2018 was a great year. I lost 10 kilos and am still losing – slowly but surely. Oh, I have lost weight numerous times in the past but this is different. This time I know that it will continue until I reach a healthy size. A year ago I was despairing that I would never be able to get down to my healthy weight. People were telling me that it was normal to be heavier over 50, I wondered if I had permanent damage from years of yoyo dieting and I had never had a sustained weight loss over more than a few months. I didn’t know that I already had the answer.
… I have never felt ‘fat and happy’ or believed that it was OK to be obese
Firstly, let me say that I have never felt ‘fat and happy’ or believed that it was OK to be obese. I know that these days it’s politically incorrect to ‘fat shame’ and I couldn’t agree more that shaming is not at all helpful! Neither do I believe that there is a perfect shape or look – we are all different. The emphasis on diets and losing weight has always been flawed for me. Overweight is a symptom and not caused by weakness or gluttony. Lifetime habit changes are the only way to a permanently fit and healthy body. Short term dieting only makes things worse by slowing the metabolism which makes it almost impossible to retain the weight loss. Re-igniting metabolism must accompany weight loss.
‘Nobody that came out of Belsen was fat; you must be eating too much’
Until recently, my weight loss stories are like many others. I have a terrible memory from my 40’s when I started to become heavier. I went to ask for help. He was rude, dismissive and said ‘Nobody that came out of Belsen was fat; you must be eating too much’. I felt guilty – I must be weak and greedy. Then there was the specialist who gave me slimming pills (I later learned these were actually a variation of Speed). I felt amazing I was full of energy and felt no hunger…for the first few days. After that the pills started to affect me less and less. As a parting shot the specialist had said ‘…and if you need any more just ring my receptionist and I can give you as many prescriptions as you need’. I lost a lot of weight in that first month but decided that taking pills was not the answer…I descended into a deeper hole with the weight ricocheting back on…and more
I do believe that there is a healthy weight range within which I would like to fall. When I was obese (as measured by the height to waist ratio as well as the BMI), there was nothing more destroying to my soul than someone saying ‘you aren’t fat, you look lovely’. When I saw a fat photo and didn’t recognise myself I hated it when people said ‘but the real you shines in that picture’; I could see a fat person. I couldn’t fit into my clothes; I couldn’t move quickly; I found exercise tiring; I got stuck in plane seats! The opposite of fat shaming is ‘fat acclaiming’ and I don’t like either.
I had to change my focus to find my motivation.
It was the pursuit of health that led me to permanent weight loss – not a craving for better appearance. Prioritising my appearance always felt so egotistical; don’t tell me I should love myself more either! I love myself but don’t prioritise my appearance. I had to change my focus to find my motivation. Make no mistake, it is perfectly possible to lose weight and be less healthy and I certainly didn’t want that! I am lighter and healthier because I put the focus on becoming healthier first and the weight followed. Ironically I now feel fine about wanting to look my best – it just wasn’t the driver for me losing weight. Now I’m confident, but for me that didn’t come from focusing on myself. Different people will need different motivations. This was mine.
By the age of 40 I was seriously overweight and in a stressful career.
I haven’t had a weight problem all my life. When I was 25 I looked perfect (to me now – not then)! In fact I only began gaining weight when I was around 30. By the age of 40 I was seriously overweight and in a stressful career. I ate (and drank alcohol) when I was tired, stressed, happy, sad…and all the wrong things! I dieted almost continuously in my 40’s. All the diets worked really well but none of them lasted longer than a few months and I continued to put on more kilos in between so the problem became bigger.
Looking back it‘s easy to see that a simple gain of 1 kilo a year over 30 resulted in a weight gain of 20 kilos by the time I was 50! I was becoming physically sick as well. My metabolism was virtually nil; I had migraines, digestive problems with constant acid reflux every night; I was constantly exhausted and my sleep was poor to say the least; I developed multiple allergies, and at one stage a doctor removed everything from my diet except for lamb and apples!; I was always unfit and slid in and out of depression. At least I had a successful career and was earning a good income (or so I reasoned).
My 50’s changed everything.
2007 at my heaviest
My karma arrived! My 50’s changed everything. My GP told me the symptoms were menopause. Then (after a year of symptoms) they found a mass in my uterus. When it was removed it weighed 7 kilos. It wasn’t cancer, it was a Molar pregnancy. After fertility treatment failed in our 30’s, no-one considered that a pregnancy was possible; it was, but this one had gone wrong. The placenta continued to grow for 18 months and was pumping out hormones… I was getting even bigger. I lost 7 kilos after the operation; it wasn’t enough. I got back to work…drinking and eating to deal with the stress and putting off weight loss until I felt better. As if I had missed the clue, my body then performed a slam dunk and landed me with a brain tumour. I finally ‘got it’.
A near death experience always focuses the mind; I had four in 2007!
