The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Day One Hundred – How Far Can Too Far Go? 21 May 2008

What a glorious day for my hundredth day on the diet!  When I started this, back in early February, this moment seemed to be an eternity away.  It was cold, miserable and I was very overweight indeed.  Now it’s threatening to become summer, the sun is shining, and I’m a shadow of the person that I was.

The reaction to the before and after photos has been mixed.  They’ve ranged from ‘holy crap, you were a heifer!’ to the open-mouthed inability to find any words at all.  I still don’t know how I feel about them.  Some people have been kind enough to say that I never actually looked like the before photos in real life, but the truth is that I would often catch myself in the background of group photos, caught off guard, and that is precisely what I looked like.  It’s no wonder that my self esteem had hit ground level and begun to dig.

The weird thing is that people are now counselling me not to get too thin.  As you can imagine, on one level the idea that I might ever be too thin is deeply hilarious.  However, I know that what they are saying is well-intentioned and there is an element of sense in their warning.  The target for me is very clear on this diet … a healthy BMI and a body that looks good.  I have a rough weight target, but that’s simply because I plumped for the weight that was bang in the middle of my safe weight zone.  It’s not hard and fast for me.  Recently, though, I’ve found myself thinking that this is my best opportunity to be genuinely thin, if that’s what I want to be.

Now, this is unusual thinking for me.  Obviously as a fat person I would daydream frequently about being thinner, but I wanted to be slim rather than thin.  For me, there’s a crucial difference between the two.  I have always abhorred the whole ‘size zero’ obsession and am, frankly, appalled by the fascistic body consciousness of some people.  Yes, we have a problem with obesity in the richer parts of the world and yes, everyone wants to look good and be healthy, but this relentless drive to be underfed and small to the point of being virtually invisible is something that sickens me.  For example, I remember becoming genuinely angry when I read an interview with Renee Zellweger around the time she was filming one of the Bridget Jones films.  She was talking about gaining weight for the part, and commented that she got so big that she couldn’t bear to look down at her naked body in the shower.  And how big was she?  Size 12.  So with that one careless statement she consigned hordes of perfectly healthy size 12 women (or, more importantly, girls) to thinking that they were physically repulsive.  It made me want to give her a good slap for her sheer stupidity.

That said, I’ve found myself idly wondering what it would be like to be super thin.  Clearly it’s not going to happen, and I have no intention of taking my weight loss to extremes, but I’ve been curious about the fact that those thoughts creep into my head from time to time.  Perhaps I’m just one of those people who has a permanent sense of dissatisfaction, and a drive for improvement, and I’ve masked this for years and years with the one reigning thought of ‘I wish I was slim’.  I guess it reinforces the fact that being at a weight that I’m happy with won’t mean that everything in my life will be perfect from that point on.

Even if I did want to be pencil thin for the rest of my life, it won’t happen because I’m just not cut out to be a body fascist … I love food too much and I think that life is too damn short to spend every spare second of it on scales, or in the gym, or wondering whether you’ve had one lettuce leaf too many.  That thinking is partly to blame for my weight gain in the first place, I grant you, but in reality (and when I’m under control) I’m actually much more from the ‘everything in moderation’ school of thought.  It strikes me that a relentless and excessive fixation on being thin is just as bad as being colossally overweight … both are very unfulfilling ways to live indeed.  I’ve been there and done that and will never go there again.


Day Ninety Nine – The Camera Never Lies 20 May 2008

OK.  Here, as promised, are the before and after photos.  I’ve just been sent them by my counsellor.

They take the before pictures at your first meeting but don’t show them to you.  This means that you get a delightful surprise (or is that a shock?) when you’ve completed foundation.  I have to say that I clearly chose the most revolting outfit possible for my first meeting, and I’m finding it genuinely difficult to look at those pictures without wanting to cry.

You can judge for yourselves …

The first photos were taken on 11th February, and the second ones on 19th May.  I’m 33 kg / 5 stone 3 lbs lighter in the second ones.  I wish I had my measurements to hand, but I don’t, so I’ll add those later.

I just can’t stop staring at them, with a mixture of delight and shame at the same time.  It’s unbelievable.

Here are the measurements, as promised.  My chest is 10cm / 3.9in smaller, my waist is 17cm / 6.7in smaller and my hips have decreased by a colossal 27cm / 10.6 in.  This diet certainly works 🙂


Day Ninety Eight – The End Of Foundation!

Foundation is over!  Well, OK, officially in two days’ time but 100 doesn’t divide neatly by 7.  In terms of the group sessions, I’m now in development.  My total loss over the foundation period was a whopping 5 stone 3 lbs (approximately 33 kg) and I’m absolutely ecstatic with that (especially given that you’re told to expect 3 stone).

