I am fat.
I’ve been fat for a long time. First plump, then overweight, then obese, then very obese, then morbidly obese. Not a pretty term, but medical terms aren’t coined for beauty, are they? I’ve hated my size, tried to make peace with it, but the fact remains that I am not a healthy shape and size. I am very grateful for the luck I’ve had being as big as I am for so long, but also aware that the thing with luck is that it runs out. And being the size I am raises the stakes in so many areas – for heart problems, for sleep problems, for joint problems, for diabetes – and that’s something I’m not prepared to accept.
I feel at this point I should affirm that this is my personal journey, and these are my personal thoughts. I am well aware that there are lots of people my size who are happy, healthy, and fit…but I’m not. So this post is about the changes I’m making, and the changes I have made. Because when you’ve grown just a little bit over the years, each and every year (5 pounds, seven pounds, ten pounds), one day you will look in the mirror and no longer see a body you know. Your body won’t be able to move or inhabit space in the same way, and if you’re like me, that’ll make you feel sad. These feelings, this journey, are deeply and intrinsically personal, and I share them here because it feels like time. No-one can tell people how they should feel about their bodies, but this is how I was feeling, and how I am feeling about mine.
That’s exactly where I was at the start of this year. When I tried to put on a pair of size 22 trousers and they wouldn’t do up. When I stepped on the scales and saw a number which sent a chill right down my spine. 280 pounds.
I’ve been at that point before, with different numbers. 265lbs. 250lbs. 230lbs. And my reaction has always been similar – diet hard, exercise hard, pile up the self-loathing, approach the whole matter as punitive proceedings. Punish myself for being fat/lazy/disgusting (delete as applicable, my mind told me all three, frequently), and go hard. And for four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks I’d be successful. Pounds would drop. People would notice. And then I’d run out of steam.
Because while the science is simple (calories in, calories out), the psychology is not. I didn’t get to this size through healthy habits, and have a slightly effed up relationship with food. Years of yo-yo dieting, comfort eating and self-loathing piled up to a complex and not very nice relationship with what should be one of life’s great pleasures, food. So this year, instead of going for the big January loss (which I’d always gain back with interest, naturally), I’ve been focused on the habits – in interrogating, unpacking and fixing the negative habits and building the positive ones, as well as introducing a few more in for good measure.
This is where I add the aside – I’m not an expert. I’m not a health professional. I’m just sharing a little bit of what’s been going on, with me. A working group of one human. The changes I’m making are positive ones for me, and ones I’m determined to make, but everyone is different.
The changes I’ve made and am making are working. As I write this I’m smaller, healthier and fitter, but more importantly I’m happier and feel like I have more control over my habits around diet and exercise. I’m definitely still learning, and I certainly eff up from time to time, but I’m feeling stronger and more and more able to walk this path. I mess up often, and I need grace on plenty of occasions, but the changes I’m making are reaping rewards. I’m lucky enough to be in a position to make these changes, which have been…
1. Going flexitarian. I eat less meat, and this has really fed into a greater awareness of what foods I eat and enjoy. This certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s really helped me to feel more full and to choose my foods more wisely. It’s also helped with the second change I’ve made, which is…
2. Seven to ten portions of vegetables and fruits, at least six days a week (because sometimes we need a toast day!). I was concerned this might prove pricey, but with spending less money on meat and ‘junk’ foods, plus using my trusty fruit and veg guy on the High Road, our grocery bills have actually dropped. I’ve always been pretty good at getting my five a day, but this is even better.
3. Less junk food. I have prohibited no actual foods – chocolate, cheese, steak, wine, pasta, cake, pizza all have their place. I am, after all, trying to build habits for the rest of my life here. However, I am eagle-eyed in my consumption of food full of unpronounceables and try to limit things like sodas and processed foods to seldoms.
4. Portion control, with a healthy dollop of mindful eating thrown in. Rather than depriving myself of food, or eating mahoosive portions because I feel sad/angry/worried/bored, I’m trying to give my body the fuel it needs. And I’m enjoying my food more too.
5. Being kinder to myself, and expecting more from myself.
6. Moving more – my fitbit has been a godsend. There are weeks where I’m more stationary (for example a few weeks back when I was overseeing the first week of renovations), but this little gadget is a great motivator for me. I know there are several studies saying the 10k steps thing is a bit arbitrary, but I like feeling motivated to move more.
I’m happy with all of these habits, and having been working on them all for months, they are pretty solid now, and have weathered holidays, stressful times, and all that jazz.
Looking forward to the next part of the year, I want to continue with the good work and there are a few other areas I want to improve, namely:
1. Work on my sleep habits. I’ve been sleep deprived since forever, and this can have me feeling worn out and lacking in motivation. I’m lucky in that I don’t need the most sleep, but I need to be getting at least 6 hours a night, and ideally aiming for 7 hours as an average.
2. Find three exercise classes or swim sessions I can put in the diary each week, or at least most weeks. I feel so much better when I make time for exercise, but I also find scheduling it a challenge. Luckily, this is the year for challenges.
3. Continue working on my mindfulness and meditation work.
4. Post about the journey more here. It’s my journey and my life, and I feel like it’s time I shared the journey.
The results so far?
I only started recording in June, and only thought to selfie it up after number three…the journey will be long but I feel like I’ve made some good first steps. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!