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When a family friend told me bluntly I was fat, I knew I had to change not only my diet, but also my lifestyle - on a permanent basis - and build a new relationship with food. I had been in denial for years and, although it was hurtful and humiliating to be told I was fat, it was the wake-up call I needed. The shock motivated me into action. Losing weight changed from a "should" to a "must".
My weight gain was caused by extreme comfort-eating, which was the result of several personal problems during an unhappy time in my life. I felt permanently depressed, anxious, lonely and sad - but I didn't know why. Food helped remove the emptiness and made me feel temporarily happy again. So I learned to associate comfort-food with happiness. Deep down I was miserable and angry, and I felt guilty for allowing myself to get fat. But I was in denial. My comfort-eating spiralled out of control.
I had tried and failed to lose weight many times. I would start a diet and either fall off the wagon after a couple of days or I would lose weight, come off the diet and regain the weight I had lost - and then some. When I did manage to lose weight, although I was changing on the outside, I wasn't changing on the inside. The problems I hoped the weight-loss would solve were still there. I developed a negative self-image and hated the way I looked. I lacked confidence and wore 'big' clothes in an attempt to cover up my body. I felt embarrassed and ashamed about my body and buried my head in the sand.
Hearing someone tell me I was overweight brought instant change. By now, I had learned that quick-fix diets didn't work. I wanted to succeed at a sensible long-term weight loss, so I combined a fitness routine with a weight-loss plan. I had always thought I was an exercise-phobe, so I joined the gym and started going twice a week. I got off the tube and bus early so I could walk the final mile and took the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. I changed my relationship with food and replaced unhealthy food with better choices. Within a few weeks I started to notice changes. My confidence grew, I felt healthier, fitter and more energetic. I was losing weight. I began to enjoy clothes shopping for the first time in years; compliments and encouragement from friends and family did wonders for my confidence; and in eight months, I reached my target weight!
Most importantly, I put myself in charge of my own lifestyle change. In order to permanently change my relationship with food and eating, I had to address the problems in my life and identify the emotional triggers that were causing me to mindlessly and compulsively eat. Recognising the triggers helped me to understand the deeper issues that were affecting my life. I realised that I was not eating because I was hungry, I was eating to suppress or soothe the negative emotions that controlled me. I was using food as a coping mechanism to block out unpleasant thoughts that were too painful to deal with.
While I was losing weight, I focused on tackling my emotional eating problem which helped to improve my self-esteem. I also found I wasn't alone and discovered that plenty of support and help were close at hand.
I'm now happy to say I have finally broken the yo-yo dieting cycle - and that's why I feel qualified to help others to do the same.