Hi and welcome to my new blog.
This one isn’t part of my freelancing business, although if you wish to read it, it forms part of my portfolio that is less article layout and more conversational. To reach the audience I hope for it to reach it is also completely unfiltered. It probably will involve strong language and will definitely talk about mental health. Trigger warnings are implicit.
This blog is about how I ended up obese and unhappy, and how I am setting out to remedy this. Whilst it will keep me accountable, I hope reading my words will help anyone else. I am hoping to start a new medication called Saxenda soon, along with a new gym membership. I’m in a great mindset right now, but I know there will be challenging days ahead. It is my hope that sharing this story will help others who might relate to my words, but also might provide me a way to look back and see where I have come from.
So, the picture above is me. I may as well start out facing the obvious truth, I make a weeble look like a set square, and the above photo makes me look like a Sherman tank in blue lycra. Sharing this online is a really tough thing to do, it makes me feel extremely vulnerable. But it’s important too. So many people think obese and morbidly obese people are greedy, or slothful, or weak willed. But I wasn’t born like this. I didn’t grow up like this. I didn’t one day just think about how great it would be to be unable to keep up with the things I’ve always loved. Or feel out of breath horsing around with my kids. There are a lot of routes to obesity, and very few of them involves actively trying to gain weight for the sheer hell of it. This blog is my story so I may as well begin at the start.
Growing up I was a skinny kid. I was a fussy eater. I still am – fussy not skinny. The range of foods I am willing to try has increased over time as I have grown up, my palate has changed, and I have pushed my boundaries to try new things. But even as an adult I am pretty fussy. I’m not a great lover of fruit, although I do like vegetables. I also have a lot of sensory issues around food. At 16 my family moved back from the RAF base in Germany where we had been living. I was a UK size 14, not tiny but not overweight.
I stayed around about that size until I started my nurse training. When I moved out, a month before I qualified, I can honestly say my fussy eating led to very lazy eating habits. Added with shift work and erratic eating I did gain weight. However, I did a lot of martial arts all through my twenties. I was a UK size 16, heavy but very fit.
When I met my husband and he moved in to live with me we were a couple with no kids and good incomes. We ate a LOT of takeaways. When he proposed I began to work hard to lose weight for our wedding. I achieved my goal, I was 10 stone 8lb, in a size 12 wedding dress I had bought months before and left unaltered, and I was fit and strong. Would have been great if the story ended here right?
Unfortunately it didn’t. Settled into married life I had my first child, a gorgeous girl, and then my second, also a gorgeous girl. I descended into severe depression when my youngest was 1. Nowadays I know I had undiagnosed Bipolar disorder. At the time though, I was classed as treatment resistant, and with each new med came a little more weight. Until they started me on a medication called Olanzapine; now this drug is reknowned for horrific weight gain and with good reason. In the space of 18 months I gained six stone, rocketing from a 16-18 to a size 24. I was still working 12 hour shifts as a nurse or I suspect the damage would have been much worse. As it was I hurt all over my body all the time. I was also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – or M.E as it is also known. The weight, depression and the exhaustion meant I struggled to keep the weight off. So 2014 I decided I needed to do something about it. I couldn’t face ordering another set of tunics for work. I joined a local gym and took up weightlifting.
I suddenly found something I loved doing and, more importantly, was good at. The exercise gave me the chemical feedback I needed to balance my eating out and lowered by depression. Over the following year I saw a nutritionist, I changed my whole way of eating, set myself personal bests, smashed them and set some more. I lost four stone that year, I even participated in a ‘Superhuman’ competition. I knew I would be the biggest one there, as well as one of the older ones in my age range. I did it with a friend and we set ourself one goal. To come not-last. It was actually a spectactularly fun day although I was exhausted after flipping tyres, using a sledgehammer, rowing, running and an assault course. We smashed our own goal and came 4th from bottom. For someone else might have seemed a failure was unbelievable to me and I was so proud.
But a few months later, at the start of 2015 a depression was triggered by an unpleasant traumas and I basically stopped overnight. I wasn’t exercising. I WAS comfort eating. I was just trying to make it through the day and that went on for a year under the radar as I hid how deeply I was struggling. It wasn’t until 2016 I finally unravelled. I found myself in a car park with a packet of pills. I went to A&E, but the stress of being a patient in my own department for mental illness finally flicked the bipolar switch and I became acutely hypomanic. The next three years would turn out to be a complete shit show. I was diagnosed with Bipolar but it meant started the whole medication merry go round again. During those three years I had two more major manias, and was voluntarily admitted to a psych unit twice within 14 months after trying to commit suicide twice. I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia on top of the Chronic Fatigue and had to face a slew of different medications to find ones that would blunt the pain. They joy of chronic pain is that it doesn’t respond well to medication. So even on two different pain killers plus PRN a day I am pretty much always in some form of pain, and always tired. This, combined with the mental health issues I had been facing made working as an Emergency nurse pretty untenable and in 2019 I was finally medically retired from nursing, a blow I took hard.
