Michelle Bridges: "If we're serious about getting girls to participate in sport … maybe we should start with avoiding same-sex PE and sports sessions."

"Losing weight isn't as simple as 'just stop eating'" … Michelle Bridges. Photo: Ellis Parrinder

No one knows what it's like to be grossly overweight unless they have been in that space. As a community, we're quick to make judgments and draw conclusions – but that is from the outside looking in.

The physical and emotional toll of having a 40-plus body mass index (BMI) is something that is hard to understand unless you've been there. I haven't, but I feel privileged that on occasion I've had the opportunity to see what life is like for people with serious weight issues, and to get some understanding of how it feels to be so heavy that regular, everyday activities are affected.

Grossly overweight people have shared thought-provoking stories with me. Stories of low self-esteem and self-confidence. Of ridicule and being judged. Sad stories. When I talk to these people, it becomes obvious just how difficult life is at every level. Things most of us take for granted – sitting in an aircraft, cutting your toenails – are often difficult or even impossible. They truly believe they simply aren't good enough, and they don't try to do something about it because they are scared to fail.

Cauliflower and celeriac Madras curry.

Cauliflower and celeriac Madras curry. Photo: Lisa Cohen

The most profound thing for them is that losing weight isn't as simple as "just stop eating". Frequently, these people were never given the tools to control their weight as a child, and they were brought up with a completely distorted view of food and nourishment. The skills that they need to solve eating problems themselves are often lacking, and they need caring and attentive guidance on nutrition and exercise.

Furthermore, when they do lose weight, the emotions that come up during that process are frequently the same ones that they have suppressed with food in the past, so sticking with eating plans becomes doubly difficult. Imagine the crutch that you've used all your life to help you through sadness, anger and frustration being taken away, and these same emotions being brought to the surface more regularly by trying to stick to a challenging eating plan.

Putting your body through the physical change of weight loss frequently puts us through an emotional change at the same time. When these emotions have been suppressed with food in the past - well, that's a tough situation.

Michelle's tip
If you're trying to lose weight, give yourself permission to be sad, angry and frustrated. It is all a normal part of the process.



Cauliflower and celeriac Madras curry

What a clever way to enjoy your vegies and satisfy your love for curry, all at the same time. If time is short, you can use 1 tbsp of a ready-made Madras curry paste instead of the garlic, ginger and spices.


2 tbsp tomato paste

375ml water

cooking oil spray

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp ginger, finely grated

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp chilli powder

½ cup low-kilojoule yoghurt

800g celeriac, trimmed, peeled and cut into chunks

freshly cracked black pepper

500g cauliflower, broken into florets

¼ cup coriander leaves

2 tbsp slivered almonds, roasted


Combine tomato paste and water in a jug.

Spray a large saucepan with oil and heat on medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes until soft. Stir in garlic, ginger and spices and cook until fragrant. Add yoghurt and stir to combine. Stir in diluted tomato paste. Add celeriac and stir to coat. Season with pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes.

Scatter curry with coriander and almonds, then serve.


Cooking tips
Diluting tomato paste in water or stock before adding it to curries or stews helps to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan.

For a Madras chicken curry, reduce the amount of celeriac and cauliflower by a quarter and stir through 125g sliced chicken breast at the end.


Recipe from Losing the Last 5 Kilos by Michelle Bridges (Viking).