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How not to lose weight

There was a Canadian lady in Abu Dhabi whom I often saw in the fitness centre. She was there almost every day: running, cycling, rowing, attending classes or playing squash. I barely knew her but she fascinated me, mainly because she never ever seemed to lose any weight at all, despite her efforts. My friends and I mused that maybe she ate huge amounts of food or drank gallons of beer when not on the treadmill. She was marked in our minds as a glutton and responsible for her sizeable bulk. Poor lady, we thought, with just an edge of smugness.

Lately, I’ve begun to see that we were doing her a great disservice. I’m starting to understand her predicament…. because now it is me who people are looking at in the gym and marvelling at the lack of results. Now, I am that Canadian lady.

Since I returned from Abu Dhabi, only slightly trimmer and more toned, I have managed to put on around six kilos in weight. Not surprising. I eat more in the winter and exercise less than I did in AD. But what I don’t understand, is that despite a campaign of regular exercise combined with sensible eating and drinking for a whole year, there is no difference (except for some barely-perceptible toning). I have not lost even a pound and my waist is as wide as ever.

It really doesn’t seem fair. Every morning I walk for 20 minutes to and from school, at least twice a week I cycle into town through wind and rain, at the weekend we always go for a hearty walk with reluctant children, twice a week I go to the gym, making sure to regularly up my weights etc. and once a week I swim 1500 metres in the snot-ridden pool. I follow dietary advice and have a good breakfast of porridge, I have a healthy salad with no dressing for lunch, and a reasonable dinner at night. I don’t snack or indulge in cakes, chocolates or sweets, I don’t drink loads of sugar-laden drinks. I don’t even have sugar with anything.

And yet I’m surrounded by people who have shed pounds by just cutting out biscuits or adding a few minutes of exercise to their daily routines. Mrs┬áLard down the road told me this morning that she’s lost seven pounds in the past month, just through swimming 20 lengths once a week. I do over double that!! Honestly. If I’d had them with me, I’d have whacked her with my swimming float and pinged her with my goggles.

To add to the insult, everywhere I look there are “before” and “after” pictures of happy punters advertising the latest diets. Though I’ve never actually followed a diet (I don’t really believe in them but I do try to follow the basic principles of GL), I just know that it won’t work for me. Posters for Weightwatchers and Slimming World abound in our area and now they are being trailed on TV. Good luck! My cynical mind wonders why I should pay money out to lose two pounds and then put it straight back on again. I’d rather be the enigma woman who can’t change her shape.

Most recently there has been a show on TV: I will make you thin! with Paul McKenna. It was a fascinating piece of staged showmanship; he had all of the razzamatazz and passion of an evangelistic preacher (“Praise be! I’m healed!/I’m thin!”). I didn’t watch all of the shows, so I’m not completely informed, but I gather that over the period of a month, McKenna took a large audience of enormous people through various cognitive exercises which were aimed at helping them to recognise when they were hungry, control their snacking, improve their self-image and motivate them to do exercise.

Predictably, members of the audience lost shed-loads of weight. “It’s changed my life!” they exclaimed, eyes dewy with emotion.

Part of me wishes I’d seen all the programmes, but deep down, I know that much of it wouldn’t apply to me. Admittedly, I could improve my self-image (as soon as I lose weight!), but I don’t snack, I am motivated to exercise and I like to think I’m aware of when I am hungry. The one piece of advice I did gain, was from someone else who had watched it: “Chew your food at least 20 times,” she said, “because that gives your stomach time to tell you it’s full.” I do eat quickly, so I’ve taken that on board.

So what next? A book I skimmed through in Sainsbury’s said that you can end up exercising too much and that can have a negative effect on your weight. The friend who told me about the chewing thing also said that if you don’t eat enough to cover the energy you expend through exercise, then your body goes into starvation mode and the metabolism slows down to compensate. Hence, you don’t lose weight.

This sounds plausible, if a little depressing. I could happily cut down the exercise, though I’m anxious this will result in weight gain. Even so, I’m not totally convinced. If I’m hungry I do let myself eat and I tend to try to eat things which are healthy, so I can’t think that is the issue.

Could it be that my metabolism has changed? My friend Barbara is convinced I’m in my peri-menopause (i.e. the decade before menopause) when, apparently, you begin to suffer from the symptoms, which include unexplained weight gain. Oh, it’s fun being female! Barbara gave me a book on it for my birthday. The book suggests going onto the contraceptive pill and taking moderate exercise. I am on the pill already and have been partly holding it responsible for my girth anyway.

Ah well. Bar expert advice from a professional I shall have to continue chewing my food 20 times, eating sensibly, exercising regularly and boring my friends and readers with whinges about my unexplained stasis in weight.

Any original suggestions though, would be welcome.

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