Giant Weight Loss Goals Need Many Mini Milestones

Endless road

My BIG total weight loss goal is a somewhat overwhelming 123lbs, or 55.8 kilo. It’s not even alright if you say it fast. But it is what it is. I may get there. If I get even half way, I’ll be putting out the bunting. (In truth, having waved a not-so-fond farewell to 40 lbs since September I’m almost at the one-third mark and there is already cause for celebration.)

At the moment though, I’m psyched up and going for the whole nine yards.

But with so much weight to lose, that end goal is a long way away. Whilst it demands to be acknowledged, it’s hard, after a lifetime of yoyo dieting, to cheerily own it, as if all I have to do is visualise myself in that spray-on party dress, micro-bikini (bikinis at 55 – maybe not) or oh-so-chic tailoring, and it will be so. I’m all for positive thinking but I’ve fought this fight a few times already and I know it’s going to need more than that.

With the big goal so… big… what I need to keep me going is a set of interim goals or mini milestones which give me regular opportunities to acknowledge my progress and honour my success-to-date.

And I’ve become an expert at finding those mini milestones.

So… if you’re looking for interim markers along the way to a big weight-loss goal, let me suggest a few.

  1. Whether you weigh yourself in stones and pounds or pounds alone, or kilos, all three options are entirely legitimate when you’re looking for those weight-loss milestones. (For my USA readers, a stone is 14lbs.) So for starters you can look for nice round weight-loss numbers in all three units of measurement, for example:

First 10 lbs lost… and all subsequent 10 lbs… 20, 30, 40, etc…

First 10 kilos lost… and all subsequent 10 kilo markers… 20, 30, etc…

First stone lost… and (you guessed it) every subsequent stone… (For those of us in the UK who measure in stones, waving goodbye to a stone is A Big Thing.)

  1. Next, you can calculate your current weight in all three units of measurement, and you have a whole new set of ‘big’ round numbers for your milestones list:

Achieving (or passing through) a stones marker… 17, 16, 15 stone, etc…

Achieving (or passing through) a big round pounds marker… 240, 230, 220 lbs, etc…

Achieving (or passing through), yes, a big round kilos marker… 120, 110, 100 kilos, etc…

  1. If you know where you started, you then have another set of really great mini milestones – the percentage of your original weight that you’ve lost. Much has been written about the many health benefits of losing 10% of your body weight, from wherever you begin – so that’s a great one to celebrate.  But on a big weight-loss journey why not mark 15%, or 20% too?
  1. Lastly there’s BMI (Body Mass Index). The big markers are 40 (above which the medics and insurance companies label you morbidly obese), 30 (above which you’re plain obese), then 25 (above which you’re still overweight but at least no longer that dreadful word… obese). Once you get to below 25 you are, joy of joys, a normal/healthy weight – a cause for much insane (but please, self-controlled) celebration. Though it has its shortcomings, BMI is a generally useful measure, reflecting both your height and weight, although not (which is more relevant to a body builder or a rugby player than an overweight middle-aged woman) muscle mass. If you want to work out your BMI, and you’re not a body builder or a rugby player, search for a ‘BMI Calculator’ on Google.

Here’s a segment of my well-populated list of milestones, to give you an idea of the almost limitless possibilities:

