Those who read my blog regularly will know that over the past two years I have been on quite a journey. I decided I wanted to be the fittest and healthiest Mum to Bert, and so embarked on a fairly dramatic lifestyle change which has seen me lose 6 stone 8 lbs in total. I've slimmed down from a UK size 20 to a size 12 and am ultimately a much healthier and happier person because of it.
It struck me this weekend that I haven't written much on here about my weight loss, health, diet or exercise recently, and decided it was time for an update for those of you who are interested.
This weekend has been an important one for me - I have achieved two things (which I'll write about later in the post) that have caused me to end the weekend on a real high, feeling invincible, unstoppable and hugely proud of myself. I wanted to mark these awesome feelings with a blog post, and spread the positivity a little. So please, if you have the time to read on, indulge me...
Since achieving my weight loss I am asked regularly how I did it, what 'plan' I used - people often assuming I must have stuck to a specific eating plan, or meal-replacement scheme to achieve such a big loss. I feel it my duty to explain to anyone who is interested or will listen that there is another way - there is a way to lose weight and get fitter that means you can still have your cake and eat it too! It isn't a magic diet pill, or a hypnosis tape, it doesn't involve surgery or jaw wires, it is called balance and moderation. It worked for me, and will for you too.
At the beginning of my journey I understood that my diet needed a big overhaul - I began to calorie count and through that process I learnt to eat fairly clean, to exorcise moderation in all things, to avoid too much alcohol, to cook from scratch as much as possible - I now try to avoid overly processed foods, and I only eat homemade cakes/puddings (shop bought ones are always a disappointment!). In terms of exercise I have burned the majority of my calories through fast power walking on a daily basis, but I also threw into the mix some cross training (until my cross trainer broke).
Over the two years I have learnt so much about the science of food/nutrition and exercise - I understand that to gain/lose/maintain body weight you can follow a literal calories in vs calories burned equation, and simple calculations can help you to achieve your goals. I have also learned that not all calories are the same - of course you could choose to eat your daily calories in french fries and milkshakes alone, and in theory as long as you don't eat over your calorie goal you would be able to maintain/lose weight despite the unhealthy choices - but would you actually be healthy? No. Would you be playing havoc with your blood sugar? Yes. Obviously, it is much more complicated than that - but on the whole I now try to eat as many 'good calories' as I can, I try to fill up on vegetables, fruit nuts, good fats and complex carbohydrates instead of refined white starchy carbs like white bread and pasta. I try to keep a balance in all things - and the result has been successful weight loss, a huge improvement in fitness, and in turn a much happier and more balanced mind.
If anything has shocked me the most about my journey over the past two years, it has been how dramatically my mindset has changed, as well as my physicality. I am an infinitely more positive person since gaining control of my eating and exercise habits. Taking the guilt out of one of my biggest pleasures (food/eating/cooking/baking) has really been a lightbulb moment for me. I no longer beat myself up after 'binging' on rubbish foods or drink, and doing no exercise to combat it, I don't look in the mirror every day and feel despair and disgust (strong words, but I really did)...Instead I see someone who understands herself, embraces her passions, and works hard to ensure they don't have a negative effect on my health, my weight and ultimately my wellbeing.
What I've also learned is that being thinner won't fix everything - at one point during my bigger days I really had 'being thin' up on a pedestal - if I could shift the weight then everything negative in my life would be fixed. I imagined a perfect body, with the perfect life to go with it, and it just doesn't work like that. Instead, I've learnt that there will always be things about my body that I dislike, no matter my dress size or the number on the scale there will always be niggles I wish I could change...but I can't, and those quirks are what makes me who I am, they define me - and I have honestly learnt to embrace them. Sure, in an ideal world my feet would be smaller, my hair would be curly, my breasts pert and perky, I would have golden tanned skin, a cute button nose and legs up to my armpits - but it just isn't going to happen, and I'm not going to waste another 28 years of my life concentrating on stuff that just doesn't matter. Instead I hold in my hands perspective and priorities, I see clearly now that I am in control of my life - I pull the strings in my own puppet theatre, and if I want to achieve things and make them happen, then I can.
Interestingly, as I've lost the weight and exercised more what I want to achieve has changed - firstly my aims were small - I just wanted to get to a size 16, and then as I achieved that I realised I could take it further. My goals changed dress size by dress size, stone by stone, and pretty soon instead of just focussing on how I looked, what the scales said, and what number was in my clothes label, I began to also focus on how I felt - physically, mentally: how certain foods made me feel, how staying hydrated left me feeling much more alert and happier, made me eat less, which in turn helped me reach my weight goals. Instead of getting pleasure only from weight losses I started to get immense pleasure from smashing exercise targets too: the first time I walked over 5 miles, then 9, then 10 miles, achieving 'fastest mile' records, and losing inches rather than pounds all have become strong parts of my motivations which push me on each day. Two years on from when I embarked on this journey I'm left with a whole new way of life, a new set of priorities and goals - instead of just looking better and feeling more confident when I look in the mirror I also want to be physically stronger, fitter, I want to teach my son by being an incredible role model - I want him to see exercise, good nutrition, but a passion for food as the 'norm': ultimately, I want my family to live a long, happy, balanced life.
