Overweight And Then Founding A Chocolate Business
I seem to get asked on a regular basis 'How do you manage to remain slim running a chocolate business?'. Good question … you see … I wasn’t always slim. I was extremely ‘plump’ … as my brother would continually remind me. The word ‘fatty’ ricochets around my memory. A good sized 14 and with it frustrated and unhappy, or more accurately, depressed.
To end up founding a chocolate company was so not on my radar. Imagine being surrounded by divine sweetness in pretty large quantities.
Strangely though I eat more fat and consume more chocolate than I ever did when I was overweight and yo yo dieting.
Why was I overweight?
At the time I couldn’t answer this question. It was a firmly shut door and the key to open it eluded me for many years. I have a striking and very slim mother who eats … A LOT … cakes, puddings … you name it and she never puts on a stitch of weight. She looked stunning in whatever she wore. How annoying is that. I looked a blob. Believe me. She would slip into a size 10, I would breathe in and just about 'do' a size 14.
These were the days when nutritional information was very limited or more to the point, absent. Ingredient lists ran to paragraphs; there was a lot of hydrogenated this and hydrogenated that and E’s numbers which would make up a chapter. (If we knew then what we know now …).
AND I absolutely loved/love food (though please never ever EVER feed me roast pork, rice pudding, semolina and/or dried fruit).
I tucked into, dare I say it, homemade Mars Bar chocolate cakes as if they were healthy salads, each mouthful sending me to a place I adored. I mean who worries … until you are rewarded some time later with an extra inch on the waist or an extra wobble or two on the thighs … then you most definitely do. Right?
Exercise was considered a hearty walk rewarded with a large feast, gyms barely existed; there was the odd step class which required a mental art of coordination to avoid feeling a fool and falling off the step midst ‘Round The World’. Anyone else join me and remember these days …
As I started to shed the weight I began to understand the complex layers of why we eat, what we eat, how we eat and when we eat. Apart from the obvious ones mentioned above … these ranged from self-worth (or rather lack of), to inadequate understanding about which foods suited my system (as with our DNA I believe our systems require a personalised diet) and for emotional protection.
How did I lose the weight?
I went fat free … didn’t work.
I went to the gym every day … didn’t work.
I starved for a few days … it worked BUT I then was so hungry I binged SO … it didn’t work. (WARNING: Please do not try this at home).
I lived on a calorie-controlled diet … it worked BUT deprivation and exclusion of a lot of the foods I loved didn’t work.
I began to really want to lose it … hopefully avoiding sounding tacky … I wanted to morph and felt strong enough to face my vulnerabilities.
One turning point included breaking my foot which didn’t mend correctly and led me to about 10 or so weeks in plaster.
Always one for adventure, without much due diligence, I upped sticks and headed to live in Kenya. (I left a good job for a private doctor’s practice and had recently bought flat … so you can imagine my parents response). Within two weeks I was in hospital on a drip with suspected Salmonella! Digressing so back to the point.
I then broke my foot - it snapped like a piece of wood as a rug slipped from under me. The Kenyan hospital popped it in plaster for 4 weeks but it remained broken. I came back to the UK and had a bone-graft from my hip to my right foot with an added extra of a screw to hold it in place. This meant 6 weeks in plaster. 6 whole weeks, of not being able to exercise, of potentially eating ‘comfort foods’ and getting, dare I say it, LARGE. How was I going to mentally take lying prone/180 degrees most of the 24 hours in each day, eating and not putting on weight? With retrospect I realise it helped me shake up my dietary lifestyle; from which I have never looked back.
I immediately cut down on stodge or in my vocab ‘heavy’ starchy foods; pasta and bread were the main players. I always sneaked in a bit of chocolate … weak spot … obviously!
From this 6 weeks I continued to eliminate gluten from my diet. It was a challenge … the only bread without gluten in at the time was made by The Village Bakery and gluten free pasta was somewhat lacking in pleasure. Forget the Free From aisles … I was considered a pain in the backside by family and friends who struggled with how they could feed me.
I began to live the Hay Diet way avoiding food combining and aimed for wholefoods, removing any foods which had lengthy ingredient lists, devoured fruit, vegetables, fish and chicken.
And I began to shrink slowly, but naturally, to who I felt I really was.
Back to School ... Complementary Therapy
I became fascinated by the human body and the power it governs over us. With this I was drawn into complementary therapy and explored Thai massage, nutrition, herbal medicine and finally aromatherapy.
Training as a massage therapist revealed the importance of touch, movement of the body and the importance of deep relaxation for optimum health. I used to treat people in their homes … oh yes there is a tale or two to tell but that is deviating and not professional … I promptly had an accident on my bike and was dealt with the challenge of a broken left elbow and right wrist. As soon as I recovered I headed to the US to travel for 6 months and forgot massage. On my return I went to the University of Westminster to learn more about nutrition and herbal medicine. Finally, I qualified at Tisserand as an aromatherapist. (I went on to take 6-month cancer care course using aromatherapy working in hospitals and hospices on the course. A sharp prod to treasure one’s health).
The above is with me when I create my recipes and source ingredients. Purity, quality and satiation.
All of this helped me become who I am; self-worth, understanding the importance of a good diet along with regular exercise and mental wellness.
With this insight I worked out the foods which seem to work for my individual system; plenty of nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken, game, chocolate (70% or higher wherever possible).
The other discovery was learning that inside we are all so very different, as with our DNA, and so what foods work for one most definitely don't work with another.
Why did I want to lose the weight?
I wanted to look, in my exhaustingly critical mind, good. I wanted to be me.
I was ready to begin to reveal who I was and shed the childhood misconceptions and protective padding.
How do I feel with my current weight?
Firstly, I don’t ever weigh myself. Never. Ever. It would make me too obsessed. I gauge it on my clothes – if the waist band is tightening I know I am heading in the wrong direction and need to revisit balance.
How do I maintain my weight?
- strive to eat well with minimal processed food. I don’t touch ready meals although they have improved a lot.
- eat a ton of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, cheese, occasional fish, chicken and game.
- weak spot: daily fix of fine chocolate (mainly my own 😉)
- drink a lot of water. Enjoy a sip or two of good wine 😊.
- remain disciplined. Appreciate my body and what it has to do on a daily basis to live. Value it. Treasure it.
- remember to laugh, to live in the moment (a challenge a lot of the time), a bit of yoga, odd meditating spells, gym cycling (after 2 bike accidents I am a tad lily-livered to hit London roads again).
Thrive, Arianna Huffington
Fats that Harm, Fats that Heal Udo Erasmus
The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Howard C Cutler
This is my story about the issues I had with being overweight for who I felt I was. This is by no means meant as a judgement against any soul. We are who we are.