WEIGHT LOSS IN PORTUGAL
Helen’s Weight Loss Journal
I have been debating if to write this post for a while now but decided to go with it. I have always had a weight problem my entire life. I’m 46 now but I was always the chubby one of the family. Even from the age of around 3 I was chubby. I am not sure what the answer is to this, maybe genetic. I know at 3 years of age and 7 years of age when these photos below were taken, I did not have access to my own money to buy sweets or excessive snacks. I grew up in a single parent family and my sister and I were fed a balanced healthy diet as mum was a type 1 diabetic so she was very strict about diet and sugar. Sweets were a rare treat in our household. We both ate the same but I was fat and she was thin. We were free school meals at Primary and Secondary school and snack time was fruit. Back in the 80’s your parent packed you a snack and the teacher wrote your name on it in a black marker pen then put it in a box. Come break time the teacher picked the snacks out of the box one by one and called your name out. I was always gutted as most of my friends had crisps, a wagon wheel or a penguin bar but I always had an apple, orange or banana. The apple was the worst as you would have to bite and eat around the black marker pen so you lost some of your snack. I know my mum was only doing her best for us but as a 7 year old child, I felt jealous of my mates and deprived. I am also a chocoholic now!
I’ve raised my children to be healthy adults but my motto is everything in moderation. One thing I have never submitted my children to is verbal abuse, I have never called them names or made fun of their appearance. My grandad never called me by my real name. He always called me ‘Fatty’ and even as a 7 year old child, that hurt. I loved my gran and hated my grandad. He died when I was 13 and luckily my lovely gran didn’t die until I was 22 so she got to meet my son Josh from 0-3 but she would never call him Josh and instead called him Joe, I don’t know why but I always found it funny.
From the age of 16-40’s my weight has fluctuated from 9 stone – 16 1/2 stone. I put a whopping 5 stone on with both of my pregnancies. I tried many diets over the years and successfully lost weight then put it back on again. I have tried Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley, Slimming World, Slim fast and Herbalife Arriba weight loss challenges also calorie counting with a Fit Bit and a vegan diet. I know the success to maintaining a healthy weight is a balanced healthy diet and regular exercise. A diet is not a 2 week starvation short term trick but a long term healthy eating plan with a combination of food groups to give your energy. I have a very addictive personality and I’m a all or nothing kind of girl so a combination of healthy eating and exercise work side by side for me. If my exercise lapses then so does my healthy eating.
I successfully lost a lot of weight and managed to maintain my weight until I had an operation to remove my coccyx in 2014. This resulted in me having 4 months off work and being in bed on morphine and the weight piled on. Back in my 20’s and 30’s losing weight for me was about being slim, looking good and the latest fashion. It was fairly easy back then and I could lose anything from 2lbs-5lbs in a week. Now I’m in my late 40’s it’s all about health for me. I don’t want to die young. I want to grow old and watch my children get married and have a relationship with my grandchildren. Diabetes, strokes and cancer run in my family so I know I have to be considerate of these facts. Since I got diagnosed with an under active thyroid I really find losing weight hard. The most I can lose is 1 or 2lbs per week no matter how hard I try. It’s really hard when you attend slimming groups and others lose 7lbs in 1 week and admit to cheating! You want to punch their smug little faces! You do get demoralised but weight loss is very individual and what works for one person does not work for another. Just find the right plan for you and stick to it. I’ve heard a lot about Keto and fasting but I literally faint if I don’t eat every 4 hours during the day. I also don’t want to totally delete a food group from my diet. If you have a bad day then don’t let it ruin your whole week, month or year. Just get back on track. I find a weight loss journey fascinating as when you weigh over 16 stone and you start on your journey everyone is supportive and say well done. Then you get down to a reasonable weight (lower than them) and are heading towards your goal when people start saying you’ve lost too much weight or you look ill – you can’t bloody win! (ha ha).
The last healthy diet plan I followed was Slimming World in Clifton, Bristol and over an 18 month period I lost several stone reaching 9 stone 4lbs. My target was 10 stone but I met that and amended it to 9 stone 7 lbs. I maintained this weight for around 2 years then things slipped a little, I don’t know why but weight started creeping on even before I relocated to Portugal. People think that losing weight is hard. It is, it is bloody hard but maintaining your weight is harder. At first it’s easy and you play around with your food intake to maintain. Losing 7 stone and keeping it off is a daily challenge which I’m not winning at present. I visited my GP in the UK and at the time they were offering a free 12 week course at either Slimming World or Weight Watchers but you had to be clinically obese which I was, not something I’m proud of. I then stayed on and paid the weekly fee for the moral support. With Slimming World I think it’s important that you have a good bond with your consultant.
