For the last few months, my twitter feed and my blog all managed to feature my weight loss “programme” at some stage. And we’ve all heard people saying that by eating healthily we will actually save ourselves money. But for someone like me, someone whose weight problems stem back to an early age and whose eating habits have been shaped by this, just how true is this?
Let me start by saying, no one should ever tell you to lose weight just because you need to lose weight. Whether it’s out of concern for your health, or whatever, the person saying it should also maybe be aware of just what they’re saying and the effect it can have on an individual’s mental health. Trust me, I have learnt this.
… we’ve all heard people saying that by eating healthily we will actually save ourselves money…
Going back to my earliest weight-based memory, I was in Primary 1 in a little school called Wellbrae Primary School in the small town (or is it a village?) of Forfar. As with all children in my class, I had an appointment with the school nurse to get a check up done and see how I was developing. I remember the colouring in, the games, and her big smile when she told me I was really smart for being able to read so well already. Then it was time for the grownups to talk, so I went and started drawing another picture. I don’t remember much of what was said but I distinctly remember hearing “Katie is very overweight for her age. She can’t put on any more weight for at least a few years”. At the age of 5, I was overweight, and my parents were advised to put me on a diet.
I remember being a couple of years older, and mum told me she was going to a special class to help her lose weight. She asked me would I like to help her and eat the same as her. Being 7 years old and a bit of a mummy’s girl, I said yes, getting excited that I would get to eat my mummy’s food – it always looked lovely, and maybe I would get to eat later and go to bed later like her too! That summer, I was banned from eating bread at breakfast, and was encouraged to avoid bread during the day, or other snacks. I think it was that stage when I started sneaking food into my room. I began to smuggle biscuits, sweets, chocolate, anything I could get my hands on, into my bedroom so I could eat the same as all my friends but without the judgement.
We moved to Lisburn, and you can imagine our excitement to have a sweet shop across the road from us. Our neighbours were always really kind and sent us over with money so we could buy food to share amongst us, but we weren’t allowed to tell mum and dad or we would end up being in trouble. This started my bad habit of eating things in 2s and eating them quickly in case either parent came into the garage where we were playing.
A pattern began.
Any time I had money to spare, I would go into whatever shop was closest. I would buy the buy one get one free deals, or any other “value for money” deals I could see, just to get as much as I could for my couple of pounds. In secondary school, I stopped eating any fruit sent in with me, and I stopped drinking the water bottles mum would give us with lunch – I would simply stock up on snacks on my way to the train instead. The only thing was, I was still getting a bit of a walk to and from the train, never mind any activities I did with the family over the weekend, even if they did have to force me. Through all this, I was constantly told I needed to lose weight. I went to fitness classes with mum, I tried the Special K diet at one stage (anyone else remember that? All you could eat was 2 bowls of Special K), and still I continued to eat more and more secret foods. It reached a stage I actually felt uncomfortable eating around people, I was that used to secretly eating.
… mum asked me if I was pregnant. That was the only way she could explain my sudden weight gain
Then came university. Oh the freedom! I could buy what I wanted, eat what I wanted, and there was always someone going to the shops for one thing or another so I always had a steady supply. I’m not sure how much weight I put on in first year, but it was a lot. My family started telling me I had put on an awful lot of weight. I couldn’t possibly be happy with the size I was. I remember going home as a surprise one weekend. I was sitting on the floor in the living room, and mum asked me if I was pregnant. That was the only way she could explain my sudden weight gain. I rolled my eyes and ignored her, even if some of her comments did hurt. That was the problem. I was so used to hearing from her about how I needed to lose weight, it no longer meant anything. I ignored it. I pretended not to hear her. It got to the stage I resented going home, where I knew everything I eat and drank would be scrutinised. However, I was aware that my meals at university were smaller portions, and I was feeling happier in myself. I wasn’t buying new clothes because the old ones didn’t fit, I was buying them because I wanted new clothes.
In second year, I joined the Irish Dancing classes at uni. I struggled to walk up the big hill to the library. And I was aware that maybe I should start losing a little weight, just so I could keep up with my friends when we went shopping in the big supermarket nearby. So I began to meal plan. I exercised a little more. I actually did manage to lose a bit of weight! Same again with 3rd year, I forced myself to lose some more weight, whether just by not buying in snacks, or by watching what I ate a little closer. Some clothes began to fit again!
Then I went home for the summer. Mum asked me would I not like to lose some weight for going on holiday. I agreed, yes I did want to, but it was rather difficult to on my own. She volunteered to pay for Weight Watchers for me. We agreed that I would go to the meetings, and she and dad would follow the programme with me but without attending the classes. I got on the scales that night, and saw that in the 3 years at university, I had put on almost 6 stone.
It seemed ridiculous to me at the time – a £15 new member fee, plus £5.95 per class, all just to be told I was overweight and needed to lose weight. I cried the night we agreed it. I didn’t want to give up my cheese and chocolate and crisps and everything else that I loved! But I went to that first meeting, and that’s when my approach to healthy eating changed.
Thank you for reading Part 1 of Save Money Lose Weight. This is part of a new mini series on my blog. I am not sure how many more parts there will be, but it is something I feel is important to share. Keep an eye out for Part 2, or sign up for email updates in the box on the right!