By Lucy Cavendish
Slimmed down: Lucy lost four stone after dieting but admits keeping the weight off is a constant battle
Three years ago, I was fat. I really was. I was a roly-poly great big lump of lard. I weighed 14st 4lb, far too much for my 5ft 8in frame. I’d go into High Street stores and despair that no clothes fitted me.
I’d stand in front of the mirror and stare in horror at my increasing curves. I didn’t just look fat — I looked as if I was about to give birth. It was so bad that people got up for me on trains.
A woman in a restaurant even came up and congratulated me on my pregnancy. ‘Not long now,’ she said encouragingly. I sat there, burning with shame and close to tears.
That’s what really did it. I decided then and there that I couldn’t bear being fat any more.
Like former Birds Of A Feather star Pauline Quirke, who this week revealed her new svelte figure after losing more than six stone, I decided there was only one thing for it. The excess baggage had to go.
Quirke lost her weight on the LighterLife diet — a drastic regime that requires women to eat no more than 500 calories a day. I lost four stone with WeightWatchers, which offers a less drastic approach. But we both achieved the same result, losing 30 per cent of our total body weight.
I am now — after three years of dieting and being extremely careful about what I eat — a healthy and light 10st 3lb. Every time I climb on the scales, I want to do a dance of pure joy. For the first time in 15 years, I’m slim. In fact, I’m actually lighter than I was in my early 20s.
Yet proud as I am, something crucial and unexpected has changed. It’s not only my body shape that has been transformed, but my personality, too.
It’s as if I have morphed into a different person on the inside, as well as outside.
From being a laid-back type, happy to eat, drink, be merry and have endless parties, I’ve become a rampant control freak.
Instead of cooking or spending time with my husband, I’m either doing stomach crunches in the sitting room or talking about how guilty I feel that I’ve eaten too much. I am, in short, a bore. I have that nervous energy I always used to associate with thin people.
I can’t sit down (if I sit, I might be tempted to eat). I won’t go out for dinner. I won’t let my husband cook for me in case he sneaks fat into things. I feel so sorry for him.
He used to show he loved me by cooking for the family. Now, he just stands there looking like someone’s chopped his arms off. He’s like a forlorn mother bird, desperate to feed me, but not knowing how to.
My lack of eating has probably done untold damage to our relationship. How do you relax with your loved one if she won’t eat or drink?
If we do go out for dinner, I spend so long worrying about what to consume that I’m surprised he doesn’t get up and leave.
I think he preferred me when I was a bit curvier, but he does like the new me. He says ‘gosh you’re tiny’ in an admiring voice, but he definitely misses the intimacy we had when we ate together.
Curvy: Lucy doesn't miss her pre-diet body
Now, he comes in from work and cooks himself a stir-fry and then eats it on his own. He then opens a bottle of wine and pours himself a glass. Meanwhile, I’m on the camomile tea and a slice of cucumber.
It’s a lonely life on both sides!
It’s not helped my relationship with my friends, either. Some of them (the thin ones) are delighted and encouraging. Others (the foodies) are appalled.
When I go round to their houses and refuse pasta smothered in parmesan, chicken cooked in cream, and gateau, I know I am hurting their feelings. It gets worse when I wave away the wine, the brandy and even the glasses of fizz.
‘You used to be such fun!’ they say, giving my husband sympathetic looks. ‘Yes, I was fun, but I was also fat,’ is my retort.
I have also turned into a terrible, judgmental fat-ist. Every time I see someone who is overweight, I want to scream at them: ‘Go on a diet!’
I have friends who drive me so mad with their overeating that I want to tape their mouths shut. Recently, I fell out with a friend when I commented rather acerbically on why she was eating an entire bar of chocolate for her pudding. We haven’t spoken since.
But now I’m thin, I can’t bear fat people’s lack of self-control, their gluttony, their inability to see what harm they are doing to themselves. I’m like one of those TV evangelists.
If I see someone about to munch down one of those huge baguettes filled with brie, I feel like screaming. The sight of a chocolate muffin can bring me out in hives. I feel it’s my duty to explain constantly to everyone how much better I feel now I am thin.
Do I look better? Of course I do! It’s certainly true that people — particularly men — like you more when you are thin. I am sure some of my friends miss the old me, but I don’t.
I don’t want to be bovine, chewing the cud and watching the world go by. I want to be able to move and run and not be weighed down. If my friends don’t like me this way, then tough.
I also get congratulated on how much weight I have lost. People seem so proud of me. ‘You look great,’ is the refrain, ‘and so thin!’
I feel younger, sexier, more agile, more attractive, more powerful — and less paranoid and self-hating.
Transformed: Emmerdale actress Pauline Quirke has lost a huge six stone after years of being overweight with Lighter Life
But, despite it all, there lurks this dark side to being thin, as I am sure Pauline Quirke will discover. There’s a tyranny involved in keeping slim, for in every former-fat person, there is still a fatty waiting to get out again.
I adore cake, biscuits and ice cream, so I find it hard to have anything sweet in the house.
I tend to buy biscuits for the children and the occasional packet of crisps, but I always try to get the flavours I don’t like. If I do, in a moment of weakness, buy a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, I’ll eat the whole lot in one go. Then I’ll feel so sick and full of remorse that I want to kill myself.
I also spend endless hours obsessing about food, dreaming up all the delicious dishes I could eat. To avoid this, I chew on a couple of prawns — no dressing — hoping that my hunger pangs will go away.
Healthy eating: But Lucy admits sticking to low fat foods makes meal times less interesting
Even my dreams have changed. I used to be a good sleeper. Now, I have recurring nightmares in which I’ve eaten so much that I’ve put all the weight back on again.
There are days when all I want to do is eat biscuits. There are days when all I actually do is eat biscuits. But then there’s the terrible guilt afterwards. It’s almost unbearable.
I’ve become the sort of woman who apologises for eating a square of chocolate.
To offset this occasional secret biscuit-eating, I exercise like a fanatic.
I do yoga for an hour or more every day. I walk for an hour-and-a-half. I run and swim and take a boxercise class. If I miss any activity, I beat myself up about it and do extra the next day.
But it’s not all terrible! Honestly. It’s great to feel fitter. It’s wonderful to look better. If I could just stop being quite so paranoid and be more accepting of others and just relax, life would be perfect!
Oh, be forewarned Pauline. Thinness is a psychological battlefield. It really, really is.