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A Lucky Break

Thursday, December 26, 2013

In the run-up to Christmas of 2010 I managed to break my ankle.

I'd love to be able to say I did it whilst doing something a bit adventurous or exotic like skiing in the Alps or abseiling down a cliff-face, but the mundane truth is I did it slipping up on the ice on my own front path. Ironically whilst walking out to the gate to greet my just-arrived brother and his family and to warn them to mind their step on the path as it was a bit slippery. Well if you're going to prat-fall in your own front garden who better to do it in front of than your family, especially when your brother's a nurse.

Anyway, a trip to A&E and an x-ray later there I was with a nice cosy below-knee cast on my left leg. Actually it was a very cold winter by English standards so the the cast really did feel rather cosy - I think my right leg was a little jealous. 

Even at the time I took the view that if I absolutely positively HAD to break my ankle I'd picked the right time to do it. While other poor souls were struggling into work through the kind of ice and snow that we rarely see in my part of  England, I was tucked up in the warm with a cup of tea catching up on all the books I'd been promising myself I'd read.

However, in a roundabout sort of a away the experience turned out to have an even shinier silver lining than I initially thought because it led to me putting on a fair bit of weight.

Now I appreciate that on the face of it that hardly sounds like a good thing, but bear with me. 

At the time all this happened I was forty-two, and through no virtue of my own had never been overweight. And this really was due entirely to dumb luck, essentially a combination of fortunate genetics (my family all tend towards fast metabolisms and being slender) and my mum (another nurse, and a pediatric specialist) getting me off to a good start with what she fed me as a child. 

Then for the next twenty years or so I always ended up working in places that were close to where I lived and so my commute to work consisted of a walk rather than catching the bus or driving. I had no idea at the time how much that bit of daily moderate exercise contributed to me being able to eat what I fancied without worrying about any consequences for my weight. 

As is sadly so often the case with good luck I took it entirely for granted and didn't really think about my weight at all beyond feeling that as long as my clothes fitted it wasn't worth worrying about. I didn't even own a set of scales and for most of my twenties and thirties could not have told you what I weighed.

But that insouciance came back to bite me in the backside when I hit my forties.

In my late thirties I moved home and job, and my new workplace was seven miles away from where I lived, so far too far away to consider walking. 

This meant that my little bit of daily moderate exercise was gone, replaced with two bus journeys each way. And as I'd never thought of my walk to and from work as exercise I never thought in terms of needing to find something to replace it.

Then, at about the time I hit the big four-o, my employers decided to go "paperless" and have the contents of our paper case files scanned onto computer. It made the job a lot faster, but also meant that I was spending a far greater chunk of my day just sat in my chair, no longer needed to get up to walk to the filing racks and get a (sometimes quite hefty) case file out in response to a phone call or a colleague's query. My life was becoming even more sedentary without me realising it. 

Over the next couple of years I evidently put on a bit of weight as my clothes seemed to be getting a little tight, but as I've always bought my clothes a bit on the baggy side to begin with they weren't unwearable, just not as comfortable as I'd have liked them to be.

I still didn't seem visibly overweight,  and whenever I bought new clothes I just bought a size larger and told myself it was an inevitable consequence of middle age. 

And then I broke my ankle and spent seven weeks sat on my behind. 

In January 2011 the cast came off, and a couple of weeks later I was visiting a friend who'd been given a Wii Fit for Christmas. Naturally she was keen to show off her new toy and I was equally keen to have a play. 

As you'll know if you've ever had a go on one of these, it begins by setting up a profile for you, in the course of which you are weighed and your BMI assessed.

I was slightly disconcerted to discover that I was now "officially" overweight at just over eleven stone (154 lbs if you're outside the UK). I knew I was, well chunkier than I had been but I was still refusing to see this as actually overweight. 

However, I told myself weight gain was inevitable after seven weeks of forced inactivity and just assumed I'd shed a few pounds once I got back to a more active lifestyle. Yes, I'm afraid I genuinely did think at that point that I had a reasonably active lifestyle. 

However, another year went by, during which my slightly too close-fitting clothes became uncomfortably tight and I was seriously having to consider going up yet another clothes size when buying new ones.

Finally I realised there was a problem here that wasn't going to magically fix itself. I had to do something about it myself.

