Any regular readers of BHT will know that I’ve been on a weight loss kick since last September and so far, I’ve done pretty well. Since then I’ve lost a stone and five pounds. Over the months a few people have asked me about how I did it, what kind of diet I used and do I have any advice for them. I’m always reluctant to say anything- I’m not a doctor and I don’t know what will work for other people. I’m also coming from a place where I spent years hating my body quite intensely and comfort eating to an alarming degree. A lot of the people who asked me about weight loss were also not overweight themselves, which really changes the game. The difference between losing a stone when you’re already 3 stone too heavy is very different to dropping nine pounds from the upper threshold of a healthy weight. I didn’t really diet so much as I started weight watchers, which is cool because it’s more about monitoring how much you eat and the quality of that amount- basically what a diet should be with no gimmicks. That idea of ‘not eating like you’re preparing to hibernate’ served me pretty well, and then I started exercising, which has got me going again.
I’ve become aware of the fact that once you start losing weight, it does become a sort of personal challenge, and I’ve begun to beat myself up a lot when I don’t lose anything for a few weeks. Not out of anger at how I look (I look and feel fantastic overall compared to a year ago when I’d just eat another bag of crisps and cry) but because not losing makes me think I’ve started ‘slipping back’ on my good habits and that I’ve done something wrong. I think I’ve discovered the root of my problem- the fucking Bathroom scales.
owning the number
We recently got a lot of work done in the house and part of the work was a shiny new bathroom with shiny new tiles and a shiny new bathroom scales. We’ve never had a scales in the house before; as a teenager I’d weigh myself at my grandmothers on her absolutely flawless set of scales from 1980 but because that wasn’t a regular thing I wasn’t able to put the number on the scale into context. Until I was 17 I didn’t know what my healthy weight ought to be. I just had the vague knowledge that I was some degree of ‘fat’ and lived with it. When I started weight watchers I got used to being weighed once a week. Being weighed once a week is brilliant. It’s just long enough to keep a watch on it but also not so long that you can do any serious damage. I’ve never gone up by more than 4 pounds in one week before I brought it back down. But then we got the scales in the house.
It started that I’d just ‘check it’ on a Sunday to make sure I was keeping on track to losing that week. Then it was every time I had a shower. Then it was every morning. The scales became a daily habit, something to tick off having done. Since we got them in February, I haven’t lost any weight. I just go up and down around the figure of 13 stone. And every single day the needle would stay on that number and madden me. I began to get very depressed. Even my dad noticed, which means it must have been bad. I started skipping meals and fasting, which is just fucking stupid. it was my dad who actually had the quote that snapped me out of the mindset- ‘Up a pound or down a pound, it doesn’t fuckin’ matter- you’re still alive you know!’
I finally understand what people meant when they cautioned me not to get obsessed with my weight. Having a scales there every day in open view is a nightmare, because weighing in every day is pointless- having a cup of tea can add on a pound, peeing can take it off again – at least when it’s once a week you can take that number away and work on it. So no more daily weigh ins and no more depression sessions about it. The amount of frustration and reduction that number creates is frightening- no matter how fit or good you feel that day, it still marks you down as ‘fat’. Not fun. See I like the Weight Watchers model- I know it sounds strange, going in to get weighed. It does *sound* very judge-y, but I’ve always found it to be a very positive way of keeping a handle on things. The person running the class is usually someone who has successfully lost weight themselves (personally, my local weight watchers leader is HILARZ) and it’s always framed in a very positive manner. Obviously not for everyone and at a tenner a week, not the sort of thing everyone can afford, but I’ve found it useful.
So yeah, fuck bathroom scales, fuck daily weigh ins and fuck that level of body monitoring. It’s scary how easy it is to fall into that habit and how natural it feels- even now, I have the itch to go and check my weight even though I was weighed AT 6PM THIS EVENING. It’s scary. My only advice to anyone trying to lose weight is this- only weigh yourself once a week. And do it in the morning or just before you go to bed. And do a big poo before you get on the scales.
One thing that has become clear to me is that eating a healthy diet, avoiding fast food and just generally trying to moderate my comfort eating has taken me as far as I can go with this whole journey. I still feel quite doughy and unfit, while having this lighter, more mobile body that I can put to use. So I tried running for a bit which was a disaster. I’m just still too darn heavy and my knees were bearing the brunt of that. Swimming is a lot of fun but it’s a pain getting out to my pool now so instead I managed to get what I’ve been hankering after for a while- a brand new bicycle.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a shop that stocked Penny farthings (Actually that was fortunate because they’re actually really hard to ride). It had to fit two important criteria
1- sturdy enough to cope with moderately long cycles
2- girly enough so that my brothers wouldn’t ever be inclined to ‘borrow’ it.
The second criteria ruled out anything like a racer and my childhood of bounding around on a series of rusty mountain bikes has left me with a bias against them. I finally found a nice heavy roadster that looked nice.
They see me rollin’, they hatin’
So I set out for the first time and tried cycling around my area. The great thing about cycling is that you can feel like the cat’s pyjamas rolling out of the drive way and speed through your estate to the coast all in fifth gear, then you turn around to go home and find a subtle uphill climb waiting for you. There’s something very satisfying about it. It’s the same sort of satisfaction I got from walking, except you go faster and farther. There is a strange, simple satisfaction found in bringing yourself to a new place by the force of your own feet (and some forgiving down hill slopes). As exercising, it’s rewarding. You sweat all over and your knees feel like jelly.
The honeymoon was short. After a day, I had my first puncture and after 2 days had my first crash into a parked car on an empty road. The next day my mother came home with a hi vis vest and shouts at me if I don’t wear it.
BUT, the best thing about cycling everywhere isn’t the weight loss part of it (I actually haven’t gotten any lighter since I started- I’ve gone up a little bit because I’m eating more and making myself crave sugar). The best part is after three weeks starting to feel my body get a bit leaner and fitter. Hills are still an absolute BASTARD but I’m recovering faster and I’m lasting longer. now that I’ve got a feeling of control over my weight and my body, I can actually do fun things with it. That was my problem all along- I didn’t have a weight problem, I had a control problem. I felt utterly powerless and out of control when it came to my body. I was a slave to my compulsive eating, which meant I was a slave to being overweight, and then a slave to whatever clothes they had in my sizes.
It’s nice to feel like you’re putting your body to good use rather than just losing weight to sit around and look better. Being lighter means I can actually do stuff that before was just so fucking hard. Seriously no lie, I had a mountain bike last year and every hill I came to I had to get off and wheel the thing up. I was just too goddamn heavy to pedal myself up the hill. The bike was constantly punctured and I’m pretty sure that was a combination of being an old bike and being unable to carry my weight. Probably the best thing about getting fit again though is all the time I spend on my bike is time spent thinking about blogs and writing, which I’d fallen out of doing since my commute ended.
So in summation- Bathroom Scales bad, Cycling good.
Niamh ‘Can all car drivers please look for cyclists before they fling their doors open onto the road’ Keoghan