Tag Archives: fat

The festive season is over and your pants are tighter than your wallet. What went wrong? AGAIN?

3 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

The feasting , I mean *festive* season has come to a close.

Did you feast?

To be more accurate, despite promising yourself to take it easy this year, did you feast like there was no tomorrow, while promising yourself you would start your diet in January?

Now that January is here, are you still reaching for the pies because you are depressed about the enormity of the task ahead and too broke to afford a gym membership/buy healthy food anyway?

What went wrong?


For most of my adult life I have resented the festive season.  I feel out of control, as though the world is trying to force feed me, like a Christmas goose being fattened up for slaughter.

Despite what  glossy magazines tell you about how to ‘choose this instead of that’,  I have yet to find a non offensive way to insist on getting a blob of cottage cheese on a crispbread (‘cut the crispbread into small squares and layer them between the cheese! It will still feel decadent!” they promise) when the host of the third party in as many days, offers me a tray of mini pork sausages stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, while shoving a fruity sugary alcoholic drink into my other hand.

Oh alright then, I will eat it all...

Perhaps there has been a magazine article written on how to artfully offend your friends, I have yet to read it.  If I was to demand a low fat snack at a party while rejecting the proffered offerings, I am quite certain I would not be regarded as sensible and empowered – I think it’s far more likely I would be called, smug, fussy and downright ungrateful.  To my face.  Possibly followed by that fruity drink and a dollop of spittle.

The trouble with asking for a paper towel on which to dab the excess fat off a double fried chocolate fat nugget, or eating half the food you have been served and piously pushing your plate away, or pouring half your cocktail down the sink and topping up your glass with water – if this is not obvious – is that it is RUDE.  Your host has spent hours preparing the feast and probably a fair amount of cash on the ingredients.  In addition to this, the meal, if it is a small party or family get together, was probably prepared with your tastes and preferences in mind.  Your sister saw how much you enjoyed the fat nuggets last year.. you asked for seconds!  That’s why she made them again this year… specially for you… how easy then, is it to push them away when they are proudly offered?

Not easy at all, you admit, unbuttoning another button of your jeans.

Imagine a world in which you could feel safe going to dinner parties in December knowing you would not have to eat anything which fell outside of your healthy eating plan.  Imagine not even being offered these things at all, not because you have been excluded, but because these things were not even prepared, based on your attendance.  Imagine a world where not preparing these items did not make your host feel resentful, but instead made them feel considerate and open-minded.

Welcome to the world of the belief system motivated vegetarian.

Think back on the last time you hosted a vegetarian.  When you decided to include this person on your guest list you already knew a few things about them.  You knew they did not eat meat for religious or other personal reasons.  You knew with certainty this was not a point for compromise or negotiation.  Did you then, insist on serving only meatballs, even when this guest was the only vegetarian at the table?  No you did not.  Instead you created some fancy sundried tomato-balanced on a soya bean starter (which everyone, seeking to appear evolved and tolerant of the veggie eating guest, raved about) and also probably served a vegetarian lasagna which it took you twice as long to make as a steak pie would have, necessitating a trip to three different stores just to find aubergines.

On top of that, I bet you felt rather smug about it.  It was probably easy to say to your brother Peter (known for only eating meat and potatoes) – “It will be a meat free evening tonight Pete”.

As the host you felt splendid about it – what a great chance to show how liberal and cosmopolitan you are.  Meat free?  Oh.. that’s easy!  That is just the type of flexible and inclusive host I am!

The same accommodations are made for diabetics and alcoholics and they are made just as happily.

So why then can a dinner party menu not be planned around the guest (or guests, which is more likely) who are trying to slim down or manage their weight over the festive season?

Here are a couple of reasons :

*We don’t declare our dietary requirements upfront.

*If we do declare our dietary requirements, we do it WRONG.

*We don’t follow through.

*We are secretly pleased we didn’t have to follow through.

Everyone knows who the vegans, vegetarians and diabetics are.  People who have specific dietary requirements have learnt that it does not serve them to stay silent.  It is not uncommon to meet a new colleague in the workplace and to have them introduce themselves as, “Hi, I am Johno, the new Accountant and I am a vegan”.   If you didn’t already know and you invite one of these people to a party, they will not mind reminding you either, several times if necessary.

People who are on a healthy eating plan are less eager to declare their requirements so blatantly for fear of scorn and derision.  If we are completely honest we must also concede that we sometimes do not describe out dietary requirements because we already plan to fail them and do not want to have to explain ourselves when the person who we outlined our carb free eating choices to in detail sees us grazing a family size box of doughnuts at the office a few days later.. but that is another blog altogether.

hmmm... I think I will pretend I want the carrots and then allow myself to be 'forced' to eat the pie...

Vegetarians and Vegans are not immune to scorn and derision.  They will tell you that when they first come out the soya closet into the meat locker which is the world in which we live, they are interrogated and questioned like criminals.  It only hurts the first couple of times though, and people do then eventually get over it and accept it.  Vegetarians and Vegans feel strongly enough about their choices and are prepared to face this sort of pain in order to reap the rewards waiting on the other side – evenings of dining without awkward moments or social pressure, without compromise or confrontation.

When followers of a healthy eating plan do manage to find the courage to come clean upfront they often hamstring themselves by apologizing or sounding ashamed about it.  The knee-jerk reaction of the person on the receiving end, when they hear ; “I would LOVE to enjoy your delicious lemon meringue pie again this season, but sadly, I am on a diet”… is to respond with, “you don’t need to diet darling! We all love you just the way you are.. don’t be silly.. one piece of pie won’t hurt you!”.  Both host and hosted disempowered… and you have only yourself to blame.  Listen to how different this sounds : “You are such a wonderful host so I thought I better let you know as soon as possible so you understand and are aware that I wont be having any of your lemon meringue pie this year; I don’t eat sugar”.

