Opinions: Weight and Health – In Conversation with Jane Boyd

One of the biggest contributors to low self-esteem in women is our tendency to obsess about our weight. Many of us spend our entire lives searching for a more perfect figure, which by definition is unachievable. The journey to self-acceptance is a complicated one. Modern thinking about body image is equally complicated. We want to start a conversation about the correlation between weight and health, both mental and physical.

I sat down with Rediscovering Me Director, Jane Boyd to talk about her personal journey to self-acceptance, her battle with weight and its physical and psychological effects.

Jane’s Journey

 “I’m 54 and I’ve been dieting for 40 years. I have tried every diet on the planet from the Atkins diet, diet shakes and group weight loss clubs. None of them were successful.

  September last year, I made the decision to become body positive and stop dieting. The only time my weight has been stable in 40 years of dieting were the 2 years I stopped dieting after turning 40. I decided I was going to eat what I wanted to eat and trust that in a few months my body would tell me what I really needed to eat.”

 Jane’s knowledge on the subject of weight loss is extensive. In 40 years of dieting, she has spent a lot of time reading both the opinions and the academic research of the day. In trying to learn about methods of losing weight, Jane has formed strong opinions on the subject.

“I think my body tells me what I need to eat. Since accepting myself and seeking to be positive about my body, I am more familiar with what my body wants me to eat. When I eat something my body doesn’t like, the next day brings symptoms that I now recognize, such as increased mucus in my throat, bloating or an upset stomach.

After deciding to eat what I want, I started eating lots of sugar and after a few months, I became sick of it. Now I almost only eat natural sugars. My body displays its unhappiness with me when I eat artificial sugars. I’ve also stopped eating crisps and carbohydrates as a whole as my body has started to push me towards eating more vegetables. The gradual change in my eating habits have come about as my body has been drawn towards foods I would normally shy away from.”

Jane has followed the work of academics such as Linda Bacon PhD (physiology) and Sandra Aamodt PhD (neurology). Both outline a different way of thinking from the general consensus that is out there. Dr Bacon’s ‘Health at Every Size’ has changed the way some in the field of physiology think about health and weight. From the book came the HAES Manifesto, a social justice movement to promote the message that weight is not the common denominator in the big three diseases of our time. Heart Disease, Strokes and Cancer have all been linked with obesity by numerous studies. Dr Bacon’s research shows, however, that other factors (namely, the amount of exercise a person does, regardless of their weight) have a greater effect on the potential to develop these illnesses. Much of Jane’s thinking on the subject of weight and health is reflected in Dr Bacon’s work.

“In January of this year, I discovered that I have a number of food intolerances and I also found out that I am Type 2 Diabetic. Then, in May I was told I have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Earlier this week I saw my doctor and I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome which is a combination of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. All of these things mean that I am at higher risk of heart disease, strokes and cancer. He said that I would need to lose 30kg (doing that would mean that I would no longer have diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and my joints would begin to ache less. He went on to tell me that I have three choices:

  1. Go on a diet (Ha!)
  2. Take medication that aids weight loss
  3. Surgery

 My whole life I have been a victim of my own slow metabolism. I have never felt thin, even at times when I really was a “normal, healthy weight”.”

 Jane’s recent discoveries about her health have led her to make a decision that will change her life. Considering her previous academic reading, she has set out on a journey to research the various options the doctor had outlined to her.

Dieting

“I have learned over the years that dieting doesn’t work for anybody except for the 3% of people who lose weight and keep it off. 97% of people who take on dieting fads lose weight and then regain it and sometimes more[1] as their bodies reject it”

Medication

“There is some medication that can help you to lose weight. Some of it works by suppressing appetite and some by speeding up your metabolism. No medication on the market allows you to effectively stop overeating in the long term. I was immediately switched off from the idea of medication due to the long list of side effects. For me, taking medication for weight loss would be a lifelong commitment as I have never been able to stop myself from wanting to eat even when I have been dieting for an extended period.”

Surgery

“There are several options for weight loss surgery. The first two I researched are more of an intervention than a surgery. These methods see the use of a balloon filled with liquid take up space in your stomach which could otherwise be used to store additional food. This idea doesn’t appeal to me because the two options last 4 and 12 months, but after that period ends, there is no guarantee you will not just revert to your old way of eating to entirely fill your stomach.”

The Gastric Band and Bypass are the most commonly known surgeries. The band is an inflatable ring that is placed around the top of the stomach causing the person to feel fuller from a smaller amount of food. The band is reversible but requires a six-week liquids only diet. A Gastric Bypass involves the creation of a small pouch at the top of the stomach which is connected to the small intestine. This results in the patient feeling significantly fuller from a much smaller amount of food and causes them to absorb fewer calories.

After researching all the forms of bariatric surgery, I decided that the one for me was the Gastric Sleeve. The bypass, though most effective in reducing one’s weight comes with a host of side effects that make the surgery intimidating. The Gastric Sleeve (or sleeve gastrectomy) however, is where a large part of the stomach is removed so it’s much smaller than before. This ultimately means that I won’t be able to eat as much as I can now and I’ll feel much fuller much more quickly.”

Jane’s journey is an ongoing one. She will be documenting much of it on the Rediscovering Me website. Moving forward, I asked Jane about how she was feeling having come to a final decision to take this next step.

My health has always been the driving factor in my learning about weight. Previously when I have lost weight, I have lived in fear of putting the weight back on. I have never felt thin before in my entire life and it’s difficult to come to terms with the idea that I might be after surgery.

The joy of not having to worry about putting weight back on encourages me to go ahead with surgery. I am so excited at the prospect of living a healthier life, in which I can finally feel good about myself without any guilt or worry.”

Follow Jane as she blogs her thoughts and feelings about her health and weight going forward, here on our website.

Join in on the conversation on our website and on all the social media pages!

If you would like to read further about the topics discussed in this interview, see the references below.

Weight loss surgery – NHS

Sandra Aamodt TED Talk

Weight Loss Medication – NHS