At the start of 2011 I made a rash declaration, that I would lose 25lbs by Easter. I failed.
Although I did lose 15lbs in the first few months of the year, it was as though I then plateaued, with no means or will to reach the summit. I felt healthier and happier, my clothes fitted better, what was the problem?
Then I had a health check at our local surgery, where they genuinely seemed quite impressed. My stats were much improved from the start of the year – more lean muscle mass, less fat, lower blood pressure, better aerobic capacity, and so on. But my cholesterol remained stubbornly high. If anything, it was higher than a couple of years ago. Apparently it’s not enough to put me into any kind of risk category, but it still concerned me. My Dad and indeed Rachel’s Dad both have a history of heart disease, and this figure of 7.1 was the slowly-increasing blot on an otherwise clean bill of health.
And all the while in recent times I’ve been feeling my age. First my Achilles and then this year my 42-year-old hip told me that any lingering ambitions towards running should be seriously reined in. My hamstrings and hips frequently ache, usually not much more than a dull background stiffness, but sometimes quite a bit more. Every time I see cosmetic ads about the visible signs of aging, I can only think that the invisible signs are the ones we need to worry about…
A couple of months ago, Rachel and a couple of friends decided they wanted to take collective charge of their own fitness and health. Rather than pouring money into clubs like Weight Watchers or Slimming World, they started using a free fitness/diet website. Multiple studies have indicated that the simple act of keeping an honest and comprehensive (admittedly two very crucial descriptors) food diary significantly improves weight loss over and above any other initiatives. This website and its very usable mobile version has kept them focused.
Record all your food (calories in) and your exercise/activity (calories out). And if you consistently eat fewer calories than your body burns off by just doing stuff, you will lose weight. Rachel and her friends meet every week for a chat and put a couple of pounds into their communal jar. They each know the others’ goals (weight loss, fitness etc) and as such can ‘reward’ themselves when they achieve their goals.
I’ve become a sort-of unofficial member of this club, and since October I’ve lost a further 10lbs. Portions have got smaller. I consciously park further from my office, so that I have a steep hill to climb when I go back to my car at the end of the day, and go to the gym two or three times each week. There’s no complicated diet plans involved, just eating less and moving more, most days. As 2o11 comes to an end, I have lost 25lbs, and it feels terrific. People have commented. I fasten my belts two notches tighter, shirts that hung loose are now tucked in, trousers that were uncomfortable now feel loose. I need some new clothes.
I’ll be honest, in the last week or so the inevitable Christmas period of gourmet family gatherings have taken their toll. I like cheese and spiced ham and bread sauce and cheese and roast potatoes and cheese, sometimes on the same plate with a large glass of three of wine. At the same time as this gluttony, I’ve been pretty inactive: the most challenging activity has been carrying piles of plates and food from the kitchen to the table.
But I’ve started this weight gain from a far lower base. I still weigh 2olbs lighter than 12 months ago, and I feel confident I can lose this additional Christmas weight. Importantly, I’ve put on weight through ‘abnormal’ behaviour, rather than the other way around. In 2011 my ‘normal’ lifestyle has evolved into something that includes regular exercise and smaller portions at mealtimes. Our everyday diet still includes cheese, eggs, meat and fish. It doesn’t feel like I’m depriving myself. I still enjoy a good blow-out dinner party, or a takeaway, or a few pints. I know that I have to make an effort to be healthy, because I’m worth it.
The visible signs of aging that matter aren’t wrinkles around the eyes. I can make some difference to them with a good diet, plenty of water, exercise and sleep. More important was my bulging waistline, the silent creep into larger sizes, a long-term acceptance that I can’t move like I used to.
Forgive me for shoe-horning the wonderful Matilda! musical into everything, but there are lines that make so much sense…
…just because you find that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it,
If you always take it on the chin and wear it nothing will change…
Don’t make a rubbish resolution next weekend that won’t make a difference. Last year I tried to be bold, and only partially succeeded. But because my resolution was about things that really matter, my health, well-being and self-esteem, I didn’t shrug off the failure.