The internet loves a transformation, right. Admittedly it loves a transformation that follows the norm - i.e. bigger to smaller. And, in a normal social media reveal, these pictures would be flipped, with the after being the before, and the before being the after. If, and it is a big if, we were only focusing on looks.
But this is real life, and I think we have established by now that I am not here to go with the flow. The first picture is me in August 2015. I’d been back from working in India for 3 months, had enjoyed the summer not working, and was about to go and live and work in London, on what I thought was going to be a great adventure. I felt grown up and liberated - the future was going to be filled with nights out in London after work, cultural pursuits at the weekends, dinner parties, shopping in Whole Foods and Heals. Ya know, things like that. Kind of like a more sophisticated Bridget Jones, and definitely minus the frequent public humiliation.
The reality was that I was sick, unhappy and lonely but that’s for a separate post.
The picture below is me a few weeks ago . They are clearly not comparable (for a start the angles and lighting can make a real difference to how you look - worth bearing in mind when you are looking enviously at pics of ‘perfect’ people) but you can see that I am bigger, and let’s face it ladies and gentlemen, that is, sadly, what, many of us are still concerned with.
The hidden picture
I’ve spoken before about the finer details of my own health, and how things are not always as they seem, and obviously that is something that will always feature in my work. But what the before picture does not show is my relative anxiety levels: whilst I had come a long way from the awful days of low carb hell, I was still focused very much on what people thought of me, which kept me in relationships - both personal and professional - that I did not want to be in, and that were not good for me. It meant that my life was about what I thought I should be doing rather than what I wanted to be doing. Not that I really even knew what I wanted to be doing.
I still frequently observe, most commonly, women, commenting on other women’s size and shape, bandying about words like tiny and skinny, fully intending them as compliments. I even heard a debate between two women recently where there was a kind of standoff about who was thinner. Not. Even. Joking.
When I first got lean using a more scientific approach to my looks and health; I can remember feeling a bit smug, and thinking I had arrived, and was definitely not going to be one of these people who ended up being bigger again; that I had achieved this new slimmer frame, with my health intact, and that’s how I would remain. I can recall also feeling slightly snooty about people revealing their ‘new look’ and rolling my eyes thinking well, they won’t stay like that. I’ve learned along the way that staying still, even if it’s a look that you like and have coveted, isn’t realistic or functional, and that life ebbs and flows, and so do we, or at least, we should, with it. Since then, I’ve been bigger and I’ve been slimmer; well and not so well; happy and downright miserable. And I can tell you that my most content and relaxed periods have not necessarily correlated with my most lean periods.
How do we measure health?
Fat is protective. If you are familiar with Billy’swork, you will know that he talks about the brain compartmentalising when energy is in shorter supply, so that it can de-prioritise the less critical aspects in order to conserve energy for our vital organs. Sadly, often people going into a diet situation are already stressed - psychologically, as well as physically - and their body is in no fit state to be restricting energy. As we know, a restriction of energy can lead to a further down-regulation of the already slow metabolism, exacerbating the stress load.
It would be disingenuous for me to say that I’m not bothered about looks, because I am. And, as someone who is a) vain and b) is in the early stages of developing a practice that helps people to mend their relationship with themselves, I would love for my physique to be more like it was in August 2015. But it doesn’t, at least not for now. Life happens, and when your gaze is broader and your focus is on more meaningful things than weight, jean size and selfie-worth - such as contentment, anxiety levels, sleep health, clarity of thought and motivation levels - the jean size begins to seem kinda…well, basic.
It’s relatively easy to get to a good ‘after’ picture; you eat less (although as you are unlikely to know what the what is that you need to eat less of, you need to make sure it is definitely less, by basically starving yourself), and you need to ensure you move more (seems like a breeze with the abundance of stress hormones coursing round your body from the aforementioned starvation). But I only know of a few people who maintain the same appearance as their after picture, and that is by eating even less (than they were before), and moving even more (endurance events ahoy). I don’t know about their internal health so it would be remiss of me to say, but I have learned to tell a lot about folk by their behaviour and I would postulate that on the basis of that, despite their claims, they are probably not living their best life at all.
I’ve spent the past two months recovering from a period of hard work in Italy in the summer - much harder than I expected - where I felt that I had enough on my plate (no apologies for the pun) and that my main priorities were good sleep, clear headedness, emotional robustness and physical resilience. I added some calories in when I felt the sometimes manual nature of the work was making an impact, and whilst I don’t get involved in the highly unfulfilling pursuit of weighing myself, I could tell that I was carrying some more weight. However, on the basis of my most recent RMR test results (you can read more about the procedure for assessing your metabolic rate via indirect calorimetry here), I have just begun to pare back my calories, in line with that figure, and have increased my training. The next stage of experimentation for me, is building my strength whilst maintaining the most consistently good state of health and contentment, probably in my entire 48.5 years on the planet.
A different approach
Every season is silly season, where our ‘health’ and looks are concerned, but we are about to enter the uber-silly season - dieting to get into the LBD / Tux, for the Christmas Do, a month of overindulgence, followed by a month (at least) of puritanical dieting - be that fasting, or low carb, or extreme workouts, or as is more likely, all three. I currently have space for online clients, if you are disenchanted with the feast and famine world of dieting, and / or are experiencing any of the health issues that I speak about frequently, including PMS, digestive problems, insomnia, lack of libido, anxiety and / or depression, hair / eyebrow loss. Drop me a line so that we can chat about a different approach to your health and figure. Or check out my online coaching packages.