This time ten years ago I was approaching the big 4-0.
I was a size 24/26 after a lot of years of yo yo dieting. I started as a size 14, in 1987, 6 months after having a baby and suffering a bout of post natal depression. All I wanted to do was feel better and get back into my size 12 jeans again. I never did manage it thanks to that very first diet, but if I only knew then what I know now, life would have been very different.
It actually hit me a few days ago, that before I started that very first diet at the ripe old age of 23, I was actually a natural BC’er. I was never a skinny teenager, but I ate what I wanted, when I wanted it, walked everywhere as we never had a car and was very active. At school I was in the hockey and netball teams. I had lots of boyfriends. After I left school, I continued to walk everywhere without even thinking about it and would often do two aerobic classes one after the other, ‘just because I wanted to’. I could not have told you what I weighed – if I could get into a size 12/14 in Miss Selfridge that was all I bothered about. Life was just about having fun.
And then I had my daughter. It wasn’t easy, I was a single parent 200 miles away from my home town with no family to support me. I went back to work when she was 3 months old and bought a house at the same time and it was damn tough. Looking back there was that bout of post natal depression that I now know I was suffering from, but went undiagnosed at the time. But suddenly I had this wonderful idea. If I could just lose weight and get back into my size 12 jeans, life would be OK again.
And so began my history of yo–yo ing. Over the next 16 years I went up and down – mainly up. I did them all – Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Cambridge Diet, Slimming Magazine. I starved on powdered shakes, counted calories, points, syns. I was successful some of the time and after one round of losing 4 stone I even became a Slimming World consultant and then promptly started putting the weight back on. They called it the ‘consultants curse’. So busy helping everyone else you don’t do the diet yourself. Or that’s what they told you. They couldn’t tell you it was actually because dieting didn’t work, could they? And so I quit that job and ended up bigger, then smaller, then bigger again.
And so, New Year 2003, just before my 40th in the April. This time it really WAS going to be different – I had that milestone birthday to do it for. And so I went back to Slimming World – yet again. This time I would do it – I would get into those size 12 jeans.
And for a while it worked, I lost a couple of stone for my 40th but I had no life. I was at the gym 6 times a week. Everything revolved around the scales and the gym. Nights out? I panicked. What would the scales say if it was too close to weigh in? How could I miss the gym? My 40th came and went and, yes, I was lighter – but not really happy. I carried on, the compliments were coming thick and fast. People told me I looked amazing, but it was hell – it was an obsession. I dieted and I went to the gym. I hit my 7 stone loss and started buying size 14s again, but still, it wasn’t enough. Something was missing.
Then on a rare night out I met the man who was to become my husband. Suddenly I was dating and NOT going to the gym. Not only that, I was going for meals out, the weight started creeping back on and the gym nights dwindled down to one or two and then none. I got married and suddenly I was 3 stone heavier – how did that happen?
My hubby was wonderful. He was always telling me how much he loved me. He didn’t care about what I weighed. He despaired of the diets. He supported me, but knew I was n’t happy. He even supported me when I paid in excess of £70 a week to join Lighter Life and drank water in the pub when he was tucking into a big roast and a pint. Yes, I lost 2 stone – and put it all back on. I forked out a fortune to end up heavier.
Then about 3 years ago I finally just said ‘enough’. I had a wonderful lifestyle. Fabulous holidays abroad that I couldn’t admit I wasn’t looking forward to because of how I felt in a swimsuit. Nights out when I felt huge and couldn’t enjoy myself. What was I doing?
There had to be an alternative.
And so I went online and found some books on why diets don’t work. I found Beyond Chocolate, read it and cried. I was overwhelmed. What had I been doing to myself with all this stupid yo yo dieting?
I started following the Beyond CHocolate Principles – it wasn’t easy. It was absolutely terrifying! But once I stopped treating it like another diet, it slowly took me back to how I lived my life before diets – I started listening to my hunger, exercising for enjoyment and respecting myself. The binging stopped. Over the next 3 years I lost that 3 stone I had put back on plus a bit more. I learned to buy clothes that I looked great in at the size I was. I got excited about my annual holiday and couldn’t wait to put my cossie on and hit the beach – I even learned to swim. I became more active in the Beyond Chocolate community and helping others and it was far more rewarding than being a Slimming World consultant. Far, far more rewarding.
And now, here I am – it’s a few months before my big 5-0 now. I am at peace with food and accept and like the body I am in now. I have fabulous family and friends who love me. I go to the gym, when I want and eat what I want. I no longer care what the scales say. I live my life as if I am a size 12 every day regardless of what the label says in my jeans.
And I couldn’t be happier.