Is hitting a weight loss plateau something to get worked up about?

plateauI’ve hit one, 17lbs from my ultimate goal of being in a normal weight for my height. This is the first time I have not seen a decrease in weight on the scale or a downward shift in inches since I started out on my journey just over a year ago as an over 300lb unhappy lady.

I’m amazed that I’ve got this far for this long without having hit a plateau before and I really think that has been down to changing my activity and my diet a lot throughout the past year or so, experimenting with this and that and never really letting my body settle into a comfort zone. I don’t know if that would work for everyone but it seems to have worked for me.

Even cave men chilled out

I also have to tell myself that as I lost weight just moving about was going to be using up less and less calories and it was impossible to imagine increasing my activity to accommodate for this. I was on pretty intensive activity quite early on and I don’t think I can fit more activity into my days if I tried. Besides I don’t want to try because there was a point where I became obsessed with activity and I was in danger of blowing myself out. Whilst the human body was made to move it was also made to rest and to know its limits, we were never designed to spend all of our waking hours thrashing ourselves into a sweaty breathless mess. Yes we were built to be able to do that if we really had to for a short time… think walking or running long distances now and then for food/water/shelter/communication or throwing ourselves into a physical challenge like climbing a tree/a battle/protecting children from lions by launching into hand to hand combat with one… but really we were made to take it easy now and then too.

Besides all of that, flippancy aside, I recently posted about the impact of exercise on fat loss and ultimately scientists and other professionals concur that  diet is the key to losing the fat and should be the real focus. Exercise is great for so many many reasons and should be engaged in but it’s not going to make you skinny alone… if skinny is what you want to be of course.

But anyway, all that aside, I have to tell myself that reaching a plateau is not a bad thing. It’s not something after all of the progress I’ve made to beat myself up over or to need to find an answer to. I’ve been the same now for about three weeks, after the second week I got angry with myself for weighing myself each week. I’d promised to only weigh once a month but as the end grew closer I got addicted to the scales. That was a big mistake and I have now learned from that. This week was my weigh in with my trainer and so I couldn’t avoid it and was disappointed to see that same figure staring back at me.

Then I thought about it in the whole scheme of things and realised I’m an absolute imbecile and got angry with myself for undoing in a couple of weeks all of that work I’ve done over the past year of gaining perspective, learning to look at things in positive ways, not getting down on myself, not having feelings of failure in my repertoire of emotions. I’d let myself down not by reaching a plateau but by allowing all of those horrid, fat person on a diet, negative emotions back in. In a way it was good, it reminded me of what I’d always feared, those feelings will always lurk around me, I may have expelled them but they’ve not gone far, they’re just waiting around for moments when I become weak stupid and then they pounce. So to some extent I’ve lost that complacency I was maybe beginning to feel and that’s a good thing that plateauing has taught me.

I can live with this

I also got to thinking, I remembered when I really believed my ideal weight for me was around 15 stones, I thought this because I always had trouble getting below it, when I made a determined effort to lose weight I mean, not when I was starved by the psycho I lived with. I had done it but it had never been in a healthy way. So for me to be way below that now and to have achieved it in the most healthy way I can imagine is a huge achievement and maybe this is my real ideal for me weight. What if I am 17lbs overweight? It’s better than 180lbs isn’t it? Why can’t I be happy to be 17lbs over weight? So I started thinking like that and it made me feel better, I gained perspective as well as having realised I was an imbecile for even feeling bad about it in the first place and as well as having learned that I really would always struggle with the emotional and mental issues of a fat person or of a compulsive over eater or of an emotional eater… whichever label sticks best.

Then I started to think about time. I thought, what if I carry on doing what I enjoy in terms of my movement and exercise and fitness, what if I carry on eating healthily with a treat now and then but making good choices for myself and eating foods I’ve come to love, cooked in ways I’ve come to really enjoy and find easy to fit into my day… those 17lbs might gradually vanish and if they do that will be fabulous but there is no time frame for them to do so, they go or they don’t either way I’m safe in the knowledge that I’m healthy and fit and doing the best by me. I’m giving myself the best shot of a longer life, a healthier life, a more active life and a happier life, how could 17lbs threaten that? If those 17lbs want to stick along for the ride then so be it, if they want to slowly slip away then so be it but I’m not going to stress about them. I’m stupid if I do.

