It Never Ends

This week’s episode of Real Story was about Slimmer Winners. They surveyed 70 women who’d won slimming competitions in various magazines and newspapers. You know — Success Stories, Slimmer of the Year, etc etc. If you hurry along to the BBC website you can watch the whole thing again right now.

It was the most bloody depressing thing I’ve watched in a long time.

Nicked from the website:

"An investigation into the weight loss habits of 70 slimmers showed that less than half had kept their weight off, with the remainder being overweight, obese or severely obese.

Moreover, eight out of the 70 demonstrated indications of bulimia and 10 showed signs of Binge Eating Disorder.

Fifty-one of them either binged or used compensatory behaviour in the past month, such as taking water tablets/laxatives and hard exercise.

Nearly three quarters of the champion slimmers had binged at least once – with some binging up to eight times – in the past month. "

I don’t want to dwell on the statistics, because there is only so much you can extract from a sample size of 70. And they really squeezed the absolute maximum stats from that 70. What had me close to tears was the people they interviewed.

  • A woman who’d gained back three stone (18kg/42lb) and was hypervigilant about weighing her food. They showed her weighing half a banana and she confessed sometimes she might chop off another tiny slice if she was feeling indulgent. She then said she even weighs SLICED BREAD, "Because even in a standard medium-slice loaf, some are thicker than others".
  • A woman who was Slimming World’s Yorkshire Slimmer of the Year who’d take some sort of water tablets the morning of her weigh-in to make her pee like mad, then she’d have to guzzle water as soon as she hopped of the scales so she could hydrate. She was also bullimic. She regained her weight then finally had gastric by-pass surgery last year.
  • An older woman who was a finalist in their 2004 Slimmer of the Year contest, who had gained back three stone and said she felt deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

It was the last lady that particularly made me want to bawl. I remember reading about her in Slimming, one the last issues I bought before I vowed never to buy it again, and thinking how radiant she looked. And now two years later here she was on telly all teary and fragile. She just so sad, ashamed and resigned that I wanted to smash through the screen and cuddle her.

I also felt this odd sense of despair, that she could be in her sixties and still be tortured by all this diet crap. I didn’t want to get to her age and still feel like that.

That’s when it hit me. It never ends.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Moe gets a facelift and becomes handsome and gets a role on the soap opera called It Never Ends? Well this food issue crap is like our very own drawn-out melodrama… It. Never. Bloody. Ends!

Real Story had all these quotes from the slimmers – they constantly thought about food, they’d just replaced obsessive calorie counting with obsessive exercise, they felt like their lives were ruled by food, they were scared of food, that the urge to binge was overwhelming. Sometimes we read these cheesy Success Stories and think they must have hit the jackpot then lived happily ever after in the size 8 pants, but in reality many just end up smaller with the same issues.

I got quite anxious watching the show, wondering if I was in the same boat. It’s not so much about the fear of regaining all the weight – I have maintained a large loss for a few years now. I am confident that while I will go off the rails now and then, I will not let it get out of hand. This is not me being cocky by any means, I just know I will never be a size 26 again.

It’s more about the emotional shit. That even if you get to a goal weight, it is still a struggle every day. That you constantly have to be vigilant about what you eat and wrestle the urge to binge. That you just think about food all the bloody time.

Like last weekend, we went to the Wickerman Festival. As soon as we pitched our tent I dragged Gareth into the main grounds… not to check out the different music tents but to check out the different FOOD VANS!

And my sister and I email each other about three times a day… a good 50% of those emails concern what we’re eating for lunch, what’s for dinner, what we ate yesterday and what we wish we didn’t eat yesterday and what we vow not to eat tomorrow.

Food, food, food.

It’s just a crappy, sinking feeling to realise that you will never be free of all this.

I got upset watching that show because I recognised those feelings of despair and desperation, but I do feel like I am in a better place than many of those women. They didn’t seem to be in touch with why they behaved that way. It also seemed they felt they had little power or control over their plight. I don’t feel that way anymore. I think with all this navel-gazing we do en blog, you start to learn about yourself and your mistakes.

I am quietly resigned to the fact that these fundamental eating issues will never go away, but I won’t let them dominate my life any more. As much as I hate to paraphrase Dr Phil, I don’t think it can be cured… just managed.