Case closed.

When a vegan gets to a dinner party and a bleeding slice of meat is served up to them, they don’t eat it.  They don’t guzzle it down while whispering to their partner that they ‘don’t want to make a fuss’.  They don’t eat it, even if it causes an awkward moment.  They know their abstinence is a sure fire way of underlining their dietary preferences to ensure it won’t happen again, and the hostess will probably be mortified when realizing the mistake and knowing the guest will go hungry.  They don’t feel bad in the slightest because they know they have explained their choices several times. They feel quite comfortable pushing that plate away.

The difference, the very big difference, is that the vegan was not secretly hoping they would get the hard choice taken away from them and get ‘forced’ to eat the meat.  The vegan is truly comfortable and satisfied with their eating plan.  They own it.  They are fully in, not balancing on a knife edge, hoping for a push to topple them and give them an excuse to abdicate from the choice and responsibility of eating too much of the things they said they did not want to eat this season.

So there it is.  Nobody force fed me this festive season, or any other festive season.  If I feel I have been fattened like a goose for slaughter, I need to acknowledge it is I that am holding the feeding tube.

Is it not time healthy eaters took on an empowering term of their own?  I am a….”X”… sorry.. I cannot eat that.   A friend suggested the term “Spartan”, or I suppose we could stick with “dieter”.  I am not satisfied with either as I would prefer to move away from anything which references deprivation or self pity.  We need something which spells it out in the same way Vegan spells it out.

I need to think more on it.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.


Session Notes : Fed Up

24 Apr

First off, my apologies for neglecting this blog.

I (Soo), have been swept up by the real world, and what has become a busy coaching practice, and Heather has been jet-setting around the globe as a busy social entrepreneur should.

The issues of weight management, food addiction and all the many other issues which orbit around the subject have, however, never been far from my mind.

I am posting my notes from the last Fed Up (Food Addicts Group Therapy) session, which was held at my offices just short of two weeks ago.

I wanted to post these notes because there is still a fair amount of confusion as to what Fed Up is all about, as well as questions regarding its philosophy and content.  I hope this inclusion helps to answer some of those questions, but I also wanted to point out the following :

  • The attached notes represent only the framework of what was a very inclusive Group Therapy session.  You are looking at the skeleton.  To get the meat, you would really need to be there*.
  • At each session a different hot topic is raised.  In future I will not be sharing the topics in this way (just posting my pre-session notes) but I will rather bring together the learnings and points of view of all the attendees in an after session blog post.  I think the result will be far more interesting to the reader.

*I realise it is not possible for everyone, particularly the international followers of this blog, to ‘be there’.   I am working on a way round that, perhaps a podcast format for some portions of the session, or transcripts (thinking cap needs time to do its work…)

As usual, email me at talktosoopat@hotmail.com if you do not want your comments on the record.




A slimming club

A pity party

A one man show


A safe space

A place without judgement

A place to vent

A place to be real

A place and time to take ownership and responsibility for your life, your communication and your actions


Fed Up is a confidential on-going support system for women struggling with issues related to food addiction and self esteem.  The Fed Up Sessions have a group therapy structure, and offer encouragement and therapeutic advice in your journey to self-awareness, victory over your addiction and the issues which underlie it.  You will NOT be weighed, you will NOT be measured.  You will not be asked to leave the group if you do not lose weight.  You will never be shamed, over praised or treated like a child.  You WILL be heard, understood, and given an opportunity to vent, facilitated by a kind a gentle process.

There are a few rules here, and they are designed to protect and empower us all

  • Never comment on a group member’s weight, whether it be a gain or a loss, unless the information is freely offered, and your opinion is sought.   We do not measure each other’s worth based on kilograms in this space, and this is not a competition.   Please know that I will stop you, if I see you doing this at any time. Feel free however to crow about your achievements, or vent your frustrations during the sharing portion of the session.
  • Do not use these sessions to evangelize about the latest weight loss fad, or to sell anything to anyone.  If the details of a diet or plan are specifically requested, rather offer an email, or a private phone conversation at a later time. I do not want participants of this group feeling they have been tricked into an Amway or direct sales presentation.  Please know that I will stop you, if I see you doing this at any time.
  • Be aware of the time you take up, in proportion to the other ladies in the group.  It is my responsibility as facilitator of these sessions to ensure they do not become focused on, or dominated by, one person and I will take measures to ensure this, if this ever becomes necessary.  If you need more of my time, approach me afterwards to arrange a one on one session.


Each person introduces themselves, speaks briefly of their history with regard to food, and vents something, if necessary.  They can choose to end by reading the fed up affirmation.  Two minutes per person. (These confessional moments will never be shared in a blog.  They are private.  What happens in Fed Up, stays in Fed Up).

“I am FED UP with a world which measures my worth in kilograms.  I am FED UP by the ways in which I have reacted to these measures and judgements in the past.  I am FED UP! Today, I am moving forward, taking charge, and claiming my right to life, love and happiness.  Right NOW”

THE HOT TOPIC (tabled & facilitated by Soo, and discussed by all)

(Please note these are my rough pre-session notes.  I welcome any questions or queries on this topic, which was discussed in depth by the group during the session.)

“I don’t trust my body”

“when I eat too much, food makes me feel polluted and stuffed”

(these things were said by an anorexic, who weighs 73 pounds)

This woman is deliberately attempting to get as fat as she can. Empathy, Disgust or Pity?

What I really want to achieve tonight is a possible re-frame on some of these issues.  When food is the weapon are we really so different, in the ways we harm ourselves? Do we have double standards?  Do we have less sympathy, or more sympathy for different kinds of eating disorders?  Do we feel ok about ripping off a skinny person, in the way we would never consider doing to a fat person?  Or perhaps vice versa?  Do we admire the extremely skinny on a level, even anorexics, while we are disgusted by the obese? Aren’t they both killing themselves?