I thought about what I could do to make those 17lbs shift. I realised very quickly thankfully that I can’t do any more and remain healthy. Yes I could go on a liquid only ridiculously low calorie fad diet for a month and probably see those 17lbs off especially if I upped my PT sessions from 3 a week to 5 but would that be healthy? Would that be sustainable? Not in a million years. I’m doing the best for me now and that’s that. Those 17lbs are not significant to me and I’m not changing for them. I’ve spent a life time letting fat dictate who I am and what I do and don’t do and those days are gone, I’m free from being dictated to by invisible layers of gloop under my skin.

downloadThen I thought about goals and I spoke to Nick about it and he said to me “You’re at your goal honey” and I said “I’m not, my ultimate goal was to be a normal weight” and he said “No, your absolute ultimate goal was to be happy and healthy, you were there ages ago”.

17lbs? What 17lbs? He’s right, I’ve already done it, I have what I wanted and those 17lbs are not going to take it away from me, they are insignificant, just numbers and stay or go they are not going to take away my joy at having done this, at having made it to where I wanted to be.

I’ve transformed my life, everything about my life screams happy and new and free… my career, the way I dress, the colour of my  hair, the design of my home, the way I have fun, the way I love, the way I parent, the type of friend I am, my role in my community and so much more, it’s all better and it suits who I am, who I always was under that fat. It really has been a total and complete unwrapping process, not a transformation but an unveiling of who I was always supposed to be before fat took a hold, before I used food as my go to healer, food as my shield, food as my comfort. I’m never going back again and this plateau is pretty cool, I can see for miles from up here and it’s all looking bright.


Is Being Overweight Actually More Healthy Than Being Slim?

I read this article today in The Guardian which suggests so. But when you read do bear in mind that it is written by a fat is fine activist who believes that some of us are just designed in a way that we naturally carry fat and that doesn’t mean we are not fit and healthy, it’s just a body shape thing.

I’ve long suspected that some of us are just naturally fat. Just like we accept that some people are naturally thin, those who can not gain weight, but we are less accepting of the concept of people being naturally fat.  I even came out with a theory that within primitive society some of the village folk would have been naturally fat so that in the event of famine or a longer than anticipated hunt, those people would be able to last longer, feed the village babies for longer and just keep things ticking along long after the skinnies had flagged.

A couple of things sprung to mind as I read this article and the first was excuses. I know it’s going to be seen as harsh but I know that I’ve used all of the excuses in the book for remaining fat… and I was what could be termed a healthy fattie. I have never had the usual weight related health issues that we hear of in the news, in fact I have a few friends who have not had them either and so we do have to question if they really exist. Yet the research suggests they do. The problem is, I don’t think the health risks with fat lie in the here and now while we are young I think they lie in the future and whatever we want to say to dress it up, if the only thing affected by fat is our mobility then that’s enough to worry about. Mobility becomes a major issue in later life for many and fat doesn’t do a lot to make us more mobile. It’s a struggle to get up from lying to sitting and sitting to standing for most fat people, even the fit healthy ones like me and the young ones. I know when I’ve really regretted being fat the most is when I’ve had surgery and I have undoubtedly struggled with recovery more than a slim person would have,  mobility being one of the biggest issues. I’ve worried that in older age my weight would impact on my enjoyment of life due to this issue alone. That’s without even going into the data on cancer and diabetes and high blood pressure.

But we are good at making excuses and fat people, like smokers and drinkers and gamblers are guilty (I am guilty) of finding reasons not to change and of convincing ourselves that we are happy and healthy and I really do envy those who are truly happy and who do not have concerns for their future health and mobility but I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t ever motivated to lose weight to look good, for me it really all has been about health and mobility, it’s been about feel good, emotional and physical. As the author of this piece implies that I’m in denial and I’m just a victim of media induced stereotypes regarding body shape and I don’t really want to lose weight for health reasons because I’m already healthy, I’d have to take exception with her opinion. I am not doing what I am doing to conform to a physical stereotype at all, I want to feel ‘right’ and I don’t feel right just yet and certainly didn’t feel right when I was 150lbs heavier than this.

I take exception to fat bashing, I really do and do feel that it is the last permissible discrimination but we shouldn’t be bashing each other. Fat people who can’t lose weight down treading the efforts of those who are doing it and questioning the motives and those of us who can lose weight making sweeping judgements about those who say they are happy to be fat. Yet we do. We take sides in the fat debate even though we are fat. I’m guilty and I don’t want to be but when my motives are attacked I go on the defensive, I’m a human being after all, fat or not.

