Thursday, November 8, 2018

Up & Down: On Yoyo Dieting


I think pretty much everyone has heard the term ‘Yoyo dieting’ before. For me it conjures up images of weird diets and church halls dominated by pop-up banners and scales. Cabbage soup and Cayenne Pepper. Low Carb and Keto. Cambridge, Atkins or Herbalife and my personal favourite- the plethora of 'fitness' brands who peddle protein shakes as meal replacements.



And to a greater or lesser extent, I generally thought I’d done a decent job of not falling into too many fads- I gained a lot of weight when I started uni because I was moving less and partying hard, but a summer of working long days and nights behind bars and the shock factor of realising how much I didn’t like how I looked anymore seemed to get me back on track and I realised that exercise when at uni and generally sedentary as opposed to my mostly upstanding or moving summer jobs, was going to be much more important.

But here’s where I start to see a pattern and I realise that actually ‘yoyo dieting’ isn’t just about fad diets… when I started my first graduate job, my weight crept up until I took to cycling to work for exercise and I dropped back to a more comfortable size and shape, just like Fresher’s year.

I changed jobs a couple of years later and lost my active commute- in fact my commute disappeared altogether as I started working away on site. I took to running and subsequently other weight and gym training shortly after, but the time I went on holiday 12 months later, I was the fittest, strongest leanest and wearing the smallest dress size I’ve ever been.


Me at my lightest and leanest in 2016

Two and a half years after that holiday I’m about not far off my all-time heaviest weight, my 10k PB time is a distant memory, I'm lucky if I make a cycle commute 2 days per week, never mind 4 or 5. I have a gym membership that I'm barely using. For a while, I considered toast and a glass of wine to be dinner.

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In essence I’ve spent the last 15 years doing exactly what I’ve always thought I could and would avoid. I’ve been yoyo-ing for my entire adult life.

I’m trying hard not to beat myself up about that, because it’s done now- I can’t roll back to 16, 22, 25 or 28 year old versions of me and change anything, and I think it’s unfair not to acknowledge that everyone’s life changes- jobs, relationships, locations and lifestyles are all variables and affect all the things that contribute to living ‘well’ most notable for me, it impacts on what exercise I do (or don’t do as the case may be) and my eating patterns. But whilst life does in fact happen, I can’t help thinking I’m probably leaning too heavily on the excuse ‘life happens’ because it’s a cycle I seem to keep repeating which tells me I haven’t created a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for myself at all, but in a manner no different to all those scary fads and 'diets'.

I am fine when I have the time and headspace to consistently make sure I am organised and make choices about what I eat and when/if I train, but as soon as someone tips my life on its head (change of career, location & living circumstances all in one hit anyone?), those choices clearly go out of the window, whether I notice or not. And that’s the other key problem right there….


Things I used to make for lunch...

Noticing. I like vegetables and fruit. A lot. I know how to and actually quite enjoy cooking food from scratch. But it becomes very easy to ‘just’ have a glass of wine after work. To eat the ‘sushi’ platter that has chicken katsu on it as well and not really realise that’s an additional 300 cals a time. The ‘fuck-it’ take out on Friday nights when it’s almost 9pm and we’re only just both of us returning from assorted parts of the country, by the way... Chinese food isn’t any better fried chicken. The occasional bag of nibbles with a 4pm glass of wine on a Saturday which has become a weekly bag of nibbles with the 3pm first bottle of the night. To have a weekly croissant because it’s provided for you. And I am one of those people for whom all those things add up. My body type is neither slender, nor athletic. I work a sedentary job. I'm training and exercising less than I've done ever in the last 5 years. Oh and I’m pushing 30 as well which isn’t helping matters much these days.



Can I end this story with an uplifting tale of body acceptance and being happy anyway? Or perhaps a natty little ad insert for a meal delivery service that takes all the effort out of eating food (and most of your bank balance too)?

Nope. Sorry folks. I’m carry more body weight, inches and body fat percentage than I’d like. I’m running slower than I’d like, I haven’t been to a Barre class in weeks and currently my fridge has half a bag of spinach, some Babybel cheese and a lot of condiments in it. But what I do know now that I haven’t noticed or realised previously is this:

When we spout on about making a healthy lifestyle change rather than ‘crash dieting’ then you have to consider if it’s sustainable through the tough times as well as the weeks where you get home from work at the same time every day and nobody books your client meetings for 9am and 2 train journeys away and you have seen your partner for a week even though you supposedly live in the same 1 bedroom flat.

Is one way of eating or training sustainable for the rest of your life? Probably not, but rather than holding yourself to a routine or a plan that only works when everything is going swimmingly, maybe it’s time we all thought a bit harder about how we manage our wellness when nothing is quite going to plan and work backwards from there.

So now I’m off to pencil into my diary every offsite meeting I currently know about for the next couple of months, every time I’m unlikely to make it to a gym class because hello major deadline and to see whether there’s anything of any substance in my freezer for dinner this evening because I’m doubtful that a boozy icepop as dinner is going to improve my current situation. And if you have thoughts on my dawning realisation, I’d love to hear if anyone else has been in the same boat.

Game on!




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