2018: THE YEAR I...

Daily Mail - - Insipire - by Sarah Vine

Never in my life have I kept a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion. When I was young, I was end­lessly giv­ing up choco­late, fags, booze, un­suit­able

boyfriends, trashy Tv — to no avail. Then, as I grew older, it be­came more about pos­i­tive self-im­prove­ment: join­ing a gym, eat­ing ‘clean’, keep­ing a diary, ex­er­cis­ing proper sleep hygiene. Again, hope­less.

I blame my stars. Af­ter all, I’m an Aries: su­perla­tive at start­ing things, full of en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm for that first ex­cit­ing push, but less keen on the sub­se­quent slog and bored to tears by rou­tine. Like count­less other good in­ten­tions, my New Year’s res­o­lu­tions were yes­ter­day’s dreams by Fe­bru­ary, dis­tant re­grets by spring.

But 2018 was the year that all changed, when I fi­nally stuck to my New Year’s res­o­lu­tion: shift­ing (al­most) all of my ex­cess weight.

In fair­ness, I had a bit of a head-start on the year. In au­tumn 2017, fol­low­ing sev­eral rather un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions about my weight with my doc­tor, I took my­self off to the viva Mayr clinic in Aus­tria. It wasn’t the first time I had tried a weight-loss clinic — in­deed, I’ve lost count of the amount of time and money I’ve frit­tered away on these sorts of places — but, this time, I was de­ter­mined to suc­ceed.

My weight, you see, had shifted from be­ing a purely aes­thetic prob­lem, an im­ped­i­ment to look­ing half-de­cent in a bathing cos­tume, and pro­gressed into be­ing a med­i­cal is­sue.

Post-menopause and with an on­go­ing thy­roid con­di­tion, I was tip­ping the scales at more than 100kg — 105kg (16st 7lb), to be pre­cise.

That meant that, at best, I was 20kg over­weight. In truth, it was more like 30kg (4st 10lb in real money).

If I looked bad, I felt worse. I was jowly, pasty and thick around the mid­dle, but also tired, list­less and lethar­gic. And, de­spite do­ing lots of ex­er­cise — I have al­ways ex­er­cised, mostly low-im­pact stuff, pretty reg­u­larly, and I walk a lot — I just couldn’t shift any of it. ev­ery time I caught sight of my­self in the mir­ror, I felt like a big, fat fail­ure.

But the real spur was the doc­tor. We are very lucky in my fam­ily: we have no rel­a­tively se­ri­ous ill­nesses, but we are prone to di­a­betes. And obe­sity — and I make no bones about it, I was obese — is the lead­ing cause of type 2 di­a­betes. At 51, I didn’t want to be­come an­other statis­tic.

Yet that was where I was head­ing. Not only that, but my blood pres­sure had crept up. The doc­tor said it was prob­a­bly re­lated to my menopause, but the weight wasn’t help­ful. So heart dis­ease was on the cards, too. It seemed to me that there was only one thing to do: take con­trol and shift the lard.

At my age, you know your­self pretty well. I re­alised that, in or­der for me to suc­ceed where I had failed count­less times be­fore, I needed a kick- start, some­thing that would pro­duce quick, vis­i­ble re­sults and give me the mo­ti­va­tion to keep it up. Hence the Mayr method: the most dra­co­nian, least fun, least glam­orous weight­loss reg­i­men in the world.

Nu­mer­ous places of­fer it, with small vari­a­tions ac­cord­ing to cost and lo­ca­tion. I went to the viva Mayr clinic in Aus­tria, which is not quite the strictest, but not the kind­est, ei­ther. De­spite be­ing ut­terly mis­er­able, it did the job. I lost 5kg, hav­ing taken the first steps on my jour­ney.

Nev­er­the­less, at 100kg, I was still clin­i­cally obese (I am 1.73m tall, so my ideal weight is around 75kg, or 11st 11lb). Good as it felt, I knew I needed to con­sol­i­date my losses and press on.

Most peo­ple who strug­gle with their weight will tell you they don’t have too much trouble get­ting it off — it’s keep­ing it off that is the big is­sue. Any­one can cur­tail their ap­petite for a short pe­riod of time; it’s re­train­ing the body — and, cru­cially, the brain — to make the new reg­i­men a per­ma­nent habit that is so in­cred­i­bly hard.

Much has been made of the fact that pre-di­a­bet­ics can re­verse their di­ag­no­sis with a sim­ple calo­riecon­trolled diet. And that is in­deed true — med­i­cally, at least.

But, for a fat per­son, there is no such thing as a ‘sim­ple’ diet. Of course, calo­rie re­duc­tion is not com­pli­cated: you just eat less. Yet that is so much eas­ier said than done. Be­ing over­weight is as much a psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lem as it is a phys­i­cal one. And, un­less you can en­list both brain and body in the process of weight loss, you’re al­ways fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle. It’s a bit like giv­ing up smok­ing: it’s not enough to know you should, you have to ac­tively want to as well.

So, this time, in­stead of us­ing my mi­nor suc­cess in drop­ping 5kg to re­lax a bit, I dou­bled down on my­self. I fo­cused on the ad­van­tages of los­ing that weight — feel­ing and look­ing so much bet­ter, and peo­ple notic­ing, and imag­ined how good I would look and feel if I could take it to the next level.

