On 22 August last year I very trepidatiously stepped into a gym. I weighed 126.6kg – 3kg down from my heaviest weight of over 129kg. (Now, I confess, I did cheat a bit – having two major cancer surgeries removed a few bits and a kilo or so. My doctor tells me those kilos “don’t count”. I say all’s fair in weight-loss and surgery!)
The week before, I rang the gym and spoke to a nice man called Peter who said, based on my height, I should aspire to be around 72kg and that would take 12-18 months solid work.
I was taken aback. 72kg! 12-18 months??? Oh, no, no, no! I wasn’t up for extreme weight loss. I wanted – needed – to drop back to a weight at which I remembered being fairly comfortable and feeling just a little bit sexy, but that was taking things too far.
“No!” I said, perhaps too abruptly. “I’m not looking to go that far. I worked out if I can lose 1kg per week I’ll be around 95kg by next Easter. That’s all I’m aiming for.”
“OK,” he said, “It’s up to you.”
I signed up for the gym and started on a very low impact 30 minute workout. I also started eating ‘clean’ and reducing my portion sizes. Early in the piece, someone suggested I use My Fitness Pal to track my calories and that has been hugely helpful in keeping me ‘honest’.
Once I worked out how many calories per day I could eat and still lose 1kg, I just kept to that.
The mantra, “If what you’re doing is working just keep doing it,” kept me off the chocolate eclairs and on the treadmill.
Because one tends to lose more than 1kg per week in the very early stages of weight loss, I reached the 95kg target well before Easter 2014.
“Oh well!” I thought, “Might as well keep going until Easter and aim for 90kg.”
So, I did, and got there pretty much on target.
“That wasn’t so bad,” I thought. “Maybe I should just lose another 5kg so I can hover between 85 and 90.”
But, at 85, I found I was between two sizes (14 and 16) and it made buying clothes difficult.
So I thought, “What the hey! Another few weeks and I can get down to 80 and be a comfortable size 14.”
At 80kg, I decided to try for 78kg so I could do the ‘hover’ thing. 78kg became my new ‘target’ because I knew that I didn’t want to be super skinny and it was a weight at which I’d be very comfortable. This was the weight I was in my 20s. Then, because of the pressure put on women, I thought I was fat. Now, I was determined to be 78kg and wallow in the knowledge it is definitively not fat!
And today I reached that goal. Thursday 31 July 2014, 11 months and one week after I began, I weighed in at 77.9kg.
Now – don’t laugh – I will lose a little bit more just to allow for weight fluctuation, but really, that’s it. I’m done. The ‘weight loss project’ is over and now the hard work of maintaining it begins.
I don’t expect it to be hard. I didn’t go ‘on a diet’ so I won’t be changing the way I eat .- although I may allow myself three pieces of chocolate instead of two, a sandwich for lunch instead of a fruit platter, and a meringue with my coffee (on occasion).
I won’t go back to drinking alcohol – I don’t miss it; although I won’t knock back the occasional celebratory glass either.
And I will keep exercising – although five days a week at the gym is not on my long-term (or even short-term) agenda. I do try to do something – walk, gym, swim or gardening – for an average of 45 minutes per day. I’m not sure where the limits are with this new stage, but I’ll find them and, when I do, I’ll stick with whatever works.
There are some things I’ve learned on this journey, which I’d like to share.
The most helpful, supportive thing that anyone did for me was to tell me I was ‘hot’ just the way I was – that the size or shape of my body had nothing to do with how they felt about me. Then, they both supported and delighted in my decision to lose the weight because it pleased me and they wanted me to be fit and happy and confident. Not once did they make a derogatory remark about of how I used to look or question my weight loss decisions. They just stood on the sidelines admiringly and said, “Well done!”
That, was a gift beyond measure. It was the nicest, most precious thing anyone has ever done for me.
My friends and readers have also been hugely supportive and tolerant of the barrage of selfies and breathless “down another dress size” posts when they signed up to follow me for religious and political comment. For those who are sick to death of the weight loss thing, I’ll try to ease back on it now. To those who’ve shared my excitement and had fun joining in with my personal transformation, I say “Thank you! You’re weird, but you’re wonderful.”
So many people think they can bully or shame people into weight loss. It’s counter-productive. One (immediately ex) boyfriend said, “You used to be so beautiful … what happened?”
And most women have heard the ‘well-meaning’ comment, “You have such a lovely face, you’d be so beautiful if you just dropped a few kilos.”
You know what? I think I was beautiful before I lost weight. All that’s changed now is that clothes shopping is easier and more fun. I haven’t morphed into Elle McPherson. I’ve still got droopy boobs and a soft puppy tummy – I’m not perfect and I don’t want to be. I embrace my imperfections – they tell the story of my life. I like to think they give me character. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!
I don’t think women should lose weight or should have to lose weight. I just think you need to find out where you’re happy. I was happy being fat for a lot of years because it served a purpose. Then, there came a point where that protective layer of flesh just seemed – well – superfluous. It was like a winter coat in the middle of summer. I just felt I didn’t need it any more.
It’s about agency, not expectations. And I don’t think it’s helpful to suggest to a person who’s wearing a winter coat because they need it to keep warm – perhaps even to stay alive – that they should take it off. Let them decide what to do, when and if the season of their life changes, and support their decision.
I’ve changed the decor in my house recently because I’ve changed. ‘Country cottage’ didn’t seem to reflect me any more. I’ve gone for a weird mix of French provincial/modern steampunk/eccentric Edwardian explorer’s study. It wouldn’t suit everyone’s taste but then, neither do I. (Here’s hoping ’empty bank account’ suits the new me, because redecorating – even via eBay and Gumtree – ain’t cheap!)
The redecoration is not a revolutionary change – it’s an update – a bit of zhushing. That’s a bit how I feel about the weight loss. There came a point when my life was changing and I looked at my body and thought, “Who the fuck is this? It’s not me anymore. It’s not what I feel like inside. It’s not who I want to be now.”
For me, losing weight was about being reassured that I was beautiful, nurtured, loved and admired just-the-way-I-was; that my worth as a woman or as a human being did not depend on my body. Somehow, that realisation set me free to embark on a journey to discover ‘the real me’. That doesn’t mean larger me wasn’t real. It just meant that I changed, my view of myself changed, so the soft-furnishings had to go.
Of course, it hasn’t just been about the size of my body. It’s been about reassessing my life, my priorities, my goals, my attitudes and my ambitions. At the beginning of the year I chose “Defying Gravity” as my theme song and although my boobs seem not to have complied with the directive, I think the rest of me has done pretty well.
So here I am. “Mischief managed” as they would say in Harry Potter. I saw this sweatshirt on sale at Big W last week and I thought, “That’s it! That’s what I want to wear the day I reach my goal.”
And, here I am.