The Unbearable Heaviness Of Being

Or,

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition

How my daily commute used to be - but it's better now, I wear clothes

How my daily commute used to be – but it’s better nowadays. I wear clothes

I’d been thinking about writing this piece for some time and have been prompted to do it now by my fabulous and beautiful friend Cyd, who challenged me to post something before Friday – I think she has been working her blog magic for me again. So, if this is rapidly written and therefore below my usual standard – if that’s possible – you can blame her! And I apologise if this comes across as self-congratulatory; as always, my only intention is to share my experience in the hope it helps someone.

Next week is the 20th anniversary of my starting work in the NHS, and I have been with the same employer since then, give or take several reorganisations. The NHS Trust I work for started by providing mental health services only, until we achieved Foundation Trust status in 2007. Since then we have developed rapidly into providing a wider range of services in the community. This change has brought even more into focus the link between good physical and mental health. I know many of the clinicians in the Trust and they all emphasise this – it seems obvious – but I never really understood why it was important until I was off work with depression.

Weight problems can affect anyone

Weight problems can affect anyone

I was, and still am, very overweight. I hadn’t realised what it was doing to me – I’d piled on the tons since I was divorced, probably due to the freedom to buy all sorts of tasty goodies that were full of calories and bad for me. But when I look back it horrifies me how easy it is for us to get that way. As an example of its impact on me: I live about 5 minutes’ walk from the station, the walk is uphill on the homeward stretch, and I was taking a breather part way. On a five minute walk!! When I was first diagnosed my GP said that we would have to address this, but only after the depression was under control. This actually took about 7 or 8 months, and I was then asked to commit to a healthy eating and exercise programme as a condition of being allowed to return to work. So, with some trepidation, I agreed. Believe it or not, being told I couldn’t go to work when I actually wanted to was getting to me!

Who needs books anyway?

Who needs books anyway?

The attack was two-pronged. Firstly, I had an appointment with the dietician at my GP’s practice. This was a real eye-opener: I’d been expecting to be lectured and judged, but it was the complete opposite. Monica was lovely – she was very kind, asked me lots of questions about me and took a real interest, gave me lots of advice about healthy eating and suggested I try this rather than go on a formalised programme diet. And she was gorgeous too, which helped! So we started a routine of me changing my eating habits and seeing her every 5-6 weeks for an update, a chat and a weigh-in. It went well from the beginning: to my great surprise I found that healthy eating meant I could have lots of foods that I enjoyed, and the need for biscuits, cake and chocolate – especially chocolate! – just disappeared from my mind. I found I could actually walk past those shelves in Tesco without even thinking about it, which was amazing! And the results were good too, so much so that Monica began using my story  in her nutrition talks to schoolkids, as an example of how people could benefit!

No one warned me about taking this too far!

No one warned me about taking this too far!

The second prong of the attack was exercise, the big E-word! I’ve never been one for the gym – the closest I’d ever got was waiting outside to collect my daughter. So when it was suggested that I go to one I was nervous, to say the least. But again, it was much better than I expected. It was a small gym, in one of the hospitals that we provide our services from, and was just for patients and staff. I had a six session course with a personal trainer, Sandra, who was also lovely: she was sympathetic and treated me very gently. I learned a lot about myself in those sessions, both that my physical abilities were better than I had thought and how quickly a little regular exercise could make a huge difference. All the niggling aches and stiff joints went away! It also rekindled my basic competitive spirit, and I found I was setting myself challenges on the treadmill and exercise bike. The sense of achievement was wonderful, and a real boost to my sense of self worth. I don’t go to that gym now – it’s in a very awkward location for my work and home, honest! But I’ve done something I would never have imagined: I’ve bought myself some equipment for home. Nothing specialist, just a step, some dumbbells and a little cycle machine, but enough to keep me occupied. And here’s a shock: it is a very enjoyable way of spending time! I’ve also sold my car and walk whenever I can, and am enjoying that too.

