Wednesday, 1 July 2009

My weight loss history

I can't remember how old I was the first time I went on a diet - mid-teens probably. I remember trying meal replacement bars while I was at school - I made my mum buy them to replace a school lunch as they were heavily based on chips. The bars weren't very nice, so I started hoarding them in a cupboard and missing lunch - until Mum found them, was understandably annoyed at both the missed meals and the waste of money, and made me eat them after all. At university I tried cutting meal sizes and introducing aerobics classes in the first year, but with the discovery of booze and late night discos, plus a problem with portion size perception I didn't get very far with that. In the second year it was back to the meal replacements - Slimfast this time, and the 'one healthy meal a day'. I did quite well on them, but then visited family for a week or two and after rediscovering real food I couldn't bring myself to go back to the shakes (this was before you could get ready made shakes, when you had to mix powder with skimmed milk every time) and I regained all the weight and more - over several years, to be fair. For some reason I was determined not to count calories, and all my unsuccessful efforts were based on the desire to avoid doing so.
Many years later I finally caved into the idea of calorie counting after realising that at 5ft 5 and 186 lbs (13 st 3lb) I was officially obese. I remember howling my eyes out after I weighed myself - and again after I looked at a weight chart to figure out where I should be and saw the size of the gap. I was working away from home, out of a B&B with no cooking facilities at the time, so I re-introduced the Slimfasts for a while for convenience and ate a 'proper lunch' while at work so that the lack of a fridge and cooker wasn't too much of a problem. It worked really well from the beginning, and by the time that contract finished and I went home for a few months I'd lost quite a lot of weight. I then carried on with the calorie counting, using online sources and a calorie counter book and cooking all my own meals (and no more shakes - hurray!). I tracked my food with an Excel spreadsheet and the weight kept coming off - not incredibly quickly, but then I wasn't doing any exercise to speak of for most of the time, and when I did I over-estimated the calories burned by quite a bit so it's amazing it came off at all. At around 11st 2lbs (156lbs) I hit a plateau for months. I was aiming to lose another 9lbs at that point, and for months nothing was happening. Eventually I decided to join the website, which ahd often popped up when I used yahoo / google to search for the calories of a new product. This not only tracked by calorie intake more accurately, but also had a facility to calculate the calories burned through a wide range of exercise types as well. It also has a lot of very active forums that allow a user to get advice, support and encouragement - and to feel less isolated and alone in the weightloss journey. This website is also responsible for me discovering weightloss blogs - embarrassingly late for an IT professional (but then I've always said I hate IT). Shauna Reid (the amazing dietgirl) was also a member, and when she released her (wonderful) book I found out about the book and the blog at the same time. From that root came this blog, and a new obsession in reading other people's blogs, not just about diet, but food and life generally.
Since joining WLR I've lost not only the reluctant 9lbs I had left to go at the time when I joined, but another 7 - 9 on top of that (depending on whether I've had a bad few days) for a total loss of about 47lbs. I'd like to get down to 9st 9lbs (135lbs) but am struggling to find the motivation, and I'm already comfortably within the healthy range for my height, so I may not bother.
I should also confess that missing meals or replacing them with sugary shakes are not the stupidest things I've done to lose weight. As a teenager I took herbal diuretic pills. In my 20s, while working away, I used laxatives. I don't think it developed into a full blown eating disorder, but I'm not sure what criteria would be used to determine this. I do know that for months - perhaps as much as a year - I took a laxative pill every night before bed, and every morning before breakfast. That's not exactly 'eating them like sweets' as I've heard others described - but I do believe it was enough to affect my digestive system. These days I have to eat at least 35 g of fibre a day or I'm very prone to constipation, and I think its because my 'waste disposal' system got lazy through all that laxative abuse. At least I've learned that lesson, and now have to be constipated for days before I take anything more than a bigger bowl of all bran for it!

I did eventually get more into the exercise side of weightloss and healthiness. Over the years I've tried yoga and tae bo in hotel rooms, used an elliptical walker (still my favourite cardio machine), a rowing machine and a stationary bike; repeatedly tried to learn to jog (not giving up on that one yet), taken up 'yomping' (walking briskly carrying a heavy rucksack) and several times tried to persuade myself into using dumb bells and a multigym / doing press up, planks and sit ups (without success). Now introducing kettle bells, and hoping that this time they'll take, as I'm now in my late thirties and need to build some muscle mass and bone density for my declining years...;-)

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