For those of you that know me well, you’ll be aware of my struggle with weight and body image growing up. Always the chubby kid, I was never severely overweight and came to accept that I was always going to be bigger than my peers. During my teens I found a confidence independent of my size and weight, and never let the numbers on the scale impact what I wanted to do or achieve (not that I ever worked up the courage to get onto the scale).
And then something happened. I’m not sure how or when – quite gradually I guess – I started to gain more weight. By the time I graduated from university and was back in Law School in London in I could no longer say I was just chubby. It most certainly wasn’t baby fat anymore. I grew unhappy with how I felt in my clothes and began to shy away from certain social situations. I hadn’t realised it at the time but I’d refuse to be in any pictures, always offering to be the one taking them, and my confidence began to wane.
February 2005: I saw a picture of myself taken when I was giving a speech and my first reaction was ‘Who is that girl in my outfit?!’. I didn’t recognise myself. The image of me in the photograph didn’t match my image of myself & I didn’t like what the world could see, which I’d chosen not to see myself. But still I was not ready for change, or didn’t quite know how to change.
A couple of months later on a random afternoon I was in a bookstore with my mom, over a cup of coffee, we came across Gillian McKeith’s ‘You Are What You Eat’. A family friend had achieved great results following the advice it contained for healthier skin. As an acne sufferer myself, I thought I’d give it a try too. My mom pointed out that the book talks about a holistic approach, not simply incorporating/excluding foods for a better complexion. For the best results I’d have to commit a little more. And so on what felt like a whim, I decided to do just that. We snapped up the book and went home via the supermarket to pick up fresh foods (in accordance with the book). Once at home we purged the kitchen and pantry of anything that was prohibited on the initial 8 week detox, and rid the house of any possible temptations. No ‘last meals’ or final indulgent treats, no mourning the absence of my favourite foods from now on, no prior planning at all in fact. I still don’t know what was so different about that day that made us do this, but now I know what made that day special.
April 9 2005. Exactly 10 years ago today I took a step that I believe literally changed my life, and gave me a much better one in return. Ten years ago today I was pretty much a UK size 18 (not fun when you’re just over 5 ft 1” tall), constantly tired and yawning with zero energy, and aging quicker than I should have been. In the last decade whilst I have not always got it right, I have not regressed and am incredibly proud of the work I’ve put in and the progress I’ve made. I went from couch potato to gym bunny, from obese to a healthy weight and from an almost size 18 to a size 6. I’ve sky-dived, bungee-jumped, competed in dry triathlons, hiked, trekked – and got to wear clothes I’d only ever dreamt about before. It wasn’t easy initially and people, myself included, wondered if this would be a lasting change. One decade on and I think I can safely say it is. I canNOT believe that was 10 years ago! Sometimes I wonder if any of it actually happened, if I really did make the changes, or if this is all some weird dream. Sometimes it seems like yesterday I was waiting for something to change so things would get better. Most times I can’t imagine ever going back or comprehend how I used to eat before.
A lot of life has happened in since that April, but I haven’t let life become an excuse to stray from the path of being healthy. Going from my post grad into full time work I was apprehensive about what being away from my kitchen for 2 meals a day would mean. More work and more play also meant another change in habits, as did more travel and most recently moving to Beijing. All these changes could have meant that I gave up or went back to bad habits, but instead they meant I found a new balance and a way to keep going. Don’t get me wrong – I can still eat with the best of them, I simply choose not to do that except on occasion. (Chocolate Cake & Cocktails from the Smokehouse Deli in Mumbai come to mind at this point!)
As I look back I can’t quite believe how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learnt, not just about food and nutrition, but about people as well. I definitely couldn’t have done it solo. Without the amazing support that was my mom, friends that were willing to change dining plans and my trainer who convinced me dry triathlons were the thing to do(!) it would have been difficult, and very isolating. To all those people I want to say I’m very grateful. So thank you – you’ve made my journey so far a lot of fun, a lot easier – and I promise: no more random kitchen experiments (those gluten, dairy, sugar and fat free banana muffins were not awesome the first time)!