My Top Ten experience-based tips for sustainable and #healthy #weightloss

2016-07-14 19.11.30Following on from my one-year post, here are my personal tips on achieving sustainable and healthy weight-loss. I stress personal, because I’m not a nutritionist or a medical professional, so I’m not qualified in any way to offer advice. These are simply some things that have worked for me over the last year.

I’ve already written about a few of these, and I’ll be covering the rest in more detail in due course. But for now, in no particular order, these things made the greatest difference to me, and contributed to my success-to-date, over the past year:

(1) Build your support network

A coach, a nutritionist, your GP, a slimming club, a friend on the same journey, an on-line community, supportive friends and family. Doing this alone is tougher, so develop your network of supporters, who will guide, encourage and motivate you.  People who care about you will want to help and encourage you. They’ll want to see you succeed.

(2) Keep a food diary

A full-disclosure, honest account of everything you eat; not to show anyone, but to acknowledge to yourself what you’re doing. Raising your own awareness of your consumption does, weirdly, help you to avoid the ‘bad stuff’ – even though it’s only you that sees your diary. You can’t kid yourself that you’re staying on-message when your food diary says you munched through a whole bag of tortilla chips for the third night in a row.

(3) Weigh yourself daily

Going from weekly to daily weigh-ins was a big breakthrough for me. You become aware of how your body behaves – and misbehaves. Days when you think you should have lost, you gain; and days when you’ve scoffed like a pig, you lose. But however those scales confound you, you only have 24 hours to go until the next weigh-in – that’s not a lot of time to go off-the-rails, definitely salvageable. Take your 7 daily weigh-ins and divide by 7, for a weekly average. If you’re generally staying on-track, even if the daily chart looks like a roller-coaster, your weekly average figures should be heading steadily and encouragingly downward.

(4) Give up sweet stuff

berliner-17811_1920I’ve said a lot before about giving up added sugar – check out the post and the links. It’s made a huge difference to me, in so many ways. I’m not just talking about sweets and cakes either; I’d urge you to become more aware of how much sugar (in all its guises) is hidden in the everyday products you consume. I guarantee you’ll find it where you don’t expect it, and you’ll be surprised – shocked – at how much you get through without realising.  If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, this is a particularly vital step.

(5) Minimise simple/white carbs

I haven’t gone totally low carb, but I have dramatically reduced, to almost zero, my intake of bread, pasta, white rice and potatoes. I thought it would result in extremes of hunger, but it doesn’t – really doesn’t! You lose the insulin/glucose ‘spikes’ which kick-off the hunger pangs. Your body rebalances, and your gut is grateful. I waved a not-so-fond farewell to bloating, heartburn and acid reflux too, when I ditched these lumpen ingredients.

(6) portion control

2016-04-03 12.18.36Whatever you think you should be eating, reduce it. Portion sizes have exploded in recent years and we’re all far too accustomed to accepting huge plates, stacked high, and ploughing our way through obscene quantities. The easiest way to lose weight is to eat less. If smaller amounts of food look meagre, serve yourself on a smaller plate, or a bowl.  Serve half of what you believe you want, and return to the pot only if you are genuinely still hungry when you’ve finished your smaller portion.

(7) Plan an exercise schedule

Time does not automatically free itself.  In ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ world, tomorrow never comes. If you struggle to commit to exercise, as I do, you’ll appreciate the structure of a schedule. I recently came across a neat idea – the ‘3, 2, 1’ approach. You pick three types of exercise; one you do three times a week (for me, that’s a good long or fast walk, for cardio, general wellbeing and the pleasure of fresh air); one you do twice a week (for me, a serious Pilates session for core strength and posture), and one you do once a week (for me, swimming with a friend, cardio again, also sociable). The idea is to inject some variety, to exercise your whole body, and keep you engaged with the whole idea of exercise.  I’m far from perfect when it comes to exercising regularly, but I take the view that whatever you do, it’s better than doing nothing.  We don’t have to all be gym-bunnies and marathon runners, do we?

(8)  stop EATing YOUR EMOTIONS

massage-therapy-1584711_1920One of the first things my Vitality Healthy Lifestyle Coach helped me with, was learning to reward myself – and conversely, comfort myself – with things that don’t involve food. I used to eat for comfort, and eat for reward, neither of which was helpful. Find things you appreciate – a massage perhaps, fresh flowers for your home, scented candles, an hour browsing a magazine, a film or DVD, music, a cosy curl-up in an armchair with a good book, a chat on the phone with a friend – just a few which work for me.

