Archive | November, 2011

Surviving Christmas – lesson one!

25 Nov

Well, it’s a month until Christmas. I can guarantee that the thought going through your head is that you are bound to put on weight over the festive season?

This will be my third Christmas of ‘losing weight and keeping it off’  and I can very honestly say that I have enjoyed the past two, continued to lose weight through the first and didn’t put on a single pound during the second.

Ok, it’s not simple, it takes just as much effort and organisation as present buying or juggling the relatives, but it is worth it not to have the feeling of dread in January of all the extra effort that you have to make or that you have to re-train your brain and stomach all over again wiping out all the fantastic work you’ve done all year. All for the sake of over-eating for a few days?

I do have an alternative plan, it follows my usual approach, minimal deprivation but also enjoying food! Over the next couple of weeks I will share some of my tips and tricks – and some of them are just that too and they do work.

As you will know by now, one of the things that made a huge difference to how I approached food was learning about it. If I visualise how many calories are in different portion sizes, I can live with having far smaller portion than I did in the past.

A Thanksgiving turkey that had been soaked for...

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For example the average Christmas lunch with all the trimmings is around 1500 calories – almost your whole daily allowance! So if you reduce the things you know push that up – the stuffing, roast potatoes etc then you also reduce the impact!  And I bet you won’t notice two less potatoes?

One thing that did shock me wasn’t the main ‘meals’ but the extras that we only have at Christmas and New Year, these are really the things that make the difference and we’re not helped here by the supermarkets.

How many of us already have tins of chocolate and sweets in the cupboard because they were on a ‘buy one get one free’ offer or massively reduced?  Do you eat them because they’re there, even though you’re full? I don’t buy them anymore, I spend the same amount on a box of really expensive chocolates, by that I mean rather than the hundred or so in the tin, you get twelve if you’re lucky!  It feels more extravagant and I enjoy them far more, I don’t feel the need to eat them all at one, rather make them last.  Don’t knock it, it does work!

Then there’s the Baileys’, I love the stuff however it is lethal. I’m sure they put a chemical in it to ensure one is never enough!  Remember too that the measure you pour at home is bound to be far bigger than a pub glass, there are over 320 calories in every 100ml. It’s worth getting your measuring jug out to see what that looks like – it’s quite scary?  I use a shot glass now, simple but it works, I buy a smaller bottle too.

So lesson one:

1. Learn about the calories in festive food, especially the ones you only have at this time of year!

2. Continue to use the reduce by 25% rule.

3. Don’t get sucked into the supermarket offers – try a different approach for sweets and chocolate?

4. Buy a smaller glass for the Baileys!

Lesson two to follow…..


Fat & Happy?

18 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, for me it’s quite a soul searcher?

There’s been a lot of talk in the press about celebs who are losing weight, after the wonderful photos of Dawn French, there are new ones of Nigella Lawson, looking thinner and like Dawn very happy and postively glowing.

Of course the press have focused on the fact that while they were bigger that they presented themselves as happy, it’s almost now as if they are being punished for this and that they are now betraying the larger woman?

So as a larger woman was I happy?  Yes I told people that I was happy, this went on for years, I celebrated retailers who started to stock larger size clothes, I protested at the injustice I believed larger people were subjected to and I wanted acceptance no matter what my size?

Now I know differently. I know that because I couldn’t accept that changing was achievable, that this is a kind of security mechanism. I didn’t know what a smaller life could look like and I certainly didn’t think I could get there?

I don’t feel like I am betraying my old self, that wasn’t a real representation of what my life could be like.  When we are bigger we need reassurance, our self esteem is often very low, we present a happy front because we have to, if we’re seen to be bubbly and cheerful we gain acceptance from others and within we can convince ourselves that there isn’t a problem.

So Dawn and Nigella, carry on with what you’re doing, you look great and happy, you shouldn’t need to apologise for that?  I’m not saying that everyone needs to be thin (that’s a whole new post on how too thin can really age you), more that fit and healthy is important especially as you get older and that perhaps being bigger and happy isn’t always what it seems?  What makes me happy now are all the opportunities being smaller, fitter and healther than I have ever been and the realisation of what my bigger life was really like.

I found the photo yesterday – this is me in 2003 during a Comic Relief fundraising event – I didn’t sport pink pigtails normally – it’s a good example of looking big and ‘happy’, I can assure you, it wasn’t really the case, I just wasn’t ready to be honest with myself yet.

Light Therapy

15 Nov
Light Therapy Lamp (in use), type Philips HF33...

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I suffer from a degree of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it seems to have got worse over the last couple of years and in only the second week post the clocks going back I am already seeing my symptoms creeping back. The little black clouds were following me around and even with my increased amount of sleep I was groggy.

I want to take control of this in any way so I ordered a light box after struggling to wake up properly in the gloom of the day, even after some pretty strenuous exercise (went to the pool for a fast 50 lengths (best time post surgery!) and then some weight work and a couple of kilometres on the bike in the gym).  Exercise is supposed to help and I have to say I did feel a bit better when I got home but still not right.

Today is the first day with the light box – it will be interesting, I know how alive (and awake) I felt over the summer spending more time in the sun so I’m looking forward to seeing of there is any effect/ I’ve bought a portable one so I can take it to work if I need to, the recommendation is at least an hours use a day to see any effect and you need to keep at it.

I’m determined that this year will be better!  Well I will at least give it a go!

Keeping it up!

13 Nov

A few people have asked me how I’ve managed to keep up the motivation to keep going with the exercise, well as I’ve mentioned before it’s two-fold.

1. I know what my life was like before and there is no going back – so keeping active (and that’s not just about ‘exercise’) is a vital part of that.