I hope you’ve managed to read this far, and haven’t rushed off to clear out your food cupboard or join a gym! The message behind all of this is where I started, really. Now that I feel better physically, and can see an improvement in the way my body works and what it lets me do without complaining, it has had a noticeably beneficial effect on my mental health. Also, after I wrote about my sleep problems someone suggested that exercise and diet might be an answer for those  – I’m sure she’s right, I just hope it happens soon! I have lost nearly 3½ stone, and although the rate of weight loss has slowed down recently it is still happening. Can you imagine how good that can make you feel about yourself? I know I still have a long way to go but I’m so encouraged to keep at it, especially when the rabbit food season starts again. Sorry, but I can’t do salads in winter! So many people have commented on it and on how much better I look. That does wonders for you, believe me. This all contributes to better overall health, and whilst I still have my down days I know that everything is so much better for me than a year ago – because I have been shown how to look after all of me.

The future me, I hope. After a successful diet -and a head transplant

The future me, I hope. After a successful diet – and a head transplant

If any of this touches a chord with you, go on, give it a go. I’m not saying it’s easy, but the rewards are worth it!

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10 thoughts on “The Unbearable Heaviness Of Being

  1. Hi Clive I came to visit from Haddon musing.
    A year ago began my quest and walked away from my Career and concentrate on my writing, “good ” I hear you cry… Sitting eight or ten hours a day is not! good for a ladies derrière. So I began walking three mornings a week around (eight O’clock) with a lady from the village, who has became a good friend and everyone needs friends. While we walked my husband continued his favourite morning sleep pattern ( not a morning person) which meant my walks didn’t interfere with our time and I still had the rest of the day to write.
    Walking isn’t a huge game changer in the slimming steaks but is where health is concerned. I began thinking that if obese patients were told to move more ; rather than go to a gym they would soon feel and see the benefits and know that it is doable; which would start them on a good habit. Some times the embarrassing part of joining a gym or a class ,is letting others see the extent of the weight gain.
    My gain was huge for me, although I realise it would be a drop in the ocean for far too many of the human race. Carrying two stone more gave me wardrobe problems, loss of confidence, lack of self esteem, blood pressure and back and joint pain. I needed a good kick up the backside that could only come from me. You however overcame the embarrassment of being large and threw yourself in with great results, *I bow before you*. Me, I will continue healthy eating and walking as an extension of my normal life and not worry too much about the scales; being as they are never exactly where I’d like.
    Thank you for posting and good luck with your blog. 😇

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen, good to meet you. Thanks for sharing your experience, I’m pleased things are going well for you. That post was written three years ago and I think I need to take a look at my own advice: it is so easy in retirement to slip back into the old ways!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Clive nobody is perfect and we wouldn’t be interesting if we were. And that is precisely why I, if asked I am just in to healthy eating. The Dee word never works so I abolished it from my brain… and believe you me i can ill afford to leave another space in there. When I’m writing I get up at least every 30 minutes and walk briskly up and down stairs or dance to a whole record on the radio for extra “earned” exercise , i still do my morning walks and only ever eat (except at a barbecue ) sat at the table; with no television electronic devices or other distractions. Little things when put together make huge differences and the key is to laugh out loud, be happy, because life is too short and psst… you’re always there to listen.
        When you have a smile on everyone wants to know what your smiling for. 😇

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Clive. I have suffered from depressive episodes and it’s so easy to get into a slump where it becomes almost impossible to move. I know that exercise and a good diet make such a difference to mood but it’s sometimes so hard to motivate yourself to get into good habits. Really well done. You sould be really proud of yoursef x

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  3. Well done Clive another well written & interesting blog , it’s good to see that your regime is all aimed at a better quality of life, something I could learn from, especially the junk food &!exercise, before it takes it’s toll which it surely will one day, well done mate !

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    • Hi Dave. Thanks for your comments. We’re all different, I guess you’re one of the lucky ones who isn’t liable to weight gain! But I can still recommend a healthy diet – converts are always the bossiest!

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  4. Brilliant and keep it up! I think everyone will be able to relate to this to one degree or another. I think it is all too easy to head for the cakes, biscuits, crisps and chocolate! I do it all the time. The reason I do not put weight on is because I eat very little else. I know how well I feel mentally by the food I eat daily. Food is an issue for many people and I hope your blog post will help some to feel able to make that positive move to health and wellbeing. XX

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    • Thanks for your support which is, as always, very welcome. I’m a small cog in the great scheme of life (though still larger than I want to be!) but I hope this does help someone. Take care xxx

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