A friendly note: If the topic of weight loss is triggering for you, then maybe click away and wait for our next post. This story is shared from a personal perspective and is not intended to be taken as health advice.
Weight loss seems to have become a taboo topic. I know it’s something we don’t talk about often on this platform. We’ve always intentionally placed more of an emphasis on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. I feel like that’s the right approach to take. And I feel like, in general online, the idea of weight loss is discussed less and healthy lifestyles and body positivity are taking its place. And hallelujah! It’s about time. My teenage years were filled with quadruple page spreads in magazines full of ‘the latest weight loss tips’ with one particular tip always sticking in my mind “If you’re hungry, just chew on ice”. There was nothing like the heroin chic look of the ’90’s to send traditional media into a tailspin of telling women they were too big to be beautiful. Beauty norms have changed a lot since then. And although there are countless Instagram accounts dedicated to those on the quest for a Kim K arse, I think that in general, body positivity is starting to become the default stance. Anybody and all bodies are beautiful bodies.
But what happens when you do gain weight? An unwanted weight that you would like to then shift?
I’m not talking about stepping on the scales every day and fretting over a few pounds. I’m talking about gaining weight that means your clothes now don’t fit as they used to and you’re aware that your physique is changing. I’ve gained approximately 1 stone (14lbs/6.3kg) of unwanted weight in the last few months. I share that measurement because (aside from giving you full body measurements) it gives you an idea of where I’m at. This is not 1 stone away from some fantasy ‘ideal weight’ – I’ve long since acknowledged that I do not want to live a lifestyle that restricts me to the point of maintaining a tiny figure. My body is not built to be that size and I don’t want that pressure of maintaining a size and shape that is unnatural for me. The 1 stone I mention is over my average healthy weight. The scales, however, will not rule my life, I just want to fit nicely into my clothes again. My lifestyle choices now have me at a crossroads of whether I continue to gain weight or I make changes and lose the weight.
I could blame my recent weight gain on a number of things but I’m going to whittle it down to poor choices and stress. The ‘I’ve had a hard day, I deserve ice cream’ at 9pm at night. Feeling unmotivated to squeeze in a workout when I’m fretting about the state of the world, the safety of my loved ones or how to occupy my kids at home all day. But now as we settle into our new (but hopefully temporary) normal, I’m starting to see that I’m in need of a lifestyle change. This is a very personal thing to write about and I am writing it in hope that some of you will nod along and feel reassured that you’re not the only one. I’m sure there are a few of us who have let stress become the deciding factor for our lifestyle choices of late and are keen to get back onto a healthy rhythm.
Let me share with you the changes I’ll be making to improve my overall health and lose the unwanted weight I’ve gained of late. Please note that I’m not a health professional so these are personal choices I’m making. If you want to make any changes in your own lifestyle then do your research to make sure that approach is right for you.
Log My Food
All too easily I reach into the snack cupboard and mindlessly eat. But you can’t mindlessly eat when you’re tracking your food consumption. I’ve been an on/off user of MyFitnessPal for years. To get myself back on track now, I’ll be logging all of my food and exercise using the app. I’m keeping an eye on my caloric intake but also my macros breakdown (percentage of carbohydrate, fat and protein) in day. I’m not getting crazy strict on this, but that old saying “what gets measured, gets managed” comes to mind. And measuring what I eat in a day has certainly made me rethink my choices in the last week. Use this method with caution though if you anticipate it could lead to obsessive behaviour.
Reducing The Snack Quantity
My husband is king of the snacks. Chocolate, biscuits, crisps you name it, he buys it. But since we’re on week 5 of lockdown in our house, the snack cupboard has become increasingly loaded. And trust me, I’ve been doing my best to eat what’s in it. Gavin’s also the kind of guy that goes to the shop and returns with not two pastries but five. He’s tall, slim and puts away a lot of food. But I’ve been making suggestions that we improve the quality and reduce the quantity of the snack cupboard for our family’s health (as well as my own willpower). For my own snacking habits that means replacing rubbish chocolate bars with 70% dark chocolate. Replacing cheap biscuits with richer fancy ones so that you only eat one instead of seven. Improving the quality and reducing the quantity. Because I do not plan on denying myself a good snack. I just plan on avoiding a packet of Hobnobs of an afternoon.
