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Making the time

10 Oct

I mix my exercise up now – swimming, the gym, skipping, walking etc etc.  This keeps it interesting but also ensures that whatever opportunities I have available I can at least fit something in whatever the weather or the time I have.

I hear a lot that people don’t have time to exercise, you can find time believe me.  And what’s more I’ve found that as I got fitter I have more energy and other things tend to get done faster,  I don’t want to sit around watching the TV either.  It takes an hour three or four times a week to make a real difference?

Of course what is important is that you have to want to do it. I will happily hold my hands up and say for many years I could come up with every reason in the book for not doing anything and of course I was very good at saying I was ok with being big and unhealthy so in my blinkered head it was fine not to do a thing about it. It wouldn’t have mattered at any point during that period of time what anyone said or did it wouldn’t have changed anything?

Together with avoiding having to face it, I was also very good at not watching any TV programmes or reading books about losing weight or obesity.  I even bought books but then put them in cupboards, they remain unread to this day.  Watching a programme would have been too close to the truth, I didn’t want to face it so by not watching them I could remain in my safe ‘I’m fine as I am’ world.

I started watching the programmes a few months ago – my particular favourite is ‘Supersize vs Superskinny’; the first one I watched featured a blonde girl who wore black who was massively overweight, when they revisited her a few months later she’s lost 4 stones and was wearing red. She was so like me and I sobbed my heart out.

Maybe if I had been able to face watching them years ago I would have seen someone else like me and found it inspirational?  Who knows, you can’t change the past, all I can do now is build the future.

And this morning I have a bit of spare time so I’m going for a swim and maybe the gym too.

So what’s my message to you, well firstly you have to want to do it in order to make the changes to your lifestyle to lose weight and keep it off. Only you can make that decision?  But it might just be the best one you ever make, it won’t necessarily be easy but there are lots of people out there who can help you get there.

And it is so worth it in the end.  For me this weekend that meant throwing out some of the clothes I was wearing last winter because they’re too big, it always makes me smile now.

What are we waiting for?

2 Oct

I spent a long time doing nothing about my weight gain, apart from add to it.

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions since I started writing about my story why that was?   The honest answer is I don’t know, days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and before I knew it there I was at 41 and in quite a state. An element of procrastination together with a fear of failure, if I didn’t start, then there was nothing to fail at was there?  It all feels pretty ridiculous now but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

It does make me sad now to think about the amount of time it took for me to make the changes and all the opportunities I may have missed, some are more significant than others but it is a hard pill to swallow now. However it does make me even more determined not to go back and waste any more of my life.

I’m now looking forward to winter and getting down to work.  It’s a weird old situation, since I came back from Italy the sun has shone and today, the 2nd October I have been out in my flip flips in 25 degrees plus of beautiful weather!  Winter still seems a long way off however the BBC weatherman assures me it will make an appearance mid-week so my beloved flip flops will be consigned to their new role of slippers with only their memories of their summer of travel!

So if you do want to lose some weight, just ask yourself the question, what are you waiting for?   And if you want a reminder about getting motivated, take a look at my previous post on Motivation.

 

Boosting your Confidence

27 Sep

I picked up a really useful article this morning, I’ve learnt how much exercise can boost your self-confidence and make you feel pretty darn good about yourself over the last couple of years.  I’ve also met lots of people who have also found the same thing.

Take a look:

http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/exercise-better-body-image-101919111.html

Little Things

12 Sep

Small things that may be insignificant to other people still make me smile.

I have two suitcases.  I normally take the large one away with me, I bought it a few years ago when I was bigger and I’ve needed this plus normally another bag to lug around everything I needed.

Now I’ve shrunk I decided to see if I could get everything into the other case – success has been had!  It makes sense, my clothes are now smaller so they should take up less space.

And yes I’m smiling!

Hey folks I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks, not sure what internet availability I may have so I may be some time – I will be back, there’s  lots more writing going on behind the scenes!

And don’t forget to keep trying the 25% reduction challenge!

