To weigh or not to weigh?

Come on, don’t most of us deep down, know what we need to do to lose weight?

We may not have university degrees in nutrition, and it can be confusing to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating with all the conflicting information out there, but deep down I believe that most of us know when we should be eating a little less and moving a little more; really we do, don’t we?

So why is it so easy for some of us (even when we have seen success and lost a couple of stones) to get stuck?  I believe it all comes down to ‘motivation’.  Motivation is the key.  Staying motivated forever and ever is hard work at the best of times, but when a set of scales is involved it can become complicated!

So let me clarify this before I get thousands of comments about how wrong I am. (In my dreams!….thousands of comments…yes please! It can be lonely here you know….with just Mr Blog for company!)  I have weighed thousands of people in my time, and witnessed first-hand how motivating it is to see a positive result at the scales.  When you are doing great and on a roll and the number on the scales is going down each week-that can be incredibly motivating and is also great feedback on behaviour changes you have implemented in the previous week. (I have explored the best way to use the results at the scales before-click here if you want to go there.)

HOWEVER there is a very high chance that standing on the scales could demotivate you.  There are only 3 possible results- a loss, a gain or a stay the same. One of those results will almost certainly result in disappointment, which in turn could result in a sense of ‘what’s the point’ which equals ‘not motivated’.  Here are some other possible scenarios:

An unexpected gain could mean devastation which = de-motivation.

A stay the same after a ‘good’ week could = de-motivation

Even a loss that is not big enough could = de motivation

If you are in a fat rut (or a weight-loss plateau-you choose which you want to call it), I urge you to ask yourself this question- ‘Is standing on the scales every week beneficial in keeping me consistently motivated?’

I have asked myself the question and the answer is ‘NO! That’s not to say I will never weigh myself ever again because weighing is one of the simplest ways of getting feedback on your weight loss efforts. But I have decided that I will only weigh myself monthly, and only on a ‘slim’ day (I know you know what I mean) and on a day where I feel I can handle any result- a day when I am feeling strong and positive. This feels like a scary experiment to me and I will feed back the results honestly to you, I promise.  I guess in the end I am doing it because what I was doing before –weighing each week- was not working for me anymore.  So far not being preoccupied by the scales is working-I feel so much better about myself and I’m focussing more fully on my food habits and behaviours.  Ultimately that’s what needs to change (and stay changed). The number on the scales can end up being nothing more than a niggly distraction.

Please comment below and share your thoughts on how the scales effect your motivation-good and bad. I’m really interested to know……

Spying on the naturally slim…………………

As well as starting up my Coaching practice, I also work at my local library and I love it. I get paid to touch books and talk to people (and try my very best not to confuse the two!)  Maybe I should have started working there years ago, as the majority of the other women who also work there are beautifully and enviably ‘naturally’ slim.  Their slimness is fascinating to me, more so because the coffee table in the staffroom is cluttered with biscuits and cakes and chocolates, and also empty boxes that used to contain the afore mentioned items.

I have taken to observing their tea break and lunchtime habits in a David Attenborough type way.

Imagine Mr Attenborough’s hushed tone’s uttering the following question-‘How is it that these lovely library ladies can chomp on these treats and not gain weight?’

So I sit quietly and watch and listen for clues……

Deb is eating soup and fruit for lunch.

When Lesley asks her if that’s all she’s having-she replies it’s what she usually has for lunch.  She is careful at lunch time because she likes to eat more in the evening and at weekends. The other thing I observe is that Deb always cuts her fruit up and eats much more slowly than I do-she eats mindfully (Remember?  I talked about that before- here.)

