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Maura’s Blog 5 – ‘I am not fat’

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I forgot to eat lunch today……. I just can’t eat…….. I have lost my appetite. These are statements that I have never used!

Most of my adult life I have been overweight. I am currently overweight. I was a fairly average sized teenager and was pregnant at the age of 18. I ate for two from the point of conception and that’s been something I’ve continued to do. I don’t have any medical issues or underlying contributory factors. I just eat too much of the wrong stuff. Around the age of 14/15 I did make the mistake of having friends who were skinny though I think that’s where I went wrong. I have vivid memories of trying to get into my friend Rays jeans so I could sneak on a night out but he was super slim and I was about a size 14?

I lay on the bed whilst Lorraine, his sister, my friend hooked the zip with a wire coat hanger and the two of them pulled, heaved and huffed and puffed until I was zipped up in those fecking jeans. Once fastened they then had to stand me up because I could not move or bend. I walked down Deane Church Lane like I was swearing suit of armour. I don’t know why to this day, I am sure I had clothes of my own that fit. I felt gargantuan and the damage was done.
I can’t remember what age I was but around 20/21 I joined Pats Slimming Club with my aunty Noreen and every week we went and got weighed. This involved going for wee and removing my underskirt and jewellery just in case. You know every little helps. This was the start of a lifelong commitment to slimming clubs; Weightwatchers, Slimming World, Lighter Life and private groups galore it is a billion pound industry. I’ve spent a small fortune and that included paying £8,000 for a Gastric Band.

Some of us turn to food when stressed, eat for comfort, some eat when celebrating/socialising but I need no particular circumstances; I love food, I love to cook and I love to cook for others. I am a feeder. I eat when I am happy and when I am sad. I am doomed……

I was once in a restaurant with my sister in a Mississippi showboat style venue and ordered a seafood plater. On the menu it had red snapper listed and I had never seen or had that before. So my massive dinner arrived topped with a mini red lobster and so I attacked it with great gusto. This must be the “red snapper” so I tried to break the claws, pulled it, stabbed it without success whilst still chatting and trying to look casual about it. I was just thinking that I might have to use a blow torch to get into it when the waiter tapped me on the shoulder and said “you need to stop doing that it’s a plastic decoration”. I was so embarrassed!! Well it was red and it snapped it was an easy mistake to make. See, I really am that bad; my over eating is not limited to edible items.
I have tried gyms, I detest them. I like to walk and enjoy swimming but gyms and sweating I do not enjoy. Despite this I used a personal trainer recently to give me a boost and he was fantastic. Pushy when he needed to be but realistic about my ability and limits. After the first three sessions he asked me in all seriousness if I had tourettes. I laughed heartily until I realised he wasn’t laughing. I’ve tried a number of ways to be fitter and healthier. But really at the age of 45 it’s just not me so I try to walk as much as I can.

Over the years my weight has yo yo’d. In preparation for my 2nd wedding I started a diet called Lipotrim under the supervision of Hope Hospital. Meal replacement shakes and biscuits that were so called peanut flavour but tasted like compact sawdust. So this was total meal replacement, no low calorie meals or anything, no food until you reached your desired goal and so I lost 5 stones in 4 months. I did not eat anything, not a crumb for 4 months. That took me down to a size 22 for the wedding. I went on a two week cruise for the honeymoon and gained a stone. The jeans I travelled across in wouldn’t fit coming back! There have been other fads, the cabbage soup diet, Cambridge diet, pills…… Now the pills were prescribed by a GP in my 20s and I took the first one and went to work. I was totally off my nut within an hour and had to be sent home with complete paranoia. I was awake for 32 hours. But I didn’t eat anything.

