miscellaneous · musings

About my weight

This blog post isn’t directly about sewing, or about travel.  It’s about weight – specifically, mine.  For anyone who has a history of disordered eating, this may be a trigger, so I suggest that you skip reading this post.  I’m writing it because I have recently lost a fair bit of weight, and people have noticed and commented.

I don’t have a history of disordered eating, in a conventional or medical sense.  I was a thin kid and adolescent.  In my adulthood I gained weight.  So I did intensive exercise and calorie restriction and lost it.  Then I gained it again.  And lost it again.  Repeat.  Ad nauseum.  I think that every time I did it my resting metabolism dropped lower and lower.  Eventually I read about the negative effects of diet culture and the impact of fatphobia – both societal and internalised – and decided to just stop focusing on my weight, and instead keep on sewing to fit the body that I have.

I made this decision for a few reasons – a major one being that I had no health imperative to change things.  I have always been dubious about weight discussions disguised as concern for people’s health.  It’s fatphobia, combined with ableism.  Fat does not necessarily equal healthy, any more than thin does.  It’s a false equivalence.  There are plenty of thin people who have terrible health – both mental and physical – and plenty of fat people who are incredibly healthy and strong.  My blood tests and external health markers were always in normal range.  I like good foods, unprocessed and fresh, but I also enjoy potato chips, soft cheeses, chocolate, and wine.

Then last year I started getting gastrointestinal symptoms that were affecting the quality of my life.  I was often uncomfortable.  My day job involves reading medical records, and I’d been reading many, many records related to diseases of the digestive system, especially of the liver.  I have a certain level of paranoia due to my job, so I booked in with my GP.  She ran all the usual tests plus a few more (these were all fine apart from a protozoa in my gut that many people have, but only cause issues in some) and she also ordered abdominal ultrasounds.  The ultrasounds only found one issue – fatty liver.

Now, fatty liver is not a good thing to have.  It occurs when your body starts putting fat into organs in addition to increasing subcutaneous fat.  To reduce it, I needed to lose weight.

As it happens, my husband – not an overweight man – was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about ten years ago.  He’s genetically susceptible to it; siblings also have high blood sugar.  Until recently he’s managed to keep it under control via exercise and diet alone.  We’ve done our own reading on the management of diabetes, and came across the work of Dr Jason Fung, a nephrologist.  He recommends fasting as a key method of decreasing insulin production in the body, and therefore reducing the impact of diabetes along with a corresponding weight loss.  Intermittent fasting has recently been popularised in the UK and Australia by Dr Michael Mosley.  Both my husband and I have science backgrounds, and the logic inherent in the work of both these men makes sense to us.  If you google fasting there are a myriad of articles about it – it’s becoming more and more well known and more popular.

My husband was already doing a complete fast two days per week, and in October I began doing it too.  For two days a week – mostly Monday and Wednesday – I don’t eat.  I drink black coffee in the mornings, and I drink plenty of water, but that’s it.  Mosley’s version of intermittent fasting allows a small amount of food on fast days, but that only makes me hungry.  I prefer to have nothing.

On the five days of the week that I eat, I choose higher protein/fat and vastly reduced bread/rice/potato and processed foods, and I avoid sugar.  I’ve also reduced my alcohol intake – my last alcoholic drink was in December, but I expect that I will enjoy a glass or two of wine on occasion.  I will sometimes have a piece of cake or some soft cheese and crackers, but not often.  I don’t count calories/kilojoules or plan my food each day; this way of eating doesn’t take up much head space.  I eat fresh foods, with as little processing as possible.  I didn’t fast at all for the three weeks that we were away on holiday, but tried to follow the same eating principles, without snacking in between.

So far I’ve gone from the BMI calculator defintion of obese through overweight to now not far from the ‘healthy’ weight range.  Most importantly, my gastrointestinal symptoms have improved significantly.  I won’t know about the fatty liver unless I have another ultrasound.  I’ll be interested to see what my other blood tests/health markers show next GP visit as well.

