To labour a cliché, I’m going to share with you my “weight loss journey”.
I’ve been a healthy weight for just over ten years now. That’s not discounting a few holidays here and there where a few extra pounds have come knocking, but I’ve consistently managed to shed them almost as quickly as they were gained. However, over the 2019 festive season, my weight crept up by over a stone – the most I have gained since my lifechanging weight loss over a decade ago. This was down to an accumulation of social events, bad habits and lack of exercise caused by a health scare.
This Good Friday, I stepped on the scales to be greeted with the welcome news that I had hit my goal weight. The loss of a stone over four months is no mean feat, especially when I was not excessively overweight beforehand and therefore the weight was not going to drop off me with a simple change of diet. I am acutely aware that my “before” will be somebody else’s “after” goal, but when you’re not used to carrying those extra few pounds, or when the buttons on your clothes are straining, it’s only natural for one to long to be back at the weight at which they felt most comfortable. I am now there, and therefore thought I would impart a few pearls of wisdom on how I achieved it.
- Goal Setting: The first thing I decided was what I wanted to achieve at the end of this. This time for me, it was not so much about the numbers flashing on the scales. Rather, it was my longing to comfortably fit back into the clothes I loved to wear. I had treated myself to a gorgeous pair of Boden jeans which, in the New Year, I found myself struggling to hoist up further than my knees. I knew that if I could fit into those again, I’d be at the weight I wanted. It’s important to set your goals with an eye on reality. In my experience, setting myself an unattainable goal only set me up for failure. Over a decade ago, I had over three stone to lose before I would medically be considered a healthy weight, however when you break that down, three stone is forty-two pounds which sounded scary and, frankly, unachievable. So, I broke it down into half stones. Every time I lost half a stone, I would be delighted with my progress at having smashed another target. That only motivated me to keep going.
- Habits not hunger: When embarking on this weight loss goal, I considered which habits needed to be nipped in the bud. For me, it was snacking. I’m a grazer and will always be ready for a snack or two, so I had to ensure that I was stocked up with healthy bits to munch on should I feel tempted. I ensured there was always an apple or satsuma in the fruit bowl if I needed them. I’d even nibble on a couple of relatively low-calorie biscuits per day, my favourite being Jaffa Cakes. I never felt hungry. That’s the truth. Sure, my cravings sometimes started gnawing at me and I’d have done anything for some Kettle Crisps or a piece of shortbread, but at those points I wasn’t actually hungry. I’m not going to lie and say that in those moments when I wanted a shortbread or three that my satsuma really sated me, but I knew that I had given myself a snack and that therefore what I was feeling wasn’t hunger – it was a craving and I had to just concentrate my way through it. Which leads on nicely to my next point…
- Determination: Regardless of what the weight loss ads on TV might tell you, you won’t feel results right away. There are going to be times, especially at the start, when you feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort for very little reward. Do not feel disheartened! If you can say hand on heart that you are sticking to your plan, that you are active and that you have shaken up your bad habits, then the results will come. You just need to keep going a little while longer. Be determined to see this through to the end. Keep a reminder of why you’re doing this nearby. For me it was that pair of jeans: every time I saw them hanging on my wardrobe door, I remembered why I was going to the gym that morning or why I wasn’t having a bacon sarnie for breakfast. If you’re going to smash your target, you need to really want to do it. You’ll get a shaky moment here and there, and if you do fall off the wagon get yourself back up, brush yourself off and pick up where you left off. If you stick to it, results will happen. It’s science!
- Get active: You’re not going to lose weight when you’re sedentary. You have to be active, but that doesn’t necessarily mean flogging yourself on a treadmill five times a week. If you don’t enjoy your chosen activities, you simply will not stick to them. So find something that you love, which gets you moving. You don’t have to finish each session pulsating with sweat and gasping for breath – simply engaging in more activity will turbo charge your weight loss and, importantly, improve your physical fitness. The amelioration of fitness is such an underrated and under-discussed result of getting active in the discourse surrounding weight loss. For me, the feeling of being able to breeze up a hill that I once found impossible to scale without stopping to catch my breath, is more of a long-term reward than any inch lost or pound shed.
- Plan and Prep: When it comes to your food, you need to plan and prepare. Sit down and think about what meals you are going to eat that week, then write up your shopping list accordingly. When shopping, stick to your list. I cannot emphasise this enough. Only stock your fridge and cupboards with foods which aren’t going to lead you astray from your plan, so that when those cravings rear their heads – and they will – you have nothing you can cheat with anyway. Preparing your meals beforehand is key to curbing pangs of temptation. If you have a busy lifestyle which often leads to you crashing into the house after work ready to eat a horse, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal for the next half hour. Therefore, why not meal prep? I cook all of my meals for the week on a Sunday morning and pop them in individual Tupperwares in the fridge, meaning that when I am starving for dinner mid-week, I can just stick one of the meals in the microwave and a nutritious dinner is ready for me in under five minutes. Meal prepping for the week is often the last thing I want to be doing on my Sunday morning, but by Tuesday evening I am very grateful that I did it because I have sated my hunger pangs and still nourished myself with a good meal.
My average week-day meals look something like this:
- A breakfast of porridge with maple syrup. I make it in the microwave which takes only two minutes. Perfect for when I’ve come in from the gym, showered and only have ten minutes before I need to get going with work.
- A lunch of cous-cous, vegetables and prawns. When preparing this on a Sunday, I use a bag of frozen veg. Not only is it cheaper, it also cuts out a lot of the prep time but still holds that goodness which will fill you up.
- Dinner will be something like a fajita bowl ie seasoned turkey steak strips with bell pepper, then bulked out with salad, avocado, sour cream and hot sauce.
- With dessert I indulge my inner child and opt for old-fashioned jelly and ice cream like my mum used to give me. Low-sugar jelly barely contains enough calories to count, and my ice cream of choice is Halo Top which, although a little pricey, satisfies my sweet tooth without rocketing my calorie intake.
- Drink Water: Always have water to hand. Not staying sufficiently hydrated is one of the key reasons a lot of people struggle to lose weight. I always have a mug of hot water by my laptop when I’m working, or a bottle of cold water when I’m on the move. It’s important, not only for your metabolism, but for your over all physical and mental health.
- Balance: My cheat day is on a Saturday and I have whatever I want. This can include anything from a BLT for brunch, steak and all the trimmings for dinner, sea bream with lashings of Hollandaise Sauce or one of Melanie’s many banana breads…basically anything that takes my fancy. I don’t eat for the sake of it, but I don’t stop myself from having something that I want either. This is important, in my opinion, because without those days of just living, you’re going to fail a lot sooner because nobody has the willpower to keep their head down and keep going without some relief now and again. To me, it is unhealthy to deny yourself this relief. Some ripped fitness influencers may disagree, but hey – a cheat on a Saturday has worked for me! In fact, it motivates me to pick my regime back up and get going with it again.
I’m not a professional, but these recommendations have really worked for me. Now that I’ve reached my goal, it’s not a case of throwing my good habits out of the window – I’m going to maintain the healthy habits and lifestyle which I’ve developed. Now that I am in tune again with what I need to do to stay healthy, it is as though my body dictates to me what it needs, whether that be a good climb up a steep hill, another glass of water…or a juicy steak on a Saturday night!