Excess Baggage – A Restart

Back in 2019 I lost 12 kgs. Prior to this I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. Given that I’m quite short (and shrinking fast) that wasn’t a good space to be in. In fact, it felt very much (and still does) as though there’s a lead weight sitting on my head pushing my boobs and belly out in one direction and my butt in the other. Too much information? #sorrynotsorry

Anyways, I got my head in the game, pulled my trainers on, and did what needed to be done. It was hard work, but I had a holiday to look forward to – 4 weeks of lovely time away from the day job and Christmas in England.

Since then, 2020 has happened. So has 2021. And 9 of the kilos I worked so hard to lose have found their way home – and appear to have settled back in.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons how and why this has happened – and I won’t dwell on that – but for the sake of my health, the upward drift has to stop.

The thing is, at my age (54, in case you were wondering), I can’t eat and drink everything I want without consequences. If I want to enjoy the good things in life (which I do), some compromises and changes need to be made. I should, at this point, pause and say that I actually don’t feel bad about any of this – the weight, the measurements, the way I look. I truly am coming at this from a place of self-love and respect rather than self-hatred and it annoys me more than I can say how it’s assumed that if you’re overweight you mustn’t like yourself very much. I might not like what I’ve done to my body, or the coices I’ve made, but I own them.

Another assumption that truly gives me the irrits is the one about how if you’re overweight you must eat too many sweet treats, too much takeaway or processed foods, or can’t help yourself when it comes to chocolate.

I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have a bad diet.

I don’t eat after dinner, and I enjoy vegetables. I eat mostly unprocessed food, don’t have takeaway or ready meals, and despite the amount that I bake, rarely indulge in the sweet stuff myself. Except for scones – the exception to every rule. As for chocolate? I’m happy with a square of dark 70% cocoa.

I love food – well, except for offal, okra, and bean sprouts (they really are pointless). I like planning it, preparing it, cooking it, eating it, readng about it, writing about it, and feeding it to other people. 

Before you hand out the halo, I do, however, have some dietary weaknesses – obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this position. I love pasta and rice and adore bread, and by bread, I mean good bread – from a crusty baguette to a sourdough, to a dense and almost chocolatey rye. I regard dumplings as a separate food group, have a weakness for butter and cheese that neither my waistline or my gut is terribly happy with, and enjoy wine – possibly too much.

I’m not a cofort eater as such, but I do eat from boredom or when I’m feeling restless, trapped, confined or creatively unfulfilled. When there are gaps inside me that need filling.

My food might be home-cooked, varied and often delicious but more of it goes into my mouth than is expended in energy. And, while not all calories can be treated equally – more on that another time – that’s a problem.

While I don’t intend to completely give up any of the things I enjoy – after all, mine is not a quest for Twigginess – compromises need to be made, portions reduced, experts consulted, and answers sought. Given that I learn best as I research and write, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing here – each Tuesday. 

As for the experts I’ll be consulting? There’s enough science out there – and I read an awful lot of it, much of which is conflicting. Instead, I’ll be consulting people like me: food writers and chefs. People who, like me, enjoy food in all its glory and who enjoy preparing it and writing about it. People like me who’ve had to balance their enjoyment of food and flavour with the size of their jeans, and, in some cases, the request of their doctors. The way I figure it is if some of my foodie heroes can do it and continue to cook and write about food, then so can I. 

Most of what I’ll be eating will be accidentally healthy foods – where healthy meets delicious – I’ll just be eating less of it. I might want (and need) to shed some excess baggage, but life is way too short to compromise on taste and pleasure, so I’ll be consulting my vast collection of cookbooks for ideas and variety.

I’m not aiming for perfection, and my body type is such that I’ll always be curvy – and I’m completely cool with that. I’ll also be building a few indulgences into my week – so please don’t email me when you see me post something on Instagram that can’t possibly be on my plan. Saturday is on my plan. 

We’ll also be talking about exercise.

I walk a lot, but up until the past month or so I haven’t been doing any resistance work – and I could be working harder and more efficiently. I have severe scolioscis (a curvature of the spine) so it’s vital that not only do I get my weight down, but that I strengthen the supporting muscles and maximise my range of movement if I’m to remain mobile and (relatively) painfree as I get older. My goal is not to run a marathon, but it is to be “fit for life”. I’ll talk quite a bit about this as we go along as well.

