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26 to 12 – another weight loss blog

One woman's journey to lose half her body weight

Inspirational?

So apparently I was featured as number 10 last May in Diet To Go’s 100 Inspirational Weight Loss Bloggers post.  Here’s what they had to say about me:

“Contrary to the title, Helen’s blog is anything but “another weight loss blog.” Helen’s been on a journey to lose weight since June 2013. She’s had many ups and downs along the way — which is one of the best things you’ll notice about her posts: that she never gives up and she is extremely positive no matter how difficult things get. If you’re looking to find real encouragement from someone who knows, look no further.”

How nice is that?!  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I started blogging, and unfortunately I weigh more now than I did then.  But I’m still here, I haven’t given up and I know a lot more now than I did back then.

I’m feeling a bit introspective now about my journey so far, here are the top five things I’ve learned:

  1. Never give up.  You started for a reason, so when you struggle go back and find the reason again.
  2. Planning is key in healthy living.  Prepare things in advance, have that gym kit packed the night before, make sure the fridge is full of healthy snacks.  Be a boy scout.  Be prepared.
  3. Diets do not work.  I kind of knew this already, but permanent weight loss requires a permanent lifestyle change.
  4. Celebrate the small victories.  If I waited until I reach my target weight to treat myself, I’d never feel encouraged.  Make smaller milestones and reward yourself for those.
  5. Do not underestimate the people around you.  When I started my journey I didn’t tell people around me what I was doing.  When they started to notice my losses, they were so supportive, and I could have had that from the start.

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Guess Who’s Back, Back Again?

No, it’s not the Real Slim Shady, just me!  The first line of the (admittedly outdated) pop-culture reference is “I created a monster” which seems very apt today.  I have created a monster, and the monster is me.  Honestly, I am deeply ashamed of myself.  For a variety of reasons, I have stopped going to the gym and I haven’t been eating healthily.  Well, in fairness, I do occasionally but that’s more the exception than the rule.  So with all of this, I have gained a lot of weight.  It’s been a while since I actually weighed myself, but I think it’s probably crept up more than I want to admit.  I can tell, as I don’t feel that well a lot of the time, I’m really unfit and I’m getting terrible backache.

So, with a little preparation and a lack of help from my doctor (been on the waiting list and jumping through hoops to get into a specialised programme with psychological help since November) I have decided to take the situation in hand.  I know from experience that this might not be easy will be very difficult from time to time, but I am determined.  I have nabbed by dad’s old Slimming World book for guidance and roped my lovely parents in to be a support team.  I like Slimming World personally, I know it’s not for everyone but it has worked for me in the past.  I’ve been swimming a few times in the last month or so, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  I don’t have much spare time in the week, so I’m doing a long swim on a Friday night (a mile-ish) for around an hour.  I need to try and build in some exercise during the week, but unfortunately walking too much can be quite uncomfortable until I’ve shifted some lbs, so I need to have a think about what I can do instead.  It’s quite gutting when I think of how fit I was a few years ago, but I only have myself to blame!

Old readers, welcome back to my journey, although we are back at the start we can only go forwards.  New readers, welcome, I hope you will join me regularly in my quest to be a better me.

What Happened To The #AtoZChallenge?

Basically I suck at sticking to things!  I missed a day, and then another one… and then things spiralled out of control.  I think this might be a metaphor for my weight loss efforts.  But, as I have been reminded recently, no matter how many times I fall down, I keep picking myself back up and trying again.  So there is something to be proud of, I guess.

This week I have been back in the gym, walking in my lunchbreaks, and being much more aware of what I am eating.  I have, under recommendation, downloaded the My Fitness Pal app and I’m using it to track my exercise, weight and food.  Being more conscious of what I’m putting into my body has definitely been helpful – and so has the appearance of the sunshine!

Yesterday I had a fantastic day.  This isn’t really to do with my weight loss/exercise usual topics, but I’m going to tell you anyway because it made me happy.  My other half and I went into Birmingham, which is about a 25 minute train ride from where we live.  We had a good long walk up to the New Alexandra Theatre and picked up our tickets for a play called Bad Jews, then headed off for lunch – at Subway which I don’t do often but really love!  We walked back up and found our seats for the play, which was absolutely brilliant – well-acted and directed, clever, funny and thought-provoking.  I believe yesterday was its last day in the UK, but I would recommend it to anyone who gets the opportunity to see it.  Then we walked up to the Mailbox and had a wander round.  It is next to the Worcester and Birmingham canal, so we had a walk along there in the sunshine, then went for a cocktail (mine’s the bright green one)

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Afterwards we went to the Everyman Cinema for dinner and to watch Captain America: Civil War.  I hadn’t been there before but it was a lot of fun, really comfortable and quite nice to have a meal brought to our seats.  The menu is limited but good, I definitely would go there again.  Finally we had a dessert and a (soft) drink in the cinema’s bar after the film and headed home.  It was a long day and I feel like I did a lot – which has been great at giving me a boost!

So that’s why I’ve waffled on about my day out yesterday, because it has helped my mental health, and a boost to my mental well-being was definitely needed.  Today I’m a bit tired, but feeling really positive – and about to head out into my garden to try and clear it out ready for growing some veg and salad this summer!