Frankly, after last week, it was exactly the kind of milestone that I needed.  I now feel very fired up to continue for the next seven weeks (my self-imposed deadline) until management and the re-introduction of food.  I really did feel that I’d begun to lose it over the weekend and was a bit rudderless.  Now I’m more determined than ever.

I still feel uncomfortable about what I said in my last post.  It has never been my intention to lie or fudge the truth in this blog which is why I spoke about eating food.  My main concern is that I don’t want people who are undertaking this journey too (and some of you have been kind enough to tell me that you’re reading this) to feel that I’ve let myself (and them) down or, worse, for them to think that it’s therefore OK to break abstinence.  It has taken a colossal effort of will to stay on track after what seemed like an innocuous plate of fish and salad and, if I’m honest, I’ll always feel that in some way I ‘failed’ because I didn’t have a straight run at the 100 days.  Abstinence is at the core of this diet and without adhering to it you’re likely to experience all of the drawbacks without the results, not to mention the risk of clocking up a failed diet … and for some of us that will be the umpteenth failure among many.  This diet is about so much more than just the weight loss.  It really challenges you to improve your view of yourself, your understanding of your behaviour and your outlook on life in general.  So for those of you who are on the journey too, damn well stick at it!  You deserve to succeed.

OK, rant over.  Like I said, I’ve been wrestling with this for a few days now.  I think it’s time to move on and face the coming weeks with steely determination and a clear view on my ever approaching goal.  Onwards and bloody well upwards.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I had my ‘after’ photo taken tonight.  I haven’t seen it yet, nor have I seen the ‘before’ one (they don’t show you until after foundation).  As soon as I receive copies I’ll post them on here … my technical prowess permitting!


Days Ninety Four to Ninety Seven – Minor Upheavals 18 May 2008

Well it’s been an interesting few days, and psychologically difficult ones too.  I’ve thought long and hard about this post and what I would or wouldn’t say, for reasons that will become immediately apparent.  The simple fact of the matter is that on Wednesday night I found myself in a position where I had to eat some food.  Now, before there is a massive chorus of disapproval and disbelief (I know that nobody genuinely has to eat food) I’ll explain.  As I said in my previous post, I was on a course for the duration of last week, and was coping with everything quite well.  What I didn’t realise was that on the Wednesday night there was a dinner organised with some luminaries from my industry, and as one of the tutors I was going to be on the ‘top table’.  After much soul searching (it would’ve been exceptionally awkward not to eat, or to eat lighter life food at the table, and not attending the dinner was not an option) I rang my lighter life counsellor for advice on how best to handle it.  She was very helpful and we agreed that the best thing for me to do was to tread very carefully and have a small amount of food (grilled sea bass with a handful of salad leaves, to be precise).

So that’s what I did.  My counsellor warned me that it would be difficult to get back into abstinence, but that she felt I was strong enough to do it as I’d been so focused to date.  And boy was she right.  I feel as if my grip on the diet has slipped slightly, which is so bloody frustrating because I’ve come so far.  I’ve managed to get back on the wagon, of course, but my internal monologue has been at war with itself ever since I ate.  I just can’t stop this diet now … I’m so close to my goal and really feel that I deserve to get there.  Not for the first time I’m reminded that this diet is not a physical challenge, but a mental one.

Things have been made even more tricky by the fact that I left the course on Friday afternoon and headed straight for a music festival.  There are eight of us staying here (at the ATP festival at Butlin’s in Minehead, no less) in two chalets for a weekend of music, heavy drinking and eating rubbish food.  For me, it’s music and water and trying to regain my solid grip on abstinence.  It’s been hard.  For some reason I’m really craving chocolate and I now find myself surrounded by half empty packs of the stuff (along with crisps, snacks and nuts) in our chalet.  I can’t be a colossal killjoy and ask people to put the food away … I’ve not had a problem with being around food until now and I think it all goes back to the fact that I ate on Wednesday and that I’m not used to having that sort of rubbishy food hanging around.  We just don’t have that kind of thing at home.  It’s been a difficult weekend … grrrrr!  Although it’s been brilliant fun at the same time and I’ll definitely come back next year.

So that’s what’s been occupying me for the last few days.  It will be good to get back to London on Monday night and back to my lighter life group (or first session in developers, as my foundation period is almost over, wahey!) and back to normality.  Then I can brace myself for the final stretch.  This is currently testing me to my limit.


