I’ve just lost fifteen percent of my body weight, some of it during the Covid-19 shutdown, and I feel on top of the world. The sense of achievement has helped me stay positive through the disappointment of losing my job due to coronavirus.
While many people joke about lounging around in their isolation fat pants, I’ve managed to get back into my skinny jeans. I haven’t fit into them in years but refused to throw them out just in case, you know, one day I might shed what my partner jokingly calls my ‘whale blubber’ (I’m a keen ocean swimmer*).
If I can lose weight, you can too
Haigh’s chocolates. Kettle chips. Blueberry muffins. Brie cheese. Crispy bacon. Sourdough bread and lashings of butter. These are a few of my favourite things. When I worked on the Biggest Loser Club online program, my manager told me I was a very hungry person. I get hangry too.
Like most people, my weight fluctuates. A few kilos up, a few kilos down. Unfortunately, late last year I hit an uncomfortable peak. I’d been on an inactive holiday (an amazing African safari and road trip), suffered an extended, brutal bout of the flu and then had minor surgery. When I stepped back into my work clothes, I experienced a full-on wardrobe malfunction. Nothing fit me.
I was scared to get on the scales and had to take drastic action, fast. New clothes were not the solution. I have more than enough already.
I felt I needed some kind of program to follow but I’m a ‘everything in moderation’ kind of person and don’t believe in trendy diets like the Paleo, Keto, 5:2 or Atkins. So, I signed up to WW, the revamped version of Weight Watchers. I’d successfully followed Weight Watchers many years ago, so it was tried and tested. I also checked out Michelle Bridges but didn’t think I could stick to her restrictive menu plans.
The key to losing weight
When you join WW, you get a certain number of points you can use each day based on your weight and height. Every food has a points value. Good healthy foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, fish and chicken have zero points so you can eat as much of these as you like.
I had 23 points to play with each day. A glass of wine is four points, a bagel seven points, an avocado ten points, a handful of Kettle chips five points and a tablespoon of olive oil six points.
You can earn extra points doing exercise. This works really well for me as I love working out in some way every day. It’s not always possible but even a 30-minute walk makes a difference. It’s good for your mental health too.
The key to losing weight is to track everything you eat. The WW app was brilliant for this. You can input everything you plan to eat that day into the app, see how many points it adds up to, and modify your menu if you exceed your daily points allowance.
This really changed my eating habits. I weighed different foods so I could accurately track what I ate and became very aware of portion size.
I also learnt to be hungry again. To listen to my body and know that I didn’t actually need food, I just wanted it. I’d gotten into a habit of overeating, of feeling too full, then lethargic.
A typical daily menu on my weight loss journey
I found the structure of the workday really helped me manage my daily eating plan, even working from home. It’s much harder when your day is an open plan.
On a typical day for breakfast I might have muesli with lite milk and yoghurt plus a skim milk coffee. That adds up to about nine points so as a ‘cheaper’ alternative, I’d have two eggs with coffee. By late morning I’m always starving so I’d have a snack like a banana or carrot.
For lunch I’d often eat a large fruit salad, or corn cruskits with avocado, canned fish, tomato and Swiss cheese. Occasionally I’d have a small sandwich. For mid-afternoon I’d have a cup of tea and more fruit, grapes or fresh dates.
The biggest change was at dinner. I started eating a whole lot more vegetables. Some nights I’d eat just veggies. Other nights I’d have a small steak, piece of salmon, some chicken, home-made fried rice, lots of salad and sometimes pasta or a chicken schnitty with mash.
The hardest part was avoiding dessert. I found a few sweet treats in WW recipes, tried a few of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar recipes, and ate a lot of fresh dates, passionfruit and sweet, juicy oranges.
As for alcohol, this was tough. I love a glass of wine with dinner. To kick the year off I did Dry January, then became a fan of diet tonic water. Sometimes with a tiny drop of gin.
My weight loss result – what changes have I made?