And I will never weigh a slice of bread.

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31 thoughts on “It Never Ends

  1. That is such an awful thing to think about. I must admit I’ve been tempted to weigh bread before but only those round sourdough loaves cos the end slices are so small and the middle ones so big.

    Often it’s difficult too because using food as an emotional crutch is prevalent in our society – you’re good so you have food as a reward, you’re sad so you use food for comfort. Companies spend millions getting us to eat. It is a constant battle.

  2. Thanks for the link – I missed the beginning and wanted to catch the whole thing again.

    There was a lady who had gone into psychotherapy who seemed the happpiest (not the slimmest, but happier). She seemed to have a better grip on why she overate. My OH (BTW not so slim himself) poo poo’ed her saying if she just stopped eating so much and did more exercise she wouldn’t need to spend the cash on therapy. Poor deluded DH missed the point entirely but I explained that being thin and obsessed with food and exercise was probably no healthier than being a few stones heavier but happy. From my 4 years lurking, blogging and on various diets (including WW), I’m happy to say my head is in a much better place than before (even if I’ve only lost 0.5 stone of the 2 I originally intended to lose). But it took 4 years to get here. If I’d lost the 2 stone immediately, I often wonder would I:
    a) still be that weight
    b) be as happy as I am now?
    I can’t possibly say, but I suspect from all the navel gazing I’ve done and books I’ve read, websites and forums I’ve frequented, is probably not. I’d still like to lose a stone but I’m happy to do it slowly and healthily – no more daft diets for me. I’ll never be Simmer of the year, and having seen the program, I don’t think anyone would want to be. I’d love to know what happened to the lady who won the BBC Diet Trials program – she did Rosemary Conley (maybe it’s on the program? I’ll have to see when I catch it later – don’t think the office would appreciate it if I fired it up now…)

  3. Holy cow, WL is such a Catch-22. If you DON’T obsess over calories and exercise, you don’t lose any weight. If you DO obsess you end up with an eating disorder and loads of anxiety. I’m trying to put my focus on what I can *do* as I become slimmer and fitter, rather than what I will look like. That’s a win-win situation: every single day that I eat well and am physically active, I’ve improved my life. And I feel like you do – I hope this isn’t hubris – but I feel I will never go back to 260 pounds again. I just won’t; I’ve gained too much to ever risk losing it. I don’t know if I would feel like that if all I’d gained was a dress size.

    Of course, I still have my freak-out moments… 😉

  4. …and of course when I say “gained a dress size” above, I don’t mean “became larger,” I mean “attained the goal of a smaller dress size.”

    DOH!

  5. Wow. Harsh read. One side of me gets so depressed reading about these slimmer/gainers, but another side really does think I’ve achieved some measure of mental clarity. That doesn’t mean I know exactly what to DO about it, but I’m definitely doing better than when I first lost weight, when I honestly believed I ate too much because of ignorance of healthy eating habits. Bah. It’s so much more than that.

  6. Thanks so much for posting the link to that program. This just really reinforces for me, what I really already know, that it doesn’t ever end, that this a lifelong project.

  7. interestingly enough i was just thinking about this whole issue this morning while making my honey & i breakfast!

    thanks for the blog, once again you made me laugh, think, & burn a couple calories in the process.

    cheers! beckah

  8. So it’s you who killed Slimming? It’s over it’s no more and it’s all your fault. Or maybe mine as I only bought it once a year.

  9. DG, if you haven’t read Thin for Life by Anne Fletcher yet, put it on your Amazon wish list and I’ll get it for you. She acknowledges the issues but discusses how it IS possible to maintain a large weight loss. As others above have noted, you WILL succeed b/c you’ve done a lot of emotional heavy lifting over the years, in addition to picking up heavy objects and moving them about! I think the reality is that we’ll all be weighing our food and marking gym dates on our calendars for the rest of our lives — but the alternative is even less satisfactory. I’ve had friends in AA who talked about their sobriety in terms of, “Yeah, I sometimes miss drinking, but I never want to go back to who I was then.” It would be lovely to have a normal satiety mechanism, but we don’t. Get out the kitchen scales and measuring cups. Thx as always for your honesty and willingness to share with us!

