Marian Keyes: on weight loss and Facebook
In her determination to lose weight, Marian Keyes embarked on a rigorous crash diet, but found she lost more than extra kilos.
Long story cut short: I was a fatso and not happy about it. So, some months ago, after checking with my doctor, I went on a crash diet: 600 calories a day of rehydrated food-alikes (porridge, shakes, soups and things masquerading as dinners). Feel free to criticise me: a) I shouldn’t have got fat in the first place. b) But seeing as I had, I should have learnt to love my tubster self.
c) However, if I insisted on minding, I should have lost the weight gradually and learnt healthier habits for the future.
Believe me, I’ve heard it all, and my own voice is the most judgmental of the lot.
Real life is messy, though, and there’s a backstory involving medication that had caused rapid weight gain (so the pink Magnums and I weren’t entirely to blame). I had tried and failed to lose weight by other means. And even if a crash diet wasn’t the most sensible way of losing weight, at least I was making an effort – go on, will you grant me that?
Day one, the weigh-in was worse than expected, so with a heart that wasn’t the only thing that was heavy about me, I had my first bowl of “porridge” and, to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad.
The information leaflet indicated that the initial five days of the diet would be the worst, as my body used up its stores of glycogen. After that
I’d move into some magical condition called “ketosis”, where my body got its fuel from my many fat reserves and my hunger would vanish. But because this transition was going to be so unpleasant, I’d been advised to pick a week when there wasn’t much going on.
The diet company offered access to a secret Facebook site where I could gather with others of my kind for mutual support. However – and I know this sounds weird – I’d never been on Facebook. When it first started, I was too busy to get involved, then Twitter came along and that was the perfect fit for me. I’d also heard nothing but bad things about Facebook – the whole
“You okay, hun?” business gave me the shudders. Still, all help was gratefully received, so I joined and tentatively said hello. Within moments,
I’d received an avalanche of smiley faces, “Woohoo!”s, “Lol!”s and “Welcome, hun!”s. That scared me more than the hunger.
My morning was spent liking every utterance from my many new friends – dark warnings about Facebook etiquette had reached me – and lunchtime came quickly. There was a choice of soups – mushroom, vegetable or chicken – each so disgusting, they had to be poured away, and instead I had a banana-flavoured shake (quite nice). Dinner was “pasta carbonara” – repulsive, but none of the other fake pastas was edible. My evening treat was a “chocolate” bar, which I liked an alarming amount.
That was my first day over. I went to bed, feeling smug. Who knew I had so much inner strength? Seemingly I could just decide to not be hungry! Then I lay awake half the night, feeling like my stomach was trying to digest itself.
Day two wasn’t quite as easy, but I tough-loved myself: “Do you want to be a fatso for ever? No! When are you going to do something about it? Right now, that’s when!”
Day three saw the arrival of the horrors. I felt terribly depressed, and I don’t mean I felt sad, I mean I felt scared, as if being alive was a malign and terrible state. Looking for some comfort (but also feeling a little foolish), I went on Facebook and posted: “Day three. Full of nameless fear. Is this normal?”
Within moments, someone asked: “Wot u scared of, hun?”
It took every ounce of restraint not to bash out: “I said the fear was nameless, you idiot! By the way – LOL!”
Day four was worse – the dread was almost unbearable. I cowered in bed and decided that if things didn’t improve, I was buying a chip van.
I’d live in it and eat the contents, and, yes, I’d be fat, but I couldn’t possibly feel as bad as I felt now. Mercifully, the following day the hunger went and the fear lifted. Clearly, I was now in the calm waters of ketosis.
My “weigh day” was Sunday, and I’d lost 2.7kg. Most of that was water, and if I’d eaten a single slice of bread, it would have piled back on, but nevertheless I posted my news, and the internet nearly broke with the positivity from my new chums. Many posted a gif of a dancing girl
Even if a crash diet wasn’t the most sensible way of losing weight, at least I was making an effort – go on, will you grant me that?
that made me feel dizzy. But most things were making me feel dizzy – standing up too quickly, people talking, the smell of cauliflower.
Despite the giddiness, life on the diet got into a routine. I identified the meals I liked (all of the shakes, none of the soups, all of the “chocolate”, two of the dinners) and I ate nothing else. Ever. In social situations where I had to spurn real food, I defused things by gesturing at my lardy frame and saying, “Trying to de-fatso myself.” And everyone seemed to understand.
Miraculously, I was never hungry. However, I wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders – my concentration was shot and my memory a shadow of its former self. At the end of every day, climbing the stairs was exhausting, but on the upside, I’d never slept so well.
In my first month I lost 6kg, and another 5.4kg in the second month. I started buying clothes – skinny jeans, a leather jacket. My mammy said: “Don’t lose any more, Marian, your face is getting too thin.” Which made me so happy, I got her to repeat it 20 times. I begged her to say, “I’m actually worried about you Marian,” and because she’s lovely, she did.
I’m now superaware of calories - I fear sugar and I’m wary of carbs.
Then the wheels came off – I developed hangnails, mouth ulcers and cold sores, and my energy, which had been low since I’d started the diet, flatlined. Probably because of its long-term deficiencies, you can only stay on the plan for 12 weeks tops. I managed 11, during which I lost 15kg and went from size 14/16 to 8/10. But my biggest challenge was the return to normal eating. I’m now super-aware of calories – I fear sugar and I’m wary of carbs. A Fitbit rules me with an iron fist, and I am its most obedient servant: most nights, at bedtime, I can be found marching up and down the landing, refusing to stop until I reach my target of 10,000 steps.
These days, when emotional distress comes calling, I don’t numb the pain with food. Instead, I meditate. Ah no, I’m only joking, I try to sidestep the unpleasantness by spending money. (Managing my many addictions feels like a lifelong game of Whack-a-Mole – as soon as one is under control, another one pops its head up.) Most of my splurging now is on new clothes. Four months since normal eating resumed,
I have kept the weight off and being unfat still feels thrilling.