I Blame the Olympics


Getting active: How I decided to stop wobbling and love the cross trainer

As I sweat and bounce along on the cross trainer, or when the woman on the exercise DVD says ‘I want you to feel like you are going to die’ – that’s when I blame the Olympics. Oh, and the Germans. It was a combination of these that helped hubby and I decide to stop putting on more weight and to enjoy exercise…well, sort of.

I love food. I love to eat, to cook, to read about food and its history and to prepare it for the people I love. To balance this obsession with food, I hate exercise. Childhood memories of sweaty aertex shirts, cross-country running and communal showers still have me shuddering.

This unfortunate combination left me, at the age of 43, nearly five stone overweight with creaking knees and a family trait of developing diabetes. Things were looking grim.

The Olympics…and the Germans

We were in Munich in the middle of a heat wave last summer, surrounded by lithe and confident Germans leaping into the water of the sparkling river Isar. Hubby and I were covered up from head to toe, too embarrassed to get our flabby bodies out. We managed a quick paddle, having rolled up our trouser legs – all that was missing to identify us as Brits was a knotted hanky on our heads.

Two young German girls approached us: “Aren’t you unhappy being so hot?” they asked. We don’t think they meant anything particularly nasty by the question, but to me it felt like people poking us with sticks and saying ‘hey look at the fat people, look at the blubber roll!’

women-olympics-2012-flickrWatching the Olympics, seeing people reach their goal as a result of sacrifices they had made, pushing their bodies beyond what they thought possible, this is when it struck us: there was no Foodie Godmother who would magically roll back the years of eating cheesy puffs and chocolate and make the weight come off. The only people who could make the changes were us.

After some research into different approaches to losing weight we did the most basic thing we could: we ate less and we moved more. It is interesting how disappointed many people look when I tell them this. I did think about making something up: “We have to stand on one leg whilst wearing a tinfoil hat.”

It is not all lettuce leaves and rice cakes – we do still eat lovely food, we just eat a lot less of it. We keep a food diary on a free website to help keep track of our calorie consumption, which really helps focus the mind. Oh how I love cheese, but oh how it contributes to my weight gain, so I have to compromise and reduce how much I eat.

And there are rewards: putting on a smaller dress for the first time in ten years and realising, yeah, that actually looks quite good. I can shovel snow off the driveway and not feel like my back is going to rupture. I can walk up the stairs and not feel like my knees are on fire. The taste of that good cheese when I have chosen not to eat any for a week – now that is bliss.

Getting active

To get moving we bought a cross trainer (thanks to a tax rebate) and hired some exercise DVDs from the library. We found things to do that we could commit to, and took it one day at a time.

There is a Johnny Cash song, One Piece at a time (ostensibly about a man smuggling car parts out of the factory where he works in order to build a Cadillac) – and I am applying the same principle to my body: one step at a time, one calorie at a time, one day at a time, and I am changing my shape and my health. If I can do it, then I think anyone can

Yesterday I had an NHS health check; I have lost nearly four stone since my last weigh-in with them, my blood pressure has reduced, my glucose and cholesterol levels are low, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease is miniscule and I feel smug as hell. When the nurse said these were the best results she had seen, I could have kissed her. My husband did take the shine off somewhat by pointing out that her normal demographic was probably a good 20 years older than me, but I am clinging to the hope that I am the healthiest person in the village.

As for exercise, there is a moment of clarity when the initial resisting pain goes away, the endorphins kick in and my brain feels liquid and joyful – then it is all worth it. Not to mention the bliss of the post-exercise shower. I am not sure I will ever truly love exercise, but I finally realise that the end result justifies the effort.

Hey, it only took me 43 years.