  10. One of the things I always say I miss most about my “pre-WW” life is eating. Not eating to excess, or bingeing, but eating without thinking about whether I’m going to pay for this at the next weigh-in, or thinking about what I’m going to have to cut back on in order to make up for it. While I ate a fairly balanced diet before WW, I wasn’t mindful, and let me just say that being mindful is a pain in the ass at times! I miss enjoying my meals rather than the constant barrage of thoughts about how many points, how much fat, what time it is, is it too late in the day to eat this item, etc., etc., etc. until I just want to scream “screw it!” and get on with life.

  11. Those poor women. I want to cuddle them too. Or lend them the cat that is currently snuggling my feet demanding attention.

    I think they’re indicative of a big societal problem that everyone is so much more focused on the surface appearance of happiness or success. If they’d had as much encouragement to work on loving themselves and figuring out their psychological pitfalls, rather than encouragement only about “being slim”…

    I often think that people with food issues would bebefit from the level of support provided in some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the intense group enotional support and aknowledgement that there’s a lot of things below the surface that make you binge or purge or complusively weigh slices of bread. Hell, I’d like something like that for getting through rough patches.

  12. Was talking to my 72 year old Mum the other day. She struggled with her weight for quite a few years, although she was never as big as I got. And she did have 5 kids! She made the comment that she still has to resist the temptation to eat too much. And my reaction was the same as yours – sadness.

  13. If we could only get to a place where exercise and meals were as routine and matter-of-fact as showering and brushing our teeth. Please, please, please let it be just something I do, and not something that rules the rest of my life.

    I will freely admit that I’m obsessive at this time, a bit more than halfway to goal. Reclaiming my fit body is my number-one priority. I hope when I reach goal (and I’m doing this very slowly) I’ll have learned what it takes to live comfortably and healthfully until I draw my last breath.

  14. I can so feel where those poor women are because, well, because I’m there with them. I’ve lost 110, 60, and 80 pounds all at various times in the last 20 years and it’s all come back each time. And I do have Binge Eating Disorder and actively binge nearly every day. I have a hypnotherapist and I’m fighting through it, but the urge to just restrict and restrict and weigh everything compulsively while exercising for hours is always there and I have to resist it for I know where it leads. Eventually, it all leads right back where I am now – fat and out of shape. Slow but steady is my motto and you are my hero, Shauna!

  15. This post is just too too sad. My sister and I talk regularly, and food always sneaks into the conversation. We have both been gaining and losing weight for years and we both talk about getting to the stage where we dont struggle with it everyday – I think the reality is that day will never come. That doesnt mean that we give up, it just helps us be prepared for the reality. Once a weight watcher always a weight watcher.

  16. all too familiar – my 68yo mum walks everyday, ‘fasts’ on Wednesdays & Fridays and if she binges will not eat for the next couple of days. It probably will never end.

  17. Dear DG, I love your blog and always know what you are talking about, even if I must admit I’ve never been overweight myself. Which is curious considering my relationship with food. I think about food all the time, and am often quietly planning my next meal. I love to talk about food, love to hear what others eat and love to report about my own meals. However, I don’t think this close relationhip with food is making my life any less pleasurable. I would like to think it’s a hedonistic approach – when I’m at the supermarket, I pick freshest produce, pinkest salmon, chunkiest ice-cream – basicly what talks to me at that time. Maybe one thing that has “saved” me is that even if I love eating, I hate feeling overly full. In the past when I ate too much at one go (say 1500 calories dinner) and became very sick, I felt sad that I was not able to eat all yummy foods that I craved on one sitting. Until it cliked: I don’t have to. All my favorite food would be at the supermarket/fridge the next day too, we are not running out of food in this corner of earth, and I can start my culinary fiesta tonight, stop when I am satisfied (not overly full) – and -BIG THING- I can continue the next day! I even remember thinking at night that “Oh my, this pizza tastes really good…And then acknowledging I risk overeatig and feeling sick, stopping after a reasonable portion and thinking – I go to bed soon, sleep 8 hours during which I do not think of food, and I can eat breakfast as soon as I wake up! As pathetic as it may sound, I guess this chain of thoughts has been my secret weapon. a) I am not running out of food b) All the food will be there the next day.
    I’m not quite sure if this was relevant to anyone but me – I guess I’m trying to say there are lots of women who appear naturally thin, but who are still obsessed about food. Like you said, it never ends.