Packing and Re-prioritisation

11 Sep

I’m really lucky, I’ve been having the summer of my life and now I’m at the end of what has been a wonderful and fulfilling time but hopefully I’m at the beginning of an exciting future.

Losing the weight changed more than just my appearance, it started off a whole new way of thinking. My job had changed post surgery and was no longer making me happy, it felt like the right time to make some changes.

Maybe it is an age thing, maybe the universe was in the right place, maybe I was, but whatever it was, I found myself handing in my notice excitedly, there wasn’t anywhere near the panic I expected, I was after all giving up a job that paid relatively well and was stable enough but it wasn’t enough.

I had some savings, but I wasn’t interested any longer in material stuff, I could have moved or bought a new car but I wanted something else. I was fitter, happier, stronger and healthier than I had probably ever been and I was craving experiences.  So I bought myself the summer, the weather could have been better but it hasn’t mattered that much.  And it’s been wonderful, what is even more exciting and important though is that I have finally had time to get to know the new me, I’ve spent time working that out and what it means. I had no idea at the start that it would prove so significant.

So the summer has entailed mountain climbing, beaches, sunsets, pilates, Tuscany, sailing, walking,  photography, writing, reading, climbing walls, being life coached, new friends, old friends, bouncing and feeling just about as alive as I could be!  I’ve seen and done things that wouldn’t have been possible in my old world and I am very grateful for that.

And on Tuesday I fly to Rome for the final bit of the journey I promised myself, I have a beautiful apartment booked to receive me, the camera batteries are charged up, the notebooks are ready and the iphone has photo and guide book Apps downloaded.  The train then takes me slowly up the coast to Tuscany for another week of pilates, food, cooking, wine, swimming and limoncello.

And on the work front, things are falling into place, there’s no panic, just a feeling of anticipation for the future. It might not be easy but in some ways that doesn’t really matter, I have different priorities now and I’m determined not to lose sight of those.

On a less positive note, on the horizon I already know that there are going to be some sad times ahead, as a family I hope we’re ready for them. It reinforces my thinking that life is so very short and you do need to grasp onto all opportunities, or life will just pass you by. I spent a long time doing that and I have no intention of letting it happen again.

What I have learnt is that sometimes we need to stop and take stock. If we don’t we may never really see what could change.  It might not be as radical as leaving your job, it could just be giving yourself some time in the day to reflect and focus.  And of course this has all a bit of a reward for the hard work over the last couple of years, it’s been quite a trip!

So bring on the future (and the sunshine and the limoncello!).

The photos – The view from the Kanzelwand (2078 m up), me on midsummer night, in the pool with a bottle of limoncello. and one of my favourite sunsets of the summer, totally unexpected, around the corner from home and quite stunning, it took my breath away.  And a final thought, why does limoncello not taste the same in England as it does in Tuscany??

Body Mass Index

10 Sep

Let’s talk BMI.  I have had various discussions with health and fitness professionals about the virtue of using this as a tool to motivate. I am still classed as overweight according to my BMI, strictly speaking I could lose another 2 stone. Yet I am fitter and healthier than at any other point in my life. When I was classed as ‘normal’ I was smoking ( a bit!) , eating a stupid ‘student’ diet and did no exercise whatsoever and looking at photographs I think I look far too thin.

BMI doesn’t take into account, age or fitness levels, people who have a large muscle content e.g. rugby players will be classified as overweight and long distance runners may be underweight.  And very importantly you can be classified as ‘normal’  but be completely unfit, as you smoke, drink and eat all the wrong things. I think you get my point?  Even the professionals admit it has limitations.

Let’s be realistic too, I’m 43, I have spent almost half my life very overweight, biology has declared that my skin will not contract back to the place it was in when I was 25. In fact the more I have lost and toned, the more loose skin there is, so for me to lose the recommended weight to be totally ‘normal’ would result in me looking ridiculous, it has though been something I have had to come to terms with, me and my naked body have had to develop a new love for each other!

