Wellbeing & mental health matters: keeping on top of weight

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In the spot on the site where we talk about mental health and wellbeing, a chat about keeping on top of weight and the impact it can have.

For me, it was the biscuits.

In the early stages of lockdown, I made sure I walked more, and I was also doing sadomasochist Joe Wicks’ daily workouts. For a couple of weeks, I kept on top of my weight. Shortbreads would, this time, prove my undoing.

Weight for me has been a constant battle. I was the overweight kid in my class, and I can recite back the taunting and the bullying I got with word perfect accuracy. And when I protested to the school bullies that I was trying to lose weight? Well that made them laugh harder, and poured fresh fuel into their attacks. There was little point protesting it wasn’t fair, but it wasn’t fair.

Away from the school playground, the bullying is less overt, but still there. I remember a boss of mine buying me an exercise video for my Secret Santa present and giving it me at the work Christmas party. I laughed it off on the surface, but wanted to go home and cry.

And it wasn’t until I started trying to lose weight for me and not for others that I actually began to get somewhere. Twice in my life I’ve lost five stone, and once it went straight back on. Now I’m that person who’s trying to stop weighing themselves twice a day to in turn try and get out of the fear of putting it all back on.

I’ve passed this tip on before, but this is what worked for me (finally) when it came to weight loss. I bought a crappy exercise bike that, for a year or so, was a very effective clothes horse. I’ve always hated gyms – I maintain they’re not for people struggling with weight in my experience – and thus I thought having exercise equipment at home would help. But I quickly found it boring.

Then I moved it in front of a telly and got somewhere, watching assorted episodes of things. But even that ceased to work fairly quickly. It needed a really good show to keep me interested. My boredom threshold is not on the tolerant side.

But then I hooked a games console to the television. Then I bought a really long game: a Dragon Age or a Shadows Of Mordor or a Fallout 4. In truth, games I didn’t usually play. Even a FIFA. And it worked. It took my mind off the pedalling, and I found that time started to move quicker. That I was doing half an hour on a bike I’d otherwise struggled to do ten minutes on.

When I really got into a game, I’d find I could do an hour. I’d practically crawl off the thing knackered, but also – importantly – I’d be looking forward to going back on. I had to ban myself from playing the game in question when I was off the bike. There were teething troubles. But over the course of a year, I not only managed to lose weight, I kept it off.

With peaks and troughs – albeit smaller ones than before – I’ve been able to keep it just about off since. But then the neurosis of it never lets go. I’m resigned to the fact that it never will.

For those of you struggling with weight, and the mental ramifications that come with it, then firstly sending a hug of solidarity.

Secondly, all I can say is find something that works for you. I’m finding all or nothing is the best way for me: I’ve had to stop biscuits altogether for the time being, else I’m comfort eating or grazing. When I go for food, I’ve reached for a glass of water instead. I’ve no idea how long it’ll last, but I know I need a collection of small strategies else I know I’m going to get stuck.

This isn’t one of those posts with a perfect answer. Instead, it’s one that recognises that it’s an ongoing challenge, with swings, roundabouts, ramifications. But one thing I can say, and I hope it helps: losing weight, if that’s what you want to do, has to be for you. It has to work for you. It has to be your choice, and something that’s not about other people.

The very best to you.

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