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.

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Ten Great New Weight Loss Rewards #motivation

swan-293157_1920Milestones come and go. I’ve just said a not-so-fond farewell to another ‘stone’ marker, and I’m heading for a couple more significant milestones in the next few weeks.  But healthy weight-loss rewards in many different ways, not just on the scales.

A short post today, with a few reflections on the things I’ve noticed lately.  Whether you’ve lost a lot of weight or not, I wonder if you identify with the joy I’m getting from any of these.

  • I can cross my legs again
  • I can rest a tray on my lap – yes, my lap has reappeared!
  • I jogged for a total of 9 minutes on my treadmill today – 3 lots of 3 minutes, within an intense hour-long session with my Personal Trainer. It might not seem like much, but it’s 9 minutes longer than I could jog two weeks ago. Along with the rest of the session, it nearly killed me, but even that felt good
  • I can talk about confectionary, desserts, sweet-treats and biscuits without even the slightest hint of longing entering my mind
  • My knees look and feel slimmer – great blobs of fat around them are melting away
  • Bits of my midriff are starting to pull inward – is that actual abs beginning to appear? Wishful thinking, possibly
  • A dozen pretty items of lingerie I haven’t worn for twenty years, yet never had the heart to discard, fit me again. Happily, I had stored them with care
  • I am stronger, physically speaking, than I realised
  • My neckline has totally altered – flatter décolletage, narrower shoulders, fat melting away from my neck, making necklaces hang lower, sit flatter, and look prettier
  • I’m breaking-in a new pair of very tall shoes at home today – it’s lovely feeling and walking taller again, now that my feet and knees can tolerate a few elevated hours.

Once things slow down a little in terms of weekly weight loss, it’s great to be able to draw motivation for continuing the journey, away from the bathroom scales. I know I still have a long way to go, but it’s so, so wonderful to put clothes on, look at yourself in the mirror, and actually feel good about what you see. Having got used to “that’ll do”, I’d forgotten how great it feels to like your reflection – and more than that, appreciate the ways it’s changing.

I know others might look at the same figure and feel disgusted, but it’s all relative, isn’t it?

A Bumpy Ride #weightloss

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I’ve made it to my latest mini-milestone – I finally got to 60 pounds’ weight loss.  But that last four pounds has been very slow to shift. And tough too; a real bumpy ride.

I got to my last mini-milestone (56 pounds/four stone loss) on 1st May.  Thrilled, I re-set my Fitbit goal to the next marker, just four pounds further down the scales, and that enticing round number – 60 pounds. I figured it would take me maybe three weeks, four at the outside, to crush those little babies.

2016-06-17 06.58.08But I’ve been thrown about since then – up a bit, down a bit; tantalisingly close one minute (ten whole days ago!) and then, like a wartime bouncing bomb, soaring back up the scales, out of reach and frustrated beyond all reason. You can see, can’t you?

But yesterday I had reason to break all my usual habits. I had to go into Central London very early to attend a client event. I missed my morning walk.  I missed my usual breakfast. Instead I teetered (high heels, friends) into a branch of Pure in Moorgate and treated myself to a tub of scrambled egg and mushrooms, accompanied by an astoundingly good smoothie made from kale, spinach, avocado, orange, apple and mint. Lunch was laid on – but fifteen platters of sandwiches, rolls and wraps offered scant choice for little low-carb me, so I necked an obscene amount of black coffee instead and breathed through the hunger.  It subsided soon enough. When I got home, I made a giant fresh salad, topped with prawns and chorizo sautéed in coconut oil and garlic.  Happy days.   All this, it seems, was just enough to make that last stubborn pound surrender, and this morning… my scales gave me the best news.

Seven weeks it’s taken. SEVEN. Gah!

Oh, I know. I’ll probably have bounced right back up again after today. But I’m going to bask in my latest success for a few hours longer. I’ve already recalibrated my Fitbit app to the next mini-milestone, just six pounds away (the 30 kilo weight-loss mark, for those of you who work in new money).