Healthy Living: H is for Hiking #AtoZChallenge

Yesterday I went hiking, it was the first time I been on that kind of walk since I did my Duke of Edinburgh Award when I was at school – we go on canal path walks quite often in summer and spring but nothing like this! I got the walk map/instructions from walkingworld.com and they were really good, except a couple of minor details which had changed since the route was uploaded. Oh, and the distance of 7.4 miles given was a bit different to the 9 miles my Fitbit detected…

I had honestly forgotten how much I enjoy walking! I’m staying about 10 miles north of Portsmouth at the moment, and my hike took me over part of the beautiful Staunton Way with views across the Hampshire Downs and as far as the coast – apparently if it had been a clear day I’d have been able to see the Isle of Wight! It wasn’t all easy going though – there was a fairly decent rainstorm for about 40 minutes, some brisk winds, a LOT of mud, scary sheep, broken stiles, a flood with wet feet, more mud and a really really big hill! But all that didn’t dampen my spirits and I made it through, enjoying spectacular views, fresh air, quaint villages, teeny ponies and plenty sunshine!

All things considered, I definitely plan to do that again – but I need a get a proper waterproof before I do!!

 

Healthy Living: G is for Gardening – #AtoZChallenge

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Gardening is a fantastic pastime for people who want to live a healthier lifestyle – there are loads of benefits!  It is cheap to do and can actually save you money in the long run.  Growing fruit and vegetables from scratch is really therapeutic, it can give you focus as well as a good workout, without you even realising it!  Working outside provides you with plenty of fresh air and daylight, which are great for your lungs and for mental health.  There is an amazing sense of pride in cutting something you’ve grown from the garden, cooking it and eating it fresh – and it also retains all the nutrients.  This also means that you can be sure that there have been no chemicals introduced in the growing process.

Getting started with gardening doesn’t need a lot of money – just basic tools and seeds, and there are loads of books and websites out there to help beginners to plan their garen (or windowbox), to make the most of the available space and make sure that you can get fresh food throughout the year.

Healthy Living: F is for Friendship – #AtoZChallenge

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I thought a lot about what to do in the AtoZ challenge for the letter F.  I was going to write about fun or fear – fun is so important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fear of failing is one of my biggest problems…

Instead I decided that friendship is much more important. When I first started losing weight I didn’t tell anybody except my partner and my mum, but over the last couple of years I have found that talking to friends about it has only been beneficial.  Good friends will always be there for you, no matter what, and will help you to get where you want to be.  A friend of mine from work has been really helpful – she skips me out when she offers the biscuit tin round, and is doing the Race for Life Pretty Muddy mud run with me – and has promised that we will stick together as a team.  She has helped me to fight my fear and sign up for something I might not have considered even a few months ago.

Support is incredibly important when losing weight or learning to live more healthily – and it can come from places you might not expect.

Healthy Living: E is for Eggs #AtoZ Challenge

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No, not Easter eggs (although I have some of those left!) I mean the kind that come from chickens.

First and foremost, eggs are yummy!  I realise that this is subject to opinion, but I love them.  They are also healthy and quick to prepare and surprisingly portable.  Eggs are low calorie, high in protein and full of vitamins and, despite a couple of health scares over the years, now widely recognised as a great basic food.

This site has useful information on the health benefits of eggs and the best basic ways of cooking them.  I also recommend oven cooking them – line a silicone muffin tin with lean ham, crack an egg into each cup and bake in a low-medium oven until the white is cooked through.  These are great hot or cold; I like to take them to work as a packed breakfast or eat them at home with asparagus dippers.

A final thought – please please don’t buy eggs from barn or caged hens.  Free range eggs come from happier hens!

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Healthy Living: D is for Dancing #AtoZChallenge

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I’m late, I’m catching up again, bad Helen!  A friend of mine recently was talking about “clubbercise” which she has been invited to,but she doesn’t want to make a fool of herself.  As far as I can tell, this involves pop-dance music and glowsticks, which sounds like an amazing combination to me.  But then, I love dancing, even though I am completely graceless and prone to walking into things.

Dancing is really very good exercise, it can be a full body workout (wave your arms in the air like you just don’t care and wiggle your hips a lot – that is my main dancing method).  If you don’t want to go to clubs (or clubbercise) there are loads of kinds of dancing – just find one that suits you – ballroom, morris, country, tap, ballet, pole – there are hundreds of classes out there.

If a club or class really isn’t for you, just dance around the house – I dance when I’m cooking or cleaning, it makes chores much more fun!  Dancing builds confidence as well as stamina and muscle tone, it always puts me in a good mood.  Stick on some music and away you go!

A few of my favourite songs to dance to…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I should stop here, I could keep going and going – I love music!!

Healthy Living: C is for Cooking – #AtoZChallenge

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For a healthy lifestyle, I cannot emphasise the importance of cooking more strongly.  I am not talking about Masterchef level gourmet meals, but just good, nourishing food.  The biggest advantage of cooking meals from scratch is that you control exactly what goes into your food.  Convenience foods generally contain a lot of additives – salt and sugar, preservatives, colourings, fats… the list goes on.  Cooking from basic ingredients limits this, and by using herbs and spices you can make your food taste amazing without adding calories and chemicals to your diet.  I also find cooking therapeutic and I love cooking for other people.

If you’re not confident in the kitchen, there are loads of useful books and websites around that can teach you to cook, even if you feel that you can’t successfully boil water.  I love the Good Housekeeping books, but I’ve had mine forever – they are a family tradition and I got mine from my dad when I got my own place!  Student cookbooks can be a good place to start, check out youtube if you prefer to see cooking in action, or have a look to see what is on offer at your local adult education centre.  Anyone in the UK may also find that their NHS offers healthy cooking courses – mine does – which are free and start from the basics and also include advice on meal planning and cooking on a budget.

Finally, in a shameless plug, keep following my A to Z as later in the month I will be sharing some of my favourite recipes.

Some of my yummiest homecooked meals:

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