My pre-wedding crash-diet woes

I'm a 27-year-old MSc Human Physiology graduate at the University of Pretoria. I have been battling with obesity, food addiction and chronic bronchitis and asthma as long as I can remember. I was put on my first diet when I was only nine years old. I never felt normal.

I was always the little girl with the lunchbox full of diet bars, vegetables, and fat-free anything and my biggest desire was to just have a plain Marmite sandwich for lunch every day like all the 'normal' kids.

 I noticed that teachers and students liked me and respected me when I got good marks at school, so I focused all my energy on being the top academic achiever throughout my entire school career. Looking back now, I had so much to be proud of, but at the time all I wanted was not to be the fat kid anymore.

My early years of repeating the diet cycle:

Throughout primary school I tried various diets. I lost weight, but I always put it back on. When I became a teenager, I started resenting my mom for always wanting me to be thin and for putting me on all these diets, but now I realise that she was only trying to help her depressed little daughter become healthier and happy. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her. I would do anything in my power to shelter my future children from having to go through the trauma that comes with being an overweight child.

When I was 13, my dad got a job in Paris, France so my mom, one of my brothers and I went to live there with him for a year. I was devastated and depressed because I had to leave all of my friends and go live in a country where everyone was THIN. There wasn’t space in any of the English schools so I home-schooled myself for about two hours a day and the rest of my time I spent lying on the couch reading or watching TV and eating. I ate my feelings for an entire year.

When we moved back to South Africa, I joined my old friends in high school. They had all started dieting and losing weight to impress the boys, and I was bigger than ever. My sister-in-law then referred me to a doctor who had managed to get her cousin from obese to skinny in a very short period of time. He was a sweet, caring old man who saved my life for the first time. He explained insulin resistance to me and also brought my attention to the fact that my cholesterol was over 30 at the age of 14. He told me that I would never be able to eat carbs again. This came as a shock and deep down I always wanted to rebel against that statement. How could someone tell me that I couldn’t eat this major delicious food group that all my friends can? Why was I being singled out? Why was life so unfair? I followed the diet perfectly with the support of my family and friends, and I lost 30 kg. I felt amazing and adamant to keep it down.

As high school went on, several teenage heartbreaks lead me right back to bingeing, and I picked it all up again. In matric, my uncle (Dr. Jan Botha who brought Slender Wonder to South Africa) made a deal with me that I could get his Slender Wonder products for free if I lost at least 1 kg a week. I lost the 30 kg again just in time for my matric dance, and I felt amazing.

Shortly after that, I began studying BSc Biological Sciences at the University of Pretoria in an attempt to get into Medicine. Even though I was in the top 5 academic achievers in my matric year, I wasn’t accepted into Medicine because of affirmative action. This massive disappointment, more boy troubles and “first-year syndrome” resulted in me picking that weight right back up. I carried on studying a degree in Human Physiology, Genetics, and Psychology and discovered the research on a then new concept to me, Food Addiction.

I was elated to know that there was a name for what I had and I became obsessed with researching it.

The year I found love:

In 2010 I was diagnosed with severe depression and started taking antidepressants. I still have trouble explaining to people what it felt like when these pills first started kicking in. It was like someone took a pressure cleaner, shoved it into my brain and cleaned out all of the darkness. My mind was clear.

I could feel hope and formulate my own hypotheses again and be excited and let myself fall in love… Which I absolutely did.

I met my husband in that year, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. I always dreamed of a big guy who would make me look small in comparison. Pieter is just about 2 meters tall, and he loves food just as much as I do. We fell in love, and we ate together without shame. Before I knew it, I was 130 kg but still superficially happy, in love and excelling in my degree.

In 2013, on a skiing trip in Austria, Pieter asked me to marry him, and of course I said yes!

After the engagement excitement had worn off, I started getting extremely panicked.

The panic of being a “fat bride”:

I refused to walk down the aisle in front of 200 people while I was fat. That’s not who I was, the person I wanted to marry Pieter was the real me, the skinny me stuck inside this atrocious body.

I simply couldn’t deal with that embarrassment and humiliation. I had to be a thin, beautiful bride. I tried every crash diet I could find, and even with the strongest motivator of getting married thin, my addiction was stronger, so it all failed.

