Sunday 21 January 2018

Doctor's Orders: Time to start battle of the bulge

WEIGH IN: In the first of a new weekly column, Dr Ciara Kelly says it’s time to get on the scales. Photo: Gerry Mooney
WEIGH IN: In the first of a new weekly column, Dr Ciara Kelly says it’s time to get on the scales. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Weighing yourself is the first step
Dr Ciara Kelly

Dr Ciara Kelly

As someone who's been overweight, I'm very familiar with the promises we make ourselves in December -- as we squeeze one more mince pie where no additional mince pie should go. "I'll start in January. I'll go on a massive diet. I'll join the gym. I'll take up running/swimming/walking/trampolining."

My battle with weight is a fairly prosaic and typical story. I had four pregnancies, and after each one I ended up a little heavier than before. I breastfed each baby and if I tried to lose weight while feeding, my milk supply dwindled and I was left with a choice of either stopping feeding or stopping dieting. I chose to continue to feed.

But when that finished, it was a year and a half since I'd last fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. And as a working mum with small kids, I was wrecked and demotivated. I got heavier.

None the less, I never gave up hope. At various times I'd muster enthusiasm for an over-haul. I felt like a thin person in a fat overcoat that I'd eventually shed. With the emphasis on eventually.

All my life, I've been a great procrastinator. In fact, I may be the best procrastinator in the world. I'm quite sure I could teach it -- if anyone's interested they should contact me and I'll get back to them... eventually. I suffered from body dysmorphism which allowed me to continue to be overweight quite happily. Unlike poor souls who are painfully thin and believe themselves to be fat, I was overweight but believed I could hide it easily, with a pair of too-tight leggings and a winning smile. As a doctor, I actually thought -- in fact, still think -- it made me more able to relate to the struggles of my patients. And whilst I didn't exactly like it -- looking back, in some ways it suited me.

You see, January doesn't necessarily bring the radical conversion we hope for -- magically drawing us to activities that we've never shown any interest in previously. Because there are reasons why we don't go to the gym, walk everywhere, or stick to a healthy diet -- and they're complex and varied.

Some of it is that it's harder and less convenient to do that stuff. Some of it is plain old ostrich-like denial. But some of it's down to metathesiophobia -- the fear of change.

You see, being overweight is an obstacle to success. We think: "If I was thin I'd be more prosperous/popular/happy/whatever." But, it's also an excuse we cling to, as to why we haven't achieved all we want. It's a scary prospect to let go of that -- in case we lose weight and discover it doesn't actually solve all our problems.

So we hide behind our weight. Which allows us to avoid looking at where we are at in the here and now. And instead continue dreaming of a thin, successful future that may never come.

My mantra was manana, manana. I thought I'd buckets of time. But as I neared 40 I realised that wasn't true. So I got a digital scales and decided the time was now.

So that's my first tip. Weigh yourself every day. It won't make you obsessive -- that's another excuse not to engage. Weighing yourself regularly prevents 10 pounds creeping up on you without you noticing. It also shows you on a Saturday morning the effects of that take-away on a Friday night. Best of all it shows you your small victories and seeing the pounds and kilos go down is a big incentive.

It's that time of the year -- in fact, it's that time of your life. So go on weigh yourself. You've got to start somewhere.

Dr Ciara Kelly is a GP in Greystones and is the doctor on Operation Transformation. 8.30pm RTE1 Tuesday and Wednesday.

Irish Independent

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