Losing weight without losing my mind
In January this year, alongside probably eleventy billion other people, I went on a bit of a health kick, which is still ongoing halfway through February. This is unusual for me; I’ve long been someone who considers January challenging enough without adding an element of self-denial into the hideous post-Christmas phase of winter. But this time it was necessary.
I got a shock towards the end of last year. At an outdoor climbing activity with my son, we both had to be weighed so the instructors could check what resistance we needed on our safety harnesses. ‘Fine,’ the instructor said, handing me a helmet. But it wasn’t. I’d never seen the number on the scale so high when I wasn’t pregnant. My first response was denial. That scale was definitely wrong! I’d say it was inaccurate to the tune of around maybe ten pounds? In the upwards direction. Funny that.
Of course, it wasn’t wrong. Initially, I was depressed and upset. As someone with a history of disordered eating, the realization that I’d managed to gain that much weight in such a short time was triggering to say the least. But it’s a measure of how far my mental health has come over the last couple of years that it was that that I was most concerned with. I needed to address this, but I needed to do it without triggering a spiral of self-loathing and unrealistically restricted eating that I’ve spent a lifetime recovering from in one way or another. And for the first time in my adult life I could see that the progress I'd made in terms of self-acceptance was – for me – more important than a few extra pounds.
As I wondering what to actually do, the universe provided just what I needed at the apposite time. I received an email from Fit School about their Fat Loss Hub. You sign up for six weeks for access to a Facebook group for support from others on the same journey, daily emails with motivation, facts and rules, and recipes to give you ideas of what to cook. The first thing to engage with is The Rules. At first glance I interpreted these as unreasonable and slightly unrealistic, but that’s also what made me examine my habits honestly.
I realised that if I was trying to choose a healthier life by actively losing a fairly significant chunk of weight then I was going to have to go without things I like. Like wine. And biscuits. The belief that I couldn’t go without a drink for six weeks is what got me into this situation; I pretty quickly realised that the nutrition element of the Fat Loss Hub was the yang element to the yin of last year: getting back into balance.
The first fortnight was pretty awful (for me!); I felt deprived, miserable and a bit unmotivated. But it didn’t take much longer until I was feeling better. One of the ‘rules’ of the hub is to eat protein at every meal in order to feel full up and beat snacking. I got an insight into why on a busy day when I didn’t plan properly and inadvertently went vegan; although I’d eaten ‘healthily’, by 10pm my stomach was genuinely rumbling too much to go to sleep. How do vegans stay slim? If I could never eat protein I would be replacing eggs, fish and cheese with CAKE.
It took until the end of week three to see any actual progress, but the mental lift from seeing the number on the scale go down (by 2 kilos) definitely sustained me. Unfortunately at that point my progress plateaued; the aim was lose seven pounds in six weeks but I didn’t manage any more.
However the lessons I learnt from consciously engaging with the process will last me a lot longer.
One of the most helpful things about Fit School’s emails was the tone of the advice. It’s not judgmental or fat-shaming but is very matter-of-fact. Karen shares personal experiences and empathises with the fact that weight loss can be an emotional journey, but also doesn’t let you off the hook in terms of what you actually need to do to shift fat. The questions posed about what our motivations were and what gets in the way of our goals really clarified for me why I’ve made certain decisions and fallen into particular habits.
One of the perceptive questions posed to participants was whether we see exercise as a treat or a chore. I definitely see it as a treat; movement, me-time and headspace all in one. But this also revealed to me why I hadn’t been doing enough of it; with so many caring responsibilities, which had increased over the last year, I felt I couldn’t justify taking time for myself. Which is crazy. Where had that misguided and slightly martyred attitude got me? I was exhausted, strung out, impatient and now, almost overweight. Enough.
I’m still going with the regime and I still need to do more movement (yoga is my exercise of choice but even I can see that some classes don’t provide sufficient cardio to actually burn extra calories and weight). I didn’t achieve the ‘goal’ of the programme but I’m grateful to it for the kick-start I needed to eat, drink and move consciously, and prioritise my own health just as much as everyone else's. And I hope I don’t lose sight of my motivation – or my toes – again.