Friday, June 25, 2010


I first heard the word "obese" from a doctor when I was fourteen, nearly fifteen.

At the time I was not as skinny as some of my age, but I was certainly not fat. I wore size twelve and, as a modest and respectable type, did as my mother told me and wore things slightly big. Too tight was considered tarty...

I was a teenager of course in the post Twiggy era. It was the late seventies. The "perfect" figure was some sort of straight up and down gamine type look. Boobs were definitely out, hips considered pure fat and waists were the bit in the middle of your body with no defined shape. Size twelve was big. Fourteen huge. Sixteen? Unspeakable. A size reserved only for grannies and spinster schoolteachers.

The sizes were different too. A twelve then was more or less what a ten would be now. I know this because as an incurable hoarder I still have clothes going way back and can see the difference in sizes.

So, when I went to the doctor, aged 14 and a 1970's size 12, but convinced that I was "fat" due to my "bust" as we called it then, no-one batted an eyelid, when (without weighing me) he handed me a booklet on " How to deal with obesity".

Except me.

"I'm not obese," I yelled to my mother! And of course, I seriously wasn't. I weighed under 9 stone with a small waist and a bust size that matched my hip size. Doctors knew best though then and so my already low fat diet became even lower fat. Everything was "fattening" in our house. My mother is the only person I know who considered grapefruit to be fattening. We never had biscuits. Crisps were only for parties and cakes for birthdays, Christmas and Easter. Unless we had visitors of course and then there was no end to my mother's culinary brilliance in the cake and pudding department. It was a mortal sin though to eat anything remotely fattening when visitors weren't present.

I remember the new strict regime lasting a few days and then, my Dad, who never publicly disagreed with my mother about our welfare, invited my mother and I to meet him for lunch. I remember he took us to very trendy looking wine cellar brasserie type restaurant and told me to order some food.

"I'm on a diet". I protested. "Well, you've not eaten much for the last few days, so now have a bit of a blow out" he said. On reflection, it was I believe my Dad's was of saying that I really didn't need to lose weight. That is a nice memory.

Unfortunately though, the magazines of the day, the straight up and down models, the seventies and early 80's film stars all seriously influenced our generation for the next decade or so. It was such a strange era in which to grow up. Those who went ten years before us had flower power, mini skirts, glam rock and hippy fun. We had tweed skirts and high necked frilly blouses. There was a very brief interlude in about 1978 when tiered skirts and a little bit of girly prettiness and even "ra ra" skirts came in. But that was shortly followed by punk, grunge and for the less adventurous of us, "The Lady Di" look.

And the need to be thin.

Thin was pure beauty. We didn't even give it the nicer title of slim. We all wanted to be THIN.

I look back on photos, and other than my ridiculous calves which have always been the bane of my life, I was thin. But I thought I wasn't. And the sad thing is that according to weight charts then I wasn't. Aged 22 after a heavy university year I decided that I was by now seriously overweight and so, in the summer holidays I went to Weightwatchers, I remember that, fully clothed and in the evening... I had crept up to a MASSIVE 10 stone 2lbs. God........ how did I sleep at night with all those extra pounds on my body? At Weightwatchers they told me that I should have been 8 Stone 11 lb as an absolute maximum, based on my height and age and so I had to lose 19 pounds.

I followed that diet religiously. I did everything that it asked for to the point that when I accidentally tasted a cup of tea with sugar in it I went nearly mental with worry. And I got my self down to 8 stone 13 lb, in the evening, fully clothed. But I could not shift the final 2 lb, and so was not considered a success story by Weightwatchers and as such not by me either.I managed to keep most of the weight off for the next ten years however, despite three pregnancies, never weighing more than 11 stone even at 9 months pregnant. I then got myself a gold medal status at Weightwatchers between baby number one and two and after baby number two by finally managing to meet their criteria for being "THIN". I was so happy about it and never once noticed that I was looking seriously gaunt in the process... I thought I looked great.

