I went to the doctor with cripplingly bad period cramps. I wanted the pill so the pain that stopped me in my tracks every month would stop. So I trotted along to the doctor, in a hoodie that I assumed made me look okay. I explained to her the pains, the crushing depression I felt, the irrational anxiety and the general discomfort that was beginning to effect my work. She nodded, and then briskly glanced me over. She said the worst thing I’ve ever heard.
‘I wouldn’t be happy putting you on the pill with your weight.’
The bottom dropped out of my stomach. The fact that she had this doubt from only glancing at me was the worst part. To confirm her suspicion she weighed me and took my height. I was 5 foot 3 and I was 14 stone, 5 and a half pounds.
She kept using the word ‘obese’. my BMI was 34. I was too overweight- too obese- to get the pill. She asked me if I needed the pill for contraception (Who the fuck would bed me when I’m this huge was my first upset thought) and I replied no, I only wanted it for my period. All I wanted was the pain to stop. My weight was something else. Help me with my immediate problem, please. Make the horrible dark depression and the knot of worry in my chest go away. Make my hormones behave. The two major problems of my life- the loud and immediate one of crippling hormonal imbalance and the silent, unspoken problem of my weight- had clashed in mid air and sent me spinning. The doctor began to quiz me about my diet and all the charisma and wit just leaked out of me, all my words were lost. I just wanted to cry. She wrote me out a prescription for painkillers and handed me some pamphlets on weight loss.
I managed to make it to the bench outside the medical centre and dial my mother before I cracked and burst into tears. Haltingly, I managed to explain to my mum what happened- In the confused final moments of my appointment as I tried to hold in the wave of tears the doctor had forgotten to give me my painkiller prescription, so here I sat- 14 stone 5 and a half pounds, five foot three, empty handed and heartbroken. Not only was my periods problem still unsolved but the other, previously silent problem, had lunged at my jugular. My mortal fear has always been that I will someday become so obese I won’t be able to move. Since the age of 11, I have consistently gotten heavier and heavier and never managed to put weight off.
I’d tried all summer- Over the summer I swam and went to the gym four days a week. I walked ten kilometers, listening to angry rock songs. I jogged, heavy and sweating until my knees hurt all around my estate. I didn’t weigh myself but it was clear I was getting no lighter. My previous failed effort to be ‘fit’ made the humiliation in the doctor’s even worse.
My mother was characteristically positive about the whole thing. ‘Well tonight we’ll have our last chocolate bar, and we’ll look up classes for weight watchers, Niamh.’ My mother is a seasoned weight watcher. She successfully lost her weight in the 1980s, but recent attempts hadn’t been so successful. We made a pact to do it together, and banish the extra pounds.
9 weeks later, I’ve lost a stone. I am 13 stone, five and half pounds. That’s still overweight but it’s a good start, and way more than my original outlook for 2 months. Losing a stone of what was essentially dead weight is strange. Having never lost weight successfully before, There are a few things I’ve noticed-
1) nobody ever tells you how you feel when you’re lighter. Oh sure you know you’re going to look different but that feeling goes right down to your bones- right down to the now-visible bump of your collar bone and the the protrusion of your hip bones when you lie on your back. The simple joy of being lighter- of running faster, of having less of yourself to move around- is wonderful.
2) The period pains are less bad. I don’t know if this is just me, but my first period after losing 14 pounds was like a pleasant boat ride across calm water compared to the raging fishing trawler-lost-at-sea storm that my month used to become. My body just got on with it, and paracetamol dealt with the cramps. The crushing depression didn’t wash over me; my anxiety came to gnaw at night but it was nothing like the months before it.
3) Orgasms are a million times better. Enough said.
4) Food is nicer. When I was mindlessly, compulsively eating for comfort, constantly and consistently upsetting myself I didn’t actually enjoy my food. Now that I’m thinking about it and really reflecting on what I want (Generally when asked ‘do I want the burrito?’ I still, nine times out of ten, want that burrito). I’m never starving, but I’m pleasantly hungry for dinner, I’m pleasantly peckish for lunch and I’m empty in the mornings for breakfast. Sweet things are sweeter, sour things are tarter and honey in tea is beautiful. I’m not worried constantly anymore, I’m not guilty- I broke the hold my diet had over me. With Weight Watchers you can eat whatever you like, within your given points allowance. Each day you get about 30 points and you spend them on meals and snacks. It makes you become economical and thoughtful about it.
5) Teamwork is the best thing ever. Between us, my mum and I have done better than we ever would have dreamed of doing alone. Having a partner for meals, for walks and to celebrate small victories with is the best. GO TEAM
So I still have a way to go- My target is somewhere in the region of 11 stone, I can’t remember right now. That miserable day in the doctor’s office turned into the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I really want to go back to that doctor now and tell her I need the pill for all the CRAZY FUCKING I’m getting up to now that I’m not deliriously unhappy with my body. The only way is down.
Niamh ‘biggest loser in more ways than one’ Keoghan