I am always adamant that January is no time to start a punishing diet or fitness regime, no matter what the scales might be telling us. It is cold, it is dark, there is an inevitable crash after the excitement of Christmas, and spring is still a long way off. This year, for good measure, Donald Trump has just become leader of the free world. Seriously, this is not a good time to give up chocolate, cake and wine – they may be the only things which get us through. I love my blogger pal Mostly Yummy Mummy’s latest post on how to take care of yourself and create your own sunshine this January – wise words indeed.
However. Despite all this sensible advice I give myself, diets, dieting, fitness regimes and weightloss plans are everywhere in January, and and it is very hard not to be drawn into feelings of panic and insecurity. Especially when you managed to lose half a stone slowly and painfully over the autumn before putting it all back on again in December.
I’ve blogged about my relationship with my weight before. I’m not hugely over-weight, but I put on a gargantuan 4.5 stone when I was pregnant with Sophia and now, shortly after her second birthday, I’m still 1.5 stone heavier than I was when I got pregnant. I have no desire to conform to media expectations of what women should look like, and I know that realistically I am far too greedy to ever make it to a size 10 or below. But this extra weight pushes my BMI into the borders of the ‘overweight’ category, and takes my waist measurement to dangerously near what the NHS considers to be the ‘at risk’ zone for health problems. I’ve also got some really nice clothes which no longer quite fit. Losing that extra baby-weight (I’m sticking to this definition, rather than the possibly more accurate ‘chocolate brownie’ weight), would take me from my current top end of a size 14 to my former comfortable size 12, and I would prefer that for lots of reasons. Not least being that if I continue to put on half a stone every Christmas and fail to lose it, it won’t be long before I have a very big problem indeed.
So what do I do? One half of my brain is telling me to bite the bullet, enrol in Slimming World or Weightwatchers, endure three months of restricted eating to lose 2lbs a week, and then job done. The other, possibly more sensible part, is telling me that I am nearly thirty-six and I need to grow up and make peace with my relationship with food.
Apparently something like 95% of diets don’t work, in the sense of losing weight and keeping it off long term. That’s not a very encouraging statistic. If you told me a new washing machine had only a 5% chance of still working in three years time I very much doubt I’d buy it.
I no longer believe that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, in fact I think that’s an unhelpful distinction to make. Obviously there is more nutritional value in a tomato than a Creme Egg, but a sugary chocolate egg doesn’t have a moral value. Eating it doesn’t make you bad, any more than resisting it makes you good. I’m sceptical about organised diet programmes which penalise eating avocado or olive oil and promote sugar-free jelly or FryLight spray.
What I do believe is that I eat for positive reasons – because I’m hungry, because it tastes nice, because it’s fun to share a meal with friends or family, because I want to give my body fuel and energy, but also for negative ones – because I am lonely, bored, angry, tired, stressed or miserable. One of the reasons I have struggled to lose weight recently is that I have spent quite a lot of time in the past couple of years being lonely, bored, angry, tired, stressed or miserable. Sometimes all simultaneously.
Hopefully things are improving. Sophia settling into pre-school gives me a better balance between full-time mothering and some time and space for myself. After a series of sessions with a psychologist I am coping much better with the PTSD and anxiety I was suffering from. And by and large (fingers crossed) Sophia is sleeping pretty well, ergo so am I. We won’t talk about the recent cold which caused her to wake up pretty much every hour on the hour screaming “Mummmeeee, where are youuuuu?”.
I don’t really want to ‘do a diet’. Partly because I’m not convinced it’s the best route, for me, to what I want, which is long-term good health and healthy habits. Partly because young girls are very vulnerable to developing poor body image, and at nearly eight Anna is extremely shrewd and observant, and I don’t think that watching mummy weigh out her Special K every morning sends a particularly positive message. And partly because I am feeding a family which includes a growing toddler, an energetic school girl and a husband with a metabolism the speed of light who has a tendency to lose weight if he gets stressed, something which happens a fair amount when you’re starting a new business. Just because I have the metabolism of a depressed slug and a tendency to eat family sized bars of Dairy Milk when I get stressed is no reason they should all suffer, and I certainly can’t be bothered cooking endless separate meals, or watching them tuck into homemade sausage and mash while I munch away on a low-cal ready meal.
But equally not being ‘on a diet’ can’t be a carte blanche to eat everything I want. Unfortunately I just want to eat too much of lots of things! I don’t want to calorie count or weigh food or ban entire food groups, but I can’t eat as many sweet treats as I would like to and avoid putting on weight and becoming unhealthy. So my plan is something like this:
- Eat three balanced meals a day.
- Watch the amount of carbs, especially high GI ones like white pasta and potatoes.
- Limit sweet snacks between meals to once a day. I know a lot of people would say once a week, but I’m trying to be realistic.
- Wait until I’m hungry, don’t eat for the sake of eating or because it’s expected.
- Get a pedometer and walk as much as possible, at least the recommended 10,000 steps a day, but more whenever possible.
- If I fall off the wagon, don’t write the whole day off and think that because I had a pain au chocolat for breakfast this is now a reason to think sod it all and have chips for lunch, pizza for dinner and an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s as an afternoon snack.
- Give myself 6 months doing this, and if I’m gradually losing weight, great, and if not then think again.
- Put these aims on my blog so that I can’t wiggle out of them.
Oh, and maybe not start until February…
Hi Helen, I was surprised to hear you think that Slimming World is a restricted Diet. I joined our local group in Hollies Hall three years ago, 70 and very overweight for my height of 4ft 11ins. I didn’t have to weigh anything, on the whole I stuck to healthy food but still was able to have treats. I lost 3stone 11lbs in twelve months and for the last seventeen months am still in my target weight. My only regret is that this programme wasn’t around when I was younger, then it was all green or red days and could be quite confusing. I still go to group, for tips and the social aspect is great for me and gets me out of the house. I walk a lot which is great for the new kidney I received some four years ago. Good luck in whatever you do but I just wanted you to know that the hardest thing to do in SW is counting the syns. Take care, jean
Sounds like you did brilliantly, Jean! I know a lot of people who love SW, I’m just not sure I really want to do a formal ‘diet’ at the moment…I’ll see how I get on! x
A few of years ago, I noticed that my weight had crept up at quite an alarming rate without me realising. I’d never really been on a diet before and didn’t know where to start but I felt so unhealthy that I knew I had to do something about it. I knew that a restrictive ‘diet’ wouldn’t work for me though so I decided to give the My Fitness Pal app a go. It helped me keep track of my calories (and you can use it for tracking exercise too) but mostly taught me that my ‘problem’ was portion sizes. I’d been seriously overeating before. I lost over two stone but it took a good year or so. The weight came off quite slowly but it did stay off because using the app retrained my way of thinking about food. I don’t feel the need to count calories using the app anymore but I still eat in the same way. At the risk of sounding cheesy it really was a lifestyle change not a diet and I’ve stuck at it! I think getting your head in the right place is actually half of the battle and the points you’ve made here show that you’re at that point! Oh and thank you for the lovely mention, it really does mean a lot to me x
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Funnily enough another friend texted me after reading this post to say that controlling portion sizes is the answer. I think I’m probably in the habit of giving myself the same size portion as my 6ft 1 skinny-as-a-rake husband!
Well done to you – you look absolutely amazing, so that’s very inspirational. x
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