Simone's Dieting Success Story
|Current Weight||9st 10lbs|
|Goal Weight||9st 7lbs|
|Weight Lost||4st 4lbs - Wow!|
|Working to Rate of Loss||1lbs per week|
|Time Taken||2 years 4 months|
I have been overweight ever since the age of nine.
I was born in 1962 with severely shortened arms and legs as a result of the drug Thalidomide which was prescribed to my mother when she was pregnant with me. By the age of four I’d undergone surgery to my hip and further surgery was carried out when I was nine.
When I reached the age of seventeen, I was given the opportunity to spend two nights at a London hospital for them to carry out lots of tests to see whether there was a medical reason for my being overweight. This included sleeping under a plastic tent and my urine output being analysed. At the end of it all, I was told that there was no reason for me to be overweight other than the fact I was eating far too much given my tiny size and the fact I found it more difficult to move. I was sent home with a 1,200 calories a day diet sheet.
Back then, sadly, food labelling wasn’t as good as it is nowadays and there weren’t any computers! So the list of foods on the diet sheet were basic and repetitive. The “diet” didn’t last long. My Mum did what she could to try and help me lose weight, including making me packed lunches to take to school, but my memories of those lunches are cottage cheese, tomatoes and lettuce.
"I felt miserable about eating different food to my peers and as though I was somehow being punished for being overweight."
Several more attempts to loose weight followed over my twenties and thirties. I joined Weight Watchers (several times) and Slimming World (several times). I think I believed that by just going to a class the weight would magically disappear, which of course it didn’t! In fact, I felt more fed up than ever, as there were people at these classes who were succeeding. I would lose about a stone, get fed up and stop going to class, put all the weight back on and a little more.
In 1996, I was pregnant! At the time, I was going to Slimming World, and amazingly didn’t put much weight on during the pregnancy. All my cravings seemed to be healthy ones. Once I’d had my daughter, I was more or less the same weight as I had been before.
Weight Loss Saboteurs
Up until my pregnancy I had been working full-time as a secretary and that involved quite a lot of moving about in those days. Email didn’t exist, and I walked about the very large offices I was based in delivering urgent memos to other departments. I remember walking quite fast and quite long distances to get this paperwork distributed! I sporadically did a few exercise classes, such as step aerobics and keep fit.
In 2002, the whole family were involved in a serious head on car crash whilst on holiday. I was driving and sustained a broken ankle. Unfortunately, the recovery wasn’t as straight forward as it might have been. Unable to use crutches because of my disability, I began to use an electric wheelchair outside of the house and getting about inside was very difficult. Three years later I underwent an ankle fusion because of the pain in my ankle. By now I realised that the wheelchair was going to be a part of my life forever.
A divorce followed in 2006. It was fairly amicable, but still a traumatic experience.
"I began to eat a lot of takeaways and enjoy rather too much wine!"
The weight continued to pile on. I had gone from a size 16 when I left school to a size 24. I weighed a massive 14 stone and my BMI was 42.5 – I was in the “Very Obese” category. In comparison, my two (non-disabled) sisters were 5ft 9” and both a size 12. But they had the advantage of having been very physically active all of their lives.
After a year of being single and getting back into dating, I met a new partner in 2007. Though nine years my junior, and a very different person to me, we found we had a lot in common. He made me feel as I’ve never felt before. He made me feel attractive, sexy and intelligent. BUT we also shared a love of food and eating! The 180 miles between us meant that we would meet up for long weekends and always plans for these weekends involved what we would eat, where we would eat out, bottles of wine, bars of chocolate and bags of crisps.
"Andy was great for me, but not so great for my waistline – and his was expanding too!"
My ability to move was becoming increasingly difficult. I had suffered asthma for some years and my weight wasn’t helping with that.
"More importantly, I was struggling to do the basic things I needed to do to maintain my independence – which is vital to my sense of well-being."
In February 2012 I was seriously considering weight loss surgery (stomach by-pass) and had even gone as far as talking to two close Thalidomide pals who'd recently undergone the surgery. I realised that weight loss surgery carried quite significant risks and would mean that what I could eat would be altered for the remainder of my life. I therefore decided to have one last attempt at losing weight in the “conventional” way and came across Weight Loss Resources. A friend had used it with some success and I’d seen a reference to it on her FaceBook page.
