About Alison ยป Losing Weight
Read about my journey:

In general:
    Short Bio
    Read the whole story
    See my life in pictures

Specific branches:
    Weight loss
    Changing career
    PCOS and Natural Fertility
    Hypermobility
 

Looking back at photos of yourself when you were much younger is a slightly surreal experience for most people. There’s this bright young thing; this different person looking out at you. Looking back at photos of myself before I was 21 is a very disturbing experience for me. I don’t look like me! I see this huge person smiling at the camera, I know how embarrassed she is; I remember how desperate she was not to have her photo taken.

20 stone plus….

I don’t remember a time in my childhood when I was a ‘normal’ weight. Even though my weight fluctuated, peaking at over 20 stone (that's 280 pounds or 127kg – depending on what language you speak!) when I was 19, I was always a chubby child. Neither do I remember why I ate, nor really what got me to start putting on weight. What I do remember is that it was a vicious cycle: I’d eat, then I’d look at myself in the mirror, receive the taunts, feel terrible compared to my ‘normal’ thin friends, or try in vain to buy nice clothes – I’d think, “well, why bother?” and reach for another chocolate bar to make myself feel better, because nothing else did, no one else did. I was ‘the fat girl’ so I might as well get on with it. At least with chocolate came acceptance and a sense of happiness.

The trappings of being overweight hurt each and every time you face them – having to shop in different stores, taking the abuse, never being able to look ‘trendy’, not having any guy look twice at you, not being able to be active. And, of course, these things have their effect on your psyche. I was always mortally embarrassed about how I looked and tried tremendously hard not to get noticed, not to get in anyone’s way. I still do it now.

Plenty of people tried to make me lose weight. I remember at first school their answer was to not let me have dessert after I’d had my school dinner. I had to bring in an apple. I’d sit there watching my school mates have jam roly poly and custard, feeling deprived, looking at my golden delicious on the table in front of me. I also remember, later, going to a nutritionist, being weighed and having her explain the food groups to me. Apparently, if I didn’t eat from one of them (i.e fruit and vegetables) I’d be hungry as there’d be an obvious hole in my stomach where the fruit and veg should be. I remember wondering whether other children really fell for that story.

The decision

The decision to lose weight could only come from me. I was approaching 20. My friends were having escapades with boyfriends, and when we went out they’d get chatted up, laugh and have fun. I’d pretend I was happy, sitting minding the coats at the end of the evening, but I was terribly lonely. My loneliness would make me cry some evenings. I could see my 20s approaching and more than anything I wanted to give, love and have fun. I knew I had to do something about it.  So I did. It was just after Christmas and I was sitting with my family doing a jigsaw puzzle. My Mum offered some chocolate raisins and I refused. I remember how empowered it make me feel, the little act of saying ‘no’.

I kept saying ‘no’ and slowly devised a plan to lose weight so I could look forward to my 20s. My plan was not the way I would recommend or do it now, but it’s a part of my story: I’d eat a very low-fat diet and I’d start exercising. I knew the exercising would not be easy – I took at size 28 skirt at that point. I saved the vouchers on ‘slim-a-soup’ cartons and sent away for their exercise tape. I started slowly, doing it in the house, on the landing upstairs, whilst my parents were downstairs watching tv in the evening. Out of my diet came chocolate, biscuits, cakes, cheese, fried food and crisps. I ate a lot more fish. I often had ryvita, and even learnt to make a no-cheese ryvita-base pizza.

My progress

The weight came off slowly; 3 or 4 pounds a week. I dropped several dress sizes and after about two months people started noticing. The more I saw the results the more I was encouraged to continue. This positive feedback cycle – the opposite of my destructive previous one – was important in my progression. I was buying clothes that were smaller, my face looked different, I had more energy and slowly I became less prone to the colds that I had always seemed to ‘catch’. I was working in a bank at the time and it was great to feel my uniform falling off me and having to order new things every couple of months.

By the time my 21st birthday came around I’d lost 7 stone (98 pounds/44 kg). I went shopping in London to buy a dress for the party. I went to a normal clothes shop, one in Covent Garden and I bought a size 14 dress that – shock, horror – was short! This purchase and subsequent party gave me such positive feedback on my efforts. I’d reached 21, and here I was – beautiful, in a stunning dress, knowing that I looked great. I was more than happy to have my photo taken!

I continued to lose weight slowly and settled around 8 stone (112 pounds/51 kg) lighter. I had taken a year and a half to get there.

