One of the first things I realised – I mean REALLY realised – was that having been overweight for 30 years, I was not going to lose all the weight I needed to lose in 30 days. I decided that 30 months was a more realistic goal and even that would be pushing it, but it was a start. You need to accept that changing your lifestyle – which is ultimately what you have to accept you need to do – is not an overnight occurrence. I think it was Einstein who said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results was insanity – it was time for the insanity to stop.
So how do you change your lifestyle? One thing that really helped me was a process used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I read a book which suggested that you imagine your life in 5 years time – where you live, who lives with you, what work you do, how old your children are, what your health is like, etc. Imagine all this if you do not lose weight, you may even gain some over 5 years – it is a natural tendency as we get older! Then imagine what your life is like in 5 years time if you lose weight and keep it off. All the things you imagined before, but with you as a slimmer person. Doing this made me realise how much will change in 5 years – how much older I will be, how much older my grandchildren will be, what they will be like. I realised that my mobility was likely to become so much worse in 5 years of maintaining – or even gaining weight. I was already having some issues with my mobility due to my weight and I hated not being able to play with my grandson because getting down on the floor to play was such hard work! When I saw what my life could be like if I made changes to enable me to lose some weight it had to be worthwhile.
Once I had decided that I was really going to do this, I had to decide how to do this. I had read a lot about NOT dieting and I knew this had to be the way I went about it this time.
One thing that several people had written in various books I had read suggested only eating what you wanted, but really tasting the food. Instead of shovelling the food in as fast as possible – after all if you are eating when you are obese you really shouldn’t be seen to be doing so! – slow down the process. This was a totally novel idea for me – really savouring food and enjoying every mouthful? Well it was worth a shot. So the next time I felt I wanted some chocolate I decided to really enjoy it – to my utter amazement, after about 3 small squares, I couldn’t really taste it! The first square was absolutely delicious, the second was very good, the third was ok and then – nothing! In the past I had eaten whole bars so quickly I hadn’t even realised that I couldn’t taste the chocolate. All those calories! On doing some further reading, I discovered that when we are hungry our taste buds are so tuned in that the food tastes amazing, but as soon as our bodies start to feel full, the taste of the food changes and – as in my case – it can even disappear. After 3 squares I really didn’t want any more chocolate – this from a woman capable of demolishing a 250g bar in about 2 minutes! What was going on?
Because of my diabetes I decided that I should really cut down on my sugar intake. This was not too difficult, I already drank tea and coffee with no sugar although I loved cake and biscuits. I found a good recipe book with sugar substitute in the cakes and biscuits so I just started using this to provide me with my “treats”. Interestingly as I moved away from sugar and reduced the amount of sweet stuff I ate, I found that my palate changed. I had always said I had a sweet tooth, but I discovered – by allowing myself to eat something if I was really wanting it – that after a mouthful, I actually didn’t like the taste of the things I had been craving. I think I had denied myself these things for so long that I wasn’t aware that my tastes had changed.
This revelation was another step towards losing weight – I could finally eat what I wanted – in moderation. If I really paid attention to what I was eating I ate less and still felt satisfied. I also found savoury food to be more enjoyable than sweet.
Thinking about this over the ensuing months, I realised that when my weight problems started I was in my late teens. I loved sweets, cake, biscuits etc. Because I had denied myself these things for so long, not tasting them when I did eat them, because the food barely touched the sides on the way down to my stomach, I hadn’t realised that my tastes had changed. Finally listening to my body showed me that the foods I thought I loved were actually not as great as I had imagined.
The process of changing things to enable me to lose weight had started.