Anyone following me knows I have a rough final goal of hitting a higher end normal BMI and maintaining around there. I’m almost there and I know I can get there I know that even though I have kidded myself I’m naturally fat and that I can’t ever be slim as excuses in the past along with the ‘happy as I am’ mantra… although if I’m honest I don’t believe I’ve ever said I was happy as I was when I was fat, I’ve probably said I’m just going to accept that this is who I am but I don’t even think I’ve believed that. I’ve always been aware of the potential impact on my health. I may not have diabetes or cancer or heart disease but I did have heart burn and indigestion and IBS and anxiety and depression and irregular painful periods and a whole list of other ailments which are not so readily associated with being overweight. I know lots of overweight people who are happy with their weight but complain of all or some of those same conditions while stating they are healthy and I know that those conditions can be cured with a good diet, weight loss and improved fitness. I know this because I don’t suffer from them anymore.

Anyone who follows me also knows that I don’t like BMI for the very reason that it doesn’t take into account everything, especially people who have stronger, dense more heavy muscles and those who just weigh heavy. I come from a family which weighs heavy, tall, skinny size 8 ladies weighing 11 stone are not unusual in my family so I know that BMI is not ideal as a measure. BUT, this is where I have complied with ‘the norm’ and sold my fat soul to the devil in that it IS the measure used by doctors, by life insurers and health insurers and as such if I want a good deal I have to comply. That’s not necessarily a good thing but I need to be out of that obese zone for more reasons than health and appearance, I don’t want to be obese and here we lead into another issue… when does fat stop and obese start?

At the moment I’m in the overweight category on the BMI scale and anyone following me knows how much I wanted to get into this category more so even than the normal band. No longer being obese, morbidly obese or super morbidly obese was to me a really big deal for my health and happiness not for my appearance. At this point I am super fit, super healthy and super happy so I guess I should stop and just content myself with being overweight yes? The problem with that is I don’t want to stop living healthy and eating healthy. I want to do it for life and the consequence of that is that I lose weight because I am overweight in spite of the fact that I’m happy and healthy and fit and I don’t have any health problems whatsoever.

There will come a point when I don’t lose weight anymore, it’s not like I am starving myself, I eat a lot and some of that is fat, I’m a butter, eggs, full fat dairy consumer, hard cheese is a staple for me yet I’m losing weight because I am carrying excess fat that is not natural for me at all, it’s entirely unnatural and that’s why even though I am not calorie counting I am losing weight. I can’t kid myself any longer, the proof is happening to me every day. Will I have a breakdown if I stop losing weight and am not within a normal BMI? No of course not, I’ll accept that’s my ideal weight and I’ll settle there, I’ll accept that I’m meant to have a thicker waist and slightly chubby cheeks and I’ll be happy with that knowing that I’m healthy. I won’t care that I can’t wear a size 6 dress, that doesn’t bother me at all, I’ll know that I’m where I’m meant to be and I’ll be satisfied.

People who are overweight and happy with their size and who are convinced that their weight is having no detrimental effect on their health are possibly correct but obese people telling themselves the same thing are maybe not being totally honest with themselves. As much as people like me are challenged as being deluded by the author of the piece, I’d say obese people who think that their weight is not going to have an impact on their physical health are deluded. I think that’s fair, we’re entitled to a bit of retaliation when under attack especially when broad sweeping accusations about our motivations are made.

Overweight and obese are not one and the same thing. It might be healthy to be a little overweight and my fat person in the village theory would hold with that, but to be obese is not to be healthy, I really don’t believe that and I think we need to differentiate between the two. I know you can be obese and not have the big nasty life enders that we hear about as I’ve done it but I also know that being obese is not being healthy, there are a whole host of health issues, physical and mental which accompany it which only get talked about when the weight starts to come down. That to me is denial.

We all want to be normal, the problem is we don’t know what normal is. Overweight people who are happy with their size feel normal, slim people who are within a normal BMI feel normal, obese people who are struggling with weight loss say they feel normal… as long as we are honest with ourselves about what our idea of normal is then we’re all happy and shouldn’t be judging one another or making assumptions about motivations to lose weight or to stay fat. The choice is ours. Happiness is the most important thing in life and if some people are happy being fat then that is wonderful, I was never happy being fat, I experienced happiness as a fat person but I was never happy with me, not deep down. I felt I was missing something, cheating myself of something, endangering my life and that’s why I lost weight, not because I wanted to look good in a bikini or to attract a man.

The article reports findings which support the ‘fact’ that being overweight can help you live longer and is actually a healthy state and if that’s really the case then I’m going to be a happy bunny to reach my normal a little sooner than I planned. This kind of research definitely will help me to be satisfied if I settle ten pounds or so above the dictated normal for my height and will confirm what I already know, that being healthy, being happy, being fit and well is possible if you are a few pounds over weight and you might even be the village saviour if the food all runs out. What I worry about is that this article will encourage people to be happily obese and unhealthy, maybe not now but in the future and that it will detract from their quality of life.

