Tuesday, 1 March 2011

One step forward, ten back

I was rather nicely asked to create a guest post for a terrific blogger called notsupermum. The theme was 'after so many failed attempts at dieting what finally worked for me'. If you're sick to the back teeth reading about dieting then step away from the page! If you want a great read then pop over to notsupermum, she's well worth the visit.

We’ve all been there, (okay not all but quite a few of us), you know, those times when your XXXL elasticised trousers are stretched beyond the call of duty, bursting at the seams, when you bemoan a muffin-top the size of a tractor tyre. A pained look in the mirror confirms your stomach needs a wheelbarrow to get you around and your backside enters a room a minute after the rest of your body. Buying the next size up - oh God, not again, really? Crap! - feels like an admission of abject failure and besides, you’re not even sure it exists in industrial strength elastic. You’re becoming documentary fat and dread the day the emergency services remove your upstairs window to wince you from your slovenly pit into a bariatric ambulance that sports a stiffened suspension, specialised hoists, wider than normal trolleys and stretchers manned by specially trained crews that more than likely trained in lifting wildebeest in preparation for the day, that you, need a trip to the hospital. I could certainly envisage the indignity of such an exercise and although I wasn’t quite there yet I couldn’t help but see my future panning out that way. Chances were though, that if I’d needed a trip to that place decked out with same sex wards, MRSA and medical staff in white coats, a trail of red wine and camembert cheese could have lured this old chubber there under her own steam and in record time without the help of the emergency services.

I’ve had my fair share of moments when life gave me a shot across the bow in a vain attempt to hammer home the state I was in; none more so than the time a pine chair collapsed underneath me as I reached to put the star on the top of the Christmas tree. That nanosecond between hearing a heart-stopping creak - clearly indicating the danger I was in - and the chair becoming a pile of expensive kindling, was merely enough for my finely honed survival instinct to kick in and tell me to grab anything, anything at all – just go for it for Christ sake - and in obeying a higher power clung to the Christmas tree in a futile attempt to minimise my fall to earth. The chair was beyond repair and the tree eventually restored to its former splendour, (minus a hundred or so pine needles in my now Porcupine like face), but the real casualty of the day was my pride.

Or there was the time a moulded plastic garden chair, to all intents and purposes, welded itself to my backside. Plonking my very ample rear-end into it in the high heat of the day then trying to extricate myself in a somewhat cooler evening had clearly rendered me tightly wedged as the plastic contracted to fit the shape of my arse. If only backsides contracted in the cold too - solidified fat, about as pliable as concrete. I can’t think why it hadn’t occurred to me that I was sporting four extra legs as I lurched awkwardly along a lengthy lawn for a much needed loo break but in retrospect being mullered on a bucket of red wine tends to dull the senses somewhat. Thankfully I am married to a soul mate with a gimlet eye for the unusual predicaments in which I sometimes find myself. His timely intervention in the manner of a rugby tackle to prise the chair off my arse drew a round of applause from our fellow dinner guests. It came to mind that perhaps nature had something to say about my ever expanding girth and that I should do something about it. Not so as it turned out.

There’s a multitude of reminders that you are fat and that for the love of God, something has to give, soon. The idea of being jammed firmly in a turnstile whilst the fire brigade worked to free me soon saw to it that I avoided venues where one of my worst fears might just materialise; air travel and trying to fit into those cattle class seats that a size zero model would be hard pushed to find roomy soon saw me opt to give air travel a miss. Being morbidly obese tends to give your fellow earthlings the idea that your IQ must be in single-figures-eejit-level and thus talk at you accordingly and as a consequence life is much less annoying if you chose not to walk amongst your fellow earth travellers altogether.

An invitation to a social event requiring the merest semblance of a smartly put together outfit would at once depress me for my wardrobe consisted of dreary washed out voluminous tops and elasticated trousers - a sort of chav bag lady chic if you will. I longed to wear stylish outfits with eye wateringly high feck-me-pumps that didn’t ache five minutes into wearing them because my feet simply weren’t up to the job of supporting the equivalent of the prop forward of a rugby team. Call me vain but walking as though you are in severe need of a bi-lateral hip replacement probably gives the impression of an ungainly and unpractised transvestite on his or her first outing in public.

