I feel like I have been struggling with my weight for an extremely long time indeed. In my head I’m still a svelte size 10/12, but in reality I haven’t seen that size for most of my adult life. This results in constant disappointment every time I look at myself in a mirror, which probably explains why we have very few mirrors in our house. At my largest (just before I got pregnant with the geekson) I was a size 20, at the moment I’m a 16/18.
Over the years I have tried most diets. Only two have ever worked for me – Atkins and Slimming World. I managed to successfully lose several stone on Atkins before we started trying for kids, but I could only lose weight by sticking to eating induction levels of carbohydrates (this isn’t very much!), and that didn’t seem a healthy way to eat going in to pregnancy. I lost almost 2 stone on Slimming World after having the geekson, but unfortunately since going back to work last May it has been impossible to stick to, and the weight has all crept back.
The common difficulty with both of these diets is that they limit your carbohydrate intake to a greater or lesser extent. And the world doesn’t appear to be geared up for you to limit your carbohydrate intake. You need to grab lunch on the run? Have a sandwich. Easy breakfast before you dash out to work? Have a bowl of cereal. Ready meal when you can’t be bothered to cook in the evening? Pizza? Takeaway? It’s all carbs, carbs, carbs. None of this fits with either diet, and eventually I just slip back to my old habits.
This is the fundamental problem with “diets”. You change your eating habits, you hopefully lose weight, then you reach goal weight, relax a bit, go back to eating the way you did before, and WHAM! All the weight comes back (with bonus extra pounds as well). So I resolved at the start of this year to “resolve my weight issues”. This is most certainly not the same as “losing weight”. This means I want to spend time understanding why I eat the way I do, making small and sustainable adjustments to my diet, and changing my eating habits for life, not just for losing weight.
I believe I need to lose weight for health reasons. There is a lot of type 2 diabetes in my family – my father, both his parents and other members of his family have all developed it, and it was a bit of a wake-up call to me when the diabetes was listed as a secondary cause of death on my Grandma’s death certificate. I remember reading something somewhere that said if you had a tendency to gain weight around your stomach that can indicate a propensity towards diabetes, and my stomach is certainly where all my excess weight gathers. Even more so after having had two big babies! So I definitely consider myself “high risk” for developing diabetes. And I know that it is possible to control diabetes by changing my eating habits, and that’s something I can do right now. What I don’t know (yet) is how to change those habits.
Traditional attitudes to weight loss focus solely on calories. If you eat less calories than you burn, we are told, you will lose weight. With a side order of “eat less fat”. Well, I’ve tried that. And do you know what happens when I eat fewer calories? I get hungry, my willpower fails, and I have a huge chocolate blowout. One of the reasons I think that Atkins and Slimming World both worked for me was that there was a large selection of food I could eat “as much as I liked” of, and that meant when I did get the nibbles I could eat something “safe” and not fall off the rails.
Why not just go back to Atkins or Slimming World I hear you ask? Because in both cases, despite successfully losing weight, I have ended up putting it all back on again. Which tells me that I can’t sustain either diet as a “permanent eating plan”, which is the only way I’ll keep the weight off long term.
So at the moment I’m attempting to make small but permanent changes to my eating, hopefully making more and more changes until the weight loss is a side effect of the way I eat, not the main goal. Just before Christmas I purchased the MuTu System (which seems good, but I still have to figure out where I can shoehorn exercise into my life – one step at a time eh?!), and I’ve also been keenly reading the Mummy Whisperer’s series of blog posts on healthy eating for rubbish cooks. I really like what both of these ladies say about diet, and I can see that if I can eat the way they recommend then I will be eating far more healthily. In addition I am also reading about the Low GI diet which I have heard mentioned as good for diabetics.
Here’s what I have achieved since the start of the year:
- Eliminated fizzy drinks from my diet (apart from the odd one if I’m socialising) – previously I was consuming these on a daily basis
- Increased my daily water intake – I’ve actually started drinking hot water now as well, as an alternative to a hot drink
- (Mostly) managed to make my daily Latte on working days small rather than large.
- Vastly increased the amount of cooking from scratch that I am doing.
- Switched the entire family onto wholemeal bread instead of white, and have started experimenting with the bread machine again to find a decent spelt loaf.
- Switched the entire family onto wholewheat pasta
- Started taking fruit with me to work to snack on, rather than buying chocolate from the machine.
- Mostly eliminated “low fat” versions of foods from my diet (I’m still not sure where skimmed milk fits in with this)
- Started producing a proper meal plan for each week to avoid resorting to fast food and takeaways too often.
I have deliberately not weighed myself, as I don’t want this to be just about my weight. I know I’m still gaining weight at the moment, as my clothes are getting tighter, and I’ve had to switch to my “big” wedding ring, but I hope this is all temporary.
There are still challenges ahead. I still have to cut a lot of convenience food out of my diet, I am still unsure what my best choices are for breakfasts and for eating out, and I still have major self control failures when all I can do is pinch the kids’ chocolate. But I’m confident that the changes I’ve made so far are sustainable, and I can build on them.