Walking Back to Happiness

A good walk is really under-estimated. Sometimes we get so caught up in fashionable trends that we forget the simplest of things. Forget all this fancy exercise, just get up and take a walk. It gives you a moderate workout, most people can do it, it lightens your imood, it pumps some fresh air into your lungs and circulates lots of rich oxygen around your body, you see things and meet people if you’re lucky. It’s free,  you don’t need equipment and you can do it in all weathers.

We need to walk more.

When my dad died he had the heart and lungs of an ox, the doctors said they would have kept him going another fifty years and he’d been a smoker and a drinker and a consumer of much fat at times in his life BUT he always took a daily walk. Even when it was bitterly cold outside he would go for a walk to buy his morning newspaper rather than have it delivered and rather than take the car. Mum used to moan that he was gone too long because he used to stop and talk to all of his admirers along the way (he was always a hit with the ladies) and in bad weather everyone in the  neighbourhood knew his clockwork like routine and so they might flag him down and ask him to bring them something they needed so they didn’t have to step out, he was even known to push the odd baby or two in their prams to the shop and back to get them to take a nap for stressed mothers. Old ladies worried about a slip and a hip fracture and young ladies with snuggled up babies alike would make the most of his happy to help approach to life. His walk kept him in touch with the community, gave him a ton of people to cheer up every day and kept at least some parts of his physiology in good shape. Even the undertaker commented on how good his muscle tone was for a guy of his age.

Nick and I biked down to the sea front today after my ‘proper’ work out and we met up with old Charlie and we took a walk with him and we asked him the secret to being so sprightly and alert at 91 and he told us it was his daily walk. “No matter where I am in the world, no matter the weather, no matter how I’m feeling, I get myself up and get myself out for my walk, I think that’s the secret to this living longer lark, exercise and fresh air” he told us.  Nick didn’t mind that I chose to snuggle up to my surrogate grandad rather than him. I just love the smell of him and I never had a grandad so I’m making the most of Charlie’s offer to be anything I want as long as I have a walk with him now and again. And joy of joys, when he got home the other day several of his children and grandchildren rang to see he was OK and to chat about his wife. He was glowing when he told me.

Little things mean a lot folks. They really do. In this complex world it can be easy to forget that.

Back to Earth

What a lovely weekend, I’ve been well and truly chilled out. I was treated to a special get away to Berlin. Not the typically romantic first choice city of love like the Paris we probably flew over but my, what a fantastic city! I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to visit and ‘someone’ had found this out and planned a very nice Valentine’s weekend getaway.

Lots of walking and exploring in bracing cold weather with a luxury spa at the hotel to warm back up in. Let it be said that the spa which we had virtually to ourselves all weekend, was well used. I love spas. The further I get along this ‘new me’ road the more I value relaxation as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and I really do love mineral soaks in fab pools and steam rooms to sweat out some toxins. I feel wholly refreshed and ready to face a busy work period.

The weekend involved quite a bit of champagne and I indulged not only in some fabulous chocolates (just a couple, as I always say if you’re going to go for a treat savour quality over quantity) but the real indulgence was delicious chocolate mousse. I love, love, love chocolate mousse especially a good ultra rich home made one and the hotel we stayed in had a fabulous one on the menu which I sampled on the first evening and just had to revisit on the second evening. Delicious and without a doubt up there with my three favourites of all time.

So that I didn’t over indulge we ordered a fruit dessert and a chocolate mousse so we could share and I’m glad we did as the portion was quite generous and even though I would have loved to eat the lot I was happy to half and half with Nick. The fruit salad contained lots of fresh pineapple which I love to eat with chocolate mousse anyway so I was in fruity chocco heaven.

I’d recommend this as a tactic when dining with someone else in a place where you’re not sure about the portion size. If it’s a meager portion you can just chomp down the lot but if it’s a large one you can share and balance out with shared fruit too. I have eaten in places where I’ve asked to see a portion before ordering and usually they are quite happy to show you or another tactic if you don’t want to do that is to check out desserts if possible when ordering your starter or main and then keep an eye out around the restaurant for someone being served a portion of what you fancy.

I have to do this because I’m a glutton and when I’m eating something I really like (ie anything really fattening and far from nutritionally beneficial) I just have no cut off, I can still down a family sized mousse even if I’m full up. So portion size is something I’m slowly but surely working on training myself to get a grip with although I must say that I do tend to have smaller portions now without really thinking about it sometimes.. not when it comes to mousse though. If a large portion was put in front of me I’d eat it, I have no self control so it’s good for me to be vigilant and check out sizes before I order or to just ask for a half portion when ordering or plan to share.

