In summary, my story is this: I grew up slim and active, with a normal relationship with food. Like any teenager might when they start to have freedom of choice over their own food choices, I put on a stone or so’s weight when I was 16-19. I was still not overweight, but I started to feel conscious of my body. I wanted to do something about it, and fortuitously, when I was at the start of university, I discovered running and loved it. My body changed quickly and dramatically (oh to be 20 again eh?), I looked slim, healthy and lost weight whilst eating the foods I loved (namely, a bit of daily chocolate).
As I left university and I felt unsure of my place in the world and got trapped in a toxic relationship, I slowly got more and more obsessive with my food, and thinner and thinner. It was never my intention to be skeletal, but that’s where I got to. I was terrified of food, obsessively restricted whilst maintaining high running mileage and generally didn’t look after myself. My skin was terrible, my hair thin and those around me were very worried.
For some time, I could fit in 2 bottles of wine a week into this regime whilst still maintaining a very very low weight. This was when my drinking started to be destructive, but because of the relatively low volume of alcohol I (thought) I was consuming, I didn’t see it as a problem. I was thin and drinking, what’s not to like?!
My weight gain and journey back to a normal, healthy weight came when I started really hitting the bottle. I went from very thin to a very sensible weight in the space of 12 months. Everyone around me was thrilled. I looked better, my hair thickened up and I started to have a ‘presence’ about me again, as one person described it. When I was too thin I looked and acted like a shadow. Drinking brought me a vitality that I hadn’t had for years, until, of course, it turned on me. When I look in the mirror on a ‘fat’ day I see all that new weight as a direct result of my drinking. This isn’t a healthy way to look at my strong, marathon-running body, but it’s what I perceive. I want to kick the booze weight and get back to the old me who ran for sanity, ate for pleasure and savoured food, never abusing it.
I’ve focused a lot on my recovery and the importance of letting nothing get in the way of staying sober. Dieting in the first few months of recovery was an absolute no no, and as I hit 100 days, I started to look at my diet again, trying to cut down on sugar and take a more holistic approach to fuelling my body.
This has worked to an extent, but the reality remains I am unhappy with my shape. I’ve been tracking my food intake on My Fitness Pal for months and I can see the good new habits I’ve made, but also that there’s lots of room for improvement. I’m not getting where I want to be through moments of ‘fuck it’ and self sabotage. One bad day or chocolate binge can mess up my entire week, because I’m aiming for a small calorie deficit each day, so I don’t go too dramatic on the restriction and lose weight healthily.
I can see SO many parallels between the stages of quitting drinking and this desire to lose weight. I am OBSESSING over losing fat and being unhappy in my body shape and yet not getting results because I’m not committing fully. Like with drinking, the longer I mess around in this space where I’m thinking a lot but not taking action, the longer I’ll end up wasting precious time and energy getting nowhere.
Like with drinking, I feel like somehow my relationship with food has irreparably changed and that I need to go through a concerted period of effort taking my diet one day at a time to get to where I really want to be. As I type these words I’m conflicted, because I know how unhealthy my restrictive relationship with food once was, but I also know that intuitive eating isn’t working for me because I use food to change the way I feel in the way I did with booze.
I just got hit with a wave of embarrassment writing that, worried how you readers will perceive me. Worried how those sober bloggers I’ve met in real life will read this. What a strange thing, to have a blog which I set up with the very purpose of being 100% honest about all my struggles to aid my recovery, and to have the urge to self-censor.
These are my feelings and I need to explore them, not push them away or pretend I don’t feel the way I do.
In the same way I had to commit fully to quitting alcohol, I feel I need a concerted effort on the dieting front. If I put in the work, I will get results, but I just can’t seem to stay on that path.
The irony is, I don’t actually have very much weight to lose at all, somewhere between 10 and 16lbs would see me looking really fit and healthy, but I feel like I have some sort of mountain to climb. But the more I stand at the bottom looking up at the mountain, the more time I waste in getting to the top.
I got to a point with stopping drinking where I knew that if I didn’t just dig deep and do the bloody thing, I’d be unhappy forever (what drama! but it felt true). I’ve put almost 12 months of solid work into getting sober with lots of slip ups but guess what? It was all worth it. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. The most emotionally stable. I’m achieving things I never thought possible.
So can I find it in me to do the same with focusing on my diet? I don’t know. It panics me, somehow, to think of dieting. When I think of any sort of regime I remember those years of crazy restriction and how terrible I felt then. But that perception is false. I know from the amount of exercise I do that to get a steady, healthy weight loss, I’d need to be taking in between 1,700-1,800 calories a day. That is ALOT of food if you choose wisely. So why can’t I do it? Or why does my brain tell me I can’t when actually, that’s a really achievable goal if I break it down into small parts.
I think that in truth, if I don’t make a change I’ll continue to be unhappy with my weight and keep running in circles around square 1. But I’m also conscious that I could be focusing on this area of discontent to mask other problems. With alcohol, I know that I just didn’t want to feel so many things. Now, approaching 6 months sober I’m not scared of my feelings anymore and truthfully, I’m happy. As I write, I think that this might be totally about weight for once, and wanting to be the best (slim) version of me, rather than feeling generally shitty and pinpointing weight as the issue.
I know that if I reach my goal weight, life won’t magically get better, but that was also true of getting sober. And am I glad I put the work into getting sober? HELL YES.
So today I’m reflecting, forming a plan and will keep you updated on my journey. I’d really appreciate any thoughts on this topic: does this all sound sensible? Or am I being mad?
Answers on a postcard please 🙂