The Lifecycle of a Yo-Yo Dieter #FullDisclosure

Even when you think you’ve got the healthy eating thing nailed, it can all still go horribly wrong. Again and again. And again.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll be familiar with my excited posts (for example, here and here) about the massive benefits and gains I’ve enjoyed as I shed the pounds throughout 2016. And you may have noticed that I’ve gone a bit quiet about the weight-loss situation in the last year.

Well… here’s why.  When it comes to managing my weight, I’m a habitual Yo-Yo.  And what goes down…

Downhill all the way – except when it’s uphill

As far as I can remember, including my lately renewed efforts, there have been ten sustained periods of weight-loss in my life, beginning at the tender age of 21.

1981:  Loss of 2 st / 28 lbs / 12.7 kilo

2018-05-09 17.11.06

Aged 21 and weighing-in at 11 st 5 lbs / 159 lbs / 72.1 kilo at the outset, that 28 lbs qualified as mega. It earned me Lifetime Membership of WeightWatchers. Today I would kill to be the weight I started at back then, again, let alone the slender form I achieved after a few months of modest self-control. It didn’t seem hard – at least, I don’t recall the hardship. I do recall eating a lot of beansprouts in tomato puree on dry toast though. Little did I realise what was to come in the years that followed.

1989:  Loss of 4 st / 56 lbs / 25.4 kilo

This time the work started around 14 st 7 lbs / 203 lbs / 92 kilo. My life disrupted by divorce and then career-change, a swirling cocktail of negative and positive influences served to transform my approach to food in ways I still don’t fully understand; for a while, at least.  I did it all by myself this time; skipping meals, developing a single-track approach to lunches (smoked mackerel and undressed salad, every day – yes, every day), shunning alcohol, and falling for a trainer at my local gym (great motivation to hit the treadmill). For a while, I drew energy from the way I could see both me and my life transforming. For a while.

2002:  Loss of 3 st 8 lbs / 50 lbs / 22.7 kilo

2018-05-09 17.12.28

I kept a lid on my weight for a while but eventually it nudged steadily upward again. In 2002 I’d just been made redundant and come out of a very toxic relationship, so my life was again disrupted and unsettling. I’d decided to go self-employed – which was simultaneously invigorating and downright scary.  I needed to feel stronger, more together, more in-control of myself – not unlike I’d needed to feel back in 1989. Flexing that Lifetime Membership card for the first time, I went back to WeightWatchers, and the stars aligned. My membership card for that period, which I have never discarded, tells me that I started out at 16 st / 224 lbs / 101.6 kilo. I thought that was the worst I would ever let it get. But I was wrong.  When the weight-loss stalled for a few weeks, I lost the plot. Every single pound I’d dropped went back on in the 18 months that followed. It’s hard to describe the sense of helplessness I felt.

But there was more to come:

2004:  From 244 to 219 lbs…

2005:  From 234 to 218 lbs…

2006:  From 246 to 235 lbs…

2007: From 246 to 242 lbs…

By the time of that pathetic attempt in 2007, I had all but given up hope of losing weight permanently.  I could see that every time I lost weight, I put it back on, and more besides.  I became afraid to try again.  So I didn’t, until…

2013:   Loss of 1 st 8 lbs / 22 lbs / 9.9 kilo

By now I was back up again, at an unbearable and lumbering 18 st 13 lbs / 265 lbs / 120.2 kilo.  I kept my food intake under control for around six months and lost weight slowly, before it all fell apart… again.  And at the age of 53, those surplus pounds felt like a permanent fixture, a metaphorical if not literal millstone around my waist. I was resigned to almost always being the largest person in the room; to worrying if picnic chairs would hold me; to getting out-of-breath when faced with more than a single flight of stairs; to seeing good people, with the best of intentions, begin to treat me as if I were… disabled.

And you can see why they did, can’t you?