A cru­cial prop was the bath­room scales. In the past, I had been afraid to weigh my­self, lest the re­sult send me into a spiral of de­spon­dency.

Now I weighed my­self rig­or­ously ev­ery day and, in­stead of pan­ick­ing if the nee­dle looked like it was head­ing the wrong way, I would sim­ply take a deep breath and ad­just my be­hav­iour ac­cord­ingly.

I should say at this point that I wasn’t on a com­plex or faddy diet. I was sim­ply es­pous­ing the prin­ci­ples of the 16/8 fast­ing diet and stick­ing to a healthy diet of pro­tein, veg­eta­bles, small amounts of dairy, eggs ( great hunger-busters), as lit­tle al­co­hol as I could man­age — and no added sugar.

re­strict­ing my in­take to within an eight-hour pe­riod ef­fec­tively meant only two meals a day, which had a huge im­pact. I don’t think this would have worked so well if I hadn’t also cut out sugar and, in so

...fi­nally cracked the real se­cret to los­ing weight SARAH VINE ...forced my whole fam­ily to ditch plas­tic LOUISE ATKIN­SON SEE PAGES 40-41

do­ing, elim­i­nated those highs and lows that lead to snack­ing.

It also made me more con­scious of when and what I was eat­ing. I even kept a food diary. This I can­not rec­om­mend enough as a tool for stay­ing on top of things: if you are a com­fort- eater like me, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re in­gest­ing, be­cause much of the time you’re feed­ing an emo­tional need, not a phys­i­cal one.

But if you write down ev­ery­thing that passes your lips, it makes you think twice about it — and al­lows you to make a con­scious choice about whether you are truly hun­gry or whether you can man­age with­out. I made slow, but steady, progress. By spring, I had man­aged to shift a fur­ther 5kg — a to­tal of 10kg, around 22lb. Now I weighed 95kg (15st), still a great deal more than I needed to be. But it felt like a huge achieve­ment none­the­less. My clothes fit­ted me again, my joints no longer ached and I had more en­ergy. Walk­ing and ex­er­cise in gen­eral be­came a plea­sure once more. Best of all, I dropped a shoe size. A shoe size! Who knew you could get fat feet?

And then I hit a brick wall. Try as I might, I couldn’t shift any more weight. Be­tween April and June, I stuck to my reg­i­men, but the nee­dle on the scales hov­ered stub­bornly be­tween 94 and 95kg.

It was clear to me I needed to re­duce my calo­rie in­take fur­ther, but the prob­lem was I couldn’t man­age that with­out be­com­ing in­sanely hun­gry — and that led to eat­ing the wrong things at the wrong time.

I be­came in­cred­i­bly de­mor­alised and the old demons re­turned. ‘What’s the point?’ they whis­pered in my ear. ‘Who are you kid­ding: you’re al­ways go­ing to be fat. Just give in,’ they urged. ‘Have that choco­late brownie. It will make you feel soooo much bet­ter . . .’

Had I lis­tened, 2018 might have been just an­other year of failed res­o­lu­tions. In­stead, in July, I sought pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance.

Pro­fes­sor Mar­cus reddy is a con­sul­tant gen­eral sur­geon at st Ge­orge’s Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal, Lon­don, with a spe­cial­ity in bariatric surgery. That was my plan: a gas­tric sleeve. It had worked for a friend and I was con­vinced it was my best chance of per­ma­nently re­duc­ing my weight.

But, as Pro­fes­sor reddy pointed out, I was no longer fat enough to qual­ify (oh, the irony, but also the delight, of be­ing told by a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t ‘fat enough’).

In­stead, he pre­scribed some­thing called sax­enda. This is a daily in­jec­tion (via a de­vice sim­i­lar to an in­sulin pen) of a drug called li­raglu­tide, which mim­ics the ac­tions of the body’s own ap­petite-reg­u­lat­ing hor­mones.

Ini­tially used to treat type 2 di­a­betes, li­raglu­tide was also found to in­duce slow, but grad­ual, weight loss in pa­tients. It’s been li­censed since 2010 and costs around £180 for a month’s sup­ply, so it’s not cheap but, in my opin­ion, worth ev­ery penny.

for five months now, I’ve been in­ject­ing it into my stomach ev­ery morn­ing. I have no side- ef­fects, but some peo­ple do ex­pe­ri­ence headaches and nau­sea — it’s very much down to the in­di­vid­ual

And I still feel hun­gry; it’s just that when I do eat, I get full much faster than I would nor­mally. The net re­sult is that I now eat about a third less than I used to. As I write, my weight is around 88kg (13st 12lb), so still not ex­actly sylph-like, but mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. My aim is to get to 80kg (around 12st 8lb) and stay there.

so, dear reader, if you are star­ing down the bar­rel of obe­sity-re­lated ill­ness as I was this time last year, take courage. If I can do it, you can, too. Just be hon­est with your­self, take your time and get as much help as you can.

And re­mem­ber: don’t make the per­fect the en­emy of the good.

...be­came a fit­ness fa­natic and got a six pack GERAL­DINE BEDELL SEE PAGES 44-45 ...found my dream ca­reer in midlife LUCY CAVENDISH SEE PAGE 46


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