Thursday 11 April 2019

The awful shame about FAT

I went to see my neurologist this week for my six-monthly check-up.  He is a lovely man who remembers little details about your life, which shows he has good social skills and a higher than average interest (for a doctor) in his patients.  As I walked in, I clocked his eyes doing his usual appraisal, something which I imagine he does to all his patients, as a way of assessing changes in mobility and gait.  However, as the appointment continued, his eyes kept fluttering their focus to my midriff area (definitely not my boobs, that would be a whole different blog).

I decided to confide my worries about my legs, as they have been behaving badly for the past few months; numbness and sensory changes becoming the new norm.  He immediately came back with “Last time you saw me, you were running 5K three times a week, are you still doing that?”. I wanted to scream “NO I AM NOT RUNNING ANYMORE BECAUSE I HATE IT AND THE ENDORPHINS ARE NOT WORTH THE PAIN AND EFFORT!”.  What I actually said was: “I have always liked cycling and am thinking about getting an electric bike”.  This, it turned out, was quite an inspired response, as he had just bought an electric bike, so that distracted him from my lardy-arse ways for a bit.

After lots of discussion about Lake District cycle routes, we both agreed I needed to get back to some regular exercise (possibly on my non-electric bike).  Almost as an afterthought I said, “Is there anything else I could be doing? I have been reading a lot about MS and gut health….”  His eyes started flickering towards my midriff again…. “It looks like you have put on a bit of weight since I last saw you”. My heart skipped a beat and my stomach lurched with the shock of those words being said out loud to my face.  I also knew what was coming, so I decided to distract him with a five-minute monologue of excuses including cold, wet, Scottish ferries, Christmas excess, Greek food, Ouzo, mystery viruses and fizzy feet.

Eventually I had to actually answer his question. My cheeks aflame, “Yes I have put on almost a stone since I last saw you.” He must have sensed my shame and shock because he said in his most compassionate doctor voice, “I know this is a sensitive issue, but being as close as possible to your ideal weight has been shown to have long-term benefits for patients with MS, so losing some weight will maximise your chances of recovery from this latest relapse”.

I was surprised at how shocked I was to hear a medical professional tell me I needed to lose weight.  I know (because I am not blind) that I need to lose a few inches, but to hear it said out loud was both embarrassing and massively challenging. I don’t blame him one bit, he was doing his job properly and made a judgement that I could take it because I come across as confident and determined, how is he to know that I actually have body issues and a fragile ego in common with many women my age?

When I got home, I had a little cry and my husband said he would support me by only eating two slices of toast, instead of three, in the morning.

So here is the problem: I know in theory what I need to do and how to do it, but in reality, I don’t even know where to begin.  Weight loss should be simple.  Eat less and exercise more - BOOM! But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it is easy.  I absolutely love eating, the endorphins (or the food equivalent) I get from eating are far superior to the running ones.  Food is a massive source of joy in my life. If losing weight was easy, we would all be thin and there wouldn’t be an obesity epidemic and a billion-pound diet industry.

The following day was an absolute beauty – blossom, lambs, birdsong and an abundance of Spring energy fizzing about.  I had an afternoon to myself, so I dusted off the bike and rode nine miles up to Coniston Water for a mini picnic and a little listen on my headphones to some nice Icelandic electro pop, sat on a beach looking at mountains.  The ride back was a slog, but I felt brilliant.  The endorphins were buzzing, the lethargy a distant memory. THIS GIRL CAN... 

…That night I went to a friend’s house and drank almost a bottle of prosecco (642 calories) with a Cumberland sausage and apple crumble chaser.  Oh, and there was some cheese…

You see, NOT easy.  Even with the motivation of numb feet and the possibility of other more permanent disability, the siren calls of the cheese and bread and crisps and curry and chocolate and Yorkshire puddings are strong.  So, I have decided that my approach will be (and to quote my recently buff brother-in-law), “Change one thing and the rest will follow”.  I am also going to take into consideration a friend’s brilliant but harsh advice: “You can’t outrun a bad diet!”

In practical terms this means I am going to start small, by getting the exercise regime back on track and to stop snacking.  Hopefully these tentative steps into a healthy lifestyle will eventually lead to a Mediterranean rainbow diet, triathlete endgame but let’s face it, if it just stops me eating biscuits at 9.30 at night then I will have achieved something.  Wish me luck and if you have any tips, let me know.


  1. I have always had a weight problem - love eating! Eat to relieve stress etc etc. Recently - after Jan 1st - went a bit barmy and gluten free, dairy free (well lactose free milk and cheese but nil else) cut out alcohol ad caffeine - so now I am a pain in the you know what but have lost 10 pounds in three months. I still eat sugar - hooray! Sometimes it helps to have a definite diet with sharp boundaries? Exercise helps but I the end if you do not put into the system more than you burn up it will not be stored away as fat.
    Try having no dairy and/or no wheat flour - it is amazing how many things contain them - after all a butter/sugar mixture is so yummy (like Scottish tablet).
    Get Gary to join you - had to finish with a joke.

  2. That is very interesting. The only time I have ever consistently lost weight was when I first did my "overcoming multiple sclerosis" diet a few years back. Basically a largely vegan diet with fish with lots of flax seed oil supplements, vitamin D3. I did it because I had suffered a particularly nasty relapse which made me wheelchair bound for a few days followed by a couple of courses of very high dose steroids. I had put on quite a lot of weight and the prospect of permanent disability scared the living daylights out of me. It was a hard diet for a committed carnivore but it had the added bonus of good weight loss and at the end of the day it was a very healthy way to eat. I actually went 6 months without chocolate (imagine that!). For the first time I wasn't "dieting" to lose weight, it was a lifestyle change with weight loss as a bonus. Having said that, after six months the bad habits started to creep back in. Perhaps that is the way to go as it is prescriptive. I also need to sort my head out!

    Good joke btw. Garry says he will do it with me but we'll see! He might not have much choice because I do most of the cooking.

  3. Mel, Thank you for this. What a lovely blog post. I completely understand your sensitivity about weight. We are bombarded with tempting and delicious things to eat and drink. Like Duncan I found that cutting out dairy and most wheat (though not carbohydrates) led to a steady weight loss. Of course I had the incentive of gall bladder problems. After a horrible attack I wasn’t going to risk another. The huge plus is that 18 months on I feel healthier in every aspect of my life. I can walk uphill without huge puffing. My knees don’t hurt. What’s odd is that I’ve lost my taste for foods rich in fat. A low fat diet might be a no no for you, but deciding on a simple regime that virtually cuts things out was easier than cutting down on stuff - if that makes sense. Good luck with it, you lovely person.

    1. You look brilliant Caroline. My gallbladder was whipped out years ago following my second pregnancy, so I never did the gallbladder diet. The principles are sound though. I probably could solve a lot of my issues by avoiding bread because it inevitably leads to large butter consumption! But bagels, Thomas's granary, warm baguette..... told you I was a lost cause!

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