I thought losing the baby weight would be easy seeing as I was more active than the last few weeks of my pregnancy when I could barely squeeze my feet into shoes. I casually ignored the fact I would binge eat chocolate until I fell asleep, served myself lashings of toast and jam all day long, and anything else was smothered in full fat mayonnaise.
Needless to say the scales had barely moved by my target date. I caught sight of myself in town one afternoon. Carrier bags hanging off the pram and wolfing down a kitkat, wearing clothes that barely fit, I realised I had a problem.
Thirteen months later, I weigh less than before I was pregnant. After that moment of brutal realisation, staring at a stranger reflected back at me in a shop window, I created a plan of how I would regain my health and my confidence.
1. Mentally prepare yourself.
Successfully changing your diet and your lifestyle is a massive achievement and should be regarded alongside endurance events. You’re in for the long haul. Not a few weeks or a few months or however long it takes to reach your target weight. This is a forever thing and is just as much about what goes on inside your brain.
I visualised situations of temptation and imagined how I would deal them. I began to view food as the sum of its parts and taste each ingredient.
Seeing bars of chocolate as packs of butter and sugar, cakes as eggs and flour, fast food as miserable animals. I would think of the impact a high sugar and salt diet was having on my organs, on my liver.
I thought long and hard about how I felt whenever I over ate. Repulsed. Ashamed. Failure. I made sure I associated those feelings with the overeating and NOT with who I am.
2. Identify your food weaknesses.
Banishing certain foods entirely will only work if you have an iron will. I do not. I cannot tell myself I’m not allowed something as I will want that thing even more, especially if I’m emotionally vulnerable. I simply make that particular food harder to get hold of.
I have a clear chocolate problem. I’ve always had this except when I was younger it didn’t impact my weight. I have learned that I absolutely cannot have any chocolate in the house otherwise I will eat it all. That sneaky little voice that tells me I can buy a wedge of dark chocolate and just eat three small pieces in the evening like Gwyneth Paltrow is lying to me.
3. Stock your home with nutritious food.
I only buy food for my house that is wholesome and nutritious. If I’m spending the day out, I plan in advance where I can buy good food from and take plenty of healthy snacks with me.
4. Start the day well.
Every morning I have two smoothies. A typical smoothie consists of spinach, kale, a slice of avocado and a small portion of fruit. The vegetables may change but I’m careful to add only small amounts of fruit and only water.
After starting the day so well (plus I’m absolutely stuffed after two!) I’m always reluctant to consume anything unhealthy. The key for me is to have them early before I’m hungry and temptation kicks in. If I start the day with toast and jam, my favourite breakfast of them all, I’m on a race to consume as much sugar as I can.
5. Be kind to yourself.
Acknowledge your struggles and triumphs as worthy. Tell yourself the affectionate words you long to hear from other people. I was comfort eating, so I tried to understand where the need for comfort came from.
For me this meant embracing the struggles I was facing as a new mum. Squeak’s dad works long hours and commutes so I’m often alone all day. Even just allowing myself to feel disappointed was liberating after months of pretending I was 100% happy. I still give myself mental hugs and high fives whenever I feel lonely.
6. Go shopping.
Withholding new clothes until you’re thin enough should not be a way to punish yourself if you haven’t lost weight. You always deserve that special feeling of buying something nice. Consider your budget and what you’re looking for before leaving the house, and never ever buy off the internet unless you are certain of your size.
I struggled learning how to dress my new body shape and squeezed myself into unflattering versions of my former wardrobe. After realising none of my clothes actually fit me, I spent a lot of time researching how to dress my fuller figure.
7. Don’t sweat the slip ups.
I’m careful not to tell myself confectionary/fast food is a ‘treat’. If I have a craving I can’t control I pause and tell myself ‘too much is bad for your body, bad for your health and you’re going to feel bad afterwards.’
Sometimes this stops me from indulging at all. But if I do, I use my slip up as an exercise in self care. I tell myself it’s ok to make a mistake, that now I’ve got that out of my system I can go back to focussing on delicious and healthy food. I found the key was to widen the gap between slip ups rather than eradicating them altogether.
8. Stop weighing yourself.
I became so frustrated with my fluctuating weight that I changed my mantra to ‘eat well’ rather than ‘lose weight’. Once I relegated my scales to the back of the bathroom and stopped stepping on them every morning something magical happened.
Months later as Squeak was nearing his first birthday I became curious. “I think I’ve lost a couple of pounds.” I told myself excitedly. I had to weigh myself three times as I couldn’t believe I had lost over fifteen pounds.
What shocked me most was that without the scales I hadn’t realised how much my body had changed. I still saw myself as fat. That’s when I understood it was my perception of myself that I had needed to work on all along.
Weight is so intricately tied to our sense of self worth that once the balance has tipped, it is so easy to free fall into a dangerous cycle. The thing is, you’re always in charge of how you feel. Once you recognise the emotional damage you’re inflicting on yourself, you can do absolutely anything.
And the control those cravings have over you suddenly lose weight.