Starting weight:                      270 lbs / 19 st 4 lbs / 122.47 kilo

Farewell to 19 stone:             265 lbs / 18 st 13 lbs / 120.20 kilo

Under 120 kilo:                       264 lbs / 18 st 12 lbs / 119.75 kilo

260 lbs / 10 lbs lost:               260 lbs / 18 st 8 lbs / 117.93 kilo

1 stone lost:                            256 lbs / 18 st 4 lbs / 116.12 kilo

Farewell to 18 stone:             251 lbs / 17 st 13 lbs / 113.85 kilo

250 lbs / 20 lbs lost:               250 lbs / 17 st 12 lbs / 113.40 kilo

10 kilo lost:                             248 lbs / 17 st 10 lbs / 112.47 kilo

10% loss (27 lbs):                   243 lbs / 17 st 5 lbs / 110.22 kilo

Under 110 kilo:                       242 lbs / 17 st 4 lbs / 109.77 kilo

2 stone lost:                            242 lbs / 17 st 4 lbs / 109.77 kilo

240 lbs / 30 lbs lost:               240 lbs / 17 st 2 lbs / 108.86 kilo

Farewell to 17 stone:             237 lbs / 16 st 13 lbs / 107.50 kilo

BMI Below 40:                        232 lbs / 16 st 8 lbs / 105.23 kilo

230 lbs / 40 lbs lost:               230 lbs / 16 st 8 lbs / 105.23 kilo

15% loss (41 lbs):                   229 lbs / 16 st 5 lbs / 103.87 kilo

3 stone lost:                            228 lbs / 16 st 4 lbs / 103.41 kilo

20 kilo lost:                             226 lbs / 16 st 2 lbs / 102.47 kilo

Farewell to 16 stone:             223 lbs / 15 st 13 lbs / 101.15 kilo

Under 100 kilo:                       220 lbs / 15 st 10 lbs / 99.79 kilo

220 lbs / 50 lbs lost:               220 lbs / 15 st 10 lbs / 99.79 kilo…

And so on… you get the picture.

I’m quite visual about these things, and I think it’s great to have your mini milestones printed out and put up somewhere, perhaps in your own private space. It’s a good feeling to score a line through another, and another, on your journey downwards.

I don’t make a big song-and-dance about every single mini milestone on my list and in any case you’ll have noticed that here and there, one milestone sits right on top of another. I’m hopeless with kilos too – I’m a stones and pounds girl – but I think even I will acknowledge slipping below 100 kilos. The key milestones for me have been the stones lost, the round pounds lost, the 10% and then 15% weight loss (I’m teetering on the edge of that one right now), and, best of all, falling beneath that morbid BMI 40 marker. I’m also seriously focused on the big round 50 lbs loss figure (which sits right on top of the equally significant under 100 kilo milestone for me) – mainly because I’ve never managed to lose more than 49 lbs in any past weight management campaign, even though I’ve needed to.

These mini milestones are quantitative and weight related. There are many other more qualitative ways to acknowledge progress towards a healthier weight. I might share some of mine in another post sometime. Meantime, I’d love to hear if you have any special mini milestones, weight related or otherwise.

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Little Things Mean a Lot

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I walk regularly these days, often in the early morning – purposefully, dressed very obviously as someone out getting some exercise. I’m very non-threatening; though my zip-up has a hood, I don’t use it unless I get caught in the drizzle. Even so, it is rare for anybody I pass along the road to acknowledge me, though I will always nod and smile.  Granted, I’ve taken to going out in the dim early morning light without make-up (horrors!)  It seems pointless to put it all on, only for the ‘gentle glow’ of exertion to wipe it away, so I do all that stuff after my walk.  As a result I admit, I’m not at my best and it’s perhaps not particularly pleasing on the eye, to encounter a sturdy 50-something woman with bed-hair and no make-up, striding down the street or across the park. So maybe that’s reason enough for most people to walk past me as if I’m not there, their eyes focused on some point in the middle distance, lost in their own internal worlds. I don’t know what they think I might do if they should nod and smile back at me. But there it is.

It’s only when I remove my headphones as I approach and greet someone in the park, usually a dog-walker, with a clear and friendly ‘Good Morning’ that I can elicit any kind of a response – and I think I’ve forced the courtesy then, so perhaps it doesn’t count.  But to be fair, it’s invariably the dog-walkers who are more forthcoming, even though I lack the canine companion that would position me firmly as a ‘friendly’ passer-by.

So today, it was a particular and delightful surprise to receive a warm smile and a ‘hello’ from a woman who was unlocking and letting herself into a shop as I passed. I pulled my headphones from my ears and she mentioned she’d seen me several times in recent days, usually a little further up the road and a little earlier (yep, Sunday, I had a lie-in). She asked me if I walked regularly, how long my walk was, and whether I was walking for weight-loss. As we chatted briefly, she offered me the warmest encouragement and congratulated me on my success so far. Without a doubt she brightened my day with her kind, positive words.

I wish more people would take the time simply to notice the strangers around them.  Busy lives we all have, but a nod, a smile, even a moment of conversation – it costs nothing, and it can spread more than a little sunshine.

