I haven’t hosted many guest bloggers here; in fact this is only my third time. I reached out to Helen because I really wanted to learn more about her story. We first met late last year, at the tail end of my 365-day journey. We clicked right away, supporting and cheering each other on, but then she disappeared at the end of February. I worried she had pulled the plug on her journey so I reached out to her. She promised she would be back soon. And, true to her word, she was. On April 27th, she wrote this post on starting over. Helen has since taken on a May challenge of working out every single day in the month of May. She is an inspiration. Please join me in reading her story below, and don’t be shy about commenting and showing your support for this true bad-ass. Also, how about hopping on over and following Helen at 26 to 12 – another weight loss blog? xoxo nancy
Last week I got an email from Nancy, asking if I’d be interested in writing a guest post for her blog. My kneejerk reaction was to say no. I almost did. I wrote a lovely, polite “thanks, but no thanks” reply in my head, and then I realised how feeble my excuses were.
The bottom line was that I was (and still am) afraid. Afraid my words won’t be good enough, afraid that my story is boring, afraid that I will fail. But, here I am, writing my story down, with a little bit of hope in my heart, that maybe it might help someone, and if nothing else, that maybe writing it down will help me.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Helen, and I am fat. It has taken me a long, long time to admit that. For years I have described myself as “chubby”, “curvy” or even “a bit overweight” but the fact is that (as of last week) I weigh 20 stone 2 lbs (282lb or 128kg.) To give you an idea of this, I am 5’3” and pear-shaped, meaning my hip measurement is 57” and the circumference of my right thigh is 34” – the same as my boyfriend’s waist size. I am morbidly obese. Personally I find the words “fat” and “obese” completely repugnant, and always have done. But finally admitting that these words describe me has been a major step in my journey.
I’ve read stories about women of my size, and they usually start “I’ve always had problems with my weight.” This isn’t true for me. When I was a child, I was a healthy weight. During my years in senior school, I was fit and active. I did some kind of sport every lunchtime – hockey, squash, tennis, swimming – I loved them all. However, for many years I have had a difficult relationship with food. I gained a little weight at age 10, and went on my first diet, successfully losing 10lb (ish) with WeightWatchers. Coincidentally (or not?) this was also the same sort of age that I gave up dancing – I no longer felt comfortable wearing the tight clothes we were required to wear at practice.
Through my teens I struggled with food. I had a lot of emotional problems – my parents were divorcing, my Mum spent a lot of time in hospital due to heart disease, MRSA and botched operations, and I had my first bouts of depression. I switched between rigidly controlling my calorie intake and binge eating, which escalated when I found myself in a controlling relationship from age 16 – 21 (which was also when I became less active). I saw psychiatrists and my regular GP, was treated for depression and bulimia, and eventually believed I was cured. I fought regularly to stop myself throwing up every morsel that I ate, and for the most part I won.
What I didn’t deal with, and have never dealt with successfully, is the tendency to binge. Binge eating is as real an eating disorder as anorexia or bulimia. It is equally destructive, and just as easy to hide. A few years ago I had a number of appointments with my local Weight Management team, and told the dietician that I had problems with binge eating. When I told her what I would eat in a typical binge (1000-3000cal), she told me that that was in fact not binge eating, and cited a more extreme case.
That was the only time I have asked for outside help with this problem, and the response I got was a further set-back. I would argue that the behaviours around my binges are more indicative than the number of calories consumed. (Is it normal to walk down the road at midnight in your pyjamas to put your rubbish in the public bin so no one will know the wrappers are yours?)
Last year I joined Slimming World. I have tried SW before, and found it helpful for me. I weighed in on my first meeting at just over 22 stone (308.5lb or 140kg). It has taken me 11 months to lose 2 stone. Well, more accurately, it took about 6 months for me to lose 2 stone, and over the last few months I have been yo-yoing. Here are some of my reasons:
- I have had problems in my personal life, which made me comfort eat
- I have PCOS, which makes weight loss harder
- It’s more difficult to lose weight over the winter
- I’ll get back on track soon, so it’s ok for now
- I get depressed in winter, much more so than in summer
- My tendency to gain weight is hereditary
Nancy asked me what makes this attempt different to the other times I have tried to lose weight.
I know now; the answer was in there just waiting for the right question. That list up there, that isn’t a list of reasons, it’s a list of excuses. I am working on my relationship with food, which is going to be a long slog. I am working on my body – I’m still following Slimming World, which I like since it advocates a balanced and healthy diet, with food cooked from scratch, with a few treats, and I’m working out regularly. I may not always want to, but I’m doing it, and I am feeling and seeing the difference.
Most importantly, I am changing my whole lifestyle. I am trying new sports and new foods, becoming much more active and eating a more healthy diet. I am learning to deal with my problems without turning to food. Interestingly, one of the ways that I do this is through exercise. I swim regularly, which I find soothing, and I am learning to box, which I find to be a healthy way to release tension.
I also find that blogging helps. Writing positively helps to give me a positive view of things, and having people read and comment is fantastic – it helps to know that I’m not alone.
There are a lot of reasons why I gained so much weight, but ultimately it was down to me. My choices, my mistakes.
Knowing the reasons is not enough to repair the damage I’ve done to my body. Those reasons are not a cushion in case I fail, they are a challenge to overcome. Everyone faces challenges from time to time, it isn’t exclusive to me.
This time, I will keep trying. I might fall over sometimes, but I know that I can pick myself up and carry on. This time I will reach the end of my journey. The funny thing is, my destination has changed. I used to want to be slim. Now, I wouldn’t mind that in the slightest, but the most important thing now is for me to be healthy.