Thursday, September 1, 2011

reality bites

I don’t usually like to talk too much about my endeavours to lose weight because it’s a subject that can be offensive to some and seen as self-indulgent to others.
I’ve been struggling around the 60kg mark for a few years now. The problem was first discovered in my Brougham Street flat in 2005, I was no longer 55kg. I had never been on a diet. I had never used scales before until curiosity got the better of me and there happened to be some in the bathroom – a remnant from a flatmate passed, probably completely off-balance, but they quietly informed me I weighed 57kg.

I promptly joined the gym.

I had been dancing since I was 6 years old, the equivalent of two-thirds of my life at the time, and I had never watched what passed through my lips. A massive fan of McDonalds, sweets, and positively mad for bread, I am prime candidate for what the Americans call the Freshman 5. I left dance behind in my hometown and started uni - a life of late nights and drinking, strangely scheduled bain marie meals and an endless supply of lollies at the hotel where I worked night shifts, and a habit causing late-night baking binges and trips to the dairy. I gave in to every craving that momentarily popped into my head.

Aside from the burgers (walking past KFC on the way home for 4 years didn’t help – I swear they actively pump the smell out the vents to lead people zombie-like into their lair), I have, for the most part, eaten healthily. I don’t eat red meat and I knew how to cook, so it’s not like I was living off steaks or 2-minute noodles. But the accumulation of lifestyle, lack of will power, and social influences brought me to the 2kg over what I knew as my ideal weight. I thought if I can just lose that 2kg and get back to 55, I will be happy. A great lover of food, I wasn’t going to actively diet, I just started working out 4-5 times a week.

You’d think that would work. That’s more than some people would work out in a month. But as that ‘lover of food’ I think I compensated and the ‘just work out’ method has never done anything for me. Still, I carried on that line for a few years. I have never seen the needle stop at 55kg since.

The next milestone was about 2 years into a long-term relationship. I now had a good job and expendable income and a partner to halve the guilt of poor choices. The long-term relationship is also widely blamed for putting on weight. We exercised together, which made it easier to get along to the gym, but we also indulged together. The other problem of having someone who loves you and thinks you are desirable is having them tell you that. I hit 60kg. I wanted to lose weight. But my wonderful man kept telling me I didn’t need to, he thought I was sexy, to stop being silly. As nice as that is, it wasn’t helpful. I would be better off if he was agreeing, saying yes, you could lose a little, because it is very easy to take the compliment and continue on your path.

This is where things get tricky. At this point, some of you are pissed off, thinking 60kg, what is this bitch on about? So let me be clear. I am in no way saying 60kg is “overweight”. I am not about to starve myself. Your weight is a totally personal thing which is relevant only to yourself. I made the mistake of explaining why I wasn’t going to have any fries with a drink after work the other night in front of someone who is a lot bigger than me. It offends people because the instant reaction is “if you think you need to lose weight, you must think I’m a fucking pig”. But it’s really not like that. I’m talking in terms of MY ideal 55. I couldn’t care less if my friends are big or small – it’s not my place to judge or interfere. If people are happy let them be happy. If they want to do something about their weight I am not the kind of person that says “Noooo, you’re perfect the way you are.” If that’s the way they feel then let them have it. Unless they’re just digging for compliments, in which case my reaction will come as a shock, if a person genuinely thinks they need to lose weight they probably have a good reason for feeling so. So I said to this person “you don’t see me naked, so you’re opinion doesn’t count”.

As good a comeback as that was, it was something of a lie. It’s not the naked me that has me worried. It’s that my clothes don’t look as good as they used to. I spend so much longer trying on my wardrobe full of lovely fitting dresses for a night out and finally resort to my trusty black skinny jeans. There was the shoe-throwing incident earlier in the year. When your clothes aren’t fitting right, it’s time to do something about it – and not just start buying a larger size. I did that when I went from an 8 to 10, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to start buying size 12s on a regular basis.

I moved house at the start of the year – in with my bf and away from my gym. I didn’t go to the gym for about 3 months and I have never quite gotten the hang of serving appropriate portions for me and my partner as opposed to equal portions.

