December Reflections: I Was Challenged By...

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18 months ago my mum and I joined Slimming World. I had been unhappy with my weight for a while and I decided that enough was enough and it was time to do something about it. We went along to our first meeting at the end of June last year, sat through the talk, picked up our books and left ready to commit to our new, healthy lifestyle.

One week later I stepped on the scales to discover that I had lost 5lbs. I was thrilled and it spurred me on for the next week where I lost another 3lb and was awarded Slimmer of the Week. At the end of our first month I was awarded Slimmer of the Month and I was well on the way to losing a stone.

The feeling was absolutely amazing and I felt confident that it would not be long before I reached my target weight and fit back into my favourite dresses.

However it wasn't long before I plauteaued and began to alternate between losses and gains each week. Then Christmas arrived with its advent calendars, mince pies, tins of biscuits and chocolates, roast dinners and alcohol consumption at any time of the day. There was no way I would be counting syns during my favourite time of year. I was going to enjoy all aspects of the festive season. I would renew my efforts in the New Year.

My plateau continued into 2017 with the additional inconvenience of the Christmas weight gain. Up and down each week and then up, up, up...

Then in July I went to see a documentary called Embrace and it changed my perspective on everything with regards to the way I viewed my body. It made me realise that I didn't miss the way my old body looked; I missed what my body was once able to do.

If I'm being honest I've never been totally happy with my body even when it looked amazing (even if I do say so myself). When I look at photos of me at my slimmest, I am also reminded that they were often the times when I was at my unhappiest. Weight loss caused by heartbreak, stress, depression and anxiety made me look great, but inside I was feeling crap. 

I was also a very fussy eater when I was younger. Over the past few years, I have actually started to enjoy eating things I would never have dreamt of even trying in the past. This has been great in the sense that I now eat a much more varied and therefore healthier diet. It also means that I began to put on weight as my body was finally receiving the nourishment I'd never allowed it to have. Combining this with the fact I still love my pizza and have quite a sweet tooth and you can see how I ended up the heaviest I've ever been.

Watching Embrace helped me to understand that I should be grateful for everything that my body allows me to do and to treat it accordingly. This doesn't mean starving it of the things that I enjoy, but to help it to grow in strength. Exercise is what I was missing.

I never thought of myself as particularly active when I was younger, but looking back I walked everywhere because I couldn't drive, I'd dive right into a gym session and I loved my nights out dancing. 

I started to think about back at my recent peaks of activity. In 2015 I spent nearly every day during the summer walking the three miles into work each day. I didn't seem to lose any weight, but when I went back to Rainbows after the break, I noticed that I was finding it easier to join in with the girls.

Then I thought about last summer when I challenged myself to walk at least 10,000 steps a day for a month. I felt fricking awesome and I think it was that feeling that actually made me feel like I could accomplish my goal at Slimming World. I was still walk fairly regularly when I started. Were my achievements in those first few weeks actually down to my fitness regime as opposed to the food optimisation that I spent ages planning each day of each week?

Last month I went to my last Slimming World meeting. Rather ironically my last weigh in revealed that I was back at the same weight that I had been at my first meeting all those months ago. In the end it had been a waste of time and money.

And I think that right there is one of my main issues with programmes like Slimming World and Weight Watchers. You have to pay week after week to stand on the scales and be told what you weigh. It gets shared with the group and if you haven't had the best week, that can make you feel like absolute shit, like a failure. If you aren't able to go one week, then the next time you have to pay not only for that week, but also the week(s) you have missed.

I went to a Prosecco and Positivity evening that my friend held a few weeks back and she explained that everyone has their own set point when it comes to weight. This is why when we diet, we may lose in the first few weeks, but it will nearly always go back on. And this is how companies like Slimming World make their money as many of their customers end up in a continuous cycle of losing, maintaining and then gaining weight. 

Don't get me wrong, I realise that programmes like this do work for some people and that is amazing, but I need a new approach and that has to start with me embracing the body I have, loving it and thanking it for what it can do and then encouraging it to acheive even more.

In 2017 I was challenged by my desire to lose weight and my reason behind that desire. In 2018 I will challenge myself to embrace every part of me. I am who I am and I don't want to go back to being the fussy eater who wouldn't touch a single vegetable on her plate. I want to continue trying new foods and not have to worry about what that might do to the number on the scales. Instead I will work on my fitness and making it a daily part of my life so that I can make my body stronger and more capable.
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