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When I was fat, socialising was a struggle – but it was going out that helped me lose weight

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used to be fat. (You still are, say the wags.) But I mean really fat. Shopping-at-specialist-internet-clothes-stores fat. Heckled-in-the-street fat. It wasn’t fun, but it took years before I had the willpower, the courage or some combination of the two to do anything about it.

By the time I was 24, in 2008, the feeling that I had to lose weight had been growing for some time. It is impossible to identify one event that prompted me to take action. Was it preparing to change jobs for the first time? Was it the last photo taken of me and my grandpa, which I couldn’t bear to look at? It was everything and nothing. All I knew was that my life didn’t feel worth living if I didn’t make a change.

Of course, not all fat people are unhappy or want to change, and the science around weight is very much contested. But, for me, it suddenly felt very urgent.

What I did wasn’t complicated or revolutionary. It involved years of helpful amateur “advice”, diet shows on TV and useful tips from gym-bunny friends. The idea was to eat less and exercise more – with a clear emphasis on the former.

I was incredibly disciplined about what I ate, buying healthy options and cooking in advance, and I went to the gym at least twice a week. It is not easy walking into a mirror-strewn room full of pumped-up people when you weigh more than 160kg (25 stone). But it was liberating to realise that those six-packed Adonises were far more interested in their own reflections than me huffing and puffing behind them. No matter how close you get to “the ideal body”, insecurity lurks.
l of this will be familiar to anyone who has thought about losing weight. But that is not the change that mattered the most. It was my willingness to embrace a social life that had hitherto felt onerous, but which empowered me. I knew that being home alone was when my worst habits became irresistible. So, I decided to make sure it happened as rarely as possible. I booked out every night when I wasn’t going to the gym with some social event or other. Being around people was meant to provide an insurance policy against my failure of willpower. But it was helpful in other ways that I had never imagined.

It wasn’t easy, though. All my adult life, leaving the house had been fraught with anxiety. If you have never been fat, the idea that people in passing cars might shout at you in the street simply for being chubby may seem unlikely. It isn’t. It happened to me a lot. And the excruciating embarrassment when it occurred in front of a friend was hard to bear. The forced: “Did you hear that?”, “What did he say?” brought the elephant in the room crashing into view.

Then there was the worry about where we would go. Would I fit into the seat? Would it involve a tiring walk? What if a stranger decided to take the piss? I was by no means a hermit, but I would often stay in when I couldn’t face the outside world.

But rather than terrorising me, going out became part of the solution. Nobody knew. The thought of sharing what I was doing was too scary. That soon became impossible. As the pounds fell off, people started to notice. But that was suddenly OK, because my confidence had increased, the comments occurred less often, and walking became a pleasure – it was exercise.

Relying on a social life to get through forced me to lean on friends in a way that I never had. Talking about myself gradually became easier. I was able to let people in, I was less spiky and my relationships improved. It wasn’t easy, but I don’t remember the difficulties of disciplined eating and social anxiety so much: it is the happy memories I made that have stuck.

Eighteen months later, half the weight I was before, it wasn’t just physical weight that had been lifted from my shoulders. Going out for the night was no longer scary. I didn’t need to plan any excursion to the nth degree to feel OK. Not all my worries disappeared, but a big chunk of them did – and it was a blessed relief.

“Adopt a strict diet and exercise more” is the usual advice for anyone who wants to lose weight. That can feel impossible – it did to me for a long time. But sometimes it is changing the smaller things that can help you get where you want to go. Positive change need not involve sacrifice or pain – sometimes it just means a trip to the pub with some mates.

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US Measles Cases Hit Highest Level Since Eradication in 2000

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The United States has confirmed 695 measles cases so far this year, the highest level since the country declared it had eliminated the virus in 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

The resurgence, which public health officials blamed in part on the spread of misinformation about the safety of vaccines, has been concentrated mainly in Washington state and New York with outbreaks that began late last year.

“The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States,” the CDC warned in a statement. It said outbreaks can spread out of control in communities with lower-than-normal vaccination rates.

Although the disease was eliminated from the country in 2000, meaning the virus was no longer continually present year round, outbreaks still happen via travelers coming from countries where measles is still common, the CDC says.

