Emma Bartley’s ongoing struggle to fit into her jeans. This week: how working cycling into her daily routine brought about a permanent change in her weight
It’s been a bad few weeks for Size 13. I’ve been working a lot, working out very little, and eating junk more or less constantly. Snacks. Overly large meals. Evening binges. Alcohol. The lot.
I do this when I’m stressed, but my compulsive chomping hit its height on Friday last week, when someone in my office had a birthday and there was a huge breakfast spread – of which I managed half a bagel with some salmon, a raisin whirl, 2 yum yums, a chocolate brioche and some fruit. Well, you’ve got to get your five a day, haven’t you. Someone else had been on holiday so there were also two huge bags of M&Ms, of which my inner fatty prescribed herself two handfuls to be taken every ten minutes.
As a result of this greed, my inner fatty is becoming my outer fatty. When I joined the gym in March 2010, I weighed in at 73kg, which was towards the upper end of the “normal” range for my 5’ 10” height. But I discovered spinning classes, which I enjoyed, and started to get into a routine of three or four gym visits a week including running and weights, and to eat a little more carefully. By the time of my wedding, in September 2011, my size 12 clothes fitted, I’d gone down a cup size and the scales said 67kg.
Yesterday, they recorded a hefty 73.3kg. The weight that it took me some 18 months to lose – all those spinning classes, hated runs and healthy salad lunches – had gone back on in just a few months. It’s not muscle; it’s a layer of fat that has visibly settled on my stomach, bum, hips, upper arms and thighs. I have a spare tyre, I have muffin tops, and no amount of euphemism makes me feel anything other than depressed about it because I am fatter than I want to be and I know just how hard it’s going to be, bearing in mind my refusal ever to go on a diet, to work it all off again.
But while I’m thinking about how many steps back I’ve taken, I must acknowledge how far I’ve still come. There was a time, just after I finished university – three heavy eating, heavy drinking, utterly sedentary years – when I was pushing 80kg.
Partly because it was cheap, and partly because my super-sporty then-boyfriend was encouraging it, I brought my old bike from my parents’ house to my shared house in Chorlton, Manchester and started slowly cycling the five miles to and from my first job in the city. Adding up to roughly an hour’s exercise per day, this made a gradual but undeniable difference as my then-size 15 frame went down to a size 13. (I’m not making this half-size thing up, you know, I don’t know if it’s my height but I almost never seem to be bang on.) And because I've kept it up, that weight has never gone back on.
So while I spend the week shunning the sunshine to hit my target of five gym visits, if you’re a size 13 with no exercise regime, it’s a great week to get on your bike. Cycle commuting makes exercise part of your existing schedule, so you don’t have to find any extra time for it. You don’t need any special gear apart from a helmet – even lights aren’t necessary at this time of year unless you work very late – and a lot of offices now have a shower so you don’t have to risk arriving sweaty or ruining your clothes. In cities it’s often the quickest way to get around, and even accounting for the cost of the bike is significantly cheaper than public transport or driving. For me, a two-way Tube journey adds up to about £1,200 a year – if you wanted to spend that on a bike, you could get a pretty sweet ride.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the Get the Gloss showers. Feeling fat – but not as fat as I would be if I hadn’t pedalled all the way here from a size 15.