That honeymoon was memorable for one reason only. A trip to a Turkish Bath. A treat, 40 euros each to be pampered, buffed, scrubbed and massaged in the steamy heat and leave feeling fabulous. That’s what the brochure said. So we went in separately as this is a Muslim country and I went into the ladies area alone. Probably about a size 24? They told me to get changed and put my clothes in a locker. The people on the cruise who had organised everything told me we didn’t need to take anything, it was all provided. I asked if we needed a swimming costume – no she said, they provide everything you need. So we were in land, in Bodrum I think, with only the contents of my hand bag. I got changed and I looked around for a robe or towel of some kind but couldn’t see anything. I mooched around the changing rooms and saw a pile of towels; thank God. So I quickly grabbed one (I am stark naked at this point) and dash back to the cubicle. I shake the towel open and nothing happened. I shook it again and it was like an optical illusion. The towel was the size of a very small tea towel.

I started to panic a bit because there were no staff around and nothing at all I could see. They had said get changed and go downstairs when you are ready. Slightly nervous I looked around the changing room again and decided I needed to improvise. I took 6 of these little towels and tie the corners together so that they looked a bit like cock eyed bunting. I tied that around my waist and thought this will be ok. I’ll look like Raquel Welch with her sexy loin cloth. The fabric was red and blue tartan type. I used another 4 and tied them like a bandana around my boobs. I looked in the mirror, I did not look like Raquel Welch. I looked like one of the Roly Polies on steroids who had some kind of Bay City Rollers fetish. But what else could I do?

I ventured out of the cubicle again and thank goodness there was a member of staff. So I asked if they had a towel for me, gesturing to my unusual attire. The lady slapped me on my arse and said in a loud Turkish accent, “for you lady, we have nothing!” Thanks for that love. I could still hear her laughing as I went downstairs. So I went downstairs and it was full of steam and you could smell eucalyptus and I could see much but once the fog cleared I was in a large area, tiled in beautiful blue and white and there were marble benches along the walls and a quick plunge pool in one corner and some foot spas in another corner. The lady presiding gestured for me to lie on a slab of marble that looked like a large coffin and said I could have the scrub. I lay down and she said I’d need to remove my bunting outfit. No fecking way Jose. She started to yank it and say go go. I said NO. She was not happy. Neither was I.

She started to wash me with a funny cloth that was like an inflated pillow case and whip me with it. I kept wondering at what point would one relax here because up to now this was stress city. Anyway the scrub continued and I could hear voices so I tried to look up but the lady pushed my head down and shouted relax, relax. When I was lay there, without underwear and only my tartan bunting to protect my modesty I realised the voices were other women queuing for the scrub sat directly facing me at the end of the coffin. This meant I spent 15 minutes lay there with my legs as tight as I could hold them probably looking like a corpse, with rigor mortis. When that ended and I sat up the women waiting were not only thin, they were in bathing costumes and bikinis. I was livid. I wonder what they thought I was wearing and why? My aim to start a trend for plus size loin cloths was off to a disastrous start.

The final part of the treat was a massage so I was led off into a side room. A woman in a very bad mood took me in, she stunk of BO sadly and kept resting her breasts on my head when she leaned in to massage my spine. It was very off putting. I did have to remove the bunting this time. So start naked I got on the bed face down and put my face through the little space to get comfy. In spite of the masseur this was finally starting to relax me when I heard the door open and a pair of feet walk by the bed. I lifted up my head to see and she pushed it down. Another pair walked past and I could hear more voices. Eventually I insisted on looking and lo and behold I was in a staff room. Two women were sat in the corner casually talking and eating a sandwich like I wasn’t there. WTF is this place. I couldn’t wait to get out. When I did get out husband No 2 said wow that was fantastic I feel amazing; I burst into tears. I’ve paid 40 euros to be abused. FFS.

