The latter half of December, the ‘holiday season’, Christmas and New Year bundled up within an 8-day time frame – the perfect time to binge and enjoy all of the delicious food, savory snacks, chocolate selections and alcohol one can consume!
Don’t hate yourself for it – relish it, revel in the freedom, the festivities, the familial and friendly dinners and outings before the old ‘new year, new me’ trope is splashed all across social media and openly exclaimed by the masses once 1st of January 2020 becomes a reality.
In the later years of my teens and my early twenties, I found myself to be the first person every year proclaiming change; a change in lifestyle, a change in outlook, but most of all, a change in eating habits. I’d stick to something for a week or two, eating healthier meals with a fruity snack in between whilst waking to the sound of my mother’s whistle, ready to accompany me to the gym.
I would initially enjoy it and take comfort in the fact that I was doing something positive but eventually, old habits die hard, and I found myself repeating a very familiar cycle. The Christmas/New Year binge eating merriment, not simply restricted to an 8-day period, but a way of life all year round!
I cannot lie and say I didn’t love it. I was easy, open to eating and drinking absolutely anything with no regards to my waistband, the number on a scale nor my health. Two poached eggs with three slices of buttered toast for breakfast? Why not! A Tesco meal deal lunch consisting of a cheese triple sandwich, prawn cocktail crisps and a 500ml bottle of Diet Coke? Delicious – especially when topping the cheese sandwich off with a layer of crisps. I’d also award myself three chocolate bars whilst walking the 25 minutes’ home from work every day. Finally, a double helping of whatever dinner was on the table that evening? What a great way to polish off the day!
The weekends were even more indulgent; dinner outings with friends where I would normally order a three-course meal, egging on my companions to do the same or nights out spent pre-drinking with Sailor Jerry spiced rum mixed with Coke before heading to bars where I would polish off four or five sugary cocktails.
When it came to eating and drinking, my body was a free-for-all; no restrictions, no limitations, no calorie counting. I was a girl possessed, controlled by consumption, getting fulfilment and joy out of food and drink.
My unhealthy relationship with food got a giant kick start once I left the family home and went to university. The ‘can’t be arsed’ attitude was strong in this one; I’d always put off cooking dinner in favour of the chippy down the street or a frozen pizza from the Sainsbury’s local downstairs.
On the odd occasion I would cook dinner, it would consist of either a pan-sized serving of spaghetti carbonara or a plate half laden with rice, half covered with lamb curry, a jar of which can feed a four-person family or cover dinner for an individual for 4 days but would be demolished by me in 2.
My problem, undoubtedly, was portion control. At university, I allowed myself to overeat on a daily basis, unknowingly stretching my stomach to such an excess that I’d rarely feel full. For six years, I continued to overeat, enjoying my food so much whilst ignoring the girth of my waist, and most importantly, the detriment of my health and wellbeing.
Another thing I would ignore, although it was extremely hard to do so, were the comments and jibes I would get from strangers. “You’re the size of a house!”, “How much do you pack away?” and “Fat (insert expletive here)” were the more common slurs thrown my way. Admittedly, my weight problem was my own fault, I know that, I get it. But does that give people the right to insult me? Does that mean people can freely roam about spitting vitriol to people they don’t know, making comments about their bodies, their weight, their appearance without actually knowing what that person has been through in their life or what medical conditions they may have?
The immensity of my problem came to a head after an evening with friends in London back in September 2016. We had attended a street food festival, tried a number of different dishes, drank a few beverages and said our goodbyes to catch a night’s sleep before reconvening the next day.
I’d opted to stay in a hostel in the Shoreditch area. I arrived at my destination and was fumbling for my key to get indoors when a group of lads walked past. I didn’t clock that I was the subject of their conversation until one of them exclaimed “Eurgh… not that fat bitch!”. I turned to see them all looking at me and I felt humiliated, I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
It was at exactly that moment that I decided enough was enough.
I designed my plan of attack on the train back to Manchester the next day. I researched healthy salad recipes, ordered lunch boxes and a water bottle to take to work with me and made a commitment to myself that I would start walking to and from work.
The beginning of my journey was tough. I’d made a decision to reduce my daily calorie intake from 3000+ to around 1500. I’d start my day off with a bowl of warm porridge, topped with honey, fresh fruit and flax seeds. I’d enjoy a snack a couple of hours later, usually nuts, a piece of fruit or a protein bar before tucking in to a homemade salad at about 12:30pm (I can do a future post about the more delicious salads I would make – let me know if anyone would like to learn more in the comments :)).
A similar snack followed in the afternoon before a soup dinner at about 6pm accompanied by a bread roll. I also started walking the two miles to work and back every day, initially taking me over an hour with at least three stops along the way. It sounds drastic, it seems extreme and I’m not saying everyone who wants to lose weight and see change has to follow suit but it is what I needed to do to tackle my weight.
I dropped three stone during the first two months; my face became more structured, my clothes more loose, my walking speed increased whilst my lust and cravings for unhealthy food grew less powerful. The visual and physical changes I was witnessing in myself proved to be more than enough drive for me to continue. So I did and I upped the ante.
Before my porridge, I introduced weight lifting and squat workouts (Blogilates ‘Call Me Maybe’ squat challenge, easily found on YouTube, was my normal go to), alternating between different focus muscle groups each day. I continued walking to work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, gradually shaving minutes off the time it took whilst opting to cycle on Tuesdays and Thursdays using the Strava app to challenge myself and attain new personal bests every week.
By June 2017, I was down seven and a half stone. My family and I were invited to a wedding and I had ordered a floaty pink number, adorned with flowers and beading along with a pair of silver, strappy stiletto heels. I curled my newly cut hair, applied my all-time favourite cat eye makeup and fully enjoyed the experience of feeling like a very pretty girl for the day. I’d catch sight of myself in mirrors or windows around the venue and feel very much surprised by the reflection staring back at me. It was a wonderful feeling and a milestone moment.
A year after my journey began, in September 2017, I had lost a total of 9 stone. I was able to buy skirts and dresses I’d never considered wearing, my tastes had changed, my mood was elevated, I felt so extremely happy and, more importantly, healthy!
I loosened the reigns on myself and the strictness of my regime after that first year. To this day I still walk everywhere and anywhere, taking pride in seeing an average weekly step count of 80,000 or more. I enjoy hiking the many mountains of Busan; I love the climb up to the top of a mountain, the feeling of using my own body to attain a great height and a wonderful perspective of a city I love.
I do still watch what I eat but I do not calorie count nor partake in any of the numerous fad diets we hear so much about in the media. I also allow myself treats, not depriving myself of my favourite foods and drinks such as a burger and chips, a pizza, a hot chocolate on a cold day or popcorn when I go to the cinema.
My new eating lifestyle is based off the saying everything in moderation and it has proven to be key. Three full years after beginning my journey, I reached the goal I set back in September 2016 in September 2019.
Here are the figures:
Start weight: 23 stone / 322 pounds / 146kg
Start dress size: 26 (UK)
End weight: 11 stone 10 pounds / 164 pounds / 74.3kg
End dress size: 12 (UK)
I’ll have some people thinking “Oooooh she is still not at the weight she should be for her height/at her age!” etcetera, etcetera. I honestly thank you for your concern, but as it is based on my body and how I feel, I can say that I am extremely comfortable with my current statistics and see no need for any further change.
My goal now is maintenance. I aim to continue living my life as healthily as possible, both mentally and physically. I hope I am able to inspire people, those who would like to lose weight, others who may need some encouragement to reach a different goal, to never lose hope, always keep going and ultimately enjoy life to the fullest.
You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it 🙂