Decision made, I proceeded to put it off, make vague half-hearted efforts and generally do nothing of any practical use whatsoever for the next few weeks.

The final kick up the behind that I needed came in the form of my friend and her trusty Wii Fit.

I was round at her house one evening, and mentioned that I needed to lose weight but that I wasn't really making much of a start on it. She half-jokingly suggested I hop on the Wii and play some of the games on there to burn off a few calories.

More because I thought it would be fun than anything else I duly got on the board, and the system weighed me. 

And blithely informed me I'd put on nearly a stone and a half (about 20lbs) in the year since I'd last got on the machine.

Before that I'd seen myself as someone who'd put on a bit of weight and needed to lose it. Now I could see I was someone whose lifestyle was resulting in a constant weight gain, and if I didn't commit myself to making some serious changes I was going to put on another stone and a half, then another, then another.....

I am a dreadful procrastinator and can take an age to get around to doing things, if I don't avoid doing them altogether. But one thing I will give myself credit for is that if I absolutely positively HAVE to get something done I will throw myself into it wholeheartedly. 

And so I put the internet to good use, including finding Spark, and realised that the key for me as someone who's always had to budget fairly strictly to make ends meet financially was treating my calorie intake the same way.

I've always kept a record of my outgoings and tried to minimise what I spend on stuff that doesn't matter too much to me in order to have some spare money left over to treat myself to the things that do. 

Over the months I discovered the vast amount of really appetising food around that uses up very little of your calorie "budget" and found it wasn't nearly as much of a hardship to stick to 1500-1600 calories a day as I had anticipated and there was sometimes still enough left in the budget for a small treat. 

On the other side of the equation I also discovered, much to the surprise of someone who thought she'd been put off physical activity for life by being forced to play sport at school, that exercise does not have to involve slogging away in a gym for hours at a time at activities that you hate. Whilst it does of course require effort (or by definition it isn't exercise) short bursts of exercise indulged in daily can have just as beneficial an effect as an hour of exercise a couple of times a week, and it doesn't  have to feel like hard work to actually....well, work. 

I took to doing a cobbled-together fifteen minute session of low-impact aerobics every day -  first thing in the morning and thus before I could have a chance to talk myself out of it. 

I rediscovered my enjoyment of walking. It had always been my chief way of getting to and from work of course, but I suddenly remembered that in my twenties I would often hop on a bus or train to some of the beautiful countryside we're blessed with in my neck of the woods and spend a day striding happily about taking in the scenery. I couldn't really understand, thinking back on it, why I'd ever stopped, so that was another avenue of not only exercise but also pleasure that opened up (or re-opened I suppose) for me. 

Slowly but surely the weight came off. A pound here, two pounds there. The occasional static week, and a week or two when I put weight on, but what pleased me as much as the weight loss was the fact that I felt I was in control. That treats could still be a part of my life as long as I budgeted for them with particularly healthy and low-calorie eating the day before or after.

It gave me the confidence that once I hit my target weight I was actually going to be able to keep myself there. The exercise I was doing had become  habit I felt I would have no trouble sticking with, and as I didn't find it any hardship to eat the kinds of food I was during weight loss and would be increasing my calorie budget a little once I hit target I felt I could stick to eating in a way that would keep me on an even keel.

I hit my initial target in November 2011, and as it took another couple of months of tinkering with my calorie intake to work out what it ought to be to maintain weight rather than keep losing I did go down another six or seven pounds before I levelled out. As that was still a healthy BMI I decided there was no point putting weight on for the sake of it, and so I've been at nine stone (126lbs), give or take two or three pounds, since mid-January of 2012. 

The maintenance pleases me more that the initial loss, and I think once I realised that I really could lose weight, maintenance was the aspect that had me the most worried. 

I did not want to end up on the treadmill of losing weight than regaining it, then trying to lose it again.  In fact when I finally knuckled down and started working on my weight loss I promised myself I was only going to do it once and if I put the weight back on it was going to have to stay there and I would just learn to be happy with my weight rather than make myself miserable with repeated unsuccessful attempts to lose it. 

My first few months of maintenance I was checking my weight daily and constantly anxious that I was going to mess this up. The Spark boards and teams (chiefly At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance) were invaluable in reassuring me that my anxiety was not unusual and that I just needed to stick with it and let my confidence grow. The maintenance challenges on At Goal were especially useful in both keeping me on the straight and narrow and reassuring me that I had control over my weight. 

