Weight Loss and Mental Health

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Since losing 10 stone, people often ask me if I still feel like the same person. As simple as it sounds, this is a bit of a complex question, and the answer is essentially yes. I still feel like the same person I was at 18 stone, I lost lbs not my personality. But when I look a bit deeper, I realise there is a lot more to this question than initially thought.

Here is my very open and honest response.

Just before I made the decision to tackle my weight, I felt miserable, lethargic, bored with my life and quite honestly, on reflection, I was depressed and anxious and showed signs of multiple symptoms that go with both of these. I just hadn’t realised it. I was ashamed of my body, and while I was usually upbeat and happy around other people, when I was on my own I felt simply rotten. I wouldn’t say I was ‘putting it on’, it was more of a coping mechanism, and an escape that came naturally to me.  My social life had taken a nose dive due to confidence issues and I was unhappy in my relationship. I covered myself up with loose clothing and wished a big black hole would come and swallow me up. I had a fear of being noticed.

I have mentioned in previous blog posts that complete strangers thought it appropriate to comment on my appearance, from offering seats on public transport for mistakenly thinking I was pregnant, to telling me that I would be ‘so pretty if I lost some weight’. There were even a couple of times I got chatted up, but when I would respond with ‘I have a boyfiriend’, or just dip my head in the hope that this moment might pass without me having to comment, I got the ‘you’re a fat b***h anyway’ or worse, leading me to believe that I should just be grateful that someone was even interested in me.  All these things aided my confidence deterioration. On reflection, I now realise that I shouldn’t have been so offended by strangers negative comments. Only I can control the way I perceive another persons opinion of me. And only I could tackle my confidence issues.

I didn’t realise that losing weight would make me feel so positive. In the beginning I celebrated every little pound lost, it made me feel like I was on top of the world. When I stared working out, I discovered endorphins and I became hooked. I had never felt so good. Things were great for a good few months. I had my little gym routine going and I would weigh myself every Friday to document that weeks loss. Life was great and my social life began to flourish as my confidence started to grow again.

Then the plateau came (as per my last blog post) and I began to pick up some strange habits I didn’t even realise were forming. Why wasn’t I losing any more weight? I wasn’t doing anything differently. I restricted my calories and upped my workouts. I started dead lifting. Still no loss. In fact, I was now gaining the odd pound (of course I was, I was body building and focussing heavily on cardio, my muscles were gaining)

I had started to weigh myself more and more, to the point where it was every day. At 6am. Without fail. I would make sure I didn’t eat or drink anything until I had visited the gym to use their scales. Seeing no change or an increase really bothered me. I had found myself to become obsessive. I would spend ages looking at myself in the mirror and criticizing every part of me that I hated, and I would take a million pictures, wondering what I looked like to other people from all sorts of angles. Its all I could think or talk about. My confidence began to nose dive again and  the feelings I had about my body when I was 18 stone started to creep back. I didn’t realise it but I was borderline eating disorder at this point. I had restricted my calories so much that it was almost impossible to workout. I had no energy and often felt like I would pass out. I had 11% body fat and weighed 50Kg. This lasted a few months. I didn’t see what I was doing to myself and body dysmorphia had taken over my head. I felt ‘fat’ and thats what I saw in the mirror so I stopped looking at myself.

It was at this point that I would say my mum became very worried for my health. She would ask what I had eaten that day, or offer me a cup of tea and something to eat a lot. I had lost a lot of weight and lets face it, I wasn’t behaving like a healthy, happy person. I feared family meals and tackled this by not eating all day so that I could excuse the calories consumed durning these family occasions. I was hiding what was going on in my head, but not very well.

I was unhappy again and putting so much pressure on myself to be ‘skinny’. I started to look a bit ill, my face looked sunken, the bags under my eyes were constant and I had bones on display that I had never seen before, I was the lowest weight I had ever been at 50kg, but I still felt ‘fat’. I looked rubbish.

I gave myself a shake one day and asked what on earth I was doing to myself. So I booked a doctors appointment, I just didn’t know what else to do. I am so glad I did this. I couldn’t hold back the tears from the minute my kind, softly spoken Dr invited me into her room. I sobbed like a baby and I had no idea where it had come from. I told her what was going on in my head and she handed me tissues and nodded with a compassionate look on her face. She told me that I had gone through a huge change and that my mind was all over the place.  She confirmed my fear that my mental health was on a rollercoaster and that I was certainly showing signs of Anxiety and referred me to a mental health nurse. I was horrified and delighted all at the same time. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

After a couple of months with the mental health nurse, we talked about my journey and how I felt along the way and why this was happening. All we did was talk about it and I can honestly say, what a difference it has made to my life. I have been honest and open and have since talked to friends about how I was feeling. I realised that I had isolated myself so much that I was no longer talking things through with my friends and family. Which was something I had always done. I didn’t want anyone to realise what was happening to me because I guess mental health is a taboo subject and one that we remain ‘stiff upper lip’ about. But it shouldn’t be! We should talk about it, not only to help ourselves, but to raise awareness about it. You can feel very alone with mental health and I now realise, there is no need to feel that way.

SO. I am very happy to report that Im not a social reject, im a bright, happy confident young woman who has battled her demons and tackled her weight issues. There will always be parts of my body that I don’t like, but who can honestly say that they are 100% happy with every part of themselves? We live in a society (and I work in an industry) that obsesses over image. So many young men and women are striving for this idea of ‘Perfect’ by injecting their bottoms with fat, and filling their chests with silicone and stuffing their faces with botox and fillers whilst photoshopping their images before posting to social media. As much as this can change a persons look, it doesn’t make someone ‘perfect’ and it doesn’t change the person they are inside. Nothing does. Perfect doesn’t exist. But Happy and healthy does. I am now a healthy weight. I don’t know what that exact number is, but I know how it feels, and it feels healthy, but most importantly, my mind feels free again.

This was hard to write, knowing that I am about to open this door to the world by posting this honest account of my mental health whilst on this journey. But If I can help others in any way by opening up, well then share I must.

Thanks for tuning in again folks. Have a wonderful sunny bank holiday!

MarliHan

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