Now for the funny story, it wouldn’t be a Helen post without the humour! Flash back to 1st day of Slimming World. I head off a bag of nerves, worried I’m gonna be the fattest there and I was right (ha ha). I walk into the church and up the steps to find an empty room with a circle of chairs. I sit down nervously and scanned the room. I noticed a few plates of biscuits on a table in the corner – digestives and those pink wafer ones I’ve never been a fan of but I could eat a digestive or two right now. That’s strange I thought then the people started arriving. God I really am the fattest here I keep thinking to myself, literally no one has a weight problem. About 5 minutes into the meeting I quickly realise that I’ve accidently joined the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and that the Slimming World group is downstairs. At this point I have 2 options – stay or run, so I ran as fast as my obese body could take me. I wonder what the others were thinking. I bet they were looking at me and thinking wow not only does she over drink but she over eats too! I later found out that there are several groups held at the church hall including a cooking group, homeless shelter and computers for the golden oldies! I decided to stick with Slimming World as hubby does all the cooking, I had my tiny rented flat and my computer skills were adequately sufficient for my needs.
I highly recommend Slimming World especially if you like your food and want some treats along the way. They don’t have a Slimming World in Portugal – I’m gutted. I also learnt about the importance of drinking water and how important protein is in your daily diet to keep yourself feeling full. Even when I reached my target weight I thought I was fat. I don’t like having my photo taken and you won’t see me in many photos because I’m just not photogenic. This is a shame as I have realised that I have very few photos of myself with my children. I never wanted my photo taken because of the way I felt and looked. My advice to all the husbands, dads and partners out there is take photos of your wife/partner and baby. Take a whole heap of them, don’t worry if her hair is messy or she has no make-up on. No one cares if she is still in her bedclothes or hasn’t taken a shower yet as she was busy breast feeding her child. Just take the photos, take all the photos, you will regret it later in life if you don’t. I don’t know where to put my arms and how do I smile when I have my photo taken? teeth or no teeth! I still liked to wear black clothes even at my slimmest. I now look back at these photos and I feel that I should have embraced life with a splash of colour and celebrated my achievement.
The ‘Target weight’ photos
The ‘Fat’ photos
The ‘1st May 2020 day 1’ photos
I have no idea what I currently weigh as I have no scales. I am certainly not 9 stone 4lbs anymore and I can no longer fit into my size 10 jeans. I donated most of my clothes to charity before I moved here as we came with just a couple of suitcases. I have a couple of really nice dresses I would love to fit back into and all my clothes are a size 10 or 12 so I am currently living in stretchy leggings.
I don’t have much motivation to lose weight here in Portugal as I don’t have a job and spend most days in the garden in leggings and a t.shirt but I know I need a good kick up the butt to start healthy eating and start regular exercise again. Leggings are evil and very misleading as Primark size medium leggings fit me whether I’m a size 10 or 16, they just get thinner on the ass! I do get a lot of physical exercise in the garden digging and carrying rocks around but I currently am only jogging 5K once per week and back in the UK I used to jog a lot and attend a gym X3 times per week as well as boxing and body pump class. I defo need to up my cardio.
You would think that Portugal and the Mediterranean diet would be great for losing weight, well it is as there is an abundance of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and salads etc. but there is also the Portuguese bread, wine, cheese, olives and don’t forget the cakes, the cakes are amazing and to die for! Once I have reduced down to the size I am happy with we can then treat ourselves with a cake Friday. Annoying fact is that hubby eats the same as me and never changes shape, size or weight, bloody men! I did try and start this 1st March as we were flying back UK for an event but it was cancelled due to Covid-19 so when the trip got cancelled so did my healthy eating plan as I had no reason to slim down now and buy a new frock.
So today is 1st May, I’ve started my healthy eating, well I’m trying anyway. The plan is to just cut out all the bad treats like the cakes, chocolate and pancakes also gluten as I get so poorly when I eat gluten which is connected to my IBS. I’m not going to calorie count as that’s impossible here but I will broadly apply the Slimming World rules. If I could get down to around 10 stone then that would be fine for me. I’m not particularly tall and have short legs so 10 stone is a good goal for me. I am also going to increase my exercise. I ordered a mat from Decathlon and an armband for my Iphone so I can listen to music whilst jogging and I’ve even downloaded an epic playlist to keep me motivated. I am also going to complete Mad Fit 10 min abs workout as often as I can. I struggle with all ab work as most positions are on the floor led on back which puts pressure on my area where coccyx was removed. I have found a 10 min workout for lower abs which works for me. This lady is super fit, was a ballerina and looks over 6ft tall, slim and beautiful and she is really good and positive with her instructions and has lots of Youtube videos. We are starting with a walk later today. We live very close to the mountains (Serra do Açor) so we have no excuses.