  18. This is one of the best posts I have read from you.

    This exemplifies that weight loss isn’t about just food and exercise.

    I have always believed it stems only from psychological reasons. The relationship we were taught from a young age with our families.

    I have never discussed food, weight related issues or anything with my sisters because our relationship was never about food. It was a different story with my mother though. I learnt so much of my behaviour from her.

    I believe once you crack that barrier and work through our psychological issues with food (e.g. food = love) then our battle is all but over.

    Phillipa over at Skinny Latte Girl is my favourite example of ‘the coin dropping. A woman who used to eat a whole cheesecake for breakfast who now ‘gets it’. She is not obsessive anymore and has dealt with the psychological reasons behind her food issues.

    I’m delving into my own issues at this very point in time because I don’t want to live obsessively anymore.

    Good post.

  19. I love food – there I confessed it. And I think a lot of us who have over indulged our passion for food can write it off to that – some women love to shop – I love to taste new things and cook new things and explore food vans.

    Now I’m starting to worry about getting shot by some of your readers…but I know I have a passion that must be managed otherwise I will end up like my Uncle Jim – whose passion for beer has definitely caught up with him.

    We live in a society that does not encourage moderation – lose weight NOW, look great NOW, eat it all NOW. But change really is supposed to be gradual and I think if you manage your eating habits, keeping an eye out for those nasty desires to eat a whole pint of ice cream, you can prevent the depressing reality that was on the tv (which is really quite a cruel thing to use as entertainment).

    I am with you DD – I’m not going back to size 14 (and haven’t seen it in 10 years).

  20. This “rest of your life” issue is something I think about a lot – I’m pretty sure the main reason I am the world champion of yo-yo dieting is that I get so tired of all the mental energy I spend thinking about what to eat and trying to motivate myself to exercise. Once I fall off the wagon, it’s in many ways a huge relief to just eat what I want when I want it without all the planning and agonizing over every meal and the thought of doing it forever seems exhausting.

    I hope I’m wrong, but from what I can tell not only does it go on your whole life it gets harder with age. I am the youngest woman at my workplace (mid 30’s to their 50’s) and my co-workers tell me that if I think it’s hard now, just wait until menopause. Lunch for them is a piece of fruit or a 6 oz yoghurt and I’ve been told that “starving” themselves during the day is the only way for them to save enough calories to eat a normal dinner with their families.

    We gave up on office birthday celebrations after one where the birthday-gal wouldn’t eat any of the fruit tart on offer since she was in weight watchers and said that if she ate even a sliver, it would mean giving up the dinner her family was taking her to the next day. Things to look forward to, I guess.

  21. i have come half way to my ideal weight and have stalled, stopped, whatever you want to call it… i enjoy food, i enjoy the occasional binge on pan base cheese pizza, granted i don’t eat the same amount as i used to but i still enjoy it… i like to over indulge on chocolate – with the likes of Haighs Peppermint Pastilles in close range i can do nothing but… lucky for me there is no Haighs store in my city

    i guess what i’m saying is that although since i stopped calorie watching closely i have gained a little weight, i still exercise daily, i still watch what i’m eating to a point, i’ll never go back to being a size 20-22 and i like being a 14, granted at some stores i’m still a 16, but i look like a regular person, my friends and collegues tell me i look great, my husband said i look like a normal person, not standing out in the crowd for any other reason apart from being beautiful (don’t you just love husbands)

    i do have an emotional connection with food, my grandparents survived the holocaust and vowed that my family would never know what it meant to be hungry, to not enjoy the finer foods in life that they went without during those dreadful years… we too use food as a celebration, to rebut a bad day, i really don’t see a problem with it when it’s managed…

    goal weights and bmi’s are all wonderful tools but what i think most people need to do is find their ideal weight for them, not from a chart or a book or even a Dr, but a weight that may be 10kgs over the charted ideal weight but which allows them to be healthy, happy and enjoy their food… i can run 5kms, i can lift weights, i can do pushups, yes i could be fitter and thinner but with two young boys, a husband, a house and a full time job i’m not prepared to give up those extra things i need to give up to be that magical number…

    that’s just me, but my advice would be to make sure whatever weight you are, be happy, don’t stress about it, don’t be in any hurry to get to goal, it’s not a race, as the weight drops off you’ll feel better and it is more likely to stay off if you lose it slowly, just make sure you have the necessary tools to stick with your changes.