But went downhill. After baby number three I got chicken pox shortly after giving birth. We all got it, including my then ten day old baby. (The one who later became "Sensible" in my writings.) She and I recovered together in her isolation ward in hospital whilst the others all recovered at home.....but that's another story.

It was after that though that I really did put on weight. A doctor I visited when in my mid thirties offered me a skipping rope. As a mother of then four children aged 8 and under I felt a little cross that he didn't acknowledge that I was actually quite active. Well, very really.

A few years later still I was finally diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, but not before my weight had crept up to a little over a shocking 12 stone. And that is where it is now. During this time of course I have tried EVERY diet that was ever invented: Some sensible. Some less. Cabbage soup, Atkins, the Hay diet and many variations on the same theme, Weightwatchers, Tesco Online Diets, Unislim, Rosemary Conley, Slimming World. I even bought some of that ridiculously expensive wacky tea and many may more. I can name most periods of my life by the diet that I was following at the time. Most recently I have been chewing the "Chew Chew" diet. Yes, well ...

Of course the biggest irony in all this is that I currently still wear a size 12. Sizes being so much more generous than they were a few years ago have allowed extra pounds to arrive without the extra sizes. I have of course variously been size 14 and 16 over the years, but in recent years, my daughters have put me straight and put me into less baggy smaller sized clothes. and so now I wear a twelve again. Much of the time.

But ... when I went to the Doctor about something unrelated in January he just "popped" me the scales. (It's a funny term "pop". Do you think that they teach Doctors that at medical school?) Ummmm he said. That's crept up a bit. ("Yes, I've been telling you that for years" I wanted to say...) "It really is quite dangerous of course," he said. "You are in the obese category."

Such an emotive word. The very word "Obese" brings up images to mind of people who make my figure look more akin to Twiggy herself. It is not a word I associate with a size 12. Even a 2010 size 12. And I have muscles too. I'm not flabby I thought. Well ... apart from the baby tummy, and my horrible calves, and I have had five babies all together. Surely that allows for SOME flexibility on the scales. AND I have got an underactive thyroid... (See think bubble above my head and doctor on the other side of the desk.)

"What you need to do", he said "is to cut down on your portion sizes. Eat less fat. More vegetables and fruit. And if that doesn't work, come back and we'll give you some diet pills."

I smiled weakly. Inside I wanted to scream at him...

I went home and ate for Britain that day...

But, for the next few months I tried to be sensible, to chew my food, to exercise and to just eat properly. I have lost a few pounds but it really wasn't shifting enough. And to be honest, the ingrained "thin thing" is always there in my mind. Of course I am not looking to be 9 stone. I would look haggard, but I do seriously need to lose some. Well, quite a lot actually.

So. I went back this week and accepted the Docs fab diet pills. Medical pills are the only thing that I haven't actually tried yet. It's another trick of course. Eating fat with them makes you so seriously uncomfortable that what you do is train your body not to eat any excessive amounts, ever again hopefully.

So wish me luck ...

And if you ever need a diet book writing...

Let me know.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's all down to "Feng Shui"

It's all down to "Feng Shui" I said to Hubby.

"Oh right" he said. With Hubby of course there is actually a continual subtext. As a sort of "nearly a proper actor, maybe someone will spot me one day" type I have over the years done quite a few workshops where you improvise the subtext of what the character is really saying. I always find those exercises quite easy myself. I just think of Hubby's subtext moments and "hey presto" we have a result.

Of course, the subtext on this particular occasion was...." Yet another HBS*. Smile sweetly and agree. She'll move onto something else quite soon."

"We need to change the front door colour" I said.

"Oh" he said. Subtext "What is she going to suggest now"?

"I've been reading up on it." I went on. "It faces west and a little bit to the south, which means that gold or white would be a good colour. Probably white. I don't fancy gold."

At that the subtext moments stopped.

"You can't change the colour of the front door" he protested.

I looked at him. He was serious. And of course, he was right. We live in a Georgian house which is grade II listed. The "You must have a BLACK front door" has been engraved into the "What you are allowed and what you are not allowed to do with your house" book in the Forest of Dean council offices. And of course, added to that, it has always been black for over 200 years. Or currently a slightly off black greyish in need of a paint version of black. But black. Definitely black.