So yes, I do look different.  It’s not just the change of hair colour (I’m growing in the grey, which could potentially be a whole other blog post) and hair length.  Will I be able to sustain this lifestyle change?  I think so.  For me, it’s medically necessary.  I want to feel well, and reduce my chance of developing liver and pancreas issues.  I have tried fasting before, but that wasn’t with a health motivation.  Societal weight expectations don’t make me change my eating behaviours in the longer term! This time, it’s different.

Detractors of fasting say that it’s just another diet and another fad that plays right into diet culture.  I’m not so certain about this.  Many cultures around the world incorporate fasting into their regular lives, whether for one day a week or for other periods of time.  It’s not an unusual thing; billions of people do it.  Here in Australia we are conditioned to eat every time we feel a hunger pang.  Honestly, it’s not that hard to cope with feeling hungry every now and then.  For me, it’s only until the next day.  But there still isn’t any published research into the long-term effects of fasting.  I’d also like to see more research on intermittent fasting in perimenopausal women and how women’s hormones interact with insulin.  Most of what I’ve read has focused on men (which isn’t unusual when it comes to medical research).

Honestly, I was conflicted in writing this post.  The last thing that I want to do is to become part of diet culture, but I suspect that just by writing this I have done exactly that.  This post is just about me – sample size of one person – and I think it’s really important to remember that everyone’s journey and needs and health situations are different.  You need to do your own research and figure what works for you and your body and mind, in a holistic sense, when it comes to things like weight and food and health.  This is difficult in the society we live in.  In general I don’t talk about diets and weight and weight loss, and I actively avoid placing value judgements on foods.  There are more rewarding things in life to be spending your time and energy on; after all, you could be sewing!

 

Edited to add: Thank you so much to all the people who have commented on this post or contacted me in other ways.  It has clearly struck a chord with many people.  I was very interested to read how many of you have discovered that fasting has had a positive health impact on your lives, especially those of you my age and older.  Thanks again for your responses – they are greatly appreciated.

52 thoughts on “About my weight

  1. Great post, I too have moved from diet obsessed to lifestyle change. Removing most processed sugars from diet and eating a non processed food diet. I lost 12kgs and have kept it off. It has taken a while to understand my new body shape amd sew for it! I still make things way too big.

    1. Thanks for talking about this, you did it with such thoughtfulness. I feel like we are at such extremes in our relationships with our bodies. “Diets” of all sorts are either maligned or obsessed over… and yet I think it is healthy for some of us to strategically restrict our diets (and sometimes, lose weight). I am on a new low carb and —- dare I say— calorie restricted diet and actually I feel great, my minor gastrointestinal woes are almost completely absent, I’ve lost 10 lbs, and best of all, my me-made wardrobe is fitting better than ever! Maybe you’ve given me the courage to blog about it sometime in the future.

      1. I think that sharing about these things is useful – just look at the number of comments on this post, many from new commenters. Goodon you for changing your diet to fix those gastrointestinal issues.

  2. I was a thin child who’s gained a lot of weight as I’ve aged. I struggled with body image for a long time because of fatphobia (internal and societal), and it’s only been recently, as I’ve made peace with my body, that I got to a point where I wanted to make some health focused changes. I started working with a trainer to try to get stronger have more endurance. I’m trying very hard not to think about or focus on weight loss, and haven’t told many people I know precisely because I know they’ll see it as me finally being a “good fat person” and trying to lose weight instead of understanding and supporting my true motivations. Thanks for posting about this in such a thoughtful way.

    1. Ah, now I completely understand that reluctance to tell people and the reasons why! I suspect that’s part of the reason why I hesitated on writing this blog post. Working with a trainer is SUCH a great idea – strength, endurance and flexibility are what is missing from my life at the moment. You’ve got me thinking about future plans to incorporate similar.

  3. Coincidentally I did my first Michael Mosley inspired fast yesterday. I think fresh food in realistic portions and avoiding as much sugar as possible makes sense. The only low fat product I use is milk and that is a taste thing. I think we have lost the knowledge of what a portion is with restaurant servings, plates and wine glasses all upsized. Eating for health and viewing food as nutrition for our bodies is a good mindset. Good luck with your test results.

