My friend who is doing very well with her weight loss and exercise efforts has been leaning on me for advice and support. I like that she is addressing her issues but at the same time I very much think this whole thing is a very unique experience. I don’t think one size fits all. We can share tips and thoughts, recipes and motivation and I’m so glad that so many people do, but at the end of the day it all comes down to us, just the me, myself and I approach. I’m trying to not discourage her by encouraging her to try things for herself and not simply do exactly as I’ve done, purely because I think that is the only sure way to long term sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. It’s a little bit tricky to manage without dampening her enthusiasm.
I’m wondering if part of me doesn’t want to be held up as some kind of mogul because I’m deep down worried that I might fall off this wagon at some point, or if on the contrary, I’m deep down worried because I know that being her inspiration might make it impossible for me to wobble off the wagon… I don’t do enforcement and backed into corners very well. I’ve asked myself these questions and I truly believe that it’s none of that (I’m flashing forward now a year to when I blog about the pressure of being someone’s weight loss idol leading me back to fat and although I’m saying that flippantly my inner laughter is not too convincing), so strike ‘truly believe’ and replace with I really think that… it’s just because I want her to go on her journey not mine. She’s looking for herself and I’m looking for myself so even though I love to support and encourage her I don’t think it’s wise for her to do exactly as I’ve done.
I’ve realised in this past ten months that there are so many reasons why obesity happens and so many reasons why it can be difficult to live with and that our bodies and minds are so different, we have different abilities, different ways of storing fat, different tolerances to foods, different sleep patterns, different energy levels not to mention different interests… we’re unique. So what works for me might not work for anyone else in the whole world or it could work for a few people or a lot of people but the important thing is that it works for me and the even more important thing is we all find what works for us and not just for now, but what will work for us long term.
If we are longing for a day when we can stuff our face and gorge out on crap like we used to do then we’re not doing it right and we’re not going to succeed long term or at least we’re going to struggle more and more. I’d say we can all do that now, right now, nothing really is stopping us from stuffing our faces if we fancy it but what we’re doing and what the key to this is, is training ourselves, or re-training ourselves not to do it. While we’re doing that we’re also training ourselves to make that a conscious choice which becomes easier and easier to make over time. We’re establishing new habits and that takes time and small steps.
My friend is eager to just copy the lifestyle I have now and I keep on telling her that’s not how it happened. I didn’t wake up last April and do what I do today, heck I didn’t wake up today and do what I did last month, it is a gradual process of trial and error with food and exercise and also a big deep delve into my emotional issues, which are personal to me. There may be similarities but none of us have experienced exactly the same lives, even twins brought up in the same house with the same people at the same time don’t experience exactly the same lives because if nothing else they think differently.
All of this for me is an ongoing process and always will be, there is no end. The way I live my life healthily will change as I age, as I move geographically as what I do for a living changes, there are so many variables ahead that I know of not to mention the ones I don’t. It took lots of researching and reading and talking and listening to get here and I’m not some kind of pioneer who has done it all so everyone else can follow. I’m not fat Moses who parted the sea of lard and sugar so all fat folk could run through to Slimsville, I so wish I had done that because I know how tough it is wading through that sea and I’d love to make it easier for everyone, but I know that we all have our own sea to wade through and although people can help and inspire, cheer us on from the banks and shores and even wade along with us for parts of the crossing, it’s something we have to do for ourselves. I see myself as one of those people who is a little bit further through the sea than some people, a lot further through than others, I see myself as someone beckoning them on, cheering and shouting and waving and willing them to keep on going. But I’m also mindful that there are people ahead of me who are doing the same for me and those behind me give me a push too but ultimately I have to wade through it, there is nobody coming to lift me up and carry me over this, it’s my battle to not be one of the ones who was ahead and has now fallen behind or who never got far from the shore.