Anorexics can be mean and controlling to get what they want.  They lie about what they have eaten.  This is well documented.  Can fat people also be mean and controlling to get what they want?  Do they also lie about what they have eaten?  Does an anorexic person seem meaner to you?  Does a fat person seem sadder?  Does one have more of a reason or excuse to lie, than the other, in your mind?

Anorexic documentary : family describes when she ‘gets ugly’ she is ‘like a monster’.  How would it feel to be described this way, based on your weight?  Have you been described in this way, based on your weight?

This woman has deliberately attempted to get as thin as she can. Empathy, Disgust or Pity?

Anorexics have interventions and are told ‘you are killing yourself!” or are taken on Dr Phil, or sent off to treatment centres, where they are forced to eat the ‘right’ amount… but this is not done for the obese.  Why the double standard.  Who is getting short-changed?  Are the problems of the obese not taken seriously?  Does Anorexia get more ‘sympathy’?  Does it get less?

Anorexics often seek to dictate the terms of their treatment, or want to quit.  Do the obese do the same?  Are you able to relinquish control (and should you), even if this control is related to wanting to be left completely alone to self abuse, or insisting on following a crazy diet of your choosing, rather than following the advice and help of others? (Dr Phil to anorexic ‘You don’t get to be calling the terms of your treatment’.  ‘You are not equipped to deal with how this should be handled’)

Anorexics insist on exercising, or do it secretly.  The obese refuse to exercise, feel persecuted about being forced to exercise, and don’t stick to exercise programs and resent them.

Anorexics eat secretly for fear of being judged.  The obese eat secretly for fear of being judged.

Others say to anorexics “you don’t have to do this, stop right now.  Why are you being so selfish?”.  Does that seem reasonable.  How would you feel, if the same thing was said to you, as an obese or overweight person?

Anorexics are asked to stand in their underwear and to lift their shirts and show their bony ribs, and these clips are shown on national television, to show ‘the extent of their disease’ and how it has ‘ravaged her body’.  How do you feel about this?  How would you feel if you saw a clip of an obese person, who was asked to lift their shirt and show their fat rolls, or to stand in skimpy underwear to show the world ‘the extent of the disease which has ravaged her body’.  Are you more sympathetic to one, over the other, in terms of this humiliation?  Are you more sympathetic to one over the other, in terms of their disease?

Not Enabling Means :  Your disorder is not allowed in the house, in the same way as an abusive boyfriend.  No special accommodations are made (such as : ‘this is my food’, ‘this is my mustard’, ‘no one must watch me eat’, ‘no one is allowed to comment when I go off the rails’)

Anorexic’s say “I feel as though I am trapped in this body, while others are having fun and having a life”.  Do the obese say the same thing? (Particularly regarding hobbies and interests).

TONIGHT’S POWER TOOL (explained by Soo, and then workshopped by the group)

Do you know how to take a compliment?  Really take it and integrate it?  Do you know how to deliver a compliment?

Would you like to have a tool which allows you to take a compliment at face value, and to feel bolstered by it, no matter what it is?

Receiving a compliment :

Example :

“You really look fantastic.  Something is different.  What is it?”

Steps :

  • Internalise – do you believe it? Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Take it in equal measure (the example of the tot glass vs the pint glass – they are offering you a pint glass worth, but your current self esteem results in you receiving it in a tot glass)
  • Smile.  Don’t grimace or squirm!
  • Respond and pay it forward.  The practice of giving genuine compliments must be rewarded!  Be sincere.  Dig deep.

“Thank You.  I feel good.  Life is good.  I really appreciate how you have picked up on my improved attitude.  I respect and admire how in tune you are with people”.


Giving a back handed compliment and that you don’t have any urge to ‘put them in their place’.  Even seemingly perfect people need compliments.  It is meaningful compliments they would prefer, ones which do not relate to their looks.


compliments : I'll take em!

Each person gives a compliment to the person next to them.  It is not allowed to be based on their size. (post- meeting note :  This was an experiment and it ROCKED.  It may sound silly or superficial, but it was actually wonderfully moving and affirming, as we were all sincere and digging deep.  It ended the session on a high note)

Meeting closes.

A heartbreaking response to this blog

23 Feb

Note from Heather:  A brave person responded to our blog with the message below.  I can’t begin to tell you how familiar her message is to me.  I have heard it time and time again – from so many, many desperate people who have been struggling with obesity for years and years.  Indeed, it’s my own voice too.  My heart breaks for those who struggle with eating disorders… for those who are regularly discriminated against (because of their size).  To the friend who wrote this letter, I say:  You might not realise or accept it – but you are beautiful, worthy, valuable and deserving of respect and love – exactly as you are right now!

Hi Heather,

I know I should be replying to your blog as to how your journey of the past weeks has affected me as a “fattie”, but I’m afraid I’m just not as brave as you have been. I would say that I take my hat off to you, but I probably ate that too.

I read a little about how you were feeling just before going in for your procedure. This is a subject so close to my heart as I am pretty much where you were in Dec, give or take a pound or two. I live each day battling to get up and face the world with the strength and courage that I should naturally have.

I work with people daily, who I know (sad but true), judge me the moment my hand extends to shake theirs, the moment I get out of my car or the moment they open their front door.  I have a husband and two stunning girls that I feel like I am letting down and embarrassing every day. I have resigned myself to the fact that my weight is one fight I just cannot fight any longer. and am now lying down to play dead, getting up only when I have to do whatever the day puts before me. Active I am, devoted to my family and business, most certainly I am. Dead inside from hurt, embarrassment and low self-esteem, well that I most certainly AM!

