10 years ago, I weighed approximately 18 stones, probably more. I was a size 24/26 dress size at the age of 17. I was fat. Horrendously, massively, unhappily fat. That’s me on the left.
Today, at the age of very nearly 28, I weigh 11 stones and am a size 12. I’m now smack bang average. I’m still not back flipping with joy about my weight but I’m certainly 1000% happier than I was with it 10 years ago. That’s me on the right.
I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I have learned about why I was fat and how I stopped being fat. These are just my personal findings but I hope they strike a chord with and possibly even help others.
Why was I fat?
I’d been telling myself for years that I was happy with my size. I was one of those jolly, happy, fat people. Well, I wasn’t. I was miserable. Here’s just a very short selection of things about being fat that made me miserable:
- I hated buying three of any trousers that fitted because I would inevitably wear out the inside legs/crotch area via my flab friction.
- I detested it taking so long for me to shave my gargantuan, elephant like legs (I know it sounds daft but when you’re legs are massive, shaving them takes ages).
- I couldn’t take long baths because my body was so enormous, there wasn’t really much space in the bath for water so it cooled down very fast leaving me in a cycle of emptying out some water every 5 minutes to top it up with hot.
- I got upset when I couldn’t go on rides at Alton Towers or the yearly fair that visited town because my massive bum wouldn’t fit in the harnesses.
- No boy ever looked at me for anything more than to point and laugh.
But this is all irrelevant because I was a happy, jolly, ok with their body fat person, right? Wrong.
I do believe there are some fat people who are genuinely happy with their weight. They do exist, of that I am sure. However, I think a great percentage of fat people who claim to be ok with their bodies are lying. Lying using every single grey cell they can muster. Lying to themselves and anyone who asks because it’s just so much easier than addressing the issue(s) around why you are fat.
I didn’t know how to even begin tackling the issue(s). It was much easier to just continue the internal monologue of lies than to actually find a solution to the problems. I won’t lie, losing weight is hard work. Really, really, really hard work. Physically, emotionally and financially (replacing wardrobes every couple of dress sizes is expensive). It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but, it brings me the most joy. And don’t be fooled if you think the hard work stops once you get thin because it doesn’t. You have to spend your whole life being aware and careful because otherwise, you will just be fat again. This is because the reasons for weight problems are normally deeply, psychologically ingrained problems. Mine were as follows (and many of them still are true):
- I eat my feelings (I’m happy, I eat. I’m sad, I eat. I’m stressed, I eat. I’m content with life, I eat. If I feel it, I eat it).
- I am a greedy pig.
- I am forgetful (I forget I had three biscuits with my tea this morning so I have three more in the afternoon).
- I like a drink or twelve.
- I like to eat out.
- I have an incredibly sweet tooth (I would forego all savoury food in favour of sweet foods and this is not a lie).
- I am lazy like a sloth.
- I love food
It’s a pretty sizeable list that has been tackled over 10 years and is still a work in progress. How did I get from then to now? Well that, I can tell you about.
How did I stop being fat?
Step1: Stop lying.
The first thing I did though was to stop lying to myself about some things.
Let me dispel some rumours right now. Science and Biology do not care about what you think your metabolic rate is. You might complain that you have a really slow metabolism or put some excuse forwards for why you are fat but, it boils down to a few undeniable truths:
- There is a finite line of how many calories your body needs to function. This is different for every person. If you consume more than this base level without burning the extra via exercise, you will gain weight. FACT.
- Your body needs a certain ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fats to function correctly. Skew this ratio too much, and you could make yourself quite ill e.g. diabetes.
- One pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories. To lose one pound of fat, you must either burn an extra 3500 calories or consume 3500 calories less over a period of time.
Until you truly believe the science behind body weight gain/loss and stop trying to deny/bend the truths, you will not lose weight effectively. Well, that’s what I think anyway. Once I stopped making excuses around these facts, things got a lot better.