After finishing her usual very healthy lunch of pitta, cottage cheese and sliced pear (it’s what she likes) Lesley contemplates having a mince pie.  She ponders a while and then decides against it. There’s no angst, no turmoil, just a considered and informed decision that it’s high in saturated fat and she’ll be having a different treat later on. Besides she’s not really hungry. (David Attenborough voice again- ‘Species Library Lady has evolved over the years to understand when she has had enough food! Remarkable…’)

That’s not to say that if my colleagues fancy a biscuit or two or a mince pie that they don’t have one- they simply (!) pause and think first and then totally enjoy (The mince pie box was empty anyway as was the three quarters empty box of Ferrero Rocher- let’s just say everyone except me seemed to know they tasted good-how does that work?)

Although I haven’t yet managed to infiltrate their home environments and spy on them when they are on their own in their kitchens at night, I am pretty sure that my colleagues behave in the same way in private as they do in public. No declining chocolates in public and then scoffing them when no one’s looking.  They’ve been practicing this behaviour all their lives; David Attenborough might comment that their sensible eating habits have now become second nature.

I find it so interesting that people who struggle to manage their weight, think that slim people are ‘naturally’ slim and can eat whatever they want and still stay slim.  Some slim people believe the same. I believe that in reality slim people do generally eat what they want, but (and this is the significant bit) they simply don’t WANT the same foods or the same VOLUME of food that many overweight people ‘want’.  The library ladies are a great example of how the slim stay slim-they put some thought into maintaining their healthy weights; their good habits help too.

So now I have a great opportunity to keep watching, and to attempt to copy those slim eating habits until they become second nature (normal?) to me too. I know it won’t be easy as I have spent the last er-hmm years practising my own unique bad habits (I do have some good ones too-just saying!).  This week I’ll keep practising mindful eating (I’m getting better at this and I enjoy food much more when I am mindful) and I will make a huge attempt to pause before I snack.  Pausing will enable me to ask myself-‘do I really need to eat this?’, and I’m hoping sometimes the answer will be ‘No!’

What have you noticed about how slim people behave around food and what could you copy that could lead to better weight management skills for you? 

Please leave your comments below-I’m curious to know your thoughts.  And if you decide to share this ……well I’m not sure how I feel about the ‘naturally slim’ reading it (giggles nervously) – it might encourage them to start watching us more closely!

Practicing ‘Mindful’ Eating

I have had an incredibly eventful four days. Day 1 and 2 were away from home days: I met new people, learnt lots and had a thoroughly exciting and adrenalin filled time. On day 3 I made a couple of very important life decisions and acted on them-gulp!  Day 4 was a traumatic, scary and emotional day involving my pet dog-enough said.  Today I feel drained physically, emotionally and mentally, but other than that, everything is fine. (Thank goodness for the natural resilience of our canine friends)

It certainly has been a busy few days. And I wonder Mr Blog, if you can guess where weight loss scored in my list of priorities?  Well as a matter of fact, it was still right up there in terms of being very important to me- the problem was, for a few days I simply forgot how important! Oops!

‘Oh no!’ (I can almost hear the collective ghostly voice of millions of fellow ‘dieters’, echoing from their own kitchen areas, all over the western world and the echo is aimed at me!)

‘She’s lost the plot again! It’s more than likely that she has overeaten, and now she must be feeling awful. It’s so hard to stay on track.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she feels so guilty about it, that she gives up altogether for a bit and has a good old binge. That’s what we do isn’t it? When life gets busy and we lose control for a bit, we figure that we might as well carry on and ‘ruin’ the whole week.  And actually’ (the ghostly echo persists) it’s only a few weeks until Christmas. I wouldn’t blame her if she stopped focussing on her weight loss from now until January-at least she could relax and enjoy the festive period without worrying. She could have a fresh start in January…’

Well let me tell you Ghostly Echo……you are WRONG!

