8:Mindfulness and Conscious Eating

Eating is a central and important part of everyone’s life – a basic need that that we depend upon to essentially keep us alive. It is such a common and regular activity that we can quite often complete the ‘task’ of eating without thinking, on auto pilot. Eating or drinking as we go throughout the day, almost unconsciously, can become part of our daily routine. A bite of this, a piece of that, a slurp of the other, all without thought and usually whilst we’re busy or preoccupied with other tasks, thoughts and activities – sound familiar?

Well this way of eating became the norm for me, as of my daily life up until quite recently and which definitely had a massive effect on my ability to successfully lose weight and improve my health.

Fitting eating in to my busy lifestyle often meant that I did it whilst doing other activities, it made sense for me to try to combine ‘tasks’ or ‘multi task’ so I could use my time in the most effective way, or so I thought. For example, watching my favourite TV show or the news and having my tea on my lap; eating lunch at my desk and reading emails or a document etc – this again will probably sound familiar.

However the practice of eating and doing other things became more wide spread and I found that I’d progressed to eating a sandwich whilst making tea; picking the leftovers from the kids plates whilst washing the dishes; munching through a sharing sized packet of crisps whist watching a film; eating a huge bag of sweets whilst driving on long journeys… I could go on and on with the amount of ‘mindless’ eating that took place and at the end of the day I would genuinely have no idea of what I had actually eaten that day, as most of it was done without conscious thought.

This would continually thwart my eternal efforts to lose the lbs and would see me getting angry and frustrated at my lack of progress. I remember thinking on numerous occasions, ‘I don’t understand why I’m so big, I don’t eat that much’ or ‘I have been really good, I don’t understand why I’m not losing weight’.

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It was only when I actually started to examine my eating habits and relationship with food this time that I realised the extent of how much I actually ate without thinking and how common it had become in my daily life. I then realised that if I was ever going to achieve long term success with the weight that I was now losing, that I would need address this habit, as well as the others that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

I approached this in a number of ways, the first was to begin to make a diary of all the food and drink that I had each day – trying where possible, to note this down at the time of eating, so that it wouldn’t be forgotten later. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget having a couple of biscuits with a brew or a slice of something, especially if its not something that you’ve previously planned for.

The second was to throw out all left over food straight away or to ask people to scrape their plates into the food bin after leaving the table. This now removed any temptation of eating anything left on a plate and meant that I didn’t have to worry about this anymore.

The third was to ‘eat consciously’. This may sound a bit odd, but I found when I looked further into this, that actually its a really common habit that many people have and you are more likely to eat far more when eating ‘unconsciously’, than when you eat in a planned and structured way. However with a few simple steps you can begin to correct this unhealthy trait – these include;

  • Planning meals in advance and eating in a structured way. As mentioned in my previous post, 4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success, I now plan my meals for the week in a structured way to help me stay on track and trouble shoot any potential tricky situations in advance.
  • Eat when you are hungry. Sounds straight forwards but I can tell you that I am a grazer and pick and graze throughout the day if I can. I now question why I want to eat, as quite often it is not linked to hunger but something else, like boredom, nerves or even not drinking enough.
  • Eat in a designated place. So for me this meant that I now sit at the table, with my family where possible, to eat my meals.
  • Do nothing whilst eating – no reading, watching TV or making plans etc, whatever I was doing before is now off limits and I now focus entirely on enjoying my meal.
  • Savour the food you are eating.  Enjoy the taste, smell and texture of the food you are eating. Make sure that it’s not a cardboard TV dinner type rubbish that you would struggle to truly enjoy. Make mealtimes something to look forwards to!
  • Chew each mouthful 10 – 15 times before swallowing. This felt totally alien to me at first, as I found that one of my habits was to wolf food down super-fast, sometimes without even chewing it at all! Now chewing each mouthful for this amount of time before swallowing, has slowed my eating right down and gives me the opportunity to actually taste and enjoy the food I am eating.
  • Place your knife, folk or spoon down in-between each mouthful. I found that quite often in the past whilst I was eating I was cutting up my food and getting the next one ready to go, meaning that I was still distracted from what I was doing – eating – and also consuming my meal much faster. I now find that eating is a much more pleasant experience, feeling more relaxed, where as in the past it felt hurried and sometimes a little bit stressful.
  • Stop eating when you feel satisfied. I found that eating in this slower and much more controlled way, allowed my body to recognise when I was actually full and helped me to stop eating when I had eaten enough. This had been a particular problem for me in the past, as I would often eat so fast, (particularly when bingeing) that it didn’t register until I had eaten so much I could barely move.
  • Do this as often as you can to make it a habit! Sounds obvious but as I’ve mentioned before it takes up to six weeks of consistently doing something, before it becomes a habit. mindful eating

