Jean, a recent addition to the YOURLifeChoices team is putting us all to shame with her determination to drop some excess weight. While most of us will happily wait until to the new year to do anything about anything, Jean is taking affirmative action in the form of a diet pact with her sister.
It wasn’t until about five years ago, in my late thirties, that I had any real issue with my weight. Finally my love of food and insufficient exercise over the last decade began to show. It was no longer evident that another great love of mine had been ballet or I had once enjoyed running and swimming. Whilst naturally athletic, my older sister has struggled with her weight since her late teens (back then she once appointed me her ‘diet manager’; my first taste of frustrating and unrewarding work!)
Earlier this year I decided that permanent change was required, not quick fixes, so I thought deeply about exactly what it was that had gone wrong with our independent plans to get fit and lose weight in the past and what was needed to keep us on track and motivated.
In early November this year, my sister and I embarked on a three month diet and exercise pact. With her input, I typed it up, made it pretty (as design graduates do!) and printed it off.
The opening ‘mission statement’ was that we had ‘made a commitment to ourselves and each other to make a number of significant changes to our diet and exercise habits in order to improve our health, lose weight, look and feel good and get fit. The plan is that these changes will prove to be permanent.‘
The document recorded our starting weights and our long-term weight loss goals of 20kg for my sister and 11kg for me.
We committed ourselves to fairly obvious things like reduced meal sizes and on a daily basis eating plenty of vegetables, some fruit and drinking lots of water. We have to do half an hour of exercise at least four days a week. We also have to keep the eating of foods high in sugar, fat and salt (processed food in particular) to a bare minimum as, apart from being unhealthy and fattening, we find this food leads to addictive/compulsive eating. A note on reduced meal sizes: because of my liking for equality (and food), I realised during this process that over the last decade I have been giving myself the same portion sizes as my 6ft husband!
The key rule we decided upon is that any ‘bad meal’ must be followed by a low fat, healthy one so there is no giving up or despondency because of a set back. This rule has made a huge difference psychologically and in practice.
We keep a simple journal to monitor our progress. As quick weight loss is not the first priority – changing habits is – we feel that losing 1/2kg to 1kg a week is realistic. As we lose each kilo we must keep going and not ‘reward’ ourselves with a day or two off or yummy treats (I once received an excellent cholesterol reading so celebrated with a bacon and egg McMuffin!)
Throughout the process, we have to be honest about the thinking and behaviour which has sabotaged our efforts in the past. For example, defeatist feelings; eating to cheer ourselves up (because we love food and food loves us); the sneaky ‘I’ll just have a bit this time, it won’t matter…’; letting the raging appetite of the roaring mouth (my phrase for compulsive eating) get the better of us or, worst of all, simply not thinking at all and letting the overall plan fade from our minds. When any of this starts to happen, we have to force ourselves to think clearly and remind ourselves of our long-term goals and the new habits we are putting in place.
In order to stay motivated and focussed, at the loss of 6kg by myself and 7 by my sister we will have a spa and massage in Daylesford. At the loss of 10kg by myself and 12 by my sister we will go for a horse ride in beautiful scenery; something we have never done in our adult lives but love the thought of. At the end of three months, we will reassess our plan and continue towards our goal with other rewards and activities.
In order to keep myself motivated on the exercise front, this week I registered for a 10km fun run around Albert Park Lake, the remarkably named ‘Brazilian Butterfly Queen of the Lake’! It will be held on Sunday 5 February next year. I began running two weeks ago. Currently I am able to run only 2.5km around another lake, Lillydale Lake, so I have a lot of training to do.
So far we have both lost just under 3kg each. Progress is indeed slow but 6 weeks in, we have no intention of stopping which is good in itself and our morale is high. We are in constant touch and are honest with each other. We have fallen off the wagon at times but we have also had some unprecedented triumphs and overall we have persevered. To borrow a phrase from the share traders, the trend is our friend.
I’m sure many of you out there can relate to our efforts. Here at YOURLifeChoices we’d be very interested to know your stories and experiences of weight loss (or gain) and what strategies have worked for you in the past. Or if they haven’t, perhaps some tips from my diet pact will. I hope so!