Thanks in no small part to their support I've grown more confident as time has gone on and the weight has stayed within range. 

In fact I grew confident enough with my food choices and the amount of activity worked into my daily routine that I felt able to stop logging either about a year back. For a while now I've only stepped on the scales once a week. 

Don't get me wrong though, I'll be back to logging in a heartbeat if I stray more than a few pounds (I wouldn't be surprised if I need to after Christmas as I've definitely been more naughty than nice this year) and will stick with it until I feel I have every thing back under control. Over-confidence is as potentially damaging as a lack of confidence. 

But the whole process of trying to lose weight has given me so much more than just shedding the pounds. 

I'd always lived near or in city centres before moving to my current home in the suburbs, and I think without me realising it I'd become a bit more insular after moving here. Because of the tricky commute home every day (a bus from work to the city centre then a second from the centre to my home) I just wanted to get home every evening and not stir out again.

Now that I have my walking legs back I realise that the journey from the city to home is only a forty-minute stroll, or a 35-minute brisk walk if it's raining, and that I really don't NEED to catch a bus to town at all. Happily the two best cinemas and a lot of the restaurants are all situated at the end of town nearest where I live, so the walk back from them is barely half an hour. 

That makes life a lot easier when planning how to get home from a night out and consequently makes me more inclined to go out in the first place. Happily it's a pretty safe neighbourhood so I feel perfectly comfortable walking there at night. 

And now I see the fact that I break my journey in town as an advantage. I often arrange to meet friends there on a weekday, or go to the cinema or late-night shopping . Luckily my employers have a smart-casual dress policy rather than making us wear formal office gear, so I don't even need to worry about bringing other clothes to change into. 

Weekends that might previously have been spent slobbing around the house putting off doing the housework are now more likely to be spent going for a long walk, or jumping on a bus or train to take me somewhere new to explore (I do still tend to put off the housework though).

In a lot of ways my middle-age is a lot more lively and fulfilling than my thirties and I find myself in the odd position of almost being glad I put the weight on. Having to lose it made me realise that there were some major problems with the way I was living my life, and I have no doubt I would have carried right on with those behaviours and unknowingly getting a lot less out of life quite aside from the weight gain if my body hadn't forced me to face up to the facts. 

I suppose pinning all this on a broken ankle seems a bit odd, but I just feel that those seven weeks in plaster are what pushed me  into the overweight category that I was slowly but surely heading for anyway, and thus started me that bit sooner on my weight loss and maintenance adventure, even if it did take another year and my friend's Wii Fit to really get started on it. 

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CRUISEBOUND2014 2/28/2014 8:11AM

    Great blog! Thank you for sharing!

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MJREIMERS 1/17/2014 7:09AM

    emoticon and with that attitude you will remain successful in this journey! emoticon

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KMCOOK75 1/16/2014 11:35AM

    emoticon

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KELLIEBEAN 1/16/2014 8:14AM

    This was a great read. I love your sense of humor. Thank you for sharing your story. You learned some great lessons there!

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HOLLYM48 1/12/2014 11:00AM

    Awesome blog. Thanks for sharing your journey and congrats on losing the weight and keeping it off! Way to go! Keep up the great work!

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RENATA144 1/10/2014 7:52PM

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MRSRIGS1 1/10/2014 5:46PM

    GREAT blog and thank you for sharing! emoticon

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BABARR67 1/10/2014 2:37PM

    1. Wii Fit is really blunt, isn't it? LOL
2. I love your sense of humour.
3. I consider 40 min to be a very decent exercise session and am probably far lazier than you! I relate very much to getting home and wanting to stay there, especially in the winter when the temps are well below freezing most days and it is dark when getting up and returning home from work. I really need to work on my winter workouts!

Congratulations on finding balance in your life. I am going to work on it this year!

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SLENDERELLA61 1/9/2014 6:05PM

    Great blog! Congrats on all your accomplishments.

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SUSIEMT 1/9/2014 4:52PM

    Good Blog! Keep up the good work! Woo Hoo to you!

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KIMBERLY_Y 1/9/2014 4:44PM

    You have had an exceptional journey. Good for you. Congratulations on your blog. Best wishes as you continue on your journey of maintenance. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed it.

