Monday, 15 November 2010

My weight loss journey

My weight has fluctuated for the last 30 years. I remember reaching 17 stone in my early thirties. This led me to diet and I lost about 3 stone. I don’t think I ever thought about maintaining my new weight. I made no attempts to change my eating habits. It was pure luck that kept my weight fairly stable for a few years. I didn’t pile on the pounds. It just crept up on me over the years. It was mainly due to a sedentary occupation and general lack of activity. I have not been able to work much in the last ten years and this is when my weight began to increase. I first noticed the problem when I was pushing 19 stone. I joined a gym and dieted again. I lost about one stone. I stopped going to the gym and my bad eating habits returned. I had soon gone past 19 stone and approached 20 stone. This raised major flags because I had never been 20 stone in my life. This was late in 2007. I still thought I was okay.

In September of 2007, I went on an “activity” holiday to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. I was quite active and I enjoyed the holiday. In reality, this experience started the downward slide that led me to joining Slimming World. I think it was a combination of doing too much for my fitness level and the four hour return flight wedged in an airplane seat. The following 18 months was marked by a series of physical problems. My lower body was giving up. I had pains and discomfort in my legs, and it would shift from location to location. At the worst point, I remember that I could not get myself into or out of the bed. I ended up sleeping in my recliner on some occasions. In hindsight, I was slow in getting help. I tried the conventional approach at my GP surgery. This gave no relief. I finally found a good chiropractor and massage therapist. They managed to get me moving again, but I was still weighing in at about 20 stones.

By April of 2009, I realized that I had to do something. It was more due to the physical problems than the weight itself. I think I was still in denial about the weight. Fortunately my neighbour, Carol, was attending a Slimming World group in Claverdon. She invited me to go along with her to the group. I went along on 28th April, 2009 and began my food optimising journey. I weighed in at 20 stone 6.5 pounds. I lost weight from the first week and I was soon convinced that it worked. I am very good at following instructions and that is why I found the plan so good. I found a focus that surprised me. By early in August I had lost about 2 stone. The group was several miles from home and I wouldn’t be able to get there without a lift. Sarah Langford was starting a new group in Warwick at the Cricket Club. It was somewhere that I could walk to and I could also get some extra Body magic at the same time. Carol and I decided to try out the new group. We liked it immediately and decided to transfer.

Sarah’s new group went from strength to strength. It was eventually so successful that it split into two groups. I only missed one group session from early in August, 2009 until I reached my target on 5th October, 2010. On the week that I missed, I weighed in at another group locally. That was 62 consecutive weigh-ins. The Slimming World group became a very important part of my life, often my only social interaction in any week. I tried to get to group every week, no matter how I had felt during the day.

My PAT had been set some time ago at 14 stone. It became clear that it might be unrealistic and I adjusted it to 14 stone 6.5 pounds, for a total loss of 6 stone. This gave me the impetus to focus more and work hard for the target. Earlier in 2010, the group members were asked to set themselves a goal for the year. My goal was to reach my target before my holiday in October. I reached it with 9 days in hand and I was delighted. My holiday had been arranged to the same resort as I visited in September of 2007. It would be a celebration of my weight loss and a chance to be more active on the “activity” holiday. My main “before” photo had been taken in 2007 on one of the excursions. It would be a chance to repeat the excursion and get an excellent “after” photo at the same spot.

On the 2007 holiday, I was as active as could be considering my weight. I did some classes, swam a bit, played some social tennis and did some gym work. On the second visit I was far more involved. I added two sessions of social badminton, I did four 18Km sessions on the exercise bike, had a one to one golf lesson and practised what I had learnt. I had far more energy and got more out of the La Santa experience. I was pleased to find out that the same excursion was running. I managed to get my “after” photo in front of the El Golfo rock. In 2007, the walk down to the beach and back to the bus was quite an ordeal. This time it was a simple stroll. Before I joined Slimming World, I struggled after walking 10 minutes from my flat. I became breathless and my legs began to hurt. Recently, I have frequently walked for over an hour without any discomfort and I really enjoyed it.

My physical and mental healths are now so much better. I have suffered from Bipolar Disorder for almost 28 years. This basically means I am prone to mood swings even while taking medication. As I followed the plan and lost weight my mood swings became almost a thing of the past. Despite reaching 60 in February, I feel mentally and physically better than I have for many years. I have taken medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol for over ten years. In 2008, my glucose intolerance shifted to Diabetes 2 and I started taking more medication. In my recent diabetes review, my blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar values were in the middle of the healthy ranges. I hope that it will be possible to reduce or even stop some medications at some point.

I take two medications for my Bipolar Disorder. One of them is Seroquel (Quetiapine) and it is notorious for causing weight gain. I have taken this medication for the full 18 months of food optimising and have lost weight steadily during this time.

I see reaching target as a beginning rather than a conclusion. I really think that food optimising has been the biggest factor in my continued weight loss. Despite my best intentions, I didn’t really increase my activity levels to any great extent. As I approached target, I hit a serious plateau. I fine tuned my diet as best I could and I also started to use my exercise bike. It had become something of a clothes rack. These efforts paid dividends and I soon reached my target. I see my biggest challenge as increasing my activity levels to help with my target maintenance. I see food optimising as my lifestyle choice from now onwards. I enjoy the food and I have never felt hungry. I followed the Green plan for most of the 18 months. I tried changing to Extra Easy completely but settled on 4 green days and 3 Extra Easy days each week. I have always tried to plan out a meal plan for the week between group meetings. I have also used the online food diary but now I only use it to check syn values. I have changed from being someone who lives on ready meals. I now eat mostly fresh food with plenty of fruit and vegetables. I cook more than I ever have and more than I ever thought I would.

I gave up on finding work three years ago. Now I am slimmer and a little fitter, I am actively seeking a voluntary position with a local company. I worked there on a job placement scheme when I was 6 stone heavier.