Mental Health & Wellbeing

The Dreaded “D” Word…

I refer, of course to D I E T

A four letter word that is offensive, upsetting,  disappointing, obsessive, demeaning.  A word that more often than not, in all its four letter innocence, leads to failure and disappointment.  A word that has made a few people millions. A word that has left millions of women (and men) fatter than they began.

Its a word that sounds simple yet is complex beyond belief; a word that promises easy solutions and delivers lies and shattered hopes.

Over the years (say from aged 18 to now – which is a few decades)  I have only ever lost weight twice.  The first occasion I was already a willowy teenager with little spare flesh anyway but I had gastric flu and couldn’t hold anything down for a week.  The balance quickly restored as my health returned.  The second time was two years ago when I believed I had found the easy solution in the capable hand of Dr Eades and his multi-million pound best seller “How to Lose your Middle Aged Middle”.  I lost a stone and a half.  I regained two stone.

That’s the issue with these diet- Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Atkins, Cabbage Soup, Grapefruit, Boiled Egg, Feast & Fast, Low Carb, Low Fat…..  they work if you don’t cheat.  They don’t always provide a pleasant lifestyle eating solution for the future.  They are a chore,  they rely on you eating differently from the rest of your family,  They make it nearly impossible to enjoy social gatherings.  Protein shakes, weighing everything, special packets, unsociable flatulence!!  Whatever diet undertaken, it will have its rules.  My diet two years ago made me (and hubby) completely anti social.  At the time it only succeeded because my partner was doing it too.  and, to be honest, at the time, I did for the first time ever think ” this is easy, why can’t everyone do it”.  In hindsight, it was completely unsustainable.  We didn’t go to friends houses as there was nothing we could eat at a vegetarian dinner party.  We weren’t drinking anything, not even a cup of tea  .  going to the pub was a bore and a temptation, No cafe, restaurant, hotel, party, coffee morning.  We pretty much stayed at home.

When I went back to weekend treats and social eating the weight piled back on and then super ceded the original start point.

The facts are that most of us love food, social eating, parties etc.  Most diets in reality are a chore,  Most diets are doomed to failure, if not at the time then after they finish.  Statistically, I read, the majority of people who engage in a diet gain more weight after the diet than they lost during it.

Diets lie.  I read an interesting, humourous article in (dare i say it) the Daily Mail’s “Femail” section this week (also printed in Good Housekeeping).  The article could have been written by me, it was like the words were falling from my own mouth.  Entitled  “Can’t lose weight? How pathetic. You just need willpower”.  The title got my back up initially and I wasn’t going to read it.  I’m glad I did.  Carol Sarler, knew the diet lies.  She knew that most diets meant being hungry at times, eating things you don’t like, tasteless food, self denial and misery.

She said the words that we all know and we all are too scared to speak.  The only way to lose weight is with willpower.  Whether using a diet and helping fill the coffers of the diet gurus or by reducing your own intake.  You will at times feel hungry and you will have to accept that.

She also said the other thing that we all choose to ignore.  Diet gurus make us stupid.  We all know that a fried potato is worse for you than a lettuce leaf or even a boiled potato.  We all know that a cake is fattening, that half a broken biscuit when no-ones looking is cheating.

The only real way to lose and maintain weight loss is to really want to do it and really have the willpower to do so.  It can only happen through consuming less calories than you use.  Which means that you will, almost certainly , at times feel hungry and have to choose not to satisfy that hunger. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.

If you are one of the lucky few who can follow and is happy to follow a ‘guru-led’ diet then lucky you.  Well done for you willpower, congratulations on your weight loss and long may you be at your achieved goal weight. You are one of the rare few.

If you are one of the many millions who diet unwillingly to comply with social stereotypes and media imagery telling you that your perfectly healthy size 12/14 body is ugly, then I beg you to stop and look instead at what is making you unhappy to be you.

If however, you are like me, one of the many many millions of people who, if honest with ourselves know we overeat, cheat and lie to ourselves, fool ourselves, then our only answer is going to come from within.  We have an unhealthy relationship with food, whether we admit it or not.  And deep down we know our weight is affecting our health.  I don’t have a simple solution.  I don’t actually have any solution; I can only sympathise.  I have no easy answer and neither did Carol Sarler.  I am still overweight myself.

We are so entrenched in our unhealthy relationships that no amount of bad knees, backache, failing joints, acid reflux, pending diabetes worry ,misery over our own self image; will make losing our excess weight any easier.

We are not amongst the rich and famous with our personal dietician, chef, trainer. Even our healthcare system doesn’t support us.   How many of us have been to the doctors (whilst overweight if we were truly honest with ourselves) for back ache, bad knees or hips, breathing problems, digestive problems and been treated for the symptoms?   However, shouldn’t they have discussed with us the cause, made us face up to our various food obsessions, been able to offer us some dietary support?  Dealt with us holistically?

I can take acid reflux medication for my whole life but surely I would be better off eating more healthily and dropping a couple of stone.  I’m sure my health problems would be relinquished if I did that.  However so damaged are our psyches that we live in denial, our subconscious selecting to ignore the real and obvious facts and real and obvious solution.  That is  that we would alleviate our symptoms if we ate different amounts of food and didn’t weight so much.

Is it politically incorrect to say such a thing.?  I wonder how many of us are on life long medications and have both minor and serious illnesses that would be alleviated or even disappear completely, if we could control our weight.  I wonder with even more alarm, how many of us undergo surgery rather than accept with honesty that are symptoms are largely exacerbated by our weight.  We have such an unhealthy relationship with our eating habits that we even ‘go under the knife’ instead of facing reality.  So entrenched is our national bad relationship with food and our collective unwillingness to face up to it.  How much, I wonder does this denial cost our NHS.  How much does it cost us as individuals? What is the cost to our families, our quality of life, our enjoyment of old age?  We live a long time these days.  I want my later years to be active, exciting, mobile.  Do I want it enough to face my demon, and face the only truth that will get me there.  The answer can only come from within, but I have not yet found the way to tap it.  And neither have the majority of us.

This is the ONLY TRUTH and  everything else is only fooling myself:

” I am overweight because I consume more calories than I use & I need to find the willpower to stop for the benefit of my health and my future”

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