So during the first couple of years of my marriage I put that weight back on plus some and ended up at my heaviest at a size 30; 25 stones. Bizarrely I was never unwell and still fairly active. One Sunday we took the children to a funfair at Heaton Park. We wandered around and the girls went on to various rides and they asked me to go on one. It’s the one that has a row of seats connected together in a line and it swings around. You sit in the seat facing the crowd and the little seat belt mechanical thingy comes down over your head and clicks into place but all the bars come down at the same time for everyone. So we sat down and the bars came down and went back up again. The bars came down a second time and went back up again. People were looking up and down the line and I knew full well it wasn’t shutting because of me. I felt sick. One more time that bar came down but straight back up. The attendant started to walk towards me and I was shifting around trying not to cry and willing my bottom to be smaller. He said in a very sensitive way that I need to get off. But I already knew that.

So my daughter and step daughter remained, my then husband watched on along with hundreds of other people as I walked off the ride. The ride started and I had to wait in the crowd and pretend I was ok. When the ride finished we drove home in silence and I went to bed and sobbed and slept. I have never been, either before or since, been so humiliated. The next day I telephoned for a consultation for the Gastric Band. My ex husband paid half and I paid half. Around this time he had a falling out with his Mum who is a crazy lady and in a row with him she called me a fat prostitute????? I said, “How dare you…..I am not fat!!!”

I had the gastric band was fitted in July 2005. The weight loss didn’t really start until the following year. But when it did I lost 11 stones over a 2 year period and I thought all my prayers had been answered. However it was not all plain sailing. I couldn’t eat more than 3 crackers and cheese each day and I drank milk which I could only swallow around 3pm each day. I realised that I could only digest food once I had been awake for 8 or 9 hours and if I went beyond that I missed my chance I couldn’t digest it later. So I learned to make sure I ate and drank something in that hour window. Outside that window the food would go down and then I would start to cough, then choke and then the food reappeared. I had no control over this whatsoever and it hurt.

I was once giving a presentation at a conference regarding high risk domestic violence case work and had to leave the podium rapid to bring the food back. It isn’t like vomiting and it’s not nausea. Just reflux. Pretty gross really. So after that I never ate if I was away from the security of home or my office. I explained to the audience because I felt I had to say something and then I felt like I sounded like I wanted pity and they assumed I was poorly but I wasn’t. So I was at last a size 14, but oh my goodness I was miserable. I couldn’t socialise, eating out was a no no, I rarely drank alcohol because that and flying and my periods meant I couldn’t eat at all for a day or so. Christmas day was totally miserable and so I made those closest to me miserable too. I told my mum I have paid £8,000 for bulimia.

As I lost weight I also lost my marriage. So in fact I lost 25 stone; 11 myself and another 14 when he moved out. 3 years on I wasn’t sure what to do about the weight but knew I wasn’t happy. The other issue was my skin. It was like crepe paper hanging down on my upper arms, my thighs and my stomach. My stretch marks looked like a tube map. I just looked like my frame had shrunk but someone forgot to tell my outer skin. I have been saying for 15 years I was “big boned” and now I realised it was all a lie. My frame was small. Clothed I looked bloody great. Naked, I looked 104 years old. And one day the band just malfunctioned. I couldn’t swallow anything not even water. I had to wait 11 days to see a consultant during which I lost another 10 lbs. He said it was broken and that I could have it removed £2.5k; replaced £6k or disconnected £45. So I had it disconnected and decided to have a break whilst I decided what to do.
What did I do? I ate everything I could see or reach. Over the next 3 years I gained 6.5 stones of the 11 I had lost. I went on three holidays in three years with the same friend and sat there on a sun lounger complaining about how fat I had got and I wanted to lose weight blah blah fecking blah. Oh my days I was boring myself to death. She was reading a book by Miranda Hart and in that book was a chapter about dieting. Miranda was saying something like this is everything I have learned about dieting and there on a blank page it said – eat less; move around more. My friend and I vowed that we would not be returning to another holiday complaining about weight again. She joined Weight Watchers and I joined Slimming World and for the first time in our adult lives we both slowly lost weight and so far have kept it off.

