Sunday 25 February 2018

Dear Patricia: My fear of being left single and the weight-loss op I can't really afford

Patricia Redlich

Q: I AM a 26-year-old woman, and while I know I have a lot going for me in that I have a pretty face, nice smile, good personality and good career, I'm worried that I will always be single because I am overweight by about three and a half stone. Friends of mine who lost weight almost immediately found boyfriends, and their self-confidence has blossomed. While I'm happy for them, it's almost impossible not to feel some envy.

I've been exercising, swimming and walking, and watching my diet, but I've had no real success in shedding any weight. I have a problem with my thyroid gland, which doesn't help, but it is not the main factor. I've always been slightly overweight but it's just got much worse in recent years.

I'm fed up. I've tried so many expensive diet programmes and lost loads, but gained extra eventually. I've decided to take more drastic measures and plan to undergo a medical procedure which will reduce my appetite. I physically won't be able to take in as much food. It has, apparently, some risks and is very expensive. I will have to borrow the money. And my appointment is in a couple of weeks' time.

It's not a permanent solution. The device will be removed after six months. A big worry is that I am an emotional eater. I don't smoke, drink only occasionally, and don't use drugs. Food is my form of escapism and relief, especially after a tough day at work or following some form of disappointment. So I am terrified I won't be able to keep up the good eating habits once my procedure is reversed.

Emotionally, it has been an extremely tough year. It has been incredibly draining, both in professional and personal terms. I lost a close family member. I also began a new job -- although I have to say it's fantastic. But it's also huge pressure and very demanding. Now I just want to make my life better. I want to look better, be healthier, and have more energy. Am I mad to have this operation? Is there anything I can do to help change my bad habits regarding food? How can I improve my self-esteem? I feel as though my life is at a standstill because of my weight. I'm scared of going into my 30s still fat and still single.

AAS you will appreciate, I have nothing to say about the medical procedure you're contemplating. That's for you and your doctor to decide. It's definitely not my department.

You do know, of course, that your over-eating is in your head, and heart? It's your emotions which drive your pattern of eating. You say so yourself. Food is your comfort. It's your habitual response to stress. And it's particular kinds of food, obviously. If you ate lettuce, with no dressing, you would not put on weight. Sure, thyroid problems can make it worse. One biscuit for some is like 10 biscuits for someone else in the weight-gain stakes, depending on how efficiently your body burns the calories.

First things first. Keep up the exercise. And don't see it solely in terms of weight loss. Exercise is good for you, both physically and mood-wise -- you know, happy hormones and all that. Maybe just check it out with a physical trainer, in case you need to add in some element into your routine which helps increase the speed of your metabolism. Oh, and make sure you're getting proper treatment for your thyroid. Just check. That's important too, and not just in terms of weight.

When it comes to actual weight loss, as you know too, it's not about a diet, as such. It's not even about eating less, in absolute terms. It's about eating the right things, and not eating the wrong things. Proper nutrition is vital. After that, you only eat what your body can comfortably burn off -- in other words, what it needs, in physical terms, to keep you energetic and healthy. Yes, I know you know all that. I'm just repeating the message.

If finding a boyfriend works for you as a motivational moment, then grand, I wouldn't knock it. The real issue, however, is to respect your body. In modern parlance, you need to love yourself. Comfort eating is an acquired habit, a reaction we've learned in response to sadness or stress.

Piling on the pounds can also result from living a life where there is little time for proper meals. Or just being too busy to pay attention to the importance of decent food. So instead of trying to do something about something as vague as self-esteem, put proper eating centre-stage in your life. Do you understand? No diets. Just cook a nice meal every evening. Or eat out in a decent restaurant. Make a fuss of breakfast, sitting down, a real meal. Cultivate a culinary culture. Buy some nice table-wear. Have people in for a meal. Use candles.

Nurturing yourself is the key. And find some alternative stress-buster -- such as taking some of that exercise immediately after work, learning to meditate, or taking the nurture notion on another tack with warm baths, regular massages, comforting beauty routines. The point is, proper self-care, or a healthy narcissism, is the best antidote to self-abuse. Get cracking.

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