Screenshot 2016-03-28 11.22.46 copy

Then, it seemed, the universe threw me a lifeline:

2015/16:  Loss of 5 st / 70 lbs / 31.8 kilo

And quite the lifeline it was. At my heaviest ever, I was introduced through business networking, to a healthy lifestyle coach. I weighed 19 st 4 lbs / 270 lbs / 122.5 kilo. The most powerful impact that working with my coach had was to help change my mindset. For the first time I focused on a holistic healthy lifestyle rather than weight-loss for the sake of it.  I locked into powerful visualisations, focused on what I wanted to gain rather than what I wanted to lose – and what sort of a person I wanted to be. And it worked. In 12 months, I lost 70 lbs, and it felt (and I felt) … amazing.


Even when the weight-loss stalled, I didn’t actually gain anything, bouncing along in a plateau state for several months. For the first time ever, I believed I had gained some mastery over my capricious fat cells and my chaotic eating habits.

Everything goes well, until it doesn’t

But if the universe had thrown me a lifeline, it seemed it was still possible to drown.

In early 2017 my mother fell ill, dramatically, unexpectedly, and terminally. In the two months during which I cared for her, I lived on healthy snacks, grabbed whenever I could find a moment to myself. I was grateful for the Marks & Spencer Food Shop at the hospital, where I picked up a super-green salad and mini packet of kofte kebabs almost every day. (Yes, there’s a pattern here… when I find a meal that works, I stick to it!) When she came home for her last few weeks, the deli shelves at the M&S store my local filling station became my daily pit-stop.  Whilst everything else seemed to be spinning out-of-kilter, I kept the whole healthy lifestyle business under control (to be fair, sometimes I could barely eat for distress). I even managed a decent walk on days when kind souls offered an hour or two of their time to be with my mother.

Until, that is, she died.

Since that day in May 2017, I’ve managed to undo about half the stellar weight-loss job I did on myself.  In total, between then and March 2018, I regained no less than 37 of those 70 pounds.

Don’t be too hard on yourself,’ everyone has very kindly said. And I was grateful for their empathy and understanding. Emotionally exhausted, weary and sad to my bones, I started out on the process of deconstructing her life and disposing of her things. This has proved to be time-consuming and energy-sapping, and more often than not, very, very hard. I’ve blogged occasionally about it (see here). Whilst it’s been an enormous relief to have my brother working alongside me throughout much of this clear-out, it has been an intensely difficult personal journey too, for many reasons.

I’ve stayed away from sugar though. That was my one consolation as the weight crept back on. I never went back on the sugar. But I let other things back in; if very occasional take-aways weren’t that much of a problem, the 3-for-2 bumper-sized bags of crisps (potato chips) were. Where I didn’t succumb to biscuits and cakes, I did to increasingly more generous and more frequent slabs of cheese and ever larger blobs of butter. My portion sizes grew and my daily walks fell away, always with the excuse that I was ‘too tired’ or that I had ‘too much to do’.  And one by one, the pounds returned – and I returned to my carefully stored bag of big-clothes.

But the universe had one more trick up its sleeve.

In March, I ended up in hospital as a result of what turned out to be an attack of cholecystitis (that’s a big, evil and unbearably painful gallstones problem).  I blogged about it here.

As I wait now to have my gallbladder removed, the guidelines as to what I should and shouldn’t eat, to stave off any potential future attacks, are varied. But whichever way you look at it, they do boil down to an incredibly healthy diet.  From low-fat to no-dairy to small portions; from avoid fatty meat and stay away from fried anything to eat plenty of vegetables – you just can’t argue with it. As spicy foods may have been a trigger for me, I’m avoiding those too.  Add my avoidance of added sugar into the mix and my diet has become, well… a bit dull. However, I’m not complaining, as this dull, healthy diet that has been enforced upon me on pain, literally, of… pain, is helping me to shed those pounds again.  So far, of those 37 lbs I regained, I’ve lost 17 since March. There’s another 20 to go, but that feels within my grasp, now that I’ve recaptured my mojo, and my enthusiasm for health over comfort-eating. And when I’ve re-lost those remaining 20 lbs, I feel positive about staying on-track and chipping away at what remains, which is easily another 30 lbs.

Positive, but not complacent. Not with my track-record.

Onward and upward… or downward

I feel stronger again though. Strangely, with the threat of another crampy gallstones attack hanging over me, it’s not that hard to eat cautiously and modestly. And with the weight-loss – and perhaps too, some distance from my mother’s death – has come a re-gaining of lost energy and the impetus to continue with the exciting process of physical and mental transformation which was taking place two years ago.  I’m taking more care to exercise regularly too.

