I’ve worked in offices with women for years and since moving to my current workplace 12 months ago, I have been utterly fascinated by their bizarre and baffling behaviours. For example one woman, let’s call her Paula, has been attending Weight Watchers for years. Paula apparently used to be huge, now she’s quite normal, at a guess I would say size 14. She moans daily about her inability to lose any more weight. She regularly talks about the 3 stone she lost over the past couple of years but cannot (and does not try to) disguise her annoyance at being able to shift anymore. Now as a woman, I can understand this frustration, shifting a stubborn pound or two can be infuriating – but what I find more infuriating, is listening to Paula moan whilst watching her demolish an ENTIRE packet of biscuits. Or munch her way through a massive share bag of crisps. Or eat an entire tray of cupcakes. And I swear, she doesn’t even realise she is doing it.
I’ve never been fat and I’ve never been considered overweight (that’s according to my BMI though which is another thing I find annoying but I won’t get into that now!) but I’ve never been happy. Now I know I’m not the only one feeling like that! I cannot remember a moment in time, even as a young teenager, when I didn’t feel fat. Looking back at old photo’s and home videos I see that I was actually gorgeous. Toned stomach through no effort at all, which at the time felt big and unsightly. Now my stomach is definitely not flat and toned but I’m working on getting it there! But will we ever be satisfied? Is there ever a point when the self loathing stops? How much of the confident girls’ confidence is real and how much is a front? And how many of us dieters are completely deluding ourselves into thinking that we are doing everything right, when in fact we are jeopardising our own success with every mouthful?
Paula is a special kind of dieter. She stands at the end of my bank of desks, and she pops the first biscuit/cake/fudge (insert fatty, calorie laden food here) whilst saying that she went to a WW meeting last night. The second biscuit is then popped into her mouth while she is saying that she gained two pounds and has no idea why. The third, fourth and fifth biscuits are usually consumed whilst she tells whoever is within earshot about someone else at the meeting who lost weight which is so unfair because they definitely ate all their points whereas she didn’t. It’s usually at this point that I lose count. She is either on her sixth or seventh biscuit by now which is easily half the packet – which she opened by the way. (Opened, but did not contribute to the cost of!!)
Once, during one of Paula’s rants, I looked up the points value of the biscuits she was eating. Now I’m no expert on the Weight Watchers system, but I believe she would have a daily allowance and then have some she can use over the week? I’m also no expert on biscuits, but there are maybe 15 or 20 biscuits in an average packet? Well the biscuits were 1.5 points each, and she ate the whole packet that day. Actually, she eats a whole packet most days!
Now don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t just stand there and eat them all. She will eat 6 or 7 then go back to work. Then she’ll come back to the end of the desks, talk about something else (sometimes even work related!) and eat a few more. By lunch time, whatever little treat at the end of our desks is gone. Paula will then have a salad for lunch and a homemade fruit smoothie as an afternoon snack. By the end of the day, Paula will say that she has been ‘so good’. She’ll say that she’s starving hungry because of how strict she is being with herself and she’ll once again say that it is so unfair that her weight isn’t going down. Whoever is feeling bravest that day may ask Paula about the biscuits she ate, and I kid you not, her response is always ‘well I only have one occasionally so they don’t count’.
This woman is either completely in denial, or she genuinely has no idea about what she is putting in her mouth. I have read so many articles about making sure that everything is eaten in a conscious way. We are repeatedly told not to eat in front of the television and to sit down for the meal. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of eating in front of the box most nights and I regularly snack when cooking, but the difference is that I still know what I’m eating! The bit that truly baffles me, is why Paula is so vocal about her struggles. That’s what makes me believe she is completely oblivious to what she is doing! Secret Eaters would have a field day with this woman.
I know I am one of millions who has battled with her weight but I can’t be the only one who understands that losing weight comes from burning more calories than one consumes. I still have the days where I desperately convince myself that the calories don’t count if no one sees you eat them – but I’m not stupid enough to keep letting myself believe that beyond those occasional cheat days. It’s just a white lie I tell myself to alleviate some of the guilt of breaking my diet. But do some women really believe that pretending you didn’t those extra calories means the calories won’t add up?
I am a perpetual dieter but I understand the fundamental rules of less calories in, more calories burnt, equals weight lost. If I eat chocolate and crisps and have 3 takeaways in one week (which incidentally has happened this week, and it’s only Thursday!), then funnily enough I don’t lose any weight that week – and more likely than not, I actually gain a bit. As annoying as it is, I only have myself to blame and I have to accept that my failure is only temporary and is a result of my own lack of will power. But if you can’t indulge occasionally, then what’s the point?
But then there are people like Paula. I want to shout in her face that she’s doing it wrong. But she isn’t, because she only has a biscuit occasionally, so they don’t count. And she’s been dieting for years, and lots loads of weight, therefore she knows exactly what she’s doing. She makes me want to rip my ears off.
But there isn’t just Paula in my office. There is also Anton, the feeder. Kath, the overweight senior who wants to get back into her miniskirts. May, the obese (that’s not me being mean, she has a specially made reinforced chair!) woman who preaches to everyone else about healthy eating and exercise (oh the irony!). Diane, the ‘I eat pizza every night but I can’t lose weight’ woman (I have tried to tell her that Domino’s two for Tuesday’s isn’t a mandatory thing…) Then there is Ella, the skinny Slimming World success story who gets just as annoyed as me. It’s a wonder any of us every get any work done.