Tag Archives: Obesity

Less of it

26 Aug

I’ve already talked about how we all eat far too much. Yes junk food plays a big part, but I can guarantee like I did, that you eat far too much of everything.

I have my granny’s and great granny’s cook books, from reading them, I was astounded to see that actually a lot of the homemade food of the past (we are talking pre-junk food) contained what we’ve been led to believe is bad for us, a lot of pastry, potatoes, butter and lard, yet the obesity crisis is a modern thing.

I talked to my mum about how she would feed us as a family when we were children, what came to light were three very clear things:

1. We did do a lot more exercise, not the gym or even sport, but we walked to school, we played outside, mum walked to the shops every day, we just moved more in very simple ways.

2. The portions were much smaller than what we regard being normal today.  Even the plates we used then were smaller!  Us kids eat far less than our parents.  If you look at the plates your parents and grandparents had in their dinner service I can guarantee that they were much smaller than what you have in your kitchen cupboards.

3. We couldn’t afford junk food. Now this is interesting, I read a lot of reports that we now eat junk food because it’s cheaper, is it really cheaper or are we just lazy in not wanting to use our ‘leisure’ time to think about producing better food, do we just need to be taught how to cook?  It is too easy for the Government to say that junk food is the issue, it goes much deeper than that, we need to re-focus and re-learn food and nutrition. Junk food isn’t just about the calories, it’s about the fat content, the salt, the additives, the list goes on, just because the kebab has salad in it and you think you’re getting some protein from the meat, it is still contributing to your problem!

A Chinese buffet restaurant in the United Stat...

Image via Wikipedia

If you think about it, as society got more affluent, we began to buy more, what we now think are ‘essential items’ amazes me, after all life could continue without SKY, mobile phones, flat screen TVs, computer consoles etc.  Yet I hear families from all sectors from society saying they can’t afford to eat well and that junk food is cheaper?  And as our purchasing power has increased as has our food consumption.  A good night out is the ‘All you can Eat’ chinese buffet or the biggest steak you can fit on a plate. Eating becomes a challenge, you get cheered and rewarded for clearing your plate, eating until you burst!  These of course are fine in moderation but it has become a normal way of eating.

We all eat too much, we load up our plates and bowls, we eat the same as our male partners, and I for one was brought up to eat everything off my plate! The difference was that when I was being told that at the age of eight, my plate was smaller and the portions considerably smaller.

When I watch programmes about weight problems, the first thing you see is the sheer amount of food that people are eating.  If you give your kids as much as yourself or you eat as much as your man then it’s far too much.

If you eat too much of all of the bad stuff then the problem is amplified, a diet with no fruit and veg or consisting of just takeaways and junk food will accelerate the problem massively. I didn’t have a bad diet before the shrinkage, I did eat far too much of it (even the good stuff) and once I had admitted that, the rest came relatively easily.  So look at what you eat and ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Do you snack between meals?  And is it even consciously?  I would often eat something while I was cooking my dinner or pick up sweets when I paid for my petrol, importantly I would never count this towards what I had eaten that day?
  • Do you eat the same as your partner?  Or if like me you’re single, cook for two instead of one?   Women don’t need the same calories as men remember?
  • What do you eat too much off – is it the bad stuff or the good stuff? Even if you think you have a healthy diet, it could just be too much of everything?  If you need to wean yourself off the really bad stuff, reduce gradually.  My way doesn’t mean you can never have a takeaway or visit the All you can Eat Chinese Buffet ever again!
  • Do you always eat everything, even if you’re full?  Often that feeling is self satisfying itself and feels as if you’ve achieved something.
  • Do you drink?   What do you drink?  3 pints of cider or beer can equate to the same number of calories as a main meal. Sugary drinks present the same problem as do large volumes of things like milk, tea and coffee, I bet you don’t include these when you think about what you’ve ‘eaten’ during the day.

My stomach is now smaller, it takes time but it does happen. I can’t actually eat as much now as I used to be able to, it’s the equivalent feeling of having a gastric band and I had proved though it was possible without surgery.   I’d found out what being empty and hungry really felt like, even if you think you do, it’s unlikely you’ve ever been really hungry, if you can, try it, it’s an important step forward towards being able to take control.

If I now stretch my stomach it protests, I can end up spending the evening in the bathroom if I stuff myself, it’s annoying but reassuring, it’s always important to listen to your own body.