  22. I was riveted by this post and all the insightful comments, I too love food.
    I am on my umpteenth time trying to lose weight and this time as with all times I am always larger than I have ever been before.

    Reading your post has saddened me, but it also means that I’m still clinging to a faint hope that I am not going to be (once again) a statistic therefore reinforcing the point that ‘it never ends’

    Thanks for sharing

  23. Thanks for this amazing Blog! I have only just started reading it, but my it is like a breath of fresh air! The honesty, the realistation that i am not alone! Thank you! This last post was especially useful! As an overweight girl who has been diagnosed with PCOS, keeping weight off is going to be a lifetime challenge for me! I love my food, and i used to worry about about everything i ate. However i have been able to come to terms with my PCOS, and have started to sort out my relationship with food. I have become a healthier eater and have been able to introduce more PCOS-friendly food to my diet. i have done this slowly and realised that this is not something i am doing to reach a short-term weight goal-this is my lifestyle! Yes i still eat pizza, and chips, and i still enjoy my beer, but i have managed to start doing so in moderation, maybe having a couple of slices when the BF orders the dreaded take-away pizza, but rustling up a quick and simple salad with it (helps me with any guilt!!). Keep on with the Blog DG-you are an inspiration to all!!!!Thank-you!

  24. Shauna

    Found your site through another weightloss site. Love your writing. Love the site and what you’ve put into it. I lost 85 pounds over 3 years, I’m in my second year of maintenance, and it’s not so hard. I employed an attitude and methods similar to yours to lose the weight, so I was never on a diet. I had a lifestyle change. I’m sending the address for the National Weight Control Registry in the U.S.: http://www.nwcr.ws

    Their research shows that people do maintain weight loss over long periods of time (research abstracts are available on the site). None of the success stories I’ve seen on this site involve winning a contest — it’s all people who decided to get healthy. Oh, yes, and I joined. I fill out a fairly long questionnaire every year — but I’m as glad to do it as I am that I qualified to join.

    Best of the best to you.

  25. Like sue said, i think its a matter of routine. If i could get eating healthy and excercising a routine then it would be trivial. It would just be another thing. I can see it happening with excercise, but diet is tricky. There is so much fast food or junk food out there that is so accesible and in your face its hard to set routine. Imagine the routine of showering is every time you showered someone was there to try and throw you out.

  26. I had a crazy revelation of sorts a few years ago. In response to my lament that I was tired of thinking about food all the time and that I just wanted to eat when I wanted to eat told me a radical thing. She said, you can never stop thinking about food, ever. Only fat people think we don’t have to think about what we eat and consider every bite. I thought it was a mean thing to say at the time–skinny folks eat whatever they want, or they do the opposite and eat nothing. That was my fiction anyway.

    There is a woman I admire greatly for her academic prowess as well as her slim, healthy physique who surprised me one day by sitting down with a salad and a hard boiled egg. At 60, she was doing pilates once a week and walking daily and still living a nice life eating and drinking and being a whole person and stuff. Well, that day she explained that she got on the scale and was 2 pounds heavier. Apparenly her clothes didn’t fit right and she figured she’d do something now and take care of it before it got out of hand.

    This was a shock. Here was a healthy, active slim woman DIETING? But, she wasn’t dieting the way I diet. She was just cutting down her food a little and assuming the weight would come off naturally. She wasn’t exercising like crazy and cutting off her arm or something the way I would have the urge to.

    I was amazed because slim, healthy people watch their weight too. They wonder about food and curb their eating and drinking. The difference seemed to be when they did it. What takes me a 10 pound weight gain to consider, took her only 2.

    I think all women think about food, wonder about how to maintain their bodies and be as healthy as they can. I think the difference between heavy women and slim women is that we heavy women think we shouldn’t have to think about it anymore once we get slim. It’s not true. Even women slim all their lives think about it.

