While on holiday recently, I went for several long walks along stunningly beautiful Cornish coastal paths. I realised, as I picked my way along dusty, uneven, narrow, cliff edge paths, that I was not frightened. In the past, my previous self would have been terrified. But I was calm and could look around and enjoy the view. This had to be, I decided, a result of the improved balance that has accompanied my weight loss.
This set me thinking about all the other benefits that have come from losing weight. I’ve now lost seven and a half stone, or 47.6 KG, or 105 lb. Some of the benefits are obvious: being able to buy smaller clothes from ordinary clothing shops, nice comments from people, improved health, increased confidence. Others, like improved balance, are more subtle or surprising. So I’ve compiled a list.
- Improved health and fitness generally. An obvious one, but everything has improved. The improvements began with losing weight, which then gave me the motivation and confidence to exercise more, which then helped the weight loss. A wonderful beneficial cycle.
- Balance – already mentioned. My balance is also aided, I expect by twice weekly yoga. I can walk across balance beams, climb things (as long as they aren’t too high) and stand on things (chairs, step ladders etc) without feeling sick and dizzy.
- I can jump. Yes, I can jump. I still wobble. But it no longer hurts, and I’m not afraid that I’ll damage myself. I work with children, and you’d be surprised at how often jumping is required as part of a normal working day.
- Flexibility. A few years back, I couldn’t sit with my legs crossed. I couldn’t show small children how they should sit, because I couldn’t do it myself. I struggled to get up when I sat on the floor – another feature of my job. Simple everyday tasks were difficult because I wasn’t flexible, or because I couldn’t reach around my body. As I practise yoga, I find myself increasingly able to make new shapes and move in different ways. This is both because I am becoming more supple with practise, and because there is less of me now to get in the way.
- Fewer aches and pains. The aches and pains I get now are likely to be the result of a particularly strenuous run or workout, and are short-lived. For years I would wake at night with terrible leg pains – no doubt the result of my poor body bearing the pressure of nearly 21 stone in weight. My lower back pain, which I have lived with for twenty years, also seems to be finally resolving itself. Miraculous!
- Fewer illnesses. I don’t know if there’s any medical basis or evidence for this; I am purely using my own experience. Before I began to lose weight, and sorted my diet out, I went through a period of having constant colds, tonsillitis, and general bugs and minor ailments. Now I rarely catch these things. Improved nutrition feeding my immune system, and a healthier body generally, are perhaps the source.
- Clothes shopping. I need new clothes, nothing fits. But – I can buy them just about anywhere! I no longer need to find specialist shops. I’ve also revisited an old hobby of dressmaking, because I can now get excited about clothes.
- Not just clothing – safety equipment, uniform, event t-shirts. The absolute embarrassment of having to wear a high-visibility jacket, and finding it won’t go around you, you can barely get your arms through the arm holes. Now, if I turn up to volunteer or participate in an event, I can reasonably sure that any safety equipment, t-shirts etc are reasonably likely to fit. Before, I would ask for the biggest size going, and just hope I wouldn’t end up looking like an overstuffed sausage, or a trussed turkey.
- Footwear. On the subject of things to wear – shoes, boots, and trainers would all present challenges of their own. Now I can feel like Cinderella when I try on a humble wellington boot.
- Glasses. Yes, even buying glasses that fit could be a challenge.
- Seats and chairs. Coach seats, theatre seats, aeroplane seats – any seats where you can find yourself getting unintentionally up close and personal with a total stranger as you encroach – or spill – onto their space. I recently attended my daughter’s graduation ceremony with my husband. It was a wonderful experience and we couldn’t have been prouder. But, my goodness, the venue was warm, and the seats were packed tight. I was very glad of my weight loss then, and if the person squashed up next to me had known, she would have been glad too.
- Seat belts. Naturally following on from seats, seat belts no longer inspire fear in me. I have, over the years, found myself in situations when there was a very real danger of not getting that seat belt done up. I would heave and tug and sweat to get that damned clip to connect. Uncomfortable in more ways than one when a friend or colleague is giving you a lift. Of course, I would do what we tend to do in these situations and joke about it. But it was painful.
- Going incognito. Seriously. I live in the sort of community where everyone knows everybody else, and everyone knows everybody else’s business (or thinks they do, which is worse). Being stopped in the street and complimented on weight loss may be pleasant. But being unrecognised can be strangely liberating. Like being new person with a clean slate.
- Eat whatever you want in front of people, and don’t tolerate their judgements. I often pack a full lunchbox for work – I find I need to eat more in the middle of the day. In the past my inner voice would fret that people would judge me – ‘look at that big fat woman with all that food’. And people do make comments, people can be rude and cruel. Sometimes people think they are trying to help, but their comments aren’t always welcome. But my answer now is – ‘I’ve lost 105 lbs and I know what I’m doing’. And why is it anyone else’s business anyway?
- Images and reflections. I would avoid photographs like the plague. And I used to joke that I’d rather go to the dentist and have a root canal than go to the hairdressers. Why? One word – mirrors. I’m still not crazy about my reflection or photos, but I no longer fear them.
- Confidence. As I no longer live in a state of constant fear, fear of finding myself in some sort of horrible, size-related embarrassing situation, I have gained confidence. Confidence to try new things, be more adventurous, by myself. I can, of course, still find ways to make myself ridiculous. I am but an imperfect human, after all. But that doesn’t hold me back like my size used to.
It is of course wrong that anyone should feel judged because of their weight, size or any aspect of their physical appearance. I started out on my weight loss journey because I feared for my health, and I was tired of feeling unwell all the time. But losing weight has helped me to feel more confident in ways that I never expected, and that’s got to be a bonus.
So now I have just under three stone left to lose. I wonder what other benefits I will discover as I approach my target weight?