Having lost so much weight and gone from being morbidly obese to being in the middle of the healthy range for my height, (from my heaviest I’ve lost over 6 stone, around 100lbs) I’m often asked, “Simcha, how did you do it?”.
They want to hear some easy secret that I know that will help them lose weight magically without any further effort.
I wish I knew it, because this has been a long haul. It has not been overnight and this latest effort, the one which has actually got me to a healthy weight for the first time in my adult life has taken around two years. That’s a very long time to keep going with anything on a consistent basis. However, having finally reached my goal weight, I can tell you it was truly worth every moment that I struggled.
So how did I do it? In a nutshell:
I prioritised myself and I made it enjoyable. Sounds simple, right?
I am mother to four lively (thanks predictive text, actually they are lively as well as lovely!) children boy aged 13 (R), girl 10 (M), boy 7(H)and boy 2 (Y). One of them has “mild” special needs. I say “mild” because all special needs are a hugely massive deal. Mild means that my child is in a mainstream school with support, they don’t have physical disabilities but the nature of their disability requires constant awareness and constant dealing with bureaucracy. In the long term they will, please G-d, be a “normal”, albeit, quirky member of society. Anyway, enough of that.
I am married to a wonderful man, Lovely Husband (father of my lovely lively children and a tremendous support to me.) Over the past few years he has been incredibly committed to losing weight himself and has been on a strict no carb diet. He has lost in the region 8st and did so far quicker than I did. Just under a year I think. As you know, I do eat carbs and so balancing the meal prep to accommodate us both to some getting used to.
As a Jew, there is always one holiday or another coming up, not to mention weekly Shabbos. The celebration of which always involves several festive meals and the bulk of the preparation for those meals fall on me. There is an expectation of my children that this includes desserts, and especially if we have guests, which we like to do, to produce lots of fancy foods and courses.
It is very easy to prioritise everyone else’s needs, especially for food over my own. However, to reach this place I’ve had to make the decision to prioritise my own health, to make the meals I need to eat and take the time to exercise. This has meant spending money on convenient healthy food I like to eat, scheduling into my week the time to plan my menus and cook, and scheduling into my week exercising time. It has meant that even when life has been unpredictable (eg. When one of the kids had been off school ill, or yet another “something” comes up) I have still made sure that I have got the right things to eat.
If we were going out to eat, I ensured we were either going somewhere there were healthy options or that I’d eat first.
If something came up with interfered with my plan for meal prepping or exercise, I didn’t let that throw me and I found a work around, for example, allowing myself to spend the extra money on alternatives for meals that were healthy and easy, arranging babysitters so I could go to exercise or exercising at home with YouTube or a DVD or the like. If I did go a bit doolally, I tried to cut out the guilt and as quickly as possible draw a line and just keep going.
I made sure that every day, I did something that I enjoyed doing. Something not food related, like doing some gardening, reading a book, listening to one of my favourite pieces of music or playing the piano.
And I ate food that I loved and really enjoyed eating.
The rest of the things I did were really secondary. I mean, I couldn’t have lost all the weight without eating more vegetables and exercising more. But exactly how to eat healthily and exercise, well that’s common knowledge. It’s about actually doing it when life gets in the way. I shoved life back out of the way and kept remembering that my health was equally or possibly more important than whatever the current issue was. Because there’ll always be the “current issue”.
You want to know the practicality of what that actually meant I did? In a nutshell, beginning in January 2019:
- I went to bed early – ideally by 10pm, but certainly no later than 11pm.
- I stopped buying junk food that I liked and started buying healthy food that I loved
- I put in my diary meal prepping time (2-3 sessions each week)
- I built up exercising into my week, starting with short 15 minute sessions and built up to my current routine of 30 mins and to one hour every day excluding Shabbos, yes that includes Erev Shabbos. This is time that is in my diary.
- I used the myfitnesspal app to track my meals
- I enlisted support practical and emotional from family and friends both near, far and virtual.
- I blogged here about my struggles and whenever I felt like reaching for the rubbish food.
- I tried not to obsess (I didn’t do so well on that one!!
- I didn’t let other people’s success put me off.
- I just kept going. And kept going. And kept going.
- When I slipped up, I analysed why I went wrong and tried to rectify the issue next time.
- I did my best to get enough sleep.
- I spent lots of money on anything that could help
How do you feel now?
That’s the other question people ask me, especially those at beginning of their journey.
Honestly? Life is transformed. I can wear the clothes I want to. I mean, I wear a size 10-12! It’s so much fun going shopping now! Everything fits! It’s just a case of choosing!
I nearly wrote that I feel like a different person except that isn’t true. I feel like I am the real me instead of the me that couldn’t do what she really wanted to do because of her size.
I am still the same person with the same personality, the same anger issues, the same social awkwardness, the same fantastic sense of humour, the same love of music, the same religious commitment and moral and ethical compass. All those are the same. Being slimmer didn’t change any of that. But what is different is that my body is now a healthy size and my lifestyle is a healthy one. That means –
- I have so much energy. I can run and dance and jump and have fun.
- I don’t feel self conscious in public places as I am no longer abnormally large.
- I can share seats like benches without feeling I take up too much of it.
- I like looking at photos with me in them and I can just remember the happy times instead of focusing on how awful I look.
- I feel like I’m setting a good example to my children in terms of attitudes towards food and activity.
As I said above, there is no magical quick way to do it. But do it I did. Therefore I have proved it can be done. You can do it too!
“Hang on!” my followers, readers family and friends might be thinking. You haven’t lost the weight yet! In fact, you are fatter than ever right now with a horrible extra tyre round your middle, achy joints and back and the same tent like clothes you’ve been wearing for years.
As a quick round-up of life for Simcha to now… We finally moved back into our house at the end of August, promptly left for a holiday in Bournemouth a week later, there are still a load of boxes to unpack but the house is beautiful and kitchen fully functional, baby Y is now 7 months old, R started secondary school (including travelling independently by bus), we’ve had Rosh Hashona through to Channukah and it is now the day before Spring term starts for H&M, R goes back next week. My weight has been fairly constant for the past few months, up and down a few pounds but around the 14st 12lbs mark.
As I was unpacking boxes, a mysterious envelope labelled “from the future” appeared before my eyes. Inside it was the letter above. Having read it and looked at the before and after photos enclosed I could hardly believe it was actually from me, but the evidence was there. Unfortunately when I tried to scan in the photo to share they wouldn’t scan. You’ll have to take my word for it that it is all true. The article scanned with no problem though so I thought you might be interested to read this missive from the future. Seeing as it is now January 2019 as referenced in the letter, it is time to change my future.