The Grit Doctor: ‘I have spent half my life trying to be something I’m not’

Spending half your life in and out of slimming clubs means that slimming clubs don’t work for you. So find something that does

Accepting yourself is one thing, accepting living with a BMI of 40 is quite another; so accept instead that you do need to lose some weight. Photograph: Thinkstock

Accepting yourself is one thing, accepting living with a BMI of 40 is quite another; so accept instead that you do need to lose some weight. Photograph: Thinkstock


Q After 20 years – half of my life – in and out of slimming clubs, I feel I need to stop. Yes, I have lost weight and am not as big as I used to be, but for the past couple of years I have struggled with my weight, a health problem, and giving up smoking.

My behaviour is annoying. I have a demon in my head. This demon controls everything, so when I join a slimming club, the demon says, You are going to stop going. The demon wins, and I stop going.

I am always trying to be something I’m not. No one has a problem with me being big. My husband met me when I was at my biggest, and he loves me. The only person who has a problem is me. I want to stay away from slimming clubs, but I battle it everyday. I have a BMI of 40, but I also want to accept myself. Anon

A Wow, half a lifetime spent in and out of slimming clubs: that is crackers, when you pause to think about it. I don’t say that to make you feel worse about yourself, because no doubt there are many people reading this column who will be nodding their heads in agreement, as they have also been addicted to slimming clubs for as long as they can remember. There is nothing wrong per se with a slimming club either, if it works.

The insanity lies in your doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result: so said Albert Einstein, I believe. So you are absolutely right to want to approach this problem from a new perspective because of one thing we can be quite certain: diet clubs are not working for you.

By the way, that demon you speak of is one we all have, a negative inner critic that tells us we are worthless and that we will fail, and almost relishes it when we do. That demon is the evil twin sister of your inner bitch, who is a positive force for change. And, yes, you do have an inner bitch, she is just currently suffocating under the weight of her evil twin.

How do you wake up a silenced or suffocating inner bitch?

Easy peasy. Regular cardiovascular exercise rouses her from the deepest of sleeps. So, get moving. Make a genuine commitment to exercise every day. At your weight, a regular brisk walk for an hour or so is vigorous exercise indeed and will have the pounds falling off you.

Don’t just take the dog for a slow amble, to which both you and he have long since grown accustomed; this is supposed to make you sweat, and to get your heart rate up. Have a big glass of water beforehand and off you go in your exercise kit, so you are dressing up for the job in hand. This is a proper workout.

It doesn’t count if you are moving within your comfort zone. Comfortable is not a word that should ever come into a description of a workout session. Ram that fact down your demon’s neck.

Eating habits

Next up: the terrible eating habits that have contributed to your perilously high BMI reading. I recommend that you start cutting the crap out of your diet ever so slowly. Identify those crappy eating habits while out on your vigorous walks and start tackling them one by one. You are clearly not proficient at dieting. This does not make you a failure, it just means you are the same as 97 per cent of the rest of humankind, who are also rubbish at following diets, myself included (footnote: Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and author of Fat is a Feminist Issue tried to sue Weight Watchers International, which she views as symbolic of the whole dieting industry. She claims the 97 per cent recidivism rate contravenes the Trade Descriptions Act 1968). It’s not you that is the problem; dieting is the problem.

Go easy on yourself by taking on just one thing and sticking to it until it is no longer an issue for you. For example, if you want to give up that bad habit of eating a muffin at teatime, just do that until it has been banished from your crappy habit repertoire forever. Then, spurred on by your success, tackle the next bad habit and keep moving forward slowly, surely and certainly with each of those vigorous walks you take, knowing that you are getting healthier and fitter with each crappy habit you banish from your life for good.

Swap white carbohydrates such as bread and rice for brown alternatives where you can, and get to grips with your portion sizes. Routinely wading in for seconds is another crappy habit that needs cutting. Taking on all these tips would be a fantastic starting point for you to begin transforming a lifetime of poor eating.

That your husband loves and supports you whatever your size is great, and that you need to accept yourself is also undoubtedly true, but here’s the gritty truth: Accepting yourself is one thing, accepting living with a BMI of 40 is quite another.

The reason you find it so unacceptable is because you are putting your body under enormous and unnecessary pressure, to which it is objecting vigorously. Your heart and joints are straining, and you are setting yourself up for a host of medical problems as you enter middle age, including an earlier death.

You have already ruled out any serious medical conditions that may underlie this excess weight. Which leaves the two key obesity triggers solely to blame: sedentary living and crappy eating.

You can’t accept this weight, which is why you have been in and out of slimming clubs for half your life. So accept instead that you do need to lose some weight and, in so doing, allow the acceptable version of yourself to be revealed. This will come in time through making that commitment to regular cardiovascular exercise and a crap-cutting approach to your eating habits.

It has taken a lifetime for this weight to pile on. It wasn’t just the one sticky toffee pudding that did it, just as that green salad you are going to have with your dinner instead of two slices of bread and butter won’t make you thin. You’ve taken the brave step of writing in, for which I applaud you. Now comes the next step: that brisk walk and a long hard think about your diet. You can do this: one brave, brisk step at a time.

The Grit Doctor says Sedentary living and a slothful attitude to your daily grind are every bit as crappy a habit as that tea

time muffin, and must be cut out.

Ruth Field is the author of Run Fat B!tch Run, Get Your Sh!t Together and Cut the Crap