The Ups and Downs of a YoYo Dieter #yo-yo

potato-chips-448737_1920You might be wondering how it’s possible for a woman – educated, intelligent and with a healthy understanding of the tenets of good nutrition – to get to 270lb (that’s a fulsome 19 stone, UK). Indeed, I wonder myself sometimes. I watch those programmes on TV featuring overweight people trying to lose the pounds, and invariably they’re shown gorging on triple servings of hamburgers, kebabs and curries, or piles of donuts and chocolate, indulging in midnight fridge raids or slurping gallons of full-fat cola or beer. And that’s just not me. At least, I don’t think it is.

So how did it happen?

As a child I was not without what they politely used to call puppy fat, though it probably wouldn’t even be remarked upon today.  Even then I had a weakness for savouries, and would buy two or three bags of crisps (that would be potato chips for Stateside readers) each day from the school tuck-shop and chomp the lot at break-time. But I got lots of exercise to mitigate this greed. I would walk 1½ miles a day on my journey to school. I enjoyed ice skating and swimming at the weekends, and judo, rounders and netball within school hours; I tolerated tennis in the summer but I hated hockey in the winter as my chubby thighs would chafe in coarse woollen shorts.  But if a little podgy here and there, I was nonetheless fit and in robust health.

The puppy fat fell away when I discovered… boys. Now, that’s motivation.  My first serious boyfriend was a skinny youth and call me precious, but I didn’t think a girl should weigh more than her boyfriend.  The year I spent with this guy was a constant struggle to stay below 126lb (9 stone). I’ve not been close to that magic figure in the 38 years since then.

A few years later, happily engaged to be married, my weight had crept up to 154lb (11 stone) – a by-product of Friday and Saturday evening drinking, cheap takeaways on-the-run and having acquired a motorcycle, which swiftly overtook my legs as the preferred mode of transportation. I took myself off to Weightwatchers and shook off 22lb in preparation for the Big Day, earning myself a Lifetime membership in the process. Weightwatchers clearly knew something I didn’t yet realise about the life of a yo-yo dieter. I’d reached 132lb (around 9½ stone).  At that weight today I’d be beyond triumphant, but back then it felt like defeat, that I couldn’t make it all the way to 9 stone. And even that didn’t last; looking back at the pictures, I was probably was already close to 140lb (10 stone) by the time I walked down the aisle.

Over the next few contented married years, the weight went back on, and a quite a bit more besides. I passed through 168lb (12 stone). I remember going on a holiday to Devon, booking on a pony trekking day and wondering if the horse would have the strength to carry me. Back in the mid-1980’s, 12 stone felt… massive.  But I still managed to put on at least another 28lb over the next three years – I think I got to 14 stone and something. I was cooking hearty entry-level supper meals for both of us, but consuming much the same in portion size as my husband. He was in a very physically active job and though I still swam at weekends and walked a little, I was desk-bound for work. That’s a recipe for laying down the fat, but I hardly even realised what I was doing. Relaxed and secure, I had let down my guard – and the climb through the pounds and stones was steady but relentless.

By 1988 things had changed. With divorce looming and my soon to be ex-husband and I sharing our house yet trying to live considerate separate lives whilst it sold, the weight once again fell away. Not wanting to spend time at home, for several months I rarely ate a decent sit-down meal; I filled time swimming and playing squash. Afraid that I would drink too much in this unsettling period, I gave up alcohol altogether for a while. Stress aggravated my digestive system too. This was all the silver lining to the cloud of marital breakdown. Unintended it may have been, all told, I lost 56lb (4 stone). I remember watching the faces of the men at work change, and enjoying their attention, as my body changed shape. As I emerged from my marriage, it was as if I were shedding a skin. At 28 years old, I looked the best I’d ever looked and it was an exciting time as a result. I joined a gym for something to fill my single-girl spare-time, and spent several evenings a week maintaining my new shape – even dating my personal trainer for a while. I bought a bicycle and tested myself on the London to Brighton Bike Ride. I’d done no training but I took it slowly and made it in one piece.