Just as our lives are a unique experience, so too are many of the micro journeys we take as we pass through this mortality of ours and living those experiences, learning from them, stumbling and falling and getting back up again are the things which make us learn, grow and succeed in the long term. This journey is one where bad old habits and associations with food are examined, understood and controlled and new healthier habits and associations are put in their place. It’s taken me years and years to develop all of the bad habits which made me weigh over 300lbs how can I expect to change everything forever in just ten months? But I can change it day by day and so can anyone else but right now might not be their time, I’ve waited 47 years for this time to come, just like I waited 19 years for the feeling that smoking was something I never wanted to do again to come. When it hits you, you know it and its up to us to recognise and go with it and if it was a Braxton Hicks type false alarm preparation which only served to lose us a few pounds or make a tiny lifestyle change in preparation for the big labour to come then so be it. But I don’t think my journey can be mapped onto someone else’s life step by step, there are lessons and tips and triumphs and thoughts and facts to share and I do that gladly but I don’t put myself out there as a weight loss guru, even though I’m perhaps better equipped than some who make a lot of money out of some very unhappy people. I couldn’t do that ever because I know it doesn’t work, my pushing 400lbs self of last April knew that and she hasn’t lost her memory along with all of those pounds. So many people stop me and ask how I did it, I’ve heard on the rumour mill that I had a gastric band, which upsets me as I’m looking way way too healthy to have gone down that route. I don’t knock it if it works for people then great but my friends who have had one look very sallow and unwell and some are left with life long conditions which I would never want to risk. I’m not about replacing one illness with another, I want to be healthy not just slim.
This is one thing we are more than allowed to be selfish with and I really advocate digging into ourselves and finding out why we do this to ourselves, why we have a problem with overeating, why we are often paralysed into inactivity and why we stuff ourselves to sickness with food when we’re not even hungry. Something in our minds, either superficial or deep within flicks a switch and sees us descend into an unhealthy misery of fat and more fat. That switch has been flicked on for years and years and we need to find what it is that operates our own personal switch, be honest and open with ourselves and get to the bottom of this issue, this condition, this illness and I believe only then can we truly start to soar and leave not just our fat bodies behind but our fat mentality too and that is so very personal and so painstaking to do and it doesn’t all just drop off like an unbuttoned coat, it is something we have to wriggle out of, like we’re shedding a skin and it takes time and manipulation and a calm approach with some frantic flailing at times. It’s not easy. When people ask me how I’ve done this I say “I’m not done, I’ll always be fighting obesity and this is a start which has been very, very tough but I’m getting there by eating healthily and moving a lot and getting to understand and love myself, God willing I will carry on with it forever.”
We’re all different we have to remember that and this is where so many weight loss plans go wrong and ultimately fail (I know there are long term successes but don’t we all know more people who regained weight than stayed slender and healthy?). Mass marketed plans are aimed at everyone who is fat, whether that’s someone who feels fat and wants to lose 7lbs to get in to a bikini for holiday or someone who is super morbidly obese who hasn’t left their couch for 5 years, they cater for someone who gained 10lbs over Christmas and someone who gained 300 pounds over a lifetime of masked pain. The problems are different, the people are different, the underlying causes may be very different and so the treatment needs to be different and for those with the real weight ‘problem’ there needs to be a holistic approach for success, but even that has to come at the right time when there is something in the head of the obese person shouting out loud and clear “the time is now” and we all know that feeling. I’ve certainly heard that voice in my head so many times and I never want to hear it again, or perhaps I never want to stop hearing it again. Thankfully more and more doctors and health care professionals are understanding obesity and the holistic approach.
