If you have been keeping up with this series, you’ll know we are on Part 3.
Back to reality after a fantastic 2 weeks holiday in Mexico.
I was feeling confident that I had managed to maintain my weight whilst away on holiday by sticking to my plan and exercising for at least 15 minutes a day – most days I did 40 squats, 40 raised press-ups and 40 leg raises as well as swimming and walking. I was shocked and surprised when I stepped on the scales to discover that I had lost almost a stone in 3 weeks! This was really encouraging because although I had set myself rules and hadn’t had a complete blowout on holiday, I certainly didn’t diet at any point! If I fancied ice cream I had it but just 1 scoop instead of the 3 I would have had back in June – moderation appeared to be key.
On my way back from the airport I received a call from the BBC to confirm that my story would not feature on the show. I was pleased with this, I had been very concerned about featuring on the program as I was the heaviest participant and I was unsure as to how I would be portrayed.
Looking back I think it’s more likely I was afraid of seeing myself on TV because it would show my true size and I wasn’t ready to accept that yet. The program ‘What’s the right diet for you?’ aired on 12th, 13th and 14th January on BBC 2 and received some fantastic reviews, I owe a lot to the show, without it, I may still weigh 27 stone or have undergone major surgery in order to lose the weight. But… there was no need for the surgery. I was successfully losing around 3lb a week eating unprocessed wholesome food and training hard and honestly loving every minute of it! The only foods I had given up were takeaways, bread and potatoes and I didn’t miss them, I felt amazing.
Whilst filming for the BBC from July – Sept 2014 I found it very easy to stick to the plan, when there is a possibility of failing in front of millions of people on TV its quite a driver! Even from Sept – Jan 15 when the show would air I was determined to ensure I stuck to the plan because again I didn’t want to have gained weight when the show aired. But I began to question what would happen once the show aired and there was no one except me monitoring my progress.
Would I still have the same drive and determination to lose the weight?
I decided as I enjoyed rowing so much I would set myself a rowing challenge. I would row 5k every single day for 30 days from 19th January to 18th February and this would ensure my weight loss continued and I remained focussed even without the BBC watching.
I began my rowing challenge and all was going well although I did begin to find quite early on that my energy levels were quite low. John suggested adding in a refeed day, this was a day where my calorie intake would increase to 1800 – 2000 calories for 1 day. I must admit I wasn’t keen on the idea, I had found a good level at 1300 calories a day and I was concerned what impact the additional calories would have but I gave it ago and it definitely helped to increase my energy levels. We decided that a refeed day would be added in every few weeks to keep energy levels consistent and could always review and tweak the frequency as required. When having a refeed day I don’t treat it as a day to eat junk, I will either increase my carbohydrate intake for that day with more low GI carbs such as Basmati rice, pasta and Bulgur wheat or, I would up the fat content and eat low carbohydratefood adding in more nuts and healthy oils for that day. I quite quickly found that I preferred to up my calories with healthy fats as I feel less bloated than with carbs.
I also began to work with a friend Linda Naylor who is a life coach. We began to look at my life goals and prioritise them. Although Linda lives in Harrogate she also offers coaching by phone and skype and I found the sessions with her to be great in working through my concerns and assessing my progress.Wow(!) over 100lb lost in 7 months and I was feeling determined and focused.
John set me a new smaller challenge, before bed list everything that I am grateful for. As I began writing that night the first 20 came pretty easily …. I am grateful for my supportive friends and family, I am grateful for a job I enjoy, I am grateful for my home ….. The next 30 were a little trickier but I made it to 50 things I was grateful for. The next night I read through the 50 things I was grateful for and added another 10. I continued to read through and add to my grateful list every night for a week. It surprised me what an impact it had on my mood, it was so positive to read through all the fantastic things in my life I could/do feel grateful for! I still look back on it now and add to it when I can.
13 days into the 30 day challenge John questioned how I was feeling, when I thought about it I had been very short tempered and emotional, I was also feeling my energy levels dropping again. John explained the likely cause was over training, I had been in a calorie deficit for many months and I had upped my training to 11 sessions a week in order to complete my 5k row challenge. Whilst John knew I wouldn’t be keen to stop my rowing challenge he did make it clear to me that it was the likely cause of how I was feeling and that my best plan of action would be to take 2 full days off training and reassess how I felt.
So that’s exactly what I did, and guess what, John was spot on!! I had been so concerned with distracting myself to ensure I stayed focused on weight loss and away from food that I completely forgot that if I am not enjoying what I am doing I’m setting myself up to fail. After my 2 days rest and a PT session with John on the Friday I hit the gym Saturday morning to do a 5k row and I smashed my PB!
I had also learnt another important lesson about overtraining. More training is not always better and less calories is not always better, it’s about listening to my body and how I feel to determine the right level that can be realistically maintained in the long term. I seem to get easily carried away with the desperation to drop the weight as quickly as possible but I now see it’s far more important to do it healthily.