But I’m under no illusion; I’m a Yo-Yo dieter and that’s my physical and psychological ‘cross-eyed bear’, for life. As soon as my attention goes elsewhere, or I feel the pull of the comfort-food, the weight soars back on. But at my age, I can no longer expect to get away with it. Serious health problems will – for sure – surface, if I don’t keep a lid on my impulses. I must stay the course this time. But to do this, I need to re-connect, vigorously, with the positive healthy lifestyle choices I was making a little over a year ago – and with those massive gains in which I was revelling for those few wonderful months.

I just hope I get a clear run at it now. No more killer blows to the emotional solar-plexus please, for a while at least.

Author: Jools

Abundant, Bold, Confident, Determined, Empathetic, Forthright, Grumpy, Healthier, Individual, Just me, Kind, Loving, Mellifluous, Natural, Optimistic, imPatient, Quirky, Real-world, Single-minded, unTreatable, Unwound, Verbal, Wilful, eXtraordinary, Young and old, Zero-tolerance.

41 thoughts on “The Lifecycle of a Yo-Yo Dieter #FullDisclosure”

  1. I feel for you Jools and can flow with your story too. I guess we hold the awareness and go with what works at any given time. Wrapping you in love, always. Your wonderful energy shines through… ❤

    1. What a lovely comment, Jane – thank you! Nobody ever said it would be easy, did they?! Life, staying on-course. But we keep on making the effort and every step in the right direction is a positive. x

      1. Yes Jools, we show up and stay open and willing. We roll up our sleeves and get on with it. I have conversations with my scales. I am grateful for your smoked mackerel tip and I’m like you, I find something that works and I eat it a lot. Hugs Xx

        1. I have grown to love smoked mackerel! It needs to come out of the fridge a half-hour before you eat it (notwithstanding climate considerations of course), and it’s just great with a freshly-chopped salad. Warmly recommended.

  2. great to take the positives Jools and even better to put up and honest appraisal. I’m not sure I would. All the very very best in your new attack – give it hell, huh!

  3. Thank you soo much for telling your story. Going up and down in weight isn’t just when you’re on a fad diet, and I have to remind myself of that. I’ve also gone up and down and have felt hopeless. Now I also have medical issues (PCOS, Achilles tendonitis, and now a slipped disc) that is making the weight loss even harder. But it’s true-it’s important we be good to ourselves. It’s also helped to not focus on my weight. I found that seeing progress made me act as if I was done, and seeing no progress discouraged me from continuing. I’m trying to focus on my strength and endurance-things I couldn’t do that I can do now-and it helps me get through. Reading other people’s stories also helps 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, and welcome to my blog. 😊 I totally agree with you that it’s a mistake to fixate on weight. I think success comes when you can see yourself differently – by looking at all the things you can do, that you couldn’t before; by seeing yourself renewed, healthier, more self-assured, and less ‘apologetic’. Life exerts so many pressures and brings so many challenges, that those of us who turn instinctively to food for comfort or certainty have to combat constantly. We can’t always lean on excuses; and when we do, we should not do it for long. We need to learn how to re-apply ourselves time and again by focusing not on a misplaced sense of defeat or failure, but on the promises we make to ourselves, to transform, to be the healthier, stronger people we know we can be. Stories of setback are just as useful as stories of success. We are inspired by success, and strangely reassured by setbacks, that we aren’t on this path alone, but with friends, supporters and a whole community of people who get how tough it can be and know what it feels like to keep climbing back on that wagon. Keep going – every day is a new day.

    1. Thank you, Eliza! Getting knocked off-track last year was almost an inevitability, given all that happened. I’ll forgive myself, but I can’t let it happen again.