Well you are right about some of it- I haven’t been eating perhaps as healthily as I would normally have done; and I have had a couple of pieces of cake and maybe a little tipple or two. But I am currently practicing changing the way I think, and I no longer accept that just because I have had a couple of pieces of cake that I have ‘ruined’ anything at all (because I haven’t-goodness, all I did was eat a piece of cake! People do it all over the world all of the time and it has no influence on anything that really matters-eating cake does not impact on world peace, finding cures for cancer or anything else that REALLY matters) So if I DID NOT RUIN anything, then I have no need to feel GUILTY (this is the word/feeling that does the MOST damage in our healthy eating crusade).  I think this is a really important sentence (maybe even a breakthrough?) so I am going to repeat it so that it is easier to imprint it onto my brain-

Eating cake DOES NOT equal RUINING something; and if nothing is RUINED by my eating cake, then I don’t have to feel GUILTY! If I don’t feel GUILTY then I don’t need to overeat for the rest of the week (to push down the feeling of guilt, to punish myself or for any other reason)

And in conjunction with understanding the above, I am also practicing eating ‘mindfully’-for me that means if I am going to eat cake, I am also going to ensure that I do it in a conscious state-I am going to focus on the taste and texture. I am going to enjoy it and take time over it. I know people do this all the time (especially slim people) and when I do it, it’s good fun. I really enjoyed the piece of carrot cake I had while I was away at the weekend (and the lemon poppy seed one too). I enjoyed it so much SO much more than if I had greedily, mindlessly and guiltily wolfed it down by the light of the fridge. And at the same time I made a conscious (mindful) decision not to feel guilty.

Mindful eating is definitely the way to go. I used to do it as a child. In those days I could make a 2 fingered Kit Kat last for ages, by nibbling the chocolate from the outside of the wafer in an ordered way. I’d then eat the wafer layer by layer, so that the eating of the Kit Kat was not just a snack, it was an event. I also used to eat my meals much more consciously (no TV dinners or reading at the table in those days). I enjoyed my meals and did not feel guilty if I had an extra roast potato. Yes I need to keep practicing my habits of old habits……….

I don’t believe that eating more mindfully and less guiltily is the whole answer to the weight loss question, but if you are looking for a starting point it might be worth a practice. There is some research that suggests when we focus fully on our eating experiences without any distraction, that we eat 20 percent less…….worth keeping in mind huh?

OOPS-I’ve had a binge!