I am at a stage now where I lost 5 stones in 2 years and in the last six months following marriage number 3 I gained 1.5 stones but I have nearly lost that again which will mean that this is the longest period of time I have ever sustained weight loss and it seems Slimming World really does suit me and the fads and the quick fixes are not sustainable. In fact they mess with my head. What I have come to realise is it should be about health, not vanity. Looking back when I was a size 14 I looked ill, someone actually asked if I had cancer!! It didn’t suit me and despite what the doctors say and the charts I looked and felt my best about a size 16/18. I am a size 20 now so I feel that this is achievable and realistically want to lose another 2 or 3 stones.

I am 45 years old and it’s only in the last few years that I have truly accepted myself as I am and like my body. I also know that everyone sees different things and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. It’s all about attitude, perception and balance. If the 4 minute warning goes off tomorrow I sure as hell don’t think I’m going to be reflecting on the waste of negative energy on self loathing and self pity. I am not fat, I have fat. My eulogy won’t include, “my goodness she was so fat wasn’t she?” I am a very active person, busy. Having fat does not mean being lazy. I am not lazy, never have been. Like any other addiction I am going to have to watch what I eat for the rest of my life or get the gastric band refitted. Nah….. Sod that. The next £6k I have spare I will use to go to India. Make memories.

The media support the beliefs that being thin is being beautiful. If you want to embrace curves or BBW then you are berated for encouraging obesity but no-one bats an eyelid when almost skeletal people are eating tissues and licking sawdust so that they can be considered top of their game. How unhealthy must that be? When I consumed 3 crackers a day my hair fell out, my teeth were suffering because of all the reflux and stomach acid that I was bringing up, my skin was in bad condition and my periods stopped.

The pressure is really hard I think but I might be biased. Its seems these days we have more choices, more access to fine food, more dining out. When I was little we had no spare money and eating out was a total luxury. Going to Smithills Coaching House was an annual event if we were lucky, McDonalds in Bolton only opened when I was 14. Eating out to me up until then was a pasty barm on the Town Hall steps or a bag of chips at the Nevada. Now eating healthily costs money but food laden with flavour and calories like bread, chips, cakes, burgers, crisps and pasties are cheap. Getting a take away or eating out just seems so much easier and accessible to most people. And whilst I am on the subject of money let’s just work out what I might have spent on dieting over the years. A conservative estimate includes say 15 out of 20 years off and on membership of some fat clubs, gyms, self help books, tapes, cook books, pills, potions and meal replacements, special meals, gym clothes, shoes, home equipment, skipping ropes, bar bells and other shite I have accumulated, an exercise bike I used to hang my ironing on, full wardrobes of clothes in sizes 14 – 30, dvds and hypnotherapy, counselling. It’s around £20,000. This includes £34 I just spent on a mini trampoline.

And during that time I have lost and regained the same 11 stones or amounts within it countless times. I estimate that I have roughly lost 50 plus stones or more and gained it. People like me keep those industries going. It’s big business. Anyway rightly or wrongly it is working for me now – maybe it is age, maturity or fear that whilst I remain healthy that couldn’t last if I was still 25 stones. I have spent roughly 4 months of my life crying about my size and being upset. It’s such a waste of my energy that I could have invested elsewhere. I don’t know how long it will take me to lose the weight I want and whether I will keep it off but I do know this:-

The important things are health, well being, family, friends.
• Reaching potential and helping others to achieve theirs is more important.
• Being a good person is more important.
• The people that make judgements based on my size are people I don’t need in my life.

Everything is about balance and moderation whether that’s work, food, alcohol or anything. The numbers on the scales are not what define us. The numbers on my clothes labels are not important unless they say 50% off. 

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love, Maura x

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1 Comment

  1. I’m Helens cousin… So yours in a way too! Although we’ve never met, I feel after reading this that I know you, and that you know me. Brilliant, inspirational words! X

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