TV, Internet, magazines… wherever you look, you’re likely to get attacked by dozens of hidden messages suggesting that you should try to achieve the ‘perfect look’. The perfect look that’s supposed to include being thin, preferably as thin as Victoria’s Secret’s models. Following this trend, every day thousands of people, mostly very young, decide to start a diet, work out, and do everything (and anything) to lose weight.
You must have at some point seen at least one online post with a tutorial on how to lose weight. But have you ever seen one about how not to do it?
Everything I’m going to describe should be obvious for every sensible person. But if, after reading this, you’re left feeling that describing such an obvious thing was pointless, remember that there surely are people whose ability of sensible thinking is covered by the desire to meet modern world’s expectations. Just like mine was a few years ago.
I was a chubby child, a chubby teenager and a chubby young woman. Not overweight – my BMI has always been ‘normal’, although for the majority of my life it was somwhat close to the upper end of normal limits. I wasn’t comfortable with myself, felt fat and imperfect. I can’t even describe how many times I looked in the mirror and thought ‘I need to change it, from now on I’ll eat healthily, exercise etc etc’. Hundreds, for sure. Every single time failed miserably. All of them… but one.
I have no idea how I found all that strong will, commitment and dedication. It was a day like every other one. Summer holidays, I was 19. I told myself I should change my diet and work out. And this time, it clicked. I found an online eating calculator/diary, which I could fill in every day with what I’ve eaten, and as a result I’d get the sum of calories consumed. I’d heard a lot about 1000 kcal diets, so I decided to go with that. I’d meticulously write down every single thing I’d eaten, even if it was 5 raisins, a slice of tomato or one walnut. I’d weigh everything, just to be sure I don’t log lowered numbers. I lived with my parents and I didn’t want them to notice what I was doing, so I’d always eat dinner with them the way I’d used to, in old amounts. Aside from that, I mostly ate vegetables, as I had very few calories left to ‘spend’.
A 1000 kcal diet isn’t healthy itself, especially if you stay on it for 7 weeks like I did. But that’s not all yet.
I also decided to get that daily dose of physical activities regularly. I worked out every other day. And by working out I mean one of two things: rollerblading or cycling, usually for 2 hours, without a break, as fast as I could. Once even decided to do a marathon while rollerblading, so went for those 42 km. And all that while being on a 1000 kcal diet.
I don’t know what kind of magic kept me going, probably seeing the first small results (which came after as little as a week) gave me motivation to stick to this plan.
Did it work?
Yes, I lost around 10 kg within 6-7 weeks, and from ‘nearly overweight’ BMI moved close to the ‘nearly underweight’.
So why should you not follow my example?
Well, there was more to it. Obviously, being on a strict, low-cal diet and exercising a lot for long weeks can’t just happen without bringing any side effects. You can’t eat the cake and have the cake after all.
No periods (came back after a few months).
Hearing my heart beat as loud as if there was a plane starting nearby.
Sleepless nights due to the above. In the last few weeks of that diet&exercise regime I only slept at most 2-3 hours per day, with many breaks.
Almost no need to use the toilet. When you consume that little food and force yourself to work out a lot, your body tries to make use of all of it.
Those are just the main issues I suffered from. Fixing them took about 10 times longer than getting them.
I decided to end this ridiculous process for two main reasons. Firstly, I was weaker and weaker every day, fading away, and I couldn’t pretend to ignore the symptoms anymore. Secondly, I achieved my goal to some extent, managed to lose a lot of weight.
Would I repeat it?
That’s a difficult question. Now, knowing what the side effects were and how much they impacted my health, I wouldn’t do it again. Also, I’ve learnt a lot about eating healthily and now I enjoy my regular, balanced, workouts and diet, so if I ever decide that I need to lose weight again, I’ll do it in a healthy way. But if I’d known what the effect would be, would I have done it differently those 5 years ago? I honestly don’t know. Despite knowing how disastrous the entire process was for my body, I still remember how happy I was seeing my new self in the mirror. Finally being able to look at myself without the instant cringe.
We often don’t realise how much our look can change the way we are. Losing weight not only gave me the ability to look at myself, but also caused a huge increase in my self-esteem and confidence. It feels like we can never be comfortable around people until we’re comfortable with ourselves.
However, I need to finish with a message to everyone who might possibly decide to do what I did one day: be careful and value your health more than your look. I made it out of the colliding course, but for some people it might have horrible, irreversible effects.