Anyone who has followed this blog for some time will know that my preoccupation with weight has haunted me almost as much as alcohol. It’s the niggling source of discomfort that, however sober I’ve felt, has caused me the kind of heartache that makes me want to plunge headfirst into a bucket of Merlot.
First things first: I have never been fat. I have been very, very thin and then, well, normal. I found it excruciating when my weight went from around 51kg to almost 70kg in a year, purely through drinking. My skinny, emaciated frame transformed- the attention and concern I once got for being so thin melted away as people uttered the words that would cause white-hot pain and shame to wash over me: “Ooooh, you look WELL.”
At 70kg I looked fine. Never overweight or wobbly. It sat ok on my frame and I still looked nice in a dress and men still found me attractive. But I felt like I was wearing a fat suit, with the real me underneath. It was very difficult to practice self-acceptance, because the weight gain was a DIRECT result of my drinking, and for some mysterious reason, getting sober hadn’t shifted it. That weight was symbolic of my failure to control alcohol, of my spiral into disaster.
Throughout sobriety, particularly the first year, my seeming inability to lose weight both mystified and perplexed me: I ate well, I was running, surely I should lose weight? But my discomfort at my shape and the ill-fitting new shoes of sobriety were manifesting themselves in a binge eating habit that was scuppering me. Much like my attempts to stop drinking, I’d set myself rules that I then felt compelled to break: no sugar, no chocolate, no food after 6pm, no food on fast days… You can imagine how that went.
And then, last year, I met someone who changed my life in many ways, not all of them positive. I entered a dizzy, exciting and quite dangerous love affair with an incredibly powerful, charismatic man. The kind of person I couldn’t believe had deigned to find me beautiful. Of course, there was a catch. I was beautiful, except my body, which needed to be thinner. I mean, it was OK, he could still bring himself to sleep with me (yep, he said that), but he’d be more attracted to me if I could just lose a few pounds. It was EAM, remember EAM?!:bhttps://fitfatfood.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/a-weight-off/
He encouraged me to start a weight loss blog, and would patronise the shit out of me about the basics of “healthy eating” and weight loss. I wanted to scream at him “I used to be an anorexic, I GET it!”
I really threw myself into the weight loss attempts, because despite resenting EAM, I wanted to please him and somehow thought he was a sign from the universe that it was time to change. Much like drinking, I had to face my problem head on and get through the tough times.
Then, I broke. I became FURIOUS with EAM and his controlling ways. I’d been in that kind of relationship before and I wasn’t going to get stuck in one again. So I ditched him, forgot about the weight loss and carried on being me.
I had such a strong anti-EAM reaction that I decided I was done with weight loss and would just get the f**k on with my life.
That was probably 6 months ago and guess what? Once I stopped thinking, analysing and caring, the weight came off. In the past year, I’ve lost about a stone in total, slowly, without thought or concerted effort. The only spanner in the works was when I started stressing about it thanks to EAM.
I thought it was important to write about it here because when I stopped drinking, all I wanted to know was when I would lose my booze weight. It was one of the motivating factors for stopping, if I’m honest. I can’t believe the weight loss has finally happened right under my nose without me noticing. I feel so happy and content in my body. And actually, it was full self-acceptance that helped me lose it. When I said to myself: “ok, I’m not going to lose any weight clearly, I’ll just forget about it”, I must have started doing that mysterious art of “Intuitive Eating” that never made any sense to me.
Even though I haven’t been following any rules at all, I thought it might be useful for me to sketch out some of the patterns i have noticed that must have led to this weight loss:
I stopped stressing- it’s incredibly difficult to stay on the food wagon when approximately 32,000 times a day you’re thinking about calories, what you can and can’t eat and what the “macros” of your next meal should be. By the time 3 days go by, you’re utterly exhausted and are set up to fall into the nearest food black hole. Relaxing about food has got to be the single biggest factor in my weight loss.
Forgetting the rules- post- sobriety, I started looking at lots of diets where high protein was one of the main focuses. I once got a PT to do me a food plan and he suggested I eat around 145g of protein a DAY. Looking back, and as a fairly small woman, that’s ridiculous. It required me to supplement my intake with shakes and protein bars and frankly, it didn’t work.
Carbs! Here’s a surprising revelation. I stopped worrying about carbs and it helped me lose weight. I just ate them when I needed them. I stopped being afraid to eat fruit (it’s loaded with endless carbs right..?!! Ridiculous) and ate chips sometimes and just ate normally, really.
Stopping allocated meals– I had a bit of a chaotic second half of the year and couldn’t eat at regular times. As per of a diet plan, this would be bad news, but actually, it really benefitted me. It made me think about what I actually wanted and needed to eat when I had the opportunity. If I’d eaten during the day and didn’t feel very hungry, I’d have a smal snack in the evening rather than dinner.
I exercised less- this is the kind of thing you read in rubbish click bait articles: “Exercise less, weigh less!” But it’s true. I had less time to work out, and it did me good. I can’t quite explain the science behind this one, but it’s made my life much easier, taking that huge pressure off to exercise 5 times a week.
Stress less! Stopping worrying about food was transformative. And to be clear, this didn’t mean I ate perfectly and managed to maintain a great diet. I didn’t- I ate some chocolate every day, ate more fast food meals than ever before (disclaimer: this would be once every couple of weeks, but I would NEVER do this before) and of course ate fruit and veg and nice oily fish, but it wasn’t diet meal plan worthy by any means. I just ate what I fancied and the world didn’t implode.
Tuning into hunger– by stopping following all my rules, for the first time in years I started eating according to hunger and what I fancied without worrying about it. Unwittingly, I was practicing “intuitive eating.”
Accepting myself– when I started being happy in who I was, my body changed. It makes no sense to me and it certainly wasn’t my intention, but it worked.
This is a long rambling post, but I wanted to commit pen to paper (I’m killing time in one of life’s most reflective places, a 5 hour train journey) and to share the latest development in my sober experiences.
Happy Tuesday! FFF x