Hey there Fat Club banner outside the pub (let's call it 'Thin Planet'). I see you've been strategically placed to make me second guess walking in to order a 'Spoons curry. You're trying to make me feel guilty, aren't you? I should surely be ashamed, for who knows how may Very Important Numbers To Track (let's call them Sinful Points) are in that deliciously creamy full-of-oil curry that I'm about to order (someone reading this probably knows how may Sinful Points it contains depending on which Thin Planet cult they follow - but no need to tell me, because I really don't care!).
You see I don't feel guilty. I'm not 'out of control' either. I'm very deliberately deciding that I fancy a curry and I'm going to order one and savour every mouthful.
So thank you, but no thank you, Thin Planet banner. I don't need to be saved by you. I'm not a woman in trouble or struggling. I'm very well actually, thank you for asking. Instead, I recognize your attempt to taunt me with the smiling face of a woman who has lost 60lbs since joining Thin Planet and now has a whole different life.
You see dear reader, apparently when this face of Thin Planet lost 60lbs, her bills started paying themselves, house prices became affordable, and her previously sexist boss told her that he respected her intelligence and to just take the year off (with a pay rise, so she matched her male colleagues at long last!),. Thanks to her new rocking body, her husband fancies her again and has since stopped shagging his co-worker when he's 'working late'. Her kids are far happier now that there's now a lot less of mummy to cuddle, and amazingly, her elderly parents have also stopped ageing and no longer need care now that they haven't got to worry anymore about their daughter 'letting herself go'.
Her life's completely transformed, all because she now takes up less space on the planet, thanks to carefully micromanaging her fuel consumption and energy output, while wearing a slinky size 10 Bodycon dress. Isn't that amazing? Why isn't everyone doing this? You lazy, complacent slobs, you!
I must have done weight loss wrong when I lost 60lbs back in 2012. Because none of this amazing shit happened.
I had the same life problems at 136lbs as I did at 196lbs. Same old shit, different weight.
"But you looked great!" - Pah, what did that matter! I still hated and resented my body. I labelled myself 'under tall' when I reached my goal weight because my height and the calorie intake calculator I used, was giving me fewer calories to peck at in the day than if I'd have been 5ft.6 instead of 5ft.2, unless I out-exercised a taller person (bugger my luck for being a short-arse). I knew that I'd have to eat less and less over time to maintain my weight loss as my metabolism slowed down. I wasn't looking forward to a life of forever tracking food, or dedicating entire weekends to the gym so that I could eat a meal out 'guilt free' on a Friday night.
So I stopped trying. I stopped trying to control my weight when my body was so strongly fighting against me. I stopped logging foods. I stopped tracking every move my body made. I stopped weighing myself. My eyes now glaze over when my friends talk about diets and tracking, becoming anxious over food choices and feeling guilty because they've eaten something they "shouldn't" have (in my eyes, if it's not human flesh or stolen food - there's literally no need to feel guilt over it).
These days I just do what feels good for my body at the time.
Now let's be clear here before anyone jumps down the "oh whoa whoa, you're letting your health go to crap and promoting obesity because you just have no willpower... and maybe food addiction".
Sit back down in your seat right now, Body Police and listen to me! You don't fool me, it's not really my health you care about, just the size of my body.
[Possibly, also the cost of obesity to the NHS if you're reading this from the UK and you're a taxpayer (as am I, before you play that card too) which adds an interesting dimension to the healthism argument - I'll save it for a future blog post.]
Time for you to listen to a human being, instead of the media and other profit-making industries. Tune out of diet culture for a little while.
Whatever you might think when you look at me eating my curry, I don't need to be saved from my food choices. I don't need a diet plan. I don't need to be sold a solution to something that I don't personally see as a problem (at least not anymore!). I've gained 30lbs of my original weight loss back over the last few years, but not for the reasons you might think. I didn't start neglecting my physical health (all right, if you're still that bothered about my 'health', I still exercise at least 5 times a week, I still cook most of my meals from scratch at home and most importantly, I keep tabs on my blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels and yes, they're all still completely healthy... but you're still massively missing the point). Instead, what I did start neglecting, was my mental health and the other areas of my life.