The fourth was to Plan for snacks in advance. Before I started to do this I would quite often graze without thought, continuously on bits and pieces throughout the day – whilst at work and in the evening when cooking or watching TV. I now take what I want to eat into work with me, like a couple of pieces of fruit and a cereal bar, along with my lunch and only eat this. I also put to one side the things I want to eat at night and will eat them whilst watching TV or even going to the Cinema, in a planned ‘conscious’ way. I do still sometimes eat the odd piece of ham or chicken whilst cooking if I’m hungry, but I feel I am aware of it now and able to control how much I consume. I also note everything I eat and will include these within my daily tally of food consumption.

By following these fairly simple steps I have managed to get a better handle on what and when I am eating and feel much happier as a result. We now quite often (when we’re all together) enjoy family meals at the table and I have started to enjoy cooking more adventurous foods that I enjoy the taste of. Eating is no longer a means to an end that is squeezed into my day, it is something to look forward too and enjoy the space that this new way of eating has created. I am also more aware of when I am sliding back into old habits like picking or grazing on random bits of food and feel able to stop and question myself on, ‘why’ I want to eat’ and ‘if’ I am actually hungry or if something else is at play.

Mindfulness is a really useful tool which I’ve not only used for helping me gain a better awareness and control of my eating, but in combating stress and other pressures that life can bring – which I will talk more about in a future post.

I hope you have found this post interesting, next time I will be looking at exercise and how beginning to conquer my fears around this helped me to scale mountains.

Have a good week

Much Love

Marie x

Previous posts

7: Putting Your Needs on the Menu

6: Start With Your End in Mind: Visualising what Success Would Look Like

5: Refill your Glass and Retune that Inner Voice

4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

 

 

 

4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success

halloween

One of the most important things that I have learned on this journey, is to plan, plan and if in doubt plan some more… This may sound a bit obvious or simple, but its suprising and strangely common, how the simple and obvious can sometimes be overlooked.

In the past quite often I have started one of my various weight loss journeys with very little thought or preparation and have been continually surprised that things haven’t gone to plan…

Of course it should never have come as much of a surprise really, as on thinking about it, there was never a real plan in place, other than the desire to lose weight.

I would be all motivated and make snap decisions that I would ‘cut down on what I ate’ or ‘follow a certain diet’ (the cabbage soup one was the worst!), but I wouldn’t really think much beyond this.

Now I’m not speaking about the mental preparation that I and most people need to do before even thinking about starting a ‘diet’. Or even the longer term goal setting of where you would like to be in the end and what success would look like for me. As I mentioned in my second post , this was something that I was unable to face for a long time. (I’ll look at this more in a future post)

I’m talking about the fairly basic logistics of what I was trying to do on a day to day basis.

How was whatever diet or exercise regime I was doing at the time, fit in with my life? What was I was actually going to do, day to day, week to week or month to month to support this and what could throw a spanner in the works and get in way?

It seems so obvious looking back now, but these fairly basic fundamental ‘plans’ were almost always absent from my past attempts. And the very basic things that daily life involved, would very quickly derail me and see me abandoning all hope once again.