I love to eat something that’s on my ‘save for special occasions’ list. I really do enjoy those treats far more now they come rarely as opposed to many times a day as they used to, so more reason to keep delicious things in reserve.

I did offset some of what I consumed by having a morning work out in the well equipped gym and I did a few lengths of the hotel pool each day.

I know that in my blog I focus on my diet and exercise when I go anywhere but really I don’t make it a big deal when it is happening. I just blog about how I deal with the difficult times when my fat demon is more difficult to keep a leash on and temptation to go back to old ways is all around me because it helps me to reinforce that positive behaviour in myself. My tactics are very subtle in reality and I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that I’m eating healthily after all many many people are doing the same and have been for many years and I just want to be one of those ordinary people who make good choices as a matter of course but at the moment I am still conscious of that thought process which helps me keep my inner glutton in check.

I thought I might have had a proposal to blog about today but it didn’t happen. I did joke to Nick on Sunday that I’d not found the ring yet so he’d better just give it to me and he laughed, reminding me of the last time he’d mentioned marriage and how that had made him put the idea on the back burner. He said that now he knows the water may not be as frosty as he thought he might be encouraged to dive in at some point but promised it would be when I least expect it and not predictably on Valentine’s Day. At least I don’t have to wait a year then 😉

He asked if i was disappointed and of course I’m not, I know we’ll get married at some point and besides, as I said to him “Not at all, you have to take me away somewhere lovely again now”

Lose weight by knitting a scarf… incredible but true

Today it may be Friday 13th but things are looking good chez moi. We are heading towards the end of a very productive week. I got a chance to do some teaching which will always be my first love, I did tons and tons of crafting for valentines orders and got to design a couple of unique soft furnishing novelty pieces which was super fab. Creativity is really flowing. My princess was home and she got involved and created some amazing pieces of artwork which shocked even her. She’s a very logical person and likes order and deals in facts so imagined she didn’t really  have much in the way of creativity in her but when she sat in the craft room with some canvasses and paints and a variety of innovative tools, which incidentally she made herself to create different effects, and armed with scissors a craft knife and some card to make templates she produced some beautiful, simplistic pieces which I’m going to stick up for sale in my store as well as use for backdrops for some paper art projects I’ve got underway.

It just goes to show that given the opportunity even people with little artistic ability can find some flowing and also we had a great time working together. Crafting is super relaxing and it is amazing how long you can spend working on a project without ever giving a second thought to food… remember what I’ve said before about distraction and diversion techniques to keep your mind off food… crafting is a great one to use. It’s also wonderful to create something with that time rather than destroy some more cells and your self esteem by cramming a tin of biscuits down your throat. I know which I’ve come to prefer.

I maintain that for me food cravings were just that, self destructive impulses driven by everything BUT hunger. If you are eating 3 good meals a day starting with a really nourishing wholesome healthy breakast and if you have a couple of drinks and fruit snacks during the day and if you drink at least 2 litres of water a day you will not be hungry, even less to the point where you need to munch on several cakes, that isn’t hunger it is a compulsion, a destructive compulsion. Beating that compulsion by diverting your attention elsewhere WILL see you lost some weight and feel better. If you then combine that with healthy meals and some movement you’ll lose even more weight. Don’t battle the craving by sitting and having a mental fight with it, get it out of your mind by focusing on something else. It really does work and is the best advice I could ever give an over eater based on my own experience.

So, craft! It’s fun and who would have thought that knitting or crocheting or painting or sewing or stenciling or paper craft could make you lose weight? It’s amazing when you consider it like that. So go on get out some needles or a crochet hook and knit a scarf. In fact, why not create yourself a visual record of beating your addiction to bad food and each time you feel a craving coming on grab your project and do a bit more, change colours each time and as you see that scarf or blanket or whatever you’re making grow you will see how much progress you’ve made towards a healthier you and to beating that addiction.

Start today, you don’t need expensive materials.

I’ve gone a step further and in my craft room I have now installed a motorised treadmill which I bought second hand for the amazing bargain price of ten pounds! It’s an amazing beast of a treadmill too and would have been sturdy enough even for the 300+ pound me of last year. When I’m crafting and feel a little bit stiff or need a break I get up, grab a big glass of water and I either go for a fast steep inclined walk or a crafty jog just for a few minutes, 15 max (I can’t jog for that long so that would be combined walk and jog) then I jump off and crack back on with my work. You don’t need a treadmill in your craft room or a craft room come to that, you can bounce up and dance for a few minutes, jog on the spot, do some star jumps, lunges, burpees or whatever.

