Here is chapter two of my journey from being morbidly obese at 330lbs to a healthier weight. I want to make clear that I am not some perfect role model for weight loss. I can fall off the wagon as quick as a flash given the opportunity and for me it is a lifetime’s challenge to stay within a healthy weight range. Now I am in my 60s it is tempting to slack off but sharing this with you also helps me. By remembering where I was and reminding me how much I hated being that weight.
A Good Place to Start
The majority of the diets that I attempted in my adult life were one-dimensional. By this I mean that the diet generally gave the dieter a list of foods to eat and the ‘right’ amount of calories, regardless of age, sex or level of activity. Little effort was spent in analysing the reasons for the obesity.
Having been repeatedly unsuccessful in my previous attempts at dieting, it was obvious that I needed a new approach, to ensure that this would be the last time I would put my body – and mind – through such intense stress.
So, I decided to approach the weight loss from a completely different perspective and from as many angles as possible. This new concept meant looking at the mental, physical and emotional reasons for the weight gain in the first place: a three-dimensional approach.
Obesity is the symptom, but the root causes are not generally immediately apparent. In fact, there are a number of different factors which play a part.
It is 11.30 p.m. at night. I am pacing the floor of our lounge, car keys clenched in my fist. Since 6 p.m. I have eaten a large dish of spaghetti, three chocolate bars, a tub of rich ice cream and the re-heated remains of a take-away from the night before. There is nothing left in the refrigerator or cupboards. I am desperate for something more to eat – something sweet.
The garage down the road closes at midnight. If I can just hang on another ten minutes, it will be too late to get there before it shuts. Part of me is fighting to go, throw a coat over my pyjamas and take my last opportunity to get some chocolate before the morning. Another part of me is fighting to stay, to keep away from the very thing that is causing me so much misery – the misery of being this gross person that I felt I had become. How on earth had I come to this point in my life? How on earth was I going to learn to live through this?
Over the last twenty years I have walked thousands of miles, so there has been plenty of time for reflection. When I began keeping a journal, it was to record my personal journey of discovery and enlightenment. Some of the events and feelings that I am sharing with you are very personal, the kind we do not usually reveal to strangers. The reason for this openness is to illustrate that there is usually a lifetime of accumulated baggage that makes up the person we are today. Good times and bad times are recorded and stored and replayed time and again, a bit like a stuck record. In the process, we can get caught up in a ‘poor me’ state of mind, where we blame our past and those who inhabit it, for our present.
Without being too analytical, I have tried to identify some of the factors that may have contributed to my attitude to eating and my attitude to my body. I very soon came to the realisation that I was carrying too many layers, in more ways than one!
I am going to ask you to travel with me for the next few pages and then complete your own journey. You need to establish where and when you might have unconsciously turned to food as an answer to your problems. Maybe you even developed a physical reason for your weight gain.
When you are looking for answers remember that you have to look inside yourself. You are the only person who knows what has really happened in your life. ‘Know thyself’ is a fundamental idea that has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks, and it important to remember this as you make your journey. Another famous saying is ‘You are what you eat’. Keep these two ideas in mind and they can help you to get to the root of the problem.
You will find a chart, in the actual programme (Annex 4 – Fat Accumulation Table), that will help you to ‘know thy food’ in a different way. It will help you to appreciate the cumulative effect of eating certain foods on a regular basis. The results show the long-term weight gain you would achieve by habitually eating some well-known foods. I like the cumulative approach because I feel that it really reflects how life works to help us to gain weight a little at a time, so you don’t really see it happening.
Everyday events, concerns, stress and worries also accumulate over time. Much like a snowball rolling down a hillside, we collect ‘layers’ which slow us down until we come to a stop at the bottom, pretty to look at, maybe, but it is impossible to tell what debris has been collected, along with the fresh layers of snow, during the journey.
Of course, not every layer that you add will be harmful. In my life I have accumulated many delightful memories of events and people. Humour has always been a great saving grace, especially during the hard times. On my journey, I discovered that what I really needed to learn about was the ‘dark side’. The side we very rarely show to other people, the side that governs many of our emotions – and the actions we take when we are in certain emotional states. Some people live in a world of balance. Others tend to live at the extremes of their abilities and senses. Extremes are important to an addict, and an addict is what I had become. I had developed an addiction to food, particularly to sugars, that was extreme compared to any normal consumption. Later, I will come back, in much more detail to the vital impact of sugars and how they can affect us and the way that we develop our eating habits.
The theories that I first developed all those years ago have become firm beliefs and in some cases confirmed by scientific research.
The next chapters look at the many mental and physical changes I experienced from an early age. It was only when I began writing about my life that I realised just how much I had forgotten, or put to the back of my mind. This gave me the opportunity to revisit some good times (and some confusing times as well) from the past that have shaped the person I have become today.
This is a record of my journey back to my past from a mental, physical and emotional point of view. It is a journey not lightly undertaken. When you make this journey yourself remember that it is important to try to be objective in order to learn how best to help yourself in the present. Many people have had traumatic experiences in their lives that may be hard to recall, so don’t hesitate to seek help from a counsellor, for guidance through this process of exploration, if you feel at all nervous about the process.
I see myself as an intelligent, imaginative person, with a sense of humour, keen to try new experiences. Using these assets, I have tried to look back over the years in order to identify the patterns that might have led to the sort of compulsive eating that had engulfed me.
The first place I chose to start, logically, was my childhood.
In a post recently I featured the Fat Accumulation Table and here it is again for those of you who might have missed it. Most of us have little rituals associated with some of the food that we eat. And we will often attach one or two foods together. For example Tea and two biscuits. Coffee and a Danish. When I smoked I could not drink a cup of tea without having a cigarette at the same time. Once you have developed that ritual it is very difficult to break. However, when you next time say to people ‘If only I could lose that last 10lbs!’ Take a look at your rituals and it may well be that having two biscuits with your cup of tea instead of just one might make all the difference.
Next time Chapter Three and some of the triggers from my childhood that encouraged me to turn to food as a coping mechanism.
Here is the Introduction and Chapter One.
Please feel free to share with anyone who might find my story useful to their own struggle with weight.