I wrote about mini-milestones a while back, and they continue to inspire my progress.  Most of them are between five and ten pounds apart, which means that with a following wind, I get to celebrate (in a non-food kind of a way) every few weeks. When you have a BIG weight-loss goal, in three figures, (mine is somewhere between 100-130 pounds, depending on how I feel when I get a little closer), those mini-milestones are precious indeed.

To weigh, or not to weigh; that is the question

weigh-689873_1920Every dieter there ever was has been told, ‘don’t weigh yourself too often’. Once a week is enough, we’re told. But I beg to disagree. And it seems these days, that even the experts are on my side.

Previously when I’ve been trying to lose weight, I would weigh myself every seven days. That’s what they said you should do.  Weigh yourself too often, they said, and you’ll become obsessive about it.

That pre-shower moment on Monday mornings could make or break my week.  It could catapult me into orbit… ‘oh, the joy, I’ve lost TWO pounds!’… or it could send me plummeting into a pit of irrational desperation.  Yes, it can be so disheartening, after a week of careful eating and energetic exercise, to get that exquisitely cruel Monday Morning Feeling, when the weighing scales refuse to play ball.

In truth, it happens, for so many reasons:

  • You had a big dinner last night
  • You usually starve yourself on Sundays and this week, you didn’t
  • You’re retaining water, time-of-the-month stylie
  • You forgot yourself and drank a glass of water before you jumped on the scales
  • Your obstinate body is retaining water for no apparent reason
  • You drank too much water
  • You didn’t drink enough water
  • You drank wine last night – heaven forfend!
  • You consumed a Twiglet, a toffee bonbon, a KitKat… [insert favourite temptation here]
  • You’re exercising, so you’re building muscle
  • You’re not exercising so you’re laying down fat
  • Your once rigorously controlled portion sizes have begun to creep up
  • Your colon is in a sluggish mood
  • You haven’t been for a couple of days
  • You’re not eating enough fibre
  • You’re eating too much meat
  • You have plateaued, the dieter’s ultimate frustration…

A few weeks after I acquired my Fitbit, I treated myself to some Fitbit Aria scales. They link up to my Fitbit app via Bluetooth. I step on the scales and a minute later, the result is pinging up on my iPhone.  Up until my Aria scales came into service, I had weighed myself once a week.  It was alright at first, as everyone knows weight loss in the first 3 or 4 weeks is (thanks to water loss) swift and encouraging. Once things slow down though, it’s a different matter.

Once a week just isn’t enough (for me…).

But I’d noticed the experts had changed their tune. Apparently now, if it helps you (oh, the breakthrough!), it’s okay to weigh yourself every day. Well, that’s alright then.

So with Aria, I began to weigh… every day.  At first it was chaotic.  I went up. I went down. I went up on days I thought I’d go down, and down on days I thought I’d go up. Then I realised Aria for all its high-tech digital Bluetoothyness, is no more accurate than any other set of scales, so I began to go for a best of three approach. Aria would present me with three weights – sometimes, horror of horrors, they’d be a pound or more apart! So I would choose the middle one (unless I needed cheering up, in which case it would, with only the tiniest twinge of guilt, and the knowledge that I would surely suffer for it tomorrow, be the bottom one). One day I did best of five but even I knew that was taking things too far.  Obsessive? Moi?

So, I have a daily weight figure, but I’ve learned not to hold too much store by it.  The good thing is, if I don’t like it, I don’t have to suffer for a week; there’ll be another one along tomorrow.

Best of all, Aria takes all those daily weights and gives me a mean average figure for each week, and that’s the one that really counts in my book. I can see from that figure, what I can’t see from the up/down concertina effect daily graph – that I am… going down, and down.  And here’s the proof – a little Excel spreadsheet of my weekly averages over the last 5 months or so.  Except for one nightmare week in November, even the weeks which looked like a plateau have given me me a little downward tweak of the weekly average figure.

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A definite downward line, for all the ziggy-zaggy that goes on each week. And that works for me.