As I say in my blog tagline, I am “Forever battling with diets, huge bras and high street dresses.”
I’ve written a lot about the bras and the dresses over the past year, and today I want to talk about the diets. This will be one of very few posts on this subject, and it is by no means meant to be a lecture or me telling you that to be happy you have to lose weight or any bullcrap like that, it’s just a subject I have been asked to share my experiences on, and if that’s not for you then you may want to sit this post out.
As cliché as it sounds I’ve pretty much always been that bit larger. I was fairly average sized in primary school, despite my huge bum that seems to have been around forever. And then I hit 11 and I got bigger. I was told it was puppy fat but the puppy fat never left, not that I tried very hard. I was always active, at school, I played on the girl’s football team for a few years, I was sports captain in my first and final year – more due to no one else volunteering to be honest, but it did mean that I had to do all the sports I couldn’t find participants for! The boobs arrived when I was about 15 and by then I got bullied pretty badly for being ‘fat’.
As I have said in previous posts I struggled to fit in – in every way. I struggled to fit in with my ‘cool’ college peers as I struggled to fit into size 14 TopShop dresses. I felt like I freak and went through phases of starving myself and then binging, but they never lasted very long. I come from a food loving family and anyone would find it hard to resist Sunday dinner cooked by my grandparents, or one of my Mum’s famous desserts! So I joined the college gym, visting between classes and at the end of the college day. I definitely looked and felt better, but I was still far bigger than most! I never had a problem with making friends or finding boyfriends and so it didn’t plague me, but the comments I got would, and sometimes it got a little too much.
Fast forward a few years and I find myself in New Zealand. I remember going for a bungy jump (it’s not something I’m likely to ever forget!) and they wrote my weight in kilos on my hand. I knew it was a lot but it didn’t bother me – at that point in my life I felt amazing.
I was travelling on my own, I had been surfing, hiking, sky diving, white water rafting, to the outback – my weight and size did not impact any aspect of my life whatsoever! That number was a number far higher than the one Bridget Jones gets in a tizz about, but why should my weight define me? I understood the implications of being obese – how could I not, gossip magazines were everywhere. But I didn’t feel obese. I didn’t struggle to do anything. I led an active life – yes I drank a lot of alcohol and didn’t always make the best food choices, but my weight never held me back.
After I returned home I once again became a cliché. I got a longterm boyfriend and the short story is I gained weight, a fair bit! At first I didn’t notice as it crept on, but slowly I started to cover my arms more, my size 14 skinny jeans lay untouched in the wardrobe, I started to need bigger t shirts. And I realised I was becoming a danger to myself. I remember a trip to the doctors and she weighed me. I couldn’t bear to look at the number, so much higher than when I did my bungy jump. The doctor then informed me that if I allowed my weight to increase any more then I would be at risk of preventing the birth control pill from working. She was very unpleasant about the matter and I felt awful! Sometime later at work a woman said to me “You’re a lovely girl, with a beautiful face. So when are you going to do something about the weight?”
And so I decided that, once and for all I needed to lose weight. I toyed with the idea of a quick fix, one of those liquid diets where the weight falls of. But I abstained for two reasons: I would not be able to stick to that way of life, and I feared the loose skin I would be left with.
It’s been four months since I made the decision to lose weight. To be honest it’s actually closer to 13 years, but I’m not that good at diets! So far in the last four months I have lost just over a stone, which is pretty poor progress but better than gaining weight!
Going to the gym has definitely helped me. Firstly I was so relieved to find out that, despite being ‘morbidly obese’ I am in fact very healthy. I have no risk of diabetes, something that I was very worried about. My glucose and cholesterol levels are perfect (it took a mere 3 months to lower my cholesterol levels from being just a shade above healthy to being well in the zone) and my blood pressure and fitness levels are spot on. I just need to lose some weight as I am still at risk of problems developing. I worry that if I fell I would break my arm and if I passed out I’d need an army to get me up. I don’t feel happy in my underwear – posed photos on the blog are one thing but the reality is not quite so kind. I fit onto train and bus seats but I don’t ever want to be at a stage where I can’t. And whilst I respect that some people are bigger than me and happy, I would also like respect to be shown for my own decisions and feelings. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me ‘but you’re not fat’, ‘you’re beautiful’ or all the other standard replies, what I see when I look in the mirror upsets me and I want to change that.
And now onto the true purpose of this post!
I try to go to the gym 3 times a week for at least an hour. My membership means that the pool and all of the classes are included and I take full advantage of everything. The PT who assessed me initially advised that I do around 30 minutes of cardio every session and finish up by doing some squats with weights, as well as attending a few classes.
Generally I got to a class every week. I like the classes as they are fun, I have no way out and I know that I am actually working hard as the routines are put together by professionals. Of course there is a worry that with classes you can feel embarrassed or do things wrong and possibly not benefit from them, but you just have to keep alert, keep pushing yourself and don’t be afraid – I’ve yet to see anyone get booed or laughed out the door! Sometimes I am the most unfit one there, sometimes I do struggle to do everything that the others do but that’s ok, the gym is there for progression. As a bigger girl I do find the bouncing around that some classes require to be quite a strain. I feel like I’m wobbling around and my trousers are falling off and I’m making a noise! But no one is watching, no one cares and I still get a lot out of being there.
When I don’t have an evening free or fancy my own company I hit the main gym. I try to pick a sports bra that is suited to what I have planned, but as I often change what I want to do when I get there it makes little difference! My Shock Absorber is fab if I want to run and it is magnificent at keeping my boobs still – in fact the only thing that bounces is my bottom! My Freya Active and Elomi Energise are the best for medium level activities – the cross trainer and hill walking. And as my Panache sports bra is a bit big for me I keep it for those lazy days when I sit and cycle.
