A few weeks ago I posted about a calorie-tracking app that I was testing and my struggles with weight-loss generally.
Last year I put on a few pounds in the lead up to my wedding, and then more than half a stone after the wedding. It wasn’t until late August when were having a weekend break in Paris did I feel truly uncomfortable and decided to do something about it.
I joined a gym. Standard, I know. But I’ve always been ‘in’ to exercise – cardio mostly. But exercise doesn’t help you lose weight. It makes you feel better about yourself initially because you are doing the right thing for your body. But then after a few weeks you get quite despondent because you aren’t seeing results, or the results aren’t as quick as you would like. And then you slip up, eating junk food you’ve been desperately trying to avoid and before you know it your diet is over and its not even been a month. Your gym membership feels like a burden – a monthly cost you can’t afford and time out of your day when you’d rather be at home. You know the drill. The circle. The ups and downs. Call it what you want but most people, no matter where there are on their weight loss / healthy lifestyle journey will have been there.
You need to address your diet. And that is the biggest change you can make, I think. If you are very overweight and have had a truly bad diet then its going to feel like you have to traverse a mountain. For others who are looking to shift a few pounds or a few stone, its possible, but you may not know what is wrong with your diet in the first place. Too much food, obviously, but what changes do you make? And where do you begin? Do you reduce your carbs, increase your protein intake, cut out alcohol/sweets/takeaways?
I started using a calorie tracking app because even though I’m fairly savvy and know roughly how many calories are in many foods, I think there are a lot of hidden calories in things you don’t really think about: cooking oil, ketchup etc. And my first discovery? 1,600 calories (my daily number of calories to lose a pound a week apparently) is LOW.
1,600 calories looks like this.
This is a typical ‘good’ day for me:
Breakfast: wholegrain toast with butter and a cup of tea [total calories 204]
Snack 1: banana [103 calories] and a KitKat [106 calories]
Lunch: Slim Fast shake [203 calories]
Snack 2: pear [103 calories] sometimes I have a nectarine instead and these are slightly lower in calories
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognaise [spaghetti , quorn mince , chopped tomatoes , mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and courgette , grated cheese . Total calories 630
Evening snack: chocolate biscuit x3 
TOTAL FOR DAY: 1,589
As you can see, I am having at least two pieces of fruit and vegetables with my evening meal. Yes, I have had a chocolate bar in the morning but I get up very early and have a long commute so 10am is middle of the day for me! Plus KitKats are the lowest calorie chocolate I can find.
Many will say a Slim Fast shake for lunch I shall neither healthy nor sustainable, but I find it help she me monitor my calories to keep them low during the day. I am very much an evening eater so if I didn’t restrict my calories at lunch time I’d be gaining rather than losing weight.
Having recorded my calories every single day for 60 days, I realised that seeing it all written down really encouraged me to eat better. But just half a biscuit or one more piece of fruit on top, and I’d be over my total for the day. Its hard especially when you see how little you are eating but how many calories are in those items!
I haven’t made a huge overhaul to my diet as I eat fairly healthily anyway. My downfall is portion size and snacking. Swapping unhealthy items for fruit has been hard because I never used to like fruit, and even now there are very few fruits I will eat. But I’m getting there and, more importantly, I’m enjoying it.
Reducing my portion sizes has been the biggest lesson. Pasta or rice the size of my fist on a plate rather than taking up most of the plate I still look down and think “the plate is half empty” but after a few days and weeks your stomach muscle starts to shrink so you don’t feel as hungry and get full up on less.
This makes me sound like I’m starving myself – I’m not, I just had huge plates of food before.I come from a family where finishing everything on your plate is encouraged and piled high. Not stop when you’re full up. I now try to only put on the plate what I want to eat and I think is a reasonable amount to eat and that takes time to learn. You really have to listen to your body.
So, after trying my damned hardest and some 9 months after I first decided to make some changes, I reached my ‘goal weight’. I did have some problems with my scales (they kept saying a different number every time) so I can’t be sure exactly how much I’ve lost, but I think it is about a stone. I’m pretty pleased because I’ve lost it in a sustainable way even though its taken far longer than most other people.
Here are the things I’ve learnt along the way:
- Look at your portion sizes. Your stomach is supposedly the size of a grapefruit. Imagine it stretching with too much food!
- Carbs are good in moderation. Everything is good in moderation but carbs are not evil. Eating pasta or rice will not make you put weight on unless you are eating to excess.
- Introducing fruit and more vegetables is not hard; add an extra vegetable to your evening meal and swap a snack for fruit during the day.
- There are a lot of calories in meat! Having meatballs instead of quorn mince adds an extra 400 calories to your spaghetti meal! Plus there is more fat. I’m at an advantage in that my parents are vegetarian and I’ve grown up familiar with meat alternatives, but I would definitely recommend making a swap once a week.
- Exercise helps maintain your weight, but does not help you lose it. You have to change your diet too.
- MOVE MORE. Take the stairs, not the lift. I’ve started taking the stairs at the train station instead of the escalator (about 2 floors’ worth) and I feel much better in myself.
- There will be foods you love but which you realise are not good for you. Bread does not agree with me. Just making a simple change from white to whole grain has been astronomical. I don’t feel bloated, lethargic or uncomfortable. Listen to your body – you don’t have to cut it out just find an alternative.
This is old news, I know that. But it’s not a fad diet, just simple obvious decisions to lead a more healthy lifestyle. Find something that motivates you; an outfit, an old picture, anything. Don’t be negative if you take your time to get there like I did, enjoy the journey and think about what you’ve learned. Try to make those little changes last a lifestyle and maybe you’ll never need to crash diet again.
Ive only lost a stone and could do with losing more, but I’m happy where I am at the moment. I’m now turning my attention to the outside of my body and to firming it up. I’ve been doing a basic routine of sit ups, crunches, leg lifts, russian twists etc at the gym plus my usual short run, and my tummy has become much flatter as a result. I’m going to try and improve my legs now and get some tone. Wish me luck! I have no idea what I’m doing and only bought kettle bells the other day, but its the trying that counts.
And whilst doing that, focusing on eating right; not clean, but healthy nutritious food with the odd naughty treat!
Everyone is in the same boat; just because they don’t talk about their body hang ups doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Stay positive!