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".
"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 then....it 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.
4 weeks ago