Picture the scene….(excuse the clichéd beginning, but I’ve always wanted to start a piece of writing with this little phrase)-so…..
Picture the scene: I have had a very focussed and controlled food week. I have added to the little reminders I’d set up on my phone, by downloading a little free app called Diet Coach (it’s very cute)-and I am being reminded daily that my body deserves good healthy nutrition, that I should drink more water and less coffee, that I shouldn’t ruin a good day by eating too many sweeties and crisps in the evening, and I am even being advised to look at my motivational pictures at a set time each day (I’ll talk more about those pictures another time).
So all in all my ‘reminder’ tactic is working fabulously. I am starting to believe that I can actually do this. I even have evidence that I CAN do it- 2 and half lbs down since last weigh in. I’ve caught myself at odd moments walking with my head held a little higher because I am a woman on track to weight loss heaven. I believe that nothing can stop me now that ‘my head is in the right place’ and so are my healthy breakfasts, lunches and…….
Ah but hang on a moment. Last Friday afternoon turned out to be an irritating one. I had been summonsed to attend a family gathering which I did not want to attend. I won’t go into details because apparently blogs as well as walls, have ears, and I don’t want to have to cope with the irritation of another family altercation any time soon (one had already occurred when I originally tried to wriggle my way out of said family gathering). So I headed off to do my duty, and in order to reduce my resentment at having to waste a couple of my precious ‘catch up with some of the stuff on my to-do list’ hours, I decided that I could sort my daughter’s prescription out en route as the Pharmacy was on the way. Now who could have guessed what a big mistake that was?
The saga of the prescription had started 10 days previously with me traipsing around to 4 different chemists only to discover that this particular medication was not available-I needed to get the doctor to write an alternative prescription apparently. So on the way to my Mother’s (I didn’t mean to mention it was Mother’s house that I’d been summonsed to-oh well it’s done now!) I ‘popped ‘ into the doctors to see if the new prescription was ready. I queued almost patiently for 15 minutes, then waited another 5 minutes while the receptionist disappeared around the back and was eventually told that the prescription (and presumably me and my daughter) did not exist. ‘
Not a problem’ I said-‘Could I come back later, on my way back from a family event that I didn’t want to go to?’ I said.
‘Yes that’s fine’ the receptionist said, ‘Come back at 5.30pm and we’ll have it ready for you’ . ‘Great’ I said, and headed off bravely to dreaded family gathering (which incidentally I managed to survive).
So back to the Doctor’s surgery I went. I queued a little less patiently this time (and now we are getting to it……the defrosting salmon and roasted vegetables would take at least 45 minutes to prepare and if I didn’t get home soon they just would NOT happen). I waited in the queue for 20 minutes. A different receptionist this time disappeared behind the scenes for another 8 minutes. She sent someone else out to break the news that there was STILL no prescription. Look I’m going to cut this short and let you imagine the steam coming out of my ears, the deep breathing exercises and the scrolling through Facebook that occurred for the next 40 minutes!!!! (Can you believe it??40 minutes plus 8 plus 20 plus 5 plus 15 equals 78 minutes altogether and all on the same afternoon as dreaded family gathering!!)
Anyway the outcome was that the salmon was definitely no longer on the menu and the Doctor’s surgery happened to be across the Road from a Pizza Hut takeaway. After 2 large glasses of wine and 3 large slices (or was it 4?) of pizza the rest of the evening is a blur. I think some chocolate biscuits came to the party and some peanuts and I really can’t remember what else. But do you know what? It doesn’t really matter. Because sometimes that’s just how life is-sometimes we do eat a bit too much pizza and sometimes things just don’t go according to plan and sometimes life is stressful. And yes I know Pizza can’t possibly fix life’s stresses but sometimes in the moment we forget that, right? As I say it doesn’t really matter.
While I was waiting in the doctor’s waiting room (the 40 minute wait) a youngish woman came out visibly shaken and upset. I think the reason I had to wait so long was that her session with the GP had overrun substantially-but seeing the state she was in made me realise that although I’d had a stressful day, things can always be much worse. And OK so I had lost control briefly of my eating-but tomorrow is always opportunity for a fresh start. In the old days if I’d had a binge I would have carried on bingeing until Monday. Nowadays I just start the next day with a clean slate and have a bowl of porridge. I believe this is one of the most important weight loss behaviours that we can practice. What do YOU think?

Tick tock…………..

So back to the topic of time.
The more I think about it, the more complex I find the whole concept of time in relation to weight loss.

My last post revolved around how when I am busy and short on time, I feel out of control where food is concerned. And I know that when I have made time to plan ahead for the week and I spend time preparing food and I make sure I don’t miss meals, I generally have a ‘good week’ and a weight loss.

And BINGO!-there it is in print-‘when I have MADE the time’. When things are high on our list of priorities, when things are important to us -like picking the children up from school-(thanks Sue) like watching our favourite programme on TV, like meeting a good friend for a drink, like putting the bins out on the right day, we MAKE the time to do what we need to do. And you know what? Losing weight really IS important to me-in fact I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about how great it would be to lose 20 lbs. I spend a silly amount of time thinking about how unhappy I am with the size that I am-I won’t go into detail on this……..it’s too boring; yet endlessly , day after day the glum soundtrack of my dissatisfaction plays inside my head.

Here are some of the reasons losing weight is important to me. I want to feel better about myself. I want to feel more comfortable in my own skin, as well as in the latest New Look or M and S fashions. I want to preserve my health. I don’t want my ankle to ache when I have spent all day on my feet. I want to spring out of bed in the morning, and with a sense of freedom throw on a pair of jeans and feel great. I want to buy clothes because I like them and they suit my character-not because they cover up my dodgy bits. And this is difficult for me to share-but I will anyway- being at my happy weight would give me more credibility and more confidence in my job. So actually yes it’s very important to me to ‘just get on and do’ this weight loss thing. So where’s it going wrong?

