We all do it. It gets to April. There's a hint that summer is fast approaching. The Easter school break comes and goes; and suddenly, the next big school holiday is the summer one. It's time for heading to the beach and baring that skin in a swim suit. Or bather. Or cozzie. Or bikini. Or any number of other terms for the Lycra filled, no holds barred, shows every blemish and roll of flesh - piece of material that we all insist on wearing.
I'm doing it now; the assessing; not the holidaying. I am sitting here with my entire wardrobe flashing through my brain, knowing I've put too much weight on over the last month due to consumption of at least two chocolate bars a day. I know that I can halt the gradual weight increase by cutting back to my usual one bar of chocolate per day. And I also know, that if I want to loose any weight, I'm going to have to cut out the chocolate all together; remember not to replace it with cakes and biscuits thinking they won't count; and I'll actually have to do some exercise.
I've always said I don't do diets. I don't. Not fad diets anyway. All the methods my friends use: Atkins, Dukan, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley, Weight Watchers. I have heard about them all. I've watched people use them, loose weight, stop the diet, and throw the weight all back on again, until they, once again, start the diet, loose it all, and repeat the process in a yo yo fashion.
If you are happy with the yo yo weight management system, then that's fine. Loose the weight for the summer, put it all on again over winter. Ensure to have two separate wardrobes.
Put I'm not happy with that. I don't want to spend half the year craving food and stopping myself have eating what I love. Life's too short. Besides; that doesn't feel like a healthy long lasting approach to looking and feeling good.
So here's my 'diet'. Here's what I do when I feel I have over indulged for a while and I need to get back on track.
There are two stages:
1. Halt the weight increase.
That means I may feel a little hungry to start with. My stomach will have expanded to accommodate my large food intact, so now I need to teach it to shrink a little again. I need to do the following things:
- Cut back on the sweet stuff. Recognising that if I've already had a bar of chocolate today I really don't need another. This doesn't mean I can't. It means I take a second to remember that I am trying to adjust my eating habits slightly and make the choice then.
- Making a few more sensible choices. Picking lighter or smaller chocolate bars when I do indulge. Or swapping for a biscuit (just one if I can manage it)
- Eating a few more omelettes (because they fill you up for longer and reduce snacking).
- Drinking more water; particularly before and during meals. Again because the water fills you up (reducing that hungry feeling) and dehydration is a major cause of bloating. Who needs bloating on top of the bulge?
2. Encourage the weight to fall off
Continuing with the list above, I'll also add these things in:
- Have soup for lunch at least once a week. This fills you up (liquid does so more than solids) and thus reduces snacking.
- Cut back on alcohol. I love wine; but it is full of empty calories; so I try and have only one cherished glass at a time, with a maximum of one bottle per week if I am trying to loose weight.
- Increase the exercise. That means anything from walking to school as often as is feasible, to playing chase with the girls in the garden, to getting out to the gym, the local swimming pool, out on a bike or to a dance or Zumba class. For my review of Zumba click here.
- Exercise even whilst doing other tasks. There are stretches you can do whilst getting the dinner ready, arm toning you can do for 3 minutes before you settle down to watch the TV (or even during the adverts!) and bottom toning exercises you can do whilst cleaning your teeth (I always do this! Check out how easy it is here)
- And always, always have breakfast. There's an old saying which goes something like; "breakfast like a King; lunch like a Lord and dine like a pauper". The idea is that you need the most calories and energy first thing in the morning to get you going, but hardly need any calories to get through the final 2 or 3 hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime. So eat more at the start of the day to enable yourself to have time to use it up and burn it off. I always have cereal for breakfast; but I've noticed that if I add half a banana to it, in slices, I don't get hungry mid morning.
Use smaller plates. It sounds crazy but really does work.
I am convinced that one of the prime reasons for women putting on weight when they settle down and get married (or move in with a partner) is that they begin to eat all their meals with a man. Men need more calories on average. They eat bigger portions as a result. If you use the same plate size as them; you'll end up eating just as much. Which is, of course, too much for you.*
Use a smaller plate. You won't even notice the food you've not eaten. If you are anything like me you'll want to clear the plate. My upbringing means my body is comfortable that it's finished it's meal when the plate is empty; regardless of how large, or small, the plate was. I am used to clearing my plate, and we didn't have second helpings of the main course when I was growing up. There just wasn't any need for making more food that was required.
One final word of advice
If you are trying to lose weight, remember this. To lose weight you have to use up more calories than you consume. You know this; don't even pretend you don't! You know also that it will involve feeling hungry to start with, whilst your body adjusts to smaller portions. This is the stage where you have to be mentally strong and remember why you are doing it.
And once you get to your ideal weight the battle isn't over. Now you need to learn what level of food and exercise you need to adjust to, to maintain a static weight.
So don't do 'A' diet. Do 'YOUR' diet. Find your balance. Enjoy your food. Enjoy your exercise. Enjoy your life.
That, ladies, is my secret.
I am 5 foot six inches tall and a UK size 12 (US 10 - conversion chart here) usually. This week I am a UK size 14 (US 12). I weigh 11 stone 5 pounds (72.12kg - conversion chart here) at the moment. I am aiming for 11 stone for a comfortable size 12, but really I'll be happier when I can run around the garden for more than 5 minutes without getting tired.
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