Simple things like;

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  • Shopping lists and what to buy, healthy eating on a budget can be expensive, so buying what you’ve always done + a few extra ‘healthy alternatives’ can soon add up and thwart plans. Particularly when 2 out of 3 of us didn’t eat veg or 90% of what you could call healthy!
  • Time to cook healthy meals – working, being a single parent to children with additional needs, then latterly an extended family and looking after animals all took time. Throwing a pizza in the oven, opening a jar of something or ordering a take away is way quicker and easier!
  • Going out for a meal with my kids/family, was always a challenge, they had a very limited diet so what & where would I eat???
  • Visiting a friend for coffee and a catch up was almost always fraught with hidden traps and temptations. Full fat milk, biscuits and home bakes, it would be rude not to…
  • Picnics and days out were logistical nightmares, particularly on a budget and with my family’s needs. How could I replace the time honoured tradition of sausage rolls, sandwiches, crisps and biscuits?
  • Traveling for work and eating off the ‘hoof’ was always a gamble, to which I would usually lose. Functions and buffets usually had very little in way of healthy options, so I would be ‘forced’ to eat what was on offer…

Basically anything that involved normal daily life was instantly a problem or challenge, resulting in me either not going out or ‘falling of the wagon’. (I’ll go into this more in future posts)

Even things like Christmas, birthdays and parties were very rarely thought through and could sometimes turn into things to dread, because I knew they would be my undoing.

I believe one the main reasons why I’ve experienced success this time, (apart from not going on a diet and more changing the way I see food) is through planning things out in advance. Having a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve (my short term goal), what might stop me from doing this and what I could do to to help prevent this.

I don’t know why it never dawned on me before, as meticulous planning was a big part of my life! I planned childcare for my kids so I could work and study. I planned my kids support needs and ensured that they had structure and order and everything they basically needed for them to be happy and healthy. I even laid plans for my animals! But not for this important aspect of my life. (I’ll cover thinking about you in the future)

Could you imagine setting of on a holiday abroad without your flight or hotel details or any pre-checks in place to see you have the right documentation, money, passport etc. For your clothes, just throwing anything in a suitcase and hoping for the best? Of course not, you could just ‘visualise’ the chaos that would take place. Similar to a ‘carry on camping’ sketch, you know that it would be a disaster.

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But this was how I had approached losing weight in the past, which unsuprisingly resulted in it being short lived.

My approach this time has been very different and has helped me to stay on course for over 2 years & 8 months now. I have succeeded in most of the life goals I set myself, with beginning to ride horses again, as well as being within touching distance from where I want to be with my ‘weight’ target. Now only 6lb away. (I’m so excited!!!)

One of the fundamental changes I’ve made this time is to put plans in place for all aspects of my life and develop a set of ‘tools’ to help me to do this. I call this my ‘support toolkit’.

My toolkit isn’t something that sits on a shelf in the garage, its more a compilation of practical steps, templates and actions, that are designed to help me navigate the often difficult route that my life can take.

Like the fairy lights on our local island walks, these tools light the way for me, helping me to find a safer route that protects my goal and see me through most difficult patches.

My ‘Toolkit’ generally consists of

  • Protected time to plan – sounds obvious, but as I explained before, this is something that was previously missing. Like most parents, life can be chaotic with lots to do, quite often resulting in not having time to even sit down before its time for us to head of to bed ourselves. This aspect changed, I now ‘ring-fence’ at least 1 hour a week, when I get to sit and plan my week ahead. Just 1 hour, doesn’t sound a lot but it makes a world of difference.
  • Using a weekly planner, I now map what meals I’m going to cook or buy if eating out, in advance. This usually gets taped to the fridge so my husband is in on the plan
  • I also write my shopping list based on the meals and my week ahead. That way I don’t get side tracked with the old ‘BOGOF’ deals that are usually things that I didn’t want and or had planned for. (Doesn’t stop the husband buying reduced cakes though…)
  • I now always check out cafes and places to eat in advance. Menus are usually available to see online so it gives me a chance to plan what I am going to have in advance or even decide where to eat in advance and choose a place that suits us all.
  • Get fussy, I used to be someone who never really made a fuss. I would eat pretty much everything without complaint and it would never of occurred to me to ask for things to be cooked the way I want them. I now ask for potatoes instead of chips, for sauces to be served on the side and for butter or fat to be omitted. Most places these days are only to happy to do this, so don’t be shy!
  • Teamwork, have get people on your team/side to support you, could be a friend, your parent, partner or child (if old enough). Someone who you can count on to not be judgemental and who will not try to sabotage your efforts!
  • Support from other people who are trying to slim is also a great source of support. The group I attend is a brilliant place for me to test my ideas on or vent to if I’m having a rough time. They usually have their own experience to draw from and are usually only to happy to give advice or share their tips with you.
  • When working away I always take a back up lunch and lots of fruit and low fat snacks to help see me through the day. This could be a packet of mugshot, which fits into my handbag, which only needs boiling water and most places have access to this. This means if I’m faced with a buffet of high fat or sugary foods, I can choose to eat something that I am happy with.weekly planner

These ‘tools’ or practical steps have really helped me to build healthy and sustainable habits this time, which fit in with my daily life. They have become the very infrastructure of our family life and I know for certain that I would have failed long ago if I hadn’t thought about things in advance and planned what I was going to do about them before they happened.

