Friday, 18 January 2013

An Obsessive's Guide to Diet and Exercise Part 2

First of all a little correction - I have realised I still went to the gym the whole time I was in Brimingham, cos I found a towel from Highcroft Hospital in my ottoman, and I had it because I forgot my towel for the gym one day so I borrowed one and it obviously didn't quite ever make its way back :-O

My other little snippet of relevant information is that whilst at Highcroft I took part in lots of exercise groups run by the brilliant physio technical instructors - and that meant that when I moved to Scotland I was able to run similar exercise groups to music for people with mental health problems.

Cos that was where I went next - up to Scotland. I got a job there setting up a physio service for people with mental health problems, and it was a brilliant job, although I only had one other memeber of staff, and I had to lead all sorts of groups, for all ages and in all sorts of places from hospitals to community gyms. So on the one hand I was running exercise groups for a large proportion of my day; yet on the other hand I was living half an hour from Edinburgh, the most beautiful city in the WORLD in my opinion. Every weekend near enough we were there, eating and drinking for most of Saturday.

One day I woke up and I was 12 stone. Hideous. Now there was no way I was going to stop my socialising, so I joined the gym at the local hotel. It was WONDERFUL. Twice a week I would go to the evening aerobics class, and another couple of times a week I would go to the gym, maybe have a swim. That was at the start.

I LOVED my aerobics. The instructor was brilliant, so fit, and she was SCARY. But also quite funny. She did moves that she would gradually build up into a routine - I'd never done this sort of thing before, and I was rubbish to start off with because of being so unco-ordinated -but gradually I got better, and my co-ordination sorted itself out with the practice, and I moved from the back of the gym to the front (all the better to see myself in the mirror). I started going to the gym before the class. Then every day. Half an hour grew to an hour, then an hour and a half.

Then I stopped going out to Edinburgh at the weekend. Instead, my husband would go for a swim and I would go to the gym, then we would meet and have food in the afternoon at the gym restaurant!  Looking back, it was nuts. I got really anxious if I couldn't get to the gym in the evening for some reason (work). At the same time I was working like a demon, because I was running the Lothian mental health physios group, and was also a member of the physios in mental health special interest group (Scotland) comittee, and a member of a mental health committee advising the Scottish parliament. My life consisted of work and gym, and not much else. My friends were all at the gym. I went to gym nights out. I knew all the staff, all the 'regulars', it was my second home. If necessary, I would go to the gym before work so as not to miss out.

I was the fittest I have ever been in my life, or am  ever likely to be. I was also still fat.

Eventually I got below 11 stone - this took a good two years at least, and by this time I was working out for about two hours a day - an hour cardio and then either a class or weights - and more at the weekends. And then something odd happened.

As my warm-up, I would do a three mile run on the machine, and I would always be trying to improve my time. Yet I found that now my times were getting slower and slower, I just couldn't get my legs to work. couldn't understand it. Until I found out I was pregnant. But that didn't mean I was going to slow down....

I was still exercising, but now I had abandoned all efforts at restricting my food intake to anything like normal levels. I felt sick if I didn't eat for more than about two hours. Whereas naturally I used to enjoy salads and healthy eating, I now craved carbs and most of all CHIPS. I never used to eat chips much, but now here I was, chips with curry, chips with macaroni cheese, chips with chips, chips and more chips on the side.

I was still doing an aerobics class at 30 weeks pregnant. I wasn't doing any high impact stuff, but still. It must have been putting god knows how much strain on my body because by this time I was 14 and a half stone. I only finally gave up the gym when I was 38 weeks pregnant and I was given specific instructions form the midwife that I MUST stop because of my blood pressure. I had stopped weighing at 15 stone.

Immediately after the birth I was 13 stone. I never went to the gym again.

I found being a mother consumed all my time. I was eating rubbish because it was just a case of eating what I had time to find and make, or eating the toddler left-overs. Eventually we moved back to the Midlands because I was struggling to cope - it felt better being nearer to my parents. I went on the Slimming World diet, and I got to below 11 stone. And then odd things began to happen again.

I started gaining weight despite being on the diet. So I stopped the syns. Still gained weight. Had food poisoning and didn't eat for three days - still gained weight. Eventually, I went to the GP. My thyroid had been eaten by my own body and wasn't functioning - I had the highest TSH level he had ever seen. It had happened so slowly that it was only once my thyroxine tablets kicked in that I realised how ill I had been. The fuzzy head cleared. I no longer needed a nap every afternoon. The morning aches and pains decreased. My energy began to return. It was like getting a new lease of life.

But the weight remained the same. I had to face the sad truth that there was only one way to drop the weight - stop eating. So I did. It helped that I was distraught about my marriage breaking down at the time also. It was horrible to realise that I no longer loved the person who knew me best, who I liked probably more than anyone else in the world. I didn't know how to tell him, and once I did, I didn't know how I could live with myself, or how I could break up my child's family.

The weight dropped off. I was 10st 6lb when I met Steve. The 'love' diet got me to below 10st, and I stayed there until he cheated in the Lakes and we split up, when the Heartbreak Diet had me drop to 9st 4lb. Depending on my relationship status, that's pretty much how the following years went. When I was stressed, the weight would drop off, when I was happy it would climb. But never over 10st. That is my limit.

You will notice that there is no mention of exercise in all those years since I gave birth. That will be because I didn't do any. I can remember tweeting something about how I break beds because sex is the only exercise I get and I don't get it often so I have to make it vigorous. It was all too true!

I have, on the whole, sorted my relationship with food at last, and this is mostly down to Paul McKenna. Hearing the things he said, everything clicked into place - it was about 5 years ago, I think. His message is that you eat when you are hungry, you eat what you want, you eat mindfully, and you stop when you are full.

It doesn't sound revolutionary does it? But to me it was. I had completely lost the relationship between hunger and eating. I would eat for emotional reasons when I wasn't hungry (indeed, when I was full to bursting), and all too often hunger was something to be resisted and denied. And I'm sure we've all been in the situation when you crave chocolate, but you want to be 'good', so you have a salad. But that doesn't hit the spot so you have some veg soup. But that doesn't do it either, so in the end you eat the chocolate anyway! Equally, a lot of my eating would take place as I watched Corrie or read my book, just mindless shovelling in. Paul McKenna makes the highly relevent point that the only time people with a poor relationship with food stop thinking about it is whilst they are eating it. And as for stopping when I am full - HOW?

It has been a process over all those years since to try to get to the place where I can follow those rules. It never stops, because it is so easy to fall into the old bad habits - and for me that is the not-eating thing or the stuff-til-you-pop thing. The easiest has been the ditching the 'good food/bad food' thing. I actually find it quite jarring now when people talk about 'being good' in relation to food. It's just food.

As a consequence, I do tend to live on chocolate and cheese and crackers. But I don't care, and there really are times when I want nothing more than a green salad. So there we are - I have my set-backs (eating a whole Christmas cake unaided for example), but on the whole I think the food issue is on its way to being sorted.

The last post in this series will be about my rediscovery of exercise and the combination of health crises and vanity that has led me here.

No comments:

Post a Comment