When I go to the gym I like to stick to a piece of cardio and stay on for 45 minutes; a goal that is more often missed than hit! I try to use one piece after if I have failed or if I still have energy. I don’t have a favourite piece as it changes every time – I used to be able to zone out on my iPod for 45 minutes whilst my body did the work on a cross trainer, the next week it was all about the bike. I’m not a creature of habit! When I do use the equipment I do have to have certain distractions and items with me. I like to always have water as I drink a lot of water as it is – years of spotty skin got flushed away once my water addiction started and you will rarely see me without a bottle of water when I am out and about. I also like to have a towel to mop up the inevitable pools of sweat and my iPod. If my machine has a tv attached (and to be honest, I tend to go for those machines!) I will either watch something that looks interesting or has subtitles, or plug my headphones into it. The hardest bit of a work out for me is the ‘zoning out’, checking my time or calorie intake or who’s walking behind me really drags the session out. I do check my display every so often to see if I can push myself a bit harder or if I have done a good workout, but generally I just try to get in the zone and push myself, not so much that I have to stop every thirty seconds, but enough that I am benefitting. The tvs with the bikes are the best as they stop working if you stop working! As I have a fitted gym kit, great trainers and fab well fitted sports bras my work out is never hindered by them – unless I am very energetic and sometimes my leggings fall down a bit and my top rides up. I also like to mix things up, so if I am on the bike then I will pedal faster, then slow it down and up the resistance. The programmes on the machines are fab as well: the hill function is the best as it helps you work hard and slow in equal measures. The best thing that I have found it the hardest – hill walking. I up the incline on the running machine and speed it up to the point where I am a little out of breath and off I go. It does seem silly to come to the gym just to walk, but it helps me see how far I have gone, how many calories I may have burnt and I feel motivated.
Once I am done with the cardio machines I always move onto the weights and some floor work. As most machines that I use are leg based I do try to do a few things to target my arms as well. The best thing you can do with weights is reps. Yes you may be able to bicep curl 40kgs, but doing it once is no good, doing 20kgs 15 times and then repeating it a few times is far better. Doing weights is a welcome break from the constant slog of the cardio machines which can make it seem easy when it is in fact still hard – this is why I choose to do it after my cardio work.
I also like to play with the gym balls! My one at home lies untouched, but in the gym I seem to concoct all manner of things to do with the ball! I like to lie with my legs over it in an ‘L’ shape and do sits ups. I also like to put it between my feet, lower them out straight so they almost touch the ground and then bring the up and pass the ball to my hands, then lie straight again, hands and feel almost touching the ground and repeat. You’d be surprised at how much that works your tummy! You can just play around with the ball and often you will find some exercise that helps, whether it’s lying down with it under your feet and slowly elevating and lowering your hips, or lying on top of it and rolling yourself backwards and forwards. For me the ball is great to help me work on reducing the number or tummies I presently have, but it can be used for anything. The balls are strong enough to take pretty much anyone’s weight and I would recommend buying one for your own home if you are unlike me and can easily motivate yourself.
Occasionally I do use the pool, but like I said I need distractions and a soggy iPod isn’t a great accessory to have! I think the pool will be something I use more as the weight drops so that I can tone and also feel less terrible as I walk past the giant glass window next to the main gym room, thighs wobbling and bingo wings swinging around!
As I have said, I like the gym as it motivates me. I feel lazy if I don’t go and like I’m wasting my money, the staff there know me and say hi and that makes me want to go back as it’s a nice environment, and also so they don’t think I am skiving! If you are someone who can and does work out at home then a gym ball is a must. I also quite like skipping ropes and hula hoops as the do a great deal and are great fun. If you have a garden then get a trampoline and a fab sports bra as you want to be the only thing bouncing around. I wish I was a person who could use when it around me to lose weight, but I have tried that route and until now nothing worked.
Of course weight loss is two fold – diet and exercise. The diet has been such a hard part for me. If you saw me eating you might wonder why – my meals are veggietastic, I don’t tend to fry things or have carbs and if I do I try to have beans. But it’s my snacking that I need to keep under control. I never know if I am hungry or bored but suddenly I’m a chocolate bar down and feeling guilty. The best thing for me would be to fill my house with healthy options and up my will power. It’s a slow struggle, but I am not as bad as I used to be. Like I said I drink a lot of water, and that can sometimes satisfy my cravings, real or habitual. The best thing to remember with diets is that you don’t need to be hungry or bored or deprive yourself. Yes you may crave a pizza, but if you eat some steamed veggies and grilled fish instead you will suddenly be full and no longer crave. You can snack – just in moderation, choose healthy snacks that fill you up and satisfy what it is you want. And if you have gone a week or two without chocolate and it’s keeping you awake at night then buy a small bar and savour it! Otherwise you will be miserable and be more likely to go back to eating how you may have been before. It shouldn’t be a diet, it should be a lifestyle change. And that is the part that is proving hard for me, but slowly I hope to get my bikini body.
I wish you luck if you are also trying to make a change to your size and shape. There should be no shame in being whatever size you desire as long as you are not impacting negatively on your own life – and only you and a health professional know whether that is the case. If you are wanting to make a change then good for you. You can either be miserable at missing out on the foods you love, or saddened at what you see in the mirror. It’s great to feel empowered as a bigger woman, to say that scales don’t measure happiness and size is just a label, but if that is something that gets you down then do what you can to be happy.