I wanted to write you a letter to tell you how grateful I am to you both for founding Beyond Chocolate, and how glad I am to have discovered it.
From the age of about 10 I was a little bit chunky. I thought I was overweight all through my teens (and we all know being a teenager is hard enough, without feeling fat!) - I can remember sulking on the beach in my Starsky cardigan, unable to take it off because my thighs were too big!! Then I slimmed down a bit as I approached 20, and although I still wasn’t properly satisfied, I stopped worrying about it. I had my daughter when I was 21, and still wasn’t worried.
Then I had my son when I was 26 and suddenly I was knocking on the door of 11 stone and a size 16! So I embarked on my first ever diet, Rosemary Conley’s hip and thigh diet, eating lots of dry jacket potatoes and soya mince at home and dry teacakes when I was out. I lost some weight, and maybe it would have stayed off, maybe it wouldn’t, but just at that point I gave up being a vegan after 13 years, and went on a mad Mars Bar and cheese and onion crisps mission, and piled the weight back on.
So then it was Slimmer’s World and calorie counting, 1200 a day. Lost the weight, stopped the diet, put most of the back on. Weight Watchers points system followed, lost the weight, put most of it back on. Back to Weight Watchers, lost the weight, put it back on. Tried Slimming World but almost overdosed on Smash, eating it even when I wasn’t remotely hungry and totally failing to see how that could ever work! Didn’t lose any weight at all on that one, unsurprisingly!
So back to Weight Watchers, and I’ve lost count of how many times and how many groups. I even thought about becoming a leader. I reached my goal weight. I actually got under 9 stone for the first time since before I had kids, I owned (and wore!) a pair, just the one, of size 8 trousers. I felt amazing! Then I stopped dieting again, and the weight began to creep back on. Tesco online diets and a thing called Sin and Slim followed, and another round of Weight Watchers. Then there were those caffeine and goodness knows what else based diet tablets you can buy from Beauty salons that make you ragingly thirsty and your heart races. I gave up smoking and gained another 8lbs, and after 15 years I was back to the weight I’d been when I first started that Rosemary Conley back in 1992!
The crunch came when a retiring colleague said she would remember me for my diets. I realised with horror that I had become a diet-obsessed bore! Then I read an article in Psychologies magazine which mentioned Beyond Chocolate and it really struck a chord. I went straight out to Waterstones the next day and bought their only copy of the BC book and read it from cover to cover in a couple of days, weeping as I went.
That was nearly 3 years ago now. Beyond Chocolate really made me take stock and square up to the way I had warped my relationship with food, and with my own body, and to take responsibility for beginning to mend that. I put some weight on after a while, of course I did, I was baking and cooking and eating and enjoying food like I’d never done before. But I really was enjoying it! I still dreamt of being slim, I think we all do, deep down (or not so deep down!), but I was having fun. I was accepting invitations for meals without having to worry about whether there’d be anything low in points on the menu or how much I’d have to cut back for the rest of the week to compensate. My weeks weren’t rushing past in a blur from weigh-in to weigh-in, and my mood for the day wasn’t established by the number on the scales every morning.
3 years down the BC line, I can’t actually remember the last time I weighed myself, and I don’t know what I weigh (I have a rough idea based on what I weighed the last time I got on the scales). I have lost weight, my clothes are smaller by nearly 2 sizes than the ones I was wearing only 6 months ago. I saw a friend recently I hadn’t seen since then and the first thing she said was “You’ve shrunk!” and the second thing she said was “You look amazing!!”
I eat what I want, when I want, which is generally somewhere approximating a normal mealtime with normal meal-type food. I’m not denying myself everything tasty in favour of low-fat, low-cal diet ‘food’, nor am I fluttering about like a pampered pooch having to have weird things at strange times. The vast majority of the time I choose natural, wholesome foods and like to avoid chemicals and sweeteners. I don’t eat chocolate for my breakfast, I eat muesli or eggs or fruit and yoghurt. I don’t have cake for my dinner, I have fish and vegetables with butter on or beans on toast or a takeaway curry or a salad. I drink wine when I want to, which is nowhere near everyday, I have a little bit of chocolate most days and some days I have quite a lot of chocolate. I think my eating is perfectly normal now, and I really don’t worry about it anymore at all. I belly dance twice a week (or not, if I don’t feel like it) and am now a member of a performance troupe, and the oldest by almost 10 years!
So thank you, Sophie and Audrey, from the bottom of my heart, for Beyond Chocolate, for the book and the forum and the workshops and your passion and wisdom! All your wonderful efforts, and mine, have saved me from diet-hell.