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New year, new you? Pah! I used to be a slimming consultant, but I’m all right now

I used to be a slimming consultant — no sniggering at the back, please. I did an intensive training course which covered nutrition, psychology, exercise and marketing.

Later on, I studied naturopathic nutrition with a year of Biomedicine and learned a whole lot more. But as a slimming consultant for a major global company, I learned how to motivate people – to give them support when they failed and to cheer them on when they dropped half a pound.

To make it worth my while, I learned how to make money out of other people’s gains and losses. And they were mostly gains because that’s how the slimming business thrives.

Every year at about this time I’d be rubbing my hands with glee calculating all the money I’d soon be making from the influx of new members who’d been succoured by the old ‘new year, new me’ routine.

They’d be there on the first possible date in January, queueing up to face the consequences of at least two weeks of over-indulgence. The hope, expectation and enthusiasm were palpable.

But, in most cases, it was short-lived. Come February — dieters rarely manage more than six weeks — they’d mostly disappeared. The only times I’d glimpse them was when they were hot-footing away from me in supermarkets to hide the bulk purchase of 2-for-1 Chocolate Hobnobs in their trollies.

And I didn’t blame them because creating a new me, you, or anybody, for that matter, requires discarding the old one and most of us have become quite comfortable with that beta version, even if we’re brave enough to admit that it’s not our best look.

Diane, with seven pounds to go

In my experience, most people lose weight for two reasons — their doctor’s told them they’ll die if they don’t, or they’re trying to get noticed by a new love. Ah, yes, there’s also a third, to locate that inner bikini/Speedo body in time for holidays.

Indeed my own three stones weight loss was as a result of badgering a boyfriend into saying whether he would fancy me more if I was thinner. Yes, I know that was masochistic and I certainly didn’t like the fact that he told the truth, but it set me on the road to transformation …and dumping him. Unfair, possibly, but do we really need confirmation of what we hate about ourselves? Maybe we do, because it sorted me out and he wasn’t for me anyway. But it wouldn’t work for everybody.

So, a bit like people who frown on smokers when they’ve managed to give up, as a slimming consultant I couldn’t understand why members would toil in the gym, follow the eating plan to the rice grain and glow with pride when they reached their goal weight, only to eat that new slimline bodyweight in paella and sangria on holiday or over Christmas.

On their return, they’d shuffle up to the weighing scales as if they were approaching the gallows. There would be tears, anger, taking off of almost every item of clothing bar their underwear, to get that number down.

And finally, they’d have to accept that eating for two or even three had taken its toll and it would require a huge amount of effort to start all over again. Most never came back and undoubtedly found solace at the bottom of the biscuit barrel until six weeks before their next holiday or big occasion.

Diane, before

So, as you’ve probably gathered, I’m not a devotee of  ‘new year, new me’. In fact, when I read those articles it makes me want to go on drinking and eating binges. Not because I don’t think it’s a good idea to lose weight and get fit if you need to, more because it’s a work in progress not an annual event.

But I’m quite happy with today’s me, if the truth be known. Yes I’m more of a C1 than a Rolls Royce, but that’s because I’ve spent my life striving for mediocrity. I do the basics, I walk 10 miles three times a week, drink two or three times week (ok, in lockdown it’s been a moveable feast) and eat a healthy, low-sugar diet.

But I try to do those things all year round, as dull as it sounds. For all that, I’m still seven pounds overweight, a size 12, that’s big by some people’s standards, but size is relative. On the plus side, I certainly don’t hate myself like I used to.

So good readers, take my advice, when we get to January, don’t beat yourselves up when that New Year’s resolution to get thin in 2021 falls at the first Zoom party invite.

Life should be about joy and laughter, and if you didn’t like yourself in December, nothing will change by January. If you want to alter that position, you don’t need a new year to give you permission. Just do it now, or don’t do it at all, but accept the consequences of your decision.

I know it sounds harsh, and it’s not the advice I’d have been able to give out as a slimming consultant, but if you’re overweight and unhappy only you can change that and it takes a lot more than a diet and exercise for six weeks. It’s a change for life.

If looking in the mirror and wanting to sob doesn’t make you do something about it, there’s nothing else I can suggest. You have to want to do it and if you do, but can’t, that’s usually an excuse.

I know because that was me until that boyfriend told me my weight was getting in the way of being fanciable. Funnily enough, our intimate life told a different story, so what the hell was that about? Which is precisely why, if you’re going to work hard to boost your self esteem, do it for yourself and not for a.n.other. When they’re long gone, you’ll still be looking cracking in a pair of skinny leather pants.

But whatever you decide to do, it’s probably best not to ask your significant other if they’d prefer you thinner, unless you’re prepared for the truth.

Hopefully, they’ll say they love you as you are, but if they don’t, and it’s like a knife to the heart, then you have to be honest with yourself and get rid of the you that’s causing the pain…or them.

Good luck and if any readers need any moral support in turning their lives around message me at diane@thebestlifeproject.co.uk. We’d also love to hear about your weight loss stories for publication on The Best Life Project.

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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