A fevered trip around the shops sees you vainly shop for anything - truly just something, please God - that might make you look less hideous. There’s nothing more utterly despairing as the sight of yourself in a series of changing room mirrors with turbo charged lighting, fit only for a football pitch, to highlight every hateable feature magnified tenfold to make you scuttle home to hide and send your apologies with a heavy heart at another fun evening missed. You’re left with the unrelenting thought that no matter what you try, you simply cannot polish a turd.

I could go on and on about these sorts of things, the moments you should take on board where every ounce of humiliation adds up to a weighty chunk of reminders as to why you should start a diet. No matter that you are imperilling your future - for heaven knows there aren’t too many morbidly obese people wobbling on the planet in their 60’s - sometimes the message just gets lost in translation to your fug filled brain. Worse still, the more you acknowledge on some level that you may not make the next big birthday, then the bigger the task seems and the more impossible and elusive success seems to be. I confess that I tried many times to kick start a diet only to be thwarted by a stupor so intense as to render me incapable in all things dieting or exercise.

Hindsight being the only exact science, I can see now that a combination of severe menopausal symptoms, the associated deep black depression that I finally sunk into and over imbibing in copious amounts of red wine and high fat foods presented me with a series of complications that I had neither the intellectual capacity nor the will to unpick and knock down one by one. I was mired in one big complicated and confusing mush of disablers that made me take ten steps back for every hard-won step forward. I’d lost heart at so many failed attempts that had I been offered the chance of a life saving diet and being savaged by a pack of rabid wolves, I’d have ticked the rabid wolves box.

I’d like to say that I woke up one day and had a moment of such clarity that I immediately embarked on the diet that I follow now that has seen me lose six stones in weight. There simply wasn’t one obvious trigger that spurned me on, more a series of moments of desperation in the half light of dawn as depression and paranoia ravaged me whilst I bargained with a higher power to help drag me out of the morass. When you find your life has shrunk to the four walls of your home there’s more than enough time for serious introspection, more time for suicidal thoughts to become more graphic and frightening in their intensity. When you are lost in a hinterland of misery there are only two solutions and with my back against the wall, some seismic shift took place. Something intangible buried deep inside me cracked open in a gesture of self preservation.

To borrow that well known phrase from the wise old owl Confucius, a journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step. I made some quick gain changes in my life such as knocking the nightly alcohol on the head. Himself and me had been enjoying the good life of semi retirement to extremes and to the point I began to wonder that we might need a season ticket to the Priory. Thankfully, neither of us is condemned to living life under a bridge supping a bottle of Buckfast cleverly concealed in a brown paper bag – we were simply greedy, not addicted. Coming off HRT and adopting a healthier lifestyle in small stages released me from the pits of depression. I went on to lose 28lbs in one year but gained 7 of those back over the festive season of 2009.

I was mortified at the gain, in a blind panic that I was backsliding with all my positivity dashed. This was typical ‘me’ of late, one step forward ten back. My fantasies of being ‘normal’ and stepping back out into the world seemed to be slipping away from me. Then one morning in February 2010 I inadvertently came across an article on a series of eight women who had lost substantial amounts of weight. Timing in life is everything. Such an inspirational piece spurned me forward and after recruiting two girlfriends just ripe for a bit of encouragement, joined up to the Rosemary Conley diet and fitness club. The rest they say is history.

It’s been a rollercoaster of fun and hard work but one that’s paid dividends. I’ve rejoined the real world and my life feels charmed. I’m no longer tipping the scales at a weight that horrified me; my body image has improved immensely and in a world where identity and body image is key to how you are judged it was crucial for my self esteem to lose the lard and all the negative connotations that came with it. In many ways I care less for others opinions and the freedom that middle age brings but ‘fatism’ is the last bastion where ridicule is acceptable, encouraged even. When you are struggling with depression and other compounding factors you want to scream that it isn’t your fault that the simple act of brushing your teeth is a mammoth task let alone dieting. Not everyone understands that it isn’t always a matter of taking control and knocking yourself into shape but then we are facing record numbers of obesity levels in the Western world and not all of those cases are medically related; an epidemic in the making whilst millions die through third world poverty. Peer pressure has its place in normalising society but when it’s delivered with disgust and cruelty it is a measure of the person delivering it. My driving force was the need to regain my life before it was prematurely snatched from me. The acceptance of my peers is an added bonus, not the central core of the journey to improve myself.