I started to religiously monitor everything I ate, weighing out portion sizes. It quickly became apparent (as I think it does for many starting their journey!) that aiming for a loss of 2lbs a week wasn’t going to be sustainable. I dropped it to 1lb a week. My partner supported me wholeheartedly, eating the same things as I was eating. Together we trawled the recipe database on the site and found lots of lovely things to cook for ourselves.
"I realised that our love of cooking was actually going to help me with this weight loss journey!"
In a year, I’d managed to lose 2 stone without any exercise whatsoever. My mobility had improved, my asthma had vanished completely and I was finding it much easier to carry out my daily routine.
I decided it was time to introduce some exercise. I started to go swimming once a week for an hour. I reluctantly went to a “Disabled Swimming Session” at a local pool, but discovered that the pool was virtually deserted – ideal for someone who can only swim on their back! My partner and I attended regularly. By now, he had moved in to live with me. I bought a Heart Rate Monitor and discovered that in an hour of swimming, I was earning 400 calories! A great incentive!
Shortly after that and wanting to increase my activity, I enrolled for a free session with a Personal Trainer at the Sports Injury Clinic I attend regularly for Physio. It soon became evident that I wouldn’t be able to use a lot of the larger equipment (treadmill, cross trainers, etc) but I tried out a stepping machine, a gym ball, resistance training bands and a wobble board. The trainer also ensured I understood the importance of warming up ahead of my exercise.
Inspired, I came home and converted half of my garage into a mini gym! I purchased some rubber matting for the floor, borrowed a treadmill from my ex-husband and had it modified so that I could safely hold on whilst using it. I bought a gym ball, a wobble board and a set of resistance training bands – and a good sports bra!
Initially, my exercise was done in short bursts – 5 minutes of exercise, followed by two or three minutes of sitting and recovering, feeling as though I was likely to pass out!
"Day by day and week by week, I slowly increased the amount of time I was exercising and decreased the amount of time I needed to recover."
The Heart Rate Monitor again, was a huge incentive. I realised that the mammoth exertion required by me to exercise was burning more than double the calories it would for any able bodied person.
My exercise sessions increased from 30 minutes, to an hour….. and now I am exercising for about two hours two to three times a week. Once a month, I have a session with a Personal Trainer who comes to my "home gym" to assess my progress and set me new goals and targets. I think he's impressed by the enthusiasm I have for my exercise - in fact, he recently told me to cut down on the exercise sessions I'm doing!
My improved mobility and fitness levels mean that I am able to do far more physical activity than I could before. I now am not totally reliant on the wheelchair (although it does go everywhere with me in the car) and I am able to enjoy gardening and raking the leaves off the mature oak in our garden is an exhausting but fun way to earn calories - I have earned about 1,500 calories for 3 hours of solid raking.
Discovering the 5:2 Diet
In early 2012, like so many other people and after watching the Horizon TV programme, I began to see the 5:2 Diet being mentioned. I bought a book by Kate Harrison detailing how the diet worked and decided to give it a go. Here suddenly was something that enabled me to balance my calorie allowance over the week, restricting my calorie intake to 500 calories two days a week, but keeping the “saved” calories to spread over non-Fast days.
I was really sceptical on the first day I tried it. I really didn’t believe that I could go a whole day without eating anything (I just drank water and fruit tea). At 5pm, I broke my fast with one main meal, carefully planned to maximise the calories available. This was usually around 450 calories after my fruit teas had been taken into account. The first few times I fasted, I found it a struggle – I realised a few times that I was almost putting things into my mouth on a fast day without evening thinking about it – such as a piece of fruit as I passed the fruit bowl.
However, the more I practised fasting, the more I realised that suddenly I felt that I had control over food, rather than the food having control over me. It became a real test of willpower to survive the day on fluids alone… but something I have managed to conquer time and time again.
I found the “Happy Fasters” daily thread on the forum a great support. We didn’t just talk about food, but here were a small bunch of likeminded people who could share information, chat about their day and fasting and offer mutual support.
I also joined a 5:2 Facebook page and started to share a lot of the recipes I’d come up with, including the infamous cauliflower rice! I was contacted by the author of the 5:2 Diet Book, Kate Harrison, and contributed an article to a 5:2 recipe book she was compiling as well as the cauliflower rice recipe (which is very simple, with just one ingredient – cauliflower!). I was invited down to Brighton to attend the book launch, which was very exciting.
