Wow. It’s hard to think that it’s now over a year ago that I joined Slimming World! As I mentioned in my last post, if you had told me then that I would be over 4 stone lighter and 6 sizes smaller in just 12 months I would probably have laughed in your face.
But it’s true! So I thought it would be a good time to reflect on all the things I’ve learned over the last year. Maybe this will help some of you who are considering joining, or who are stuggling at the moment. Or maybe you will just read it and say ‘Yep, me too!’.
So… this is a bit of long one. But here are my top five lessons of the last year:
1. It’s all in your head
Some of you are aware that I’ve been struggling a lot lately. The main reason being personal health issues, and lets face it, it’s hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you’re ill and in pain. And if there’s anything my fellow Slimming World members understand it’s the challenge of emotional eating.
For me, the reason Slimming World works where other diets have failed is because it has completely changed the way I think. As my wonderful consultant, Emma, says: with Slimming World you are never ‘off plan’ or ‘failing’ – you’re simply adopting a different strategy for that meal/occasion/day. And whenever you’re ready, you can get right back on track. The trick is to forgive yourself, draw a line and move on.
So instead of beating myself up about ‘cheating’ on my ‘diet’ I can say “well I thoroughly enjoyed that strategy 1 blow out, but now it’s time to get back to strategy 3”.
N.B. By the way, for anyone completely confused by that sentence, strategy 1 is what is commonly referred to as the ‘sod it’ strategy – where you eat what you want but accept you may gain weight as a result. Strategy 2 is ‘sensible choices’ – it’s the middle ground where you accept you may go over your Syn allowance, but you will still choose wisely as far as possible. Strategy 3 is fully on plan and staying within Syns.
This has been a really key part of retraining my brain. Alongside that are all the other lessons Emma has taught me along the way. Like not referring to foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, nor referring to myself in the same way if I choose to eat something that takes me over my Syn allowance.
It’s been a long process, and trust me this is still very much a work in progress. But I’m sure most Slimming World members would agree with me that losing weight is a mostly a brain issue rather than a physical one.
2. Know your weaknesses
‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is actually true for me. I know other members of my local Slimming World group have said they cannot have treats in the house or they would eat them all. But since my husband doesn’t follow Slimming World, that doesn’t work for me.
However, if I see it, I generally want it. The one time I have really wanted to throw something at my dear husband is when he was eating buttery crumpets. But it’s also true of things left on the kitchen worktops.
For example (and yes this will probably make you laugh) when my last weekly shop arrived and I dutifully filled the biscuit tin, there were 3 digestives that just would not fit, no matter how hard I tried. So I left them on the side. But then of course they were staring at me. So I had to eat them. The very next morning I ate all 3 with coffee for breakfast – 10.5 Syns gone before I even left the house. And then of course, rather than accepting this and carrying on my day as usual, I adopted the ‘sod it’ strategy and proceeded to eat crumpets and order take away kebab…
Another weakness for me is when Sainsbury’s substitute my fruit for something I don’t like, and I have to send it back. Sadly this happens all too frequently, and if I’m feeling particularly weak and vulnerable I’m liable to think ‘that’s it! I can’t possibly stay on plan now. I have no fruit!’ rather than erm… walking to the shop round the corner and buying some fruit? Or even just having the rest of my meals and snacks as normal and forgiving myself for the lack of speed that day until I can get some fruit. But no, woe is me and I must comfort eat as a result.
The earlier you can identify these weaknesses, the better. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long with some of them, but now I’m aware of them, I can plan for them. I now order double the quantity of fruit from Sainsbury’s that I actually need, including more variety, just so, even if they don’t have some things in stock, there’s a good chance I’ll have enough to last the week with whatever they deliver. And on the off chance they have everything I’ve ordered, I can still either return it with the driver or freeze it (depending on what it is).
3. Understand tipping and turning points
Again related to weaknesses, there’s a tool we use in Slimming World called the ‘tipping point‘. It’s designed to help you identify how many alcoholic drinks you can consume before you start to make bad choices (for me it’s 3 by the way). It also (scarily in some cases) tells you how much weight you stand to gain if you go over said ‘tipping point’.
Luckily I’m not a big drinker, so cutting down alcohol hasn’t been much of an issue for me. My addiction is most definitely food, not booze. However, even for me the tool predicted I could gain an extra stone and a half within a year if I stuck to my former pattern of drinking. Eeek!
