The “D” Word

Five weeks ago I started the 5:2 ‘diet’. I say ‘diet’ because I hate that it is branded and labelled as a diet, fad or otherwise. I don’t want to tell people that I am dieting. I am not dieting. That would imply that I am aiming for a specific number and then the diet will end. I am changing my diet, not starting one. I won’t be signing up to Weight Watchers or similar any time soon. 

Firstly, they wouldn’t be able to weigh me. I’ve never heard of any local weight loss groups containing a wheelchair accessible set of scales. There are some dairy farms nearby though and I guess if they weigh their cattle I’d be in with a chance of wheeling myself onto their scales? It was the same story when I was pregnant. Pregnant women are routinely weighed to check their weight gain throughout the 9 months to ensure they aren’t gaining or even losing weight more than is expected. I was never weighed during either pregnancy, and I’ve yet to successfully weigh myself on anyone’s bathroom scales. It’s a bit like watching a cat trying to sit down with all four limbs on top of a fence post. Except less graceful. A lot less graceful. I think last time I attempted it was a few months ago in my mum’s bathroom and it was like a game where I sat on the scales and Tom had to position all my many floppy limbs (trying to pack away an awkward Travel cot springs to mind as an illustration) and then quickly let go in a rather rehearsed fashion where one of us tries to look at the numbers on the screen, but it’s too late as I’ve fallen into a laughing heap onto the bath mat. 

So how much do I actually weigh? Who knows. I think I weigh roughly 10.5-11stone and a UK size 12-14. The last time I was aware of my actual weight was age 15 at a hospital appointment where I was told to sit on a weighing chair. Ironically I could still stand up at this point and could’ve stood on regular hospital scales if necessary.

So pretty much from about that age, 14 years ago, I’ve battled with wanting to know how much my weight fluctuates. Like any normal woman, I want to be able to moan to my work colleagues that I’ve put on a pound or two over the weekend, or rejoice in knowing that my new way of eating is actually producing lower numbers on the scales. 

I’m not even sure where my obsession with wanting to know my exact weight comes from. I try to gauge how slim I must be by how my clothes fit and how well I feel,  which is ultimately what matters. But recently someone at work, a visitor, asked me when my baby was due. That’s not my way of announcing a third pregnancy don’t worry, I’m not actually with child right now. It’s the kind of thing you hear others saying happened to their neighbour’s cousin’s Gran’s hairdresser and everyone gasps with open-mouthed amazement. It’s not the most confidence-boosting question to be asked! The stupid thing is that even when I have been heavily pregnant people struggle to notice if they don’t know me. 

I suppose I don’t feel like I am particularly overweight, it’s the shape of my body that makes me feel and look bigger than I want to be. Complete muscle wasting in my lower limbs accentuates everything else, and my back curving in makes my belly stick out. Muffin tops are only the beginning of my issues! This is my frustration though. As a wheelchair user who has little use of their arms and hands, for exercises that other wheelchair users might be capable of (rowing, tennis, wheelchair racing etc) and no use of my legs, getting fit and maintaining fitness in order to sustain muscle tone is pretty difficult. On top of that (I’ll be done soon, don’t worry), not being able to burn off calories I’ve consumed as easily as the next show-off able-bodied person with all their working limbs, means I get an instantaneous guilt every time I eat anything that isn’t a lettuce leaf. 
So exercise and sports are things I’ve always been desperate to pursue and have some sort of skill in. I did gymnastics for 6 years as a child, to retain some level of strength and fitness. I gave up at 12, stupidly, and it bugs me that there was nothing after that. Secondary School didn’t encourage me, in fact they suggested i didn’t do P.E. with my peers! I’d really have cocked up their league table results now wouldn’t I! 

Those of you who are reading and whom don’t know me might be thinking ‘er, wheelchair basketball is quite popular at the Paralympics I hear. And there’s that swimmer with no limbs who manages not to sink, what’s your excuse?’ And you’d be quite right (if a little bit blunt) but I live in a fishing town in Devon. It’s not teaming with opportunities for alternative accessible sport to suit all abilities. And even if I lived somewhere closer to those opportunities, I get reminded then that my body is sadly lacking in useful muscle and nerve function to carry out such sporting endeavours.

So that brings me back to eating less. My my, this is a jolly upbeat blog post isn’t it! 

