I was born prematurely, refused to breastfeed, and was not a good eater as a baby. My mother thus spent my first few years desperately trying to feed me at every opportunity. When I was about five, I became chubby. When I was 12, my mother put me on my first diet. When I was 14 or 15, she started giving me her diet pills and my father’s Lasix diuretics. I was teased at school and in my private life because of my weight. I hated most sports at school because people would comment on how I wobbled when I ran. The only sport I liked was swimming because my weight did not matter.
I spent years on ridiculous diets – eating only eggs and spinach, eating only pineapple (I still cannot eat pineapple…), diet pills, laxatives, cabbage soup – but my weight went up and up. I started a new diet every Monday and gave up every Tuesday. My weight yo yo’d but ultimately I just grew bigger. My periods suffered. My hair fell out. I had several different wardrobes of clothes depending where I was on the binge/starve cycle. I used to refuse social invitations when they coincided with whatever my latest diet was. I was miserable.
The turning point came in 1987 when I returned after living in the US for several years. I was so big my family did not recognise me. But even worse, I had stopped taking care of myself, because I was waiting to be that magical number on the scale. At the time I wore only tracksuits that were full of holes, and two worn-out bras at the same time because I refused to buy anything until I had lost weight. My doctor warned me that my blood pressure and cholesterol were sky high, and that – being an apple shape – I was carrying too much weight around my tummy. Both my parents had died young of a combination of high blood pressure and high cholesterol leading to heart attack and strokes, so I got a major fright.
I realised that I needed to come to terms with being big, or lose weight once and for all, because the constant yo yoing of my weight and fad diets was affecting my physical and mental health. Something happened in my head and my emotions and I was finally ready. I had my hair regularly cut and styled, I started taking care of my skin. I bought gorgeous clothes. I started socialising and dating. I felt better about myself. I started eating normally. I ate when I was hungry, and stopped when I was full. I ate whatever I wanted but cut down on portion sizes. I learned to recognise the difference between tummy hunger and boredom/stress/emotions/mouth hunger/thirst. I learned to love walking.
Over the next 18 months I dropped from 106kg/233lbs to 57kg/125lbs. I am 1.7/5ft 7in. And I have stayed there, more or less, for 36 years. I go up and down by a couple of pounds but not more than that. I don’t starve myself. I eat what I want. I think the biggest change for me was a mental one. I realised that I could eat whatever I wanted, just in moderate quantities. That totally cut out the urge to binge. My cholesterol is still a little high (I take medication for it), but my blood pressure is nnow normal.
Before, I would have started a restrictive diet on a Monday, fallen off the wagon on a Tuesday, binged from Tuesday to Sunday and then started again on Monday. I was always waiting for a new week/month/year to start a diet. Now I eat what I want. If I want chocolate, I will eat a small amount – maybe half a snickers or four squares from a bar. I know I can eat small amounts of chocolate every day if I want to. I can even eat a whole bar; just not every day. Nothing being forbidden totally wipes out the urge to binge. Ultimately it is not what you eat in the course of a day that matters, but what you eat over the months and years. A packet of biscuits in a day won’t make a difference if you don’t eat like that every day. Three biscuits a day won’t make a difference over a year. Many people fear the consequences of the holiday season on their waistline. But it is generally just Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve where people go all out on food. If you eat normally the rest of the time, that is not going to make a difference. It’s all about balance. Life is not a report card.
I do weigh myself regularly and if I go up by more than a few pounds, I cut out extra snacking for a while. I am pretty average height and weight. I was never going to be a supermodel. But I am healthy and happy.
I know what you’re saying Janet, thing is with me, I lost a hell of a lot of weight in too short a time when I first left my overpowering and controlling wife. My weight dropped from 95kg to 63kg within two months and then I decided to start eating again. Now I’m up to 89kg and feel it’s time to start eating sensibly to get my weight under control. It did take me almost 14 months to put the weight back on and now I have I need to drop around 9kg and maintain that weight.