The next decade – maintaining my success

Maintaining that weight was very important to me and it is something I was able to do over the next 10 years – I fluctuated a little, going from 11 ½ stone (161 pounds/73 kg) at my lightest to 13 ½ stone (189 pounds/86 kg) at my heaviest. My eating habits had changed dramatically and I viewed these better habits as things to carry on with – they were part of the new me! I decided not to go back to crisps, steer clear of biscuits and cakes except for the occasional treat and I also made a pact with myself to not eat hard cheese. This last one was the most difficult, but I knew that once I started it would be difficult to stop, so it’d be better not to eat it in the first place. I definitely still had a sweet tooth and I would only treat myself with sweet treats that had minimal fat – meringue nests, brandy snaps, trifle sponges. I bought low-fat ice cream and other such goodies.

Meanwhile, I was constantly surprised by how I looked. I still felt ‘the fat girl’ and I’d double-take when I saw myself in the mirror. Getting dressed up continued to inspire me.

My weight fluctuations over the next 10 years tended to depend on the emotional situation I was in. Times of contentedness with a partner who also enjoyed good food saw me generally putting on a little. Fulfilling times at work, with career and personal goals set and being worked towards, saw me very active at the gym and becoming more toned.

A change – the results of a 'detoxed' me

At the beginning of 2009 I was 13 stone (182 pounds/83 kg). I was coming out of the darkest period of my life – when I had suffered severe problems with the muscles in my neck. I’d had to stop the college course I was on, and I’d been at home, living with my parents, for most of the previous year. Spending time living with my Mum and Dad gave me a chance to see them in a different light; I’d not lived with them for several years. They were retirement age and their health problems those of that generation. I could see the pain and problems their ailments brought them – being at home I was party to it every day – and this was a real eye-opener time for me. It made me wonder about the inevitability of such health problems – things that society accepts as a ‘normal’ part of aging.

At the same time I was sharing evening meals with them and starting to question the ‘meat and two veg’ main meal of the standard British diet. I wondered where the mince in my Shepherd’s Pie had come from, and whether eating like this: meat from an unknown source, was actually doing me any good.

These two things led me into a period of research. I started to inform myself about nutrition, first reading Patrik Holford’s The Optimum Nutrition Bible. From there I was lead towards veganism, and then to the raw vegan diet. My reading inspired me – reading book after book, and hearing from many people who’d healed themselves from terrible illnesses. I began to believe that there was another way of living, one where your choices not only enabled you to eat diversely and well, but also ensured that your body was healing, working as intended, and would even give you protection against the ‘standard’ diseases that come with the western diet of the beginning of the 21st century.

In 2009 I started a detox journey – eating first vegan and then, for 1 and a half years, raw vegan. To help fight candida I also removed processed wheat and any form of processed sugar from my diet. My figure started looking different and I noticed my clothes were looser – after 6 months I had lost two and a half stone (35 pounds/16 kg). Another 3 months and I’d settled at a little over 10 stone (140 pounds/63 kg). Nothing short of miraculous!

Coming to peace with the food on my plate

Come summer 2011, I felt my body was asking for something more, and, not being attached to any dogma, I added some animal produce back into my diet – unpasturised dairy, wild fish and organic meat. I believe that the closer we can get to our food sources the better for ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally and I strive to get the best produce available.

From the outside my diet these days can seem normal – but it is far from it. Yes, I do eat grains, meat and dairy. I do allow myself all manner of foodstuffs I would never have gone near when I had a diet mindset (e.g. cheese). But I don't eat non-organic meat or fish and I never eat processed meat. I don't eat wheat. I don't eat processed sugar or any foodstuff with processed sugar in it. I rarely eat unfermented dairy (i.e straight milk). And I process all the grains I eat, as traditional cultures have done for many years, soaking and fermenting them to remove toxins and made them much easier to digest. 

The emotional issues around food are huge: I spent all my of childhood and adolescence turning to chocolate, sweets and biscuits when I was happy, sad, lonely, bored, feeling unloved. No diet alone can move us to a place where we are free of these – one can overeat tremedously on a raw vegan diet (I know as I did!). My commitment to and journey of living consciously, doing what I long for, following my passions and building my life around them has seen me challenge these habits in the most fundamental way – stepping outside my comfort zone and facing unwanted emotions rather than turning to food. This has been an incredible journey and has led me to a place where I am more at peace with the food on my plate than I have ever been.

I love my shape and my diet now and I feel the most comfortable with it I ever have done. I create, using natural organic ingredients in the kitchen every day. I eat a varied, omnivorous diet that sustains my health and leaves me full of energy. Living my life consciously means I am more alive and more present with my habits than ever so the days of truning to food rather than facing what I was feeling are mostly a distant memory…and all this coming from the girl who was over 20 stone and so miserable. Whereever you are with your health know that you can make a change; you can be the person you desire to be. Keep in touch with me and my exploits – I hope they inspire, support and guide you.