  4. Another beautifully written and painfully honest account of your life. I so admire your ability to document your life in such a straightforward way. It is so powerful to connect to your follow yo-yoers, of which I am one, as you know. It also shows great self awareness. I have a theory that the most beautiful and emotional sensitive folks are the most likely to suffer from yo-yoing weight. To hears to us beautiful, emotional and just plain nice yo-yoers – we can do it and we/you can lose weight again, as we/you have so much to offer the world, irrespective of our size. Love, light and peace. Brian

    1. Thank you, Brian. I find being honest about it all is akin to therapy, and people do seem to identify with the struggle. It’s so lovely too when people offer their support and encouragement. We gain so much energy from positive feedback, don’t we? So… it’s back to the habits I had established so effectively in 2016, a few steps backward in the meantime, but not the catastrophe it could have been. Those habits worked then, so I’m expecting they will work still! You and I both understand the need to refresh, re-apply to the task, and don’t look back.

  5. You’ve done so well lovely and I’ve been following your journey for quite a while. I can relate to so much of it – when life throws a curveball it’s very difficult not to turn to food or relax our habits – and I’ve always loved your openness and honesty about it!

    1. Thank you, Suzie. I’ve always felt the only way to tackle the healthy/weight-loss challenge is total honesty. If I can’t face being honest, I don’t write it (hence the silence on the subject for the last few months). But the blog is a little part of my therapy too… it’s lovely to get the encouragement from readers and friends, and putting my ‘Yo-Yo’ frailty out there is part of acknowledging and facing up to it. With any luck I’ll be blogging more positively about it as the year goes on.

  6. I enjoyed reading about your journey Julie. Our mindset around food/eating/health is so powerful. I have seen the shift in clients who never realized how badly they had been feeling until they felt great and once they got there, they decided that they never wanted to go back. Amazing how ‘life’ can get in the way though, but it sounds like you’ve got the tools to persevere – and the mindset of abundance (what can I add?) rather than lack (what do I need to take away or what ‘can’t’ I have) and focusing on what you can do for yourself to add health and quality of life to the coming years. We certainly have less wiggle room with what we put into our bodies as we get older and so it’s more important than ever to take what we ‘feed’ ourselves seriously. Luckily, it’s possible to eat healthy and enjoy what we’re eating, which is also important. Your story is inspiring, thanks for sharing it!

    1. Thanks Linda… and welcome to the conversation on my blog! You have a broader perspective on this problem, working with clients and challenging their preconceptions and ‘stuck’ states. It’s easy to make excuses when ‘life’ gets in the way, but life… is life… It will always get in the way! There will always be excuses if you want to look for them – and I should know! But when I look back, the disrupted times have also been the times when I’ve had the most energy and impetus for change too. And now, yes, I do have the tools to persevere – and a different mindset. But we all need a nudge in the right direction sometimes, just to get us, or keep us, on track. So easy to forget how good it feels to eat healthily, when the lure of those addictive chemical flavourings takes hold!!

  7. Big hug Jools x

    As you no doubt know I’ve been down this road myself before – and it’s been all too easy in the past to lose my way and do exactly the same thing.

    Whilst I’m sure that I bore some people to death writing endlessly about my struggles with food and self perception related to my weight it’s the only way I’ve found thus far to keep things on an even keel.

    So – even if it’s not done in public just keep being honest with yourself in print – and more than anything else be kind to the person in the mirror. It’s hard enough to shoulder the burden of what you’ve been through recently without adding guilt and self recrimination about temporarily over indulging to the mix.

    This is easy to say however yet harder to put into practice (and I know this from extensive experience) but it’s also the route to a faster recovery and not turning a bad day into a bad week and an even worse month.

    You got this.

    Just keep swimming xxx

    1. You know of what I speak, Davey – and I can’t help but be totally thrilled for you, that you have gained mastery over the dreaded yo-yo! I watched your weight diminish with every blog post last year, as mine was creeping back up again, I just too stressed to wrest back control. Your struggle was never, ever, boring – and your joy and energy shines through now, and is utterly inspiring. The gallbladder thing has been both a cloud and a silver lining for me, pulling me back to better habits again in a way that I can only be grateful for, despite the threat of cramps attack’s (or maybe because of them!) So I AM keeping on going this time. I lost a lot of ground, but it’s by no means irrevocable damage. Indeed now, with almost half of the damage already undone and just 20 lbs to go to get back my lost ground, I feel weirdly positive. It feels very achievable, especially with the support of lovely friends like you across the blogosphere. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Davey. It means a great deal coming from someone who has achieved so much for themselves. xx

  8. I am sorry to read about your ups and downs with your weight, Julie. My sister is exactly the same. She gets right down and then slowly gains it all back and more. It is really tough to keep your weight down.