But without a ‘magic tool’ from Slimming World it has taken me until this week to identify that I also have a ‘turning point’ (see what I did there?) with food too. It’s lunch.
Breakfast is easy – I don’t have that much of an appetite first thing in the morning (definitely NOT a morning person) and generally stick to coffee and fruit during the week, with added bacon at weekends. No problem.
Lunch is where it can all go horribly wrong.
A well planned lunch will keep me full and happy, so that I stick to whatever plan I had made for my evening meal. I’ll usually have various snacks during the day, but again, if lunch is right, they’ll be totally on track – things like fruit and Hifi Light bars.
If I skip lunch, or I don’t have enough at lunch, I’m much more likely to go in search of more sweet snacks, or to be so ravenous when I get home from work that I can’t possibly wait for dinner. This greatly increases the risk of me choosing biscuits and/or crumpets. And seeing as one crumpet alone is 5 Syns, without the Lurpak, well… you get the idea.
I can’t believe it has taken me a whole year to work that out. But it’s true! I was reeeally struggling last week (4.5lb gain!!), particularly whilst still feeling sorry myself and entirely frustrated with the NHS. But for the last few days I’ve had lovely filling pasta for lunch (which is also a comfort food for me) and I’ve been completely on track (2lbs back off so far!).
4. The useful features are just that
As a Slimming World member, whether attending group or as an online member, you have access to tonnes of resources, including Syns directories and calculators, food diaries and planners, recipes, advice from your consultant, IMAGE therapy (if you attend group), books etc. And this wonderful section of the website called ‘Useful Features’.
Which I have to confess, until recently, I rarely used.
I guess I never really thought I needed to until I was really struggling. But last week, whilst sat in group on the verge of tears in my ‘woe is me’ state, I jumped onto the Slimming World app and searched for ‘stress’. Lo and behold, up came a useful feature all about how to manage stress and help you stay on track.
Ironically one of the key pieces of advice was one my lovely husband had given me earlier that day, about identifying which things that are causing you stress you actually have the power to change, versus those that are outside your control. (Don’t you just hate it when they’re right?!).
By the time I finished reading the article, I already felt a bit more in control. Funnily enough, the ‘useful feature’ was useful in helping me stop stressing and see that I could easily get back on track with a few small adjustments.
Now I’m starting to use them a bit more. Think about it as the Slimming World version of Google. Whatever the issue is – whether it’s how to handle stress, how to forgive yourself after a blow out, how to speed up your weight loss, what’s best to order at Frankie and Benny’s or Pizza Express, suggestions for exercise for beginners – whatever you need there’s probably a useful feature about it. And if not – tell Slimming World – they might just write one.
5. Don’t just buy the magazine
So many people I know seem to buy the Slimming World magazine, skim through it and then forget about it. I have to confess I’ve done it myself on several occasions.
But in ‘going back to basics’ recently, I’ve been reminded that there is so much good stuff in every issue. Plus for those of you who aren’t Slimming World members, whether due to the financial commitment or travel/childcare issues or whatever, but who want to lose weight – this is one resource that you can easily access too.
The very first issue of the Slimming World magazine I read was an issue from October 2013. It was given to me by a former colleague who was also a Slimming World member when I first joined last year.
It just so happened that in this issue there was the story of a lady who had started at a very similar starting weight and size to me. A gorgeous lady called Helen Scott, who was now a beautiful, happy, healthy size 10 with a beaming smile. I actually cried reading her story. At that point I was still new and scared and unsure whether Slimming World would work for me. But her story gave me hope.
Not only are the stories of other members’ success inspiring in each issue, but there are so many other useful bits of information – like the latest low/no Syn products to hit the supermarkets, recipes to try, advice on everything from exercise to dealing with stress, and from how to shop for your figure to how different foods affect your hormones.
I cannot say enough how helpful I have found this one resource! In fact, most of the new recipes I’ve tried out lately (coming soon to a blog near you…) have come from the magazine.
Don’t just buy it. Read it. Use it. It’s good.
So there you have it. I’m by no means the expert. I’m still working this plan every day and sometimes I still mess it up. But I will definitely take 4st lighter any day. And I know if I keep working at this, I can be even lighter, slimmer, healthier and happier than I am one year on. 🙂