I thought I’d share what I think has happened.  I have toned the muscle and lost the fat, when I was bigger the muscle was covered by a layer of fat, this levelled under my skin and sort of held everything together, padding it out.  Now that layer doesn’t exist, the skin hasn’t contracted back in certain areas – tummy, thighs, upper arms (all the areas where there was excessive stretching) so there ends up with a ‘loose’ effect.  It won’t happen to everyone, some people have stretchier skin than others and the length of time you are overweight will also have an effect, as will age. It wasn’t really something I had even thought about when I was big, but for some of us it is a reality. I do remember though that when I was a teenager I did get quite a lot of stretch marks as I grew and this also happened when I got bigger in my 20s, this is an indication that the collagen in my skin isn’t amazing so it’s not too much of a surprise.

While we’re discussing the loose skin,  I have friends who have ‘tummies’ after having babies, unfortunately it is unlikely that in their 40s that this will go away no matter how much exercise they do but hey it’s amazing what support underwear can do!   It needs a degree of acceptance and that this is also probably those extra few pounds they are striving to lose.  I’m pretty sure if all my loose skin was removed I’d lose quite a bit more weight, but that’s not going to happen but it doesn’t mean that I am unhealthy or unfit.

If you are over 40, it’s worth thinking about what you think you will look like when you’re smaller, if you think you will look like you did when you were 20, think again, it’s not going to happen, Mother Nature has other ideas I’m afraid.

Now I’ve reached what I feel is a sensible, healthy weight, I have no intention of losing any more on a significant level, I don’t want to get to a stage where I am more self-conscious about my body than when I was bigger, this would be a sorry state of affairs.

I think about it this way, even if I had not put on all the weight and remained a smaller person for the last 20 years, I might still have a tummy and bingo wings – that’s just aging?   Men in particular seem a little obsessed with regaining their youth, it’s just not going to happen and they are starting out with an impossible goal!  So my affirmation here is look to become a fit and healthy ‘whatever you are’, don’t hanker after what has gone before!  You will still probably look better and be fitter than the majority of today’s 20 year olds anyway!

BMI should therefore be taken as a guide, especially when you are starting out. If you feel you need an official ‘you’re way too big’ label then it may help and give you a quick kick up the bottom, please don’t make it the objective, it’s only one possible motivator you can use and for me it hasn’t been that helpful.

Personal trainer monitoring a client's movemen...

Image via Wikipedia

My gym won’t even weigh people anymore when doing inductions, they measure instead.  My instructor told me it was very depressing to have women who complained after their first 3 months of training that they hadn’t lost much weight, they had though changed shape and in some cases lost a couple of dress sizes, remember muscle does weigh more than fat.  Getting fit will change your shape and you will shrink!

One thing I do once in a while is to do a bit of people watching in a shopping centre to get your head around what the majority of the population actually look like.  Focusing only on the fit bunnies in the gym isn’t going to help you as much here in reminding yourself how well you’ve done. I promise you once you’ve done this you’ll feel much better about yourself and as you shrink it just gets better and better.

BMI is an indicator, it should just be one thing you take into consideration but for me it’s a bit like the scales, a bit unnecessary on a regular basis to focus on now.   Be realistic about what your shrinking 40 something body may look like, love it, you’ve achieved something pretty special by getting smaller and your life will be so much better, wobbly bits and all.

A final thought, is your weight loss target too big, could you be fit and healthy but not have to lose it all?

The top photo is me on my 21st birthday, according to the BMI scale I was ‘normal’ . Bizarre.

Getting Technical

9 Sep

I’ve been doing a bit of research into the technology out there, what might be able to help in keeping the weight off and also enjoying exercise.

My thinking on it though is that the technology is a tool to help motivation and provide some guidance, it’ s not the holy grail.

Why?  Because it’s not infallible.

I have found some interesting things out in a geeky way, I’ve tested the treadmill, the cross trainer and the fixed bike in the gym,  I burn roughly the same amount of calories whatever I do……and if I speed walk on the treadmill, I burn the same as someone who runs the same distance!

