Karen Kept on Walking and Lost 5 Stone

Having always enjoyed walking, even if a little slow, Karen was worried that the time would come when she wouldn't be able to if she didn't do something about her weight. Here's how walking faster and eating better helped her lose over 5 stone

Karen Kept on Walking and Lost 5 Stone

Karen, Age 56, Height 5ft 8in
Start Weight 16st 11lbs
Current Weight 11st 3lb
Goal Weight 11st 7lb
Weight Lost 5st 8lb
Working to Rate of Loss 1lb a week then 0.5lb a week

About Karen

I live in a rural location in the South West, and am on the local Parish Council – you’d be surprised how busy that can be!

I’ve had a variety of jobs but retrained as a database programmer about 12 years ago and worked in the mortgage sector, latterly as a freelance software developer, until about 2 years ago. This involved working away from home during the week.

Then my work was seriously hit by the recession and I elected to spend some time at home.

"I’m now probably in semi-retirement, but getting a little stir-crazy so I’m open to offers!"

I love our rural life, and am into gardening and walking and doing village-y sorts of things.

Christmas is an important time in our family. The week before we give a big party for our neighbours, and all our kids and their partners come home for it. We all stay with relatives over the Christmas season itself, and attend a couple of big social events.

"I enjoy it enormously, but it has always been a problem to find flattering, un-frumpy outfits to wear and the discos can be a trial when you’re fat."

It has been like this for years. If you had told me, as I sweated it out on the disco floor during the celebrations of Christmas, that just a year later I’d be 5 dress sizes smaller and 5st lighter, I would never have believed you.

I’ve always been big. I was an early developer as a child, and tall, with a naturally big frame.

We ate sweets as a family but I took it to excess, walking home from school and spending my bus fare at the sweet shop. 

"And it wasn’t just sweets – meals were important in my family and I enjoyed all food and always came back for seconds. "

Coupled with this I hated sports – the only exercise I took was walking, because I enjoyed it so I didn’t think of it as exercise.

I now realise that it was only the walking that kept my weight even remotely in check

At university I was a size 18, still eating for England but walking or cycling everywhere. This continued until I was 25 and had my first child.

Suddenly the opportunities for walking were restricted and my weight ballooned.

I lost a lot of weight during my pregnancy with the twins – it’s like having a temporary gastric band fitted – but again put it all back on in the few months afterwards.

"I ate all the time, chiefly out of boredom, but did very little walking to compensate. "

For the next 25 years I dieted on and off, but there would be many times when I’d sabotage sensible eating choices by bingeing, especially in the evenings

Almost without thinking I’d creep into the kitchen and grab something to eat.  A few minutes later I’d go back again. 

"That’s the strangest thing about my relationship with food – a lot of my eating has been done almost unconsciously – as though someone else has been doing it."

I liked the sensation of being full, and I don’t think I ever felt hungry.  But I haven’t enjoyed half of what I’ve eaten, because I don’t think I even tasted it.  When I was 40 I weighed 17st.

The thing I most regret is that in my early 40s I lost 5st and took myself down to 12st. Then, over the next few years, I put it all back on.

"I still don’t know where the motivation came from and how I then lost it.  But I’m determined it won’t happen again!"

I’m married and have 3 children – a daughter, 31 and twins, 29, who have all moved away.

Since I’m in virtually sole control of the food in the house I can’t blame any of my eating habits on them – apart from the boredom and lack of exercise, as a young mother, that I’ve already mentioned. 

Nowadays we have big family gatherings 3 or 4 times a year, and I have to confess food is still important at these times and it can be challenging to keep to my eating plans.

When they all come to our place I try to get round it by putting everybody on a diet, although they don’t realise it because we all have the same tasty low-calorie dishes and they have extra carbs available if they want them.

"It’s more problematic if we’re eating out but I just try to make sensible choices.  It doesn’t always work!"

I haven’t been working since I joined wlr, but I was often trying to lose weight when I did work.

Actually, because I’m a secret rather than a public overeater, I’m usually more restrained at work than I am at home.

But when I was working away from home, for some reason Friday afternoons, when I’d drive back home again, were a really bad time.

I’d call in the motorway services for a healthy sandwich and an apple, and come out with crisps, family packs of Maltesers, extra sandwiches … Again, it was almost unconsciously done. 

Apart from the first two or three, I don’t suppose I tasted the Maltesers at all. 

Karen Before

But having ‘broken my diet’ on Friday I’d continue to overeat all weekend, and only go back to being sensible again (perhaps) on the Monday.

When I first stopped working away I put on yet more weight, due to being at home with the kitchen so near.  Now I feel it’s an advantage, because I can plan exactly what I’m going to eat.

What diets have you tried in the past?

When I lost so much weight in my 40s I just ate less, but I certainly didn’t starve myself.

I missed breakfast (didn’t really feel like it), always had a 3-round sandwich and fruit for lunch, and then had a low-fat, highish-carb evening meal.

I had absolutely no snacks between meals.  I managed like this for 18 months, and it wasn’t all that difficult; then suddenly I couldn’t do it anymore.