There's something that came with my experience of pregnancy and childbirth that gave me a huge sense of empowerment - I came away holding my gorgeous baby but also thinking 'holy shit look what my body is capable of'. I felt powerful, invincible and the moment Bert was born all my priorities shifted - it was like a smoke screen had been lifted and suddenly I could see that all of the minutiae I had been stressing over in the past were just not important anymore, and instead what I should be focussing on was my own health and happiness (not just for my sake, but for the sake of my family). I vowed that if I were to ever have another child I wouldn't be fat and unhealthy going into that pregnancy, I wouldn't be "high risk" because of my BMI, and I wouldn't be stuck in a rut of unhealthy living. Instead I would be a healthy weight, I would be fitter and my life would be full of balance - and I feel so good to have achieved that. I am now ready to think about expanding our family, I am hopeful and positive for the future - excited at the prospect of giving Bert a brother or sister one day soon (fingers crossed!)
Along with losing the weight and gaining fitness I have also gained a fresh and positive outlook on life - my glass is most definitely half full, I appreciate just how lucky I am, and I recognise how hard I work but also know to give myself a break sometimes. I cannot be everything to all people, I can only do my best. I try hard to put myself only around people that make me feel good, positive and happy, those who ultimately share my outlook, and whose bones are kind. I have spent too many years of my life being drained by negative people, and wasting energy trying to 'save' people that just don't want to be saved. I guess the point of all this splurging from my virtual mouth is that I want to impress a message, harsh as it may be, to anyone reading this who may be stuck in the same rut I was...
If you want to lose weight, do it.
If you want to change your career, do it.
If you'd like to settle down and meet the perfect partner for you, do it.
If you have health issues that need addressing, address them.
If you are in an unhappy relationship, make a change.
If you've always wanted to travel, book that ticket.
If you'd like to start a blog/write a book/learn a language, start it/write it/learn it.
Whatever it is, if you want it, I mean REALLY REALLY want it then you can absolutely make it happen!
And if the things you think you "want" are wholly and completely unachievable, let them go. Don't waste your precious time and energy chasing something you'll never achieve.
A few months ago I wrote this post about the frustration I was feeling regarding being a stay at home mum and no longer bringing in a wage, I felt desperate and like I had no options - I couldn't see the wood for the trees and felt so worried about what we were going to do for money. And then I gave myself a good talking to! I wanted to earn money, but I didn't want to go back to full time work, I wanted a job that enabled me to stay at home with Bert and I was the only one who could make it happen. So I had a good think about my skill set, I talked to friends and I explored avenues I had been toying with for years...I took the plunge, I started asking around, I saw gaps in the market and I jumped in with both feet, swallowed my fear, embraced my inner American and started to say "hey, I can do this", "I can help you with this", "I'm good at this" and began to see that my skill set is unique, and deserves a salary. Four months on and I am now working as a freelance Social Media Consultant and Business Development Manager, I have three wonderful clients, some great business associates, really interesting projects on the horizon, and I'm learning to fit it all into my life as a busy stay at home mum. It feels amazing to be working, to be creative, to be back in the 'grown up' world, to feel useful and to be learning and developing every day. It is quite an incredible breakthrough for me to finally realise that my skills are pay-check-worthy, and that I have a lot to offer the world. And it feels even more awesome to know that I went out there and made it happen. Of course encouragement and guidance from friends and family have helped no end, recommendations from great mates have gained me new clients, and for that I'm so thankful. But ultimately I am in the drivers seat of my own life and every day I'm learning the importance of self-belief, drive, kindness and positivity.
I truly believe that my shift to a balanced and moderate lifestyle has helped to achieve this balance in mind, and although of course I still have my off days, on the whole life is damn good and I feel lucky every day for what I've got. I'm no longer dwelling on what I don't have, and I'm working hard to celebrate and enjoy what I do.
In terms of my weight loss I have been successfully maintaining my weight at around the ten and a half stone mark for the past six months. I now understand what is 'enough' for me day to day in terms of calories, I enjoy treats and blow outs, but work hard to pull it back so that it doesn't have a huge impact on my weight overall. I still eat cake, I still enjoy fast food, I still drink gin and tonic - but I am moderate with it. And those times I'm not moderate with food I put in the extra work physically to burn it off - it is a delicate balance day to day. Overall I feel in control and that is the main thing. After a year and a half of continual weight loss, and six months maintaining that loss, I decided it was time to think about the future, and any new goals on my horizon.
Looking forward, ideally I would like to get to a final weight goal of ten stone. It would put me a good ten pounds into my 'healthy weight' category according to the BMI scale (10 stone 10 lbs for my height is classed as a 'healthy' weight, 10 stone 11lbs is classed as 'overweight'). I don't have a specific time frame to achieve this - I am ultimately happy and content at my current weight and dress size, but as with anything, there is always room for improvement, goal posts can always change.