This is of course because I am not feeding in tons of data into the machine about my body – height, weight etc. It is basing it’s measurement purely on distance and speed.  It is though a guide and I use it purely as that.

If you want a true figure you need to use something that is far more scientific, one such thing is KI performance.

The key thing here is that is works to educate you about metabolism and how you can listen to your body, understanding more about how it works and responds to food and exercise. You wear an armband that collects over 5000 data points, it looks at what you eat, all your activity (not just ‘exercise’), sleep, it’s a complete picture.

You then upload the data onto the website and it reports back.  You start a process of working out the crucial thing, how many calories you need vs the amount of activity you do, you can then adapt to either maintain weight or lose weight in the first place.  It does have an initial outlay plus a subscription but once you’ve got the hang of it and got a good amount of data about your body then you could get away with not renewing. It’s all about the knowledge you can gain.

There are also the applications that help you assess your exercise, some of these are more scientific than others but all useful in giving you the motivation to keep going. I like the fact that a lot of them now link into Facebook and Twitter, brilliant if you like your friends to give you lots of encouragement!  You also become part of a community of like-minded people.

Here are two I’ve been told about and some feedback.

Runkeeper – works through a smartphone, tracks your speed and distances covered and if you load in all the data will report back on calories burned, weight and body fat percentage lost.  It posts to your social media sites too and will show where you’ve been if you use it on outside runs or walks.   It’s great for giving you a view of what you achieve over a period of time, I like this idea as it gives you a real indication of how you are progressing, when I was in swimming training, I had a spreadsheet log, I’d publish it every week and I got a great deal of motivation from seeing how each week things got better, I was starting to challenge myself which was interesting! This App seems nice and simple and I have friends who use it both in the gym and outside and enjoy using it!

Endomondo– again works through a smartphone, works using GPS so you be tracked while out running, cycling etc. Again downloads into Facebook so your friends can see what you’re doing, it will say when you’re starting so you can be tracked in real-time too via the website.  You enter your weight information and with the right kit it will monitor your heart rate and allows you to challenge yourself and set goals.

Not as scientific as the KI, however gives a really good history of your activity online and allows you to comment on your friend’s activity too. One thing I don’t like though is that because some of the science is missing, the calories used data is going to be ‘out’ and thr system then equates it to ‘Burgers Burned’!    So a bit more ‘blokey’ really and I’d prefer it to equate to something a little healthier – just a little nit pick there!

Image representing Endomondo as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

And of course don’t forget that if you go out and burn 1000 calories, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can come home and consume an additional 1000 calories, if you are looking to lose weight you will need to adjust your food intake too!  My view for this one is that it is more designed for the more experienced fitness person, not really designed for an initial go or for losing weight?

Once you are into a ‘maintaining’ mode then this is easier but beware at the beginning, you may be putting in tons of energy and not losing any weight if you don’t pay attention to both.  Worth getting some advice at the start on the best way to do it.  My weight loss accelerated once I had lost an amount through less food alone, I got more energy and moved more, but I didn’t then eat more as a consequence so the weight loss continued?

One little thing about the Apps that use GPS, remember if the online site is public or you don’t have tight security on your social networking sites, you could be giving away your current location and that you’re not at home, if you run from home, worth changing the start point just in case any potential burglars are watching!

There are though hundreds if not thousands of similar Apps out there, my view is if they help to motivate you, they’re fantastic! Beware the ‘calories’ burned data on some though and if you are really geeky, it’s worth looking at something like KI to start off so you get a clear view of how your body performs then moving onto something that just measures distances etc will be fine as you will know how your body performs.  There are also lots which give you calorie figures for all foods, great if you’re out on the move, however if you follow the same regime as me you shouldn’t need them, I for one would have not enjoyed being a slave to the smartphone!

If you have any others you think would be useful to tell people about, please let me know.

Photo is of me doing Race for Life this year, two years ago I held the bags and waited at the finish line to cheer on my friends!  And I even ran a bit at the end! I didn’t use any Apps, I just followed the several thousand other women doing their bit!

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