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.

Screenshot 2016-02-05 17.53.01

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

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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.

Little Things Mean a Lot

2016-01-01 08.02.42

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.

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.