If I can lose weight, anyone can!
From skinny child to chubby teen
Although I have never been morbidly obese in a clinical sense, my weight has always fluctuated since I was about 17 years old.
I went from being a skinny little child to being about a UK size 14 when I was in my late teens. I wasn't happy at that size, as my friends were mostly around a size 10. I couldn't wear the clothes that I really liked because I had a "spare tyre" round my stomach!
I was always eating fast food, such as chips at the end of a night out. I have been a chocaholic for as long as I can remember too and thought nothing of eating three bars of chocolate in one sitting!
However, I didn't do anything about it. I was a punk at that time and wore so many black outfits, layers and chunky belts, you couldn't really see what my figure was like underneath.
I lost weight again in my 20s through eating healthily and having a more active lifestyle. Then, in my 30s, in a desk job for many years, the weight went on again and I was probably at my all-time heaviest of 12th.
I just about got away with it because I was 5ft 7ins tall, but I was classed as overweight by my GP and I didn't feel very fit. My clothes size shot up to a 14-16 and I hated having bits of spare flesh, such as round my waist, where previously it had been toned.
I was really miserable and started going to a gym in my spare time and managed to drop some weight again.
However, I suppose you could call me a "yo-yo dieter" at this point. I tried every fad diet going and then tried fasting all day and just having one meal at dinnertime.
I also tried liquid diets (all soup and fruit juice) and a diet my mum used to use when she was in her 40s which was some vile-tasting drink that was supposed to be a meal replacement. I suspect it tasted so rancid it just prevented you from wanting to eat afterwards because you felt so nauseous! I'm pretty sure it had raw egg and olive oil mixed together.
I have been vegetarian since my teens, so thankfully some of the more extreme diets that involved eating lots of meat were never an option!
But I never really got to grips with my weight issues and hopped from one diet to another, soon getting bored with them and putting the weight back on as soon as I started eating normally again. I tried every fad diet going in my 20s and 30s, including a starvation diet, such as eating only a little fruit each day.
However, I'd end up raiding the fridge in the evening because I felt so hungry. Then I'd go to bed feeling guilty about it and pledging to do better the next day, but of course, I never did.
Active job helped me lose weight
When I hit 40, I thought, "It's time to get a grip on my weight issues," as it was like a milestone in my life.
I then started a new, active job working in a bingo hall. This involved my running round the hall, paying out winnings and checking claims, including racing up and down stairs. The shifts were four hours, without a break. Sometimes I was on split shifts and did two a day. So it was often eight hours' continual running round on an average day, with no snacking in-between.
I didn't even notice how much weight I was losing, until I realised my size 14 trousers were suddenly loose on me and I could feel them hanging off my hips! I went down to a size 12 - and then after one year, I was delighted to be able to fit into a size 10, something I had not seen since I was about 25 years old!
I felt much fitter, was able to run around more without "huffing and puffing" and could fit into all the lovely clothes which I had been unable to wear before. I was never happier. My waist had some definition again, my legs were slimmer, I could feel my hip bones and I just felt so lively. I had bags of energy.
Job loss led to weight gain
Unfortunately, I found myself out of work again due to circumstances and I began looking for another job.
It was not easy, as the jobs market was not good, with dozens of people chasing after a few jobs. I started spending much time on my computer, scouring employment websites.
I felt very inactive after working at the bingo and running around a lot. In fact, at first, I tried to counter this by doing exercise at home.
However, I have to admit, with some shame, that I became quite lazy and would often raid the fridge (particularly late at night) and would eat all manner of unhealthy snacks. I have always been a big lover of chocolate. So I would make myself a cup of tea or coffee and then have one or even two chocolate bars, plus sometimes a packet of crisps as well, or a piece of cheesecake or biscuits.
I could feel, by the way my clothes fitted me, that my weight was gradually creeping up again, although as long as I managed to squeeze myself into my size 10 trousers, I could convince myself I was still as slim. Deep down, however, I knew I was kidding myself!