Someone once told me I’d never be thin as I have big bones and I’m large framed. Such a ridiculous statement as I’m only just over 5ft 4 inches tall, average shoulder size, my feet are a 4 1/2 UK size and my ring finger is a K so I’m clearly not large framed. I wish I were taller as I would be able to carry more weight. I went to see a dietician via my GP back in UK and she confirmed that a weight between 8 1/2 stone – 10 stone 4lbs is healthy for me. I have no plans to be 8 1/2 stone ever but I also don’t want to be obese for health reasons. I also don’t want to be a diet bore as food is involved in so many celebrations here in Portugal and I bloody love eating! I don’t have scales so I will judge by trying on my jeans. They currently go up to my knees and it takes 2 people to get them off. That will be my hubby as it would be unreasonable to ask the nearest neighbour to help as his wife might not like it (ha ha). I may just slim down enough to fit into my bikini by summer (Don’t worry, I won’t put you off your food with any photos – (ha ha), wish me luck, I’m gonna need it. I’m off for a cake and coffee now, I mean a moderate walk up the mountains!
The ‘God I could eat this right now’ photo of my favourite Portuguese cake (Patas de Veado)
20th May 2020 Update:
So it’s been around 2 1/2 weeks since I started my healthier eating plan. It’s going O.K but thinking back over my food and I have to be honest, I have ate a snickers bar, an ice cream or two (it’s been boiling hot!), a pancake, a double BBQ burger and I had a cake today in the car after visiting a DIY shop. Does it still count if you eat it in the car? Maybe it’s like What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, What calories you eat in the car stays in the car with the wrappers as evidence!
I also have only completed my 5K jog once per week and my 10 min abdominal exercises twice per week. The food I have listed sounds quite bad but that was over a space of 2 1/2 weeks and I am trying. I do a lot of physical exercise in the garden every day and I am weeding and clearing huge brambles from back of house at present in the boiling heat and carrying broken tiles and stones around garden in preparation for builders to come mid June and fix the crazy paving so I don’t trip and break my neck. Once all the extreme gardening maintenance work has been completed I am definitely going to increase my jogging to at least 3 times per week if not 4. My last jog I completed was apparently my fastest yet but I still have to walk up the 3 hills. I have a trick now, I have a couple of espresso coffees before my jog and the caffeine appears to give me a little boost. I will persist with it and see what happens. It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward!
11th August 2020 Update
Not much progress to update you with, at least I’m honest. I am keeping up with my X3 weekly jogs and X2 mad fit 10 min abs, which is hard work in 35-40 heat. When it’s 25 it almost feels cold (ha ha). I know the jogging is helping me maintain my fitness levels but it’s not helping with my weight loss. My food is fairly healthy but I do have treats, probably too many and theres the wine. I have come to the conclusion that If I really want to loose a couple of stones I need to get serious and at present I just can’t be bothered. I don’t have any scales so it’s difficult to measure any success and stay motivated. I think I will commit myself fully once my daughter has completed her visit here so possibly September or October and the countdown to Christmas as I really want to go skiing at Christmas and don’t want to have to squeeze myself into a ski suit where I can’t breathe. I recently purchased a dress and shorts and had to buy large which was a little upsetting as I used to be a 10-12 small.
What I have discovered is don’t let all those perfect photos on Instagram fool you. These celebs and reality TV show young ladies are always sharing photos of themselves looking perfect and tiny and it’s not real! They often use photo shop to alter images and it really depends on how you stand and pose. I can prove this, see photos below. This is right after my jog today so excuse my sweaty state and my hideous bathroom (ha ha). I also look ridiculous with my brown arms and milky white body, this if from jogging! First photo with everything sucked in and the other 2 photos how I really look with everything hanging out. I have IBS and often look at least 6 months pregnant on a daily basis. Don’t worry about this folks use it as a positive, go swimming for free and pretend your pregnant (ha ha). What I’m trying to say is don’t compare yourself to others, it’s your journey. I do want to loose weight but I also have better things to worry about and life is too short to be a diet bore. I’m too busy having fun in the sun and eating way too much ice cream!