I have no self-esteem left, have no will left to fight this, feel quite happy to work for myself locked up in my study without a corporate office having to witness me having a slice of toast or chatting every time the “fat” chick walks to the kitchen (even if it’s only for a glass of water)……. I haven’t really had anyone say anything to my face about my weight, in fact they don’t even have to say a thing, it’s written all over their faces.   I even planned an eye op smack bang in the middle of the week of my hubbies 20 year reunion, just so I could avoid it.  Yes Heather, you heard right, I actually did that, and at the last minute postponed the op due to guilt.  But alas, we never went as I had stuffed up plans and it was all too much to organize accomodation at the last minute……….. so Heath, when I read your blog, I cry so much.  So much happiness for you, so much hurt for me.

I haven’t stopped crying today since I read it.  I know this sounds like an agony aunt column, but I honestly am so desperate to get this op done that I will go to any lengths.  Desperate is what I was years ago, broken is where I am now. I have not been able to afford this, and so I have made an appointment to go see a surgeon to check what the cost is on this procedure, please could I ask you if you would kindly send me the details of your doc and if possible cost as well.

I can’t tell you how happy I am for you, you deserve this so much Heather, and if I had the energy, I would stand and be your pom-pom girl,  but right now I’m sitting….. (ha ha, we all know about the fat jokes)………….

PS:  Sorry if this letter doesn’t make sense, I have just typed and typed whatever I have felt… just cant stop crying right now……….


ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT : Fed Up! Group Sessions

2 Feb

The Fed Up Manifesto :

“I am FED UP with a world which measures my worth in kilograms.  I am FED UP by the ways in which I have reacted to these measures and judgements in the past.  I am FED UP! Today, I am moving forward, taking charge, and claiming my right to life, love and happiness.  Right NOW”

Date : Tues 1 March 2011

Time : 6 to 9pm

Place : Group Lounge, My Coaching Office, Melville, Johannesburg

Session Topic : Weight Loss Surgery

A frank discussion on elective weight-loss surgery.  An opportunity for clarity and enlightenment for anyone who is considering a weight loss intervention, anyone opposed to this surgery but seeking with honest intent to understand it, or anyone conflicted on the issue. The discussion will be facilitated by myself (Suzanne ‘Soo’ Patterson), an NLP Life Coach.  All attendees will have an opportunity to participate, without pressure to communicate beyond their comfort level.

This group is for you if :  You are a woman.  You currently struggle with your weight AND/OR you have struggled with your weight in the past and still consider your relationship with food to be complicated and tenuous AND/OR you consider yourself a food addict AND/OR you are in a relationship with a food addict AND/OR you are part of the loving support system of a food addict.

Special Guest : Heather (my sister and co-blogger here) (37 yrs) – 3 months after lap-band surgery

Fed Up is NOT a slimming club.  Fed Up is a confidential on-going support system for women struggling with issues related to food addiction and self esteem.  The Fed Up Sessions have a group therapy structure, and offer encouragement and therapeutic advice in your journey to self-awareness, victory over your addiction and the issues which underlie it.  You will NOT be weighed, you will NOT be measured.  You will not be asked to leave the group if you do not lose weight.  You will never be shamed, over praised or treated like a child.  You WILL be heard, understood, and given an opportunity to vent, facilitated by a kind a gentle process.

To book contact me, Soo Patterson 071  177 7030 or email talktosoopat@hotmail.com.
To preserve the group dynamic, places are limited.  R80 per person, includes 3hr group therapy session, session notes, Coffee, Tea & Biscuits.

Bands and Ties and Other Things Which Bind

24 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

At the end of last year, my big sister (in all the ways that count, and some that don’t) underwent a surgical procedure, and had a weight loss device – a lap band – inserted.  She now has a teeny little inner tube circling her stomach, which when inflated will squeeze tighter and more efficiently than any iron-fisted willpower she has been able to summon to date and limit the amount of food she can comfortably eat in one sitting.

Inside my 15 year-old sister (pictured here) was always a fat person, fighting her way out. Slim and pretty, but in her mind fat and clumsy. Hiding under bulky shorts, arms covering a belly she didn't have. Eating until years later, her outside matched her inside.

Two earth-shattering, conscience jarring, where-the-hell-do-you-stand-on-anything-actually parcels of life found their way to my door step at the end of last year.  Both of them, in terms of my contribution to this blog, struck me dumb.

Continue reading

If I had the money, I would have weight-loss surgery TOMORROW!

20 Oct

Heather’s Perspective (obviously).

There’s only a measure of time that a soldier is able to fight the fight until he is spent and bleeding and unable to fight any more.  There is only a certain length of distance that any runner can run, until his legs give way in exhaustion and he’s unable to run any longer.  No human being, no matter how strong or resolute – has the capacity to wage an infinite war against a force so powerful that it crushes him, again… and again.

Eventually, the crushing takes its toll.  Eventually, the resolve weakens and he begins to question his purpose and his position in the fight.  His will and his body are systematically broken.  His strength and energy gradually melts away, and one day, he wakes up and no longer has the strength to stand… much less fight.

I have been fighting and struggling and waging war against my addiction for over thirty years.  For over three decades it has haunted me.  Taunted me.  It’s ominous presence always lurking, crouched in the shadows, whispering my name.

Whether happy or sad… and through all the successes and failures of life, food has been close at hand to comfort, cheer, console or celebrate with me.  For thirty years, it has consumed my thoughts, dominated my decisions and rendered me incapacitated by its influence.

This may disgust you.  No matter, it disgusts me too.  I’m revolted by my own gluttony.  Sickened by my weak and pallid response to food.  Mortified that my addiction has controlled my life to such a degree that I don’t even know where… or how… to find myself again.