I will add a proviso though that even the best laid plans can go array for many reasons, so part of this is about being flexible, resilient and patient. Basically sometimes we need to give ourselves a break and not be so harsh. In the past one slip for me resulted in me totally losing my way and not finding it again for several weeks, months or sometimes years. Building myself a new safety net has helped to change this.

I’m aware that I’ve skimmed over a lot of things in this post, so I intend to look at some of the things that I have mentioned in more detail over the coming weeks. Next time I’ll be looking more at state of mind and how I changed my focus from the negative to the positive, which helped me to become more resilient to life’s knocks and proverbial slips.

I hope you have found this post interesting, please feel free to share your own experiences or let me know if you have any particular topics that you would like me to cover in the future.

Good Luck

Much Love

Marie x

Previous posts

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

shipwrek2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

For some losing weight is simply a case of reducing the amount of calories they take and increasing their exercise. Some people have no issues with doing this when they need to and can easily and successfully manage their weight without any real problems.

However for others, things aren’t that simple and this was true for me. I had a very complex relationship with food and my excess weight, which got in the way and stopped me from achieving the success I craved.

For people like me, more work is required, often involving looking back at past events, to try and identify and understand what is happening, why and what you can do to change this.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” Stephen R Covey

Food and eating it has long since been linked to emotions and providing comfort to people and this was certainly the case for me. I realised as I embarked on this journey that I needed to do something different if I was ever going to find success.

As I mentioned previously in the first post, I had tried many different approaches to losing weight in the past, with only very limited success and short lived results. I really felt that I couldn’t afford to ‘mess about’ this time and I needed a complete approach and to delve deeper than I had before, to put right what I began to realise was wrong.

 

In the past, about 10 years ago, I was prescribed with art therapy to help me identify some of the underlying issues that I had developed with food. However at that time I wasn’t in a place mentally, or physically, as I had to leave the course early, where I could truly utilise the opportunity.

But I have learned that nothing that you experience or learn is a waste, it’s all stored in your memories and hard drive. So I decided to reflect back on the sessions that I had had in the past and revisit what was discussed and how I felt about them.

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This was the start of me beginning to unravel the issues and the tentative start of redrawing the flawed blueprint I had been living from.

Through using a number of techniques, including,

  • Self-reflection and writing a journal.
  • Talking to people close to me about my thoughts and experiences
  • Reading information about eating disorders and ways to overcome them
  • Reading and completing self-help tasks, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

I managed to identify a number of life events that took place during the course of my childhood, adolescence, including teenage pregnancy and Postpartum Psychosis  (a rare form of post-natal depression) and adult life, like being a single parent to children with autism. Where I sought food as a tonic and developed unhealthy destructive ‘coping’ mechanisms to help me deal with situations that I had struggled to make sense of.

Instead of dealing with these at the time, due to a number of reasons, I suppressed them and tried to solider on like everything was Okay. However like weeds, these underlying feelings and emotions found a route to the surface, which for me was a series of eating habits that formed into what would become ‘eating disordersweed 2

To the outside world I was fine, however in reality I was far from this and this unhealthy relationship continued to flourish and in the background I had created a blueprint or programme which silently run, ‘protecting’ me from harm – or so I subconsciously thought.

Comfort eating, binging, to the point of feeling physically sick, then purging and secret eating were all habits that I had identified. I even managed to locate, for some of these, times when they either began or where I had turned to the ‘safety’ of this behaviour.

I remember feeling extremely agitated when I felt like binging, it would build and build until I would embark on an eating frenzy that would put jaws to shame. Cramming endless random items of food down my neck, anything that was in really, that didn’t need much thought or preparation. Until the urge passed.

