Several years ago I watched two of my work colleagues literally shrink before my eyes. I hadn’t known that they were dieting, but the rapid change in their size meant they could not hide it. I asked them both what they were doing and one of them told me she was doing a food replacement diet called Lighterlife. I was 16 stone and a size 22 at the time and I was fascinated, particularly because both of them smiled so much and looked so happy on the diet. I had to think they were onto something. A few months later, I myself would embark on Lighterlife, on a journey that would result in me losing over 100lb myself and totally changing my life for ever.
As it would turn out, I would end up sharing my weight loss journey with them both. But particularly one of them, Annie, who I ended up working alongside in complementary jobs and who became a really good friend of mine. We both talked about why we had got into problems with food and we both supported each other through working out our own solutions. And when we both finished Lighterlife we helped each other work out how we would maintain our weight loss. We understood how important managing our weight was to us and how it would always be part of our lives, even when our brains were pretty full of the high powered, very stressful jobs we held at the time. I will always credit Annie with being the person who inspired me to lose weight, who gave me the belief and confidence to think I could actually do it. Who helped me see I could maintain my weight loss but also someone who always supported me to not give myself a hard time if I couldn’t stay as small as I might want to be.
Annie moved back to her native Australia a few years ago. Before she went she gave me a present of a note book which had lemons on the front, a reference to our weight-loss counselling. She said it was to be a book for me to write my new weight conscious recipes in. That book is still my main book for my low fat, sugar free recipe development.
With Anne in Australia you can imagine that one of the highlights for me of my recent round the world trip was that we would stay with her. It was all arranged, but then, in March, she sent me a devastating email. She had been diagnosed with leukaemia and was having chemo. So when we were in Melbourne, we were lucky enough to spend one afternoon with her in April. She had lost her hair but she actually looked really well. She was still the same very beautiful Annie I’d always known. She sounded determined to beat the disease and was putting on a very brave face. So it was an appalling shock to find out earlier this week that Annie had lost her fight. I cannot tell you how sad I am about this; the world has been a far bleaker place this week knowing she is no longer in it.
It wasn’t just me she connected with. Facebook messages with other work colleagues showed how much she also impacted on many of them too. Words used over again like so kind and caring, so thoughtful, graceful, generous, warm, human, inspirational, positive and wonderful at her job came up time and time again in messages.
The day I heard about her death, before finding out, I moved home to a place I don’t really want to live and I’d spent the morning moaning about it. Talk about putting things in perspective. I am also still on a food replacement diet to lose my travel weight, and to be honest I’m finding it really hard going. So of course, I hear the dreadful news and throughout the day I just want to eat – not just to eat good healthy food, but comforting, sugary, fatty food.
Instead I went for a swim. As I swam up and down I thought about what Anne would have said to me if I’d said that too her. She would have laughed and kindly chided in a very nice way for running so true to type – stress or upset and I eat. Then she would have said in her calming ozzie lilt, that it would be up to me not her. If I did decide to eat, to enjoy it and to not beat myself up over it. But then, to not let it be the start of the end either and think this means the diet is out of the window. She would have reminded me how I can do it, how strong I have been about dieting in the past, and to be kinder to myself.
At this workplace we were in the business of developing really innovative solutions to a major problem of public policy and practice. It was a place that espoused a no blame culture. We used to have this saying. “We are where we are”; our challenge was to work out how to move on from the current position. It’s the same with dieting or keeping weight off.
I think that approach is sage advice for anyone who is trying to diet or manage their weight and falls off the wagon now and then.
So in memory of the wonderful, beautiful, inspirational Anne, lets all determine to be kinder to ourselves and kinder to each other. To be grateful for our health and for all the wonderful, healthy amazing food we can eat. To remember our own strength and not always just give in, but if we do to not beat ourselves up about it. To not sweat the small stuff.
I am so grateful Annie that I knew you and was your friend. I will miss having you as a friend more than you probably ever knew.