This series of (mostly) weekly posts are likely to be the most personal that I’ve written – and in writing them I’ll be making myself more vulnerable than I normally tend to do. I’ll be writing about what I’ve learnt – about myself as well as from others – and, naturally, sharing the occasional recipe.

Follow along if you want, but please bear in mind that my food story is likely to be different to yours – as is my “why”. What worked for you might not work for me – just as what works for me might not work for you. After all, if there was a one size fits all answer to this question, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Most of us know what we should be doing – it’s the brain that gets in the way of the actual doing. A fine but important difference.

Edina: Why am I so fat?

Saffron: You eat too much, you drink too much and you take no exercise.

Edina: Darling, Darling… Please…. it is far more likely to be an allergy to something, isn’t it? You know, a build up of toxins or a hormone imbalance.

Saffron: All you’ve got to do is eat less and take a bit of exercise.

Edina: Sweetie, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

(From Absolutely Fabulous… Series 1 “Fat”)

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

40 thoughts

  1. Hi Jo! Love your post and especially the last paragraph about ‘ What worked for you might not work for me – just as what works for me might not work for you.’ I don’t believe in diets all the fad diets out there may work in the short term but that’s it – once you stop the weight returns. It should be about eating healthy foods,not cutting out food groups because we need a balanced eating plan to get the nutrients for our body, combined with exercise. It won’t happen overnight because weight gain doesn’t happen overnight and there are a myriad of reasons why it happens. You’ve taken the first step to start and I’ll be your #1 cheerleader for support. BTW, life is there to be lived and I also enjoy my Saturday treat after my long runs that’s for sure. Looking forward to the series. xx

    1. If only there was a quick fix, but as you say, these things take time and effort and I’m thankful (and grateful) I have people like you in my corner.

  2. Thank you Jo, you put it into perspective for me as I am so similar to this. Now to convince my doctor and get her off my back and chillax! Love your words.

    1. My doctor was fabulous. She pretty much said to me “you know what you need to do – my lectures won’t help you do it, but might make you less likely to.” Very true. Thanks so much for dropping by.

    1. Thanks for reading! Vulnerability doesn’t come easily to me so I’m sort of attacking it as if I was doing a column. Hopefully that says what I need to say without sounding whining or needy.

  3. I’m looking forward to following your journey. I’m kind of an all or nothing gal so intermittent fasting has worked well for me in the past but I firmly believe that we need to follow our own, unique paths. Health first, and it sounds like you are on your way!

    1. Thanks! I’ve been reading lots about intermittent fasting so am tossing up a couple of 16:8 days during the week…who knows? Nothing is off the table (pun not intended).

  4. OH I can so relate to this! I lost about 35-40 lbs the year or so leading up to the pandemic and between quarantine last year and then my hysterectomy last fall I have put a good 10 back on and just can not seem to shake them! I know I have just been awful at buckling down and saying no to sweets and getting back on my exercise kick. I have really thought of starting back to my weekly weigh-in/ weight loss posts that helped me stay on track.

  5. I have always said “the knowing does not make the doing any easier”. Like you, I love my bread. And pasta. And chips (possibly crisps to you). I was doing well in shaping up and weighing down… moving will do that. Lots of “strength training” and less time for snacking. Now, I’m back to the comfort food eating, especially with being at home a lot more again. (yes, our Covid delta variant surge is horrendous). I’ll be following you for inspiration!

  6. Jo, once again we see the strength of blogging connections. You have an entire army of women supporting your efforts. We may all come from a different point of view, but that’s what makes each of us unique. You are especially unique because cooking is so much a part of your life and extends well beyond just a hobby. Writing a series about your process will be the best possible accountability partner, but when you need it, we will all be here to offer a virtual hug, or kick in the butt when you need it. Take care, I’ll be cheering you on.

  7. Jo, I feel your concern about keeping fit to help manage your scoliosis. I have what the doctors describe as an “average” curve which I’ve decided is both a good and bad diagnosis. It’s bad because it causes me some back and shoulder pain. It’s good because it keeps me motivated to do some form of exercise. Like an annoying stone in my shoe it’s always there as a reminder that if I want to maintain my quality of life I can’t just blob out on the couch. Good luck with your health plans.

    1. Thanks Helen. I remember when my new chiro first saw my x-ray, he called the other one in for a look – all excited because he hadn’t seen one quite that bad outside of a textbook. Nor could he believe that I wasn’t in more pain – something I put down to regular walking. Because I’ve always lived with it, most of the time it’s just there, like you say, in the background. As I’m getting older though, I do need to be more responsible or I will suffer the (painful and immobilising) consequences.

