A couple of landmark things have happened in the past few weeks that I feel I need to celebrate and share with you, those people kind enough to take the time to read my blog. The first of these is that last week I stood on the scales, and the number staring back at me marked the completion of the goal that I established in January: to lose three stone (19 kg) before my holiday in August. This means that my body-mass index (BMI) now officially rests in the “overweight”, rather than “obese” or even “extremely obese” category, where I started my journey at the beginning of this year. I’m in good company in this category, as it’s the one within which the majority of people in the UK lie. The other big milestone is that I, a complete running virgin until January this year, recently managed to run 5k in 27 minutes 30 seconds, an achievement far beyond what I previously believed myself capable.
I am prone to exaggeration, it’s true, but I really can’t overstate the impact that this lifestyle overhaul has had on all areas of my existence. On a basic health level, I feel fitter than I ever have before, and no longer have to contend with the buckets of sweat that used to pour off my forehead and down my back any time I had to run for the bus. For once in my life I can confidently and truthfully say that I enjoy the feeling of exercise, and the discipline that I’ve learnt through months of dieting has instilled in me a new sense of balance and respect for my body. In my relationships I am much happier, more peaceful and confident, because I’m now coming from a position of strength, and not craving validation or reassurance. This has allowed me to love and, crucially, be loved, more deeply and freely. At work, I’m more sure of myself and my abilities, which has afforded me with a greater sense of self belief and enabled me to push myself towards new goals and plans.
More than anything else, my achievements have totally challenged any fear that I had walking into this that confronting my issues and implementing these huge lifestyle changes would be so painful that it would impair my enjoyment of life. It is true that my routines, eating habits and general choices are dramatically different to what they once were, but this has been in no way a negative change. In fact, I would go as far as saying that my enjoyment of life has increased massively; I now don’t have to waste all my time on self-loathing and hatred, which has freed up more energy to focus on the things that make me happy. I have been through pronounced phases in this process, during which I have been stricter and less strict with myself, and have finally found an equilibrium that works for me, to the extent that I have made peace with the fact that I will have to spend the rest of my life calorie-counting and exercising, but that’s no bad thing. In my former incarnation, I believed that good health was something to which I was entitled, and now I realise that—for those of us fortunate enough not to be battling any malign or unpredictable health threats that are beyond our control—well-being is something that you must earn. And it’s a life-long project.
Fifteen more years
Beyond the psychological virtues of weight loss, the health benefits are not only multiple but diverse. Despite their best efforts, the recommendations of numerous healthcare professionals over the years fell on my deaf ears, until I was capable of believing for myself that losing weight was within my grasp. But since pushing the dark clouds of denial away, I have finally been able to understand for myself the impact that obesity can have on overall health. And I have been (naively) surprised to learn the extent of the damage that it can inflict, not only on your own health, but on your fertility and, as a woman, on the health of your future children.
Imagine stepping onto the scales and instead of seeing just a crude measure of the weight of your body on a scale, you saw the years of your life that lay ahead. It sounds extreme, but that’s exactly what weight-loss translates into: healthy years of life. To illustrate this point, according to a fairly rigorous calculator of life expectancy, in the last seven months, I have added fifteen years onto my life. FIFTEEN YEARS. I am now statistically less likely to be struck down by type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even certain types of lifestyle-related cancers later in life, and my future children are less likely to be obese. I am also less likely to suffer from dementia; osteoarthritis and joint problems; chronic back pain; IBS; and depression to name but a few. And I cannot emphasise enough how hardened I had become to all of these statistics before I started to unpick my issues, but from the other side I am so grateful for all of these potential benefits. Because, really, what else do you have but your health? And while you have the power to control it then why wouldn’t you? I’ve realised that actually, I don’t just owe it to myself, but I owe it to those that have gifted me with their love and those who will do so in the future, to do everything in my power to stick around for as long as I can.
The list of gratitude is endless, but this will go a small way to acknowledging the immense support that I’ve received from those around me. First and foremost, thank you to my boyfriend, for his patience, constant support and messages of encouragement every time I gain or lose a pound, even (and especially) when I’ve been hard work (sorry). For not moaning when he has to eat diet-friendly food, for spending Sundays going on long bike rides and for always hiding his chocolate consumption from me (he has now mastered the art of sneaking mini eggs out of his pocket without me noticing). To my family, for their endless support and advice, and for joining me in my quest to improve my health by doing the same with theirs. To my best friend of 28 years for a lifetime of reinforcing my belief that the only limits to what I can achieve are the edges of my imagination; I now finally feel like I can see myself the way she does, and that’s a huge compliment. To all my friends who have had to change venue for dinner (or even a holiday) to accommodate my diet, join me at incredibly sweaty yoga classes, cycle to work with me, swim with me, swap drinks for a walk in the park, listen to me whinge for hours, cook me diet-friendly food and even proof-read my blog posts. To those of you reading my blogs and sending me positive messages along the way. You are all fantastic, and I couldn’t have done this without you (nor would I have wanted to).
For now, I’m off to Mexico with my love for 2.5 weeks to eat tacos, drink beer, walk around until my eyes and feet are tired, swim in the sea until my fingers are wrinkled and sleep until my body, or the sun, wakes me.
Join me in a few weeks when I return for what is likely to be the most challenging stone to lose yet. My new goal is to reach a total weight-loss of one-quarter of my original body weight, see you on the other side!