Monday, 24 May 2010

The camera never lies

“Just take the photo, quickly before I change my mind”, I said to Himself, as he grappled with his cell phone camera. He has a plethora of reading glasses dotted all over the house but strangely none to hand when the intricacies of reading small print and symbols require the power of a magnifying glass the size of a dinner plate.

And so it was, for the first time in at least five years I allowed a camera to capture my morbidly obese shape, front, back and rear in all its inglorious expansiveness. When we bought this house I was both amazed and horrified to find several full length mirrors dotted all over; every room had a reflective object just mocking my size at every turn. I became magnificently adept at averting my eyes as I quickly sloped past these monstrosities telling it like it was. The camera never lies, nor do mirrors it seems. Like most women who carry extra mounds of flesh, I could just about tolerate blow-drying my hair and applying makeup, never liking the reflection of the bloated face looking back at me from the dressing table mirror. Aversion techniques, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t register.

I steeled myself for what was to come but it was time to really take a good look at what our extended partying, the menopause, depression, giving up smoking and sinking my butt in a chair had done to my body for the last five years. It wasn’t a pretty sight; pretty shocking really, my backside, so big it looked like it should have another pair of legs to support it, my stomach a wheelbarrow to carry it around in, my boobs like two swollen but half depleted water filled balloons with nipples in danger of scraping the floor. But there was method in my madness. And what did I do with the photos? Why, they are on the fridge door to remind me of the reason I am sticking to this diet, to act as a superb guide to my progress and to stop me spending time with my arse hanging out of the fridge looking for something to sabotage my diet with. And proudly displayed alongside are my slimmer of the week certificate and my half, one and two stone weight loss certificates too. I’m stunned at my progress, I’ve lost over 9lbs in the last three weeks – no matter what I tried during the menopause, I’d no sooner lost some weight when I’d stall and dispiritedly watched as it crept back on - okay I lost 21lbs before I started this gig but it was a tough old slog.

My fellow dieters have had their fair share of success too. The support of these women is like a warm bath in scented oils, it is a mutual admiration and support society. How different to when I embarked upon my first diet many years ago. I shared a house with a frenenemy whose sole purpose was to scupper my diet in any way she could. I remembered being shocked that someone could be so underhand. Day after day, I’d come home from work, ravenous and ready to eat the first thing with a pulse that got in my way to the kitchen. Day after day there would be a fine selection of deliciously tempting cream cakes, an array of chocolate bars to send a chocoholic insane with desire and all placed strategically around the kitchen, within easy reach of a starving housemate subsisting on 800 calories a day. But, much to her frustration they remained untouched and as she couldn’t bear the waste, she was forced to gobble these down lest her hard earned money would go straight in the bin. What she didn’t know about me is that cream cakes and chocolate bars and anything sweet turns my stomach, makes me heave and sickens me to the core. I lost the 7lbs I needed to; she gained a size and a half in clothes. The lord works in mysterious ways.

Today my life feels amazing. The exercise boosts my progress and my mood to boot. It helps keep me focused too, I’ve never felt sharper. I wrote over five thousand words of my book at the weekend whilst stopping from time to time to enjoy the green and lush view of my garden from my conservatory where I write; a tranquil oasis that encourages the muse in me. I am calm, centred and excited as to how my life is panning out. I feel incredibly happy and on track to climb Snowdon later in the year. I won’t be shooing Himself away when he whips out the camera to record our progress; I’ll simply smile, pose for all I am worth and know that the camera won’t lie, it’ll simply see me as I will be; a once morbidly obese woman looking slimmer, healthier and with a smile the size of a banana on my face, assuming he remembers his glasses that is.

Friday, 7 May 2010

As I melt away from Wildebeest to Baby Elephant .........

.......I ponder the moment in February 2010 when I reaffirmed my belief in a higher power looking out for me. Shocked at the unbelievably high number glaring back at me from the bright red display on my scales, I sloped off, shoulders hunched with disgust and disappointment at this depressing state of affairs: total weight loss from March 2009 to Christmas - 28lbs, total weight gain over the festive season to February 2010 + 7lbs. A grand total of 21lbs loss in a year; less than 2lbs a month – dismal, totally dismal; one step forward, a few dozen back, as usual. If I could have kicked my own arse all the way down to the kitchen where I was heading for an early morning cup of tea, then I would have done so before kicking it all the way back upstairs just to hammer the message home; too many calories in, too few expended by settling said arse in the world’s most comfortable recliner in preference to a bit of exercise here and there. It’s not rocket science; even an eejit like me can work out the basic formula of a calorific deposit and withdrawal system but sometimes logic gets lost amongst a sea of inertia, unreasonable expectations, and a lack of willpower.