Days Ninety to Ninety Three – The Normal Weirdo 14 May 2008

Well I’ve been on the course for three days now, and it’s as strange as I imagined it would be.  When everyone else gets together for lunch or dinner, I skulk off to my room for my own meal.  This is unusual behaviour for me … as you know I’ve merrily sat through many communal meals since starting the diet, and now I feel a bit sneaky.  The reason for doing this is that I really can’t be arsed to get into the whole diet discussion with a large group of strangers.  There are seven tutors here (I’m one), most of whom I know, and about thirty delegates.  The tutors know what I’m up to, but I haven’t told the delegates.  It would feel very odd.  So I’ll be dining solo for a week!

The situation is made even more strange by the fact that I feel increasingly ‘normal’.  I’ve mentioned this before, but this week has really brought it to the fore.  For the first time in years I’m with a large group of people and don’t feel like the fat one, or the odd one out.  So by not eating normally with them I’m forcing myself back into that world of being different.  It’s screwing with my head a bit.

Oh and I forgot to say that the catering here is absolutely brilliant, and there is fabulous fresh food on tap pretty much twenty four hours a day … sigh …  I guess I’ll be the only one that doesn’t go home a few pounds heavier 🙂  Also, the project we are working on is all about cheese.  Good, old-fashioned strong cheddar.  I’ve lived, breathed and slept cheese for the last three days, and am the only one who hasn’t been nibbling away at it like a greedy mouse.

On a positive note, there are two people here that I’ve not seen for a long time.  One of them is a tutor, and she was open-mouthed when she saw me, and full of admiration for how I now look and what I’ve done.  That was pretty much the first conversation I had with anyone when I got here, and it did set me up for the days ahead.  The other is one of the delegates and somebody that I worked with briefly a few years ago.  I said hello to her, and she quite literally stopped and looked me up and down.  There was a momentary pause when I thought she might say something, but she didn’t.  She probably feels that she doesn’t know me well enough.  It’s reactions like that which will keep me going.

There’s also the whole booze issue.  In the bad old days before the diet I was definitely what you’d call a heavy drinker, with a fearsome appetite and tolerance for alcohol that I’d built up over many years.  I’m the kind of person who could happily put away about three bottles of red wine over a long session and not really show any evidence that I’d done so … apart from attractively purple lips and teeth, that is!  I love red wine with a passion that’s bordering on the obsessive, and giving it up has been like being dumped by a boyfriend that you’re still madly in love with.  OK, I”m being dramatic, but it’s not far off.

So, here I am, on an advertising conference surrounded by interesting and sociable advertising people, and the booze is flowing in the evenings.  I know that advertising people have a dreadful reputation for being profligate lushes, and I don’t want to bolster that reputation, but it’s fair to say that we do like a drink.  Alcohol is arguably the social lubricant of our industry (hence my alarming capacity for it, probably).  Last night I genuinely struggled not to have a drink.  All the tutors were sat comfortably in the bar (having despatched our delegates on a task) and we were having a good old natter, gossip and general bitch.  This turned into a very late ‘putting the world to rights’ session until about 3 in the morning (I dipped out at 2) and every fibre in my body was screaming at me to reach for the bottles of red that were sat in the middle of the table.  I almost cracked, and started that ‘one glass won’t hurt’ train of thinking.  In the end I tried the only thing that I could, aversion therapy.  I picked up a glass of white wine (I dislike white wine intensely) and a belter it was too … warm, cheap Chardonnay.  I had a sip, and it tasted so disgusting that suddenly the red wine craving wasn’t almost as bad.  This may have to be my trick for the week!

All I can say is that, when I woke up this morning, I was mighty happy that I didn’t crack.  I would’ve spent all day beating myself up and worrying about ketosis and generally having a miserable time.  Sometimes drawing on that extra bit of willpower really does pay off.



Day Eighty Nine – Flabbergasted 10 May 2008

I’ve just been to see my counsellor as I’m on a course next week and needed to stock up on some food.  Since my last weigh-in, almost two weeks ago, I’ve shifted another 4.6kg or 10lbs.  Because I’ve been hopping on and off my bathroom scales I had the feeling that my weight loss would’ve been minimal, but I’m blown away.  Granted, I was weighed in the morning and I’m normally weighed at night, but it’s still impressive.  This means that I only have 18kg or 40lbs left until my target … which is less than 3 stone!  So I’m going to power through the next 8 weeks and damn well get there. 