  4. My albatross is exercise, I lost a good bit of weight when my thyroid dose was increased but a lot has returned. All my labs and internal organs are within the normal range. Here’s the “but”. I have never liked exercise per se, am not a gifted or natural athlete and I’m 73. It has to happen by me, though. My husband can’t believe I can gain weight on what I eat, mostly fresh, veggies, and very little red meat. I’m not a binge eater either. Gah! Wish me luck as I learn to move my body more to increase my metabolism!
    As I wish you the best on your journey. PS. I love your new hairstyle!! And I think you look fabulous.

    1. I am not a fan of exercise either, yet I KNOW that it’s beneficial. I just try to move more – park my car further away, walk instead of drive whenever practical, etc. Weight bearing exercise is still on my future agenda – I’m implementing one change at a time.

    2. I’ve always hated to exercise too. The kids joke that my treadmill is something to hang clothes on. Not too far from the truth. I find I don’t mind exercising nearly as much if I listen to an audio book or podcast while I’m walking. A near brush with a frozen shoulder has taught me the use it or lose it theory. I put some of the dishes I use the most on a higher shelf and make sure to alternate reaching with both arms when putting them away or getting them out. A round with sacroiliac issues has me doing the exercises my PT son gave me. He told me that the reason most people wind up in a nursing home is they can’t get up out of a chair. At 62 I was having problems doing it. Made a believer out of me.

  5. Congratulations on finding a healthy way of life! I, too, do intermittent fasting and I feel so good. I usually do one meal a day (OMAD) but I’m flexible. I’ve read Dr. Fung’s books, plus Gin Stephens’s “Delay, Don’t Deny” and “Feast Without Fear.” I try to eat whole foods but the occasional sweet isn’t denied. I rarely drink alcohol, and I don’t like coffee, so I drink loads of iced water until my dinner window opens. Gin Stephens calls this way of eating, “… the health plan with the side effect of weight loss…”.

    I’m so happy for you! ~ Peggy

  6. Good on you for prioritising health and for having the commitment to succeed. The weight loss is an added bonus.

    I have always watched my weight but not religiously until menopause kicked my butt. Overnight it seemed I wasn’t sleeping, I had digestive issues that I had to have investigated but were thankfully unexplained and I put on weight, 7kgs of weight which was tipping me into overweight category. I knew I couldn’t continue to put on more weight so I ramped up the exercise and cut back on processed carbs which had helped keep my weight in check and also with the digestive issues. I hope to lose a little more to keep me firmly in my healthy range but am only willing to use healthy long term lifestyle changes. My weekness is my weekend wine but life is also for living 😉

    1. Andrea, it feels as though the two of us have had very similar experiences! The sleep issues, the gastrointestinal issues – and I am still having periods (argh I am SO OVER them). Women’s hormonal changes and fluctuations definitely complicate things in my view. And I entirely agree – life IS also for living!

  7. Sisters!! I am growing out my hair this year too. The last dye job was just before Christmas. Still using spray on the roots in my part until it is a bit more obvious of what I am doing.
    I’m also doing intermittent fasting along with a Keto diet. I will also have times when I will have that sourdough toast, glass of wine etc. But for day to day I am Keto. I have been doing 16/8 IF but now reducing eating window down to just 3 hours a day. As well as Dr Fung I follow Eric Berg on Youtube.
    My journey started about 10 years ago when tests showed my stomach issues were FODMAP related. From there I have done Paleo and now Keto. And I feel soooooo much better. My depression has gone, aches and pains in joints gone and don’t have a weight problem. I’m a believer and wish you all the best with your journey.

    1. Hi Vicki, sounds as though you and I do have similar things going on! I have suspected that FODMAP could be an issue for me too, but haven’t had the tests. So pleased to hear that your eating habits have promoted good health for you. It’s great to hear these individual successes.

  8. Like you I had a bit of a health scare a couple of years ago and my doctor told me about IF, I find it so much easier than dieting being an all or nothing type of gal. The motivation is coming from a different place, a desire to be healthier and improve digestion, and it’s that improvement that makes the change sustainable, the weight loss is a bonus. Be prepared for the well meaning comments about taking it too far, most of us think we’ll fade away if we don’t eat three times a day when actually we’re digging our graves with our teeth. 😳.