I think it was probably because I was often hungry when I got in from work in the evenings, would eat something as a result, and due to my self-imposed restriction on eating between meals I would feel I’d fallen off the wagon – which would blow it for the evening.

"I just didn’t know how to incorporate treats and ‘normal’ foods into my eating."

I also tried Slimming World – unfortunately I took the green days as licence to stuff myself full of carbs, which could probably mount up to 4000 calories in a day!  And red days were just too restrictive.

I also lost a stone or so with Weight Watchers online, but found the points system a bit of a blunt instrument, and you could only use a certain percentage of your exercise calories.

And I tried Paul McKenna’s system of self-monitoring what you eat; only eating what you enjoy and stopping when you’re full.  I actually believe this is the best ‘diet’ of all, if you can do it.  After all, it’s what naturally slim people do

"But when you have spent 50-plus years spectacularly failing to monitor yourself, it’s very difficult to start doing it; and after the initial enthusiasm I found myself slipping. "

I still use this system if I’m away from Weight Loss Resources, for example if I’m away for the weekend.

Tell us how your weight has affected you

There’s no doubt that there are things I haven’t done because I was either too unfit or too embarrassed about my weight to do them. "I feel my children, and my husband too, although he wouldn’t say so, lost out because I was overweight. "

I’ve never been fond of swimming and that was partly because I hated being seen in a bathing costume.  And I’d never take part in anything that would show off my wobbly bits!

As I’ve said I always enjoyed walking

"although my weight never stopped me from going on a walk it certainly meant that I was always the last one up the hill, and that my companions would have to wait for me."

And of course, as soon as I caught up with them they’d always set off again so I never got a rest.

Sometimes I’d see myself in a shop window and be shocked at just how big I was, which would give me a brief moment of gloom.

But fortunately I’m a reasonably optimistic sort of person, so it didn’t get me down as much as it could have.

As far as other people’s attitudes go, I never experienced any discrimination – but I always expected to. I always felt people were judging me as ‘the fat woman’ and felt I had to apologise for myself.

What has been your main motivation to lose weight?

The reason I visited the Weight Loss Resources website that day at the end of January was because I’d just had my 56th birthday, I felt I was getting on a bit, and that my permanent disability from some weight-related illness such as a stroke would actually affect my family more than my death would.

"I didn’t want my husband to be pushing me round in a wheelchair in my 60s. "

So I’d decided I was going to try to lose weight – yet again.  And I came across wlr when I was looking for the nutritional value of something. 

And, having always loved walking, I wanted to be able to continue doing it in my retirement. My left hip was beginning to give me a bit of gyp after walks and when going upstairs. 

"The idea of having to give up walking just when we were in a position to do more of it didn’t appeal."

But motivation’s a funny thing, isn’t it?  I have always been motivated to lose weight, in the sense that I wanted to lose; I could see the reasons why I should lose, etc.  But wanting isn’t enough.

"You have to get your head straight and change from an overeater to a person who is in control."

It’s like a switch clicking inside your head. Most of us have felt that initial surge of enthusiasm when embarking on a new ‘diet’.

We’re determined to succeed this time, we go well under our calorie allowance, and we exercise… and then fall off the wagon and fail to climb back on again. The switch in the head has clicked off.

I have no doubt that my January resolution to lose weight would have gone the same way if it hadn’t been for Weight Loss Resources.

"The switch clicked in my head – and the tools provided by wlr have helped it to stay firmly down ever since."

When people say to me ‘You must have so much willpower’ I feel I have to explain that if it had been up to willpower I would have stayed at 17 stone. 

I have hardly ever had to exercise ‘willpower’ during this journey.  It’s just that, this is the way I am now, and I’m using wlr to help me stay that way.

Which tools and resources on wlr do you find most valuable?

The food and exercise diaries are the tools on wlr I use all the time.

"I log everything, except when I’m away.  And I’ve found the graphs in Goals and Results really motivating."

I didn’t set any mini-goals or target dates but I’d look at the projection of what I would weigh in, say, June, and think "Oh yes, I have an outfit that I wore when I was last that weight. It will be just right for June."; And it was!

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

First, because the food and exercise diaries provided a framework for controlling my eating. 

"I found that I had absolutely no idea what constituted a ‘normal’ eating regime. "

The diaries at least helped me to decide what portion sizes I could have and how many treats I could afford; then they helped me to plan what I was going to eat each day.

Weight Loss Resourceas allowed me enough calories!  I set my target weight loss at 1lb a week, and as I weighed 17st at the beginning I was allowed over 1700 cals a day, plus exercise calories. 

This allowed me to have good meals, and snacks as well. When my daily calorie allowance dropped because I had lost weight, I reduced my target loss to 0.5lb a week. 

"I should say that my weight loss has consistently been higher than target, even though I eat all of my calories, and I believe I’ve set my activity level correctly. "

I think I must have been carrying quite a bit of excess water as well as fat, which I have gradually lost with the fat. 

However, I don’t think it would have affected my motivation if I had lost weight more slowly because my expectations weren’t high. 