(9) Acknowledge your achievements

I’ve blogged about mini-milestones before.  When you’re on a long weight-loss journey, it’s important to acknowledge your progress towards the bigger goal.  Seeing yourself tick these milestones off, one by one, is very motivating. Learn to appreciate the benefits you’re experiencing beyond pounds/kilos too. Compliments from friends, the pleasure of buying clothes a size smaller, how your more slender body feels and moves – all these things and more can gift you energy and positivity for the next phase.

(10) POSITIVE VISUALISATION

It’s a powerful motivator, when you can visualise yourself as the more slender, more active, more energetic, more toned, healthier person you seek to become. I couldn’t do it at first – it seemed so far away and… impossible.  But as the pounds began to fall away, and I began to imagine I might actually stay with my new healthy lifestyle, not fall off the wagon for good and all, it began to be easier to see myself as the person I wanted to become.

When you visualise, make it very real.  Imagine not just what you look like. Focus on what you feel like, what you’re doing, how you’re moving, what you’re wearing, what you’re eating, where you are, what work you’re doing, who you’re with, and how happy you are. Make a home movie in your head and let the picture become very vivid and colourful, full of energy and vitality.  If you’re a writer – write it! Write the story of your future self. It’s a bit of a psychological exercise, and it doesn’t come naturally for most of us, but it is worth doing. I wrote my visualisation and it sounded crazy, months ago.  Not so crazy now though.

Like I said, I’m not qualified, and I’m not an expert. These approaches have become part of my healthy/weight-loss strategy, along with great bucket-loads of patience. Weight that’s taken two decades to arrive, doesn’t depart in a few weeks. But it does let go eventually – so don’t lose faith in yourself.

2014: Two Goals – One Vision

Flowers language clicheI have two goals for 2014.  Many people will be all too familiar with Goal Number One – which is to shed (an unspecified number of) unwanted pounds, get fitter and eat more healthily. After several false starts over recent years, I don’t believe I should put it off any longer.  It’s time to begin to act consistently (ie, for more than 3 days at a time) in the interests of staying fit and well for a good many more years.   This, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t come naturally to me; so I’m linking it to my other goal, in the hope that a firm eye on this particular prize will help me stay the course with what is, for me, an undeniably challenging task.

Goal Number Two of course, is to find an agent and secure a publishing deal for Singled Out.   I’m more resolved than ever on this matter, as the final email I received on New Year’s Eve 2013, around 10pm yesterday evening, was my second rejection.  I experienced the initial lurch of excitement as I realised who it was had emailed me.  That’s a bit like getting an envelope in the post that you know is from the Premium Bonds, and until you open it and find out you’ve only won £25, you can dream it’s the jackpot.  It wasn’t the jackpot.  It was another perfectly polite and encouraging standard format rejection.  But I found myself quite content to receive it, as it came from one of those agents whose website says, ‘if you haven’t heard from us in 8 weeks, you can assume we’re not interested’. It was reassuring to be handled courteously and to be encouraged to try other agents.

So – getting fit and getting published – how do my two goals connect?  It’s in a single positive visualisation – something I’ve used on and off in life to help make the things I want to achieve more real and vivid and connect me on an emotional level with how much I want to achieve them.  I know it might seem a bit nuts and I confess I did get the idea from self-help guru Tony Robbins originally. But on occasion it’s served me well, so I make no apology.

Everyone should dream, no matter how far-fetched or remote their dreams may feel.  Mine feel to me to be tantalisingly attainable.  I hope I’m not being pretentious, sharing them with you.

I picture myself on the stage at a literary festival, maybe in an elegant public room, a small theatre, or a marquee, discussing my debut novel with an interviewer and reading excerpts to an audience.  In another version of the same, I see myself in a larger branch of Waterstones, seated at a table on which there are multiple copies of Singled Out.  In front of me is a gratifyingly lengthy queue of readers waiting for personally signed copies.  When I get going I can build these pictures into mini movies in my mind, imagining textures, colours and aromas; my choice of outfit, the refreshments on the table, the way the room has been dressed, the looks on the faces of the audience and more.   When you let yourself go, it’s fun to play with visualisations.

To properly relish the sense of achievement and success in these mini movies, I visualise myself as the best I can be – a worn-out, overweight and unhealthy version of me has no place in these pictures.  To enjoy the pleasure of my writerly efforts coming to fruition, I want to be full of energy and vitality and I want to look my best – that’s how I picture myself on that stage, or at that table.

And for that, I cannot afford to waste another moment. So before I get my head around the next few pages of the 2014 Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and get some more agent submissions out, I’m jumping on the treadmill.