2. I love food, so exercise ensures that passion can continue!

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

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Keeping active though is now part of my life and I have a firm belief that it has to be that way for it to mean anything. I do around 4-5 sessions a week, in the pool, the gym, a good walk or one session might be having a really busy day of rushing around!   It’s all about being active!

So people, there is no way around it, if you want it to mean anything you do need to do it regularly, there is little or even no point in doing one big session every couple of weeks – to be harsh you might as well not bother I’m afraid. The simple truth is that you have to get more active all the time for it to work!

My lesson from all this was quite simple, until I had lost 3 stone I just wasn’t fit enough or had enough energy to sustain regular exercise and that had to come from reducing my food intake. You won’t lose weight from exercise alone especially if you have more than a stone to lose.  It’s just biology and as we get older it gets even more difficult so brace yourself, it will take some effort to make an impact – but remember it will be worth it, I can make you that sincere promise!  There aren’t any short cuts though if you want it to be sustainable.

I love winter food so over the last couple of weeks I’ve been increasing my exercise rate, so now the pool sessions are up from a standard 40 to 50 lengths now and in the gym, I’m doing more weights, started using the cross trainer and have added in an extra bike ride.  And there is a beef casserole bubbling away in the oven to be served with buttery mashed potato!

I love my new life, the exercise makes an impact on so many levels, physical, emotional and it’s even led to new friends who think like me and provide lots of invaluable support!  And that makes the effort worthwhile.

So pair up the exercise and eating less, give it a go, you will get more energy and even if it feels like REALLY hard work at the beginning, it will get easier and hopefully you will enjoy it.  The end result makes it so worth it.

Get the tape measure out!

10 Nov
A tape measure.

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As well as what the scales may be telling you, one of the important indicators of losing weight (and keeping it off) is what you measure.  I didn’t measure myself before I started which is something I do regret. However last summer before I started my gym work, I was measured, I was amazed at the results 3 months later, although I hadn’t lost more than a couple of pounds I lost centimetres off all my key measurements!  That’s what exercise can do – you tone and will change shape, you get fitter but you won’t necessarily lose weight.  I lost at least a dress size.

So if you’re thinking about starting out to lose some weight, get the tape measure out.  You want to measure the following.

  • Bust – around your rib cage and across the widest part of your bust
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Upper thigh
  • Calf
  • Upper Arm
  • Across the top of your back

and if you’re really interested measure your ankles, wrists, ring finger, and neck. One of the things that has found its way to the charity shop has been a lot of jewellery – from bracelets to rings, all now too big.

I am more proud of my measurements than I was really about my weight loss because it also shows the effect the exercise has had – I’ve toned and changed my body shape.  It was always one of those really key motivators and keeps me on the straight and narrow!  See if it could work for you, especially if you are planning a joint eating/exercise plan, you might find it more motivating!

Well done Dawn!

6 Nov
Dawn French at the

Image via Wikipedia

Dawn French has always been one of those women I most admire.

When I was bigger I thought she was great, I even met her a couple of times through work. She also owns an online clothes store for larger ladies and I saved up once to buy a tunic, I also coveted a coat I saw her wearing, I thought she was a great supporter and role model for women like me.

Following her divorce and a realisation that her weight was leading to health problems she decided to lose weight. She’s done it in a controlled way too.  Her motivation has been that she didn’t want to miss her daughter’s life, she realised that her weight could jeopardise that.

She looks great after losing 4 stones and I really do hope that it makes her happy now when she looks in a mirror. I’m sure her motivators also now include how wonderful and young she looks!  She is positively glowing!

The photo is of Dawn a few years ago – if you want to see her now – click here.  It’s an amazing transformation!  She’s proved at 52 you can do it, and now I admire her even more!  Looks like she’s been on the same journey as me – pleased to see her wearing heels, I too am now wearing them and it feels very good, it’s hard to do it when you’re bigger!

It’s never too late and even if like Dawn and me you have a big amount of weight to lose it can be done, even without excessive exercise!   Go on give it a go – you could be smiling as much as Dawn and me!


4 Nov

I have had in my head for a long time that I only needed 6 hours sleep a night, however recently I’ve been feeling a bit tired and just haven’t felt properly awake.   The thing I do now that I never used to, is want to do something about the things that might jeopardise my health and fitness.


Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

I do suffer from a degree of SAD too so the beginning of the darker winter months is a good time to reassess, I’m up for anything that may alleviate some of the symptoms for me. At the moment my life is quite flexible but I wanted to start looking at ways to manage stress etc if I do go back to a more structured work pattern.

This week I decided to conduct a little experiment – what would happen if I sustained getting 7.5 hours sleep a night?  Would I see any difference?

Last night was night 5 and I do feel so much better, I feel more awake, my activity in the gym and the pool has been easier and importantly I feel more engaged with my brain, in an interview yesterday I felt far more focused.

The benefits of getting enough sleep are well documented, it helps with memory, reduces stress, can help you lose weight and importantly we need it to allow our bodies to repair themselves.  I found a good article which looks at some of the key benefits but there are numerous ones!, if you’re interested google away, it’s really interesting.

Benefits of Sleep

I’m going to carry on with my 7.5 hour plan to see what happens, will be initial benefits for example continue and as the nights grow longer will it help me to manage the lack of light in a better way?

So if you’re struggling with losing weight or you find you’re eating because you’re stressed and tired try seeing if a little more sleep may help?  It may help you get things done faster and more effectively so you can find the time you need to be able to get more sleep. I also find that if I’ve done some exercise, my next stage of the experiment is combing late night exercise with the extra sleep!

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