For years I thought the answer to all of my life problems was to lose weight. Society had told me that being thin was the same thing as being happy in life and with myself. Don't believe me? Google search images of 'happy people'. Tell me how many fat people you see in the images that come up. Exactly.
The only thing that is the same as being happy, is actually being happy with yourself and your life.
After addressing my urgent physical health issues at the time (pre-diabetes and hypertension) I should have just stopped there, kept tabs on my blood work and then worked on addressing my depression and anxiety, my home life, my career and my relationships. Instead, I got sucked into Diet Culture and carried on losing weight because of my BMI and the scale, told me I wasn't done yet. And because everyone I knew praised me for now taking up less space and told me (for the first time in my life) that I looked amazing.
I neglected all other areas of life and clogged up vital headspace for introspection, in favour of over-analysis in just one area of my life: calorie control and weight loss. The world just continued telling me what I should eat, how I should move, how I should look. Taking my money in exchange for the many tools required to get me closer to society's preferred body type.
What's really interesting to me, is that although I hadn't stopped tracking or logging at the time, my weight had still crept up right in front of me. I wanted to turn to food for comfort when I was going through really tough times in my life, because food had become a 'treat', raised up on a pedestal for me, to be 'earned after I had burned'. It eventually became clear to me, that focusing on dieting and weight loss, literally had the reverse effect.
Have you ever told a toddler not to touch something, only for them to wait until your back is turned and immediately reach out for it?
Dieting (calorie counting, macro counting, whatever you want to call it) works just like that too. (Top tip: 'forbidden' food loses its allure when you realize it's not forbidden and you can have it anytime you want).
Growing up, no one ever stopped to ask me what I really needed or wanted in life beyond my weight, body and food (hmm let's see...career guidance, affordable housing, access to mental health services, help with parental care.. to name a few!). Everyone instead focused on my bra size, the width of my thighs, how much I ate (or didn't) and whether boys were attracted to me.
The western world isn't shouting at women to search for the better things in life, instead, the western world tells women to focus on how they look, how much space they take up and how much food they'll ration for themselves.
Think of how much you could accomplish in your life and how much would change overnight, if instead of fixating on weight and food consumption, you used all of that energy to address, change and fix all the other areas of your life and wider society.
When I began to focus on my overall life, my relationships, ambitions, mental health and home life, I lost the focus on my weight loss efforts completely. I just didn't care about it because it seemed so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. You might be surprised to know that, I didn't become pre-diabetic or hypertensive again or even bounce back up to my highest weight. I didn't take to uncontrollable binge eating every night of the week because I'd lost control.
Instead, I actually ate healthier, because I saw food for its different flavours and for how it made me feel (energized vs sluggish, full vs unsatisfied), instead of reducing it down to numbers and emotionally disconnecting from the human experience of eating. Exercise stopped being about burning calories, and became a way to clear my mind, and give me mental space and peace to think through my life problems and return to my desk with inspiration.
My ability to focus on my work improved. My mental health drastically improved because I consciously made time to process past trauma and emotions. My relationships became more authentic and deeper. My social life felt much more rewarding. I had time to learn about finance, business and psychology, which all had a massive impact on my personal life and will have a knock-on effect on my career. My self-confidence has improved because I finally realized that my intelligence and abilities will always have much more of an impact on the world than a change in dress size ever could. My sense of purpose is defined and finally, know where I'm going in life and what I've striving for.
My life didn't come crashing down after gaining some of the weight I'd lost back. It didn't make a bit of difference in fact. Not even to my health or fitness! Instead, I gained my mind and life back after quitting weight loss.
So Thin Planet, with your smug, smiling fat-club promoting banner, you might think you're going to save the world from an obesity crisis by shaming a few women out of ordering a curry one day. But what you're actually doing is distracting us from real problems in the world, and our internal problems, by forcing us to blame all our misery on the number we see between our feet. All while trashing our mental health and our relationship with food, exercise & our bodies.
No thank you Just Another Fat Club, I won't be joining today. On Monday. In January. Or ever.
If you'd like to improve your health & fitness without the icky dieting and weight loss stuff being bashed over your head, you'll love my free 6 Week course and ebook bundle: The Health Mindset Starter Kit. You might also like to join The Health Mindset Programme, where we focus on diet recovery, body confidence, body awareness and Intuitive Eating.