Christmas 1987
Christmas 1987. Dressed, I think, in tin-foil
What a difference a year makes: Christmas 1988
What a difference a year makes: Christmas 1988

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But it didn’t last. Over the next decade or so, my weight crept slowly, slowly upward again. Work and career became more intense and evenings at the gym more intermittent as a result. For the first time in years, I didn’t have a regular squash partner, and a succession of short-lived relationships had left me jaded. I don’t remember much about this time, except that it was tense, unsettling and not particularly happy. Work was challenging and stressful and I suffered panic attacks. I would drive for hours to visit clients, snacking on a passenger-seat full of crisps, chocolate bars and shrink-wrapped sandwiches. I developed a MacDonald’s breakfast habit and a KFC lunch habit. That was all bad, and I cannot hide from it.

But the truth is, even without those bad habits, you don’t have to eat that much over and above your daily requirement for the excess pounds to show up, slowly and steadily, and latch on tight.  This time it took the whole decade, but I reached 225lb (16 stone).

In 2001 the double-whammy of a seriously toxic relationship and a second redundancy put me in a shit-or-bust frame of mind. I wanted to start working for myself, and I was determined not to be caught out by another low-life. Bearing my gold Lifetime Membership card, I reintroduced myself to Weightwatchers. Things fell into place with the Points system and over 6 months, I lost 50lb (3½ stone). I joined the gym again, showing up three mornings a week at 6:30am and twice at the weekends. This time it was not happy accident but relentless determination – and it paid off.

But… but… but… as soon as I took my eye off the ball, the weight surged back on again. And just like every time before, more went on than had come off. This time, already in my 40’s, it seemed to happen so fast. I shed a stone or so following a Jason Vale Juicing Retreat in 2006, but I couldn’t sustain the success. By 2007 I was doing battle with the menopause too. It was like slamming into a brick wall. Fatigued, I struggled to motivate myself to do any exercise at all. My eating patterns became lazy – Chinese take-aways, poke-and-ping meals, quick-fix junk food and stuff-on-toast – for months on end. The result was predictable; despite a few feeble attempts at weight loss with Atkins, juicing and raw food, a too rapid climb to my highest ever weight – 270lb (19 stone).

To be honest, I thought it would be worse. I’d expected 20 stone when I finally braved the scales. I hadn’t weighed myself for a year and the last time I’d jumped on the scales I’d seen that same figure. That it hadn’t risen in 12 months was, bizarrely, excellent news!

That’s how I got to 270lb. On the way, I’ve lost close to 200lb and put on probably half as much again. I actually got scared of dieting, because each time, I put more weight back on. I cannot afford for that to happen again this time. Already in morbid obesity territory at 270lb, any more than that would surely be tantamount to suicide.

So this time, I’m taking a different approach. This time it’s all about healthy lifestyle, not dieting. I don’t know if it will work, but I’ve been at it for a few months now and with 35lb already shifted, I think it stands a good chance of being sustainable. I am actually enjoying the changes rather than suffering them. Maybe… just maybe this different mind-set will see me through.

An Easy Squeezy Three Day ‘Detox’

2015-09-10 09.50.07 copyI should begin by saying that I don’t, strictly speaking, believe in detox. I’m pretty comfortable with my own body’s everyday capabilities in that department.  It is, after all, what the liver, kidneys and miles of intestine were invented for.

However, I was persuaded to try this simple and non-extreme set of guidelines for revitalising and rebalancing, by my Vitality Coach (great to have support when you’re making big changes). Having found it perfectly doable, and seen benefits even over a short period, it’s become a regular monthly thing.

So here it is.  For just three days:

On rising:

  • Begin each day with a diaphragmatic breathing exercise: 10-15 deep and slow in/out breaths
  • Drink a glass of warm water with lemon juice, ginger and a pinch of pink Himalayan salt
  • Get the day moving – a minimum 10-15 minutes walk, ideally longer. But if all you do is 10 minutes, definitely do a longer walk later in the day.

Each evening:

  • Spend 10 minutes in an ‘inversion’ position – that is, legs higher than heart.  Fear not, you don’t have to be upside-down! If you do Yoga or Pilates, you’ll know exercises which fit the bill.

Food guidelines:

  • Exclude all wheat and wheat products (ie, bread, crackers, pasta)
  • Exclude all added sugar (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
  • Exclude all milk products (ie milk, cheese, butter) except for natural yoghurt (because we like friendly bacteria)
  • Exclude all alcohol (sorry!)
  • Replace any poultry or other meat with fish
  • Eat any fruit before, rather than after, a meal
  • Drink plenty of water.