As if to ram the point home, destiny struck again. A near death experience always focuses the mind; I had four in 2007! I resigned from my job because I thought I was burning out. Finally, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour and then spent the rest of that year in hospitals on and off with gaps of ‘recovery’ at home in between. I had four operations altogether and three other near death frights after the tumour was removed in August. I had Deep Vein Thrombosis, an unusual allergic reaction to Heparin and an infection that couldn’t be treated by normal antibiotics (I was allergic or immune to most). I spent a lot of 2007 in the Neuro unit at Auckland hospital. In 2008 I emerged after my final operation to install an acrylic prosthetic skull. I was grateful to be alive and outwardly ‘normal’. My focus on surviving was replaced by a focus on getting well.
I started the road to recovery properly in March 2008. I started small – getting my citizenship which I had relegated because of work for decades. I lost about 10 kilos when I dropped the Dexamethasone drugs and when I started exercising and eating normal (not hospital) food again. I was still obese and my road to wellness had only just started! I also had permanent brain damage from the tumour and needed to start rebuilding my brain to avoid dependence and dementia. In the first few years, I thought that weight was secondary to brain building and focused on learning about that. Over the next 9 years I lost another 10 kilos but it was hard going and I hadn’t found a permanent solution. Little did I know that by 2018 I would go full circle and discover that brain building and weight are directly related.
After nine years, improvement was in my mind but not so much in my body.
Fast forward to 2017. In many ways this was a breakthrough year for me. We had finally managed to start a self-sufficient lifestyle in Matakana after many years of planning. I had been practicing brain building for years and I seemed to be winning. Intellectually all was good. As early as 2011, at my regular check-up, my neurosurgeon had said ‘you are a neuro-specialists nightmare…according to the books, with damage like that, you should be running down the street screaming incoherently’. Those books about the brain have been seriously discredited now. Research and breakthroughs over the past decade have changed everything we thought we knew. Even now, developments in brain research continue to astound me…the brain is amazing. I made a point of keeping up with research and experiences that were ahead of the medical texts and were credible. I refused to accept a diagnosis of despair.
After nine years, however, improvement was in my mind but not so much in my body. Between 2014 and 2016 my weight stayed pretty much the same whatever I did. I was stuck! In 2017, after nine years, I discovered that the missing piece to my wellness was the connection of both wellness and weight.
2011 2012 2013
2014 2015 2016
…my husband dropped a bombshell. He told me that I was snoring and stopped breathing
I always understood that lifestyle factors were vital for a healthy brain. I even developed a five step mnemonic called SPECS to consolidate and explain my discoveries about brain building; it stood for Social, Physical, Emotional, Cognitive and Spiritual. All are important. I began to develop each, discovering the most effective and practical ways to tackle them independently.
In 2017 I had a breakthrough. I knew that sleep was a critical physical brain factor and although I seemed to have sorted my emotional barriers to getting to sleep (I was a serial worrier) my husband dropped a bombshell. He told me that I was snoring and stopped breathing while I thought I was getting a good night’s sleep! This was the first step of my permanent weight loss journey.
In 2018 I sent the machine back and had finally solved my sleep problems.
Diagnosed with sleep Apnoea after an overnight sleep test, I had to use a CPAP machine for sleep. I researched causes and told the specialist that I would be off the machine within a year delivering a 4 point plan. He smiled and said ‘great’. He plan was:
…my gut was so ineffective that it was an underlying cause of my weight problem
During the dieting I was separately trying to improve a gut that no longer worked. I didn’t put two and two together. My gut was so ineffective that it had become an underlying cause of my weight problem. I saw another specialist. I changed my eating to prevent indigestion and improve digestion. It worked and I not only cured my digestion, but also felt much better emotionally, had more energy and…lost weight! This is what I did:
Intermittent fasting is now part of our normal lifestyle.
I then learned about fasting and its amazing positive effects on ageing and the brain! Maybe this could help with weight loss too! I know that many people fast for days – even weeks on water or fruit juice but I couldn’t make it work. I like my food too much and I just kept giving up! I discovered Michael Mosley’s five and two fasting regime which works just as effectively but is much easier. John and I follow this all the time now and enjoy it! We were already practising eating during a daily 12 hour window which we found quite natural and eating earlier was much better for my sleep quality. Intermittent fasting is now part of our normal lifestyle.
Some pointers from my journey:
Don’t mortgage your life for a diet…
If you are feeling a little over whelmed by all this – don’t be! I am an example of someone with more problems than most and I did it! It will take about a year to work through all of the steps to a new you. It took me a decade through trial and error. Learn from my experience and it may not be an instant answer but it will be a new you for a lifetime. A very long and healthy lifetime!
There is enough information here to have a go yourself, but if you would like some support, I have developed a practical five step journey to guide you. Your journey won’t be the same as mine and you may be starting from a different place, but there will be some tricks that I can share. Soon I will be creating an online guide to the five DIY steps; in the meantime I offer confidential coaching sessions in person or online with support materials. Contact me if you are interested.
Don’t mortgage your life for a quick-fix diet; find your own road to wellness! This time next year I will report on progress and no doubt more learning!