Sarah's 3.5 Stone Diet Success Story

Busy mum Sarah shares her dieting tips for her 3½ stone weight loss. Read about her diet and slimming success.

Sarah's 3.5 Stone Diet Success Story

Sarah, Age 37, Height 5ft 6in
Start Weight 11st 12lb
Current Weight 8st 4lb
Weight Lost 3st 8lb
Working to Rate of Loss 2lb per week
Time Taken 6 months

About Sarah

In a word: busy, busy, busy! I'm married and Mum to two small girls aged 4 and 1 and I also work shifts full time, so you could say life is lived at a frantic pace!

I'm always on the go, dashing here and there and juggling to fit everything in.

"At the moment, while the girls are small, and so demanding a lot of attention, I often have very little time or energy left over for myself."

I've been married for 3 years to Nick, who is an airline pilot like myself.

Nick is one of those fortunate people who just naturally maintain their weight to within a couple of kilos up or down, without thinking too deeply about it. He eats what he likes, but nearly always in moderation.

He is Danish, and was brought up on a healthy diet of open rye bread sandwiches - the Danish staple food.

I was also brought up to eat fairly healthily and so our eating habits suit each other very well in general.

"I have a keen interest in food and nutrition, and one of my favorite ways of relaxing has always been to spend time in the kitchen, cooking for my family."

It's now nearly a decade ago that I started to pay more attention to the types of foods we were eating.

Aspiring to a healthier lifestyle, I started to follow a low GI/GL approach, eating more whole foods and pulses, upping my vegetable intake, and tweaking my favorite cake recipes to improve their GI rating, as well as going to the gym every other day.

In this way, for about 5 years I quite happily maintained my weight around 55kg with relatively little effort.

Then 2 things happened to upset my equilibrium: firstly I got pregnant, and secondly, when Olivia was born, my husband and I moved in temporarily with my parents-in-law for a year during which our house was built.

"I put on about 14kg during pregnancy, but although I lost about half quite quickly afterwards, the rest was not shifting."

It didn't help matters that my mother-in-law is a really good cook and although she was definitely not cooking unhealthy food, there was wine with, and chocolate after, nearly every evening meal.

However my main downfall was that it was all too easy not to pay attention to portion sizes.

In the meantime we were trying for our second baby, and it didn't really appeal to me to make a big effort to lose weight, just to become pregnant again and pile it all on once more.

With hindsight I'm not sure that this was the best approach however, as after Reese was born, hardly any weight dropped off naturally and I suddenly found myself more than 2 stones over my ideal weight.

For financial reasons I had to go back to work 3 months after both pregnancies, and I quickly saw that coping with a toddler and breastfeeding/pumping milk for a newborn whilst getting back into the saddle at work, meant that I had absolutely no extra time or energy to start doing anything serious about losing weight.

So I made a conscious decision to give myself a year off from stressing over the issue, until Reese's 1st birthday in March.

By January, I was already thinking about the steps I would take to get back to a weight I felt comfortable with, and by the time March rolled around I felt in the right headspace to get going properly.

As a pilot, I have to work irregular shifts, sometimes leaving the house at 3:30am, other times not arriving home till gone midnight.

"Being stuck in the cockpit all day means that I cannot always eat at conventional times, and of course I cannot just pop down to the canteen or café to get something to eat."

There is no possibility to heat up food in my plane either, so sometimes you can go several days without a proper hot meal.

There IS food available for the crew, but this consists of white baguette sandwiches with something like brie cheese or pâté, cup-a-soups, and chocolate and fruit.

Basically foods which make your blood sugar spike before crashing, and which leave you feeling hungry after a relatively short time.

"Sometimes there is the odd tray of food left over from the passengers if we want it, but it's airline food - that says it all, I think!"

Since the airline wants their food to appeal to a broad spectrum of people, they start off already with quite neutral-tasting food, and when you factor in your taste buds being depressed due to the low oxygen environment, I find most food they dish up not only unappetizing, (often swimming in pools of oil), but also very bland.

Also the cabin attendants are often in and out of the cockpit offering chocolates or cakes if it is their birthday, or if colleagues are traveling as passengers, they always bring chocolate for the crew.

"Even if you decline, you often find it stashed in your flight bag later. Erm, thanks!"

This means I have to be quite organized and bring my own food, but this can also be problematic.