There. I have found this surprisingly easy as I don’t drink much alcohol anyway, and I’ve already eliminated added sugar from my diet.  The first time I tried it, back in early November, I lost 4lb in the three days. More significantly for me, my ankles, which had been oedemic for the whole of the summer (think swollen, water-filled balloons), deflated, and the problem and discomfort has not returned. I have normal ankles again – a cause for much alcohol-free celebration!

I did the detox again in early December and with the turn of the year comes the perfect opportunity for another run at it.

That first three-day detox also led to me cutting back quite a bit on wheat.  Whilst I don’t believe myself to be ‘intolerant’ of wheat, I’ve certainly noticed I feel more comfortable having reduced the amount I eat. I do enjoy the odd ‘healthy’ cracker (my favourites, for UK readers are NoNo with sesame, Ryvita with pumpkin seeds and Rude Health multigrain crackers), but I rarely eat bread or pasta these days, and I haven’t missed either. That surprised me as before, I would eat toast every day and pasta several times a week, especially in winter.

I realise people with an alcohol or sugar habit will find this harder than I did – but then, they might see even more positive outcomes. It is just for three days, and in January many people focus on eliminating the boozy and sugary treats in which they’ve over-indulged across the festive season.

I’m not a medical person, so let’s be clear, I’m not offering anybody any advice. But for me this regimen, over three short days, feels vibrant and healthy. I think it could be a great way to rebalance after a period of excess, and I’ve certainly found it a valuable point of refocus within a longer dietary journey.

Fat Girl Slim (eventually)

Breakfast at Denny's, January 2015. I know... I know...
Breakfast at Denny’s, January 2015. I know… I know…

These are my achievements in 2015:

  • I published my first novel
  • I kicked a lifelong sugar habit into touch
  • I have lost 35 surplus pounds (so far…)

The novel, Singled Out, came out in February and has sold modestly, as self-published novels are wont to do, but received some amazing reviews. Thank you, hugely, to all those readers who took the time and trouble to give their feedback so positively this year on Amazon and Goodreads.

Kicking the sugar habit began in September and was a gradual thing, no ‘cold turkey’ for me. But I’m confident I’ve now succeeded in eliminating all but the very occasional appearance of added sugar in one or two sneaky little places.  I’m going to blog on this in coming days because whether you’re overweight like I am or not, you should probably be consuming less sugar.

The serious attack on my surplus poundage also began in September, and at an average of just over 2lbs a week, I’m deliriously happy, quite beside myself, at this initial, steady and sustainable success. I’d chosen to believe for so long that as a middle-aged and largely sedentary woman, I was stuck with my wraparound flab for life. No so, it seems. But there is some distance yet to be travelled.

Regular readers will know I’ve been blogging for a while about the experience of writing fiction and navigating today’s publishing landscape. Then I started slipping in a few posts relating to Singled Out – the ups and downs of being single, Turkey, foodie matters and the psycho-side of life.

Now with my sights set on maintaining my new healthier lifestyle into 2016 and continuing to offload unwanted pounds, I’ll be blogging about my experience of turning around a lethargic, sugar-laden, poke-and-ping mindset and offering a few thoughts on the way the world at large is chewing over what it has branded “The Obesity Epidemic”.

When I sat down to think up a few topics, it took me about five minutes to get to 40. That surprised even me, especially since I’ve been struggling for months to think of what to write… about writing.

So this is not a blog about writing any more – at least for now. But I do hope you’ll stick with me through 2016 though, as it turns out I have a bit to say about the experience of developing positive addictions to healthy lifestyle habits, being overweight and losing it, and the whole horrible obesity debate.

I can’t be too triumphalist about it, because take a glance at the picture above (on holiday in Florida, a year ago and several months before the fun-and-games began) and you’ll realise that even 35lbs down, I still have a tonnage to deal with. But I’ve learnt some valuable lessons and changed some important things in the last four months; which means I can with reasonable confidence say that whilst this is neither the end, nor the beginning of the end, it is perhaps the end of the beginning.