The irony is this:  in every other area of my life, I’m a strong and capable woman.  I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in life, the risks I have taken, the dreams I’ve chased, the mountains I’ve conquered.  I like the person I am – and I’m confident in my talents, my abilities and what I can do.  I like the fact that I’m a doer – not just a talker.  Another irony is that I’m a happy, optimistic person.  In every other way, I live a full and interesting life.  I’m married to a wonderful man who supports me, encourages me, makes me laugh – and loves me in spite of myself.  I have two gorgeous, healthy children who give me reason to live my life as an example for them to follow.  I’m content and fulfilled in my work and purpose.  I have a team of supportive friends, always cheering me on from the grandstands of life.

I have so much… and don’t get me wrong… I am so very grateful for my blessed life and for everything I have.

But… for a reason that escapes me completely – I remain hopelessly addicted to food, in spite of everything.  Throughout my life, and no matter the circumstances, my eating disorder, my utter obsession with food… has defined me in some way.  It has cast a looming shadow over everything beautiful and precious in my life.  Every beautiful moment, every lovely thing about my life is smeared… tainted… by this thing… this eating disorder… this addiction… this obsession.

It has already smeared the corners of my otherwise wonderful marriage.  Nick keeps telling me that it’s not the fat and the food that grates him as much as my obsession with the fat and the food.  Nevertheless, the obsession and the ‘stuff’ are intertwined and I cannot rid myself of either.

It’s only a matter of time until my daughters’ friends start teasing her about her fat mommy.  She has already asked me, with such childhood innocence that I could never be annoyed with her, why my bum is so big and fat.  How do I answer her honestly?  Almost every day, I fear that Morgan will follow in my footsteps and will somehow inherit the obsession that has plagued me for most of my life.  God forbid that she also starts criticizing her body from a young age and feeling ‘not enough’ – as I did – all those years ago… as I still do, even now.

People usually respond to my obesity in a few, predictable ways.  Many are appalled by my lack of self-control around food.  They can’t see why I just don’t follow their example by eating in moderation.  You know, eat when hungry and stop when satisfied – like other normal human beings.  They believe that there’s a simple solution to the state I’m in and that I’m not trying hard enough… or that I just don’t want to get better.

I’m too greedy and gluttonous, they believe, to want a solution.  They’re the people who say: “Just eat less and exercise more!”.  They’re the people that say:  “I don’t see what the problem is – just stop stuffing your pie hole, and you’ll lose weight!”.  They’re the self-congratulatory folk who feel that they’re somehow ‘better’ than me… because they’re thinner.  They feel superior to me… on every level.

Others don’t see me at all.  It’s as though my layer of fat has made me completely invisible to them.  They don’t even hear me when I talk.  They’ve relegated me to the ranks of loser… failure… or worse:  stupid.

The thing I hate most about my addiction is that it’s on display for the whole world to see and laugh at and comment on… and judge.  Unlike the smoker, the alcoholic, the cocaine addict, the sexual predator, the obsessive gambler, the person addicted to prescriptive meds, the compulsive liar or even the bullimic (who regurgitates the fat after every binge)… the Binge Eater stands alone in her shame because her weakness is on display for the world to see!

Other addictions can be easily covered up, disguised, lied about or veiled with a smile and a breath mint.  Mine cannot.

Right now, I feel as though I’m teetering on the edge of lunacy.  If one more person makes one more flippant and utterly stupid remark of how I should ‘just’ eat less and exercise more – I feel as though I’m going to lose complete control of my carefully restrained demeanor.  I almost want to don a loud, flashing sign which warns well-meaning people with their well-meaning solutions to stay far… far away from me.

Don’t you dare bring your latest, greatest program as a solution to my lifelong, sweat-drenched, tear-flooded, bloodied, devastating struggle!  Don’t you dare offer me your 5-Step-Plan… your latest diet… your ‘easy’ formula… your ‘expert’ opinion… your ‘special’ system… your ‘revolutionary’ recipe!  Don’t you dare treat me in a condescending, patronizing, insulting manner that does not assume that I have tried everything… and I mean everything… in my power, over the past 30 years, to be cured, to get better, to heal, to win this fight – all to no avail.

The hundreds of different diets, eating plans, lifestyle strategies and weight-loss solutions I have embarked upon… the countless so-called experts that I have consulted over the years; doctors, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians, counsellors, pastors, personal trainers, motivational speakers, life coaches, beauty therapists and many more… the fads I have experimented with… laxatives, appetite suppressants of all brands, meal replacement pills and shakes, fat blocker tablets and special blood analysis diets.  The groups I have joined…. Weigh-Less (on 4 separate occasions), Weight-Watchers (on 2 separate occasions), Slim-U-Slim, Diet Enders, Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Winners and regular small group sessions at the offices of the local shrink.  Let’s not even discuss the courses… the workshops… the therapists… the many books I’ve read… the countless “Solutions” offered which never worked or, at least, never worked longer than a couple of weeks or months – before my addiction overpowered everything, as it always has… as it always does.

And, in the midst of this craziness – amidst the hundreds of diets and plans and schemes and support groups and solutions and everything else that makes up the multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry around the world… there is only one solution that I have come across that consistently works in helping obese, addicted people like myself finally lose weight on a permanent basis – and that is weight loss surgery.

I have a number of friends and a handful of relatives who, like myself, have been struggling to overcome obesity and an addiction to food for many, many years.  I’m not talking about slightly plump people here, or those who have a big of extra baggage on the bum area, or those who aren’t as thin as they would like to be.  I’m talking about bona fide, life-long food addicts who cannot control themselves around food on a long-term basis.  They’ve all yo-yo’d up and down over the decades we’ve known one another – but none of them has managed to permanently conquer this battle… and they’re all still fat.