This is just the impetus that I need as the next ten days are going to be really hard.  The course I’m going on is in a lovely hotel in the middle of nowhere, with delicious food and ample supplies of booze on tap.  It’s a really sociable event … I’m tutoring on it and did last year too … so it’s going to really test my mettle not to be tempted to break the diet.  Then, when that little challenge is over, I’m off to a festival over the weekend with a bunch of mates who will, without doubt, be spending the vast majority of the weekend with a beer in their hands.  So I get to be the freaky, sober, non-eating weirdo for three whole days.  Deep joy.

But only eight weeks to go!  Wish me luck …


Days Eighty Five to Eighty Eight – Seasons In The Sun 9 May 2008

Sunshine!  Summer!  Well … almost.  And very blissful it is too.  It’s been almost impossibly hard to think about doing any work at all with blue skies outside and everyone in a chirpy mood.  It occurred to me today as I was wandering down Tottenham Court Road that this is the first summer in years when I’ve not faced the prospect of hot weather with a sense of impending doom.  Being fat in the sunshine is no fun whatsoever.  You have the option of remaining covered up and boiling alive, or exposing white, flabby, squidgy bits of yourself that you’d rather keep between yourself and the bathroom mirror.  But for me it’s different this year.  I have even (drum roll, please) worn a sleeveless top and not worried that the sight of my upper arms would put people off their lunches.  Not only that, I have also bought two new strapless bras so that I can continue to reveal my poor, long-neglected shoulders.  Granted, I don’t have a sculpted gym physique quite yet, but I think that baring a bit of flesh is more than acceptable in these thinner times.

My good intentions of staying out of the shops until my size is stable have gone to pot.  Frankly, it’s impossible.  With the best will in the world I can’t cope with only having about ten items of clothing.  It’s not that I’m being extraordinarily vain, it’s just that I need some absolute basics.  I found myself asking a friend at work where the best place is to buy plain t-shirts.  What an absurd thing not to know at my grand old age.  So I was duly shipped off in the direction of Oxford Street to buy some cheap and very boring but very necessary items.  And good fun it was too.  I’ve had to re-programme my brain not to automatically go to the back of the rail to find the largest, most shapeless sizes.  I’ve also had the pleasure of poking my head around the changing room door to ask the attendant for a smaller size as the one I’ve selected is too big.  In my old world, that never happened.

Among all the dull stuff, I took a gamble in French Connection on a maxi dress.  In the old days, that would simply have served to make me look like I’d gone out wearing a duvet.  Frankly, I’m still not sure about it.  I have more than a sneaking suspicion that those kind of dresses look wonderful on the Sienna Millers and Kate Mosses of this world, and absolutely rubbish on us mere mortals.  I’ve just spent a good twenty minutes prancing around in front of the mirror in it with a variety of shoes, bras, facial expressions etc., but haven’t quite been brave enough to take the tags out of it.  I think I might need to get the Boy’s opinion.  It’s a lovely dress, and it wasn’t cheap, but I can’t help feeling a bit like an extra from Abigail’s Party in it.  We’ll see.

I did have the deep, deep joy of buying a new swimming costume, though.  For once I don’t look like an overstuffed sausage in one and, dare I say, I think I may have erred on the side of caution and bought one that’s a bit too big.  Again, that never happens …

I met up with a friend of mine from my lighter life group last night for a mineral water or two.  We’ve not seen each other for a couple of weeks as we’ve been away and missed different group meetings.  She, like me, is starting to struggle with the diet.  We talked about it at length and came to the same conclusions that I mentioned in my last post.  When you feel just like everybody else, it seems strange and almost punitive not to be eating and drinking in the same way that they are.  We’ve both felt weird feelings of resentment towards our food packs.  As she put it, it’s bizarre that it’s hard now when for so long we both found it so easy … all that was required was determination and a bit of discipline.  Now the temptation to return to normality is very strong.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they choose 100 days for the foundation phase.  I think you start to crack at that point.  But we both concluded that we’re not there yet and egged each other on to continue.  The fact that we both look so startlingly different from the way that we did when we met, back in February, offers quite significant encouragement.

I’m changing my food order this week and, sad as it may seem, that’s quite exciting for me.  I have eaten exactly the same combination of food every day for almost thirteen weeks.  Yawn.  I’m minimising the number of soups that I have (I think that one hot meal a day is more than adequate) and going to gamble on having more shakes.  Ideally I’d live on the food bars alone, but that’s against the rules.  I’m a little nervous that I’ll be really hungry (psychologically they seem less filling) but I’ll give it a go.  And, given that I’m away all week next week on a course, I’m going to have to like it or lump it.

So, another sober Friday night is looming, but it’s a sober night enjoying the remains of the sunshine in pretty, summery clothes.  Hurrah.