This may shock some of you but no human, anywhere at all, needs to consume biscuits, chocolate, McDonald’s, pizza, sugary drinks, crisps, alcohol etc. Sure, it’s nice to, they taste good (except for McDonald’s which is, apart from the ice cream, quite vile), but you do not need them.
If you eat things you don’t need, it is positively not necessary to consume them in vast quantities. Believe it or not, one biscuit is fine. Two biscuits are fine. The whole pack of 24 biscuits? Not fine. A slice of pizza is fine. Two slices, ok. A whole pizza? Not really fine at all. Four cubes of Dairy Milk, oh you naughty thing. Eight cubes, oh yummy! A whole 500g bar of the stuff? Never really acceptable.
I, and many others with me, have ignored these simple facts on countless occasions. We all know the obvious that I have stated above. We do, honest! It’s just about having the sheer will power to not over eat.
Step 2: Stop eating so blooming much.
What changed my perception of the food I consumed was keeping a food diary. An honest, accountable food diary. I looked back at what I had eaten in a week and was horrified. I added up the cost of what I had eaten and was even more horrified. Finally, I added up the calories and almost passed out in shock.
Most people will feel nauseous if they eat too much. I am not one of those people. I do not really, ever, feel full. I once, in a single evening (and as a solo effort) ate an entire large Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza, a complete garlic bread baguette, half a bag of oven chips, a dramatic amount of tomato ketchup, a whole bag of ‘to share’ Butterkist toffee popcorn, a bag of ‘to share’ Malteasers, three slices of chocolate cake with custard and then washed it all down with diet coke (yes, I understand the irony of the coke being diet).
This kind of eating is completely, wholly unnecessary and utterly glutinous. I see that now but, at the time, I would make out to myself that I hadn’t really eaten all that much. What can I say? I’m an excellent liar and incredibly gullible.
Step 3: Eat smart
Being calorie aware is a big part of not over eating. A good meal is about 600 calories. If your meal is more than 600 calories, it should either be a one off treat or there is too much of it/it is bad quality food.
One of the first things I stopped doing in order to get under this 600 calorie barrier was to cut out preprocessed food in general. Ready meals, jars and packets of sauces, all that kind of stuff stopped going in the shopping trolley. Why? Because, when you actually sit and look at the nutritional breakdown of this food, it is rubbish. It’s all fat and sugar. Fat and sugar hike up calories. Also, they’re expensive! I worked out that a can or chopped tomatoes, an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic costs about 60p. With that, I could make a tomato pasta sauce (add herbs salt and pepper of course) which tasted nicer and was half the calories of the jar equivalent. Sure, it was more inconvenient as you have to make the sauce yourself rather than just twisting a lid off a jar but, I was willing to make that trade off to save a few hundred calories.
This, again, is where losing weight is hard work. You have to really be actively making your own food and being very aware of what and how you cook. This normally means a complete lifestyle change for most people. Your routine for food shopping will change. You will actively spend more time comparing nutritional information labels in the isles. You’ll end up trying foods you’ve told yourself you don’t like and forcing them down your throat because they are what you need, not what you want (mine were cottage cheese, fish and pulses). You need to set aside extra time for meal preparation and change how you cook. Deep frying is out and poaching/grilling is in. Weighing ingredients is important. It really is a massive change. This is how I did it.
- Planned my meals and had a shopping list of exactly what I needed to buy in the supermarket. I stuck to the list solidly.
- Cooked in bulk and froze portioned meals e.g. make seven portions of sauce in one go and freeze six of them in individual portions.
- Bought fresh fish/poultry when it was marked down in price for sell by date, prepared it all into the correct portions and froze it.
- Did not have food in the house that I could snack on. Not a single thing.
- Tried everything at least twice. If it didn’t make me physically vomit when I ate it, but I didn’t really like it, I ate it again. If still no vomiting, it made it into at least two meals before I would finally rule it out as a food I disliked intensely (note: jelly is the only thing on my “categorically will not eat it” food list).