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MELFOUCH 1/9/2014 3:15PM

    Thanks for all you kind comments everyone, it's been really inspiring to read them emoticon

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_LINDA 1/9/2014 12:40PM

    Enjoyed reading about your journey to a healthier lifestyle. That was quite the wake up call!
Keep up the fabulous work!
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TORTISE110 1/9/2014 12:18PM

    Nothing like a wake up call! I'm glad you turned your broken ankle into a healthy lifestyle1 I loved the part of your re-discovering hiking. I've been to England, just once a few years ago and we trekked all over Cornwall. So beautiful! You have much to stay in shape for (-:

Great blog, great life!

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FELINA 1/9/2014 10:36AM

    Such an inspiring blog! The changes you've made are practical and do-able. I love your positive can-do attitude. Thank you for sharing your story.
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MEXGAL1 1/9/2014 10:17AM

    great blog and great attitude!
Have a terrific day
Sallie

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AMARILYNH 1/9/2014 8:58AM

    Fabulous blog - I'm so glad I found it!! Congratulations of finding the silver lining in your weight gain - and for being so successful in maintenance! I actually reached my goal weight in November 2011 too, but unlike you I'm not blessed with a healthy metabolism so my maintenance has been blessed with some weight GAIN before I got things stabilized. That is NOT a complaint since my adult life (I'll be 66 later this month) has been a series of yoyoing of weight. That this time I'm positive that will NOT be my story now is because of Sparkpeople and my sparkteams. What a blessing it is to those of us with weight issues.

Congratulations on your weight loss - and especially in USING it to make your life BETTER!! That seriously ROCKS!!

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BESSHAILE 1/9/2014 7:43AM

    Ouch! That broken ankle still makes me shiver since my ankles are pretty unreliable.

I love the way you pinpointed the few changes that make the big difference. Congratulations!

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CELIAMINER 1/9/2014 7:40AM

    Love your upbeat attitude about life and especially about the weight gain. I never would have considered my weight gain a good thing, but you made me realize it did force me to change, and I am generally very resistant to change. Keep up the great work!

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KANOE10 1/9/2014 7:36AM

    That was a great story and a wonderful accomplishment. I am middle aged also and have found the joy of walking. You have done really well learning a new skill of losing and maintaining your weight.

Congratulations on your new healthy life.

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WATERMELLEN 1/9/2014 7:25AM

    Just loved this blog for its precise and accurate description of the weight loss journey -- and the relatively "small" life event that can be the catalyst to get started. There is a "price" (eating more carefully) but you've found the price is worth it: me too.

Well done!! And Congratulations!!

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GABY1948 1/9/2014 7:19AM

    Great blog! Thanks for sharing...I know someone especially close to me that I plan to share this with! emoticon

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DSJB9999 1/9/2014 2:39AM

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AALLEY2 1/8/2014 10:51PM

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BOOKAPHILE 1/8/2014 10:51PM

    This was a nice overview of that part of your life, and a good example of realizing the problem, finding the solution and applying it. Congratulations on your continued maintenance!

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SKIRNIR 12/26/2013 7:27AM

    Great wrap up on how one gains a bit of weight, the process of deciding to loose it, then loosing it, then that maintenance game.

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Rethink needed

Sunday, February 05, 2012

I'm doing the Springiest Maintainer challenge over on the At Goal & Maintaining board at the moment.

I think is going to be very helpful for me because having stressed over whether I can keep the weight off, I now worry that I could go too far the other way if I'm not careful.

This morning I weighed in at 57.5kg (about 127lbs), which is within the 3% range of my ideal weight that we're all aiming for on the Challenge but only just, and I definitely don't want to go any lower if I can help it.

Most likely when deciding what to eat this week I didn't make enough allowance for the much higher number of calories I burnt with the greater than usual amount of walking I did (I had the week off work and lovely cold-but-sunny weather), even though I logged both the food and the exercise.

It's harder than I expected to shake the gotta-lose-weight mentality, even though I've been maintaining for a couple of months now.

Rather than approaching it from the perspective that the exercise was a good thing to do because it was healthy and I enjoyed it, and being mindful that I needed to make sure I replaced the calories I was burning, I think that without consciously being aware of it I was still stuck in the mindset that exercise=calories burned=weight loss=good thing.

