a journey of a thousand miles…

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
 

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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.

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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?)

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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.

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92 thoughts on “a journey of a thousand miles…

  1. Nancy, thank you for encouraging Helen to share more of her story with more of the world!!

    Helen thank you so much for sharing this! Know absolutely that your words are good enough, and your story is in now way boring!
    Your story is very familiar to me, and I applaud you for admitting the things you have, you are far braver than me!
    You need to know too that you are doing so much good for yourself in your quest for health and fitness!

    You will always have a supporter in me…and I slightly want to drive up to Netherton right now and hug you (although it might take a while as I can only find the place on a canal boat…)

    • I am so happy she decided to share her story, Sam. I was curious to know more about her. There was something in her “starting over” post that resonated with me — and I had to learn more.

      Her post here was brave and inspirational. I’m so grateful, Helen! xoxo

    • Thank you so much for saying such nice things about me! I have to say, I didn’t feel brave, I was quaking in my boots (well, my trainers actually!) You and Nancy are such awesome cheerleaders, I feel very lucky! Today is not a day for travelling by canal, but we have roads here too, stop by and give me a hug!

  2. Pingback: Posting Century! | 26 to 12 - another weight loss blog

  3. I loved reading this. So brave and honest, and you write beautifully. One must care for the mind before we even think about changing our bodies!

    • Jessie, welcome! I’m so glad you stopped by and left this lovely comment for Helen. I couldn’t agree more — changing our minds is actually the only thing that will ever drive success in the quest to change our bodies.

    • Thank you so much Jessie, and I couldn’t agree more – I’ve started trying to lose weight so many times with the wrong attitude and that is just counter-productive I think!

  4. A very brave and heart-felt story – unfortunately one that so many of us can relate to. We really are here to inspire and support one another. I believe that when we share a problem, it loses some of its power to diminish us.
    Best wishes Helen – and all of us – on our journey to being healthier and happier.

    • If healthy were the primary goal for more of us, the multi billion dollar diet industry would crash and burn so fast. With any luck, more and more of us are flipping that switch and making better, healthier choices for our minds and bodies.

    • Thank you! Health definitely should be the primary focus, not that I wouldn’t love a beautifully toned and sculpted body, but without the good health it means very little! All the best on your journey!

  5. Hi Helen AND Nancy! 🙂 Good for you for being so open and honest about your story. Isn’t that the best place to start? And I also admire your courage by admitting, “That list up there, that isn’t a list of reasons, it’s a list of excuses.” Until any of us are willing to start approaching our situation from that perspective nothing will change. IMHO you have taken the first incredible BIG step. I also so agree with you that blogging and writing and journaling (all similar in my opinion) is going to be so helpful to you. I think those of us who do it have found that it gets us in touch with what is really important, and teaches us to appreciate ourselves. I so hope you will check back in with all of us in the future and let us know how your journey is going. As Nancy likes to say, “Keep moving!” ~Kathy

    • Hi Kathy, thank you so much! I actually found it really useful for me to write my story down and tell it to the world (well, part of it anyway!) I have been a little more open here than I usually am on my own blog, which tends to cover day-to-day events a little more, so that helped me get a good perspective I think.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I have great admiration for people who undertake the major life changes that weight loss and healthier living require. It is definitely not easy. I wish you the best as you continue on your road to success.

    • Thank you! You’re right, making the changes isn’t easy, but I find that the more I keep trying, the easier it gets. Hopefully one day I won’t have to think too hard about making the right choices for a healthy lifestyle and it will come naturally 🙂

  7. It sounds like you have a very realistic and healthy vision of your body now. And nice job being brave and sharing your story with us! Good luck on your journey, I look forward to checking out your blog!

  8. Beautifully written Helen! I believe you have all the ingredients of a healthy lifestyle at your fingertips as well as the insight and honesty required to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. You go girl!

  9. Yay Helen! I am so excited to read about your journey! You are amazing. Thank you Nancy for introducing us all. You are great.

  10. Go Helen! Thanks for being the voice for so many that are struggling out there and who feel alone. You did a great job with this post, it wasn’t so bad after all, right? I am wishing you the best in your journey and mostly that you are kind to yourself. 🙂

  11. Congrats, Helen, for bravely telling your story, and for finding the ultimate health cheerleader, Nancy! 🙂

    I don’t blog about my health and fitness story, but I certainly appreciate those that do. So many of us have a background of unhealthy relationships with food, but finding that desire to be healthy, not just thin, is a tremendous accomplishment! Congratulations on finding that path! All my best, Lynne

    • Hi Lynne, thank you so much for your lovely comments! I think the unhealthy relationships with food mostly stem from childhood, it seems to be a cycle that gets passed down through generations. Nancy is a great health cheerleader, I completely agree! 🙂

  12. Nothing like gut-level honesty, Helen. I can relate to so much of what you said. Excuses have been my downfall and led to morbid obesity as well. Excuses are so convenient and deceptive. You’ve made me aware that only the truth and gut-level honesty, and taking personal responsibility, are the only things that will help me change ME. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you, Nancy, for featuring Helen as a guest on your blog.

    • Thank you, J, for your thoughtful comment. I had a feeling her story would resonate with many of us. And I just love, so much, how she cuts through the myriad of ‘reason’s and labels them for what they are: excuses. She is an inspiration.

    • Hi J, I’m glad to hear that my story is relatable (although I wouldn’t wish some of the feelings on anyone), I think that just knowing there are others out there with the same issues can be a big help. I hope that it has helped you, and wish you all the best on your own personal journey 🙂

  13. Helen, I completely get your story it feels so close to my own! You are inspiring and you have just made me realize I have been ignoring a big problem for me… which is still binge eating. It has been derailing me for months…Thank you so much for sharing! And thank you Nancy for introducing us!

    • I’m glad to hear that I have helped you! Binge eating is a strange thing, I think sometimes it’s hard to realise that it’s been a binge if it’s not been (for example) as urgent to do or a “full-sized” binge, if that makes sense, but I think the behaviours around it say a lot. I hope that you are able to work on it, even if it might be difficult sometimes.
      I’m just getting back into walking/hiking myself, so I’m going to pop over to your blog and see what you’ve been up to 🙂

  14. Nicely done, Helen! I’m a big fan of your blog and enjoy reading about your journey and your success. Your ability to overcome any fear or insecurities that you have is inspiring me to overcome my insecurities.

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