A few months ago the producers of Operation Transformation approached me about presenting the show’s accompanying programme on 2fm. Last year, Nicky Byrne had teamed up with Karl Henry, the show’s trainer, to do a two hour programme on Saturday mornings for the duration of the show. The aim of the show is to get people fired up for Operation Transformation’s national events, walks and runs and the like!
It’s always nice to be approached about a new opportunity, but I told the team that I’d have to have a think about it. You see, I have a big problem with the diet industry. I have a problem with society’s need to put down fat people. I have a problem with people profiting from the misery of people who have been convinced that their bodies are disgusting. At the time of my first discussions with the OT team, I had just finished writing a lot on this subject for my book, so I was hesitant to get involved in anything to do with weight loss. I don’t want to be part of anything which adds to the ‘if you’re fat you’re a failure’ message.
However, I also need to lose weight. You see, my body has been on quite a journey over the last eighteen months. During the summer of 2014 I was feeling exhausted. I couldn’t figure out why, and neither could my doctors, so I decided that maybe it was because I was carrying too much extra weight. I went to a personal trainer, stopped eating carbs, and the weight fell off me. I was getting lots of compliments, but I felt like shit, and I found that I had completely lost interest in food. In one way, I was living the dream of anyone who’s struggled with being overweight. I was losing weight, and it wasn’t even an effort because I didn’t want to eat! Unfortunately though, I was also dying. I had cancer, and it was sucking the life out of me and eating away at my body.
Once I started treatment, my appetite returned, and I started to put weight back on. I had a hard time with this. It had been so liberating to be free of the negative thoughts about my body which had been a consistent part of my life for as long as I could remember. It felt good to have an empty stomach, and to push full plates of food away because I wasn’t interested in them. I got a real high from my disinterest in food. A sense of superiority. A feeling that I was better than my previous gluttonous self. And now, here was my appetite, back to ruin everything. It’s a sick line of thinking. It’s sick that signs of my body getting healthier and my cancer becoming weaker became a source of disappointment for me. However, that is what I felt, until I had an epiphany a few months into treatment.
I had spent the afternoon having chemo in the Mater, and chatting to a lovely woman who was also getting treatment. I had walked in to the hospital that morning, but this woman could barely walk to the toilet. Her body was not taking chemo well. It was letting her vibrant spirit down. She was full of desire to just get on with it, but her body wouldn’t let her. My encounter with her stayed with me for the rest of the day, and at home on my couch that evening I realised that I had it all wrong. I had spent my entire life hating my body for what it wasn’t and ignoring all that it was.
Up until my experience with cancer I had never had a health issue. Day in and day out, my ‘stupid fat body’ had kept me going. It stayed up all night at Electric Picnic. It walked the length and breadth of London on two hours sleep when I flew there the morning after the PPI radio awards in 2009. It kept me going to work day after day when I had stage three cancer and put on such a good show that I was convinced that I was actually fine. And now, during chemo, a literal poisonous attack on it, it was grand. Yes, I felt tired. Yes, I had hard days. Yes, it could have been better, but oh my god could it have been worse. I could walk to chemo. My body was playing a blinder.
For the first time ever, I realised that my body was not my enemy. In fact, it was my greatest ally. Since then, I’ve tried to change the way I think about it. I try to appreciate what it can do, and counter negative thoughts with positive ones. I’ve packed my social media with body positivity, and try to call out my friends when they’re being nasty about themselves. There are a million things more important than being thin, as long as you’re comfortable and happy in your skin.
Just when I had gotten to the point where I was comfortable and happy in my skin, however, I learned that one are in which my body had not coped so well during chemo was in the area of fertility. Chemo decimated my eggs. During a heartbreaking appointment with a fertility specialist last summer I learned that it’s going to be hard for me to get pregnant naturally. If I haven’t become pregnant the old fashioned way by next summer, I need to go back to him and look at other options. One of those options is IVF, but if I want to do that I have to get my BMI down. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if I think BMI is bullshit. It doesn’t matter if I feel good in my skin. It doesn’t matter if I’m ‘healthy at any size’. If I want IVF I have to lose weight. So here I am.
If I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to do it in a reasonable, healthy way, and what I found when I went away and looked at Operation Transformation is that that’s what they’re all about. Their experts are expert. The plan is accessible and inexpensive. Their message is a positive one. It’s a plan I can get on board with, and so that’s what I’m doing. From tomorrow, I’ll be presenting OT Radio on 2fm every Saturday morning from 9-11 with Karl Henry and I’ll also be following Lucy’s plan (she’s one of the show’s leaders this year). He thinks he’s going to be able to get me to like exercise, I think he’s never met a challenge like me in his life. The truth is though, I’d like to incorporate exercise into my life, so I’ll be delighted if we get there. The purpose of the show is to invigorate and encourage anyone who’s taking part, so if you’re doing it too be sure to get in touch.
However, if you are not someone who wants to lose weight right now, I want you to know that that’s ok too, and that’s why I’m writing this blog post. I know January can be difficult with all its diet ads, and fat-shaming. That’s not what I’m about and I’m not going to be shoving this down your throat. I’m doing this for my own reasons, and I don’t think the Louise who’ll be a little bit lighter in a couple of months will be any better than the Louise who is writing this today. Being thinner is not being better. Being fatter is not being worse. We are where we are, and that’s ok.
Now I’ve told you why I’m going to follow a leader this year, but why am I doing the radio show? First, I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to do some talk radio again! I love my show but it’s all about tunes, so a little on-air conversation will be nice. Second, I am allowed to ask Karl all the questions I want, from why the leaders have to be so scantily clad during their weigh-ins to how to get myself motivated to exercise when the thought of it makes me want to throw myself down the stairs. Third, I think it’s good to have a real person who knows what it’s like to struggle with weight and body image alongside someone for whom fitness is life. I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I’m not going to agree if I don’t agree. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy when it’s not.
So, that’s that. If you don’t want to hear another word about it, that’s totally fine.
If you want to chat about it – comment here or get me on Twitter or Facebook.
Finally, if you feel like you want to join in, join in. We’ll be live on Saturday mornings on 2fm from 9-11am. At the very least, it’ll be fun.
Big love. x