As of Wednesday, the number of measles cases so far this year exceeds the 667 cases reported in all of 2014, which had been the highest annual number recorded since the elimination in 2000. The virus has been recorded in 22 states so far in 2019, the CDC said.

The virus can lead to deadly complications, but no measles deaths have been reported in the latest outbreaks. Responding to the new figures, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar urged greater vaccination, saying in a statement that the vaccine’s “safety has been firmly established over many years.”

“The United States is seeing a resurgence of measles, a disease that had once been effectively eliminated from our country,” he said.

Measles has been on the rise globally. More than 110,000 cases were reported in the first three months of 2019, according to the World Health Organization, based on provisional data. That is a 300 percent increase compared with the same period the previous year.

‘Preventable occurrence’

The largest outbreak has been in New York City where officials said at least 390 cases have been recorded since October, mostly among children in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, making it the city’s worst outbreak since 1991. That total included 61 cases recorded in the last six days, of which two were pregnant women, the city’s health department said on Wednesday.

The CDC echoed city health officials in saying this outbreak was fueled by misinformation being spread about the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A vocal fringe of parents opposes vaccines, believing, contrary to scientific studies, that ingredients in them can cause autism.

Nationwide, the number of children getting vaccinated has remained “high and stable” for several years, the CDC said. New York City’s Health Department took the unusual step earlier this month of issuing an emergency order requiring unvaccinated people in affected neighborhoods to get the MMR vaccine unless they could otherwise show they had immunity.

It has issued civil summonses to 12 people it said have defied the order. They will each face a fine of up to $1,000 if found to be noncompliant at a hearing.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, called the resurgence a “completely preventable occurrence.”

“We are fighting a disease now in 2019 that should have been off the table in the 1960s with the development of the vaccine,” he said. “It should be viewed as an embarrassment that so many Americans have turned away from vaccines that we are having a record year for measles.”

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Starbucks Installs Syringe-Disposal Boxes To Protect Workers

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Starbucks is expanding the installation of safety disposal boxes for used syringes to protect workers from injuries cleaning bathrooms or handling trash.

Workers at the coffee chain have reported finding blood and hypodermic needles in bathrooms, and some say they have been pricked by stray syringes, which risks exposure to bacteria, HIV and hepatitis.

The company began installing needle-disposal boxes at some locations in January and will place them everywhere employees request them, a spokesman told Bloomberg. Starbucks acknowledges the “scary situations” and its need to ensure that workers “are out of harm’s way,” the spokesman said in an email.

Starbucks has already installed the boxes in some 25 locations, according to Business Insider, including every outlet in Seattle.

Starbucks was fined $3,100 last year in Oregon following complaints from two employees who were struck with needles within a month of each other at a location in Eugene, reported Business Insider. Thousands of workers have called for Starbucks to install so-called sharps boxes in an online petition.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that our partners are safe,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told HuffPost earlier this year, referring to workers. “I don’t think this is a problem unique to Starbucks. I think a lot of retail business are dealing with this.”

Dr. Alysse Wurcel, an attending infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center, told HuffPost: “It’s sad that we have to have people injecting in bathrooms. It’s a symptom of a larger problem.”

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Elizabeth Warren Reiterates Support For Marijuana Legalization

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on Monday that she absolutely supports the legalization of marijuana. She cited racial disparities as a major reason for that stance.

“The best evidence suggests that African Americans and whites use marijuana at about the same rates,” she said at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire for presidential candidates. 

“But African Americans are more likely to be arrested than whites are … if we talk about criminal justice reform, we need to start with the things we make illegal. One of the best places we could start with is the legalization of marijuana.” 

A Harvard freshman who asked Warren about her background on marijuana legalization incorrectly asserted that she had opposed legalization in Massachusetts in 2013. 

“I supported Massachusetts changing its laws on marijuana and I now support the legalization of marijuana in the United States,” the senator replied. 

In the last two years, Warren has spoken out consistently in support of legalization.

In 2017, Warren confronted the Trump administration twice about its plans to increase cannabis-related punishments. In 2016, she urged her colleagues to pursue research on medicinal marijuana as a viable alternative to opioids. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws gives her an “A” rating. 

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