Once you settle into it, it can be fun. I got to know the fellow who did the meat and fish ‘yellow stickering’ at Sainsbury’s to the point where he would save the things he knew I bought until he saw me at the same time every week. Once he saved me some of the most gorgeous, top of the range salmon steaks as a special treat. I’m sure he wasn’t allowed to really but he did.
The settling process is long. I think it was about four months before I really and truly felt it was normal to shop the way I did now compared with the way I had before. Those four months were hard. I think if I’d let myself be bad, just one week, it would have been game over. I would have tagged out of the ring and not changed my life. It’s still a challenge sometimes now but I have a secret weapon. I keep a photo of that 18 stone whale that was me on my telephone. One quick look, and I’m over it.
Then there’s snacking. I have a rule about snacking. Don’t do it. At all. It’s too easy to over indulge in snacks. If I positively have to snack, it’s on vegetables, not fruit (fruit is too high in natural sugars). Carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, green pepper sticks, lightly cooked broccoli, basically, anything low in calories and low in sugars. I snack rarely to never. I just deal with the hunger pains. Some of my top tips are:
- Use skimmed milk.
- Keep really well hydrated on just water, not diet drinks or squash.
- Use sweeteners in your tea/coffee if you truly can’t kick sugar in them (like I can’t).
- Make an actual effort to understand food labeling. There’s plenty of help out there. Many health charities have a wealth of information about it on websites and leaflets. Just ask, they’re more than happy to explain (British Heart Foundation for example).
- Get used to what hungry actually feels like so that you know when you actually need to eat. Don’t just eat or snack from habit. If you’re not actually hungry, don’t eat!
- Be liberal with the herbs and spices. They make even the leanest cuts of meat or the blandest food (lentils, I’m looking at you) taste fabulous.
Step 4: Active hobbies
Once my weight came down to an more acceptable level and my sheer mass was more mobile, I ceased to pant and sweat after walking up a dozen stairs. This meant it was time to start being more active.
The first thing I did was start to walk up stairs and escalators whenever the opportunity was available. I also started walking to do my food shopping. Instead of going once a week with the car, I walked twice a week and used my rucksack for two different loads on two different days.
I also started taking public transport instead of the car for some journeys. The walk to the bus stop or train station was better and cheaper than the car.
My self esteem wasn’t ready for the gym for a long time. When I finally did go to the gym, I found it torturous. I hate the gym. I really do. I’m bored, it’s full of skinny, fit people running like it’s nothing and idiots slamming weights about. I hate exercise classes. I am uncoordinated and clumsy. I have to force myself to the gym. It’s not even a case of coaxing, it’s full on brain warfare. One side of my brain is shouting at the other which is behaving like a petulant teenager because I would rather poke my own eyes out than go to the gym. I hated it then and I hate it now. However, what I hate more than the gym is swimming. This became my trade off and I had to stick to it. The deal was, if I didn’t go to the gym, I had to go swimming.
Forcing myself to the gym and into a slightly more active lifestyle got my mass even more manageable. That’s when I started cycling. I love cycling and finally stopped going to the gym. I cycled everywhere instead. I mean everywhere. To the shops, to my friends houses, to work, to the pub for a quick one. Everywhere!
Did you know, exercise gets you high (kind of)? The endorphins your body releases after exercise make for happy happy joy times. I can’t express enough how much I love exercise now. I used to be allergic to it, but now, I love it. You will too, you just have to power through the initial hate. It grows on you, slowly, like a fungus and everyone loves a bit of fungus now don’t they?!
Now I combine all of the small steps I took initially to help me maintain my weight. I still walk up stairs and escalators rather than standing still. If a journey is less than a mile or 2, I will walk (as, for short journeys, walking is far better exercise than cycling). Anything from 2-10 miles, I’ll cycle. Anything 10 miles +, and I’ll get public transport. Simple.
Who ever thought that eating the right food and exercising would actually help you lose weight?! I thought it was all propaganda from the NHS but, turns out, it works a treat.