    1. Many people can’t comprehend fasting – they really can’t imagine not eating every time they have a hunger pang (or whenever the clock tells them that it is time to eat). I have found so far that fasting actually helps me to listen to my body more – and even on non-fasting days, I tend to have two meals per day rather than three. I’m less hungry!

  9. Great post, Lara. Thank you for sharing your journey, I imagine that verbalizing your experience is an uplifting step along the way. You are, always, a beautiful woman, inside and out.

  10. I found this post very timely. I just completed my first 22 hour fast and found that I can get through the fast with no ill effects. I just finished reading Delay, Don’t Deny by Gen Stephens and I’m reading Dr. Fung’s book now. I have struggled with eating too much for most of my life. I love food and as an emotional eater, I’ve used food for a crutch when I’m lonely, angry, happy and sad. I found my first fast, very freeing. No planning or shopping or anything, just wait until the eating window opens. I turned 60 earlier this month and I too have been on the roller coaster of weight loss and I’m just tired of it all. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  11. As always, thanks for being frank and sharing with us. I think fasting would benefit me a lot for health reasons, but haven’t had the mindset yet. Good for you. I think it would be especially hard when you need to prepare food for your kids without eating.

    1. Ah yes, fasting when you have kids. I have struggled a bit with this. My daughters are both old enough that they usually prepare their own dinner on fast days – simple snack like things; beans on toast, eggs, toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, noodles with salmon and corn, home-made pizza. We provide normal healthy meals on the other days. We’ve talked to them about why we fast – about dad needing to do it to keep his diabetes under control and about me needing to do it for my stomach and liver. We try not to talk about it from the perspective of what we weigh or how we look.

  12. I found IF a few years ago and incorporated it into my life. I’m usually a keto follower but during the holidays I stop. This sometimes causes me to overeat sugary foods ( I have a sugar addiction!) but the fastest way for me to gain control is to fast for a few days. The sugar cravings go away and by then I’m so tired of eating my body welcomes the fasting. We are bombarded with advertisements for fast, cheap and sugary food not to mention the food industry and also people in the health care field that say we must consume breakfast, lunch and dinner AND also have a snack in order to be healthy. It’s crazy!!
    Good for you and best of luck with your testing.

  13. Don’t feel bad about writing about this topic. My husband and I started IF last fall and both of us lost 30+ pounds. It was easy once we got out of the habit of not eating all the time. My husband says he feels like he’s in his 20’s again! I still have a few more pounds to go, but it is very encouraging!

    My hair is completely gray. I have never colored it, but did do blonde highlights. It has been 18 months since my last highlight. I get complements on my hair, but most women admit they don’t have the courage to go natural!

    1. Great to hear of the results that you and your husband have had with IF! Hair colour and going grey is an interesting thing – I often hear the word ‘courage’ used in conjunction with it. Says a lot about societal expectations of women and ageing…

  14. I started fasting, along with my husband, after our GP recommended it for general health reasons. We were completely fasting one day per week (usually on Fridays) and were doing something like 14:10 IF on other days. When eating at home alone we followed some general principles of healthy eating (non-processed foods, no fried food, very little or no sugar), but when we were eating along with family/friends (something deeply embedded in Greek culture) no food was excluded. We did that for years (I think we started in 2006 – at the time no one was talking about IF!) and it served us right. No gastrointestinal problems or weight fluctuation – even when I got into menaupause my weight didn’t change at all- , and very good energy levels. After my husband died, I found it very hard to continue this practice as it requires a specific state of mind and an alertness I was lacking. Only now, 4 years after, and after gaining some weight, I am again starting to introduce fasting in my life. I am glad to hear that it works for you too!

    1. Irene, sorry to hear of the death of your husband. It is no surprise that your mental energies were on things other than fasting for a few years. It is encouraging to me to hear of the success that you had with it in the past.