Some, like me, are currently at their heaviest-ever weight.  Others are in the process of piling the pounds back on after embarking upon (and later quitting) another ridiculous, restrictive diet.  Others are at the lower end of the yo-yo… still overweight, but not as fat as they used to be, and living in dread of putting on weight again – which, if the statistics are to be believed, they probably will.

Of all my friends and relatives who have struggled with a food addiction over the years – only one of them has managed to overcome obesity on a permanent basis.  Only one of them has lost every last kilogram of her excess weight – and kept it off. Only one of them is relieved and satisfied that her life-long struggle with obesity is finally over.  And that friend is Sanchia.  And Sanchia had Lapband surgery.

I was very anti Weight-Loss-Surgery for a number of years, although, as I type this, I can’t come up with any fair or plausible reasons why.  I think that it was more a personal issue.  If I had to struggle and fight with my weight… if I had to force myself to exercise and diet and ‘suffer’ to get the weight off, it just didn’t seem… fair… that somebody else could just waltz into a hospital, pay for some fancy surgery and have the weight fall off – just like that.

For me, those who opted for weight-loss-surgery were those who had ‘given up’ – or worse, those who wanted ‘the easy way out’.

I guess I yearned for some kind of moral high ground, especially compared to ‘those’ people… the ones who went for gastric bypass operations.  In the same way that promoters of natural childbirth scorn mothers who chose elective caesarians, deeming them ‘too posh to push’ and other such nonsense, I had similarly judged those who had chosen weight loss surgery.  I had judged them in the same way that people judge me – all the time:  “They should just stop eating, and then they wouldn’t have to go for weight-loss surgery!”  (there’s that word “just” again).

I started looking at weight loss surgery differently, only after Sanchia had her Lapband installed.

I have known Sanchia since we were teenagers.  She was always the sweet, friendly, fat friend.  She wasn’t viewed as a threat… or as competition – and that’s possibly why she had so many female friends (nobody was scared that she might steal their boyfriends).  I kind of assumed that Sanchia would always be overweight.  On the sporadic occasions when our paths crossed over the years, she was always fat, always dieting, always struggling with her addiction to food.  I, like so many others, couldn’t even picture Sanch as thin.  It’s like trying to imagine Kate Moss as obese.

When Sanchia first mentioned that she was pursuing Lapband surgery, I thought:  “Surely there’s a better way.  That sounds a bit drastic!”.  I guess, there was a part of me that felt a bit uncomfortable at the idea of Sanchia getting thin – and especially getting thin before me.  I guess I felt as though it left me with one less fat comrade in a culture so saturated with discrimination against the obese.

Sanchia’s medical aid refused to pay for the procedure, so she had to persuade her husband to take out a second bond on their home.  At the time, the surgery costed R65 000 (it’s now R75 000).

I started sitting up and taking notice only after Sanchia’s surgery.  It took her about 20 months to lose 45 kilograms and 10 dress sizes… without dieting.  That’s every last kilogram of excess weight that she has carried for most of her life.  And more astonishing: she has kept it off! (She’s coming up for her 3rd year ‘anniversary’ of having the band installed).

That’s when I sat up and began to take notice.

When I quizzed Sanchia about the surgery, she told me that it was the best money she had ever spent in her life and the best decision she had ever made regarding her body and her self-esteem.  Her only regret?  That she hadn’t done it sooner!

I asked her about those feelings of having, perhaps, ‘cheated’ the system – instead of losing weight the ‘real’ way… the ‘hard’ way.  “Absolutely not!”, she said, “I have paid my dues!  I have been on diets for my whole life!”.

It occurred to me then that Sanchia and I (and many others who have endured this hideous merry-go-round) have lost hundreds of kilograms of weight over the years on various diets and weight-loss schemes.  Through my yo-yo antics alone, I estimate that I have easily lost well over 250 kilograms on diets over the course of my life.  Of course, I’ve also put it all back on – but the point is still clear.  It’s not as if Sanchia and I were unable to lose weight on diets.  The things we’ve done to ourselves and the extreme willpower we’ve exerted over the years, would surely be enough to impress an Everest Mountaineer!  I’m not sure how many of my thin friends have refused food entirely for over a month (on three separate occasions).  And I’m pretty sure that the smug, thin people – those who judge me for being fat – have never dieted off 250 kilograms in their lifetimes!

The problem isn’t losing weight inasmuch as keeping it off.  Telling a food addict to “just eat sensibly from now on” is tantamount to telling a junkie that he should manage the number of times he shoots heroin to, say, twice a day only.  Except, it’s worse.

If the alcoholic and the junkie chose to be free from their addictions, they could peaceably continue life without ever needing to be faced with a spliff or a stiff drink ever again.  Once has to seek out drugs and booze.  One has to visit dodgy street corners or phone the Nigerians.  One has to visit a pub, a club or a bottle store.  It’s not difficult avoiding drugs and alcohol.  Try avoiding food!

The junkie doesn’t need drugs as fuel for his body… to survive.  The alcoholic doesn’t have to endure the rest of his life with a scotch on the rocks placed on the table in front of him… every day… for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The druggie doesn’t have his mother-in-law offer him a plate of ecstasy tablets every time he visits her… or an office colleague who thrusts a stash of dagga in his face saying:  “C’mon – just one little joint… it’s not gonna hurt ya!”

The junkie and the wino don’t live in a culture where every single celebration of life… whether weddings, funerals, church services, office parties, holidays, children’s birthday parties centre around a stash of liquor and a mountain of syringes.

Food is my drug of choice.  And it’s everywhere! And I have to eat it – or else I die (I’ve often thought that it would be far easier to stop eating completely – than to have to carefully control myself around ‘legal’ food for the rest of my life).  Food confronts me when I watch the TV, when I read magazines.  It’s on billboards, it’s in restaurants… shopping malls… fast food joints… the supermarket… the side of the street – everywhere! It’s where my friends are.  It’s where my family is.  It’s where I celebrate.  It’s where I go on holiday.  It’s where I work.  It’s where I worship.  Everywhere I turn:  food, food, food!