I wanted to be a thin bride so desperately that I resorted to extreme measures:

Ten months before the wedding I was researching addiction and rehabilitation and came across an article that said something to the degree that addicts are more likely to stay clean if they know their use of the substance will immediately endanger the life of someone they love. That night I was lying half asleep and had an epiphany. Even though I’m not very religious, I believe in some higher power out there, and I love my family with everything I have… I decided to try one last extreme psychological trick to get myself to lose the weight. I formulated some simple diet rules in my head, and I promised God that if I didn’t stick to every rule until I reached my goal weight, he could take away one of my family members. I was THAT desperate.

I planned to eat only 1000 calories a day (way below what is seen to be healthy) and cut out alcohol completely, without exception. I starved, I cried, I suffered, and I broke, but I lost 42 kg in 9 months.

My whole metabolism shut down. I was always cold, weak, losing hair, depressed, my nails were paper thin, I was sick 24/7, I cried myself to sleep every night because of the hunger and THAT is something you don't want to experience while you're planning the happiest day of your life.

I refused to tempt fate so I did not break a single rule. I felt so amazing in my wedding dress. I felt beautiful and thin and happy, and it truly was the best day of my life. I promised myself I would never go back to being obese, that I would do everything in my power to stay thin.

After the Honeymoon I put all the weight back on:

On honeymoon we ate everything. We deserved it for working so hard before, we said.

As soon as I started eating "normally" (normal low fat, low GI, conventional "healthy eating") I picked up all 42 kg in four months after the wedding.

My depression became unbearable. My pills weren’t working anymore, and I binged every day just to feel normal. I tried new antidepressants, and nothing would clear the fog. Even though I had a loving husband, an amazing family and friends and I was about to finish my Masters degree in Neuroscience; I felt more depressed and hopeless than ever.

The moment I hit rock bottom:

In December 2015, my mom bought me the book “Sugar-Free – 8 Weeks to Freedom from Sugar and Carb Addiction” by Karen Thomson. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. A book written especially for me? I read it three times that same week. I was scared that it would just be like all the previous diets and that I would relapse in week one and give up. I decided to start in January with Pieter. Late December I got bronchitis which turned into sever pneumonia. Pieter had to rush me to hospital because I couldn’t breathe. When I got back home, I was trying to sleep one night, and I just felt all my fat squishing my lungs, and I couldn’t breathe.

I was literally eating myself to death.

Never before had my obesity caused major medical symptoms so I always figured it wasn’t that bad. I was in complete denial. The fact that I couldn’t breathe was a massive wake-up call. I didn’t want to be sick and weak and fat anymore.

When my life started to change for the better:

On 11 January 2016,  my husband and I started the eight-week Sugar-Free LCHF/Banting program. It was the first time that we cut out carbs, alcohol, smoking and sweetener all at once. I had cut out carbs and alcohol before but never sweetener; I always had that in my coffee and yoghurt, and I drank a lot of diet soda.

I believed that it would be exponentially more difficult quitting them all at once but was astounded that by day three, my cravings were gone. I mean non-existent.

The only lifestyle that has helped me lose weight and keep it off:

That switch that makes me want to binge or eat carbs was OFF, and my mind was CLEAR.

The depression fog was and is still gone. I’ve been off of my anti-depressants for over a year now and feel much better than when I first started them.

My husband has lost over 40 kgs, and I’ve lost over 30 kgs and still going. The weight loss really is just a bonus, the real motivation for carrying on with this forever is the way we feel. We have so much energy, we feel positive, we’re proud of each other and ourselves, and in general, we laugh more!

I've even started walking into furniture because I walk so fast and feel so thin! My husband who, on the strictest of diets could never cut out chips and bread, hasn't touched a single carb since and he is thriving. It’s a complete miracle.

I wish so badly that I knew about Banting before my wedding because now I lose weight at the same pace but I'm super healthy, feel amazing, and I never go hungry, and the best thing is that it's permanent this time around. Starting this LCHF/Banting lifestyle is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, second only to choosing to marry the love of my life. ;)

Christle is one of our amazing Certified Banting Coaches, join her group and learn from her so that you too can claim back your life and happiness. There’s no need to crash diet for your wedding or any other special occasion, let Christle guide you to sustained weight loss in a healthy way. Click here to join Christle’s group.

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