So what are the simple things you can do to make life easier for yourself and make a start:

  • Think about what you eat, once again it’s not difficult to reduce everything initially by 25% and not notice at all, try it with your partner and kids too!
  • If your dinner plates and bowls are quite large, buy yourself special smaller versions, I use a bowl a lot, if you fill up a bowl with pasta, it will look like you’re having far more than if you put it onto a plate?
  • Once you’re full, don’t feel guilty about stopping eating, throw it away and move on, note what you’ve not eaten and reduce your portions for the next meal, you’ll then eat it all and not feel guilty about not eating everything.
  • Don’t insist your kids clear their plates, it’s important for them to understand when they have eaten enough.  Note what they leave and then reduce their next meal by this amount.
  • Eat at the table, make time for food, it’s very important for you to watch how your kids eat, if we’re to avoid them having bigger problems than us in the future.  You are responsible for your children’s future.
  • Really think about the junk food, it has to be reduced, think about the amount you eat, what proportion of your diet does it make up over a month?

And me, well I love food now, I got given some fresh homegrown veg this week, I got so excited!  And importantly I have also have a bar of Green & Black’s butterscotch chocolate for tonight!



Small & Achievable

22 Aug

If I had told myself in August 2009 that I was going to lose 6 stone, get fit, get to a stage where I loved exercise, swim 5k, climb a mountain, sail a yacht, do Race for Life and write a blog about it all, it would never have happened!

  • How many times have you started a diet and told yourself that you’re going to get into a bikini on this year’s holiday when in fact the last time you wore one was in 1996?
  • Or that you’re going to get into that pair of very small jeans that you’ve been keeping in the back of the wardrobe?
  • How about I want to look like the very toned, tanned, 20 something fit bloke who pounds the treadmill in the gym (that was for the blokes by the way!) but you get the idea?
  • And finally if you’ve been told or found out that you are obese or even morbidly obese, that to lose what is an enormous figure is just impossible.

If the goals are too big and unrealistic then you won’t ever succeed, you can’t visualise the end result, that may be years away, you won’t be able to appreciate what you are actually achieving and you are setting yourself up to fail from the start. It will be too overwhelming to comprehend.

As I’ve mentioned before think seriously about how many times you have started a diet, lost some weight and then put it back on, at the time can you remember what were you trying to achieve? Was it a ‘big’ goal?

The trick here is to set achievable goals, something that looks like it might just be possible.

What did I do?  Well I bought the next size down in my normal jeans, of course they didn’t fit when I started, but within a month they did, the sense of achievement was amazing, and this brought with a real sense of motivation, I was then firmly focused on getting to the next pair, I always bought the next pair as soon as I got into them. I still think though that the two best times were fitting into the size 22 ones and then being able to go into Evans, buy the size 14 pair and declare that as this was now their smallest size I wouldn’t be back!

From someone who had no willpower, I found I could walk past the ‘birthday food pile’ in the office or appreciate why the mini bar of Green & Black’s butterscotch chocolate was a better choice than the 2 for 1 offer on the full size bars.

I was celebrating the achievements as they came, I was buying myself something smaller to wear, they did eventually get sold on ebay but hey they did the trick in motivating me and making me feel great about what I’d done.

If you get complimented on how you look, bottle that, when you’re feeling de-motivated, think about that feeling, how good it was and how you want more of it. Think about what being ‘bigger’ means to you, do you want that anymore?

So by small and achievable try some of these:

  • I’ll lose a dress size/an inch in a month – even less if you get overwhelmed by the whole thing
  • I’ll be able to climb the stairs and not be as much out of breath in six weeks
  • I’ll be able to reduce the amount I eat in the evenings or halve my alcohol amounts in a fortnight
  • Be able to swim/run/whatever you’re doing by a small advance each time, not an enormous jump, as you shrink you will be able to increase at a faster pace, remember the Hare & the Tortoise?
  • I’ll feel great because I am doing something – celebrate that, look for the small things that seem easier

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned actual weight lost, I don’t own any scales, I didn’t weigh myself until I’d lost 3 stones, all the initial shrinkage was monitored through how my clothes felt, it’s well documented that yo-yo dieters will weigh themselves very frequently and become quite fixated on it.  If you only see very small losses on a daily or even weekly basis, you lose motivation, you can’t really see what you are achieving, if you lose 2 pounds one week, then only one the next week, you’re already wondering if it’s all worth it, why if you’re doing the same things in respect to exercise and food why didn’t you lose 2 pounds.  However if you weigh after a month, and you’ve lost 6 pounds, that’s fantastic, you haven’t seen the up and down cycle across the month. Then there is biology, our bodies don’t help us here, we will put on weight due to not being 100% well, what we eat, a woman’s cycle will see weight gain at certain times of the month.