All up I’ve lost more than 11 kilograms. That’s a major load off my waist, backside, arms and hips!
Even better, I have a new wardrobe. My ‘old’ clothes are now enjoying a second life, safe from the recycling bin and possibly even landfill.
There were days during the six months it took to lose the weight where I felt like I could conquer the world. I felt so good, so light, so fit, so healthy and energetic. It’s a powerful sensation, a natural high.
I didn’t follow the WW program to the letter. Aside from lite milk, I avoided low fat foods like reduced fat spread and diet yoghurt. I wanted to develop new habits eating the things I love like full cream Greek yoghurt, butter, and olive oil.
Except for chocolate. I’ve barely eaten any this year and I no longer buy it. It’s too dangerous. I’ve tried unsweetened cacao powder in desserts instead and it tastes good. Other things I’ve given up – muesli bars, muffins and bacon. I also avoid bread as much as possible; it really does weigh me down.
From an exercise perspective, seeing how much energy I burnt from working out inspired me to move more. During the work week I would go for a couple of one-hour walks and do one session of Pilates. On the weekends, I’d seriously step it up. After an early 45-minute circuit of cardio and strength training at the gym on Saturday, I’d head to the beach for a 40-minute ocean swim. Sundays I’d maybe swim again or go for a bike ride.
During the Covid-19 shutdown I found some short high intensity workouts online and did them at home. Star jumps, squats, lunges, crunches, mountain climbers. The more exercise you do and the fitter you get, the more motivated you feel.
I have a Garmin watch which you can synch with the WW app and watch how many extra points you earn from your workout burn. The integration is seamless. It’s also very motivating.
Tips to lose weight and set you up for weight loss success
Losing weight is hard. There were times when I was really hungry. I learnt to embrace the feeling. Lean into it as they say. Winter time is especially hard when a glass of red wine and comfort food are all you feel like.
If you’re battling a bit of isolation bulge and ready for a challenge here are some tips to help you shed those excess kilos:
- Track everything you eat. The average Australian adult eats about 8700 kilojoules a day (equivalent to 2,078 calories). Use this tool to work out how much energy you need to consume each day to lose weight, and you can try an app like MyFitnessPal or Easy Diet Diary to track your calories and exercise. You need to sign up for a WW plan to use its app.
- Be very organised with your food. I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan your meals in advance and have plenty of healthy snacks on hand. This will save you reaching for something high in calories when you’re hungry.
- Learn to be hungry again but not starving. If you reach the starving stage you’ll likely eat anything you can get your hands on.
- Eat at similar times every day. Structure is important and it’s good to get into the habit of eating regular meals and healthy snacks. Don’t skip meals. You’re likely to be extra hungry later on.
- Don’t keep fattening foods in the house. I love sugar and find it hard to stop at one cookie or one piece of chocolate. The only solution for me is not to buy any in the first place.
- Weigh yourself every day. This way you’ll see how much your weight fluctuates and if you’re coming down a bit, you’ll get a positive boost and good motivation to keep going. It’s such a buzz when you see results no matter how small.
- Drink lots of water. It cleanses your system and keeps you regular, and getting rid of waste is good for weight loss.
- Avoid alcohol. It might sound boring but if you want to lose weight you need to limit alcohol as much as possible. Don’t use up too many of your daily points or calories drinking. Try taking a month off alcohol altogether. You’ll impress yourself.
- Exercise every day. While weight loss is mostly about what you eat, keeping active is extremely important for overall health and wellness. Australian physical activity guidelines recommend a mix of cardio and strength training.
Eating healthy food and exercising regularly is a daily challenge. I still have days where I overindulge and feel as though I’ve ‘ruined’ all the hard work I’ve done. That’s normal.
It’s easy to get disheartened along the way when you can’t see the number on the scales dropping or you see the scales creep back up again. The best advice is to keep up the healthy eating and keep moving, it will all eventually pay off.
*Orca is an extremely popular brand of swimming wetsuit.