I knew that I'd lost that one. The front door had to stay as it was however "un feng shui".

"The thing is" I went on "is that our house is a bit of a Feng Shui nightmare.

It's not pronounced "Schwee" Mum. It's Schway. Feng "Schway" said Sensible. "Oh, right" I said. It's a nuisance being older sometimes. I get all sorts of things wrong. I like to call Gok Wan for instance Gok "warn" as in "arm", but apparently that is wrong too. It is perhaps a right of passage though to pronounce things wrongly. My mother is a expert at it. Everyone takes delight in her "pittzzas" for example with her emphasis on the double "T" and she is of an age where she either doesn't hear or doesn't really care. Probably the latter. She has always called them pittzas. She likes to call them pittzas and even though the rest of the world calls them pizzas, she will continue to call them pittzas. Good for her. And when I get to the purple hat age, I too will relish being able to call things what I like and be too "deaf" to hear people correcting me. But right now, while I'm in the middle bit of life still I suppose I still have to try to conform.

"OK then" I said. Feng "Shway" nightmare.

And, according to the experts, it is.

You see, the front door faces the back door, which to all intents and purposes is sort of another front door, it being a double sided house, which means that the money comes into one side and out of the other, which it certainly does for us. And then the staircase is in the right place for one door, but in completely the wrong place for the other. In other words it is directly opposite the back door, or the other front door, which apparently means that the "chi" goes straight upstairs, leaving the downstairs devoid of all the good stuff.

Then there is the question of the doors themselves. The ideal is that you use one door for almost all of your outgoings and incomings. Well ... that's great if you are one person with one job and nothing too complicated to manage. Try a family of nine residents, all with different missions, all with different reasons for entering and leaving the house, all at different ages and not one, or even two, but three very used doors. Some of the family catch buses from the front of the house, some get into cars, using the side door. Some just go and play in the garden, using the back/ other front door and some walk to places using any of the doors available.

Oh dear...

"Oh for goodness sake Mum. People were burnt at the stake for believing in such stuff not so long ago" said ESOS. "It's all mumbo jumbo."

"O.K. then clever clogs", said I. "So why, since living in this house has all the money literally come in through the front door and disappeared out of the back, when before we lived here we were reasonably comfortable, for a little while at least?"

Meanwhile Sensible came back into the room.

"Mum? Why is your necklace hanging from the ceiling?"

"It's a "crystal" I explained, to divert the energies. It will help the fact that at the moment they are all going from front to back, up the stairs and in my lady's chamber and stuff."

"It looked nicer round your neck." She said.

"Yes, well I am going to order a proper one for the purpose, but I thought that it would do for now."

"I think it looks fine." Said Hubby. Subtext: "She really has gone completely mental this time. Best not say too much. Just wait for the men with the straight jackets to arrive."

"Well, what we really need is a round table there" I said.

So, today I got our white metal round garden table and plonked it in the middle of the hall. And I decided that I could actually put conservatory type furniture into that bit of the hall and make a feature of the fact that it opens onto the garden. In essence I would in fact make no pretence of the fact that I would be directly copying, with limited resources, my lovely friends in Effingham, who have a tailor made very posh and stunningly beautiful new garden room in their house.

Gymnast arrived home. I explained my plan for my "sort of" garden room. "Oh, awesome" she said. "It'll look cool." One vote at least.

"Mum, why is the garden table in the middle of the hall?" said Tinkerbell Mushroom. "It's Feng Shui" I said.

"Feng What?"

I got one of those "Mum has really lost it this time" looks. And then "Oh...What's for dinner?"

True to form, Hubby said nothing derogatory. He just smiled and said. "Yes. Feng Shui." Subtext: "Silly old bat. Where are those men with the straight jackets?"

To which of course, my subtext was: "Wait and see. Just because not every person in China is a multi millionaire doesn't mean that Feng Shui is a load of baloney. You never know just WHAT might be around the corner..."

*Hair Brained Scheme