We are fat and getting fatter. Speak for yourself, you might say. Don't worry, I am. It's obviously not my fault. It's boredom, it's working at home, it's the deliciousness of crisps, it's hormones, it's a culture of grazing. It's part of my "enormous appetite for life" that sounds marvellous, but doesn't conjure the reality: guzzling my daughter's cold leftovers, celebrating the end of the day with the popping of a cork. Before you call me a champagne socialist, it's cava. Comrade.
But my clothes were tight, and I had aches and pains. I am the average middle-aged woman. There are regular warnings about our bulk. Headlines scream that the UK has the fattest girls in Europe. Female flesh is always up for grabs, the having of it and the losing of it are considered are newsworthy spectacles. The unhealthy obsession is pitiful. If the camera puts on 10lbs, many of those pictured on the red carpet at Cannes look close to hospitalisation.
At the bottom of the social scale, we can see that body mass is the one asset that poor people can be said to accumulate. The new vital statistics are scary. A third of girls under 20 are classified as overweight with 8% being clinically obsese (BMI over 30); 57% of older women are fat and 66% of men. This is why it is being suggested that the NHS offer Weight Watchers-type programmes. Lifestyle-management programmes and CBT are seen as cut-price preventative solutions to very complex problems.
Don't get me wrong, I have seen Weight Watchers be helpful for many people, and have even won a can of tuna at a quiz about the number of calories in a Pret salad. I have enjoyed Slimming World, especially the slap-up meal after the weekly weigh-in. Where else do you hang out with a barrister, a dinner lady, a teenage mum and an actress? Everyone has always been warm and supportive, the opposite of Matt Lucas's hilarious Fat Fighters sketch.
The weekly weigh works for many, as does the fact that nothing is forbidden but there is still a language of sins and treats within a points system. My friend used to say she was using 22 of her 24 points a day on white wine. But make no mistake, Weight Watchers is a massively rich organisation because losing weight is not as difficult as keeping it off.
All diet advice can be rendered in four words, "Eat less, move more", which would work if we were rational beings but our relationship to food is emotional. I mother myself with food but that food does not love me back. It never will. Which is pretty miserable. Pass the biscuits.
But for boring health reasons, that behaviour had to stop. There lies the rub. Or actually, chafing thighs. My idea of heaven is a dark snug with drink, food, friends, smoke. Hell is other people jogging. I can scarcely leave my house without bumping into some sweating, self-righteous fool cantering past me. Some with buggies! Truly the end of days.
It's not as if I haven't made similarly ridiculous efforts myself in the past: the fitness studio that I joined and went twice so that it worked out at £250 a visit. The strange soldier I trained with who never asked me my name but often talked of how he wanted to be a stunt man. The hippie detox in Devon with twice-a-day DIY colonic irrigation, no food and group therapy where you discuss the results of said colonics. Yes I am talking shit. I can definitely say that in my experience, the quickest way to lose weight is amoebic dysentery.
But I needed to take myself in hand and a friend recommended The Library in London (thelibrarygym.com). This is a private gym, and it's not cheap. The course I was offered cost £595.
There is nothing I like about gyms: the people; the clothes; the muscle Marys; the MTV; the mirrors; the monotony. Whereas, the idea of building movement into one's routine every day seems sensible. I have one of those pedometer things that I have never opened. I even have those horrible shoes that are somehow based on barefoot Masais, because let's face it, my life is very like that of a Masai warrior. I had hoped that liking walking, rather like enjoying gardening, would just happen to me. But no, and my superfit friends who have always run have now done their knees in. My doctor also said I had to do weight-bearing exercise for bones.
So by the time I met Zana Morris, who runs The Library, I felt pretty hopeless. Hopeless in the way only sausage rolls could help. She weighed and measured me and pinched my fat with claw-like callipers. She prescribed a 12-day programme of no sugar AT ALL. High fat/protein. Lots of avocado, nuts, olive oil, meat, fish and green veg. It is all to do with stabilising insulin, which makes sense, especially during menopause as women often produce too much cortisol. The diet looked doable. Except for one thing. No booze. Plus, the gym bit.
The only positive thing was that the session would last 15 minutes. The idea is to disturb the muscles enough to push up metabolism and enable fat-burning. The diet is about gaining muscle as opposed to weight loss.
The first thing that was wrong were my trainers. Too high. (Air Max.) My feet had to be flat? And then into the machine, and there I was doing squats with weights on my shoulders. Torture, but I realised I can do anything if I know it's only going to be 15 minutes. How else do "relationships" work?
After the first session my legs were jelly and all I could think was, "I will get to John Lewis and lie down in the bed department". But I got home. Weirdly, the diet was OK, except I felt a bit speedy and whinged the whole time about not having wine. Now have no friends.
Resistance and weight training are great because you can always do them. If not at one weight, at the one below. You feel powerful rather than pathetic. Food-wise, after a few days with no sugar, the dips and the cravings stop. But I could not have done any of this on my own. The trainers, Zana and Andre, answered my endless questions and were very encouraging.
Fit people are simply another species. One day when I was trying to bring the subject to drinking as a reward, someone said: "Can't you reward yourself with a nice set of abdominal stomach crunches?" What?
As I began reading the science behind this, I could see there is pretty much agreement on the evils of sugar. This is a huge industrial problem beyond individual willpower, demanding government regulation of the food industry. The other bit of the programme that appealed because I am so lazy is the growing support for the idea of short bursts of training being more beneficial than totally exhausting yourself.
The result of three weeks of this has been counterintuitive. On a high-fat diet, my cholesterol is down and my back doesn't ache any more. How to apply what I have learned not only for myself but for others? We must not eat so many carbohydrates. But there are no two ways about it, carbs are cheap, protein is expensive.
How can this work for most people? I learned that weight loss in itself is not what it's all about. Any crash diet will make you lose weight that is quickly put back on. Many low-calorie diets leave people feeling weak. There is no "before and after" here. I don't know how I will sustain all this, but I would like to. My weight has stayed much the same but I have lost three inches off my belly. And need new clothes.
It's possible I might have fish and chips and cava for tea today. But something has ripped apart the space/time continuum, because last week when I had a glass of prosecco I didn't like it!
Some of us will never be thin or even fit, but this new regimen has made me feel stronger. It makes me think of all those girls who hate PE just like I did. Their weight is always cast as a weakness. What they need to focus on, above all, is not just being thin, not simply counting calories, but what we can do to feel powerful. Then the weight will lift.