Losing It: How I Shed Weight As A Cheese-Nibbling Wine-Loving Forty-Something
I’ve lost 10 kilograms (or 22 pounds) this year and some people have asked me how I did it, so I thought I’d write this post. Disclaimer: this is not advice. I’m not qualified to offer it and I wouldn’t presume. I’m just sharing a few observations about what worked for me. Some of it may be helpful, but everyone’s different.
Most wars on weight start with an epiphany. For some it’s a bad photo, for others it’s being mistaken for being up the duff. Last year I was treated to both those edifying moments, but the turning point was climbing on the scales on January 2 and discovering I’d hit 80 kilos. According to the NHS, that’s at the very top of the healthy weight range for my height (178cm; the range is 63-80 kilos). One more late-night kebab and I would be officially overweight for the first time in my 47 years. Not on your nelly!
So I set a goal of losing eight kilos in 10 weeks, meaning one kilo a week with a couple of extra weeks to allow for slippages. I marked down my weekly goal on a calendar in good old analogue biro, counting down the Fridays to coincide with a trip home to Australia: 79, 78, 77, 76, 75, 74, 73, 72.
I thought about my daily habits and what I needed to change. I made a mental commitment to walk from Woolwich to Greenwich every day, not just when I felt like it and not cheating by hopping on the 53 bus. I dropped sugar from my daily coffee. I started to count calories, aiming for no more than 1,200 a day. I did Dry January and made it all the way to the 20th, which I thought was a fair effort. Call it Dry Janu if you will. I weighed myself daily. The risks of doing this are widely chronicled, but this approach has worked for me. My bathroom scales go to one decimal place (the cruel bastards), so I’ve been able to observe the increments of my weight loss in tedious and sometimes heart-breaking detail. If I found that I’d put on half a kilo, I’d be upset for about 5 seconds then I’d think about how I could redouble my efforts for the day ahead. If I’d lost half a kilo, I’d let out a little squeak of glee, then think about how I could redouble my efforts for the day ahead. I wrote my daily weight on the calendar, so I could track how I was trending.
I lost three kilos in the first three weeks and felt pretty smug. Then some alcohol happened, my social life returned, and the battle started in earnest. I used up one of my spare weeks, readjusted the numbers on my calendar and took a deep breath. I cut down on wine. I shunned cheese and bread. I lowered my daily mid-week calorie intake to about 1,000. I avoided pasta and embraced fish and prawns.
That wasn’t enough. It felt like my metabolism was a lumbering, sluggish ship that I was trying to turn around in a sea of melted cheese. Previously, I’d have given up with a weary “sod it”. But vanity and fear and a keen desire to fit back into my wedding dress (I got married at 41 and wore a slinky black gown) drove me on. I upgraded my daily walk to a five-mile slog all the way from my front door in Woolwich to my office in Canary Wharf, via the Greenwich foot tunnel. I started going to the gym at least three times a week, burning off 200-300 calories per session. On some evenings, I even walked part of the way home with the makings of my vegetable-laden dinner in my backpack. I tried to burn off more calories than I took in, Sunday through Thursday, at least. Fridays and Saturdays were more difficult but a girl has to have fun.
This might sound naff, but I bought magazines like Women’s Health for inspiration. Most of the exercises looked impossible (all that leaping about…not with my rickety knees, sunshine) but I picked up some ideas. Stomach crunches from Brittany’s workout, foods that burn fat (cottage cheese, who knew) and that sort of thing. I learned about chia seeds and promptly bought a bag for sprinkling on my daily tuna and bean salad. The good ship Metabolism started to turn and I made it to the departure gate at Heathrow weighing exactly 72 kilos. I made sure I did a lot of walking in Melbourne (to balance 12 days of giddy indulgence with loved ones) and by the time I got back to London, after a side-step to Cambodia, I’d only put two kilos back on.
Phase Two was to reach 70 kilos by the late May bank holiday and wear a bikini in Barcelona. And I did: a lovely floral one from Ted Baker. Some may raise an eyebrow at the notion of someone just shy of 50 wearing a two-piece. Those people can do as they please with their eyebrows. Anyway, I didn’t go through four months of exertion just so my belly could get some sun. I did it because I want to feel more positive and powerful about approaching 50. I want to age gracefully and gratefully and turn all the above-mentioned into my “new normal”. I will ditch the bikini at some point. Just not yet! .