When they brought in the new liquid restrictions a few years ago, on a couple of occasions I was forced to throw away my yoghurt when going through security and once even a pasta salad I had made, because the security agent judged that the sauce was 'too liquid' and my lunch box was larger than 100ml.

I may have got slightly annoyed on that occasion, I confess... but not half as annoyed as a colleague who was banned from taking a lunch pack-sized Camembert cheese on board "because if it melts, it's a liquid" - hmm, somebody was taking their job VERY seriously that day!

Thankfully now they have relaxed the liquid restrictions for crews, so I cook my lunches or dinners for work for a couple of days in advance and always have some low GI snacks and cakes along too.

What diets (if any) have you tried in the past?

In my early 20s, I just maintained my weight by eating mostly in moderation, and trying to balance out roughly what I was eating.

By this I mean if, for example I fancied an Indian takeaway, or went to a wedding, I would eat what I wanted, but then would be a bit more careful for the next couple of days to try and limit the damage, so I wasn't following a specific diet, and my weight was fairly stable, give or take half a stone.

Then I got interested in the principles of low GI/GL eating, although at that time I was not so interested in it for dieting as such, but rather because it seems a very sensible, non-faddy, and healthy way of eating long term which doesn't cut out any major food groups, and which allows me to adapt my favorite recipes, (including cake recipes) easily.

I also really notice a positive difference in levels of hunger and tiredness after eating low GI foods consistently.

Because eating in this way keeps your blood sugar on an even keel, I find I am much less likely to crave something unplanned or sugary, and I don't have to deal with a big slump in energy levels mid-afternoon, either.

When I started dieting in March, it was therefore an easy decision to pick the low GI diet as the blueprint for my weight loss attempt - I just dug out my old recipe books, and adjusted the portion sizes to ensure weight loss, and the weight started to come off immediately.

The biggest challenge was getting myself organized and finding the time to plan and cook food for work.

It was when I was looking for more low GI recipes online that I stumbled across wlr, and realized that combining a low GI diet with calorie counting would form a two-pronged approach to my weight loss attempt which could be very effective.

Tell us how your weight has affected your lifestyle/mood/stopped you doing things/other people’s reaction/perception to you etc?

Although I'm aware that I wasn't ever extremely overweight, I nevertheless felt self-conscious and uncomfortable in my own skin.

I was fed up of not being able to wear over half the clothes in my wardrobe, and I never felt as if I looked really good in anything, since I could see the clothes would hang much better if I were slimmer.

"When getting back to work after having my children, my uniform was uncomfortably tight."

Since it takes around 6 months to get a new one once it is ordered, I just had to make do, although at times it was really quite painful sitting down all day with the waistband of my trousers digging in all the time.

I even resorted to wearing my maternity work trousers again if I knew I would have a particularly long day.

My colleagues were very kind though and I never heard any hurtful comments or remarks from anyone.

"My husband too, did not seem at all bothered by the difference in my body, but he was very supportive of my effort to lose weight because he could see how being overweight was affecting me."

I didn't feel that my weight stopped me from going out or enjoying myself most of the time, but I do remember one occasion where I put off organizing a spa day with some friends because I was conscious of the fact that I weighed considerably more than the last time they had seen me in a swimming costume.

In general, I seem to remember feeling more lethargic and tired and occasionally even slightly depressed about my weight when I was overweight compared with how I feel now at my ideal weight.

What has been your main motivation to lose weight?

Personally, health, fitness and vanity reasons go hand in hand for me when it comes to motivation.

I love feeling light and slim and full of energy, and being able to dash around after the kids without huffing and puffing, but equally, I also like being able to select anything in my wardrobe, confident in the knowledge that it will fit properly and be flattering.

Ok, except for that pair of maroon velvet flares, maybe...

I also like the feeling that I am doing everything in my power to guard against weight-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and that I am setting a good example to my kids food-wise.

I know I must be on the right track, because when I asked my 4-year-old the other day what her favorite food was, she answered rather unexpectedly, "lentils, Mummy!"

Sarah's Stats:
  Start Current
Weight 11st 12lbs 8st 4lbs
BMI 26.3 18.6
Body Fat 31% 23%
Bust 37" 33.5"
Waist 33" 25.5"
Hips 42" 34.5"

Which tools and resources do you use regularly on wlr? Which tools do you find invaluable?

