is not an excuse to make myself more unhealthy by overeating. Incidentally, I also can’t “jinx” my weight loss/diet by talking about it or looking forward to it with anticipation (a piece of weird superstitious nonsense that I find myself succumbing to). No one and nothing can “jinx” something that only I have complete control over, namely what I put into my mouth.
So, that’s the current state of play. I am feeling good – stronger and healthier and more focused. Even my ankle has stopped hurting quite so much now that the load it has to carry around every day has lightened a bit.
Onwards and upwards. Or, better still, downwards (the number on the scale) and inwards (my waistline).