I was chatting to my sister-in-law, Liza, about this and she gave me a treadmill to use in my own home.
Liza has always kept herself fit and healthy. She is petite and has always been very slim, despite having two daughters. She lost the "baby weight" very quickly and was slimmer than me, even though I have never had children! She has an active lifestyle, eats well and also exercises. She has always looked wonderful.
Liza asked me if I had ever thought of doing Zumba fitness classes.
I wasn't quite sure what Zumba was and had never tried it before.
But Liza was an absolute whizz at Zumba and was able to choreograph her own routines to music. She was a great dancer anyway, so had incorporated her rhythm and skills into Zumba fitness routines.
I recall she gave me a video to play at home, with some moves to try. Zumba looked a wonderful way of keeping fit, with exercise, dance and music combined. It looked so enjoyable.
I did take a look at the video, but I have never been particularly co-ordinated and was quite clumsy, if I'm honest! I found even the simplest routines tough!
We took part in a charity "Zumbathon"
Liza persevered with me and invited me to a charity Zumba marathon - a "Zumbathon" - in which she was taking part.
There were hundreds of participants and it was taking place at a local sports centre. I recall it was the Spring of 2012 and I felt better (more energetic) with a little sunny weather as I put on my leggings and gym wear and walked into the venue.
I found Zumba much harder than it looked! Liza was fabulous and looked like she was having such a great time that you wanted to join in! Many of the participants had done Zumba before, but some, like me, were new.
I did my best, but it took me so long to pick up the routines, it was just about all over by the time I felt I was getting to grips with it all!
It was great fun, even though my dance moves hardly set the world on fire!
Afterwards, Liza and I went for a coffee and she said if ever I fancied learning some more Zumba moves and taking part in classes, she would help me learn at her home, in private, to give me more confidence.
Apathy got the better of me
How I wish I had taken her up on her offer!
But I am ashamed to say apathy took over and after an initial burst of enthusiasm, when I decided I would start attending Zumba classes, I again retreated to the solitude of my computer to look for work. Every time I was sitting there, it was too easy to walk the six yards to the kitchen and raid the fridge.
I became quite nocturnal and would think nothing of raiding the fridge at 2am and having lots of sweet chocolate snacks with a calorie-laden mug of hot chocolate with frothy milk and a dessert-spoon of sugar.
Then I would go straight to bed, with no chance to burn off the excess calories.
Of course, the weight began to pile on again, as it had when I worked in a desk job throughout my 30s. I tried to pretend I wasn't gaining weight ... and even when my skinny size 10 trousers eventually wouldn't go over my hips, I just got my older, stretch leggings and sports trousers from the wardrobe and started wearing them instead.
It really was a case of apathy taking over. I think being out of work can do that to you as well. You don't have a set routine and sometimes eat out of boredom.
I didn't like my new shape but I still kept on eating too much. Every day, I would wake up with new resolve not to binge. But then it was like something subconsciously took over, I was soon in the fridge again and would think, "Oh, I'll start my diet tomorrow!"
Of course, tomorrow never came. I just carried on eating everything in sight, like a locust!
I followed Liza's fitness regime with interest
All this time, while I was making no effort at all to monitor my weight, Liza was on a health and fitness regime, which I found very interesting. She posted photographs and videos on Facebook of exercise routines, which I loved watching. She also listed websites which assisted with living a healthy lifestyle and told me about one which showed all the calories for every food imaginable.
At this time, I thought to myself, "I wish I could be like that!"
Of course, I could have, but it was my own attitude and negativity which were holding me back.
Horrible photo made me realise how large I'd become
At our next family gathering, which was in the April of 2013, Liza had again cooked a wonderful family meal for us all. As was customary, we took some photographs as we dined and chatted afterwards.