  15. Good for you! We have also been following the Keto/IF train following a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. Both of us have lost weight, but more importantly, blood markers are way better and we feel great.
    A note about your hair – I decided to “go natural” about 6 yrs ago. My hairdresser used what he called scalp bleach to remove old color (golden brown) in a 2.5 hr process. There is some residual color left, so I got to be a very light blond (tinted) for a few weeks as it all faded to my natural white. No roots, no touchups – easy peasy. If you don’t want the hassle of growing out, talk to your hairdresser!

    1. Karen, it’s intriguing to hear how many people are feeling better (corroborated by blood tests) when fasting. Thanks for the hairdresser tip too – my hairdresser is currently adding blonde highlights (my hair is naturally dark blonde), and I’m growing out the rest. I am quite enjoying the current greybre look with red ends, blonde highlights and mixed grey in the roots! It’s intriguing to me to watch it growing out.

  16. A great, thoughtful post. I too have struggled since puberty with my weight. 3 years ago my younger sister told me about Dr Fung’s books and I read them. My entire family has struggles with their weight and blood sugar issues- many are diabetic. Something about his book resonated with me and I started the intermittent fasting lifestyle. I took off over 10 per cent of my body weight and lowered my blood sugars and blood pressure. Best of all, it has been easy to keep it off for over a year. It has helped reduce my lower back pain . Many people have tried to discourage me, but it has done nothing but good things. I think it is imperative that we take our health into our own hands , after all, who has the most to benefit but us.
    I also grew out my grey many years ago. Both my dad and his mother had the most beautiful white hair and now mine is too.
    Thanks for writing this and best wishes on your health journey.
    Barb

    1. Hi Barb, I’m so glad to hear that you’ve had success with improving your health via fasting too. It’s fascinating to me that many people try to discourage you – we’ve found similar; in general people find it so difficult to think of not eating all the time (3 meals per day plus snacks in between)!

      1. Many weight loss books / companies eg Weight Watchers recommend .3 meals /day plus snacks 3 times/day. It curbs appetite. I guess there hasn’t been research by “orthodox” medicine. eg double-blind tests. That’s why it was interesting to me to see dr Michael Moseley try it and write a book. I tried IF but it confused my eating. I might revisit it – might be easier to not eat at al, like you do, for the day.

  17. There is a lot said about how you can be fat and healthy and as long as you are happy with your weight then that’s great but your internal organs react the same to excess fat and not in a good way. I always feel better when I have lost some weight and worse when I have put some on.

  18. My hubby started doing the 800fast, advocated by Michael Mosley, back in May last year. He’s managed to lose weight and feels better for it. As a family we have cut down our refined carb consumption considerably and are all feeling better for it. So I completely understand your viewpoint. Also interested in the effects on peri menopausal women. Must be my age speaking.

  19. You dealt with this so thoughtfully Lara, I would love to read your thought on growing out grey hair! I was just thinking on your holiday snaps how lovely your hair was looking.

  20. Lara, this is one the most sensible, balanced and wise reflections on how to gain a healthy weight that I’ve ever read. The only thing you “triggered” for me is to feel more motivated to get onto my own mission. I had a fatty liver diagnosis 3 years ago and completely cut out alcohol for 18 months but occasional imbibing is starting to creep in… I also have a decades long history and family disposition to diverticulitis, leading to regular gut disturbances, so I’ve really valued the way you’ve shared your positive and sensible approach.

    Now off to find the Fung and Stephens books….instead of buying the sewing pattern you more often inspire me to search out!

    PS… I am fully and proudly natural grey and end of menstruating years 12 years ago was cause to celebrate!

  21. How very interesting Lara – I have tried 2 fasting days a week, but with a teenager at home, I found that I didn’t like the lack of that family meal time when we could all catch up. So now I do the 16:8 which relies on me only to skip breakfast which works well. Great post, and I am so glad you are feeling better

  22. Well done on taking control of your health. Have you looked into the work of Dr Stacy Sims? She advocated that “women are not small men”. She points out that research results showing the benefits of choices like keto and fasting are mainly for men (majority of research subjects) as our physiology is different. Her book “Roar” is an eye opener for female athletes (I’m a runner) but there’s a lot of useful info for women in general. She has a book on Menopause coming out this year and I’m eager to read this.

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