So I see the scales as taking away motivation in respect to small goals, you are taken straight back to that enormous ‘eventual goal’. Of course when I did get on the scales it was a very, very pleasant surprise and I can’t tell you how motivational that was. If you can put the scales away and even better get rid of them. If you do feel the need to weigh use the ones in Boots or at the sports centre and limit it to once a fortnight at an absolute minimum.

If you start off not being a slave to the scales then you stand a much better chance of being able to sustain weight loss too, I know that my weight will fluctuate now,  I’ve had periods of doing a lot more exercise or times when there have been holidays or events where I probably eat more than I would normally do, however by not getting on the scales I’m not feeling ‘punished’, my clothes might feel a bit tight, so I adjust exercise and food again (I’m learning all the time here by the way!).

The motivation that I got each time that new pair of jeans fitted was immense. Even when I first went to the ‘Eat as much as You’ want chinese buffet and I didn’t leave feeling as though I was going to burst because I was now in control of what I was eating was motivation too.

So following on from that a question for you to think about:

  • Are you in control of food or is it in control of you?
  • What are the foods that you feel are stopping you losing weight – for example bread, cheese, chocolate etc?
  • Are you prepared to give them up forever or would you like to be able to still have them in your life?

We’ll look at your answers later…as ever be honest with yourself!

Getting Active

21 Aug

I didn’t add ‘exercise’ into my new life until I’d lost over 3 stones, I thought now was a good time to give you a bit of background to my relationship with it.

I had avoided any kind of formal physical activity since I was 14. I sent my mum to the school to pitch that extra maths lessons were more beneficial to my long-term future than PE and we succeeded so the gym skirt went in the bin. I had though always enjoyed things like gymnastics, I was a flexible child, however my experience of how PE was administered took away any joy I got from it, it turned into being all about competitive activity and team games, I wasn’t any good at it so I wasn’t motivated, it turned into being a very negative experience of not being chosen for teams or just failing (in the opinion of the PE teachers). There wasn’t the opportunity to do the things I was good at or even to try anything new, I’m sure this is the experience of many.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t active, I even spent all my earnings from my summer job at 16 on waterskiing lessons and used to walk a good 3 miles to my gap year job.

I managed to get through University without really knowing where the sports centre was, I believe I danced a lot in the union and walked as funds were limited and it saved on bus fares but that was about it!  Importantly I was extremely tiny so I guess no-one really made any fuss about me needing to do anything more than that.

I’ve always been more than happy to support friends who did do sport, I’ve spent hours on the poolside, I’ve watched and supported my best friend’s very intensive power lifting career, cheered the fun runners in and was even married to a very active sky diver. However I still did nothing.

In my 20s I developed ME and spent a long time trying to get well, one of the things the ME caused was a massive effect on my metabolism and I put on an enormous amount of weight, as I got bigger, my self-esteem got more damaged. I spent my 30s being grateful that I was getting well, at that stage being able to complete a day at work or get out of bed when things were really bad was enough of a challenge.  I was terrified of doing anything that might set off the ME, I never wanted to feel that kind of pain again.

And during my 30s I did put on more weight, I did have a lot of ‘head stuff’ that wasn’t being addressed, self-esteem and confidence was still a very big issue, this is something I will talk about a lot more, it’s a silent problem, we don’t talk about it enough.

So let’s fast forward to the end of 2009, I’d lost a bit of weight and I was getting more active, I had more energy for a start and was smaller, I had already noticed that things seemed easier and that even walking up the stairs was less of an issue. My confidence was also building, so how did the big change come that led to me loving exercise?

  • Following a visit to a speech therapist to solve an issue with my vocal cords and a persistent cough, I was told that I had a couple of issues – the top of my spine was starting to curve and I was probably losing height, it was being pulled into this position by very tight neck muscles, in fact my muscles were incredibly tight all over my body, the weight loss was actually contributing to this, they had no idea where they were supposed to sit or act in the new slimmed down version.  She recommended I try pilates to strengthen my core muscles, loosen and realign everything.
  • One of the things I had not been able to do confidently for many, many years was wear a swimsuit, I was terribly, painfully self-conscious. So after a few months of losing weight when I ordered one, it fitted and I looked ok, getting in a pool seemed like a good challenge. At that point just before Christmas I thought it would be enough for me to just go, find out if I could swim at all and then it would be a good thing to be able to go to the pool with my friend and her children and to perhaps go on holiday, I’d been to California the year before and it had been very hard not to be able to get in Pacific and enjoy the wonderful beaches.  The swimsuit story is actually a much bigger one, I’ll tell you about that later.

