I was running, going to the Gym but still not losing weight! Could re-thinking my diet lead to the weight loss results I wanted?
My fitness journey started in September 2014, after nearly 12 months my focus begin to shift to the dreaded issue of my weight. Although I’d lost a few pound it was nowhere near the weight loss target I’d set myself.
Able to run 5km? Yep, was managing 3 times a week now
Joined a gym & going regularly? Yep, was going a couple of times a week, also managed the occasional class! That was a first for me, especially since having the kids.
I’d stuck at it, had overcome barriers; keeping fit and active was now second nature and part of my weekly routine.
So why wasn’t I losing any weight?
Ok I’d lost a few pounds when I’d started exercising again but I’d toned up more and so wasn’t wobbling as much. OK so that was a bonus; I felt fitter and maybe more active than a lot of women my age. But standing on the scales I was still 2 stone overweight and a couple of dress sizes bigger than I was entirely happy with.
This started to de-motivate me; what was the point?
I had felt I’d reviewed my diet. I tried to be good in the week and thought in general I succeeded there. I’d stopped drinking week nights a long time ago although there was the odd re-lapse or mid week catch up with friends. Yes I did indulge at weekends, particularly on the gin & prosecco side of things, liked the odd bar of chocolate (fruit & nut in my head did count as part of my five a day). You’ve got to have some enjoyment in life! Right?
I’d mentioned my frustrations to a work colleague concerning lack of weight loss. He advocated that sustainable, healthy weight loss is not always down to either exclusively diet or exercise but a combination of the both. Sounded logical but he went on to say (here’s the sting) its 80% diet & 20% exercise. In my head that was simply not fair! I’m running, I’m going to the gym, I’m doing a lot more than a lot of people I know! Blah, blah, blah!
So I soldiered on. Even ‘Googled’ this 80/20 principle (this is not to be confused with the 80/20 diet although I may blog about that at some point) and yes there were supporters but also those that dismissed this theory. I naturally sided with the ‘this is utter nonsense’ team. However, soldiering on meant I started to run less frequently and going to the gym started to lose it’s appeal. My motivation was virtually non-existent.
My holiday was looming, time for action
Fast forward to the beginning of August 2014. It was 3 weeks until my holiday. Destination Cornwall; North Atlantic Coast to be precise. So no pressure to wear a bikini (Yeah right), thankfully none of this getting beach body ready is called for on Mawgan Porth Beach but I was dreading the prospect of wearing shorts. That was all the motivation I needed; I was taking control of this and doing something about it. In the great scheme of things 3 weeks isn’t very long. So I decided to focus more on what I ate and whilst still sticking to a fitness routine. I cut out all junk, stopped eating what was left on the kids plates at supper time (that was hard, it took all the willpower I could muster when youngest child left 2 untouched fish fingers on her plate one evening), kept away from the Prosecco, allowed myself a couple of gins on the Saturday night and switched to dark chocolate and fruit when I needed my sugar fix.
With a re-ignited enthusiasm for exercise, by the end of the 3 weeks I managed to lose 10lbs. I still didn’t feel entirely comfortable about donning a pair of shorts on holiday but felt happy with myself for sticking to my diet and seeing a positive result for my endeavours. During this time I didn’t starve myself, just focused on eating healthy and not snacking for the sake of it; the weight loss kind of happened naturally
I hated to admit it but for me maybe there was some substance in the 80% Diet 20% Exercise Principle. Yes I did put a few pounds back on whilst on holiday but that was to be expected, after all you go on holiday to kick back and enjoy yourself! Right? However having lost weight pre-holiday when I came back I was determined to carry on with my diet and fitness goals.
9 Months on …
From making the decision to re-think my diet it took me 9 months to shed 2 stone. At times it definitely wasn’t easy and now I’m now at that stage of maintaining my new weight; which I think to some degree can be harder than losing weight in the first place. Through willpower, becoming more aware of what a healthy diet should consist of I’ve radically changed my diet and approach to food and I exercise also. Developing a love of free weights has been a big thing for me. Not only do I get a buzz out of the fact I can now dead lift more than my own body weight but I know muscle burns more calories than fat. So it’s kind of a bonus for me!
Looking back …
Upon reflection, I was guilty of underestimating what I ate and overestimating the amount of calories I burnt when I exercised. I think a lot of us do that.
Accepting the 80/20 principle meant that I focused more on what I ate instead of thinking just exercise alone would help me when it came to weight loss. I think before this I tended to fixate on trying to burn-off what I ate and that frankly got me nowhere; I ditched the mind-set that if I’d eaten a Mars Bar all I had to do was go for a run or trip to the gym!
Eating at more regular intervals and making healthier choices
I also kept a Food Diary for a couple of months; this was one of the tips I got from one of the Personal Trainers at my Gym. It exposed not only what I ate but also my eating patterns. I tended not to eat regularly; sometimes not really eating at all in the day then would binge on rubbish because I was so hungry. I do struggle with breakfast and I am trying to overcome that but I now eat it at more regular intervals throughout the day.
I also removed refined white carbs from my diet and opted for complex carbs (sweet potato, brown basmati rice, oats) and upped my protein so I felt fuller for longer. Where possible cooked from scratch and avoided adding anything high in sugar. Ironically I now steer clear of anything ‘low fat’ as the sugar levels can be quite high. I do intend to blog more about my diet but that will be in another post.
Drinking more water
Making more of an effort to drink more water has probably helped. Obviously we all know there are many benefits but apparently it can speed up your metabolism; I’ll definitely take that benefit! I’ve also learnt that sometimes my hunger cravings aren’t actually hunger cravings and are possibly down to thirst. So if I do start to feel hungry I’ll drink a glass of water first, to see if the cravings subside and half of the time they do!
A positive change of attitude when it comes to what I eat
Going forward, I continue to maintain for me what is a healthy weight. Yes I do indulge at weekends but I perhaps make more sensible choices about what I eat when I am out and also normally only drink alcohol one night of the weekend. In the past when I have been ‘good’ in the week I’ve undone all my good work by over indulging and eating complete rubbish at the weekend; any calorie deficit created turning into a surplus. One huge positive is that I have got my children into eating a healthier diet; sweet potato fries and ‘courgetti spaghetti’ are flavour of the month with them! However my love of all things chilli related isn’t quite met with the same enthusiasm, but I’m slowly getting my way with that!
By re-evaluating my diet I’ve found:
- I’ve lost weight at a healthy rate and kept it off
- The 80% diet/20% exercise principle is a lifestyle change and not a quick fix
- Eating the right foods have meant I have more energy and stamina when it working out
- I’ve fallen back in love with food and enjoy cooking healthier meals
- I’ve ditched the takeaways and ready meals in favour of cooking from scratch
- I’ve made an effort to eat clean and actually enjoy it in the process
- I’ve got my family into eating a much healthier diet and I feel they have benefited from it as well
- When I indulge I make smarter choices and don’t go on a huge binge like I’ve done in the past
- Understand that starving myself generally is usually a trigger for me to binge
Yes incorporating the 80% diet, 20% exercise into my lifestyle has contributed greatly to my weight loss but diet-wise it wasn’t about restricting calories it was about eating the right foods so making it a sustainable lifestyle choice. However, one criticism of the 80/20 principle is that it rather down plays the exercise element. Diet alone would not have toned up my wobbly bits, built muscle that encouraged a higher metabolism, provided health benefits such as increased bone density, a stronger heart and immune system.
Most of all, I now realise that you can’t out exercise a bad diet.