12:59 AM 11th December 2021
The Good, The Bad And The Hungry40 plus blogger Claire Marie
on why slimming club culture was never going to help her conquer her food demons.
In my twenties I started to realise that I probably wasn't particularly healthy, and certainly wasn’t making the most of myself, so after much deliberation, I decided to join a slimming club.
My first visit didn't disappoint on the cliche scale; gaudy merchandise everywhere, stamps and stars in books and women applauding with wild abandon for half-pound losses probably brought about by pre-weigh in bowel movements. But I took what I saw on the scales seriously, immediately embarking on my chosen plan with vigour. Elated, I eventually reached my goal weight and got lots of lovely stickers.
Within months, I was sucked into the world of being ‘good’ or ‘being 'off plan', with nothing in between, and my approach to food became a grotesque caricature of itself. I'd binge on a dustbin lid-sized pizza after weigh-in (because what you eat on club night doesn’t count), and was completely dictated to by the scales. I must have spent hundreds of pounds to gain and lose hundreds of pounds in a continuous, pointless cycle! And I was no closer to solving the underlying issues that caused me to overeat in the first place.
I left and rejoined several times before eventually admitting defeat and deciding to ‘just be good.’ The result of that was becoming more overweight than ever.
So I joined another club.
This one worked on the principle of calories equating to points, and when your points ran out you couldn’t eat anything else. Eventually - and disbelievingly – I reached a size 12, but I was always going to fall off the wagon because the angel/devil caricatures were now firmly established in my psyche. These plans are unsustainable for that reason: the constant battle to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ plays havoc with your physical and mental metabolism.
In the end I gave up. I told myself that if I made an extra effort with my hair and make-up I could hide the weight gain. Maybe I just wasn't meant to be one of those people who was lucky enough to like the way I looked. I just felt that nothing should be that hard - life was hard enough as it was.
What I didn’t realise back then was that it wasn't about my weight - it was about my spirit. My light had gone out, and although I hated what I saw in the mirror, it was the least of my worries.
Eventually I had an epiphany and realised that the answer to my problems didn’t lie in a church hall on a Thursday night. It involved creating a mindset which enabled me to feel worthy of a healthy body in the first place. After a period of huge change, I felt brave enough to join a gym, and it switched something in me. Giving my identify and self-worth a positive jolt opened many more doors and I adopted a new way of eating – intermittent fasting. Although there's a depressingly familiar marketing creep around it now, it's actually very simple, free and doesn't involve being weighed like a cow at a country fair.
I still have hang ups about food - I always will - but I’ve found a formula that works for me 80% of the time. I'm not ‘slim’ and I doubt I ever will be, but I feel and look infinitely more healthy than I did for years and a little fluctuation in my weight is ok. I know that if I stay calm and continue with my routine, I’ll be just fine.
Anything to avoid going back to that circle.
Claire is on facebook and Instagram as @my40pluslife.me