People who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, prescription meds, gambling, sex, etc… do NOT have this problem!  The very thing I am addicted to is in my face… every single day!

No wonder food addicts have such a dismal success rate!  No wonder there is such a tiny percentage of obese people who manage to lose the weight through dieting – and keep it off!

Is it any wonder then, that obese people who are addicted to food… are turning to weight loss surgery?  The Lapband system, for example, simply makes overeating physically impossible.  For the food addict, this thought is extremely comforting.  Even if I desperately want to binge – my body simply won’t allow it (or rather, the band placed around my stomach won’t allow it).  What’s more – you don’t feel deprived or continually hungry (as one does on diets).  Instead – you feel continually full!  Even after a miniscule portion of food – you feel stuffed!

Now that is music to the ears of somebody like me!

And so… I have decided that I’m going to have the Lapband installed.  It’s a quick operation, involving one night in hospital.  If I could, if I had the financial means, I would book myself in for the surgery tomorrow!  Without the blink of an eye!  Without a millisecond of hesitation!

I’m a hundred-and-twenty-something kilograms right now.  I find it hard to move.  I can’t sleep on my back because I find it hard to breathe.  Clothes don’t fit me.  I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my reflection in the mirror.  I find it hard to fit into aeroplane seats, movie seats and through turnstiles.  I can’t walk for moderate distances without sharp pains shooting up my calves.  I suffer from aches and pains as my body groans and strains under the excess weight.  I can’t go rock climbing with my sister.  I can’t fit into robes at the spa.  My wedding ring doesn’t fit on my finger.  I don’t have the strength or energy to chase my children around the garden.  I feel constantly tired and exhausted.  I can’t cross my legs when sitting down on a chair.  I can’t paint my own toenails.

Such simple things – that so many people take for granted.

I so desperately want to live life as a normal sized person.


PS: A note: It was hard for me to post this… and it has taken me a lot of time, research and heart-searching… before I came to this decision (to have Lapband surgery).  I don’t take any kind of surgery lightly or flippantly – but feel that this is the best choice for me.  If you are reading this – I only have one request (if you intend on sending comments)…. please… please…. PLEASE... do not write something like:  “Weight Loss Surgery – bad idea!  Listen, I know a really great diet – I promise that THIS one really DOES work… my sister’s aunt’s cousin went on it, and she has lost all her weight!  I can give you the web details!   I promise, this is a much better choice for you…  don’t do weight loss surgery.  My nephew’s mother’s friend had weight loss surgery and she said it was the WORST decision, like, ever!”.

Diet Diaries Part 1 : Atkins

30 Sep

Suzanne’s Perspective

Let me start this post with a disclaimer.  I am doing my best to blog honestly.  I do not believe it is helpful to anyone for me to self edit through this process.  I do rant, I do get revolted with myself and I am not always a paragon of virtue, goodness and light.  Please read this blog as being personal to me and my journey.  I am not calling you, or anyone else any of the names I occasionally call myself.  I ask any reader to please not project, or feel persecuted by my rants.  The alternative to posting honestly is to bottle up and lie, and I am not going to do that.  Please deal.  Thanks in anticipation.

One week ago :

It is spring, and I find myself a size 34, instead of a 32 or a 30.  I have these great boobs at the moment, but after that, there is not much to recommend it.  My face is plain and moonish, the tops of my thighs rounded and lumpy and I have a little pasty paunch.  I am as close to chubby as I ever allow myself to get.  Size 36 would be unforgivable –  I would commit myself to the fat farm if it came to that, but this is close.. too darn close to being completely revolting and out of control.

I succeed at healthy eating, most of the time, but for the last couple of weeks I have not, and on top of the 3kgs I was carrying from earlier in winter, this has been enough to deliver me to my present circumstances.  You won’t hear any excuses from me.  There is nothing wrong with my metabolism.  I am not big boned.  I did not eat hardly anything and then just glanced at a pizza and gained weight.  I am the only one who raised my greedy paw to my mouth and who tucked into second helpings of pasta.  Me alone, my hand unguided by any malevolent chubby fairy.

I will also spare you all the boo-the-hoo-hoo’s about how I have been stressed and under pressure in various areas of my life, as well as occasionally lonely and housebound in the cold and miserable weather of previous months.

If chocolate is a friend, who needs enemies, right?

The pic from two weeks ago which tipped the scales : don't you want me baby? (in my defence, that was actually my first drink at a Fancy Dress party, and it was a dark garden, suddenly lit up by the flash of the camera, which revealed the true horror which is me)

I have rationalized to myself, how the 6kg’s  I need to lose presents me with a perfect opportunity to trial a couple of diets, and allow you, the audience, to suffer through them with me.  So here it goes.  You will get only honesty from me, so if you are not sure you are going to like it, stop reading now.

Perhaps I should have said that a few paragraphs ago?  (Don’t worry past week ago self, your future self added a helpful disclaimer, but you should still expect a little hate mail)

The Atkins Diet.

I am looking for fast results, and I don’t mind a bit of sacrifice.  Truth be told.. I NEED  a bit of sacrifice.

In case you have been locked in a trunk for the past 40 years, The Atkins diet is a high protein, low (as in NO) carb plan.  You are allowed to eat large quantities of meat, eggs and cheese and not much else.

I have had a run in with the Atkins Diet before and it worked out rather nicely for me.  I have never been able to sustain it for more than three weeks, and I am interested to see how I fair this time (ie. I am ready to do it again, because I have forgotten how nasty it is).