Winter’s End Blues

I need to jet off to some hot, sunny location every year around right now. I hate the winter months and am just thankful that Christmas comes in the middle of them to offer some cheer and respite, for me at least. I know Christmas is not a great time for everyone.

downloadI find I struggle more with healthy eating as I tend to eat a lot of uncooked foods as part of my healthy lifestyle and find it so much easier to fill myself up and keep away from temptation with yummy salads, raw veggies and lots of fruits. In this cold, dark, dreary weather I want hot, warm, spicy stuff and so I supplement the raw foods somewhat with soups and stews and North African spicy fishy soups but just being in the kitchen cooking makes me crave baking some delicious bread and smothering it while still hot with butter, or to bake some fab cookies or scones and smother them in jam and cream. I want hot chocolate with cream frothed up on the top and I want something delicious to dip my hand into while watching a movie snuggled up on the sofa all warm and cosy in blankies. I also find it very hard to want to go out and exercise when it’s cold and dark and miserable.

Besides all of this I’m sure I suffer to some degree with SAD, I’ve always struggled with winter blues and find that around now I’m just tired of the dark and cold and long to throw open some windows, have seagulls waking me up and to feel the sun on my skin when I go for a walk. Being swaddled in scarves and coats and jumpers is great for a couple of weeks but by this time of year I’m through with the excitement of the winter chill.

Ways I’ve found to combat this if anyone else is interested and struggles with the same things are to:

1. cook my soups and stews in bulk so that I don’t have that temptation of spending time in the kitchen for longer than I have to

2. allow myself a baked loaf once a week. I make from scratch a small wholegrain granary loaf and I have a chunk with butter as a special winter treat. Everyone knows I have a weekly scone with 100% fruit puree homemade jam and cream and I satisfy the craving to bake by making just 4 decent sized ones, one each for myself and Nick and two for the growing son.

3. I make my own granola each week so what I’ve been doing is putting some into small air tight plastic boxes and I use that to munch on when movie watching with…

4. low calorie, low fat instant hot choc drinks which kill my craving for something hot and chocolatey without piling on the pounds again

5. share the trainer has meant that I am more motivated to go to those sessions as my friend is newly enthusiastic and that is contagious and I can’t let her down as she drives to my house and parks up then we walk together so there is no escaping that and also pre-paying for sessions makes you more likely to drag your sorry behind to them

6. install a day light lamp in the room I’m in the most which is my studio now. It’s working to make me feel happier (as well as helping me to see my work) and I also have a massive window in there so I keep the curtain and blinds open and let the natural light flood in during the day when I’m working. I used to be tempted to leave it all closed up as the side of my house faces a road and so for privacy’s sake I wanted it to be closed but hang privacy, I need that precious day light boost.

7. warm up with some faster paced walking or a little sneaky jog to make you forget its winter when you’re out and about

Close your eyes and imagine

8. go to the spa where the temperature is pretty ambient. Swim or float around with your eyes closed and imagine that artificially heated water is a blue, tropical lagoon, sweat it out in a steam room imagining you’re in some hot forest (especially easy for me as the steam room at my spa plays a kind of tropical rain forest back track), lie down in the sauna and as the sweat trickles down your body imagine you’re on a hot sandy beach. All of this stuff works for me, visualising myself where I would feel happier works, I swear sometimes I can see the sunshine haha. I invariably leave with my mood uplifted, only trouble is daily spa visits are a tad over indulgent and I really don’t have time for them. I plan to do this after work outs so that I have the boost to look forward to – it inspires me to workout for the reward after but of course the reward from working out comes from the work out itself. Anything that encourages you to go do the work out is worth trying though so that your low mood doesn’t make you miss out on that essential mood boost from working out.

9. plan trips to hotter climates and watch vlogs of people on holiday in warm places, the escapism like above lifts my mood maybe it would work for you too

10. notice that the night is setting in later and the mornings are getting lighter earlier already and know that we’re in February now and spring is just around the corner. Don’t let yourself give in to winter just yet, it’s almost another challenge won.

Cooking Healthy For One and Changing Family Habits

This is something I’m getting more and more used to now. Nick has been getting back late from work (he does work and getting to his office when he has to involves lots of driving, something we’re going to have to look at in the near future) and my son has been so busy with extra curricular things at school and band practice and music lessons and football that he rarely makes it home to eat before 8pm.

I stopped being the only healthy eater in the house a while back. I announced that the days of my healthy meal plus other options for additional diners was no longer going to be a feature of meal times in this house. I figured that what I eat is not calorie controlled or rationed, it is healthy food, low in fat, low in sugar, low in carbs mostly organic, always freshly prepared and a riot of colour including vegetables, fruits, oily fish, lean meat, nuts, pulses, grains, seeds, herbs and spices and a smattering of dairy. So it’s good for everyone and as a mother and homemaker I should be setting the example to everyone to eat healthy and so that’s it, there are no other options for the kid or the man. There is always plenty so they can eat lots if they are hungry but they will be eating lots of good stuff that will do their bodies good and limit harm and correct the effects of pollutants and bad stuff they take in when they are not at home.