I would then begin the ritual of self-loathing, feeling dreadful and like a failure.

Why could I not exercise some control? Why did I not stop when I was feeling full? Why did I even buy half the crap that was in my cupboards? Why was I so weak?

I was never going to lose weight or succeed! I was a failure!!!

These recriminations, often resulted in me heading to the bathroom to try to undo what I had just done, by making myself sick. I remember leaning over the basin, trying desperately to get rid of everything I had devoured in my last session and would stay there doing this until I felt sure I had put things right.

Of course none of this behaviour was right. Eating until you could barely move and then removing it again with the act of making yourself sick, was far from this. I would come to call this my ‘self destruct mode’. Where rational thought didn’t exist and I lived in a turbulent volatile world of extremes, binging and sometimes purging, sometimes sitting in extreme discomfort and continually self berating myself for being so weak.

Understanding and identifying these instances was the first step, but these behaviours were embedded and intrinsically linked to pretty much every aspect of who I was. Just because I had gained some sense of awareness in knowing they existed, didn’t automatically fix them.

I also began to realise that physical aspects of my excess weight, gave me a measure of safety and provided me with a shroud to hide within. One where I could dwell in relative safety and no one could bother or hurt me.

 

DSCF1383I remember during one of the therapy sessions, actually seeing and identifying this. I felt like I was viewing the world through a mask. I could even see the eyelets you would see if actually wearing a physical mask.

My excess weight had become a tool in which to hide in plain sight, like the cloak that Harry Potter wore, I, the real me, could move around undetected.

There were some obvious flaws in this plan, one I was obese, unhealthy and deeply unhappy and two this place of safety had now become more of a cell within a self-imposed jail.DSCF0515

This came as a bit of a shock, but also a revelation as I could now begin to see that I did actually hold the keys to my own release. I just needed to find them and then find where I’d hidden the lock…

To truly begin to address these deep seated issues I had to dig deep and remove the weeds I’d uncovered – from the roots. Replacing them with new seeds of ‘coping strategies’ and healthier habits that would replace the misguided safety net I had unwittingly created.

In essence I started to develop new ways to deal with lifes pressures.

But like anything newly planted, I needed to nurture and cultivate these seeds and shoots, so that they would grow healthy and strong. And be able to stand up to all the elements and tests that life would inevitably throw at them.

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I had to practice new my behaviours repeatedly so that they would become the norm. I also needed to remember that it takes at least 6 weeks of repeatedly, consistently practicing an action before it becomes a habit. (Remember I said that this became my mantra, to help me when I deviated or struggled with the old feelings and urges)

My next steps involved beginning to re-program my brain and subconscious, to develop new ways of coping and ‘unlearn’ the destructive habits I’d depended for so long in the past.

For me this involved several approaches, I didn’t have access to therapy sessions now, so I pulled together my own ‘toolkit’ to help me.

By

  • using visualisation techniques I began to look forwards into what I wanted to achieve and learned to clearly see a vivid picture of what this could look like, and after a bit of practice, feel like for me
  • using conscious eating techniques to ‘consciously eat food’ (you would be amazed at how often you’re not!) I became aware of the amount and quality of what I was eating. In the past I often had no idea of what I’d eaten and I would eat so fast I never truly enjoyed it either!
  • reading a number of self-help books & DVD’s, including Hypnosis, I learned greater understanding, acceptance and ways to change and ‘take control’ of my relationship with food
  • beginning to practice simple Mindfulness techniques I learned ways to cope with daily life and stress that were not related to food.

All these methods, coupled with the newly adopted structure and support of the slimming group and unwavering support from my husband, helped me to map a new path and destination for me this time.

I’m aware that I’ve mentioned lots of different issues and conditions within this blog and I have included a number of links to NHS Choices on some of the topics for extra information. I would also recommend speaking to a health professional if you recognise any of the symptoms or behaviours that I have described, to ensure that you get the right support or treatment.

I hope you have found this post of interest and that it in some way supports you in your quest to live a healthier happier live.

My next post will be about Planning for Success, and how to give yourself the best possible chance of achieving it.