  27. I like how you have a blog featured on the right nav in “Elsewhere In Fatblog Land”. Will you be “featuring” a blog regularly. I think that would be cool. I like it instead a list of blogs b/c that is overwhelming. It could be like the equivalent to oprah’s bookclub instead dg’s blog pick of the day or week! Okay maybe I am cheesy. Congrats on the weight loss!!! You look awesome in your pics from tongue.

  28. Maintaining weight loss is a bitch, for a couple of reasons.

    Firstly, when you’re trying to lose weight, the decisions about what to eat and when tend to be simple — you establish your own orthodoxy, with or without the help of a particular diet programme, and you either stick to it or you don’t, but it’s always easy to tell a right decision from a wrong decision.

    When you reach a weight target, you want to go back to leading a normal life like other people do. You want to stop being a food Nazi. Which is terrific, but all of a sudden you lose that strong moral compass that guided you through weight loss. An item of food suddenly becomes ambiguous — is this now something that I can eat without worrying about it?

    The second reason why it’s hard is that whereas the weight itself is a reasonably simple problem with reasonably simple solutions which can be applied fairly universally, the propensity for weight gain is a much more fraught issue. If you’re overweight, you can use techniques a b and c and if you have the strength and the patience, you can get rid of the excess. But the excess was only there in the first place as a symptom of some other problem, and that’s much less straightforward to deal with, primarily because it varies enormously from person to person. Everyone has their own peculiar and mysterious mix of physiological and psychological factors that makes them inclined to stockpile energy as fat. To maintain weight, you either have to maintain a rigid discipline to effectively trump those factors, or you have to find a way of addressing them and changing them.

    If you’re someone who only ever overeats because you’re bored, then you can just fill your life with really interesting things, and you won’t overeat: problem solved. If you overeat to deal with stress, then you can find some other way of dealing with stress: problem solved.

    Unfortunately, for most of us it’s not that simple: we overeat for all sorts of reasons, some of which we’re not even really aware of, some of which we share with other people and some of which we don’t. Some of them might be physiological — some missing hormone or enzyme or something, some faulty chemical trigger that’s supposed to tell us when we’ve had enough, and which might not be fixable.

    The way I see it, some people have to go through life as a diabetic or an asthmatic or with various kinds of allergies or illnesses. They find ways to manage their lives using a combination of behavioural changes, personal disciplines, drugs, surgery, technology, monitoring regimes etc. Chances are, most of us who have been overweight will have to submit to at least some form of ongoing discipline in order to make changes permanent, and at times that’s going to suck and feel like life is one continuous hunger pang, much as a diabetic might feel that life is one continuous insulin injection. Maybe dealing with that comes down to being thankful for what you have. For much of humanity now, and for most of it throughout history, dealing with excess calories has been the least of their worries.

  29. I am way late into this blog, but am reading some every day to get inspiration. So far 40 lbs. gone. But so many more to go. Today’s post about our obsession with food was a little depressing, but so right. When I get to work, I think about what I can snack on this morning. At least I am eating healthier snacks now–like fruit and those 100 calorie bags of crap, instead of bags and bags of potato chips (as we call them in the states), or candy bars and lots and lots of Pepsi! That stuff is what helped me put on this excess weight. I just think I need to find something else to obsess over. But what is like food? Nothing. I am trying to really save and relish the “bad” stuff, like you do with your chocolate, so that if I have a dessert, I have one small piece, occasionally, and try to really, really enjoy it. But I wish I wasn’t so obsessed with food. A skinny woman at my office came into the lunch room one day and realized she had forgotten to pack her lunch that day. That would never happen to me. Not only would I never forget to pack a lunch, but all morning I am thinking about that lunch and what I’m going to have to eat! I would never realize I’d forgotten to pack a lunch AT LUNCHTIME! Because I think about it all morning! And after lunch, I think about what I’m going to fix for dinner. At least at home I keep my fingers busy doing counted cross stitch projects, that keeps me out of the kitchen for the most part. What an unhealthy obsession food is. But I see no cure. Still I am currently motivated to keep on this weight loss band wagon and when I hit 60 on Jan. 1 next year, I am going to be below 200 lbs.! That’s my goal. And please Diet Girl, help me get there!