So after so many failed attempts what was it about this time that worked? I guess it was a mixture of desperation, timing and an inherent survival instinct that kicked in when the chips were down. I reached a point of no return and whilst I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, it did the trick for me. I’m giddy with excitement that I may have cheated death for a few more years but there’s always that bus with my name on it............


Gail Is This Mutton? said...

Well done, that's terrific! I wrote about my lifetime spent dieting recently and it's a grim old business!

aims said...

Oh girl - you do have a way with words!

I have stepped out mid-read and gone to take a good look in the mirror. Fortunately I am wearing my housecoat and merino socks as it is only -33C here this morning.

Yet as I look at myself I think of why I MUST have that GiNormous bowl of popcorn every single night. I know why - and I can easily tell you - well sort of.

I can also justify the amount by the amount of salt-free margarine I put on it. (truly - not much at all but more than I used to)

I would like to lose a couple of dress sizes.

I would also like to be pain free and illness free. Hence the reasons I eat my popcorn every single night. I have since I was a teenager. But I hurt back then too but for different reasons if you recall.

I have always consoled myself every single evening. By 10pm my tummy is growling for popcorn and I really can't think of anything else to put in it.

I make myself wait until I actually get into bed before I put the feedbag on.

If I keep using my excuse that I must console myself because of the pain - I'll never stop. I don't expect to be pain-free - ever.

But I do know that when I look at photographs - I don't recognize myself. I'm not the same person I see in my mind that the camera lens sees. There's quite a bit of difference between the two.

I often say I am not photogenic. Probably because the camera shows me a scene I don't want to accept.

I figure a size 14 isn't terrible - and that's down from an 18. That's not bad. But I used to be a size 4. I know I won't be that again - I can be reasonable - But I would like to aim for a size 10. I'd be happy with that.

So my dear - because of you I am going to go and find out what you are talking about.

The Man is a great cook and is going to be doing all the cooking after my surgery on the 15th. I must keep in mind that good food comes in many packages. I would bet dollars to donuts(that I can't eat anyway) that popcorn would not be on my dieting list.

you ARE an inspiration my dear

Eliza said...

Oh, congratulations, I'm so pleased for you. Your posts are infrequent, but so worth the wait. Mind you life is probably so active now you don't have time for the computer :-)

Maggie May said...

All sounds very positive to me.
I am having a problem losing weight (or rather stopping eating the forbidden foods.)
I have a way to go. I am fed up with having to go into a bigger size. I am horrified.
Press on with your good efforts and I will try & catch you up.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Teresa Ashby said...

I loved this post - but I love all your posts! You are an inspiration.

Loved the link too - ah if only I had a teenager I could embarrass.

This resonates with me on so many levels. Currently struggling with my weight - I was in Asda this morning and a lady of about 60 rushed out of a changing room waving a top and yelled at the top of her voice "I got into a 16!" I was so pleased for her, but it reminded me I was on a diet and so I headed straight for the blueberry muffins, via the wine aisle and a large bag of wasabi mix... Sometimes I think there is no hope for me.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Gail – it certainly is a lifetime work in progress. I remember years ago the success stories were all about people losing 2 – 3 stones. Now it’s ten to fifteen on average. A stone here and there looks positively normal these days!

Aims – you have had so much to overcome it’s no wonder that you indulge yourself with popcorn! I do all the cooking here but what I’ve done is make the same meals that I used to – I’ve just learned to ‘dry-fry’ without oils or fat and that makes a huge difference. The food doesn’t taste any different and of course I cut my portions in half – actually probably by about two thirds as I was a greedy pig! I’ve picked up some great recipes from the RC online web page and that’s been a big help. And I know what you mean about seeing yourself in photo’s – but the pictures I have seen of you, you look terrific. Good luck with the operation – I hope it brings you great relief and that in time when you feel better you get things moving in the direction you want. A couple of dress sizes to lose isn’t so bad! Get a smaller nosebag for that popcorn at the end of the day! Portion control dear girl! All the best Aims, I’ll be over to see how you get on. X

Eliza – well I hope to post a bit more but thanks for such a nice comment. Just been busy but I do love blogland so need to get more into it again.

Maggie – those bigger sizes are the depressing message that all of us hate. Been there, and bought the largest t-shirt possible. Still with summer coming it’s all good stuff with the salad! Bugger, tastes nothing like a good plate of sausage and mash and lashings of gravy! Good luck.