Everyone says it, and it's true: the food diary is a really fantastic tool and has been invaluable when planning meals, or when deciding whether it really IS a good idea to have that extra piece of double-chocolate caramel cheesecake.

I love the way the exercise diary is directly interlinked to the food diary, so you can clearly see the relationship between calories earned and calories spent.

"One of the most impressive and useful aspects of wlr I found, was the ability to log anything at all."

If you were just following a conventional diet and decided for whatever reason that you WOULD eat that afore-mentioned piece of cheesecake, you would of course be 'breaking your diet', and we all know that that can be the start of a slippery slope.

With wlr, there is no 'bad food', just calories to count, and so any slip-ups can simply be logged and compensated for quite easily by e.g. doing extra exercise, or adjusting your calorie allowance over the next few days.

I also find the nutrition pie chart helpful in creating balanced meals over the day and the calorie history is very useful if I'm saving up calories for a special occasion, or if I just need to balance my calories over the week due to a couple of days of over-eating.

I also enjoy updating my results in the goals and results section every week and seeing my progress on my graph.

"In the beginning particularly, I found seeing my blue line snake downwards very motivating, and it gave me a real sense of satisfaction when I could see how far I'd come."

Although I'm not a big poster, not usually having the time to type replies to the posts I'm reading, I browse the forums nearly every day and always find some words of wisdom to inspire me, or help me keep on track.

Somehow the sense of being part of a friendly community all pulling together to help each other get to goal is very uplifting and reassuring.

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Have you purchased/used any products/fitness equipment that has helped you with your goals?

Yes, after a few weeks of losing weight and some very odd readings, I began to suspect that my old bathroom scales were perhaps past their use-by date, so my main purchase has been a set of Withings wifi bathroom scales, which transmit your weight, BMI and fat percentage directly to your 'dashboard' on your phone and your computer.

No room for fudging the numbers at all!

I also bought a weighted hoop and some hooping instruction DVDs from Hoopnotica. With 2 small children, I no longer felt that I could just go off exercising for a few hours in my limited free time.

Although I'm lucky enough to have help with the childcare, going to the gym or going out for a run and then showering and changing afterwards, was eating too much into my family time at home.

So I spent ages trying to come up with an all-round fitness activity which I could do anywhere, and which I could fit in around my erratic schedule.

Eventually I came upon the idea of hooping, and this was definitely the answer for me.

I try to do at least 20 minutes a day, usually in front of the TV watching cartoons with the girls.

I like that I don't need to get changed into workout clothes or leave the house; other than the initial outlay for the hoop, it doesn't cost anything; I can hoop while supervising the kids, and although I'm 'glowing' after 20 minutes, I don't necessarily need to have a shower afterwards.

I also treated myself to a Polar Heart Rate Monitor to get a more accurate picture of calories burned during my hooping sessions - after 20 minutes, I'm around 90 calories 'richer '!

Why do you think wlr has helped you lose weight where other diets have failed?

The thing I love most about wlr and why I think it has helped me lose weight more easily rather than simply following a diet alone, is the structure and focus it brought to my life, especially during the weight loss period but also now when I'm maintaining.

Having somewhere to log calories, track results and find answers to questions all 'under one roof', coupled with a supportive helpteam and a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, has been really great, and the reason why I can't see myself giving up my membership anytime soon.

Have you struggled at points in your weight loss journey?  Experienced a weight loss plateau? What has kept you motivated?

I have experienced the odd mini-plateau, and of course at times it has been difficult to stick to my calorie allowance when life suddenly gets in the way, but I have now learnt to focus on one day at a time, whilst nevertheless keeping a good eye on the overall picture.

I also actively try not to get too frustrated or disheartened when the numbers don't add up or the scales don't cooperate, as I think these emotions are unhelpful most of the time.

A quick read-through of the forums and a look at the progress on my graph is usually enough to refocus myself and bring my motivation up again.

"Sometimes just trying on some clothes that I haven't been able to wear for 2 or 3 years and seeing them fit well again is a great boost."

When I'm struggling, I just try to remember how I felt in myself when I was overweight and how much better I feel when I'm facing up to the problem and doing something proactive about it.

In particular I know how reassuring and rewarding it feels to get right back on track after a blip, compared with the apathy interspersed with moments of panic which can be the result of letting things slide indefinitely.