It goes wrong at certain TIMES of the week, and at certain TIMES of the day (there goes that word again!): namely at weekends and in the evenings! So at the beginning of my weight loss week –which is the day that I weigh in- I am really clear in my own head about how important my weight loss is to me and I feel focussed. But by the time the weekend arrives that sense of importance has become a lot fuzzier. Similarly in the mornings when I have had the ritual daily discomfort of deciding what to wear (does my bum look big in this?, oh no look at those thighs! etc.) my motivation to have a ‘good’ day is high, because at that moment in time I want to delete those negative wardrobe feelings for ever . As the hours tick by during the course of the day and my wardrobe-trauma memories become more distant and I become more tired, again my weight loss desires become fuzzier. And those are the times that my resolve weakens and I ruin all the good work I have done during the day by mindlessly munching.

And another thing about time! It goes so fast doesn’t it? I have been replaying the above routines for 4 years now-WASTING time! So I am now CHOOSING to repeat this cycle no more-there will not be any more wasting of precious hours because what I am also wasting, is my precious life.

This week I tried a new technique to help my memory: I have set reminders on my phone to coincide with my ‘forgetful’ times- these reminders come with messages such as ‘Don’t ruin today’s hard work by chomping on junk’ and ‘Make sure you stay focussed over the weekend-you deserve to look after yourself!’. And do you know what?…….. so far it’s working! 

Confessions of a Weight Loss Expert

‘Practice what you preach’…….hmmmm……that’s a phrase that frequently pops into my head.  The reality is that I try very hard NOT to ‘preach’- my job is to encourage, motivate, inspire and coach people to lose weight ,and on the whole I am very successful in helping people to achieve their weight loss dreams. One of my members who suffers from MS achieved her goal weight this year; she lost a total of over 8 stones. Another member who has ME lost a total of 111 lbs. And these are just 2 of the many incredible successes that I have witnessed this year in my weight loss meetings. It’s amazing to watch these people take control of their eating habits and make such positive changes to their health and their lives. And it’s great to know that I have helped them to achieve what they thought was impossible.

So if I am able to help others, why, oh why can’t I help myself???

OK-so here is a quick summary of my weight loss journey so far. I have always had a weight issue-I was overweight as a child, and had a very dodgy relationship with food (maybe more about this in later blog posts) which started when I was around 12 and flourished during my teens and into my twenties. After I had my second child I was at my very heaviest and plucked up the courage to join Weight Watchers, and WOW what a revelation that was! I learnt so much, began to alter my relationship with food and lost 63lbs in less than a year.  I felt ‘normal’ for the first time and thought I would live happily ever after as a size 12.

WRONG!  Well not totally wrong, as I maintained my weight happily for around 12 years. 7 years after I had joined weight Watchers I became a Leader and felt that I had found my vocation.  All was well in my world. But…..some of you will know exactly what I mean when I say: ‘life got in the way’ and I ‘lost the plot’ and over the course of a few years my weight gradually crept up by around 28 lbs. And  for the last few years I just CANNOT for the life of me, seem to get a handle on it.

So I guess I should be honest with you, dear BLOG, and let you know that I am just using you. I am using you to help me discover why it is, that whilst I know exactly WHAT to do in order to lose weight, I  seem to be incapable of getting on and DOING it.

And there is something else I want to share with you my new friend Mr BLOG- I know I am not the only one who has ‘dieters block’- so maybe together we will discover ways of overcoming my inability to ‘get my head in the right place’? And if we do that successfully we may be able to help others who are in a similar predicament.

I think that is enough confessing for now……………..

Anna