It’s a rude shock, getting older. There you are, cruising along, thinking you know your body and then suddenly 30 comes along. And in the following years, the diet you followed to keep you on the straight an narrow, in the same clothes, feeling the same way, fails you.
Then if babies come along it all goes kablooie and you’re left with that fucking unshiftable bloody half stone that won’t go. And then you get to 35 and it’s just war to stay at the weight you know you ought to be.
At 27 you are a furnace, burning up calories merrily; after 35 you’re like an old rusty, slightly blocked log burner possibly with a couple of ravens nesting at the top of the flue.
You have a choice. You can either decide that life is too short for this, accept a new body shape and move on.
Or you have to adapt and change your approach to food. Not least because a) eating the same old things gets boring and b) as we get older, we need more of some things and less of others. Eating the same things in your 30s as you did in your teens or 20s is like wearing the same clothes or having the same opinions. It all has to change.
I think it’s safe to say we’re now in a post-Atkins world and Dr Robert Atkins left a few good legacies, and some bad ones.
The good thing about Atkins was that it taught the world that refined sugar is the fucking devil.
Sugary shit in bright packets, white pasta and white bread will set you off on a horrendous blood sugar spike/crash rollercoaster, damage your teeth, do nothing at all except make you want more, then make you fat then give you cancer then kill you. If you’re over 18 there is no excuse for eating any of it, ever, unless it’s a fucking emergency.
(And don’t start talking to me, please, about “treats”. Ugh. “It’s a treat”, “treat day” – both phrases make me want to set fire to things. Categorising some food as a “treat” and some food as not will make you feel like every time you’re not having a “treat” – like a dog being trained to ride a skateboard – then you’re somehow being punished.
Don’t think about food like that. Think about what you want to achieve – eating this kind of food and in this way will do these things to your body, eating that kind of food that way will do other things. And that’s all there is to it.)
The bad thing about Atkins was that we have broadly forgotten the central message about ketosis and just taken from it what we want, i.e. cream and cheese and meat is great, pasta and potatoes are bad.
I was following a “kind of” Atkins diet, scoffing stews and roasts and all kind of meat and cream in any quantity, while still eating fruit and sourdough toast for breakfast. Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Unless you’re going to do Atkins properly, foul-breath and all, don’t bother. Even if you are doing it properly it’s miserable, boring and if you’re a woman over 35 it’s really not good for you.
So what, then, you are screaming at me. What, what? What do I do?
In the next 18 months the buzzwords in the diet industry are going to be portion control, fibre and gut health. This basically means you need to eat less all round, more fibre and more fermented stuff. And that’s broadly it.
First let’s have a pep talk about portion control.
Every diet, everywhere ever written has some element of calorie restriction or calorie counting about it. There is simply no getting away from the fact that if you want to lose weight you have to eat less. And as you get older you need fewer calories anyway.
(For some people, that means 5:2. Personally, I can’t do that. I don’t eat much but I stop short of actual regular fasting.)
Exercise doesn’t even really come into it; unless you are really doing a shiteload of cardio, it’s diet that matters more. I read that somewhere! I’m not completely making this up.
There are two kinds of over-eaters – emotional overeaters and habitual overeaters. If you are an emotional overeater 6 weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will sort you out. *** (For a note on this please see a comment from Laura on the subject in the comments section.)
If you are, like me, a habitual overeater, you just need to reassess your portions, even if you have a good diet. Do you really need to eat that much muesli? A bowl of stew doesn’t have to be brimful.
I feel like I’m ranting now but you get the picture…
Anyway homework today is to have a think about portion sizes because you could perhaps lose whatever weight you want to lose just by reducing what you eat by 1/4 without making any other immediate changes to your diet.
Next time, we’re going to go back to the 80s and talk about FIBRE.
YES! to portion control. I always find myself divvying up a meal between my 6″7′ boyfriend and me equally and I probably don’t even need to eat even a third of what he eats to sustain his frame and his cycling habit…but I just see 2 people = 2 equal portions. MUST get out of that mindset.
I think that I won’t be doing this. I’m going to use 2018 to, instead, work on accepting myself for who and what I am. I’m also going to spend time getting my head around why, exactly, we loathe and vilify fat people and fatness so very much. It strikes me as toxic and wrong, in this day and age. I’m aware that I sound bonkersly pissed off, but I’ve been on a diet since I was 9 and I’m fucking sick of it. My mum is 64 and terminally ill with stage IV breast cancer which has spread to her lungs, bones, diaphragm and liver. But guess what? The ‘upside’ of this, in her eyes, is that she’s lost weight. I just cannot deal with this bullshit any more, for bullshit it certainly is. I’m so sorry to hijack your post with ranting, Esther. I love your writing and your blog. But I feel so strongly that we should be kinder to ourselves. X
I’m sorry your mum is dying, that’s incredibly hard. Being kind to yourself is first-aid – absolutely essential.