In early March I would be turning 31 years of age and I couldn’t help but smile at how far I had come in 8 months and although the pounds coming off each week was incredibly motivating there were so many other measures of how much better I was feeling :
- Sometimes if I had been walking a little, like round the shops or a supermarket the top outside of my thigh would go numb. This used to concern me as I had no idea what it was. After just 4 weeks of training this was gone.
- I used to be afraid to go to theatres and the cinema in case the seats were too small for me to sit it. Now I have plenty of room to sit comfortably! Now I can go whenever I like with no fear.
- When working in Manchester I would always take a taxi from the train station into work – although it is only a ¾ mile walk I didn’t want to arrive into work red faced and sweating. After just 6 weeks of training I was walking to and from the station and haven’t caught a taxi since!
- I had a meeting on the 8th floor of our office block when the fire alarm sounded. We filed out and when it came to going back in the lifts were extremely busy, I have never been a fan of lifts and certainly not busy ones so I took the stairs – 8 flights, after just 10 weeks of training I was noticing massive differences in my fitness, there is no way I could have managed that before.
- After years of wearing clothes that were too big for me trying to hide away I want to wear clothes that are fitted and flatter my shape even when I was in the larger sizes 18/20/22.
- My confidence is constantly increasing. I feel happier meeting new people and exploring new places.
- I have become more organised in my personal life so that I can make the most of every day.
- I used to suffer from headaches in fact most days I would have a headache of some kind but now I barely get headaches and if I do I can pinpoint the reason hay fever/hormonal etc.
- Generally I feel calmer in myself; I approach issues with a positive mentality and find myself better at handling difficult situations.
I was turning 31, 9 stone lighter, having enrolled for a psychology degree and had my TV debut. What a busy 8 months I’d had! No sign of letting up yet, I was still 7 stone away from my goal weight, I still had lots of fitness goals to achieve including a 2k row under 7 minutes 30 seconds and a 5k row under 20 minutes. I had no doubt that I would achieve my goals. I was weighing in at 18 stone and closing in on my lightest ever weight as an adult at 16st 7lbs. When I had previously lost large amounts of weight 16st 7lb was the point at which I stopped losing and started gaining. This was weighing on my mind, I wanted to make sure I had a plan in place to push beyond that weight and continue losing. I began to think through the habits that I had formed to keep me on track :
- Have a list of meals that I enjoy that are low GI so if I’m struggling for inspiration I can choose something from the list when planning the week’s menu.
- Plan meals in advance
- Things won’t always go to plan so I have batches of homemade 5 bean chili and bolognaise in the freezer as my own ready meals. They are frozen in bags and don’t even require defrosting they can just be put in a pan of boiling water to reheat from frozen. (I was someone that hated reheated food previously but these taste better reheated!)
- I carry food with me that I can eat easily if I need food whilst out and about, some of the things I carry are a piece of fruit or small bag of mixed nuts (high calorie so I only carry 1 portion but they are very filling!) and oatcakes are great to carry too.
- If eating out where possible check the menu ahead of time, plan what I’m eating and stick to it – don’t add in a last minute pudding if one wasn’t planned in to begin with!
- Try to avoid processed foods and takeaways where possible, who knows what rubbish is in them you only get one body and your health is so much more important than convenience!
- I have a few go to meals when I am out and about shopping etc, Starbucks do a great porridge which is not packed with sugar and very filling as do McDonalds but only until 10.30am teamed with berries it’s very tasty. Subway salads are fantastic too, fresh and tasty and low calorie, I tend to go double chicken to make it more filling with more protein.
- Drink plenty of water we all know the benefits of it and it stops me feeling so hungry.
- Only eat when I’m truly hungry, get out of the habit of eating just because of the time of day. I only class myself as hungry if I would eat an apple; if I wouldn’t eat an apple then I’m not really hungry!
- Base calorie targets over a week not just a day – I aim to eat 1300 calories a day but in actual fact some days I eat 1200 and others 1600 but so long as over the week I eat around about 10000 calories I’m happy with that because I will be in deficit of around 7000 calories which = 2lb weight loss.
- I don’t use food as a treat, if I want to treat myself then I get my nails done or buy a new top (in a smaller size!) or something like that.
- Celebrate every single little success be it sticking to my plan, adapting my plan when things didn’t work out, or getting to the gym, etc. etc. I do something to make myself proud every single day. All those little changes add up to a big difference over weeks, months and years.
- Set small interval targets to reach, I couldn’t see the end of my journey when I set out. But I will see it eventually as I take small steps towards it every single day.
- The scales just provide me with a trackable number, this number will change dependant on what I have eaten so for example if I eat carb heavy for just 1 day I can weigh up to 3lb heavier the next day through water retention alone (the same goes for a higher salt intake)! Its only water and it drops back off with more over the next few days. So it’s important to be able to deal with what the scales say and look at the bigger picture over a number of weeks not just a snapshot of 1 day at a time!
- Do not have a battle with yourself time and time again, you either make the decision you want it or you don’t. Get rid of the question marks and focus your energy on reaching your goals not beating yourself up.
- Stop wasting time looking for a miracle cure it doesn’t exist – move on!
- Take small steps only change a little at a time so that new habits can be formed before moving onto the next thing.