  8. Oh Jo this is so me!!!!….but I do eat from boredom or when I’m feeling restless, trapped, confined or creatively unfulfilled. When there are gaps inside me that need filling.
    I applaud you for making a start and making it public too. I love Ab Fab and that last bit sums it up perfectly!
    We can be in this together 🙂

  9. Okay, you made me smile on the lead weight, Jo. I ‘get it’ on how kilos have found their way home. My body does react differently to food and drink as each birthday comes along. I am totally with you how we are all different and how one person metabolizes calories different – look at food gain weight – eat everything and anything and never gain weight. Not fair, yet reality. I will be following you along, Jo, and hoping to ‘gain’ some gems. You are totally right about each story being different. I will love you short, tall, bigger, thinner……especially your humour, candor, essence, Jo. xx

  10. How did I miss this post? I completely feel your pain and I place all the blame on my metabolism. It took a dive when I turned 20 (I could eat anything up til then and be super slim), pregnancy and childbirth took it down another notch, and reaching 50 completely cut it off at the knees. No matter what I do, the struggle is real – and if I cooked like you and was surrounded by the amazing food you produce I’d be the size of a barn (I feel the calories attacking me by just looking at the pictures you post!) I’m grateful I don’t drink alcohol – one less thing to worry about. Good luck with your endeavours – weight gain is one of the sucky parts of middle age xxx

    1. Bloody metabolism. I’ve always had to work at it – short and curvy, sigh. While I don’t eat much of my own baking (except bread and scones) alcohol is my bete noir.

  11. I can totally relate – I too am the heaviest I have ever been although I can’t say it’s because I don’t eat the sweet teeth, all my teeth are sweet! I will be following along on your adventure with interest and hopefully I can pick up some tips from you along the way! I believe in you and know that you’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. With these border closures we have plenty of time to kill the calories before we can indulge in some face to face dumplings again!

  12. I appreciate you being vulnerable, Jo, and sharing this journey. As you can see from the comments, many of us can relate to what you are going through–or something similar. I lost 25 pounds and kept it off for more than a decade. Somehow in 2020 and 2021, I managed to gain 12 of it back. I have the advantage of being tall, so it’s spread out, but still, I feel weighed down. I appreciate your view on loving yourself and your life. I have an affirmation I repeat if I start bemoaning the way my body looks, “I love my strong healthy body. I treat it with kindness and respect.” And it’s true, I do love my amazing body and all the wonderful things it does for me and allows me to experience, including good food. Good luck on your journey and thanks for sharing it with us!

  13. Your humour & honesty are refreshing, Jo. You come from a healthy place of self-love, wanting to take care of yourself. I hear you. I get you.

    I have been recently reading up on the challenges of the menopausal woman. It’s a bit of a challenge even if one already has a good diet and exercise regime – the changes in our bodies, although diverse in effect for all of us, are real and significant.

    You might (or might not) know that Loving Husband & I run because we love to eat! Okay, we also love being out there on the pavement or trails, but mostly because it the the funnest & easiest way to keep fit. But I have recently realised that resistance training is so very important. Without it, the muscles seem to wither (I kid you not!). Also, I never have struggled with tummy fat before – I do now.

    Not unlike you, I want to enter my 60s as healthy and as active as I can. I would prefer to go with the flow, but the flow isn’t going in quite the direction I’d like. So, thinking about what I eat and how I exercise is something I think on more than I’d like.

  14. Jo, I’m very late coming to this as we’ve had no internet for 8 days. I’m so pleased I popped in to catch up as I loved reading this post. I can identify with everything you say. I’m not sure if it’s scientifically based, but it’s my experience that the kilos are harder to keep under control as we age. I could easily lose a couple of kilos in a couple of days when I was younger. Those kilos are much more stubborn these days. I’m so pleased that you plan to be kind to yourself. Looking forward to following along with you. I’ll take your tips on board, and would be happy to lose a couple of kilos also.

  15. I love that quote / scene from Ab Fab. (Also the English-ness of saying ‘take’ exercise rather than just ‘exercise’.)

    You do a lot that’s right already so hopefully some small changes can whittle away a few kilos and help you to feel fitter and healthier. It’s great you’ve started some different exercise as well.

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