On Weight Loss: an Update

Today in an important anniversary for me.

You’d usually read in a piece like this that there was an epiphany, that someone had decided enough was enough, that their health was suffering. Nope, not here. I was happy being fat. I’ve never had any real body issues (beyond “what most people have”), but just over 5 years ago something changed. My trusty size 26 jeans no longer fitted, and going up to a 28 was just too much.

That didn’t happen today, I don’t have the actual date that happened. You don’t tend to record when shame hit you, you’re kinda too busy being ashamed… But after the shame my determination (stubbornness) kicked in, and I started to actually think.

I’m an advocate of Health at Any Size. If you look beyond the newspaper headlines you find that there’s very little research to support that weight alone means you’re unhealthy. The few studies done using ‘healthy’ weight people and ‘unhealthy’ weight people have found that it’s activity and lifestyle that affect their health. The unfit inactive ‘healthy’ people were just as in danger as the ‘unhealthy’ ones.

I know enough about weight loss to know that “organised diets” don’t work. I’ve seen far too many people (women) in my life yo-yo, and that had always been my reasoning (excuse?) for not attempting weight loss.The very few times I did try, I put the weight back on, and more when I went back to ‘normal’ eating.

But that was the problem. ‘Normal eating’.

The diet industry relies on us not adjusting our entire lifestyle, but in order to keep weight off long term you have to adjust. Something means that you have that extra weight (I went to type “your eating means”, but that’s a lie, we’ll come to that), and you have to adjust to counteract that, and that’s not easy.

In theory losing weight is simple. It is. Broken down it really does come to “calories in, calories out”. If only it were this simple, right? When GymBro (bro != gender) explains this I walk in the opposite direction. This advice is only given by someone who has found it simple, their body did what the instructions said it would and they now think everyone else is lazy/lying.

I currently have four diagnosed medical issues which have “weight gain” as a symptom, one of which also has “increased trouble in losing weight” as a side effect. Thanks! This doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me to lose weight, but it does add yet another step on the ladder to get there. Add in some weird blood sugar stuff that they haven’t worked out yet, some “my body thinks vitamins are superfluous”, and a smattering of “I have anxiety issues around food” and you have a hilarious mix that doesn’t really fit into any of the “just do X” advice.

A little over 5 years ago the motivation appeared. The shame arrived. My GP surgery had always been lovely, the doctors there had never fat-shamed me. An appointment was made.

My GP was lovely, slightly surprised at my request for help, but lovely. I immediately got the referral to a dietician I’d requested. The dietician was lovely, if a little stuck in the 1970s… (is it arrogance, or awareness if you think you know more than the trained medical professional??). The advice the NHS is still giving out is frustratingly out of date. The immediate offer was surgery (which I knew I didn’t want), the further advice was low fat, no eggs, high carb. I smiled and nodded, I had hoped for something more progressive, but I also knew I needed the accountability.

I stay with the dietician for about 6 months. I did lose about 10kg with her, but following my own version of her 70s throwback advice, (Lots of eggs! Butter!), and the monthly weigh in was exactly the start I’d needed.

Then came the time for her to sign me off… There was no real need for me to see her (and we’d kept appointments going for 2-3 months more than needed really, just for the weigh ins). I needed something else to keep me accountable… The shame was still there (though it was now accompanied by “how can I advocate Health at Any Size and be losing weight..?”), and this wasn’t really helped by the easiest to use site being called “FatSecret”… But, it helped. Food logging kept me in line and quickly showed me where I was ‘spending’ calories that weren’t worth eating (for one biscuit I could have [something more fun]… sheesh!)

Skip forward about 2 years, about 20kg down, I started to realise I needed some form of exercise otherwise everything was going to go south… Casually throw in some long distance walking, a walking half marathon (there’s that stubbornness again…) and the realisation that running was more efficient than walking and you have my exercise regime. I mostly gloss over this because this worked for me. It won’t work for everyone. Running is amazing, I love it, I’m antsy today because I don’t have time for a run, and won’t have until about 5 days time. My thighs want to move, I have muscles now and they need flexing regularly. But you have to find the ‘moving’ that works for you, else you won’t do it.

I eventually switched to MyFitnessPal, I discovered Fitbit, Garmin, Strava, and graphs! (I saw a GP yesterday who was bemused by my ability to pull up stats about my body to 1 decimal point). I found that one way of motivating myself was to be able to see my progress. If I’m having a day when it feels like it’s all for nothing, I can pull up a graph that tells me how much I’ve lost in the past week, month, year, all time (adding exercise into the mix means I’m building muscle, the nice downward curve I used to get no longer exists, I know I’ll weigh more certain days, and no, I’ve no idea why).

About a year ago, I stagnated. I’d say I plateaued, but in weight loss that means something different. I wasn’t sticking to my daily calorie/fat allowance. I was running regularly, and I wasn’t putting on any weight, but I wasn’t really losing it either (or if I was it was only bits I’d put on previously). I’d made huge progress fitness-wise (10k ftw!), and made some interesting (and potentially important) discoveries about my body. But I had no idea where I wanted the weight loss to end… The NHS thinks I should be about 55kg… Now, I started at 150kg, the idea of being 55kg is impossible to me… I’d passed the 100kg marker, which was my first goal, but the idea of 55kg seemed (and still does) too low for me. Asking the NHS wouldn’t help here, I had to work out what I am, where I should be.

Cue Edinburgh (there’s a whole blog post about my love affair with Edinburgh, but I’ll save that). Enter someone I’d previously seen talking about werewolf erotica, and a show about being fat, what it means to others, and importantly what it means to you. I sat in the audience and I heard me. I heard about not wanting to be dysfunctional with food, about wanting to be in your own body.

And I realised I wasn’t there yet. I had to work out if this meant moving my expectations, or giving the weight loss a kick in the arse.

If you follow me on social media you’ll know what the answer to that was, I want to get to 75kg. It’s a nice achievable number, it will put me in the “overweight” BMI category (yes, BMI is rubbish, but it’s what the NHS rely on to categorise people, and it’s a useful benchmark), and it’s also exactly half of where I started…

So, I’m not where I want to be yet, but I know a lot more about what I need to do to get there, I’m happier with my body (and importantly fitness. I’m still wondering if I can squeeze a quick run in today…), and importantly I’m one of the 5% that has kept it off for more than 2 years. I’ve not yo-yo’d. It has become my new normal. This is rare, so rare my GP asked me how I’d done it. That’s important, because it shows we don’t really understand weight loss, there was a quote somewhere (annoyingly lost in the depths of the internet) that said we know less about how nutrition works that we do about the human brain, and we know fuck all about the brain.

Oh yeah, and that size 28 I crept up to? Today I went through my stash of ‘skinny’ clothes and I can almost, so very almost, fit into size 16 trousers.

Almost there…

Previous posts from 3 years ago:

On losing weight

Why losing weight is hard

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