Where I muse on weight loss and dieting and shaking the fat off one’s child bearing hips

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I am obese. I want to lose weight.

Now I would never dare to make assumptions about your reactions, dear reader, but I do know from experience that commonly people respond to those two statements in one of two ways. Either something along the lines of: “You don’t need to lose weight. You look fine. Society wants us all to be skinny. You shouldn’t listen to the pressure…” or “Oh my god! Me too. I am sooooo fat. It’s just disgusting.”

The interesting thing is that those two reactions don’t come from different groups of people. They can come from the same individuals at different times (different times sometimes being different moments within the same conversation). And I’ve had both of those reactions myself, both to other people’s claims to need to lose weight and (more worryingly) in my own internal monologue. BTW, any of you who don’t have an internal monologue should really get one. They’re marvellous fun. You never have to be lonely again.

Anyhoo, why is it that we don’t seem to respond to our weight in a rational way? If I was a smoker who told you I really wanted to give up, you would probably be encouraging. You would recognise that this is a decision with benefits. You would understand that smoking, although marvellous fun, is fundamentally a deeply unhealthy habit. Well, actually, so is overeating, but somehow dieting can come to feel like we’re giving in to pressure rather than doing what’s best for us. Here are some thoughts on the subject. I shall probably number them and put them in a list. Regular readers of this blog will have noticed how I do like a numbered list. I find them very soothing.

 

1. Yes. The diet “industry” is totally repellent.

I have a lifelong commitment never to give them any money. Working from home I get to enjoy the full gamut of weightloss advertising. Weightwatchers, Jenny Craig, Slimfast, “Click here to find out how some random off Big Brother lost 4 stone in 28 minutes.” I have ignored them all (and suspect that once this blog is published I shall have a flurry of new weight loss spam to ignore further). I will give Weightwatchers a slight exemption for being one of the few marketed weight loss systems that does have a fairly strong evidence base for it’s efficacy, but actually I know I’m overweight, and I know why. I’m not generally keen on paying to have someone tell me the obvious. And I’m definitely not paying for a snake oil solution. There is no magic pill, and, however well it’s marketed, there’s no such thing as a (calorie) free lunch.

 

2. Yes. Magazines, popular culture, tv, film and all that jazz, put ridiculous pressure on people (particularly young women) to look a certain way.

This isn’t just the obvious areas of skimpily clad popstars and computer game characters clearly drawn by someone who thought Barbie was a tad on the hefty side. When’s the last time you saw a fat newsreader? That’s really not a job requiring a high level of physical fitness. Sit on a chair and read this out. Even at my biggest (especially at my biggest) I think a sitting and reading based occupation would have been acceptable.

And, certain sections of the press still run a fairly constant feed of “X celeb has lost weight – hurrah!” or “X celeb has gained weight – she’s a witch! She’s a witch! Burn her!” stories. All of which equates your weight with your worth as a human being, and that’s a problem. It would be patent insanity to decide that all blue-eyed people were outwardly jolly but secretly self-loathing and deserving of ridicule. Substituting “fat” for “blue-eyed” doesn’t make the thought any saner.

 

3. Yes. If you diet there is a good chance you will gain weight again later.

I’ve done this one myself. I lost over 4 stone in my mid-twenties and promised myself that that would be the only time in my life when I would diet. It’s now 8 years on and I’m probably only about 10lbs less that I was at my highest weight before that big diet. In the meantime I’ve been up to within a couple of lbs of my highest  point and down again to within a stone of my lowest.

But this isn’t because of any inevitability of regaining weight. It’s because I went back to eating too much and eating too many high calorie foods. It was entirely within my own control. I just didn’t control it.

 

Losing weight is a health decision, and the practicalities of doing it aren’t hard. Eat less. Exercise more. That really is it. You can spend hours trawling the internet or watching daytime tv for specific diet plans and particular views on whether it’s sensible to eat carbs after 4pm (it’s totally fine, by the way), but the only outcome that reliably leads to weight loss is to eat less calories. And when you’ve lost weight, you keep it off by continuing to eat less calories than you did before. You got fat because you ate too much. You get thin by eating less. None of this is complicated, and none of it needs to be an emotional issue.

But there is an emotional element, and for more and more women that I talk to it goes like this. Society says I have to be thin. I’m an independent strong woman. If I lose weight I’m giving into society rather than celebrating my individuality and accepting the woman that I am. I can understand that feeling.  I actually think that sometimes it takes more confidence to say, “I don’t like x about myself. I’m going to change it,” than to say that everything is fine. All I can say is that you have to do what is best for you. For me being thinner is better. I feel fitter and stronger. I get out of breathe less quickly. I can walk up hills without feeling like I might vomit up a lung. In the long term, hopefully I will have a longer and healthier life, which I want. There is so much cool stuff in the world. I really want to give myself the best possible shot at seeing as much of it as I can.

And if I’m honest, society has got to me too. I like being able to try on size 10-12 clothes, rather than being on the cusp of sizes that the “normal” stores don’t stock. I like going out in a floaty top and feeling confident that no-one is going to ask when the baby’s due. I like being able to count my chins without having to use the fingers on the second hand. I do feel prettier when I’m thinner.

