How my dieting went wrong (and how to do it properly)

I made some serious mistakes that made me very sick

We are surrounded by a world that tells us to be healthier, faster, fitter and stronger. And while that sounds pretty positive, it came make you feel…dangerously inadequate. If you’ve decided to lose weight to get fitter, for the love of Aphrodite do it sensibly. Because when dieting goes wrong, it can kill you.

You are beautiful. When people see you, they aren’t comparing you to your dream self

I got losing weight wrong. I crash dieted for three months, getting progressively worse until I’d punish myself if I ate over 200 calories a day. I looked incredibly slim, but my muscles were gone, my figure was gone, and my face was pale and hollow. My hair fell out and I slept for 13 hours at a time. It took me more than half a year to eat a full meal without looking at the calories. I cried when I was able to finish a pizza that September. The idea of not counting and memorising everything had to be steadily erased just so I could just live again.

So, babez, don’t be like me.

Here are my ten personal tips for losing weight, hopefully without developing orthorexia or any other disorder.

  1. You don’t need to rush (and please don’t). While the fantasy of being a stone lighter can be inviting and sparkly, you aren’t going to get there in a week. Try to lose 1–2lb a week. There will be times when you are 5lb one way or the other, but just follow the general trend. It will last longer if you don’t fuck your metabolism. You’re doing great sweetie.
  2. Recognise that dieting alone might not be for you. If, like me, you are vulnerable to getting obsessive or masochistic about things, make sure you have a parent or friend keeping an eye out on what you are eating and how much. Being secretive about it makes it so much worse when you have a whole book of deadly secret rules for yourself.
  3. Don’t have food in the house that might make you break. While I’m dieting, I don’t have cake, sweets or crisps in the house. Just not nibbling can cut 400 calories a day. It’s much easier to eat your boring soup if you know you can’t have that pizza in the freezer (because it isn't there, see, smart).
  4. In the healthy BMI range? See a fucking doctor or GP first. I’m not a medic, but loads of actual nutritionists exist. If you want to diet, try to see someone about it who can tell you how much you could lose, and how to do it. Losing a lot of weight can be very dangerous, however much society praises underweight as beautiful. In fact, if you have any questions at any weight, see a doctor.
  5. You aren’t ugly the way you are. Accept that. If you are losing weight to be ‘pretty’ rather than healthier, remember that people see you, not the fantasy way you wish you were, whatever you weigh. If you are constantly chasing perfection at the end of a scale, you won’t find it. You’ll always say ‘ just one more kg’ until you are seriously sick.
  6. Accept that losing weight is really boring. There is nothing fun about rice cakes, mange tout, mushroom soup and a handful of pumpkin seeds. There is no trick or hack or magic pill, so don’t bother with them. Just keep plodding through a lower calorie diet and try not to go crazy at a binge (which will happen, don’t kick yourself).
  7. Replace your trigger foods with low calorie replacements. Want pizza? Have a bowl of minestrone with a ricecake. Want a cheese baguette? Have a corncake sandwich with a slice of tofu and cucumber. Want a chocolate tart? Try (no calorie) flavoured coffee with milk. It’s boring and soul destroying. But it works.
  8. NEVER skip meals (but do cut portions). If you skip meals, you will just get hungrier and you will be far more likely to binge. Even if you don’t binge, your metabolism goes crazy and you store any fat you eat. Your body thinks that you haven’t found a mammoth for the evening and tries to protect you. If great aunt Greta has made something that will destroy your diet, such as a butter smothered shepherd’s pie, politely ask for a small helping and skip dessert. But always eat something. Always.
  9. Stick to your initial target weight, however tempting it is to go low. Pick a weight that is in your healthy BMI range and stick to it with your life. I know, you’ll look in the mirror in three months and go ‘my arms are still big’ but do NOT go lower. Do more training to get more toned but don’t go any lower than that. That’s how you get ill. I kept saying ‘just down to 115lb’ until I started passing out with blackouts. Stop yourself. Seriously.
  10. Recognise that perfect doesn’t exist. I’ve got compliments at 9st 11, I’ve got compliments at 8st 8. There is no perfect weight; even your darling celebs have bad picture days and fluctuate. That’s normal. You won’t be 9st for all eternity. I actually think I look prettier at 9st than I did at 8st 2. Never keep starving yourself to look perfect. It isn’t going to be found in a number on a box. Your body image will change. Humans change.

Anthropologist with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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