I am mostly a lazy person. Seriously, I like life easy and going to the gym or tying the laces on my running shoes to go out for a jog is my idea of torture, something I feel like I ‘should’ be doing. When in high school I was on the netball team, and on the football team (the first-ever girl’s football team at our school too!) and I loved doing both. I also ran cross country for the county and was pretty good at it. Then came college, work and marriage. 😁 Although I was no longer doing any kind of exercise, I was working 12 or more hours in hospitality, on my feet and moving all the time, so it was OK, I could fit into my clothes and I felt good about myself.

In the year 2000, I moved to America to be with the man I loved whom I’d met while over there as part of my degree. We’d done long distance for about a year and a half and our life together was to be made in Atlanta, Georgia. Although I continued to work in restaurants for a while, I pivoted and switched my career after a few years and ended up working at a computer sitting at a desk 8 hours a day. If you live in America, or have ever visited you’ll know that the portion sizes of food are MASSIVE. Like so many, I was raised that you finish everything on your plate as there are starving children in other parts of the world and I was lucky to have food to eat.

When I first arrived in the USA, I would have to leave food on my plate or take it home because I couldn’t finish it. I felt guilty about that, because, well I was lucky to have this food and should finish it! To be honest, the bad thing was when I got to the point where I actually could clean my plate. It meant I was pilling on the pounds, making bad choices and eating more and more.

The Photo That Shocked Me

When you look at yourself in the mirror each day, or you live with someone who sees you all the time, you can often not realise just how much weight you’ve put on. You know clothes have become tighter, you start to maybe move a bit slower and you are uncomfortable when you sit down, but you tell yourself it’s OK. It’s not until something hits you in the face and you have that moment, when a switch is flipped and you know you need to do something about it and change.

For me, it was while looking at photos from a family wedding I attended in 2010. I was shocked. I didn’t recognise the person in those photographs. If I met her and someone asked me to describe her build, I would say she was overweight. I wondered how others saw me through their eyes for the first time. It shouldn’t matter, but to me it did. It mattered that the person in the pictures wasn’t who I had in my own mind. After I accepted the fact that I had put on about 3 stone (42 pounds), I took action.

I signed up for a Boot Camp style exercise class. I am the most competitive person ever, mostly with myself, but the environment helped me find new challenges. I focused on people who were fitter than me, and used them as my goal. I got in to running again and ran my first 5K. My diet was crazy and I was making protein shakes and cutting calories all over the place. We had a weight loss contest as part of the Boot Camp and I won a few hundred dollars. I could wear clothes that hadn’t fit in years and I felt amazing.

Moving My Life Back To The UK

My weight loss was short-lived. We moved from Atlanta back to my homeland in the UK in 2014. It was the right thing for us to do and although it took some adjusting, we settled into a new way of life. Some of these things won’t mean much to people not from England, but I started enjoying Gregg’s pasties, scotch eggs, biscuits, cakes and lots of sugary lattes and hot chocolates. Cold and dark nights meant treats, stodgy puddings and roast dinners. We drank lots of cider and so many Baileys during the winter months. One might say we were glutenous.

After a few years, I felt that familiar dread of being uncomfortable and not being able to fit into clothes again. That cycle of losing weight and feeling amazing, then gradually letting the weight creep back on and feeling like crap again was upon me. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone through this. Each time I would eat salads, make smoothies, tried Weight Watchers, eat protein bars, done a Paleo diet, done Whole 30 etc. etc. I restricted food and went crazy with exercise. Lost weight, felt amazing, looked good then let it all go because it was unsustainable.

Walking For A Cause

2020 brought a lot of sadness , anger and frustration for so many people. COVID-19 entered our lives, and a series of lockdowns occurred all over the world. People lost their jobs, couldn’t see loved ones and sadly so many lost their lives. It brought depression and just overall bad mental health for so many. Turning to food for comfort is a coping mechanism so many people have, myself included. As a family, we had news that one of us was diagnosed with an illness which was hard to handle. I ate, and ate, and ate.

At the end of the year is usually when I start to resolve to do better. I did the same again and decided to do something about my weight gain and unhealthy eating habits in 2021. This time, I also had a bigger focus, to do a charity walk to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. I suggested it to two of my siblings to see if they were up for the challenge, and they immediately said yes. We then asked my Dad and he joined the team too.

Challenging Myself To Do Better

Signing up for the 28 KM walk was the first thing that pushed me to move. I don’t want to be the weak link in our family team and have to stop or cause us to walk at a snail’s pace. So I started making sure I was walking at least 10,000 steps each day. I have a lovely friend that lives close enough for us to be able to meet up in the middle between our two homes and then we are lucky enough to have so much countryside to walk through. She helped me figure out some of the kit I might need to start taking hiking seriously, so I got a backpack and some walking boots and started thinking about layers and the right socks. I started walking for 5 miles, then 8, then 12 miles at a time. Who have I become? 😉

Alongside registering for the charity walk, I wanted to do shorter challenges each month in the run-up to the event. I’d used an app in the past called StepBet where you bet on yourself to complete a 6-week challenge to hit a certain number of steps each day. You put your money into the pot and if you meet your goals you get it back and get to split the money from anyone that doesn’t complete the challenge. I signed up with two relatives and we kept each other motivated and won it. I signed up again for a second one, and now I am on to my third. Along with StepBet, the company that makes that app also has DietBet. This is similar to the StepBet app but instead of getting stepping goals, you have a weight loss goal to reach. You can do 4-week challenges to lose 4% of your body weight, or you can go all in to really change things and do a 6-month challenge to lose 10% of your body weight. I went all in, and so far I am meeting the goal for each monthly check-in.

I’ve also been able to use the WayBetter Games app to do 2-week challenges for things like squats, push-ups and 30 minutes of exercise each day. I made a decision that any of the money I make from the WayBetter challenges, I will donate to the Alzheimer’s Society charity as part of our walking challenge. This is also keeping me focused and making sure I keep up with activities. As the weeks have gone by since the start of January, I’ve found that my body is stronger, my legs take me further, and the best thing from all of this is that I have found my love for hiking. My husband and I have also just got mountain bikes and recently went for our first ride and did 10 miles, which was awesome. Amazingly, I now feel like I am an active person without having to push myself to go to the gym or go running.

Feeling Like This Is Sustainable

Not only has my approach to exercise changed drastically, so has my approach to food. I started following someone on Instagram called Graeme Tomlinson who goes by the name of The Fitness Chef. His evidence-based approach to how to lose weight (eat fewer calories, burn more calories) and that it’s really just simply a calorie deficit that will get you there somehow finally clicked in my head. Knowing that I needed to keep track of what I was eating, didn’t need to eat rabbit food to shift the scale and could eat things in moderation and not deprive myself has meant I don’t feel like I am dieting, I’m just changing my approach to eating.

My walking challenge is in June 2021, with a few months to go. However, this change in me is one I finally feel will stick. I spend time plotting my next long walk with my sister or where I can go to do a bike ride on a new trail we have yet to discover. Next time I go visit the doctors and they ask if I am active, I can say with confidence, why yes I am active!

If you would like to help my family and I raise money for Alzheimer’s, please click here to donate to an amazing charity.

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