Yesterday I finally reached my weight loss goal that I set nearly 12 months earlier. Today, I confirmed that I had met that target by being able to purchase a pair of shorts in Japan, that looked good, were not the largest size on the rack and when I removed them after trying them on, my knickers didn’t come off with them!
My goal was to weigh less than 68 kg so that my BMI fell into the normal range. Now, I know that the BMI is a flawed index developed in the 19th century and doesn’t take into account how much muscle you have opposed to fat. However, I’m not exceptionally tall or short and I’m not an athlete with crazy amounts of muscle so I feel that it can be used for me as a rough approximation of what I can aim for.
Every Wednesday morning my support group meet for our weekly weigh and shame! Yesterday was our last one for the year. School is finished so we weighed ourselves at home when we got up (before eating breakfast and after doing a wee) and then met at Starbucks to discuss the results and our goals for the summer holidays.
I weighed 67.90 kg.
I have lost the majority of the weight in the last 12 months but this has been a process that has spanned a couple of years. A colleague of mine recently asked me to share the diet plan that I was on but I couldn’t because I’m not really on one. It has been an incredibly slow process that has required making many small and manageable changes to my lifestyle to find what I can sustain long term and what actually works for me. In this post, I want to try and summarise what I did in case someone else might find it useful. The following things worked for me but every one is different so this post comes with no guarantees!
Have a support groupMy support group started with Kim and Elaine who had begun running together about a year earlier before I joined in with them. We were already colleagues but we became good friends also as we had a common goal which was to lose weight and improve our over all health and fitness. Later Leah joined us after Kim left to live in Bangkok.
For me it has been really important to have like-minded people that I can feel free to talk to about everything and who are going through the same ups and downs as me. We bounced off ideas with each other, shared success stories and setbacks and supported each other. We meet weekly for our weigh and shame (which isn’t as awful as it sounds) and keep in touch through the week at odd times too.
Set achievable short term goals
My over all goal was to lose more than twelve kilos but that takes a long time and you only see minute progress in relation to that goal especially at the beginning. In our group we would set short term goals like losing 2 kgs before the October break or running a 10 km race in November. Sometimes we achieved the goal, sometimes we only got part way but we were always moving forward in the long run.
For larger goals, I went as public as I could with what I was trying to do. When you make it public, you feel more pressure to actually do it and any motivation is better than none! I recently decided that in order to maintain the changes I’ve made in my life I needed a big goal to work towards and that is to run a marathon. So I told everyone about it! Now I get advice from friends of mine who are experienced runners, people ask me about it, I continue to blog about it and post on Facebook about it. If I don’t actually do it now, I’m going to look a right turkey! That’s motivation!
Keep making changes
I needed to find what works for me. There are lot of diets and plans out there all supported by ‘experts’ but really it all boils down to one thing. If you want to lose weight you have to consume less calories than you burn. Doing more exercise alone is not that useful because you overeat your exercise very easily. The important thing is to eat less. It sounds simple but that is terrifically difficult for me to do. I love food and I love drinking. But I have made changes to my lifestyle continually over the past three years to find the right balance that works for me. And I’m still adjusting and changing things as my circumstances demand it.
I’ve tried lots of things that I couldn’t sustain. Here are a few:
going vegan, vegetarianism, no alcohol, exercising every day, counting calories…
But every time something didn’t work for me, I just made a small change to try and find a compromise that I could sustain and would help me continue to achieve my health goals. Here is a summary of what I’m trying right now.
- I eat a plant based diet with seafood, eggs and limited dairy added in.
- I only eat meat if there is no other option or if a friend has made it for me.
- I don’t deny myself something if I really want it but am aware of portion size and only having one! (This doesn’t always work!)
- I’ve substituted milk with soy or almond milk for everything except in my tea.
- I fast (meaning I consume approximately only 500 calories) two days a week.
- I drink alcohol one weekend/occasion per month only which I decide on beforehand.
My exercise plan
- I concentrate on running because it is free and I like it
- I set myself race goals and follow a training plan that tells me when to run and how far to go on what days of the week – it also allows me to have days off!
- I don’t exercise on fasting days
These changes are working for me right now but they wouldn’t work for everyone and they won’t work for me forever. The important thing is to keep trying different things until you do find something you can do for a longer period of time and that works.
Don’t expect to lose weight every week. As long at the overall trend is downward it doesn’t matter if you stay the same or go up some weeks. Graph the trend.
Use technology to make some of the record keeping easier and to increase contact with your support network. I use RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal amongst others.
The next challenge
I’ve lost weight plenty of times before. Sometimes because I was trying to and others because I had amoebic dysentery or malaria. I’ve never been able to keep it off more than a couple of years so now, I hope to be able to maintain the changes I’ve made and to continue tweaking my plan as necessary, to stay healthy long term. Following my own advice on accountability, I’ll let you know how it goes!