I start by emptying my fridge of all offending, forbidden items.  Out goes the low fat yoghurt I eat for breakfast.  Into the freezer go the bananas and strawberries I still have a stock of.  I leave the milk behind, as I will still need it for guests.  The cream also stays because I am allowed to use it as a milk substitute in coffee.

yup. there is is.

There wasn’t much else in my fridge, so I head for the shops.  I soon realize this is going to be an expensive little experiment as I fill my basket with bacon, steaks, full fat cheddar, pork chops, chicken breasts and Avo’s.  I spend R500 without even trying, and it’s probably not enough to last me more than three or four days.  I feel a little resentful.

I take my measurements on the first day as I don’t have a scale (which is why I judge myself based on clothing size not on weight).

I decide to refresh my memory about anything else I need to know about the pros and cons of the diet and hit the interwebs.  I am soon confronted with some sobering news.  No alcohol.

I thought I had remembered being allowed vodka and Coke Zero (which has been my staple for years), but apparently not.  I ponder how I am going to survive my date the same evening.  We had planned to “go for drinks”.  I mean it’s not like I am an alchie or anything, but I do have one or  two vodkas about twice a week on dates, and when I meet friends.

Alright then, I will suggest we meet for coffee instead.  Perfectly reasonable, and most places serve cappuccinos with real cream if you ask for it.  I read further.  No caffeine.  Ok.. now that is going to be more of a problem.   “I didn’t sign up for this!”  I wail.

I keep reading.  “You can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms from caffeine if you are a regular coffee drinker, such as headaches and listlessness”.  No kidding.  I feel the immediate onset of a migraine.

Oh, but heres the kicker.  “No Aspartame.  Please choose a soda which does not contain aspartame”.  Well, I never realized this before now, but no such diet drink exists on the South African market (that I can find).  Which means I will have to sip water on my date as coffee and Coke Zero are forbidden.

I have eaten steak and chicken all day, but I decide before leaving the house that the options presented are just too humiliating for me and I allocate myself 2 x Coke Zeros WITH vodka for the evening.

First day diet fail.

I wake up feeling ashamed of myself the next day and decide to not leave the house for the duration of the diet, unless strictly necessary, as there is nothing I am allowed to consume at any restaurant or coffee house.  It was going to be a little easier as for the first 6 days of my diet I would be working from home, and only on the last day did I have a working day which took place outside of the home.  I would barricade myself in, with just bacon and steak for company.  So be it.  Great sacrifices and all that.

I took six aspirins on the second day to combat my caffeine withdrawal, which was severe.  I also noticed I had not been to the toilet.  Hit the net again and found “severe constipation” was to be expected, and combated by adding some husks or other to your food and drinking lots of water.  Yay.

The days pass and I am sticking to Atkins like a crazed zealot.  I have to wash my frying pan four times a day.  Everything is dripping with fat and I pretend it does not repulse me.  My drain blocks from all the fat getting washed down it from pan cleaning on day three and I have a sharp vision of the same gunky glue trying to work its way through my system.

I finally pass one small dry parcel on day four.

I am not sure if I am losing weight or not. I check myself out in the mirror each morning, waiting to see some sort of change (Atkins promises weight loss of between 2 and 5kg in the first two weeks).  My paunch seems bigger, probably because every pork chop and avo topped chicken breast is still churning within it.

Speaking of churning, my stomach is constantly groaning and mubbling like a cement mixer while I am on this diet.  It keeps me awake some nights.

Because it inspires me to remember why I am doing this, I sit around naked a lot while working, to not allow myself to forget about my belly and lumpy thighs.

I may be acting like a crazy person.

would you like a creamy de-caf coffee with your flesh madam?

I am exhausted.  I don’t manage to get through a single day without a nap, and I haven’t found time to exercise this week, which is not like me.

Everything on my plate is brown or yellow and equal parts crispy/greasy.  I am allowed a few handfuls of all the boring vegetables per day, which offer nothing in compensation.

On night four I dream of feasting on chocolate, fruit and cakes, and when I wake for a panicked moment I am not sure if I have or not.

Night five presents another challenge.  I have to leave the house.  It is my “Rumble in Pub” debating night, and I never miss it.  What to do about the beverage situation??? What to do???  I turn back to the net to try to find out why caffeine is the devil on this diet as I remember it never used to be in Dr Atkins first edition.  Apparently new discoveries show caffeine (and the dreaded aspartame) cause carb cravings.  Deciding I couldn’t possibly crave carbs any more than I am already, I make the decision to have three fully loaded cappuccinos at the pub.  They are DELICIOUS and as punishment I get about 3 minutes of sleep that night.

I have spent many hours this week scratching flesh out my teeth.  When you eat this much protein you realize how sinewy and stringy it actually is.  Even a well cooked steak or chicken breast is as easy to chew as a ball of string.  My gums are sore.  My breath stinks.

On day six I ponder how stupid I have been feeling all week.  I feel mildly brain damaged and can’t wrap my head around any of my daily chores or assignments.  I have procrastinated all important tasks, and even this blog, written on the last day of the week is a massive slog which I am plonking out with red eyes, my fingers feeling as heavy as lead on the keyboard.

Is there anything I have enjoyed about this diet? *stares blankly for 20 minutes into the middle distance*

I haven’t once had “that shaky feeling” which I get when I go too long between meals or eat too much sugar or carbs.  Atkins claims to balance your blood sugar levels, and maybe there is something in it.  But before I give them too much credit I was following their guideline of not going more than six waking hours between meals, which may have made the real difference, as I have been guilty in the past of going entire days without eating anything more than one large evening meal.

There have been a few moments where I feel manically energetic and my heart races, so its not entirely true to say I have been tired ALL the time.

One week on Atkins is enough for me, I suspect, and tonight I will take my measurements to determine if my pain and suffering to date has yielded any sort of result.

Don’t worry, I will post them, and we can all compare and stuff.  I would never deprive you of that.