I still use 5:2 as it helps for those weeks where I’m unable because of time or energy constraints to fit in any exercise and I can see it having a permanent place in the future when it’s time to try and maintain my weight.
In August 2013, Andy and I were married.
"The wedding was a small affair, but I felt amazing."
I was now able to wear a size 16 dress. I didn’t need to use my wheelchair on the wedding day.
My weight loss journey continues. I have now lost over 4 and a half stone and weigh 9 stone 6lbs. I achieved my goal weight of 9 and a half stone. I don’t think at the start I ever really believed that I would get there. I can honestly say nobody can be prouder of my achievements than I am. I have given my weight loss journey 100%.
The life long biggest changes have been:
- Modifying portion sizes (half the amount on a plate compared to what I used to eat)
- Learning which are the calorific foodstuffs (peanuts, mayonnaise, cake, etc!) and learning to limit these!
- Taking up exercise and learning that it can be enjoyable (really!)
- Being able to buy clothes from “regular” shops and not being restricted to large baggy clothes that totally swamped my small frame.
- Improved self-esteem and confidence (which I felt were never that bad anyway!)
- Not every trip out of the house has to involve eating!
- Not every trip to the garden centre needs to involve eating cake!
- This is a way of life – not a diet
- Much less pain in all parts of my body (knees, hips, ankles, back)
- Exercising my arms! These were always neglected in any exercise programmes I did in the past. I now have tiny biceps!
- A massive improvement in my mobility and stamina
- No more asthma
- Knowing that I have improved my health and my lifespan
- Being told almost every day that I look much younger than my years
In November 2013, I had some cosmetic surgery. I had been left with a horrible “apron” of tummy skin that hung down about 10 inches. Because of my limited arm length, I needed help to keep the area beneath the tummy clean and hygienic. Also, my ample bosom (38H) had not reduced at all during my weight loss, just emptied! For practical reasons mainly, I paid privately for a tummy tuck and breast reduction. I never anticipated how much better the surgery would make me feel! My boobs are now a 38DD and much more in proportion with the rest of me and my tummy is the smallest it’s ever been with a belly button where it should be! I can now wear high cut knickers and bikini bottoms! I appreciate that this won’t be affordable for many people, which is a huge shame as I know that these empty folds of skin were constant reminders of the big person I once was.
"At 51, I have a better body than I did at the age of 21!"
"BUT the biggest change of all has been to my willpower."
I am able to resist food and it really does become easier the more you practice! I enjoy sitting in a meeting watching everyone else plough into the biscuits, jelly beans or pastries and not feeling as though I am missing out. I know the calories in those things and can almost see peoples waistlines increasing as I watch! The feeling of knowing that I resisted temptation in that way is a far better than the short-lived feeling of eating these goodies, which invariably is followed by a negative feeling of failure for the additional calories I have consumed.
Lumps and bumps along the way
I soon realised that my weight loss chart would never be a smooth downward line. Holidays or a hectic few days often result in a blip on my chart.
"But this is life. I never get too stressed about it."
If I know I have a frantic few weeks coming up, I just take a break from logging and weigh-ins. But I limit this to two weeks and always get straight back on track as soon as I can. That way, the damage is never that bad and I can quickly lose any weight I have gained.
My husband Andy has been and still is a massive support to me in all of my endeavours. It is he who has to put on my sports bra, socks and trainers, then strap on the heart rate monitor. And often whilst I exercise, he’s preparing a salad ready for lunch or peeling vegetables or cooking a healthy dinner. He understands and never underestimates the amount of energy and time I need to devote to this way of life.
It has been mentioned to me a few times during my weight loss journey that I am “an inspiration”. I never set out to inspire others, but I am pleased that if sharing my story, my struggles and the huge efforts that I have made helps others along the way. I guess there is something which says to people “If she can do it, I have no excuse not to!” and that definitely applies to the exercise. I have been amazed to learn that other people want to hear more about how I have achieved what I wanted to achieve – and I will say that the biggest battle was about changing what was going on inside my head. Changing how I think about food and eating and how I behave or react when presented with food choices or temptation has been my greatest success. Practising “mindful eating”.
I will definitely get to my goal weight of 9 and a half stone. Ideally, I may try to get to 9 stone to give myself a small buffer to work within when maintaining. People ask me am I not worried I’ll just pile all the weight back on again. But I know that this has been a long journey that has involved a considerable amount of effort. Once I am at goal, I intend to stay there, and I know that WLR will be there to help me to do that!
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