Jo R says
Leona I’m so sorry to hear that your Mum is ill. Certainly a time to be kind to yourself x
Leona can you drop me a quick email? email@example.com xxx
HI Leona, I left a supportive post but somehow it didn’t work. Just sending best wishes to you. And support for your perspective. xx
Hi Leona So sorry about your mum, yes, be kind to yourself xx
Jana Tigchelaar says
Leona, I’m so sorry about your mother. I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago (stage 2) and actually had some shitty people tell me “at least you lost weight” during chemo. It is toxic indeed, and I’m sorry your poor mom, who should not have to give two shits about that, has internalized it.
Stella Cook says
So sorry about your Mom. Lost my D to cancer just over three years ago. I was a bit overweight & am now scrawny. ( When I’m very upset, I can’t eat). But yes the pressure women feel to be a certain weight is fucked up. Not to mention those on TV or in the movies are tiny as hell, in real life. But I’d gladly carry the extra weight & higher blood pressure, just to have him back. Hugs.
I’m so sorry to hear about your mum, and completely agree with your comment and re-examining our fear of fatness. Sending you lots of love and strength. Xxxx
Jo R says
I’m 45 and find the less I eat the better I feel, don’t get me wrong I don’t starve myself but I give myself the same portions that I give my kids not my husband. I like being slim, I feel healthier, have more energy and more positive about myself. Each to their own I say but I don’t want diabetes and be puffing up the hill at 60.
This was a really helpful article. At last stating the utter truth of what you have to do. I used to be a dancer then I ran and I was really slim. Sadly in 2009 I had to have major back surgery and coupled with being on morphene, I ended up putting on weight. I have put on about 6 stone now and I feel awful. I really want to shift it but nothing seems to work. I am going to try portion control and see if that helps. I am fed up of being fat. People really treat you very differently and patronise you. I find that being fat is a problem for others viewing me, especially my mother, more than it is a problem for me. Yet, when you have spent a lot of your life as a dancer and scrutinising every part of your body it is not easy to accept.It doesn’t help that I am hardly able to walk now and exercise is restricted to gentle swimming. I feel like the Wife of Bath lamenting the passing of her youth!
Thank you for taking the time to share this, that sounds like a really difficult situation. Going from being a dancer to such a restrictive lifestyle sounds pretty hard to deal with (though in fact going from ANY state of mobility to immobility is not easy). In your situation I would certainly seek talking therapy, if you haven’t already?
That might be an idea. I feel people judge me all the time and I constantly feel the need to explain myself. I should accept it but I can’t. I have in my garage loads of designer clothes from when I was a size 6/8. I’ve even got some original Ossie Clark stuff that I can’t let go of. It’s as if I still hope I can get back to that size one day. I’m lying to myself.
ha! we all do that. look, I don’t think ANY of us are going to be a size 6 or 8 again, but I rate talking therapy for everyone, I see a shrink and it helps with all sorts of stuff. If budgeting is an issue, they are available on the NHS.
Yes – absolutely portion control!! Post babies (and post 35..) whenever I have lost a meaningful amount of weight, it hasn’t even been due to cutting out all the “bad” foods in any overwhelmingly militant way – but has been all about how much of them I eat / drink(!) Calorie counting is about quantities… Am now readying myself to hop back on board the diet bandwagon, as I hurtle towards the big 40, just as soon as I’ve located that willpower again.
Oh it is soooo frickin hard to lose weight. I am dragging my heavy, sorry ass around town and it is going but my god it is slow. I am 42…you think 35 is bad. Anyway the trajectory is in the right direction and I’ve lost 5kg but the bad news is I STILL have another 9kg to go. Yep, I was massive. Thanks miscarriages and emotional eating/ drinking (I’ve stopped both, booze altogether for the foreseeable future).
I agree re eating and getting the right amount in will overall help you reduce your weight and that treats are insanity. Eat well, eat moderately, eat more veg, eat less sugar, try not to drink too much. Do not drink your calories. Don’t be a dick. It’s a pretty good mantra to live by.
I am going back to my personal trainer tomorrow, exercise = muscle mass = more calories burned = more weight loss, I hope. But like you wisely say, I will be following this with a small portion of dhal topped with a runny egg and maybe a small piece of fish for my dinner. I just hope I get to my goal some time soon as at the minute it feels endless!
One good thing, I live in Korea, land of kimchi, my gut is grateful and future me thankful. Plus everyone here is so skinny it helps when I feel my resolve weakening. Nothing like a shop assistant chasing you out of a shop because you are too big for any of the clothes, usually whilst shouting NO, TOO BIG so everyone can hear.
LOL! fucking hell. thank you for this.
I am a UK size 12, hardly enormous but this has happened too many times to count!
laugh out actual loud
Charlotte Gretton says
Yes to portion control. I always say that when eating less healthy options you don’t enjoy three scoops of ice cream three times as much as one scoop. In fact the guilt you might have from three dulls the enjoyment.
What if you do ok up until the week before your period then turn into a sugar guzzling monster. I cannot stop myself. It’s worse since having a baby. I put on at least half a stone each month and end up back at square one.