So for all those reasons I am going to lose weight again. And I’m really going to try to make this the last time I go through it. For my height I should be somewhere between 8 stone 10lbs and 10 stone 10lbs. From past experience I know that too far under 10 stone and my hip bones and collarbone start to stick out a bit worryingly (maybe Grandma was right all those years she told me I had childbearing hips, which are sadly completely wasted on me). 

The target is 10stone. That’s 3.5 stone to lose. Gosh. I’d say wish me luck, but that would miss the point. I don’t need luck. I just need to eat less calories and workout more, which is hard because exercise is fun once you’re doing it but a pain to motivate yourself for, and food is lovely, like really really lovely, but not quite as lovely as a life without heart disease. So lovely scrummy food in moderation only from now on.

Eat less. Exercise more.

Eat less. Exercise more.

Eat less. Exercise…

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10 thoughts on “Where I muse on weight loss and dieting and shaking the fat off one’s child bearing hips

    Marilyn Rodwell said:
    November 21, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Are you sure you weighed yourself correctly? I’m shocked, because you look nothing like what you say you are. You must carry yourself well! Fear not. I’m also overweight. I hate that word obese… smile a lot, and walk tall, whilst eating smaller portions if you can. That’s what I’m trying at the moment.

    Best of luck
    M

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      alisonmay responded:
      November 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      It’s odd isn’t it? I always think I look “thinner” than I weigh, but then I wonder if I’m just kidding myself! I’m clearly blessed with positive body image.
      I definitely have a wider frame than some women my height – as I say in the post, if I go much below ten stone I start to look bony, so maybe that makes a difference to how you carry extra weight.
      Obese isn’t a pretty word. I agree. I use it because it’s the correct word for a BMI over 30 (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obesity/Pages/Introduction.aspx) and I think that part of not getting caught up in the weight angst madness is being prepared to be dispassionate about the language involved. So I’m calling my fat spade a fat spade 😉

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    Marilyn Rodwell said:
    November 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    You may have a wide frame and heavy bones. I have small bones, but also wide hips. I agree with that word obesity, but I remember it from my nursing days, and you only called really visually fat people that.

    I just read the your blog properly! Good! And funny in parts too. One day you will have to tell me where your 6th chin is. Or not!

    So tomorrow I’m joining you on that low cal and less food intake. Hope I don’t get tempted with all those white chocolate, banana and cranberry muffins I made yesterday!

    Good luck! Will now follow your blog.

    Like

    Emily Harvale said:
    November 22, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Hi alison, I’m in the same boat but unfortunately, due to other health issues, exercise isn’t an option for me at the moment (hopefully, this will be solved after my next op in December) Anyway, I have started trying to cut down on other things like wine and chocolate etc but I am not saying I’m on a diet, or need to lose weight as they are both negative statements in my opinion and doomed to failure. Instead, I am saying, I’m on a healthy eating plan. Much better and more positive, for me personally. (Oddly I’ll be blogging about this in a couple of weeks too)
    I wish you well – and if you feel you need some additional support or encouragement – contact me via my website, twitter or facebook and we’ll spur one another on! Emily x

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      alisonmay responded:
      November 25, 2011 at 9:07 am

      THanks for your comments Emily. I don’t find the word diet negative, but I understand why some people do. I am quite target-driven as a personality though. I like a plan and I find it much more motivating if you start to see results quite quickly, so I suit quite a hardline dieting approach better to get me started.
      And I look forward to your blog thoughts on the same topic x

      Like

    Juliet Greenwood said:
    November 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I hope you find the weight you’re happy with. I think feeling comfortable in your own skin is the best, but it’s hard with all the pressures. I hate the skinny look because it makes women look and be fragile. I agree with Emily – healthy eating is the best way. Better to glow with health than go all shriveled up!

    If you pop over to my blog, you’ll find you’ve been given an award.

    Enjoy!

    Juliet (hugs)

    Like

      alisonmay responded:
      November 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

      Thanks for the award Juliet. It always completely blows me away to get positive comments and feedback on the blog. It was only a few months ago that I was convinced there was only me reading it 🙂
      I think the key thing is to be healthy, and for me healthy does mean substantially lighter than I am now. Health first, aesthetics second is what I’m trying to stick to in my mind, but there are so many images of what is the ideal size (some of which seem very thin indeed), that it can be difficult to thin those out of our own thinking x

      Like

    Anita Chapman said:
    November 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Alison,
    I enjoyed reading this as I do with all your blog posts. Best of luck with the weight-loss thing. I find it so difficult to fit exercise into my daily life. When I can persuade myself to go for a run, I feel so much better and my jeans aren’t quite so tight the following day! I love my food and will never diet – only cut out cakes, choc, crisps when it gets to summer holiday time. Since having my second child I haven’t got back to the weight I want to be. This is probably because I live in an area where I need to drive most of the time. After having my first child, I lived in Richmond, Surrey and walked all day every day. I’d like to be someone who could go for an hour long run every day without it being a big deal but I don’t think it will ever happen! Anita X

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