I’ve always liked routine and being brought up in Spain, food is a very important part of our life. Since I can remember, I had the same thing to eat for breakfast: what we call in the UK “French bread”, I normally had it with olive oil and salt. It was delicious and I never got bored of eating it. When I moved to the UK 25 years ago, I made sure that I found a place that sold French bread daily and I tried different extra virgin olive oils until I found one that had a similar taste to the one my mum used to buy. So for almost 40 years, I had been having the same breakfast everyday, until recently….
As a PCOS sufferer I knew how important it was to keep my weight under control, and although I had never been on a diet as such, I was always aware of how many calories things had, how many pieces of chicken I would put in my fajitas, how many biscuits I could have with my tea, etc. After a lot of effort and some help from the fertility clinic I had my two girls, so I thought maybe this was the time to relax a little bit and start eating like a “normal person”. So I stopped counting, stopped paying attention and slowly but surely the weight started creeping up. My morning baguette was slowly getting bigger and I noticed that I would get very anxious and even sometimes angry if there was no French bread at home in the mornings.
With the children growing up and starting school, I found that I had more time for myself and I began exercising again. I had made some friends with the same interests and I got into the world of running, open water swimming and eventually the very exciting Triathlon World. Although I was exercising at least 6-7 hours a week, I wasn’t getting particularly thinner. Being a doctor I always thought exercise was good for weight loss, that is what we were taught and what I had been telling my patients during all my years in practice. But in reality, exercise made me really hungry and all of the books I read about endurance sport and training talked about how you should make sure you ate enough carbohydrates to see you through the training sessions and the race. I started to question if exercise was indeed a way of losing weight.
My two best friends, both much better athletes than me, also commented on my breakfast habits and this time I really started wondering if the Mediterranean diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and grains was actually that healthy if it didn’t stop me piling up the kilograms despite all the exercise I was doing.
When sometimes, jokingly, I would made a remark about my round tummy to my friends, they would both answer the same thing: “It is the baguette!.” I would always laugh and tell them that my diet was perfectly healthy and that I was probably burning three times the calories I ate in my breakfast everyday with all the running and swimming that I was doing. In reality, I was fooling myself, I just didn’t want to stop eating my French bread.
One day in the summer, during the Triathlon season, I went to sleep in one of my friend’s houses before one of the races because we were car sharing. Before I went, I asked her if she had any French bread for the morning breakfast and she said no. I turned up at her house the night before the race with a French Baguette and a bottle of olive oil. She just laughed and said: ” It is like the bread is your best friend!.” And it was…
The only bread that I was eating all day was my breakfast baguette with olive oil but it was becoming such an obsession that in some moments, not many I must confess, I thought it was similar to an addiction. I was angry and frustrated if there was no bread in the morning, I would take my bread to places if I was spending the night out, I would think about my breakfast at night and sometimes I would check how much bread was left at night before going to bed.
Until the day that I saw myself in a photo. We were doing an open water swimathlon and the three of us were at the lake early in the morning. We had to swim 5k between us which, to be honest, was a piece of cake. We took turns swimming and we had time to take a lot of photographs. At the end of the day, we had had a great time, got a medal and about 20 pictures. We then started sharing our photos on our WhatsApp group and that’s when I saw it. There was a massive woman dressed on a wet suit next to a very athletic person, and the massive woman was me!
It was a real shock. First I was shocked that I had never noticed how big I was, fortunately but also strangely, my BMI was still under 25 but the way I looked was not like a person with a healthy weight! Second, I was shocked that none of my friends or relatives had said anything about my weight, ever! Not even my husband. When I ask them now, they all say: “We didn’t see you overweight.” “We didn’t notice that your weight was creeping up.” “It is difficult when you see someone everyday.”
After that day, I reflected on things for a couple of days. I knew that I needed to lose weight but I also knew that the baguette was a problem. It was controlling my life in ways that nothing before had. I was obsessed with it, I wanted it, it made me happy and I didn’t want to give it up, but I had to. I refused to let something have so much power over me, and I was also scared that this happened without me even realising. What could happen next? I would need bread for lunch, for dinner, as a snack?. So the next morning, I made my French Bread toast for the last time. I enjoyed it with sadness but also with firm determination to not let it win the battle. I was going to start a low carb diet.
Since then, my breakfast is one of my most changeable meals of the day. I eat greek yogourt with berries, bacon and sausages, eggs, omelettes, vegetables, humous, cheese, ham, and low carb bread if there is any but if there isn’t I don’t care. I am not obsessed with my breakfast, it doesn’t rule my life and it doesn’t ruin my life. As a bonus, I lost 12 kilograms and as a consequence I run faster, swim better and feel better in myself than before.
Several triathlons, half marathons, one marathon and multiple other races later, changing the way I used to eat has been one of the best decisions of my life. It is not only that my sports performance has improved, but also it is the way I feel. I work long hours and my job means that I am always dealing with a certain amount of stress, “feeling tired all the time” was something that I thought was a normal consequence of working hard and training hard. It turns out it was a consequence of the way I was eating. I am now working even harder than ever and training as much as always but I am full of energy. But the best gift of all, the thing that I treasure the most and I that I would never ever trade for anything is the lack of obsessions. French bread is not highjacking my thoughts anymore. I am free.