I have very purposely started this post with the work ‘My’. I have lost two and a half stone (15kgs) in the last eighteen months but, although I am a qualified fitness instructor and have written about weight loss for years, I am not a diet expert and my tips won’t be useful for everyone. This post comes to you from me as a 50-year-old woman rather than me as a journalist. My advice is born from trial and error, common sense and practicality.
I follow Slimming World’s Extra Easy plan. A few years ago, I went to a few meetings, followed it half-heartedly and stopped when life got in the way. Three years later and fast approaching 50, I realised the aches in my knees and grooves in my shoulders from my bra straps were only going to become worse unless I tackled my weight. I still felt attractive and confident, but I didn’t feel my best and a big birthday has a way of bringing thoughts of declining health into sharper focus. I just wanted to feel as amazing as possible for the next (best) phase of my life.
I knew Slimming World worked, liked the fact it didn’t involve fasting or excluding food groups and fitted in with family life. Instead of joining a group (which might be perfect for you), I bought Slimming World magazine, did some research online, decided what I wanted to weigh, and stepped on the scales. I had at least two stone to lose. I didn’t set myself a time frame or beat myself up. I just resolved to keep on keeping on, for however long it took, until I was in a healthier weight range. I lost less than a lb a week, but I wasn’t in a rush and have crept down to a comfortable, sustainable weight that I’ve stuck to for the last few months. If my weight goes up by much, I’ll just concentrate my efforts a little more. I’ll do another post on exercise, but when I decided to lose weight, I upped my step count from around 8,000 to 12,000 steps a day and began doing yoga at least three times a week rather than once a week. Right, onto my tips, which aren’t, by the way, Slimming World specific:
1. Make a weekly appointment with your scales
Everyone from Oscar winner Kate Winslet to pop star Pink is telling us not to weigh ourselves. Look, whatever works for them (and you), but staying away from the scales got me into trouble and getting back on them once a week has been key to me being a healthier weight. I now weigh myself on a Friday, as soon as I get up. Once a week and once a week only. I know myself well and I can become obsessive about things, especially numbers. A quick hop on and off every seven days is all it takes to give me the information I need to decide on a course of action.
2. Emotionally detach yourself from what you weigh
Since I started weighing myself once a week, I have lost weight and gained weight. But I have never thought that was any kind of reflection on me as a person. I am healthier at my target weight, but not kinder or nicer or more deserving of happiness. Just lighter. And when I am heavier, I am just that, heavier. Not horrible or ugly or disgusting. I am just as lovable and smart and funny as I was the week before. Maybe being older and confident in my own skin helps me here, but really, whatever your age, you know it’s a waste of your time and talent to define your goodness by a number when you have so many important things to be getting on with. Less emotion, more action.
3. Give yourself ONE meal off a week
A meal. One meal. For me, that means not stuffing my face for an entire weekend. That one extravagant meal is enough. If you feel like it, go all out, nibbles, main course, dessert, cheese and chocolate. Booze too if you drink. Then enough. When you wake up the next day, even if you feel like eating unhealthily (and you probably will), remind yourself that you can have another blowout next week. Just not today, or you will regret it and start up a vicious cycle. Oh, and do not wait for Monday to continue with your weight-loss/maintenance plan. Do it now. What is this ‘I’ll start again on Monday’ thing anyway? It’s not logical or helpful. You owe it to yourself to question it.
4. Admit you are making a change for life
There are lots of diet plans which work. There just aren’t lots which work in the long term. If you want to stay at your target weight, you need to be honest with yourself about what you can sustain for the foreseeable future. Not just until you have reached a weight you are happy with, but forever. And forever is a long time, especially if you love food. If you can eat very few calories one day a week for the rest of your life, or limit carbs until the day you die, then great. But you need something that fits in with your world, that you don’t need to expend too much energy on and which can just become a very normal part of your routine. I accept that if I want to continue to fit into my clothes, I will need to carry on with Slimming World. It’s flexible and so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If you feel restricted by a weight-loss plan, you may need to have a re-think and find one that you can imagine sticking to for the long haul.
5. Keep a record and make a plan
I’ve left the best till last. Yes, weighing myself has been important, but the thing that has held me accountable, and kept me going in the absence of attending a meetings, is that immediately afterwards, I make a note of my weight and write a couple of paragraphs (nothing fancy, I do it in the Notes on my phone) about what the next step is. I always try to be positive. One of the of the entries reads: ‘3lbs on, but had three parties and a meal out last week. It will settle down this week and I’ll see a loss next time I weigh myself.’ Another: ‘No loss for three weeks. But I know this plan works. I will stick with it and the losses will come’. I’ve put on weight when I have eaten healthily and lost when I didn’t expect to. One entry reads: ‘I haven’t been this light in 20 years. It may be a fluke and unsustainable. let’s see what happens. Had my cholesterol checked. Was a bit high last year. It’s now normal.’ I’m going skiing in two weeks. My Notes tell me I am stone lighter than I was when I skied last year. It’s good to see progress. In the spirit of Tip 2. and shamelessly channelling Rudyard Kipling, who wrote: ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same’, I don’t celebrate my losses any more than I moan about the gains. They are numbers, nothing more, nothing less.
I hope you find some of all of these tips useful. I’d love you to tell me in the comments section below what you thought of this post and if you would like to read more about weight loss and body image x