Although getting in the right frame of mind to react like this when I'm finding it difficult certainly sometimes feels like mind over matter, I think the long term physical result is definitely worth the short term mental effort.

Since losing weight can you give some examples of how your life has changed?

Since I started my weight loss journey, I have noticed an increased sense of personal well-being and I sometimes even catch myself walking with a genuine, bona fide spring in my step!

Until I had lost my extra weight, I hadn't realized how much it had actually been weighing on my mind, let alone on my body (!)

Like everyone, I have my worries in life, and getting rid of one source of worry - being overweight - has positively impacted on my general mood and therefore, my ability to address other problems has increased.

It's not too much to say that losing weight has had a positive, knock-on effect in other areas of my life, in ways that I didn't anticipate; at the bottom of it, it's really a matter of self-confidence, I suppose.

On another level, getting dressed in the morning now only takes a few minutes, since I don't have to root desperately around in my wardrobe searching for something which looks presentable.

"My mornings are now much less rushed - this is a big plus-point for me - I like starting the day off in a calm way."

Likewise, I don't get this feeling of having absolutely nothing to wear if I'm invited to a special occasion.

And if I do buy new clothes, it's really a fantastic feeling to be able to go into any shop and know that I will easily slip into a size S.

Being at my goal weight has had a small, but significant impact on my life in lots of little ways, and the net result is that life is better and easier and I live it with a more positive outlook.

Exercise routines adopted?

Other than hooping for 20-30 minutes a day, nothing, unless you can count picking up toys off the floor about 100 times a day...

"My job is very sedentary, and doesn't obviously present many opportunities for getting up and walking around."

For some reason, it always seems to bother the passengers if they see the captain out of the cockpit in flight...!

The only other significant thing I have been doing consistently is to always take the stairs rather than the lift.

What do you love about your body now?

I'm happy with my body now. Although it's a bit bashed up and a little droopy in places after 2 kids, I'm fairly pleased with the overall effect. I feel I'm the best 'me' I can be without surgical 'help'!

Sarah’s Tips

I know it's not rocket science...but here are my top 3 tips:

Make smart food choices

The thing which helped me most to stick to my allowance was to consistently go for foods which fill me up, and release energy slowly over several hours.

If I ate like this, I honestly found it not so difficult to manage on 1100 calories per day without feeling hungry.

It's easy to tweak your existing way of eating to achieve this: some of the substitutes I routinely make are:

  • porridge or oats, yoghurt and berries instead of breakfast cereal
  • whole grain pasta and wholegrain basmati rice over the white versions
  • stone-ground, wholewheat flour, or spelt flour instead of white for baking
  • Splenda instead of sugar
  • eating whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice
  • dark rye bread open sandwiches instead of Ryvita or normal bread sandwiches
  • mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes

 I also always read the nutritional information on the back of packets and go for low fat and more importantly, low sugar options where possible.

Portion control

Lack of portion control was my big problem, and once I had mastered this, everything fell into place. It may seem a bit over-the-top obsessive at the time, but weighing absolutely everything is the key.

Now I've been maintaining for several months I've relaxed on this point a bit but I still do pay a lot of attention to things like meat, bread, pasta, peanut butter, potatoes and rice.

And I really watch my alcohol intake. Pre-diet, I used to routinely have a glass of white wine or two most evenings. Now it's more of an occasional thing at the weekend or if we have guests, or we're out for dinner.

Spare a thought for Maintenance

One of the things I am particularly impressed about with wlr, is that the same tools and set up are available for when the time comes to maintain your weight.

It's not like you are shoved unceremoniously out of the virtual door of wlr to make your way in the big, wide world the moment you get to goal - on the contrary.

For me, making the change from a 'losing weight' to a 'maintenance' mentality, has been a big step, which has involved quite some mental adjustment over several months and I suspect that it can be very easy to trip up at this point until you suddenly find that the insidious creep of old habits has lead you right back to your starting point.

That's why I firmly believe that the habits you adopt and types of foods you eat during your weight loss phase have to be the sort that you can keep up afterwards, since, as everyone knows, above all it's a lifestyle change we're talking about.

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* Note: The success stories published on Weight Loss Resources are written by WLR members, past and present, telling their own stories in their own words. As you will see if you read more than one or two of them, everyone's story is different and they have reached their success from a variety of starting points and lost weight at varying rates. Individual results may vary.

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