Firstly I apologise to those that have been here a while. I’m probably going to re-tread a lot of things because the story of how I came to lose all of this weight is pretty complex.
You might need a cup of tea.
If I go right back to the earliest time that I recall trying to drop some pounds it was after a visit to a childhood obesity clinic in Birmingham. I’m not sure how old I was at this time, but I’m guessing it was somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13.
It was a miserable experience.
I was referred to a special unit in a hospital that dealt only with what was then a relatively uncommon phenomenon. My dad took me there on the advice of our GP but I don’t really remember what happened in the consultation – apart from the fact that I was sent home with a single page A4 photocopied diagram of food groups that showed my plate looking like a pie chart.
I can’t remember anyone in my house ever putting this into practice though. Portion sizes were pretty big when I was growing up. The mashed potato on my dinner plate may have fitted into the segment on the diagram – but it would probably have been 12 inches tall with several Bernard Matthews turkey sausages sticking out of it.
I do remember shortly after this though that my dad put me on a diet solely consisting of cabbage and bacon.
Mounds of it in fact. Pretty soon I was sick of cabbage and I was sick of bacon. I lost a little bit of weight during this – but after a while (as habits tendeded to in our house) things crept back to the status quo and I put the small amount of weight I’d lost back on.
That was my very first first faddy yo-yo diet.
This theme continued for some time over the years because what I’d started to do was view losing weight in terms of a restrictive diet. It was a short term exercise where my willpower faced down the problem at hand and turned it into a battle between the competing sides of my nature.
One side was insatiable, naughty and couldn’t stop consuming – whilst the other was austere, disliked the other side intensely and did nothing bad.
By holding one at bay with the other I could temporarily get results. However in order to do so this meant feeling like I was cutting out things I loved – and when I did it was only a matter of time before I rebelled.
When things went wrong in life food was there to ‘help’. This frequently ended with me metaphorically or literally face down in a kebab or pizza after falling off a dietary wagon and when I became old enough to pass for 18 alcohol joined the party too.
This constant restriction and resurgence had a pernicious side effect. I began to get really sick of my own behaviour – and I started using intense anger with myself to fuel change.
After leaving school (where I was mercilessly bullied every day) at 17 stone I starved myself for months – only eating a couple of slices of bread a day until I was 12 stone 7 pounds – and initially I thought I’d cracked it.
I thought I was ‘fixed‘.
(Author note – this next bit is important and I’m going to highlight the pivotal bits in red – because these thoughts are the ones I think people need to concentrate on)
This was the first part of the problem – and something I see in other people a lot. They say (or think in private) a variation of the phrase ‘…all I need to do is lose weight and then I can go back to eating normally’.
Often because of this they fundamentally fail to realise that this is not possible without significant re-education – because in order to end up in a situation where they need to lose huge amounts of weight in the first place they’ve proven that they have no idea what ‘normal’ is to begin with.
By this point food is not about sustenance – it’s about emotion – and a gap created by pain is impossible to fill with food.
You will not stop because you’re full.
The main issue with my approach was that in order to make any kind of significant difference in my life I had to play a game of brinkmanship with whatever I was doing at the time. If I hadn’t done something to serious excess and emotionally sunk into the depths of depression then I was unlikely to pull back from the precipice.
I had to be so sick of myself and so full of self loathing that I just couldn’t take it any more.
To make matters worse this often yielded tangible results – such as successfully giving up smoking, and for a long time I was convinced that this was ‘my method’. Deep down I just hoped that sooner or later I’d become angry enough with myself to do something about my weight.
I now recognise that this was also a way of self harming – because when I periodically restricted my food intake I used the withdrawal as a punishment. I told myself that I deserved to have things I liked taken away.
However – unlike cigarettes I needed food to live.
Although I could restrict it for a while and starve myself I never really ever faced up to what I was eating and why. This meant that when I fell off the wagon I kept falling back into exactly the same cycle. The only way I knew how to deal with anything was to either cut it out completely as punishment or do it until I was killing myself.
Then in July 2015 my mother came back into my life after a long period where I’d neither seen nor talked to her in many years.
It wasn’t the best time to be re-introduced. I was a morbidly obese heavy drinker with a lot of health issues (if you want to see how many have a look at my NSV’s in the main menu) whilst she was a heavy smoker who had been admitted to Heartlands hospital with pneumonia.
She was slowly dying from the complications typically associated with her habit.
The fractures (or coping mechanisms – depending on how you look at them) that already existed in my life were instantly widened – and my own habits immediately increased in severity to compensate. To make matters worse initially she (quite unexpectedly) recovered and I became burdened once again with the weight of her expectation and criticism.
In September of 2015 I looked like this – swollen with food and booze.
(There is one thing in this video that is worth taking note of – aside from my dimensions – and that is what for the first time is on my wrist – which I’ll return to in another post.)
If I wasn’t already by the time she re-entered my life I soon became what I now admit was an alcoholic.
Then one day (after a row with myself and my brother) she told me that she was misunderstood.
The context of this comment was that she had been discharged from hospital (after around 6 weeks of being in a chronic dependency unit for smoking related cardio pulmonary issues) and had lasted less than two days before she had started her habit up again.
Even when attached to pure oxygen she continued to puff away nonchalantly.
This was just a teeny bit dangerous according to the big red sign on the machine that was keeping her alive and continually whirring away next to her…
My brother was angry – but I wasn’t. I understood her. I could see the truth of it. She knew she was invulnerable to explosions and didn’t see a point in stopping. The end was coming anyway and she saw it standing on a hill in the distance.
IT WAS INEVITABLE.
Unknown to her I’d also started thinking things were inevitable – and at the age of 44 I’d quietly started planning my own death.
I hadn’t been plotting to commit suicide – at least not quickly. I’d just come to view the heart attack or stroke that what was bound to happen at some point in the future as something I no longer had any power (or willingness) to change.
Instead of setting aside money for a pension (which I was convinced I’d never live to see) I was instead frantically trying to pay off my mortgage so that I could leave a house in a will to a brother nearly 11 years younger than myself.
In my head this reasoning had started to make complete sense – and I’d ceased to see it as madness. To me it was just history that hadn’t happened yet.
There she was. A woman who I had no respect or love for, who’d emotionally abused me and the rest of my family for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t stand to be in her presence without a pre-prepared excuse to leave.
She was probably the one person in the world that I disliked more than myself.
I thought about alcohol from the moment that I walked through her door until the moment I bought some on the way home and I was only happy when I started to drink it and forget her.
Yet she was a mirror.
I was looking at what I already was and also what I’d eventually become.
Then the self loathing once again hit me with full force, and two days before she died I decided I didn’t want to be like her (or myself) any more. I accepted that my relationship with alcohol was the same as her relationship with cigarettes and I stopped drinking.
It wasn’t an ideal way to begin but begin it did – with its roots firmly planted in self loathing and self punishment.
Nevertheless it was my first tentative step outside of the closet of denial – but I left one foot in the door – because in my mind I thought that this would fix everything.
(Not true. I’ll come back to this later)
However – as massive a change as that was internet – it wasn’t as big as what came next…
Join me next time to see what happened.