Since I gave up competitive swimming at 16 – I was a National champion and had a TV appearance on Tomorrow’s World and Grandstand (yeah, I know!) – my super speedy athlete’s metabolism, used to the 5am swimming sessions and healthy lifestyle, was abruptly sabotaged by late night partying, mid-day rising, junk food and dry Martini and lemondes. Within a few months of no pool action, my hard earned six pack had deflated and my thighs expanded and I found it hard to deal with. The body that had been a treasured temple was quickly becoming a flabby bedsit and I didn’t know then, but that excess weight that engulfed my body and that I’d never had before, was going to plague me for years and years to come…
Of course, I know I’m not alone in being a bit over weight; I don’t think I know anybody who hasn’t been on a weight reduction diet at some point in their life, so unless you’re incredibly blessed with super slim genes or you’re Elle McPherson, most of us know what it’s like to carry a few extra pounds. For me, that extra 10-14lbs has been buzzing around my body like a flipping annoying mosquito!
There has been times when, after extreme dieting and weeks of living in a lettuce induced nightmare, I’ve dropped the excess weight and looked fabulous – but I’ve felt miserable and just not myself. What is the point of life if you can’t share a glass of fizzy or two with friends and a piece of cake when you’re craving it? It took years to realise it, but for me and my body, starving isn’t the way to go.
But I couldn’t forget those times when I’d experienced an almost unworldly, blissful state when slipping onto a pair of size 10 jeans – with no love handle overhang. I’m sorry, shoot me if you must, but when Kate Moss uttered those much harangued words ‘Nothing tastes better than skinny feels’ well, in those moments of bliss, I would have to say, she had a point…but then again, I was probably delirious with hunger! And the starvation good feels are all but fleeting.
Even the popular and lifechanging (for many) 5:2 didn’t work for me – I was sad, depressed and couldn’t cope with normal, every day tasks on the fasting days. It just wasn’t for me. When friends become almost evangelical about this weightloss method and I saw the pounds dropping off them, I excitedly joined in, but I’d lose 3lbs on a fast day and put on an extra 1lb on the non-fast days! Why me?
Please don’t get me wrong; I can look at women of all shapes and sizes and truly see their gorgeousness and vitality whether they’re a size 20 plus or a zero – if she exudes the confidence and self assurance that we all covet. And there’s the crux. Sexiness and beauty truly are qualities within us – something we can exude in bucket loads – if we genuinely feel it ourselves, whatever our outward appearance. My case in point: How many of us know a gorgeous woman who has so much going for her – whether it’s intelligence, a great job, a wonderful figure or lovely looks, but she doesn’t sparkle because she doesn’t feel it in herself. So I know, without a doubt, that feeling good and looking fabulous has to initially come from within.
I realise I have a lot going for me and I don’t dislike or like myself any more or less whatever size I am. It’s just that personally, I feel better and happier at a size 12 than a size 14/16. So when I first started writing a post about wanting to lose weight, I was a bit worried because I know I’m not that big – a size 14 and I didn’t want to sound petty. So, I can relate to the honesty of Vicki over at Honest Mum who, at a size 12, is happiest with her body at a size 10. Her words here sum it up for me:
“I wasn’t sure whether to blog about how I feel but I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t be open or admit to not being happy with their weight for fear of others silencing their concerns. It’s not truthful or realistic to be positive about your body 24/7 and while yes we must work on self-confidence and not let body and perceived standards of beauty influence us, they inevitably will and do.” You can read the rest of her inspiring post by clicking here.
So now, at the age of almost 49, what have I learnt about my size and shape over the years? I know that I will not starve or try any more fad diets/slimming pills, ridiculous weight loss tricks (I’ve done all of them, I tell you, all of them) to reach my desired body goals. I’m too long in the tooth for fads and unhappy, unrealistic slimming regimes.
I was delighted to recently be asked to quote my views on body shape as we age, in a collaboration with Dove and theTelegraph, and yes, my body goals have definitely changed over the years; more important to me than being super slim, is that I feel strong, toned, fit and healthy. So, I am not yearning for unrealistic perfection but just to have the best body for me – that I feel comfortable in. And I think I’m finally getting there!
What’s working for me now is to eat very little during the day. I find that if I have a large breakfast, it seems to trigger my hunger and I want to carry on eating non-stop. I honestly sometimes think I share my Labrador’s gluttony gene! So, instead of breakfast and lunch, I have lots of water, herb teas and a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit when hunger strikes and then, I have a decent sized, nutritionally balanced meal – with a small treat (usually a bowl of ice-cream or chocolate bar) for dinner. I’m probably eating around 1500-1800 calories a day, which I feel fine with. I’ve noticed I have more energy and feel a lot less sluggish than when I eat my old diet of three large meals a day with lots of snacks in-between!
At weekends, I’m more relaxed and eat and drink what I feel like but still trying to be mindful of not pigging out too much. If I do though, I rein it in the following week. So important for me is to combine healthy eating with exercise – the feel-good benefits of which I can never rate highly enough. And my exercise of choice is anything that burns calories while making me happy, such as long walks with the dog, dancing, Zumba, being ‘personal trained’ by my eldest, super fit daughter and running up and down the stairs singing to myself!
By dropping all the things I feel I should be doing and incorporating things into my diet and exercise regime that I actually like to do and which work for me, really add to my life and make me happy. This means I am more likely to stick to them! So far, so good – I’ve dropped half a stone in a month and I’m taking it slowly and making sure it’s a lifestyle choice that I’m in for the longhaul rather than a fly-by night slimming scheme that makes me miserable!
Have you got any fabulous, happy-making health and diet tips? I’d love you to share them with me 🙂