Last Sunday my brother went into hospital, and was treated for a heart attack. It wasn’t one, thankfully – after tests it was shown to be a virus – but it scared me. I love my brother, obviously, but it wasn’t just that. He’s vegetarian, doesn’t smoke or drink, and walks a lot. The whole time I was worrying about him, I was annoyed that it wasn’t me instead. It seemed very unfair.
I’ve always been fat – I was pudgy as a child, but then I broke my leg at 8 and spent 10 weeks in traction. My leg was weak and made sport difficult at school, and the puppy fat which probably should have gone hung around. I was also bullied in junior school, not by other children but by a teacher, and then ostracised in high school for being intelligent, a lesbian, or weird. These sound like excuses – its really not, it’s all just background.
With no disrespect to my parents, my emotions were not especially encouraged. If I was emotional due to any of these events in a negative way, I was told I was either hungry or tired, so I was fed or put to bed. I still do these things for myself as coping mechanisms. It means my weight has stayed high for almost all of my adult life. Food has always been emotionally charged, and as such carries a lot of guilt.
I went to university at 20 – I missed my boyfriend, and was bullied by younger girls in my halls for such crimes as cleaning the toilet and eating broccoli. I ended up living alone and my emotional eating habits coupled with opportunity developed into an eating disorder. I’d always been an over-eater, but now my nerves caused me to be sick as well, so bulimia was almost inevitable. I got counselling, and got over it quickly.
I did lose a lot of weight a few years ago – 8 stone to be exact – by following Weight Watchers and going to the gym almost daily. I was in the best shape of my life. I lost the weight to try and adopt a baby, but was told at size 18 I was still too overweight, and denied the chance of a child. I stopped trying to lose weight, got depressed and ended up having a nervous breakdown.
My anti-depressants made drinking alcohol impossible due to the hangovers, so I decided that now I wasn’t drinking, I would allow myself to eat what I wanted, without guilt, for the first time ever. It was also decided that being alive and fat is better than being dead. As most people on anti-depressants will have experienced, they do tend to cause weight gain anyway, so in conjunction with me eating cheese and cake, I put all the weight back on.
Unfortunately my medication also caused the disgusting side-effect of making me want to smoke. Before venlafaxine, I’d only smoked a couple of cigarettes in my whole life. To this day I don’t know why, but these pills made me want to smoke. We also decided that being alive and smoking was better than being dead. Ok, it was only three menthol cigarettes a day, but it’s still smoking.
Now, three years later, the legacy of these decisions is taking its toll. Yes, I’m alive, but I’m now more overweight, as well as being a smoker. I’ve also started drinking again as my dosage has been lowered, and I’ve got used to the hangovers. I find myself, ironically, in the worst physical health of my life instead.
Part one of changing was easy – I stopped smoking. I knew it would save me money (and being self-employed this is important) – so I just didn’t buy any cigarettes. That was about 6 weeks ago, and despite being a bit snappy now and again, it was easy. Sorry.
I’ve also been following @bangsandabun on twitter, and enjoy reading about Bangs on the Run, if not just for the fact it makes me sing Wings every time I see it. I’ve always wanted to run – I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because I want to get where I’m going quicker with less people seeing me. At the gym I only ever walked on the treadmill, because I found it hard even doing that in a straight line.
I also enjoy reading about Peach Nia and her raw food diet. She’s adamant that what you eat affects your health to such an extreme it’s infectious. I tried making packed lunches like a graze box – nuts, dried fruit and so on – but I have to admit, delicious as they were, I didn’t keep up with it.
With these influences, Food and exercise were clearly the best areas to tackle first. Alcohol will be the last one, in case you’re wondering. I don’t think I can stand having no emotional crutches at all.
I actually only ever eat four times a day. I know this is hard for some people to understand. I am overweight because I am too sedentary and when I do eat, I still eat exactly what I want, not because I am continually grazing on sweets.
Sample food diary
Breakfast – fruit and fibre with soy milk, black coffee
Lunch – cheese and ham sandwich, black coffee
6pm – black coffee and cake
Dinner – Chinese takeaway – prawn toast, then fried rice with chicken & cashew nuts
If I counted the calories it would probably not be much more than 2000 – of course I haven’t written down the vodka and diet coke, or the fact I was sitting most of the day. But it’s woefully lacking in nutrients, has too much fat and hardly any vegetables or fruit. The new plan is to eat at the same times, but different things. It’s not rocket surgery.
Exercise-wise I always loved the rowing machine at the gym, so I’m going to try and find a cheap second-hand rowing machine, and get using it so I am a bit fitter before I even try and run. I don’t have a decent pair of trainers anyway so rather than hurt myself trying to do something I’ve never done before, I’ll do something I enjoy until I buy trainers.
I appear to have rambled. I clearly had more to say on how I got to where I am than I thought. It all seemed important enough to not be edited out. As I said at the start, they are not excuses, not in the slightest. They are merely a way to show how someone can be enormous, but it isn’t because they are lazy, eat five breakfasts, or gorge on boxes of chocolates all night.
My point was I’m fat, smoke, drink and have a sedentary job – if my brother’s cardiac event had been a heart attack I would have felt only guilt that it wasn’t me, not relief. Instead, I’m going to be grateful for it being a wake-up call, and live a little better every day.