Without physical exercise to keep my weight down I yoyoed between 2018, when I finally stopped working, 2019, when the medical retirement was completed, and 2020. I’d lose a couple of stone but it was very unhealthy. I would become food obsessed and go from overeating to restricting myself. Eating a bit less everyday. When I finally reached the point of making myself vomit I realised I needed to step away from logging my food before I went down a very dangerous road. And then the pandemic hit…
So now I wasn’t logging my food, my activities were now restricted by fatigue, pain, AND a national lockdown. And my medications were leaving me constantly craving sugary food. And as a lot of people may be aware, the more you indulge in those the worse they get. I hid food wrappers because I was so ashamed of the foods I was eating, and how much. I binged often. From 2020 to three months ago I hit my heaviest weight ever. This is the first time I have said it out loud to anybody and I am posting it in a blog, which is a little surreal.
I hit 20 stone and 11lb. 291lb. Size 24-26.
I just couldn’t go on anymore, I felt awful all the time and was hiding how terrified I was of dying before my children grew up. So in the Spring I made a GP appointment and said I couldn’t carry on. I needed help. He was great and referred me to the hospital weight management service and I geared myself up to ask for bypass surgery. It was the only road out from where I was that I could see helping me. So when I went for that first appointment and was told I was ineligible I was devastated. I had self harmed earlier in the year, its a problem I have fought with half my life, but it was serious enough to end up having to go for stitches, and so was on my record. The dietician told me I had to go two years without self harm or overdose to be considered for weight loss surgery.
Not gonna lie, I cried.
I sat in the office and cried my eyes out. I told the woman all of my fears, that my children wouldnt have me there as they grew up, and would have to face the world without their mum. They have saved my life so many times by their presence alone, and now I had just utterly failed them. So I cried.
The dietician was pretty good about the overweight woman sat snotty-crying in her office. Once I was able to settle a little she said it wasn’t all bad news. So she told me about a medication I qualified for, called Saxenda. A medication that would suppress my appetite. Her hope being that if we can reverse some of the food cravings I suffer because of my medication we could turn my cycle from eat-gain weight-feel worse-comfort eat-gain weight, to eat less-lose weight-feel better-be more mobile-move more-lose more weight. It wasn’t much of a branch after hoping for surgery but I grabbed it.
The snag that has come now is that I was accepted for this medication in June. I was told the consultant was off sick so it would be July-August. But when I phoned this week I was told there was still no doctor to take the program on so it’s not known yet when I can start.
But the fact is that I still CAN start. And that’s been enough to start to slowly reverse my mind set a little, I had even discussed the possibility of joining my daughter’s martial arts class though I wasnt sure my body would take it. And so this week I was driving from a physio appointment to a covid test prior to endoscopy later in the week. I had a little time between appointments and as I drove I just made an impluse decision. Instead of turning right I turned left, and five minutes down the road pulled into the car park for the gym I had trained in all the way back in 2014 when I had lost four stone and been fit and strong. I walked in and asked to speak to the manager, who I knew from the last time I trained and discussed rejoining with him. He was great, and as I came out my spirits were a lot less heavy than they had been in years. I felt hope, and thats been a long road to get back to that. This last 5 days I have lost 3.8lb and been to the gym twice. There’s a long road yet but I am in the mindset I was last time I managed to lose a lot of weight, for the first time since I lost that weight. For the first time since then I feel that hope and drive I had back then.
So I’ve just got to grab it and see where it takes me. And thats what this section of my blog is for. An uncensored, unfiltered, zero-bullshit weight loss diary to keep me accountable, and to tell others that hope isn’t always gone. Sometimes it’s just hidden deeper than we can see and needs just one change to pull it back out. For me I’ve been given that branch to grab. Maybe it will take me somewhere I have not been before, or maybe I will do it myself again, just as I did before.
The main thing for now is that I have hope.
~TBB, The Uncensored Slimmer
If you want to follow my progress you can follow my blog here via the subscription form or, if you are more of a social junkie, I am on Instagram and Facebook. Just search for The Uncensored Slimmer.