Thursday, 10 July 2008


Two of my favourite bloggers have triggered this post: Pat and Kim. In Pat's latest post she mentions the notion of cleaning one's plate and in a recent post Kim writes that the way to keep off weight lost is to define yourself as a healthy eater rather than a dieter. These things interest me because I have been struggling with my own weight since I was nineteen.

I remember the exact moment when I realised I can no longer eat whatever I want whenever I want. Wimbledon was on and I was watching it with my sisters and brother when the doorbell went. I got up to answer it and as I did so I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the couch. I looked fat. My stomach bulged under the waistband of my skirt and the battle commenced. I went on a diet and lost the weight I needed to regain my self esteem, but after a while some of it came back, so I went on another diet and lost it again. And thus, for nearly thirty years, my life has gone. I never let myself get really overweight, I began to check the scales daily and eat accordingly so no one ever knew about my battle, but it was a constant.

When I went to work in a Glasgow office I was seven stone two, I'd been seven stone two for years. I guess I thought that I had got the hang of things and instinctively knew my weight and what to do about it because when our scales broke I didn't bother to replace them. Big mistake. Working in an office in the city centre there are just too many temptations: a latte and muffin for breakfast as I planned the rest of the day, a sandwich, snatched at my desk, for lunch, a 'treat' of chocolate or cake mid afternoon to help me get through the rest of the day, on and on it went. Friday night beers didn't help either. By the next time I got on the scales, about four years later, I was eight stone seven. I didn't understand, I had actually dropped a dress size, from a ten to an eight, in that time, I thought I'd lost weight with the stress of working. How could that be? I bought a new set of the best quality scales available. They confirmed the worst: I was, for all intents and purposes, a stone and a half over weight. Looking in the mirror I saw my blubbery self in all my hideous glory. Fat had won the war, and fat was building a palace on my thighs, bloody tyrant. Thin was going to have to gather all its resources and start a revolution.

But thin was in a very weakened state and was unable to see the full strength of its enemy. It really believed the number on the label of a dress: 8. It thought that that number 8 meant that it was the true prince, that somehow those other numbers, the ones on the scales and the tape measure, were lying. I had to give it a serious talking to to stir it into action. There ensued a long battle of arbitration.

I got my weight down to seven stone twelve and there it stayed. I told myself I was a healthy eater who could be allowed the odd treat and when I dropped a dress size, to a six, I believed I'd made it. I was perfectly happy to be a size six and seven stone twelve and went back to my daily weighings and that was that. Except when I saw photographs of myself when I would starve myself for a week.

Then I started my degree course and once again, with tea and cakes available in the coffee bar between classes, the weight crept up and I struggled, then gave up. Physical appearance was shallow I told myself, I was now a philosopher and so had much greater things to concern myself with. Anyway I had noticed that the size sixes in the shops were a little loose these days so I really had nothing to worry about. I unfocused my eyes when presented with a photograph of myself and got in with my studies. Then suddenly this time last year I found I was six stone nine.

And I remain between six stone nine and six stone eleven. Now I have to search out size fours. The odd thing is my waist is exactly the same size it was when I was eighteen and wore a size ten. I still have a denim jacket that I bought when I was seventeen and it still fits me in the same way it did then. So what happened?

Well, I think Nietzsche's theory of becoming fits here. For thirty years I have been trying to keep my weight down, I have tried dieting, exercise, thinking of myself as a healthy eater, I have come upon obstacles that have stopped me and others that I was able to get over with ease. And now being the kind of thin I want to be has become second nature. It probably helped that with the studying I stopped consciously thinking about my weight, so the things I'd learned were unconsciously assimilated. I don't need to weigh myself everyday now, I don't need to say no to chocolate, I don't need to think 'I am a healthy eater'. All I need do now is listen to my instinct: I know when I've had enough to eat, so I can eat anything at all, and I have found a form of exercise which I love, and therefore don't have to force myself to do. It's all just a matter of drawing all the threads together and then blending them in with the rest of your life. You have to really want it though, and really work on it for a very long time. It's no different to practising your art.

Which all probably makes me sound rather sad: for thirty years I've been practising the art of being thin. Good god, just how shallow am I?


problemchildbride said...

You're not shallow, Eryl, you were just looking for balance, and I'd say most people spend their lives looking for that, particularly these days.

You're one of the lucky ones because you've found it and allowed your body to tell you instinctively what nourishment it needs. If you can be free of all that neurosis about weight then you've won, me friend! I have a great aunt who's 85 and is still in WeightWatchers. She laments every chocolate biscuit and it seems all wrong.

Dr Maroon said...

Oh shut up Fatty.

Eryl Shields said...

Sam ~ yes, balance you're right. Not sure that I've yet found it in all aspects of my life but not having to worry about the odd chocolate biscuit feels like a start. Pity your poor aunt, I fear my sister will go the same way.

Doc ~ I've had a hard paper-round, you've gotta give me something.

PI said...

I agree with Sam - there is nothing shallow in wanting to stay healthy and look good and one needs to be fairly vigilant. For instance: up until my forties I could eat and drink anything - and I did and remained skinny. Then suddenly I couldn't and wasn't. I blame the pill. And then one gets happy and that encourages the curves and then one gets less active (try three broken legs) and weight piles on. One owes it to one's family to stay as healthy as poss.
You have small bones also so it is
especially important not to overload them.
Being married to a Scot I think it must be the hardest place to keep slim. The cupboard is full of muffins, shortbread, fruit cake, crumpets- every biscuit sweet and savoury you could mention and the only ones I eat are the oatmeal
biscuits. The rest I would not chose to have in the house. So it goes.

Eryl Shields said...

Thanks Pat, because I do wonder if I am a bit shallow sometimes worrying about these things.

What is it with Scottish men and their packet treats? Mine is the same. I try only to eat cakes that I make myself or are properly baked by someone else, not packet. That way there is an element of control. But Stevie would fill the cupboards with junk if I let him. He came back from the airport with three giant Toblerones the other day, for the second time! And he is the one who buys biscuits too. Bad man! I do like a bit of shortbread though.

Kim Ayres said...

7stone 2lbs is 100lbs. I lost that.

How could I lose an Eryl? It's unthinkable.

Eryl Shields said...

That actually is quite disturbing Kim. I mean the thought of going round with a whole extra person strapped to your back as well as the thought of losing a me.

Kanani said...

Here, have a piece of cake.

Eryl Shields said...

Kanani ~ thank you, I think I will.

Mary Witzl said...

Ay-ay-ay! YOU are worrying about weighing too much? YOU?

I've had people scold me for worrying about my weight; some even feel I must be anorexic, which is such utter nonsense (I love eating). I'm taller than you are, but that doesn't excuse my current weight. I know I weigh more than I want to because I don't FEEL good at my current weight. Plus, I can't fit my clothes and I'm damned if I'm going to buy any new ones when the things I have are perfectly good. In essence, I want to keep the pounds off because I don't feel as good when I'm packing more on me -- and I'm cheap as sin. I also don't want to rely on food as a source of comfort -- always reaching for it instead of finding more meaningful ways to make myself happy.

debra said...

interesting how our culture (at least in the US) force feeds us thinness and weight obsessiveness, rather than healthy and strong bodies. We just got back from the Adirondack mountains where a daily ice cream (good quality stuff) was the norm, along with mountain climbing and canoing. When we passed a sign that offered cheesecake, I thought of you, but passed, opting for Sinful Mocha ice cream instead.

Anonymous said...

Sowohl allen? viagra preis cialis 20mg rezeptfrei [url=http//t7-isis.org]cialis erfahrungen[/url]