Theresa – oh sheer bliss reading about you heading off for cakes, wine and other goodies. Best laugh of the day! You know the best thing about finding a diet that fits into my lifestyle? Because I don’t just gorge myself on everything I want like I used to I enjoy the moment when I just think, bugger it, I’m going to have that regardless of what my calorie count is today! I enjoy the cheeky treat all the more because I savour it rather than shove it down my neck without thinking about it anymore. Bless that woman shouting about her size 16 – we all know how that feels when we get into something we thought was unattainable. Your comment made my day, thanks.

DJan said...

I have gotten behind a little because of being at my sister's house in Florida for the past two weeks. It's been quite a journey.

After having started a diet in January and begun the losing process, I've found it very useful to use the website caloriecount.about.com and logging my intake every day. I've learned quite a lot about the choices I make in my everyday eating.

MOB, you are so much fun! And I too am always very pleased to see a post from you!! Being a naturally cheeky broad makes your writing a HOOT!

MommyHeadache said...

Well done for losing the weight! You go girl. I suppose I have never been so fat as to require the wheelbarrow for the stomach but I am overweight and should do something about it! Maybe I still need to reach rock bottom before I can really commit myself to a diet.

Flowerpot said...

You are an inspiration to us all, MOB. And so good to hear from you again! As for that bus - well, we all have one with our name on it, don't we? Some just wait longer at the stop than others.xx

Carol said...

First off, well done you on the weight loss!! *takes hat off to you* It's not easy and you have done brilliantly!

I've managed to lose two stone but have stalled there. I just can't seem to get my head round it and I think a big part of that is to do with the pressure I'm under at Uni. I have one more module result to go and then all I have to do to get my Masters is my dissertation. I think proving to myself that I can pass (If it goes well then I will officially have a postgrad diploma with distinction in Organisation and Community Development) will be overcoming a big psychological hurdle for me. I think getting past that will be a huge deal for me and will mean that I can finally get my head into the right place so that I can shift the last of my weight! I'll get the results next week so after that I will have no excuse! (If I can pass a Postgrad course having not studied in 12 years then I can sure as hell stick to a diet for a few months!).

Great to see you blogging again hon

C x

i beati said...

what regimen did you follow because not much works for me at my age???I'dlove to know

Deniz said...

Wow, when you wrote "My driving force was the need to regain my life before it was prematurely snatched from me" you could have been telling my story too.

Everything you've written rings bells for me and I've loved reading the gentle, self-deprecating, humorous way you wrote about the 'bad times'. Every moment I found myself thinking 'me too'. Loved reading the 'half the woman' post too.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Emmak – this is the thing – getting so bloody fat really is a matter of life or death and crap quality of life so a diet is a must. It’s someatimes harder when you only have a few pounds to lose. I still do but because I feel much better than I have done I’m slowing down to about a 1lb because I don’t have the urgency to lose the amount I once had. Rock bottom sums it up perfectly!

Flowerpot – yup, everyone of us has a bus with our name on it!

Carol – brilliant on the two stones weight loss! But, with all that study it’s nigh on impossible to even think about losing weight. You’ve done great already, the rest can be seen to when you get that last assignment done – too much stress to even think about depriving yourself. You need goodies to keep you going when the brain is working overtime.

Ibeati – the Rosemary Conley diet – visit her online website for great recipe’s and inspiration videos of people of all ages that have lost weight. It’s a UK based franchise but at least you can get a bt of inspiration just by having a look.

Deniz – thanks for a great comment. I think there are so many bloggers on the net that tell stories that resonate with us all. That’s why it’s such a great place to be. There’s always someone out there who has experienced the same stuff or even worse in many cases. Good luck with the diet.

libby said...

I love to 'hear' your words in my head as I read them...in a soft scottish accent I imagine...and they are words worth waiting for, as they really do come from the heart...glad you are happier with your size and eating/drinking habits...well done.

Breezy said...

Well done you I'm not big on dieting to fit in and I hate the proliferation of size 0 bandy legged lollipop head stick women but when someone makes changes to themselves for themselves then WAY TO GO !!!!!

Unknown said...

I remember having coffee in an outdoor cafe in the middle of town many years ago. I got up to walk away but the chair was well and truly wedged onto my fat arse. Oh, the shame!