I'm still at a perfectly healthy BMI and a few pounds under is nothing to get anxious about, but I think I really do need to work on the way I look at all this and if anything be willing to let myself go a little over on the calories allowance occasionally, especially on weeks when I'm burning more calories than usual

Good grief, I really am becoming the most ridiculous stress bunny over all this !

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MELFOUCH 2/5/2012 9:40AM

    Thanks, I really appreciate you letting me know I'm not the only one having this difficulty.

I suppose it's a learning curve like so much in life, and I'm just finding it a little steeper than I anticipated !

Oh, and thank you so much for the gift KANOE10, that was really kind (didn't spot it at the time I made the original reply to your post).

Many thanks for your post too, NELLJONES. It's always encouraging to hear some-one's been successfully doing this for a while.

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Comment edited on: 2/5/2012 10:21:24 AM

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NELLJONES 2/5/2012 9:37AM

    For me the "not losing" part was more about no longer getting affirmation from a number on scale going down. When losing, that scale was concrete proof that I was doing something right, a proof that didn't involve another person's opinion. I am at a very low weight right now, but that's fine. It's unlikely that anyone with my overweight background will become so thin as to be dangerous. All I have to do is let myself have a second piece of toast at breakfast, or the occasional cream in my coffee. A couple of times a year I can have a piece of pie or a cookie (all written in my book). Like everything else, experience is key. I have been at goal so long it feels natural. Only when I go back to a high school reunion do I meet anyone who knew me fat. It just takes time, and continued care.

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KANOE10 2/5/2012 8:40AM

    I have been in that same position. I have lowered my goal weight from 142 to 128. However, like you I do not want to go much lower..and have dropped to 127..Also..like you I exercise and don't always add calories to compensate..
I am also worrying about how not to gain weight while learning how not to lose weight! You are so right about it being hard to shake the gotta lose weight mentality.

Maintenance is a learning process. I also need to let myself go over the calories..for me carbs, occasionally.

Have a wonderful day..You are doing great! emoticon

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Pleasantly surprised....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

....to still be on target despite a bit of a blow-out on Thursday (the siren call of pudding just got to be too much).

I've got another challenge tonight as I'm off out with friends for a meal.

The meal itself I'm not too worried about, as although I think I'm going to go about 100 calories over on my daily allowance I think I can probably get away with that.

The tricky bit is that one of my friends wants to go for cocktails afterwards, and they're very calorific.

The thing I think might help me to resist that temptation and stick to wine (I've "budgeted" for a medium glass of red at the restaurant and another at the cocktail bar) is the fact it's a week until pay day and I'm not sure the finances will withstand me shelling out a fiver a pop for drinks that I know it's not a good idea for me to be having anyway.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KANOE10 1/21/2012 8:41AM

    Good idea on the wine. Calories are better than cocktails unless you stick to plain scotch or tequila.

Have fun with your friends! You sound like you are planning and ready to stay healthy. Good for you.

I hope the wine prices are not too high!

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KANOE10 1/21/2012 8:40AM

    Good idea on the wine. Calories are better than cocktails unless you stick to plain scotch or tequila.

Have fun with your friends! You sound like you are planning and ready to stay healthy. Good for you.

I hope the wine prices are not too high!

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WALIDGAZALA 1/21/2012 6:05AM

    Very wise emoticon

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Phew

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The morning weigh-in shows me at 58kg/128lbs, so I'm still doing OK.

I am ridiculously anxious about all this, whereas I was comparatively relaxed when I was trying to lose the pounds.

I think it's fear of change. I maintained OK for a month on Shape Up, and now that I've switched over to Spark People I think I'm worried I'm messing with a winning formula and it's all going to go horribly wrong.

But this site just has so many more resources for healthy living generally. I just need to relax, keep going with the good habits I've got into over the last nine months or so, and remember that I know safe and reliable ways to lose the weight if I do go a few pounds over.

Maybe I need to add chilling out and getting over myself to my goals !

  


Sun !

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It was sunny for most of the afternoon, so that when I left at 5pm there was still a hint of light, even if only on the horizon.

Left me feeling quite perky. For the first time it really feels like we're past Longest Night.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

STREO2004 1/11/2012 2:33PM

  I agree, Sunshine can make all the difference in a day!

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