When I started back at the gym about a month ago the scales loomed. They were those big industrial and therefore accurate-looking dealies. I don’t know what I was expecting. Perhaps to still be sitting around the 60 mark. Not ideal, but I couldn’t expect too much after my sabbatical, and besides, my peers kept insisting that I look great. An enviable body. The scales told me otherwise. I did not feel enviable at around 63kg.

I usually only talk about weight and stuff with a couple of friends. Those that understand the relativity of it all, but none of them are as big as me. It’s hard when everyone around you is smaller, no matter what your size is you’ve always got someone to compare with where you come out worse off. So I was at a party and chatting to a girlfriend, telling her my woes. Anyway, this friend, bless her heart, said you me “you’re crazy, what are you like 55kgs?”.

HA! I laughed in her face! Perhaps I still looked good in my carefully chosen clothes to her, but I knew better. It also made me realise that if she guessed I was 55, and she is so much smaller than me, she must weigh around 50kg. And then I was too embarrassed to correct her.

At this point I had started back at the gym, forgetting that that hadn’t worked for me at 57, so I don’t know why I thought it was going to make a difference now. I was still indulging the slightest craving, probably eating more than ever. I had somewhere introduced another meal into my day. Morning tea had become sandwich time, and then lunch had become relatively bigger. I knew what I was doing, but the constant reassurance from my partner and friends had made me complacent. Maybe I could just do whatever I wanted and still look good in their eyes.

But it is not their eyes that count.

I knew I wasn’t happy with myself. I knew I needed to do more. And last week, after talking to the only other person who is as straight-talking as me, I decided to do it for myself.

First step: portion control. I do not need to eat as much as my partner and I do not need a whole sandwich or muffin as a “snack”. Just working out obviously doesn’t cut it for me, so I need to reduce my intake – simple as that. Second step: pace. I eat like a mad woman. I have loaded my fork before my mouthful is half chewed. I love food, yet I shovel it in without savouring. Third step: introduce coffee to my diet. Not the healthiest of options, but the morning tea rumble is now non-existant. And don’t tell me I need fuel to burn. Last week I went to the gym and played netball on respective afternoons on a piece of toast and a coffee, and rather than feeling lacklustre I felt invigorated!

So, controversial? Yes. It’s only been a week so far and I’ve already hit a couple of obstacles. On Sunday we hosted brunch. I couldn’t resist the array of delicious foods and why should I? Like I said, I’m not starving myself, I’m just being highly aware. So I decided I could have what I wanted, within reason, and just not have another meal that day. At dinner time I was a little peckish, but I seriously think the brunch could have seen me through the whole day, I was going to just have a miso soup or something similarly small and healthy but bf went out to get some takeaways. So I tagged along and got a soup from there. Healthy, yes. Too big a portion, yes. But I could save some for my lunch I told myself.

I got down to the halfway mark and sat there. Finished. But I didn’t take the crucial action of removing it from the table and hiding it away in the fridge and then, before I know it, I’m tucking in again and suddenly it’s all gone. Soon after I have a bread craving. I’ve already stuffed up, I’ve gone this far, so have your bread I thought. And I did.

The lesson is: I have very little control once I’ve let go. If I hadn’t partaken in the brunch, the soup would have been fine. But I did, and it set off the food radar like mad. If I had stuck with my original plan and had the miso for dinner, I wouldn’t have had the bread. I would have felt like I’d had my indulgence at brunch without having to worry about failing, that I had maintained control.

So, back on track today. I am not going to weigh myself yet, there’s little point in seeing no difference and getting despondent about it. I’m not trying to crash diet, so a week is nothing. I’ll let you know how I go.

Also, let me know what you think about dieting and weight issues. I try to make the blog as honest and upfront as I can because that is the way I am. I’m not seeking compliments or reassurance; I’m just letting you know how I feel and what I’m doing about it. Sometimes I think it’s harder to talk about weight when you’re in the middle – not overweight in the traditional sense, but over what you want to be. Like I say, I think I could get away with continuing on the way I was and still look good, but ‘good enough’ is not enough. I don’t want to just accept what I’ve (now) got. I strive for the best in everything else I do in life, so why should I be happy with mediocrity for this?

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