This is the updated and fifth edition of Size Matters and I had intended to release in 2021 for the 25th anniversary of my initial weight loss. However, with everything else going on in the world it did not seem appropriate to celebrate when people’s minds were fixed on survival in lockdown. Although this serialisation ontains much of the original material in relation to my own personal story, the programme has evolved over the last 25 years.
Although I studied nutritional therapy back in the mid-1990s, I have continued my studies and developed new programmes for healthy eating that are tailor made for the individual rather than a one size fits all. I still believe that the key elements of this basic weight loss programme I will share with you in this updated version works. Even when I work with clients who have arthritis or diabetes, I still approach their programmes from the three dimensions that I outline in this book.
You can read the introduction to the series: HERE
Our physical approach, our mental attitude and our emotions are all factors in how we overcome disease and obesity, and should all be addressed when looking for the right programme that will work for each individual.
Chapter One – Life or Death?
Whatever people might say, size does matter. It matters when you can no longer take a bath because you can’t get out of it unaided. It matters when an entire plane load of passengers hear you ask for an extension for your seat belt. It matters when you are in a restaurant and get stuck in your chair, to the point where you are in danger of taking it with you when you leave. It matters when you are too embarrassed to take off your clothes in front of anyone, including yourself.
A snapshot of where the obesity epidemic in the Western World.
According to a number of reports, there are currently 50,000 + super morbidly obese men and women termed as ‘shut ins’ in the UK alone. They are so obese they are unable to go out of their homes, are usually bedridden and have multiple health issues. Their obesity does not just result in their own catastrophic circumstances. It also has a life-changing impact on their families who have to adopt the role of carers.
In a recent series on the subject, it was interesting to note that one of the causes of their obesity is the food that most of the well-meaning family carers are feeding them. High fat and sugar processed meals several times a day and without activity there is only one result, increased weight. Interestingly in one of the programmes that I watched, the mother whose two daughters were already morbidly obese underwent a stomach reduction. She lost weight in the following months, but it appeared that she was eating the same foods, only less. There seemed to be little nutritional change or education and her daughters did not lose weight alongside her as they were still consuming the same piles of high calorie foods as before.
To me this is a very serious and clear indication that the obesity epidemic is already with us and like a giant oil tanker at sea, will take a great deal of time to stop and reverse. Too little and too late, the governments are making ineffective efforts to halt the alarming trend. And I do understand that it is difficult to know where to start with education of parents and children. This is just one aspect that needs immediate action, since the industrial food manufacturers have a hold on us with their addictive chemical concoctions that are listed in smaller and smaller print on the labels .
My successful attempts to put on weight.
I have always been very successful at is putting on weight. I love food: the taste, the texture and the satisfied feeling at the end of a wonderful meal. My problem has been that I have always enjoyed most things to excess. At certain times in my life I have drunk too much alcohol, smoked too many cigarettes, and by the age of forty-three had eaten myself into a size 30 pair of jeans at a weight of 330 lbs. (150 kg).
The trouble was that being large seemed to fit my personality. At six foot tall, at my top weight, I was almost as big around. People used to say that I could carry the weight and still look smart. I spent a great deal of money on clothes, always looking for that outfit that would make me feel better about my appearance. I mostly wore black or navy-blue, but occasionally I would defiantly buy something white or bright and cheerful for the summer.
To the outside world I appeared to be fat, happy and super-efficient at work. Nobody knew about the tears when I saw myself naked in the mirror, nobody saw me starving myself all day and then raiding the refrigerator late at night, stuffing myself in an eating frenzy. I was someone who cracked jokes at my own expense to make people laugh. They would have been horrified to see the real me, so I kept it hidden.
As far as other people knew, my diet consisted of cereal for breakfast, a salad sandwich for lunch, and chicken and vegetables at night. That was actually true. What was equally true was that I consumed vast quantities of food in secret. On the way to work there would be a stop at the drive-through for two breakfast rolls. There would be at least five chocolate bars throughout the day, fried ham-and-cheese sandwiches, a tub of rich ice cream and a takeaway most week-nights. I was in control of many parts of my life, such as my job and my relationships, but I was out of control with regard to my own body and my eating habits.
Then the nosebleeds started. Sitting in a meeting or watching television, I would suddenly feel the blood seeping from my nose. I had enough common sense to know that I was in serious trouble and, although I tried to ignore the signs that my body was failing, deep inside I knew things could not go on much longer.
The crunch came when I went home to Portsmouth for my parents’ fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. My father, who was nearly eighty and suffering from both cancer and a blood disorder, looked healthier than I did. I sat bolt upright in the only chair in the room, since getting onto and then off a sofa was beyond me at this point. I was wearing an expensive new outfit, which, on reflection, resembled a brightly coloured circus tent covering me from head to toe. My mother and father had prepared a beautiful buffet lunch. I visited the table two or three times and was aware of a number of pairs of eyes watching the amount of food I put onto my plate. I am sure that my mother was more than a little concerned about her elegant little chair, which creaked every time I sat down.
Later that day, as I drove along the motorway on my return to London where we were living at the time, I suddenly began to cry. Luckily there was a service station nearby and, pulling into an isolated part of the car park, I cried my eyes out. I honestly believed that my life was over. I blamed everything and everyone, hating myself and, for the first time in my life, contemplating suicide. At that point, I was not even considering how much pain I would cause my husband, who has loved and supported me always, or my family. I did not value my lovely home or have any belief in a compelling future. All I could see was a fat, middle-aged woman with a bloated face and an awful sense of failure.
Eventually I got back on the road again but when I got home that evening it was to any empty house as my husband was away in America on business. Most of the night I spent wallowing in self-pity, grieving for what I felt was missing in my life. Thankfully, I did nothing to hurt myself further. I say ‘further’ because I already had several years of self-destructive overeating behind me. And that is the point. I was responsible for what I put in my mouth. At this point I laid the blame squarely at my own door and it was only later on my search for answers did I discover that other factors should also shoulder some of the burden.
That day was one of the lowest points in my life. I was a forty-two year-old, morbidly obese woman with a very limited future unless I could dig myself out of this massive hole I had dug myself.
Today I am sixty-nine and at a healthy weight and without the need for medication for any of the usual middle-aged or obesity related health conditions. For the last twenty-seven years I have continued to study and research obesity and work with others to help them unlock the doors that held me prisoner for most of my adult life.
Working with others has also kept me focused in a way that I might not have been otherwise.
However I am not perfect, and there have been times over the years when stress, one of my triggers, has nearly brought me back to the brink again. Thankfully I now have the mental and emotional tools to be able to pull back from going over the edge, but the process is ongoing.
As others who have lost very large amounts of weight have found, it is easy to slip back into bad habits, and it takes willpower and determination to keep the pounds off. It does not help that effort, when the foods that some of us crave with high fat and sugar content, are everywhere and available night and day if we need them.
At 330lbs, my dietary history was littered with fad and starvation diets that resulted in rebounding weight every time. When I reached rock bottom and felt completely powerless, I knew that if I went on another crash diet, I would just end up putting on more weight than ever. I needed to learn why this was so. I had to learn, and learn fast, what it was that compelled me to eat and eat, when I had so much else of value in my life.
There was something fundamentally wrong with the way I had approached my weight problem. I wasn’t sure if it was physical, mental or emotional, but I had to find out and fix it.
I had a very powerful incentive. I had to save my life.
©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022
Next time… the long journey to regaining my health begins.
A little bit about me nutritionally. .
About Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.
Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 21 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.