About a year ago I realised I’d put on weight. I struggled to find a photograph of myself I didn’t hate, I stopped wearing the clothes I used to love, and I started hating myself a little bit. Instead of doing something about it, I mainly just moaned about it. I continued to eat like a little piggy, chain eating biscuits during the working day and indulging in weekend breakfasts of croissants and American pancakes. As I ate all of the food and did none of the exercise I, shockingly, didn’t lose any weight.
Then, about a month ago, something happened. Something changed. I realised that I really didn’t like the way I looked. I was avoiding the mirror, I was avoiding anything that involved being semi-clothed and I was starting to feel pretty miserable. I wanted to lose weight but I didn’t want to find another fad diet. I wanted to change my whole approach and start living a healthier life.
Today’s blog post focuses on the changes I’ve made to my physical health but, for the eager beavers amongst you, I’ll be doing a similar post in a few week’s time focusing on mental health because a healthy life is about more than just the physical.
1. Define the plan
Work out what your goals are. I do want to lose weight, but I also want to feel healthier. I want to drink more water and eat more vegetables, do more exercise and do less snacking. A lot of people recommend you stay away from the scales, but for me they’re part of the motivation. First I want to lose the weight, but then I want to sustain the weight.
2. Finding motivation
To give me the kick I needed at the beginning, I made a weight bet with a friend. We both weighed ourselves on the same day, and whoever has lost the most weight in six weeks time gets £50 from the other person! See, losing the lbs and gaining the £s. Har dee har har!
Still, for an extra push I also found motivation in social media. See, the good thing about the snap-happy society in which we live is that it’s pretty easy to scroll through the entire back catalogue of your appearance in one easy Facebook newsfeed. I went back as far as necessary to find a picture of myself where I thought, “Yes, I look good here.” If I did it once, I can do it again. That photo is now my motivation. (And no, I’m not sharing it with you.)
3. Keeping a diary
I’m keeping a food diary. Everything I eat goes in the diary, just so that I can keep an eye on how many “infrequent treats” I’m reeeeally having. It also had a second purpose; a lot of fibromyalgia sufferers talk about patterns with certain foods and pain levels so this allows me to track some potential food intolerances too.
4. Stepping away from diet stereotypes
There are so many things you’re supposed to do when trying to lose weight, it’s no wonder people get confused and fail. I’ve got no rules; I’m not cutting out all carbohydrates, I’m not counting calories and I’m not eating in certain times of the day. Instead it’s the old adages I prefer, like, “everything in moderation”. My portion sizes are smaller, I have fewer carbs on my plate in general, and I’ve cut out all snacks between meals. And if I choose to snack, it’s a healthy snack.
5. Finding healthy yummy food
Yes yes yes, it’s no surprise that I love good food. If this whole lifestyle change is going to stick I had to find easy ways to eat good food, and breakfast and lunch have always been my biggest hurdles. Here’s what I’ve been living on over the past few weeks.
Old breakfast: White toast with butter and jam, a bagel or hot crossed buns. Mainly anything with butter.
New breakfast: Two boiled eggs (no toast) or porridge or plain yoghurt with granola and berries.
Old lunch: A brie and tomato white panini, or a stupidly large meal from the staff canteen like curry, lasagne or a fry up.
New lunch: A salad or soup.
Old dinner and new dinner are very similar, but portions have shrunk dramatically. Vegetables occupy 50% of the plate and I aim for carbohydrates to occupy no more than about 25%.
6. Make sure your treats are really good treats
Life is good. Let’s not hate it by eating nothing but celery. I still want to eat treats, but if I’m going to break my rules for healthy eating, it’s got to be worth it. No crap for the sake of it when I’m bored, I want the good stuff and I want to love it.
I had never dieted in my life until last year when I started this blog and the 5:2 diet. It didn’t change my life – or my weight – and after seven weeks of migraines and weakness I called it quits. In my circle of friends there are people (unfortunately, all girls) who are constantly trying one diet or another. They’re juicing or detoxing, on Herbalife or Atkins and each time something fails they start all over again. I may only be three weeks in to this new healthy approach to life but I’m happier, healthier and 9lb lighter. That’s a treat all in itself.