What  actually happened then was beyond anything I could have imagined or believed at that stage was achievable.

What I’m hoping that you will take from this little introduction is that even if you have never done any exercise, think you don’t like it or that you will be rubbish at it, there is still hope for you, there was for me!

And if you used to exercise, then try to think about what you enjoyed back then, could you give it a go again, remember how it used to make you feel about yourself?

Today’s photo is of me at the end of my pilates trip to Italy in June, I’d said I wanted to be able to get my feet behind my head, I used to be that flexible in my teens, I was over the moon to be able to achieve that, thanks to a week of intense training!  It is now my party trick, I will show anyone for several glasses of Limonchello!


Good for my Age

18 Aug

I’m 43.  I can’t change that unless science fiction becomes reality and Captain Jack transports me back to 1992!

I hear people my age saying when they head off on their quests to lose weight and get fit is that they want to look like they did when  they were 25.  Let’s get real here, it’s not going to happen, I am so sorry but Mother Nature has other ideas.

But here’s the thing, ask yourself a few questions:

1. If you hadn’t put on weight, would you look like you did when you were 25 anyway?   Our bodies (men and women) change drastically over time, we hold fat in different areas,  we are slaves to hormonal changes, having babies etc etc.  We may have been able to convert fat into muscle easily in our 20s, we can’t necessarily do that into our 40s, it’s just biology!  So the odds are that you would still look different today than at 25 even without the weight gain.

2. What is wrong with looking like a great 4o something!   I love now being told I don’t look my age!

3. Are you trying to regain your 20 something levels of fitness? It takes a special kind of person who can achieve the same levels of fitness in their 40s as they did in their 20s if you haven’t done pretty regular exercise all the way through, be a bit kind to yourself and think about that.  Start with small goals that are achievable and importantly safe.  If you’ve been unfit for a long time, getting fit will take time and be a gradual process.  Miracles cannot be performed!

If you start out with an unrealistic goal it will never happen, you’ll get de-motivated pretty quickly and achieve nothing.

Despite the fact that I now weigh about the same as I did when I was 25, my body is very, very different to how it was then, but hey I am fit, healthy and happy so it doesn’t matter.

I am not going to be able to tone up all the wobbly bits, 16 years of extreme weight gain stretches your skin, when you lose it you end up with toned areas under what is essentially loose, baggy skin, bit like having a second body layer, it doesn’t matter what you do it won’t change drastically without surgery.  My legs will never look toned even if they are,I have a lot of loose skin on my tummy and my arms will always be bigger.  If you’ve had children you may have the same problem and our old friend Mother Nature will decide how your body will react and how the collagen is your skin behaves.  the younger you are the more success you may have in avoiding this.  So there’s a little incentive to doing something sooner than later!

This has taken a degree of acceptance, the thing is that I can’t change it, therefore there is little point beating myself up over it. I can see that this consequence of losing a lot of weight can damage self-esteem almost as much as being big in the first place.It has been a long road to get here but I have accepted that this is the body I now have at 43.

This is why I have taken the focus away from losing weight and now towards being fit and healthy.  Support underwear has come on considerably and can now hold in all my wobbly bits!  After being fitted for the right underwear I actually lost a dress size, try it, it does work.

And if you do all this work to look great, then don’t do anything that is guaranteed to age you, at least give Mother Nature a helping hand and show your body a bit of respect.

1. Don’t smoke.  If you get fit and healthy why jeopardise it with something that will kill you?  There is plenty of help out there, if you have found the strength and focus to lose weight use the same to quit smoking.

2. Don’t sit in the sun and tan.  Get a fake one and embrace the factor 50, the better your skin, the younger you will look and no cancer risk.

Be realistic about what you will look like when you’ve lost weight; you will though still look miles better than you did before though so always remember that!

In any case, I’m not planning to walk the streets naked so most of the time it’s all covered up and when I’m in the pool, well I leave a lot of younger people with completely toned bodies standing so I’m not worried, I’d rather be fit and healthy!

And do I feel younger?  Hell yes!  I must do I’ve just posted a photo of me in a spotty swimsuit!

This photo was taken in August 2010, it was exactly a year to the day since I’d started to shrink, I’d lost 5 stone and to celebrate I went for a dip in a rather chilly Solent with my best friend, she’s been an absolute rock through the whole experience and now we’re a similar size even lets me wear her clothes!