    1. Thank you. It’s a permanent job, keeping as much control as possible on the to-yo. Sometimes it’s easier, sometimes harder. All I know is that it ^must^ be more complex than we are persuaded to think. And once you’ve been obese, weight comes back on so astoundingly fast, even with very moderate ‘fails’ of diet. I imagine your sister has a similar experience. I wonder if, one day in the future, people with a better understanding will look back and be astounded at how simplistic our grasp of weight issues was.

      1. I hope so, Jools. My son is under a dietitian now and has lost 12 kgs. It has been really hard for him and I hope the healthy diet plan that we have introduced to him with help him avoid this yo-yo weight problem.

        1. He’s doing well! Avoiding yo-yo is as much a mental as it is a physical exercise. The thing that’s so hard to crack, is the change of mental attitude towards food and eating, away from food as ‘reward’ or ‘comfort’ or ‘legitimate indulgence’. Easier said than done 😏

  9. My heart goes out to you. What an exhausting prospect to keep battling for a healthy life style while opting with grief and gallstones. If it’s any comfort, what I took from your journal review of weight loss is that you keep trying. I’ve all but given up, but you’ve definitely shown that you can always try a new way and work for a better you—whatever size she happens to be!

    1. It’s always worth keeping on trying. Sooner or later the stars align… right time, right energy, right motivation, right support, and you can make headway. Key to it all is to forgive yourself if things go off-track, and reapply yourself as soon as you feel strong enough. Every pound lost is a win. Always.

      1. My aim, at the moment, is to slow the inevitable crawl toward immobility. I’m disturbed to find short, fast walks are leaving me winded or wheezing nowadays. Though, to be fair, my son’s growth spurt and desire to march around in 90 degree weather might be partially to blame.

        1. Nothing is inevitable. Though you may not always feel it, you are in control. Even tiny steps in the right direction are good and worthwhile. I should know – I’ve been working the ‘tiny steps’ programme for years. x

  10. You have been through some tough times and it is hard to focus on self-health at those times. You remain positive and I am sure in time you will get back to where you want to be.

      1. Thanks for missing me! It makes me feel appreciated and that is so important in my life.
        I have been fairly busy and sometimes one just has to let things go (or slide sway temporarily) in order to focus on tasks at hand.
        PS. I missed you too

        1. I totally understand. I too have let blogging slide away for the last several more challenging months, as more personal matters took priority. I’ve blogged only a handful of times in the last year or so whilst I faced both bereavement and health issues. There are no rules, after all. And blogging is a choice. But it is good to see you back again. I have always loved reading your gentle, soul-filled reflections, and appreciating the way you are journeying into the next phase of your life. For different reasons, I’m adjusting to enforced changes too. All warmest wishes as you continue to settle into your new community.

  11. In truth, I was impressed by the fact you have never given up on trying. Which is much easier to do than getting back into a routine. I applaud your efforts and hope that the surgery goes smoothly and that greens suddenly become a lot more appealing and tasty to you after repeat exposure. (Though, honestly, there isn’t much hope for Kale, in my opinion!)

    There is hope for you! I’m wishing you all the very best!

    1. Surgery has gone well thanks. A little post-op problem also now resolved. I’ve always liked my greens (even kale!), but I confess I looked forward to reconnecting with… cheese. Cheese, cheese, glorious cheese… Happily my insides seem well able to cope. The cheese is back, but the dietary efforts continue.

  12. Jools – congratulations – you look fabulous! And I bet you feel better and more confident too! I had about 30 lbs to lose and don’t think I’ll ever go back – at least I am working hard to never see that place again. Wish you all the best of health and congrats!! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Joan 😊. It’s still an up-and-down process I’m afraid, but having recovered such a lot from my very worst place, weight-wise, I’m resolved never to go back there. The work however, will never be over!

        1. Yes, yes and a thousand times yes! And as we get older these things matter more and more. To have better underlying health – even if not perfect – makes everything easier, and more comfortable, to say nothing of what it does for your state of mind. Every day on healthier habits is one in-the-bag for a better, happier life.

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