Now I'm too thin. I doubt I'll ever win.

Tattieweasle said...

MOB you are truly inspirational have been knocking the old vino plonko back a little too much and allowing myself to induklge for too many years now...will start with small steps. You never know where they could lead...

Lorna F said...

Mob, this is brilliant on two counts - first that you've done so well on losing the weight, secondly that you express what you've gone through and what you've achieved with such clarity and wit. Love you! Blog some more!!

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Libby – Give me 30 minutes with Scottish people and my accent reverts pretty quickly to the land of my birth. Mostly it’s a mixture of Scots, English and Mid Atlantic having spent years living in England, working for an American firm and spending years travelling to the States on assignments and picking up some of the nuances of the accent there! Thanks for such a lovely comment.

Breezy – oh yes the size 0 debate – quite appalling how people strive for that look. No doubt Hollywood stars will be heading up the red carpet on gurneys with a drip attached just so they can look ‘good’ in that -0 sized dress.

Sharon J – oh the shame of it all! I am in total empathy with you on that one. Well done on such great weight loss – better to be slimmer than fatter – no more extra legs attached when you get up to walk away in public!

Tattie Weasel – really that nightly drink is the killer. I was more than ready to kick that little habit into touch and it is the best thing I have done. One bottle of vino on a Friday night with a litre of water does the trick for me now. I enjoy it so much more because it is a treat rather than an overindulgence that used to make me sick to my stomach and my heart. Good luck giving it a go – life is a lot sunnier without it daily!

Lorna F – coming from one of the most eloquent and talented authors I have read that is praise indeed. Thank you so much for such a mood boosting comment. I do need to post more but have been so busy lately.

Karen said...

A fantastic acheivement, really well done. It's funny how we DO have a limit and when we reach it there's no turning back.

I'm constantly gaining and losing 10lbs and get annoyed with myself that I don't have the willpower to resist all the things that are unhealthy, or at least eat them in moderation.

What keeps me in check is refusing to go out and buy clothes in a bigger size - when I tip the scales at a certain point I know it's time to start cutting back ... again.

Helena said...

Well done hen.....I was just saying to my son's girlfriend that her two door car needed a curved bit for me getting my arse into the back seat....!!

Unknown said...


I just had a question about your website, menopausaloldbag.blogspot.com , and found it fun and interesting! If you could e-mail me back, I would love to talk with you.

Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

Oh MOB you are such a wonderful writer. Brilliantly inspiring. If any very overweight person ever speaks to me about wishing they could lose weight I'll send them straight over to you.
(p.s. this is GoneBackSouth with a new name! Again!)

Steph R said...

I really enjoyed your style here and the self defining way you approach your weight. I wanted to share this article about a year long study of ladies with body image problems and weight loss.
The researches found the women who participated in a behavioral intervention plan associated with the study were able to feel better about their body shape and size, which led to more weight loss compared to those who did not participate in the intervention plan.

@Gail, would be great if you would offer a link to your entry.

Susan said...

My goodness - I'm so happy I found your blog site. While reading your words, I found myself smiling, nodding my head in agreement, and admiring your determination. Congratulations on losing the weight. You have inspired me to kick start myself to move in a positive direction. I was just about to zip into the kitchen and nimble on the forbidden foods but after taking a detour and scaring myself by looking at my mirrored reflection, I decided against it. My daughter is getting married in a few months and I don't want to roll down the aisle next to her. Again, thanks again for setting me straight!

Carol said...

Guess what?! I did it! I got my distinction..I now have a Masters in Organisation and Community Development with distinction *grins*

I graduate on the 10th of Dec and will be starting my diet in Jan.

Just thought I would pop over and tell you. Hope all is well in your world.


C x

Median vahtikoira said...

Love your blog. Keep going. I really admire your writing style.

clairedulalune said...

I miss you MOB, how are you? Doing well I hope!

menopausal mama said...

Oh, this is funny! I could relate to everything you said. Look forward to reading some new posts!!

Unknown said...

Oh wow how fab! Say it like it is lady! Good on you! Frankly I am sick to death of being bombarded by people and emails and adverts telling me I need to look like a twig! I like food and that's the way it is!

Karla - Cheap Prams

Syren said...

In appreciation for all the wonderful blog posts, I've awarded you a Liebster Blog award over on my blog.