As a lapsed Catholic, I don’t subscribe to the weekly knee bending and humble adoration repertoire that organised religion demands for the saving of my soul. But I regularly have a word with the big guy above and a few saints to boot - St Jude being top priority as he’s the patron saint of hopeless cases and without a doubt I am his top groupie, a challenge, someone he’s surely ready to wash his hands of. I like to round off my iconic crew with Mary the mother of God, a matriarch of great serenity and grace who quietly goes about her way managing the men with words of wisdom when the situation seems bleak or I’ve asked for a bit too much, too often. Add to that a couple of female saints whose achievements I admire, (and ashamedly is something of an egotistical choice, simply because I am named after them), then you have the full suite; a quango of reverence for me to plead with, bargain with and just plain toady to when the chips are down. I like the eclectic mix; I like the gender mix; and sure, wouldn’t the big guy abhor the presence of a glass ceiling and welcome his female reports onto the celestial board of directors without the bat of an eyelid? Besides ,who else but another woman or two could empathise with the futility of pulling on your humongous elasticised trousers only to find the seams giving way because even elastic has a finite ability to go beyond the call of duty.

Too many failed attempts can knock a girl’s confidence and so it was with a sense of desperation and caught up in the slipstream of Hope beating a rapid exit from my life that I invoked a few incantations. I engaged in some impressively naked self-serving grovelling, some over the top bartering and promises on what I was prepared to do in return for a bit of direction, willpower, even.

Well, when it works it works, is all I can say. No sooner had I trawled my online news pages when I saw an article on six women who’d lost a staggering amount of weight, each using a different method that worked for them. It was a truly inspirational piece of before and after pictures to stimulate my interest further. I almost cried tears of joy and relief at such celestial intervention; the turnaround time on my pathetic cry for help through to delivery of said solution was remarkable even for the big guy and the board of directors. No doubt about it, they have a customer for life after that kind of service excellence. And as everyone knows, the best kind of marketing is word of mouth so here I am doing my bit for the organisation, (not the organised church you understand but the high heed yins up above).

I could have chosen any number of plans to start my attack on fat central but who hasn’t tried the bacon and egg diet, the cabbage soup diet – highly anti social and a real deal breaker in the marriage stakes, food combining, the eat once a day then drink and smoke yourself to death for the rest of it diet or the one where you drink a turgid shake then have a teaspoon of food and a salad leaf to see you through the evening?

I’d tried the Weightwatchers diet about fifteen years ago. It wasn’t for me; I remember abject hunger and a loss of a will to live as the plan they used in those days was all about denial, denial, denial to the point you caved in and would have happily snarfed down road-kill. Their diet philosophy was fine, their plan wasn’t. I could have made a killing selling junk food heaven to those poor saps who, in their desperation to eat something substantial, would leave en masse to sate their ravenous appetites only to spend the next week working it off before the next weigh-in. Somehow the possibility of being trampled to death by the human equivalent of a herd of rampaging wildebeest didn’t appeal so I consigned my entrepreneurial aspirations to the bin. I have no doubt that the WW’s eating plans have moved with the times but my previous experience and the all prevailing air of a victim support meeting prevented me from galloping enthusiastically towards them.

So, who did I choose? Why no less that the saintly Rosemary Conley; my new guru who surely deserves beatification for the cleverly designed eating plan and innovative exercise programme. I like the psychology of this approach which encompasses a thoroughly modern methodology that encourages ownership and control of your weight loss progress with not a whiff of victim or nanny lecturing permeating the air. What a revelation to bounce out of a class, high on endorphin overload, thoughts of binge eating banished to the bad old days. I’m never hungry, eat a well balanced diet and my gym equipment no longer gathers dust.

It wasn’t easy to get going, but my energy levels have increased tenfold. A body that ached at every twist and turn as the exercise programme demanded much more activity than I had been used to of late has become more fluid in its movement. The loss of the use of an arm and a hip as stiffness and pain rendered me immobile for a week at a time were a small sacrifice on the road to fitness. The embarrassment of resembling the old bloke dancing at a wedding as I tried to master the aerobics routine is long forgotten as I comfortably complete the routine like an old pro. The abstinence from calorie ridden rich food and alcohol has been a doddle, a cleansing experience in mind and body and an easily maintainable practice. I’ve cemented my friendships with my girlfriends who are on the journey with me and we delight in each other’s progress. I’ve dropped several dress sizes and joy of joy, I can wear my standard sized welly boots as my calves have slimmed down from billiard table size; tree trunks in rubber was never a good look. Oh and finally, I’m forty five pounds lighter than I was this time last year with a resolve to embrace this new programme as a life-long commitment. I have a long way to go but every pound is a pound less than I was before. I might end up with a slimmer face that looks like it needs like a good iron but hey ho, you can’t win them all, but what I’ve achieved already feels like the best lottery win ever..