I see the 5:2, or intermittent fasting diet as the only realistic way of being able to still eat things that I enjoy and lose a bit of weight. Mainly that extra abdominal surface area that isn’t welcome unless it is carrying a small human! There’s minimal calorie counting to be done. And it’s easier and less stressful to stick to the same few foods on the fasting days so once you’ve worked out what you want to  eat on those two days, calorie counting is unnecessary. Win win. 

It seems to be working I think, I feel less rotund in areas, and don’t feel like I’m going to murder someone because I’m not allowed to order yummy takeaway food at the weekend. I can have tea and cake with my best friend and not feel guilty and that I’ve let myself down.

My next mission is to become the next Tanni Grey-Thompson. Okay… Maybe a bit ambitious! 

Follow me on Twitter @shopgirlygm 



Nothing changes on New Year’s Day

Sorry to be blunt, but what is it about going from one evening to the next morning at a particular night, that makes everyone need to rush to their friends and their news feeds on facebook to be the first to read about everyone’s proclaiming of new year’s resolutions? Just what is it about the first day of a new year that means you must commit yourself to losing 99 percent of your body fat by February the 2nd, only eating carbs on the second Thursday of every month, doing 72 push ups every morning before you go to the toilet and washing your aging face with a banana skin before bed every night? Surely we can do those things any time we like.

There is so much increasing pressure every new year that I’ve witnessed in recent years. As I was growing up I too fell victim to the compulsion to say I was going to ‘diet’ and lose weight from the moment the Christmas holidays were over. Even as a young teenager I remember feeling this guilt at wanting to eat something yummy on the Friday evening after going back to school in January and then feeling like I needed to do it in secret so no one would learn of my atrocities.

But every year that went by as I grew up, the ‘dieting’ failed to last more than a few days. I once ate just a Granny Smith apple for the entire day and felt so ill with an achey stomach by the evening. All because my new jeans were a bit tight. Maybe I could’ve done with losing a bit of puppy fat. Maybe the jeans were just the wrong size? Maybe I was just a teenager whose body shape was still forming and growing. Who knows.

I’ll tell you who knows. You. Not everyone in your news feed, or the kids in your school, or the women in your slimming class.

Changing something major about yourself, and I mean those whose long-term health risks mean that weight loss is a necessity, or those whose sedentary lifestyle means that they really do need to raise their heart rate and exercise sensibly but regularly, should be something you decide for yourself if and when you know you can stick to changing it permanently. It angers me to watch food products like Weight Watchers snack bars, sugar-laden fat-free yoghurts and water-filled ready meals fly off the shelf in the supermarkets in January, knowing that those products aren’t going to help anyone in the short, let alone, long term. It angers me that those companies are sucking people in when they feel at their worst after indulging at Christmas. But actually, why shouldn’t we indulge at Christmas or other significant times of your personal diary? Why should you feel bad for having a slice of your own birthday cake when you’re supposed to be dieting? Shame on you for enjoying yourself. People need to be aware that they can change their lifestyle and that don’t have to call it a diet. Dieting just implies it’s only going to last a finite length of time. Then what? How long ’til you bully yourself into pursuing the next weight-loss pill?

People need to know that they can be healthier and happier and still enjoy getting Chinese takeaway when their family or friends come to visit, and that they can be comfortable in the knowledge that they have power over their own bodies as far as food/drink consumption goes. People are intelligent enough to know that, probably, having Chinese takeaway every other night as part of their weekly routine might NOT make them feel too healthy.

Why are we still treating people and ourselves like we need to have specially labelled food, count by using a made-up word to signify a calorific measurement, rather than using the common sense and knowledge that we all have, hopefully, somewhere. Well maybe some are void of this, but we can help them too.

The only pressure I feel at the moment is to make sure my girls grow up knowing the healthiest ways to eat for general long term health. I’ll teach them that we can have a McDonald’s on the car journey up country and that we don’t have to feel bad about it. I’ll teach them to learn the biological and scientific facts about food and nutrition and how our bodies react to the things we eat and what they can do to help themselves when they don’t feel too healthy. I’ll teach them to use their heads and ask us questions when they need to know something. And if we don’t know, we’ll teach them to try and find an answer. It already scares me that they’ll get tricked into thinking they need to lose weight just because their friends are.

Now, where did I put my fat-free chocolate cake? Bottoms up!