I am aware that of course, if I am to fall pregnant again soon (fertility gods pending) then I will undoubtedly put weight on and all weight losses will be put on hold: but I feel confident that I have learned enough lessons to ensure that the amount of 'baby weight' I gain will be reasonable, moderate, and should be fairly easy to get off again once a new addition arrives.
Pretty much my mantra! My Mother In Law saw this on her holiday in Portugal & I just had to share it on here...
Aside from my future weight goals, and my hopes for growing our family, I also have goals in terms of fitness...
I'd like to return to the University of Bedfordshire to undergo a third Bod Pod test to fully understand my current physical make up (body fat percentage, muscle mass etc) - I have found my two previous experiences to be truly enlightening and would love to see what improvements I've made to body since my last round of testing back in July 2014.
I want to work on stepping up my activity levels and intensities. I have power walked for two years with some fabulous results, but now I'd like to also start to focus on becoming stronger, building muscle mass, and toning rather than just exercising for weight loss.
I took the first plunge into the world of more intense exercise this weekend when I took part in my first ever Park Run. Not only was it my first ever Park Run, it was my first run full stop. I'd never attempted running before the weekend - partly due to my own fears and reservations, partly due to my three slipped disc back issues. But I decided to give it a try - if it was agony I could always stop and lo and behold I completed a 5k run and pushed Bert in the buggy the whole way!! Did I run every single inch of it? No. I power walked when I needed to, I listened to my body and understood my own level of fitness - but I did manage my fastest ever mile (11 mins for those who are interested) and I completed 5k in 38 minutes and it felt INCREDIBLE.
No, I won't break any speed records for that time, but I didn't do it to break records or win medals - I did it as a personal challenge, a demon I needed to beat, something I needed to prove to myself. I no longer need to be afraid of exercise. I can do it. My body is incredible. And the more I do it, the better at it I will become - I will get faster, I will get stronger. My husband is a testament to this: two years ago he couldn't run for a bus - in May he ran a marathon in a brilliant time. Change can happen.
I will definitely do Park Run again, and I will only be in competition with myself. I would love to beat my times and continue to prove to myself that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. I'm hoping that my back will hold out - I'm going with the notion that my almost constant power walking isn't that different in terms of impact to a semi-regular 5k run, and I'm hoping that it may even help to ease my disc issues by improving my strength, building up my core muscles and improving my overall fitness...obviously if my back says otherwise I will have to rethink things, and that too is fine. Que sera.
5k Park Run fun!
Aside from completing my first 5k run this weekend, I also enjoyed a personal victory when I managed to fit into a UK size 10 vintage dress when browsing at a Vintage Fair in Bedford on Sunday. Although I didn't end up buying the dress, as the top half was a little too 'shoulder paddy' for my liking, I was chuffed to bits to have gotten into it easily. It wasn't made of super-stretchy material, it was a fairly fitted tea dress, and I got it on!! I didn't have to fight with the zip or wage a war with the seams, it just fitted. This was a big deal for me... A) Because I never imagined in a million years I would ever fit into a size 10 and B) because I have literally never been able to fit into a size 10 item of clothing ever before in my life! I'm not your average normal sized girl who put on a few stones in pregnancy, I have literally been fat/overweight since childhood. As a 13 year old I wore a size 16, so this size 10 tea dress was a big deal for me.
Do I consider myself to 'be' a size 10? No.
Am I closer to believing that this might one day be achievable? Yes.
Am I hell bent on being a size 10 come hell or high water? No.
I am happy in my own skin, and truly believe health, happiness and fitness levels are the most important thing. But I'm also human, vain and a lover of fashion - so of course the notion of achieving a 'perfect 10' in terms of both stones I weigh and dress size is a cool notion for me.
It's nice to know that it's a possibility for my future, it's a goal that is in sight.
The size 10 vintage tea dress I tried on at a Vintage Fair in Bedford today - excuse the toilets shot, it was the only place to try on the clothes!
This weekend has been a truly glorious one full to bursting with all of my favourite things I am left feeling so thankful, and so excited for what the future holds.
This weekend I am winning. The glass is overflowing and I have gotten the balance exactly right. It won't happen like that all of the time, and that's fine too. You've got to take the rough with the smooth after all.
We have spent the weekend as a family, we have had my lovely cousin Vicky to stay with us, and I have relished playing the role of 'hostess' - I do love to entertain. We have squeezed every last bit out of our weekend together and if I could pick a weekend to be my Groundhog Weekend then the one that just passed would be it.
Saturday and Sunday have seen me do my first 5k run, eat a delicious brunch at my favourite restaurant, bake two new-to-me recipes, cook a delicious dinner for us all, enjoy a couple of cheeky gin and tonics, I have had proper quality time with both Liam and Bert, I have crocheted, blogged, gone for a long walk with my boys, done some vintage shopping, eaten tea & cake, fed the ducks, caught up with friends and family on the phone, and even managed a smidgen of proper 'work' thrown in there for good measure.
I am excited for what next week will hold, and am feeling über-positive about the future.
Bert and I on our long walk today. He is my world, and the reason I push on to achieve my goals.