She had prepared me a fantastic vegetarian meal and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The beauty of Liza's meals was that because they were home-cooked, they were very tasty, as well as being healthy and nutritious.
So I ate well, without feeling the need to raid the fridge later. When at home, I was snacking on microwave meals and then I would be hungry again an hour later and having more snacks.
I thought to myself if I ate a healthy meal at lunchtime when I was at home, I wouldn't feel the need to snack all afternoon.
Afterwards, when I saw the photographs, I must admit I was totally horrified at how out of shape I looked! One in particular showed me sitting at the dining table, tucking into my meal with vigour. I couldn't believe how flabby my arms looked and how big in general I appeared. I was sickened at myself for gaining all the weight again that I had managed to lose!
Feeling ill made me tackle my weight problem
Knowing I looked so overweight did not spur me on into dieting, however. I simply became more negative and depressed about my size. Then I ate more (comfort eating) and felt sorry for myself.
By this time, the only trousers that fitted me comfortably were some awful, baggy, navy blue jogging pants. None of my nice clothes would go over my hips. Still I ate too much.
However, I then began to feel unwell and didn't realise for some time that it was as a result of my being overweight.
I had suffered from migraines when I was younger, coupled with high blood pressure. I had a very bad spate of them when I was in my 30s and had been off work sick for three months.
I started to have dreadful migraines again, with distorted vision like "flashing lights" in front of my eyes. I used to have to lie down in a darkened room till they passed, but they were getting steadily worse. Then I was light-headed too and this was quite frightening. Sometimes it was so bad, I couldn't put my head forward to wash my hair, while even bending over to tie my shoe-lace made me feel like I was falling on my face.
I had suffered from this in the past, when my blood pressure was raised. This had also occurred when I was overweight.
Also, eating late at night was playing havoc with my sleep. I had a terrible habit of eating two packs of microwave porridge and honey mixed together, with extra sugar, squares of milk chocolate melted into it and then full-cream milk mixed in. Then I would go straight to bed. A couple of times, I woke up feeling as if I couldn't breathe and feeling nauseous. With hindsight, I realised I was actually making myself sick in my sleep. This happened twice in one week and was very frightening. I would shoot out of bed, gasping for breath and feeling terrible.
In the same week, I had two migraines and then a third which was dreadful and lasted a long time. On this day, I had to go to the doctor's, as I was so scared. I didn't realise that the migraine and feeling so ill in general had made me have a panic attack and I felt I was gasping for air. I was hyper-ventilating and this was making me feel worse.
It was only at this point that I finally realised I must get a grip and tackle my over-eating and weight problem.
Doctor told me I was overweight with high blood pressure
On the afternoon that I went to the doctor, my blood pressure was sky high and my heart pounding.
The doctor weighed me and said I was two stone overweight at 11th 9lbs and my BMI (Body Mass Index) was way too high. He also said my heart was pounding much more quickly than it should be and suggested I needed a cardiograph to check for problems there.
I was terrified! I knew I had to make a drastic change in my life and I walked away from the surgery full of resolve. But it is a pity it took a health scare to make me realise I was living my life the wrong way!
From that day - in May 2013 - I stopped my unhealthy lifestyle in an instant. It was not difficult, because I had felt so ill due to my migraines and high blood pressure that I didn't even feel like raiding the fridge any more.
I thought back to Liza's posts on Facebook about her healthy eating and lifestyle and I thought to myself, "I can do that!"
I finally realised it was just my own apathy and negativity that were holding me back.
From that day on, I started to lose weight, inspired by her positive attitude.
My weight loss was quite rapid
I found it relatively easy to stick to a healthy lifestyle and lose weight, as if ever I felt tempted to binge-eat again, I reminded myself how ill I had been on the day I went to the doctor's.
I had to return to see my GP two weeks later for another blood pressure check and to see if I needed a cardiograph. But after a fortnight of eating no chocolate, cakes or other fattening snacks, I had already started to lose weight and was feeling better.