17 Aug

Do you want to lose weight and keep it off?

What might motivate you to make it happen?

I’m going to be a bit extreme but it did work for me in the beginning.  When I was growing up the dad of one of my friends died, he was in his early 40s, he was at the local leisure centre, he had a sudden heart attack and couldn’t be revived. He was fit and healthy.

I was  now in my early 40s, I was obese, one of the things you will learn about me is that I will use that word, I’m honest in that way, it helps actually to use it, there is a degree of awakening and yes shame. There is a reality about being big that people seemed to be scared to talk about, maybe if we did, getting motivated to lose the weight and get fit would be easier. The reality is that being severely overweight and unfit will potentially shorten our lives and brings with it a whole host of problems.

blood pressure measurement

Image via Wikipedia

I already had some health problems, I had torn my cruciate ligament in my knee, it was a bother, however due to being obese the NHS could see little point in replacing it. I was petrified every time I went to the doctor for anything, that they would want to take my blood pressure and it would be off the scale. Before an initial surgery on my knee I honestly thought they would take my blood pressure and send me home because it was too high.

I suffered dreadfully with my feet, they would swell if I walked too far or if the weather was hot, I would end up with feet covered in blisters no matter what shoes I wore.  It ruined holidays and effectively made me a recluse during the summer months.  While it was hot as well, I was so self-conscious that I needed to be covered, so I was always overheated, sweaty and red-faced.

While putting on the weight I had developed a lot of stretch marks, some had faded over time, but the fact I had them on my upper arms wasn’t nice and of course added to my lack of self-esteem.

There are more intimate things too – a woman’s pelvic floor is actually very delicate, the pressure of the extra weight led to stress incontinence and that is horrible for someone in her 30s to have to deal with. I avoided having a relationship.

I would get out of breath easily, I remember being in Norfolk on holiday once and to get to the beach you had to climb up sand dunes, I could barely do it, it took forever and was excruciatingly embarrassing. After one day I didn’t go back again.  I also only went to one knee rehab physio session after the first op I had, I couldn’t do much of it, it was nothing to do with my knee injury, I was too big and too unfit.

What ended up being the motivator was the fear that I was getting bigger, the problems were increasing, I did get scared that perhaps something more serious would emerge, or that I’d not be able to get help because I was too big or I would be too ashamed to ask for it.  I worried about sitting on chairs and breaking them or getting stuck somewhere. It had got out of hand.  I couldn’t watch TV programmes about fat people, it was too close to my reality.

Of course my head was firmly in the sand for years while this was happening.  But I was getting older, I couldn’t hide forever and do nothing, I was hiding the issues from my friends and family and yes I was getting depressed?

So what are you waiting for?  The heart attack, the stroke, breaking a chair, not being able to keep up with the kids, not finding clothes that fit, having problems with relationships – the list is endless?

Don’t wait until you get the scare of your life, make the change to doing something about it forever and now.  My motivator now is knowing what life is like now as a fit and healthy person, going back is not an option in any way because I know what it was like back then.  My new life is wonderful.   Hopefully in what I’ve shared you’ll recognise yourself in some way, my story isn’t unusual but I am prepared to talk about it.  If you need to talk about it then contact me, I can  help.

And if you are still saying you ‘can’t do it’ because you’ve tried before and failed, I can help, if you’ve never managed to sustain any weight loss after being on a diet then diets don’t work for you,  try a different approach, it can be done,  trust me, if I can do it anyone can.

Do it for your family, the people who love you and most importantly for yourself.  So what are you waiting for?

Join me

15 Aug

I’ll be using this blog to share my experiences, websites, tips, tricks, inspirational quotes and anything else I have found useful to losing the weight and getting fit.  One of the big things that kept me going is humour so hopefully some of it will make you giggle, I’ve got lots of stories of my journey through what was a whole new world of experiences, warts and all.  It is also very honest but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to identify with that and it will help to realise that you’re not alone.

I may have lost weight but what is more important to me is that I have got fit. I am healthier than I have ever been before. And getting fit has opened up a new life I could only have dreamed of a couple of years ago.  The photo is of me sailing last weekend, I’d never done it before, realistically I would never have been able to, I’d never have fitted in the shared cabin or been able to climb around the boat. There’s lots more of this kind of thing, I hope I can show you that if I can do it, anyone can.

Would you like that too? Sign up for my updates on a realistic approach to losing weight and getting fit, what have you got to lose – well apart from a few stone?

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