Good luck

Much love

Marie x

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

About

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

The most difficult step in any journey is the first one. Often just the thought of taking that step is daunting and one that we may think about and even plan for a while, before we actually take the plunge and make it.journey 4

In my experience this is true of most things in life, but especially with losing weight. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have started this journey many times in the past with varying degrees of short-lived success. Each time I started again I would say to myself, ‘You’re going to do it this time!!’ And I would mean it, but if I was honest with myself, deep down I didn’t really believe it and if I was to be truly honest I always left a back door open just a bit, so the failure this time wouldn’t hurt so much or come as a surprise.

Before I embarked on my journey this time, I was going through some kind of rebellion against what was actually happening. I knew I was overweight, unfit and at risk, but I pushed against it. I remember feeling resentment and thinking to myself, I don’t care!! I remember eating ridiculous amounts of food to the point of feeling sick, to almost test that I could. I truly believe it was a form of self-harming and definitely self-loathing. Even though I was saying to myself ‘I didn’t care’ I did, as I felt terrible inside. I would describe this as ‘feeling black’ like the tar that encases a smokers lungs, I was consumed from within with the blackness.

However taking that first step is and was an important one for me and worth the effort, as I found out this time around.

For me it was a combination of things that finally pushed me into action. As I shared in my first post, one of these was the truly horrible picture me of my at my son’s tea party. But there were other underlying things that contributed too. At that point I felt utterly down, in fact I would say I had hit rock bottom. None of my clothes fit me anymore, I hated the way I looked, I only had mirrors that were shoulder height so I didn’t have to face the reality of how I actually looked and at my true size. And I felt physically ill.

Any form of movement never mind exercise was a tremendous effort and I even found walking up my stairs at home a challenge. It had reached the point that I had to pause half way up them as it was such an effort and I was labouring for breath by the time I had dragged myself to the top. I remember standing, puffing, on our landing at the top of the stairs, thinking to myself, as my heart physically pounded against my chest, I’m going to die if I don’t do something about this!

It was at that precise moment and I can remember it clearly, that I thought to myself, I’m going to change my situation. I remember is was an incredibly emotional moment, I actually had tears in my eyes, but I also felt an absolute determination to sort it out!

But how would I do this? Where would I begin? I had such a mountain to climb and I’d tried so many diets before and none of them had worked longer than a few week. What could I do that was any different this time?

Well, what I did was sit down and have an honest chat with my husband and explained how I was feeling and that I wanted to finally tackle the issue that everyone else could see but me.

SDC11102I have to say that this was one of the most difficult conversations that I’ve ever had and it was daunting, but worth it. Rob was totally understanding and looked relieved that I was speaking about it. He said had been really concerned, but couldn’t broach the subject with me as it always led to an argument with me becoming upset and him feeling terrible for raising it in the first place.

It turned out to be the best conversation I could have had, as he was on my side and more importantly now by my side. This was the first step in building my arsenal of support, which I’ll look at in more detail in future posts.

We worked out a simple plan of action in what we were going to do to make a start, which included finding and me going to a local slimming group and beginning (as a family) to follow a healthy eating plan.

I found a local group and I remember the night of the first class, I was terrified of going in. But I didn’t want anyone else involved at that point, as my success was important to me. I didn’t want any extra pressure, however well meaning, to knock the precious amount of resolve I’d managed to muster. So I went it alone and it was so difficult.

step forwards quoteI remember walking in and seeing literally dozens of people milling about, chatting and waiting to get weighed. I was the biggest person there and it took all my strength not to turn around and walk back out of the door and run back to the comfort of home and the ‘safety’ of my known, even if somewhat, dismal routine, but I didn’t.

I was greeted by the group leader and warmly welcomed, got myself a coffee and sat in a smaller group of other new people and listened about what the plan and ethos of the group was. Then sat through the group session, known as ‘image therapy’, where people talked through their successes, shared tips for people who was struggling or who had challenges coming up and supported people who had had a gain.

The atmosphere was so warm, friendly and supportive, there was no judgement or recrimination, no one said, well you shouldn’t have had that or you should try harder. Instead they focused more on the positives and in planning for the future and success. This was a new thing on me, as like most of us, I was my own worst critic, usually making disparaging remakes to myself, always ready to focus on the 10% negative and forget about the 90% positive. Little did I know that with a bit of help and practise this would also become my way of living or more accurately losing.