When I drink water – properly drink water – I am peckish less often. This has proven to be true over many years. If I’m hydrated, I think clearer, I snack less and I’m less sluggish. I was in a bad habit of replacing water with tea a few weeks ago. If I was thirsty I would make a cup of tea instead of necking a glass of water. For me there’s no point in having a cup of tea unless I’m going to have a sweet treat with it. So even though tea is hydrating (I drink decaf), it was breeding a poor habit of snacking way more than I needed to. My new rule is that I can have a cup of tea if I have a glass of water first. 8 times out of 10, after that water I don’t want the tea.
I’ve dipped in and out of intermittent fasting for years. And to those who have never encountered it before it sounds a lot more serious than it actually is. There are a lot of health benefits to short term fasting that I’m not going to rhyme off here. If you’re interested, do your own research. But for me, intermittent fasting is basically just a way to reduce the amount of time I spend eating in a day. When fasting I only eat between 10.30am and 6.30pm. I’ve never been a breakfast person so a cup of black tea in the early morning suits me and this approach prevents me from my real vice which is late-night eating. I have a cup of peppermint tea in the evenings instead. When I’m eating this way I find myself with more energy, better digestion and it definitely helps me lose weight until a point, then it maintains my natural weight. I’m happy to discuss this more, but for fear of being accused that I’m pushing some kind of agenda or weight loss program (I’m not) I’m going to leave it here.
Don’t Skip Two Days In A Row
My lifestyle has become a lot more sedentary during lockdown. Yes, when I’m not working I’m running around after the kids all day. But being stuck at home without the usual errands to run or gym visits means that I’m nowhere near as active as I was. I can feel this in my body. I’m more creeky and sluggish. Finding it harder to gather the motivation for exercise in general. So to combat this, I’ve given myself a challenge to not go two days in a row without exercise. This means that skipping a day if I’m tired or working a lot is fine, but I need make sure I workout the next day to prevent falling back into a sedentary rut. Marking a little ‘x’ on my calendar on the days I workout is helping me stay accountable and keep track. I am aiming for a workout every day, but this challenge means that if one day gets away from me it’s no big deal and I just pick up the next day.
Now that spring has finally arrived I’m using the daily allowance for outdoor exercise for as long as it’s permitted. I’ve been going for a run or a walk every single day and it’s certainly helping with my energy levels, mental clarity and will contribute to the weight loss I’m aiming for. In the past I’ve had a great time using the Couch to 5k app, but this time I’m just sticking on a podcast and jogging intermittently to build up my stamina. I only do a short circuit of about 3k currently, but I’m mapping out a 5k to start next week. I won’t have time to do more than that in a day so I’ll be capped at that. I’m also thinking of doing some HIIT classes in the back garden in the coming weeks for a bit of variation.
On the days when I can’t get outside or if I fancy adding some bodyweight training to my cardio, I’ll be doing indoor workouts. Some apps that I really rate are the 7 Minute Workout app for a quick sweat. I also like the Jillian Michaels app for workouts and oddly a Buttocks Workout app. Sometimes I get a bit bored of doing squats so I like that app for a variety of bum/core workouts that are short and to the point. I do love a bit of Joe Wicks HIIT on Youtube as well as Yoga with Adriene who’s catalogue of free workouts is astounding.
Whilst I’m aware this post does just reiterate a lot of healthy lifestyle advice and I probably could have called it “Ways to Stay Healthy During Lockdown”, I thought that would be dishonest. Yes, I’m trying to improve my mental and physical health, but my main motivation at the moment is weight loss. If you’re in any way interested, I’m happy to do an honest follow up on what’s worked/stuck and what hasn’t. And if you’re thinking about your own mental health, physical health or want to lose some unwanted weight like me then please do leave your thoughts in the comments. These things are much easier to do (and share) when we know we’re not alone.
Has your diet or lifestyle changed since lockdown?
What are your favourite healthy habits to regain?