Sometimes my son craves a burger or a pizza or fried chicken and he’s a kid, he’s healthy and fit and growing fast so I let him go for it in moderation and I’m pleased that he ups his exercise to compensate and always flushes it all through with lots of water and fruit or raw veg. I don’t want him to be obsessional but then I do want him to think and adjust and make the right choices and compensate for bad stuff. I know my kids have a tendency to gain weight fast like I do and so knowing they are really thinking about their health and fitness and keeping fat at bay as a natural part of their life is really reassuring for me. I don’t want them dieting EVER and I don’t want them getting ridiculously overweight EVER so if some of what I’ve experienced and some of the good lessons I’m teaching them rubs off and eradicates the bad lessons I’ve taught them by example then I am happy for them.

It’s important to consider if you are the only one in the house following a healthy lifestyle if you are in a position to enforce it onto others in your household. I am not for forcing anyone to do anything but when it comes to this stuff, we can’t be sitting with our healthy food and doing our exercise and buying crap for our kids and watching them eat it and letting them be sedentary, we have the power to make them eat healthy (or to at least limit their choices of bad stuff) and to encourage them to move more. Don’t be the parent who in ten, fifteen, twenty years time gets blamed for not instilling healthy eating habits in your kid when it’s a 300lb adult in counselling for obesity related depression. You can make changes and I started subtly at first by telling them I couldn’t bear to have chocolate or biscuits (cookies) in the house, I replaced snacks like potato crisps with healthier options and then stopped buying them altogether. Carbonated drinks are now not the norm but a treat. Ice cream has been replaced with sorbets and frozen yoghurts. They drink more water. My son always has a big bowl of fruit in his den and he chows through it fast but that’s the kind of snacking I don’t mind. He also has a pop corn maker which requires no oil or sugar to be added just the popping corn and he loves to make it and snack on that, much better than crisps.

My son is 15 and when I go for a walk I ask him to accompany me so I have someone to chat with and he invariably gets right up and comes with me. No excuses no embarrassed to be seen with mum. He sees it as doing me a favour and not as him being coerced into exercise. Incidentally we also have some fabulous discussions on our walks when we are away from everything and I know they bring us closer to one another. I ask him to come for a ride with me and he comes along to make sure I don’t fall off and end up in a gutter somewhere. Don’t mention exercise to them, just make them feel like you need them to help you to do what you are going to do and they are more likely to come along. I challenge him to swimming competitions and all kinds of things to keep him moving. He does lots of exercise already but more doesn’t hurt and it’s really working to make him a big strong healthy guy, he’s glowing and his physique is turning the girls’ eyes. He isn’t complaining. Besides he loves that I’m turning into a new person in front of his eyes and he will do anything to keep that going, he remembers old miserable mum and he likes this new one much better. Try it, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to influence them.

But having said all of that I am missing having company for dinner. It’s the one meal that has always been a sociable meal for me, breakfast has always been a rushed free for all and lunch is something that happened at work. Family breakfasts and lunches are the treasured events of weekends and holidays not the norm. Dinner though was always the one meal we all sat and ate together, prepared together too for a long time, since the kids were big enough to step up and help stir a bowl or chop a mushroom with a blunt knife. Nowadays I find myself preparing and eating it alone most weekdays and I don’t like it. I am loathe to delay my dinner time to past 8pm as that is too late for me, I don’t snack at all these days and so I am hungry by meal times and I like it that way, it makes sure I enjoy my food more and because I’m  hungry I feel full sooner. I’ll explain that phenomenon some time but it’s true for me. I also can’t cook twice, I don’t do two sittings for the simple reason that if I cooked for myself at 6 and then again for the guys at 8 I would eat some more at 8, I just would. I’m a glutton in training remember? This isn’t a won battle, it’s a forever fight.

