So I have a weight problem, and have had all of my adult life. Granted, I don’t fall into the morbidly obese category but where I am is just as dangerous, just not as well publicised. I am one of the forgotten cases, just like many others. The media, in it’s grand tradition of sensationalizing and scaremongering reports only the extreme cases (at both ends of the spectrum) and the rest of us are just left to get on with it. Unless you have plenty of spare cash floating about there are no gastric bands, extreme bootcamps or radical plastic surgery options.
What they don’t reiterate often enough for people that fall into the ‘commonly cuddly’ category is that carrying SOME excess weight for most of your life ends in bad joints, particularly knees and hips as well as the usual high blood pressure/diabetes/heart disease issues. I live in Scotland, and we are the heart attack capital of Europe. We are notoriously heavy drinkers, and our love of deep-fried foods is unrivalled (deep-fried Mars bar, anyone?) Granted, we do not have mammoth pizzas and buckets of fizzy pop like our buddies over the pond and our portion sizes are worlds apart, but we most definitely still have a weight problem.
One of the main problems I have found personally that has been part of my undoing is my shape and build. I have Italian lineage, and all of my family are short, muscular, the women are big-busted and most of them overweight. And true to form, we are all passionate, hot-headed and have ridiculous appetites. I can pack away a serious amount of food. And wine. I accept that I will never be a size 6 with legs up to my armpits, but this does not mean I can’t make the best of what I’ve got. My doctor says I ‘weigh heavy’ – i.e I look a lot lighter than I am. This is due mainly to muscle structure, as muscle is denser than fat and a lb of fat takes up more space than a lb of muscle. (That’ll be the Italian farmer roots, then?)
Let’s take my friend. She is 5ft 8, weighs 10st and wears a size 12. I am four inches shorter, 3 stone heavier but only one, sometimes two dress sizes bigger – she hates this. When I was 11 stone, I was a 12 and she could not get her head round it. Because of this though, at 9 stone I looked underweight and unwell,so I will never be able to go down that far. But this is part of the problem. Not only do I weigh heavy, but I am in proportion. When I put on weight, I don’t get a fat backside or flabby arms – it goes on everywhere equally, so you don’t notice it. Then it creeps on gradually. People tell me all the time I’m not fat. I’m just cuddly. I’m big-boned. I’m NOT big-boned, I have tiny wrists and hands and at a healthy weight my back measurement for a bra is 27 inches. That’s how I ended up at 15 stone at the age of 21.
Aside from the physical make-up of weight issues, it is important to assess the mental aspect. Why, as a child and teenager a perfectly normal weight, and then become overweight straight into adulthood? I think there are two main aspects, and it is important to identify these in order to break the chain. As a child growing up, my mother fed me. She made everything from scratch, and it was good, wholesome food. But my mother was also very overweight. She was a ‘secret eater’ with stashes of junk food I used to trip over. I never saw my mum thin. Ever. My father, who I used to spend a lot of time with, was a binge-eater and slightly overweight. He would go days on minimal amounts of healthy foods and then gorge on chocolate, sugary drinks and packets of crisps. I watched this as a child and picked up these habits without even knowing it.
Now 20 years on, my mother is still excessively overweight and still battling, and my dad is a normal weight but still very much has food issues and is forever trying faddy diets,cutting out food groups and eating weird and not so wonderful combinations. I do not want to be these people. I do all the things that they have done, and that is something I need to work on changing.
The second aspect relates to when I was unwell. At the time, I was a healthy weight (having lost 5st) and work became stressful. I developed insomnia, depression alopecia and stopped eating. When I finally left my job, I began comfort eating to fill the void that was my ‘failure’ in my job, and my weight rocketed. I am a different, better and stronger person for that experience, but I know that it affected how I eat. I associate that period of my life with failure, and it was the only time in my adult life I was a healthy weight, thus tying the two aspects together.
So, knowing and exploring the two main reasons why I overeat, we now need to look at HOW. By doing this, we can change destructive patterns and habits to aid in a long-term healthier outlook. Many diecticians talk about ‘types’ of eaters, and there are many different kinds. Unfortunately I fall into almost all of the categories.
- Emotional/Comfort Eating – usually linked to negative feelings i.e break ups or PMS, used to ‘cheer’ oneself up.
- Boredom Eating – *twiddles thumbs* ‘Oh look! There’s the kitchen!
- Eating because it’s there – ‘I swear blind, those cookies are winking at me…’
- Binge Eating – usually as a result of starving oneself, a mammoth overeat in one session. Usually leads to feelings of guilt.
There are many other types including sugar addictions, secret snackers etc. I urge anyone reading this to research this aspect if planning to lose weight and change habits, because it helps to identify where positive changes can be made.
I am now taking a long, hard look at all of the things I’ve talked about in this post, and coming up with an action plan on how to make changes. Remember, folks, baby steps.