Today I was thinking back at my long and illustrious weight loss career. I have been losing weight since my early 20s and here I am, heavier than ever. Well, that’s not exactly true, I’ve recently lost about 7kg after being at the heaviest point in my life. Seven kilograms is just the beginning of a much longer, lifetime journey, but nonetheless, 10-15 years is a long time to be on a perpetual diet.
The first time I lost a substantial amount of weight was for my wedding. I joined “Sure Slim”, a weight loss company that was really popular at the time because of their different approach. I went along to a talk where they explained exactly how their system worked. They believed through blood analysis, they could determine exactly what individuals should eat to lose weight quickly. They purported that their method stimulated human growth hormone which in turn made you shed weight super quick – sometimes over 2kg per week. It worked. Within months I was down to a weight that I hadn’t been in my whole adult life. I doubt I had been that weight since I’d been 14 years old. I probably lost around 30kg all up. I looked smashingly thin for my wedding. The following week I went on my honeymoon where I indulged, then I indulged some more, and then a little more. A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant which frankly put an end to any dieting and welcomed the era of eating bowlfuls of ice-cream after work because it soothed my morning sickness.
The next time I lost quite a bit of weight was by joining weight watchers. I had gone along with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Doing it together was quite motivating. I pretty much followed the recipes in the little booklets I received at the meetings each week and I lost weight. It was slower than the previous time, and I lost probably half the amount, but still, it was a loss and I felt and looked a whole lot better. Once agin pregnancy was the catalyst for weight gain. Back to square one.
This time, I thought I’d go to weight watchers again. Instead of meetings (which were quite frankly utterly boring and uninspiring), I met weekly with a private consultant. The program had changed quite a a bit from the previous round I had done so it took a bit of getting used to. I eventually did lose weight, a little less again, but I looked great in my new work clothes that I was looking forward to wearing after my maternity leave had ended.
A familiar story ensued. I got pregnant, I gained weight, I sought help from weight watchers. The weight loss began but it was slow, painfully slow. I was doing everything right but some weeks I’d gain weight, lose nothing or lose very little. It was so frustrating and emotionally draining.
I remember one week I sat with my consultant as I weighed for the week. I must have gained a little weight but it sent me down a spiral of intense grief. My tears started flowing, I started sobbing that really ugly, genuine sob. I don’t think the consultant knew what to do or say. She tried really hard to console me and to tell me that I was doing well, but I sensed that even she could see that I had hit a point in my journey that a 15 minute consultation was not going to sort out. After that I quit. I stopped going. I’d finally had my fill of weight watchers.
I reflected a lot on what I was feeling in that moment. I thought back at all the weight I had lost over the years. If you added it up, probably 60-80kg of fat had been lost (and gained). I felt like it had all been in vain. All that dieting. All the restriction and exercise. It was bloody hard work and it wasn’t enjoyable and yet, I kept on putting the weight straight back on. I felt like such a failure.
What I quickly realised was that companies such as weight watchers have no interest in you losing the weight and keeping it off, despite what they say. They teach you a complicated system for counting calories called ‘points’, they hook you onto their branded products, they sell you their books and magazines and feed you the message that you can only lose weight with their help. You become so reliant on their feedback that inevitably when you don’t have it you gain weight.
Sure, you could argue that they teach you the rules of moderation and it’s up to the individual to apply it to their life when they leave weight watchers. I’m sure a small amount do succeed. I believe the figure is somewhere around 1%. The rest of us keep lapping it up, coming back for more. It is their business model to keep us coming back. Otherwise why don’t they just give us all the information we need and send us on our way? Instead they ask us questions like, “What challenged you this week about your eating?” and “Can you think of something coming up this week that will be a challenging situation to control your food?”
These questions make eating a pathology. You are constantly forced to think about how dieting is hard.
Why should eating be so difficult?
Guess what? It isn’t.
There are many people out there who struggle with weight for various reasons. A lot of people would probably admit that they have deep seeded emotional reasons for overeating. To those people I say, going to weight watchers is not going to work for you. See a psychologist, don’t see a room full of pseudo-psychologists-dietitians-nutritionists.
You don’t need to pay somebody to weigh you every week. You can do that yourself for free. Ultimately you have to be truthful to yourself. Put the right fuel in your body and shun the foods that will do you no good. You know that if you eat crap, you will gain weight. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we know what to do.
You have to find a way of eating that works for you. Something that you enjoy doing, that is easy to incorporate into your life and that you could imagine doing for every day going forward. If your chosen method does not fit into all of these categories then skip it, find something else.
I’m currently eating in a way that is healing my body, that keeps me full, that (more importantly) keeps me satisfied and that I can absolutely see myself doing forever more. If you’re interested, in the future I’ll share with you all how I am eating right now.