- Build yourself a good support network I invest cash in a Personal Trainer and a CBT therapist. I invest time in reading inspiring books and real stories of incredible people doing incredible things. For me there is no better way to spend my time and money than investing in me!
Find other ways to measure your success not just weight –
- I buy an item of clothing 1-2 sizes smaller and keep trying it on until it fits.
- I set myself fitness goals to row a distance in a shorter time or lift a heavier weight etc.
- I listen to my body – how I feel, I note in my diary how I feel so for example I might row 2k in 7 mins 30 but feel like I am dead on my feet after it, the next time I might row it in 7 min 30 but feel good and go on to do more in the gym after its important to recognise your progress in all ways.
- Having the confidence to do something I didn’t before for example for me: recently getting a full body sports massage and getting out on more dates!
- Measure yourself and record the information to look back on. I don’t see a difference in the mirror but I can’t deny the measurements are coming down!
- Photographs are great to track progress, I hate having my picture taken but it’s an awesome feeling when you can look through how your body and shape has changed.
March had begun on such a high but real life was soon to hit hard. Of all the stories I had read of people losing weight time and time again I read how previous attempts to lose the weight had come undone when major life events had occurred and I was about to experience some real turbulence. Up to this point I had been very fortunate that I could be totally selfish with my dieting, I didn’t have a partner or children to consider and my life was very straight forward.
On March 10th I travelled to Cambridge University to hear a talk at Cambridge Science Festival by all of the experts that took part in the BBC show. It was a fantastic evening my brother came with me and it was lovely to see all the experts again, I couldn’t believe that they recognised me and took such an interest in my progress. After the talk my brother and I went for some food and a catch up. I had missed a call on my phone whilst we were eating, a number I didn’t recognise. With more investigation I discovered it to be Hull Royal Infirmary, when I finally managed to speak to someone we discovered that our mother had been admitted due to a perforated bowel and had been taken down to surgery. It was a total shock and out of the blue it was now 10.30pm and my brother and I drove straight back to Hull arriving back at 1.30 am. It was then we were told that mum was incredibly ill, the surgery had gone well but she wasn’t in a good way. We sat with her until 4am when the Dr told us to leave and get some rest. Neither of us got any rest and we both just wanted to get back to the hospital as soon as possible. The next morning it was explained that she had gone into septic shock, her heart was requiring greater support and her blood pressure was far too low. The next 24 hours would be incredibly important and it was explained to us that things could get worse before they got better. I’m so pleased to say that things did get a whole lot better, there were dramatic improvements in her condition hour by hour and against all odds she was moved to the ward 3 days after her surgery. For the 3 days that she had been in ICU I had no appetite at all but as soon as she was moved to the ward and she was off all of the support I became quite ravenous. I imagine that it’s a normal response for a body to require sustenance after such a stressful time. I stuck to my normal guidelines and ate sensibly, my training had taken a bit of a backseat for a few days but I wanted to get back into training as soon as possible to relieve some of the stress.
My mum was on the mend when the next piece of bad news hit. An announcement was made at work that the Support Services team would be losing around 100 people as part of a redundancy and I was at risk of losing my job. This again came as a shock and I had to work hard to ensure I didn’t allow it to affect my diet and training, it would be counter-productive for me to go backwards at this point. I knew my way of eating was helping me to think clearer and train harder I desperately didn’t want to go back to where I was. I spoke to my life coach Linda and together we devised a plan as it could be another 6 weeks before I knew if my job was safe and I was finding it difficult to sit back and do nothing at all. We discussed that continuing with my diet and exercise was supporting my long term goals which would remain long after the redundancy was finalised so I kept with it.
That wasn’t to be the end of my turbulent month of March either. Back in December I had visited the Dr’s for blood tests and scans due to changes in my menstrual cycle. These had been put down to hormone imbalances caused by training, dieting and weight loss. I had begun to feel more side effects of the hormone imbalances such as a 3 week period and more intense effects such as nausea and severe stomach cramps. The Dr prescribed a further mini pill in addition to the implant I already had in order to try and redress the hormone imbalance. John explained that exercise and running a calorie deficit was incredibly stressful on the body and with the stress of my mum and possible redundancy it might be best to reduce the training to exclude long cardio sessions and focus on weight training and high intensity interval training as these are lower stress on the body. Also to introduce walks outside and swimming. I wasn’t keen again on the reduction in training because I felt that training hard was actually relieving stress but we approached it as another experiment. Again I took a few days off training and found that my stress levels were rising because I was more concerned about not being in the gym. Working hard in the gym made me feel a step closer to my goals and helped me clear my head and manage my stress and so we reintroduced the training as before.
I came out the other side of March feeling stronger than ever, I’d had a pretty difficult few weeks in March but managed to maintain my weight loss efforts fairly easily just keeping following the habits I had formed. I think it was important that I no longer used food as a treat/reward because there were many times during March that I could have done with a comfort blanket I just sought comfort from other things. It was fantastic having my training coach John and life coach Linda on hand too, as their support and knowledge were invaluable and I may well have gone backwards at times without their input.