Shortly after my first baby was born (over 8 years ago now), I went to the GP for the scheduled 6 week check up. The doctor had a cursory glance at my son and didn’t show much concern about the large lump he had over his right eyebrow (which, incidentally had to be surgically removed a few months later) No Siree Bob! What the doctor could not wait to do was to make sure I realised I was fat, and “really should try to do something about it!”
Believe it or not I didn’t need him to tell me I was overweight. It was something I had actually managed to figure out all by myself! He also went on to ‘help’ me by explaining how easy the process for losing weight is: simply eat less and move more. Well bloody hell, if only someone had let me in on that little secret earlier eh?! He even used the phrase “you’re obviously quite a bright girl, it’s really not that hard”…………
Now, I know I’m not medical expert but at this point I feel compelled to add an FYI to any GPs who may be reading this – talking in this manner to an obviously overweight, first time mum who is only 6 weeks post partum (with all of those crazy hormones circulating at max speed), is not a particularly clever move!
While I had not had a whiff of post natal depression up to this point, this appointment quickly extinguished all of my new mum fuzzy warm glow and sent me into a nasty black hole. All of the anxieties which had plagued me throughout my younger years, came flooding back and were now magnified larger than ever as concerns about my health/appearance/suitability for motherhood began to spiral out of control and I’m sad to say, ended in some quite drastic and destructive behaviour from me.
Those GP visits
While I look back on this appointment with horror now, I’m sad to say that it wasn’t something that was completely new to me. I have lost count of the number of times I have visited a GP about a completely unrelated issue (ear ache, ingrowing toenail…..) only to have the appointment concluded in some “helpful” advice about my need to lose weight. Unfortunately, my experiences are not that uncommon and I know of many other ladies who have faced similar issues with their GPs.
Now I’m not denying that there are increased health risks associated with being overweight. We are all well versed on the correlation between obesity and a myriad of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. However, we are also now increasingly aware of the fact that the dietary advice often suggested as the default by our healthcare providers is pretty outdated and more than a little questionable (low fat/high carb?) So what is the alternative?
Health At Every Size
Well, I would argue that we should all focus on eating for health rather weight loss. You would have thought that they were two and the same right? WRONG!!! All too often, weight loss plans are focussed solely on the intention of dropping pounds and the assumption that that in itself will automatically result in improved health. Unfortunately, most main stream weight loss plans encourage a reliance on over processed ready meals and snacks with a huge list of unpronounceable and questionable ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!!!
If you do an internet search for HAES (Health At Every Size) you will see that there is a whole movement dedicated to the cause of eating for health rather than weight loss. Their theory is that dramatic, sustained weight loss is practically impossible for the vast majority of people. In fact they go on to point out that: “Efforts towards such weight loss are instead held to cause rapid swings in size that inflict far worse physical and psychological damage than would fat itself.” I couldn’t agree more. Been there, done that and worn the XXL t-shirt!
Eating for Health
So how do we eat for health? Well, the most significant dietary change you can make is to ditch any processed food that you currently eat. As a general rule of thumb, if it comes in a package with a list of ingredients on the side, steer clear! Remind yourself that real food is ingredients rather than has ingredients. If you start buying and cooking good quality fresh produce, this in itself will have a dramatic impact on your health. Focus on real food that is grown in a field rather than made in a factory and you won’t go far wrong. Just aim to include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, good quality meat and fish, eggs and dairy, nuts and seeds and healthy oils in your daily diet. No other rules; no points, syns or calories to count. Just a range of gorgeous food for you to experiment with and enjoy in abundance!
I’ll admit that If you have been caught in the diet trap for a long time, it can feel scary to turn your back on the set recipes/meal plans and daily counting. For some, the freedom can even feel daunting and somewhat overwhelming and if you feel you need some support with that, then by all means, get in touch! I can promise you that once you start to flex your food freedom, the difference it makes to both your physical and mental well-being is astounding; When you shift your focus away from weight loss, life starts to taste so much better!
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had similar experiences with your GP. Have you visited the surgery about a non-weight-related issue, only to be sent away feeling fat and useless? Or have have you ever followed a diet plan provided by your GP? How did you find it and what sort of support were you given while following it?