I was a chubby child. No doubt about it! My grandmother looked after me while my mum worked full time and I most days I would eat 2 dinners – one with her and one with my mum when she got home! Greedy? Yes. Did I know any better? No.
I liked sweets. I ate a lot of sweets. And chips (or French fries if you aren’t British) were our staple diet in a working class household in South Wales, UK. Money was tight and nutrition was something that hadn’t really arrived in our village!
We were all fat. My mum, my grandad and my grandmother.
The defining moment for me when food became my “go to” – my comforter and place of solice….was the day my grandmother died. At 9 years old, I came home from school to find her dead on the floor. She was only 56 years old and had had a massive heart attack. She smoked 40 cigarettes every day and was overweight.
I remember looking through the narrow slit in the letterbox and seeing her body slumped on the ground in the kitchen doorway. I had no clue what was wrong….maybe she wasn’t feeling too good…..I didn’t even know what death was. It was my first encounter. I rushed to a neighbours to tell them that my “mam” couldn’t answer the door. And our neighbour, luckily fit and strong, managed to get into the house through the open kitchen sky light. I was taken to play cards and later that night my mother told me that my mam had gone to heaven.
“Can I go too? When can we go and see her?”
The response of a 9 year old child who just wanted life to continue as normal.
For months afterward it bothered me that I couldn’t remember our last conversation. My anger set in and I started to eat. I remember talking to myself a lot, sitting and crying and asking myself why God had to take my mam. I was angry with him for hurting me. And so I ate. Anything I could get my hands on. I just couldn’t stop and neither did I want to. It was something nice amidst all of the hurt. My mum, not knowing what to do and consumed by her own grief (grief counselling for kids hadn’t arrived in our village either by the way – just not the done thing in 1984….) took me to a very well known Slimming Group.
As an only child, with a dad who refused to acknowledge me (that is another story I’ll have to tell you about another time) I had already developed this need to be the best – to be good enough! To prove that I was worthwhile.
And so the diet was a huge success. I stuck to it – restricted and deprived myself for 12 months – lost 5 stone, got my gold pin and lifetime membership and then quicker than I had lost it – gained it all back. As soon as I started eating again – I just couldn’t stop – it was like a switch in my brain….moderation was absent from my life and everything was black and white thinking – and if I was being bad – I was being bad….
So the yoyo dieting began. Binge eating on high carb foods, a wardrobe that included clothes from a UK size 8 – 20 and a friend I loved to hate.
Don’t get me wrong – from the age of about 16 – 25 I was very slim and relatively fit. I knew how to control my calorie intake – I’d been brainwashed to eat everything low fat. It’s what we thought was good for us in the 80’s and 90’s… But I was not healthy. My relationship with my “friend” had never been healthy. It was about control, restriction, reward, guilt and deprivation.
You get the picture right?!
So to bounce from a svelte, athletic, successful career woman to a big fat, frumpy, miserable mum of 3 really was no surprise to anyone who has known me over 3 decades…. And I guess I just gave up. I accepted that I was supposed to be fat…. And you know, if you are healthy and happy then that is OK right….It is OK to be you and be comfortable in your own skin. It really isn’t about what we look like. But it was wrong for me. I was so unhappy, so consumed by my lack of control. My failure.
It was kind of wrapped up in health – but that was something that didn’t really click with me until recently when I realised I was not exempt from health issues – I was not invincible…..You see, I was far from healthy. I suffered with depression…I comfort ate…I felt guilty and depressed….I ate more……and before I knew it I was sat in a doctors surgery age 40 being told I had given myself type 2 diabetes and I would have to inject insulin every day….
That was the smack in the face I had been waiting for. If I wasn’t careful I would be that hunched cold, dead body on the kitchen floor that I’d witnessed as a child.
But there was a glimmer of hope. My doctor told me it was reversible with diet and exercise but I needed to lose about 40kg. Of course with an insulin issue burning fat becomes more difficult!
That day I contacted a health coach to help me with nutrition. I found a personal trainer, whose physique was so inspirational I just knew she knew how to burn fat….. and I pressed RESET.
I began learning about my condition – educated myself on the science of nutrition with books and documentaries.
And for 5 months now I have changed my relationship with my frenemy….. I am learning about the nutritional aspects of food – the healing aspects of food – learning not to reward or punish myself with food…. And learning how to live a healthy lifestyle.
I’m 25kg down…. I am aiming to reverse my type 2 diabetes, better manage my auto immune disease through a combination of food, supplements and medication. I am refocusing on my growth, my self esteem and my happiness.
I’m making food my friend. I have banished the frenemy of carb loaded dependency…. And I am on the road to recovery. Because that is what it is….just like any addict. I am a recovering food addict.
I’m learning to accept that what is past is past and does not need to shape today. I’m learning to stop crucifying myself if I do have the odd bit of cake or chocolate.
At age 41 I feel like I am now learning to have a healthy relationship with my body…. It’s the only place I have to live after all.
So…. this is the first and last time you will hear me talk about how I got into such an awful mess….From here on in it’s about making progress….hitting goals, changing behaviours and mindsets and most importantly having fun and living life with my amazing family and friends.