Anyway, I’ve digressed… what I was supposed to be writing about was how my friend showed me today that she’s taking a whole stack of vitamin supplements. We’d been for a bike ride (a good example of cheering each other on through the journey) and we went to her house for a stretch out and some much needed water, I stupidly forgot my bottle, I usually sip on a good half litre on a moderate ride in the cold so I was feeling the dehydration. When she sat down at the kitchen table to drink her water she plonked a big plastic container down and peeled off the lid and proceeded to open bottle after bottle and tip a tablet or capsule out of each one onto the table. I asked her what they were and she said they were her vitamins and minerals. I picked up a couple of bottles, iron, zinc, magnesium, St Johns Wort, evening primrose oil, cod liver oil, garlic capsulres, selenium, two different multi vitamins including a menopausal concoction, extra vitamin B6, ginko…. I could go on.
I asked why she was taking them all and she said to make sure she gets her RDA of everything and then I asked her what she was planning on eating today and what she ate yesterday and I told her that while I’m not doctor or nutritionist I’m pretty sure that there is such a thing as overdosing on vitamins and minerals and that perhaps it was a better idea to trust that her new healthy diet was giving her all that her body needed in a more natural way. This led to her looking up iron overdosing, potassium overdosing and all manner of overdosing and we discovered some pretty ghastly consequences which scared both of us to be honest.
I’ve always relied on my diet to provide me with everything I need to nourish, maintain and repair my body and feel that I’ve got a nice internal balance going on, demonstrated by how healthy I feel and look and how well all of my bodily functions are occurring and I urged her to do the same. That was backed up by sound advice from experts (always check sources of online information for quality) that a good healthy balanced diet with oily fish and or pulses, grains, seeds and nuts a range of vegetables and fruits from the colour spectrum, a good mix of raw and cooked, well washed, organic if possible, home grown if possible all washed down with lots of water and a spattering of dairy and that should make sure that over the course of a week we get everything we need especially when we throw in plenty of herbs and spices too. We don’t have to eat the spectrum every day or down a bucket load of mixed berries each evening but as long as we get to the end of a week and find we’ve planned in and carried out the consumption of a hand full of each two or three times a week at least then we’re pretty much guaranteed that we covered all bases and got in everything our body needs.
We have to consider that our bodies need the vitamins and minerals to perform functions or to balance one another out or to work together to ensure that another vitamin or mineral can do its job efficiently and at the end of the day its all about creating a balance, about the body using what it needs, expelling what it doesn’t and maintaining harmony in all of our millions of cells which work to keep us alive and functioning properly. I urged my friend to think about that word … balance and to consider how that day she planned to consume a couple of foods which are known to be rich in iron and then to top that up with iron supplements in their own right as well as iron in three other of the combined pills she was going to take, each purporting on the pack to be the RDA.
I suggested to her that she was perhaps already outdoing her RDA with her food that day but that was OK as she was taking in other stuff that would help process that and get the balance right but with her piling on iron like she was weighing it in for its scrap the balance was not likely to be as easy to achieve. She saw my point and description along with what we’d read that morning made her throw all of those bottles of supplements into the bin and when I left she was ready to spend the rest of the morning checking through to see if she was missing any essential nutrients from her food diet and if she found anything lacking (I was confident she wouldn’t she’s in the early days total commitment phase) then she would source them out in food and include those foods in her diet rather than pills.
I’m not knocking pills at all I’m just sharing this to implore anyone on a new healthy you journey to make sure you don’t over do the healthy thing to the point where it becomes decidedly unhealthy to overload on some mineral or other. So in spite of myself I went into guru mode but I was concerned and it reminded me that the research into food is very important if you want to live healthy. I’m glad that she didn’t get upset and feel she was doing something wrong but she looked for herself for advice and has since sent me a couple of links which I’m going to find useful about how certain enzymes in our food can counter out the healthy elements in other foods when consumed together. So I’m happy that today she has been able to lead and teach me and that feels right to me now. I feel that I’m helping her make that transition from someone who wanted to copy and be led to someone who sees herself as on the same road beside me, walking together but walking for ourselves, learning and sharing as we go. I just hope that I can continue to encourage her down that route as I if there is one thing in all of this that I am 100% convinced of, it is that we really are in this for ourselves and ultimately it is a unique experience which we have to lead.