Just two messages - two little threads of hope, two little paths to follow - were all that it took. To be precise, one little book in the post and one email link and I was suddenly set back on some kind of track. It was just as they said in the coaching books I'd become morbidly addicted to: baby steps, little changes, mini-successes were the way to go about changing your life.
My first tiny success came in the form of a commission - my first for many months - the result of a contact name I'd been given by a colleague. Writing on my woeful state of unemployability, the article was cathartic to write and what's more, I did it without so much as a mild case of anxiety - let alone a panic attack. I could write without becoming a gibbering wreck/devilwoman/crazed nutcase.
Buoyed by this, I flicked through the Weightwatchers book I'd received. I'd always been dismissive of 'diets' (hmm...could that be why I was so fat?) and I hated the idea of having to turn up every week to be weighed-in (more to the point, I resented the idea of having to pay for the priviledge). But, with the book to hand now, at no cost to myself, I reasoned that I could just look at the principles and try it out - mini step by mini step, no pressure, no obligation, no real expectation.
At first glance, it seemed that I was already doing everything right. 'That figures!' I snorted, self-righteously, stubbornly convinced that nothing would ever stop the incredible expanding woman. Still, I casually added up my 'points' and over the next few days, made a few little half-hearted alterations to my existing dietry habits: I switched to skimmed milk (yuk), had a salad for lunch and cut out little extras like cheese toppings and salad dressing. Baby steps, I thought.
Within one week, I - the enigma woman - the woman who moaned continuously that she could not lose an ounce whatever she did - had lost 4 pounds. Energised by this victory, I put more energy into the enterprise, adding a few further changes - making sure though, that my alcohol quota was sufficient to keep me happy of an evening. Unbelievably, the weight kept dropping off. I began to feel like a complete fraud. All that complaining, all that indignation, all that outrage - for what? I'd been quite capable of losing weight all the time - I just hadn't known how.
As the coaching books say - success builds on success. Over the next few months I got sudden commissions, started writing more prolifically, finally got invited to interview for some jobs, got offered a job (which I turned down), passed my counselling course and discussed the possibility of completing my PhD with someone at my university who at last seemed genuinely interested in my work. I joined a Rock Choir (to fulfil the Wendy Craig, creative-type evening class thing) and I kept on losing weight.
So here I am now: 2 stone five pounds lighter, my jeans hang off me and my t-shirts cling but no longer ride up above my belly. I can walk without waddling, I can run without feeling like a lumberjack and I can wave at someone without flaps of flesh wobbling uncontrollably under my arms. And I'm INCREDIBLY SMUG about it . "Have you lost weight?" people ask me nowadays. "Why yes," I reply with a satisfied grin, "two and a half stone!" (well almost) "It was easy," I add with a patronising flourish, waggling my firm behind for good measure.
I've now become the sort of person I would have envied - if not despised - five months ago: a self-satisfied, slim hipped middle aged woman, who is happy in the knowledge that there is more to life than children and is doing something about it. I'll be starting my PhD in September, I'm performing at Guilford festival with my Rock Choir and I've just finished training to become a volunteer for a charity helping families with small children. Not bad going in half a year.
I'd like to say 'IN YOUR FACE' but I don't really know who to say it to - perhaps I don't have to say it to anyone in particular :
IN YOUR FACE previous life!
Next baby step - to stop being so bleeding full of myself. Goal for this month: that this will be the very last time I will be quite so smug.- promise!