I remember sitting through that first group in a bit of a daze, but also with a sense of dread, as I knew that at the end of the session the new members were added to the system and weighed. This weighed heavy on me, as I had no idea how heavy I had become but I knew it was bad. I worried that the scales wouldn’t register my weight. It had been a long time since my GP scales tracked my weight, maybe this would be the same. How embarrassing would it be in front of everyone, if they didn’t…

Of course this was an unfounded fear, but a real one to me. It turned out at the end of the class, no one except the group leader knew what I weighed and that the scales took way above what I weighed, as it was a specialist slimming group. How rubbish would it be if their equipment wasn’t up to the job!

However the act of getting weighed was a traumatic one and I couldn’t believe how heavy I had become. No wonder I was struggling to walk and climb stairs, no wonder I was breathless and feeling so ill! That moment hardened my resolve to finally get this sorted out once and for all. I remember saying to the group leader, “I’m in this for the long haul, this is it, I’m going to change”.

scalepic

I left the group that night feeling physically sick and burst into tears as soon as I got in the car.

However I left that night not only armed with a set of books, but with a newly set determination to get my life back!!!

When I got home, I told Rob all about it and shared my experience and we both agreed to read everything and give this our all, 100%

I read everything, felt truly motivated and inspired and then went to follow the plan for the first day and realised that I had nothing to eat… My cupboards was full of premade jars and sauces for meals, my freezer was full of convenience foods that we’d been living on for the past however many years and I was faced with my first dilemma.

Do I eat what I have and start tomorrow, once I’d been shopping? Or be creative and start as I mean to go on?

I did the latter and rustled up something that fit the brief and went shopping the day after, filling our cupboards, shelves, fridge and freezer with fresh veg, meats, cans of tomatoes and passata, herbs and spices.

It felt really good to be doing something so positive, but also a little alien too. For example, I was used to having sandwiches for lunch with crisps and maybe a biscuit or chocolate bar. I didn’t relish the thought of having salads everyday forever, however on really looking at the choices and options I had, I discovered I had lots of them.

Instead of sticking with my tried and tested lunches, I started having baked potato, baked beans and salad. Homemade soup, there are endless variation of these. Mug shots with fruit, homemade crustless quiche with salad. I found that if I thought about it there were lots of choices I could make.Healthy alternative tea

That first week was a bit of challenge, as I had years of unhealthy and bad habits to unlearn and lots of new ones to develop and adopt. Apparently is takes at least 6 weeks to learn a habit, this fact became my mantra for the foreseeable future.

I learnt to think about things in advance, which meant that I could work out solutions and troubleshoot any challenges or potential blocks that may come up. Again I’ll go into this more in future posts.

That first week went by in a flash and when I went back to the group for the second time, I was feeling apprehensive as I had no idea how well I had done.

When I got to the scales, I could have fallen off them with surprise, I’d lost 9lb in one week, eating meals which felt pretty normal really. They were just cooked from scratch and made with a few tweaks like substituting oil with low cal spray oil and not eating lots of bread, and spreads, choosing other alternatives as I mentioned earlier.

As you can imagine I was delighted!

I had the choice at this point to set target for next week, which I did at 2lb. Setting targets gave me focus and something achievable to aim towards, rather than continually looking at the bigger picture and becoming overwhelmed by the scale of the journey.path image

This was also true for my overall target weight, you’re encouraged to set this at the start, however the scale of this was just too much for me to face at that stage and I decided to focus on smaller goals of 2 – 3 stones at a time, which I could reach then reset.

I’ve used this approach until very recently only now setting my final target, which I’m delighted to say is only 10lb away. I decided to stay with the group, as for me the structured and peer support approach was beneficial and has been central to my success.

However I’m aware that slimming groups aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and are actually only a part of the success I’ve experienced this time. I had previously attended a similar group on the same plan and had not been so successful. I will be looking at other aspects that I needed to consider and adopt in my next blog. Mainly around my past experiences and the demons that lurked there, hindering my many past attempts in different guises.

I hope you’ve found this post inspiring and that it helps you take that first important and scary step in starting your own journey. The first step is the hardest, but a wise teacher once said to me, in beginning to start something your half way to successfully completing it.

Good luck

Much love

 Marie x

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1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life