I want my body back

As I suspect so often happens, this blog began as one thing and became another.

It began as “The Adventures of a Binge Eater Taking Her Body Back After Menopause” but in writing it, I’ve realised that as with all human beings, my body is far more than my weight: like all of us, my body has become a battleground, fought over by scientists, governments, cultures, factions and the diet industry. It is something by which I am judged and by which I judge myself. As with all women, and increasingly men, the beauty of my body is currency and can earn or lose me respect, opportunities and admiration.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to be on the right side of that equation, to have the kind of body which earns me the approval of my culture; however, my body has disfunctioned. I was injured and as a result I gained weight – and so the beauty bank called in my overdraft and closed my account. I became invisible.

I’m not resentful about that. I’ve had my time in the sun and I have to be willing to spend my share of time in the shade.  However, I want to drag my body back to full health and fitness; to feel strong and enjoy the freedom of a body that moves easily and gracefully again;  to love my body again and, who knows, perhaps to share it with a lover again.

So there’s a long road ahead of me, with mountains to climb and twists and turns to navigate;  and along the way I’ll be doing battle with diet, diagnoses and demons.

And seeing as both you and I are human, my demons are probably the same as your demons – so why don’t you come with me?

 

Why am I writing this blog?

Because there are sooooo many blogs out there about food and weight loss – but they’re all done by skinny young things; and what they are saying, and the lives they are living, have very little to do with the lives we are living and the ways our bodies work now.

And because my experience may well be your experience, and perhaps your knowing that I exist and am having these difficulties will make you feel less alone with your difficulties;  and perhaps you’ll share your’s with me and I’ll feel less alone.

And perhaps you’ll pick up something from this blog that will make a difference to you.  Maybe you’ll try a recipe of mine and find you love it and think, actually, yeah, you could eat this way.  Maybe you’ll show me something that makes a difference to me. Maybe a tip from you will be the key with which I can undo a particularly sticky lock.

So, this is me, making middle-aged women and their body problems more visible and holding out a hand to you, and hoping you’ll take it.

Why I want to lose 43lbs

Because heavy, like this, I just don’t feel like me.  This is not who I was, this is not who I am.

I miss being able to move completely freely.  I miss the sensation of my arms being able to hang freely at my sides when I walk, rather than grazing the increasing girth of my hips.

I don’t want to have to have my knees replaced – and apparently, in an increasingly cash-poor NHS, you can no longer guarantee that you will be able to get them replaced.  You may just have to live with the pain and medication.

I miss the 90% of my wardrobe I can no longer wear.

I miss being able to nonchalantly and gracefully cross my legs.

I miss feeling at peace with myself.

I don’t want to develop Type 2 Diabetes because I know from watching my Mum die that it is a horrible, protracted and merciless death.

I want my kids to be really proud to say ‘This is my Mum”.

I want to live the however many years I still have left in good health and pain free.

I miss looking fabulous.

 

My weight and diet history

I was a slender child, adolescent and adult.  At some times, as a young woman in my early twenties, I was too thin – 5.7″ tall and at one point 8st 4lbs.  I know this, because a doctor weighed me (I didn’t own scales at that point) and said to me with concern, “You aren’t dieting are you?’  I was delighted.  Clearly, I was Admirably Thin.

However, since my first pregnancy when I was 27 I’ve been a binge eater – or probably, more accurately, since going on my first ever diet to lose the pregnancy weight.  Still, despite that, and despite two more pregnancies which involved 4 stone gains each time, I’ve maintained a good weight (dress size 10/12) for most of my adult life.

With a few notable exceptions, that is – for instance, when my Mum died in 2003 from complications of the Type 2 Diabetes that riddles her/my family.  I just started eating and I could not stop, and I didn’t want to.  I saw myself getting fatter and I loved it and I carried on eating and I did it gleefully.  My Mum was fat – 5.4” tall and a size 18.  When I reached a size 18 myself I loved it.  I loved being the same size as my Mum.  I kept on gorging and in surprisingly little time I had outgrown a size 18.  When I had to try on my first size 20 it was suddenly no longer fun.  Suddenly it was horrible and I hated it.  I realised that I had been trying to eat myself into a size 18 to be the Mum I had lost.

After that, I turned it around and lost that 6 stone.  Having done a massive amount of research into nutrition, biology, hormones and exercise to try to understand what was happening to my Mum and might happen to myself, I decided to go against the Low Fat mantra that was still dominant then, and eat Low Carb.  To be honest, I always found Low Carb tough – but it worked and kept me slender.

And I stayed that way for a decade – until I passed 50 and I started gorging again.  This time I don’t know why, but I gained 3 stone in 6 months.  Suddenly horrified by what I had done, I pulled myself up short, went low calorie (1000 calories daily) and lost 42lbs.  Back to normal.  Phew.

And then the weirdest thing happened almost immediately I regained my normal weight in May 2017 – I yawned one evening and the disk in my jaw joint slipped, and in so doing damaged the trigeminal nerve behind it.

It sounds nasty, painful and frightening and it was.  I’ve been off work sick ever since  as my job is in Special Educational Needs in the English Department of a Secondary School;  and essentially, my job is talking which this particular injury makes impossible to do for extended periods. Over the months, the amount I can talk has improved but I was warned that full recovery would take a very long time.

For the nerve pain I was put on 2 drugs notorious for causing weight gain – Gabapentin and Pregabalin.  I had to give up caffeine – which I adored – and nicotine in the form of the e-cigarette with which I had given up smoking two years before.  I’ve been teetotal for over a decade, ever since alcoholism killed my brilliant but self-destructive eldest brother at the age of 46.  So what was I going to do for comfort and pleasure now but start eating again?  And I did.  And regained 42lbs.

I’ve lost weight then through low fat, low carb and low calorie diets:  but they’re all tough and all of them could have negative health implications – and anyway, my body simply no longer responds as it used to.  So ths time, I want to find a new way to lose weight that is tailored specifically to the needs and workings of my menopausal body;  is as healthy as possible and takes in as wide a variety of foods as possible;  and is sufficiently pleasurable that my life feels enhanced by it, rather than over.

The Holy Grail of menopausal weight loss indeed!  But you know what?  I believe it is possible if we can just understand these new bodies of ours’.