My regime was simple - cutting out all the wrong foods, replacing them with healthy foods such as salads, fruit and vegetables and then never eating after 6pm at night. I did not eat snacks between meals and exercised when I could - even if it was just a simple 15-minute routine in my lounge in the evening while watching television.
My doctor was so amazed at my progress and the improvement in my blood pressure and heart rate, he cancelled the appointment for a cardiograph, deciding it was unnecessary. He also said he didn't need to prescribe me tablets for high blood pressure, as it was going down on its own.
In the waiting room of the surgery was a weighing machine that also checked your blood pressure and heart rate, so I popped in every few weeks to monitor my progress.
Between May and October 2013, I lost two stone.
I had finally realised it was not about crash diets and fads, but was genuinely about altering the way you lived your life. It was a lifestyle choice, rather than eating unhealthily and not exercising for months and then going on a silly diet to try to lose the weight quickly.
Photographs charted my progress
I was thrilled when I compared photographs of myself at family gatherings one year apart, from mum's birthday in August 2012 and her birthday the following year. I hadn't realised how much weight I had lost until I saw them.
I have continued to stick to a healthy lifestyle to this day and as I grow older, I plan on remaining this way.
I feel fitter now than I did two years ago and can walk my dogs, walk into town, run up and downstairs and exercise without gasping for breath. My clothes all fit me again and I am more comfortable in my own body!
I don't actually believe I would have done this if it wasn't for Liza inspiring me to live a healthier life. Had she not posted her photographs, videos and updates on Facebook, plus photographs of some of the lovely, home-made meals and drinks that she had prepared, I would not have thought to myself, "I can do that too."
I am writing this Hub to try and inspire other people who feel they have an over-eating or weight problem, because if I can lose weight and live a healthier life, anyone can.
I was the world's worst chocolate addict and I didn't think I had it in me to ever stop binging on sweets! But once you change your mindset and believe you can do it, somehow it just happens and it is such an amazing feeling when you get on the scales and realise it's working, you can't imagine ever going back to your bad old ways!
I still allow myself the odd square of chocolate, incidentally. But these days, it's just that - one or two squares after a meal if I fancy something sweet. But then I stop, rather than going back to the fridge two, three or four times and ending up eating two or three bars! My mum always says, "A little of what you fancy does you good!" and this is true.
But the important words are "a little" and to eat fattening foods only in moderation. I think this is a good thing, as if you try and cut out your favourite food altogether, you will start craving it and feeling like you are on a diet and it will become a chore.
You must remember it's a lifestyle choice to live healthily and not a one-off event like a diet.
To me, one of the most important things is never to eat after 6pm, as this gives your body time to burn off the calories you have amassed during the day.
Don't give up - anyone can live healthily
I would urge anyone trying to lose weight to never give up. It may seem like an insurmountable hurdle when you start, but once the weight starts dropping off, it becomes easier as you want to carry on feeling and looking better.
Throughout all this, Liza has given me morale support and for this I am very grateful, because without her, I don't think I would have ever even thought about changing my lifestyle and getting healthy.
It is good having someone in your corner to inspire and encourage you.
At the end of the day, it is down to you to change your life. I cannot emphasise enough that if a "chocaholic" like me can do this, anyone can, so good luck!
Two years after originally writing this Hub, I'm pleased to say I've continued to stick to my regime and never eat in the evening, trying to eat balanced meals during the day so that I'm not hungry after 6pm.
Even if I am hungry, I will never, ever raid the fridge. I seem to have an inbuilt mechanism now that prevents me from opening the fridge door and tucking into whatever's inside in the evening!
I think a lot of it is due to remembering how ill I felt when I was overweight and my blood pressure was high.
It might seem like a long road to losing weight and maintaining a healthy eating routine, but it does get easier over time and I would strongly recommend never giving up on yourself, as you will reach your goal one day and realise that you've changed your life!