When I write this article I am referring to the dieting industry as a whole. As the article goes on, it will become apparent which particular slimming club I worked for, but I am not picking on them directly, they are just a single brick in a whole wall of misery.
My first dieting experience was actually quite late compared to other girls. My father insisted I was fat. I wasn’t. I was 19 at the time, an age where I should have been having a good time and partying.
My first attempt was fairly typical of that time. ‘Slimming’ Magazine was big in 1995. My best friend was also consuming 1000kcals a day, avoiding fat at all costs, eating Shapers ready meals and going to bed early because we couldn’t face living with the hunger. As a result of this, I associated slimness with hunger so when I discovered Food Optimising in 1999, I was excited to be able to stuff my face all day long. Looking back, it is very clear how my relationship with food became screwed up. Starve, binge, overeat, etc..
I became a consultant 11 years after starting my first ever diet, soon after the birth of my first child. I wanted to help people but also I thought that the role would help me maintain my weight, a thought that many consultants have when they sign up.
Whole packs of women, sitting together, feeling like a social club of failures, clueless to how they gained a pound, lost a pound, gained a pound. On and On.
Week after week we stood and applauded people for being successful and had to spend longer on people who had failed to get results. The questioning of these people was embarrassing and boring. I can only imagine what the new people thought sitting through a therapy session full of maintainers and gainers. Most of the time it was longer term members (and consultants) who were really struggling. Whole packs of women, sitting together, feeling like a social club of failures, clueless to how they gained a pound, lost a pound, gained a pound. On and On.
There are few things more humiliating than being weighed in public. I was taking people’s money and then asking them to get weighed. The members were always coming into group starving and dehydrated because they were terrified to eat or drink beforehand. Me included. One lady even took her jeans off in front of people. She had come to the decision that gaining a pound or two was more humiliating than standing naked in front of a group of people.
We had an award for people who had lost 10% of their body weight. We were not allowed to declare how much people actually weighed but it didn’t take much to work out how much someone weighed if they had just received their two stone award and their club 10 on the same night. We really were all treated like a room full of idiots.
Every week there would be a new recipe for a hideous sugar-free, fat free cake full of bran. Every month there would be a new ingenious way to spice up a pot of quark. Twice a year there would be a new limited edition of Muller Light yoghurt to leave a nasty taste in everyone’s mouth.
To get people to turn up we had to deliver 3000 leaflets to 3000 homes of normal families, poor unsuspecting people, many of which were probably already on diets or looking for that magical pill to make them happy. I found all elements of the marketing side quite depressing, but the one thing I totally refused to do was “word of mouth” marketing. I really hated that. We were expected to approach complete strangers and tell them about our group. I still pull a cringe face when I remember that.
I remember once at a regional consultant meeting, we were asked to stand up if we were at target ourselves. Only one person out of a hundred stood up.
I struggled with my weight throughout my journey as a consultant, because it all comes down to the same thing. We were all struggling with the same guilt, the same misery, the same feeling of hopelessness as all the members. My own consultant at the group I attended as a member was also struggling. She had gained 4 stone since hitting target herself and just couldn’t get motivated from one week to the next. Bless her. She is still a consultant now. I haven’t seen her in years, and the sad truth is, there is a good chance she is still struggling to accept herself and still feels she just needs to “get a grip”. It’s heart breaking. I feel sorry for the consultants at the other big slimming company. They were forced to get on the scales at regular intervals, and asked to lose weight if they were not proving to be a worthy example.
I remember once at a regional consultant meeting, we were asked to stand up if we were at target ourselves. Only one person out of a hundred stood up. I still don’t know if it was an exercise in humiliation or some other point, but it spoke volumes to me. Living on extra lean mince, fat free cottage cheese and Quorn mince was miserable, unsustainable and humiliating. The saddest thing about that day was that every other woman in the room was most likely telling themselves to just get a grip, and they would be a success too.
In the space of three and half years I went from feeling genuinely ecstatic about helping people to feeling utterly deflated when I realised I was just compounding their problem and not helping at all.
I discovered the Beyond Chocolate approach a few months before leaving my role as Chief Soul Destroyer. I cannot even begin to explain the numbness I felt turning up at group every week once my fire had gone out. I started seeing every new member walking through the door as victims instead of members. They were looking at me with desperation in their eyes and instead of being excited to help, I just wanted to cry.
I am also one of those victims. Despite really thinking I was cured, I have just completed another cycle of diet/binge/diet, finally waking up on Monday 23rd Jan 2017, utterly ready to finally end the 22 years of feeling a totally fat, useless failure. Having to listen to my opinionated, skinny mother in law hasn’t helped, but at some point I need to stop blaming others and take responsibility for my own happiness.
I feel sick every time I see women piling Muller lights in their shopping trolleys
In reality the plan was just really difficult to follow for most people. Every group had their shining examples. A small handful (5%) that were happy to follow it. They either genuinely loved tasteless food or were just so incredibly brain-washed that they just followed it, year in and out. We, of course, made a big deal of these rare specimens and used them to inspire the other members and ourselves.
My guilt has worsened recently as more and more evidence emerges about the health benefits of real butter and proper food with natural fat in it. I feel sick every time I see women piling Muller lights in their shopping trolleys and I can hear their bodies screaming out for something that is natural and not just a complete chemical shit storm. I contributed to the brainwashing and I am working on forgiving myself for taking part in an industry I now despise.
I have finally flashed the “Stop” sign in front of my eyes and have signed the pledge to quit the madness. I am taking care of myself and my family and finally can say that I will never diet again.
Thanks for listening.