"It was also a great motivation that I could use the exercise calories I earned. I walked, and still walk, nearly every day, and get grumpy if I can’t do some form of exercise to earn more calories."

Finally, there have been some really inspirational people posting on the forum boards.  That’s not normally my sort of thing, but you can get sucked into it!

Karen Now

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

I’ve actually been amazed at how easy and enjoyable it has been.  I think this was because I didn’t set myself any time-related targets.

My only goal, at least at first, was to lose weight every week and I didn’t care how much or little.

"So I never found it stressful. I was never hungry except just before a mealtime, and I’ve enjoyed the variety of food I’ve been able to eat. "

The two or three times I’ve put weight on or stayed the same were just blips in the larger scheme of things.

It was helpful here to read the forum posts of people who had been through it themselves and come through the other side.

I recently caught myself feeling a twinge of self-pity that, if I want to remain at this weight, I won’t be able to eat at anywhere near the rate I was doing before. 

I wrote myself a bit of ‘tough love’ which I read every so often.  I’ve posted it to my profile – but it’s aimed at me and I know it won’t suit everybody.

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

Apart from going down from a size 24/6 to a 14, do you mean? 

Well, I’m not the last one up the hill anymore! 

"I no longer have to hold on the banister when going upstairs, to save my creaky hip (it’s no longer creaky at all!). "

And I don’t go to bed and then stay awake for hours because my heart’s beating so fast, which it always did following a binge.

But I think the main change is in how I think other people view me.

"I’m naturally an extrovert but I would always think, when among strangers, that they were mentally assessing me as a fat woman with no self-control and therefore not worthy of respect."

I’m sure they weren’t doing this, but it was what I felt they were thinking. So I would always try to reduce my profile, both physically and psychologically. 

I’d be apologetic about putting forward my opinions, and I’d try to shrink into the background.  Now I don’t.

Exercise routines adopted

Walking. I live in a rural area, although unfortunately it’s completely flat, and there’s a very convenient three-mile circuit that I can do if there isn’t time to do more. 

If there is time I’ll branch out around the fields and lakes. Or we’ll drive somewhere a bit hillier, which is what I really like.

"I try to walk quite briskly, so much so that these days my walking companions tend to complain."

We also cycle, again on the flat, and I love that too. I don’t think of either walking or cycling as exercise, because I enjoy them so much.

I’ve also recently joined a gym to try and improve my muscle strength.

"This is completely uncharted territory for me, but I’m learning to talk about abs and glutes and hamstrings with the best of them. "

They do Core classes, working on the muscles of the torso, and I’m really enjoying them although at present it’s quite obvious that I’m a beginner.  And I’m doing weights.  Me!

What do you love about your body now?

  Before Now
Weight 16st 11lbs 11st 3lbs
BMI 35.7 23.9
Body Fat 39.6% 23.1%
Chest 46" 38"
Waist 40" 31"
Hips 49" 38"

The fact that it can do things it previously couldn’t.  And now when I look in a shop window I’m not taken aback by the fat woman, I’m astonished at the much slimmer woman that I see.

Karen's hints and tips

As far as tips go, the following worked for me but might not work for anyone else:

  • The first thing was getting my head straight – getting myself into that mindset (and staying in it) that says I’m a ‘normal’ eater and not an overeater.  I found this link very helpful
  • I made my weight loss a project for the year.  I became obsessed with it, bored other people with it, planned my eating, logged everything, haunted the wlr boards and occasionally contributed to them.
  • I decided at the beginning that time didn’t matter but losing weight, and keeping it off, did.  So I ate as much as I could get away with and still lose weight.  I set my weekly weight loss target quite low so I always had plenty of calories.  I knew that, for me, this would be more likely to ensure success than a ‘big bang’ approach would.
  • I walked or cycled virtually every day, to earn more calories, and I ate every single one of them.
  • I allowed for a tiny bar of Green & Black’s chocolate (15g, 85 cals) every night, and had no chocolate cravings at all.
  • I didn’t save calories for the weekend. I tried to make every day balance to zero, although the few times when we had a family occasion I would raise my calorie allowance to the maintenance level.  For some reason, I’m more likely to binge if I’ve had more than maintenance calories in any one day, even if it was planned.  Weird psychology or what?
  • I enjoyed the journey – finding low-calorie, tasty, satisfying meals, especially when we were entertaining, became a challenge.  Fortunately being a veg and salad freak was useful here.
  • On the few occasions when I fell off the wagon, I got right back on again the next day.  No ‘I’ll wait until Monday’ as I’d previously done.

I do realise that, as a result of my obsession with losing weight, I still have a few issues to address now that I’m embarking on maintenance.  

One is that I like to feel full: I can still eat for England, the only difference being that now my plate is loaded high with veg. 

Virtually everything I eat is low-calorie, so that I can eat more bulk. It would be nice to reduce this dependence on feeling full and occasionally eat more of the calorie-dense, healthy foods like nuts.

"This is going to be my project for next year.  With the help of wlr I know I’ll do it."

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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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