So anyway here are some ways I combat this:

  • I do a lot of one pot cooking – casseroles, stews, soups even curries and Italian pasta based dishes. That way I can take mine and it’s easy for late comers to warm some up for themselves without my intervention. I also get the feeling that I’ve cooked for more than just myself which satisfies my empty nesting syndrome. Using the slow cooker also helps with this as food can be kept nicely warm on the real low setting long after it’s ‘ready’ without over cooking. I do like my veg crunchy and my meat rare so this suits me to take mine out a couple of hours earlier. This also means that if I’m dining alone for more than one night I can portion up and refrigerate or freeze for another night or I can do the same with left overs.
  • I use the steamer a lot, I’ll fill it with my food, fish, meat or whatever and vegetables and will prepare the same for the others but will only cook my  own and then pop theirs into the compartments so that when they are on the way home I can flick it on or they can do it themselves. Again I get to prepare the food but I don’t have to stand cooking it or supervise its cooking.
  • I let them fend for themselves completely and only cook for myself.
  • I save my dessert and sit and eat that at the table with them while they eat dinner so I get the social element of the dinner without eating twice or eating my main meal too late. If I do this I usually make sure desert is a light sorbet or some fruits and yoghurt.
  • I prepare big mixed salads and dish mine up in the kitchen and eat in the dining room so that I don’t just keep on eating and leave nothing for the guys when they get in.
  • If I’m going to be eating alone for a few nights and know nobody else is coming for dinner (Nick might be staying over in London and my son with a friend nearer school) I’ll make myself real fancy things that I have to faff with and don’t eat routinely. This makes it feel like a real treat, I get the time spent on preparation kick and I get to try out new recipes too which I can then share (or not) with the family at a later date. This also gives me a chance to buy more expensive things and be a bit more extravagant. More expensive fish or meat, rarer fruits and veggies. Having the treat stops me from feeling sad about dining alone.
  • I keep going on about planning but planning your menus a week or two weeks ahead helps keep you on track so you can identify where you will or might be dining alone, for me I identify that as a danger zone, because it is, and I make sure that I always have things in the freezer that are individually portioned so I can thaw one chicken breast or one fish fillet when those days crop up, planned or otherwise.
  • Also if I know I’m going to be dining alone I might invite a friend or two over for dinner. It gives me a good opportunity to have a good chatter with friends and an excuse to indulge in a glass of wine or a cocktail. Make an occasion of it.
  • I never skip dinner in favour of TV snacks, that never ends well for me and I find the discipline of three meals a day really has impacted on my weight loss but also contributed to gains in other areas of my life including my digestion (and expulsion of waste), sleeping and also with gastro-intestinal problems. I always eat at the table and always eat a proper meal. Some things I just have to be disciplined about or else this is never going to work long term and long term is the way it has to work or else I may as well not bother. If I eat in front of the television I don’t even register eating the food and feel hungry afterwards because I’ve not clocked up the ritualistic consumption of the food. Again I’ll blog about this some time, my mind works in strange ways and I’ve learned that identifying how my brain works against my stomach really helps in getting on top of this.

So there we have it a few tips for healthy eating for one so that it doesn’t become an excuse. We obese folk are great at making excuses for why we can’t eat healthy or why we can’t exercise and one I’ve heard a lot is this problem of doing it on our own. At the end of the day we are doing this for ourselves and we are on our own in that sense and we have to take responsibility for ourselves and stop making excuses. There are ways to get around the solitude of dining alone without falling into unhealthy habits, it just takes some discipline and a little effort.

Also we really do need to take the upper hand and set the pace for others in our household and that’s why eating healthy and moving more is really far better than dieting because we should want to promote that to our families and they should want to embrace it. It takes a while to break some of their bad habits and they may resist at first but I remember my son looking at a plate of vegetables last year and turning up his nose at them, tonight he sat and munched through an allotment’s worth and at the end said “That cabbage was delicious mum, was it organic? Did you grow it? Can we have more of that tomorrow?” Come on, what mother doesn’t love that smug smile of knowing that they’ve made a change for the better in their kids? Even if it is just getting them to become a connoisseur of fine cabbage?

If your family are not supporting you make them understand the enormity and severity of the problem, sit them down and tell them to listen, tell them how being fat and out of shape makes you feel, lay it on the line, tell them if you worry you will die younger, tell them you don’t want to leave them too soon, tell them you are not enjoying your life, tell them the truth warts and all and tell them how much you need to do this for yourself.  Let them know it’s not about looks, they will say they love you as you are but tell them you don’t love you as you are and that it’s not about how you look it’s about how you feel. Don’t hold back tears if they want to come, let them see how unhappy you are and let them know how worried you are and let them know that you need their support. Tell them you won’t deny them anything but there will be changes and you don’t need them to kick up a fuss about them, they need to go along with things and try things. Tell them how you worry about them and their health not just now but in the future and how you feel you’ve let them down by not being the example you should have been and how you want to make a difference for you all. Tell them that loving you as you are is great but you can promise them they’ll love you even more and for longer if they help you with this. I know families can be the worst when it comes to supporting or understanding an addiction but if you don’t try to explain honestly they can’t begin to help you.