Hi, this happens to me. I forget when my period is due until I snarf down an entire block of chocolate at a time… what helps is not keeping the crap in the house, to be honest. Also, having a ton of low-cal sweet stuff I can graze on in large quantities (grapes, strawberries, yogurt (low-fat if you want) and diet sodas). Sometimes chocolate is the only thing that will hit that spot but I have a bag of single serving fancy truffles I keep around and that I can usually stick to just one or two.
In my house I have those Goodies bars and a lot of dried fruit and Rich Tea biscuits for sugar freak-outs. Not great, but better than 5 Crunchies in a row or a saucepan full of Cheerios
I try to have a srock of 85% dark chocolate in the house – it’s not really possible to gorge on it, so does the trick (usually). if im very organised I melt cocnut oil, dark chocolate and nut butter togeth, pour into petot four case or a mould and put into fridge. Its lovely and truffly and hits the spot.
Hampshire Mummy says
Thanks Esther….I’ve been meaning to ask you how you manage to stay so slim. Your advice is so valuable because I can remember you being not so slim for a while after you had your babies in the Recipe Rifle days so you speak from experience (something missing amongst many of the wellness brigade). I eat really heathily, have dodged refined carbs for nearly 20 years but since having my last child 6 years ago I’ve been 1-2 stone overweight. I KNOW the answer is to radically cut down on how many calories I eat but struggle to motivate myself. I stopped working when I had the kids and since then I have become a habitual over eater. Probably always a greedy person but now way more opportunity. NO WILLPOWER. Where can I find some ?
Good question! I must admit that it was a fortnight-course of antibiotics that made me feel nauseous that finally knocked off the final half stone last year, but since then I’ve kept it off. I think there’s no motivation like seeing weight coming off, all I can advise is to start really slowly, look at what you’re eating each day and just have one less spoonful and see how that goes. You don’t even have to change WHAT you’re eating, just how much. Being at home with your kids will pile on calories like no-one’s business…
Yes to portion control. I find eating from a smaller plate or bowl helpful. Have you noticed the size of dinner plates they sell in the shops now. Bloody enormous. And move more. And try not to snack between meals. Dont use sweets as a treat food especially for children. Why would you offer some unhealthy teeth attacking stuff as a reward? Makes no sense. Ditto sugary drinks and by the way alcohol is loaded with calories and if you drink excessively is a cancer risk. The BMA says there is no safe limit. Sorry but true.. Dont get me started on easter eggs and the volume a lot of kids eat. Just say fucking no.
“At 27 you are a furnace, burning up calories merrily; after 35 you’re like an old rusty, slightly blocked log burner possibly with a couple of ravens nesting at the top of the flue” – possibly the best think I’ll read all year.
I’m most definitely a habitual overeater, if I do a crazy amount of exercise I can just about get away with it;I’m done next to no exercise for the last few months – let’s just say I’m not getting away with it and I’m 40 in 5 weeks!!! 🙁
Just want to add, don’t forget that muscle weighs more than fat, so if – like me – you have suddenly started to develop real muscles from Pilates, you can be changing shape/getting slimmer but without seeing much result on scales. Pay attention to how your clothes fit as much as magic numbers at the end of the needle!
I pretty much always go on how clothes fit, with scales to confirm. God I sound like a mad anorexic! Is there any way of talking about weight without sounding like a nutter?
No. no way at all. It will always be full nuttery but it is so fraught. Keep being honest, as you are, and deleting any truly awful comments!
For the record I have no scales but do hop on them at friends’ houses so am reliant on fit for information but also – full disclosure – am neither slim nor overly bothered, though of course I would love to fit into clothes from when I was 28 and get rid of the wine baby.
Really thought provoking and frank piece, thank you Esther. There aren’t many women’s lifestyle writers willing to be so upfront about wanting to be slim and the effort to do so. Except maybe Polly Vernon but she winds me up.
I don’t think anyone can write about weight without sounding like a nutter! It points to our double think. Comments here on The Spike suggest a live and let live approach to being slim/ not slim, but it seems we don’t really believe it. Not really truly. We want to be slim and enjoy wearing our clothes but don’t want to be mean about fat people (except Giles maybe). So in trying to untangle our thoughts we end up sounding like nutters!
At 39, post 2 babies, oh boy it’s much harder to stay slim. I don’t need as much food and if I do over-indulge, I genuinely feel so ill as to make over-indulgence sort of pointless.
My husband has just lost >20kgs and looks amazing.
I’m doing an ongoing modified/moderate version of 5:2 because I seriously dislike the under-bra strap bulge. It’s a slow burn but having impact.
Snacking and random unscheduled eating (the children’s leftover cheesy pasta…..!) is the devil! The Chief Medical Officer Dr Sally Something was on Radio4 last week talking about obesity and observed that when she was a girl, eating in the street was not socially acceptable. Nor were there the endless on-street eating options. No wonder people were slimmer in the 60s! They couldn’t just accidentally graze 1,000 calories without noticing.
So, yes I agree portion control. Yes more fibre. Yes less snacking. Yes less sugar. Yes to a happy gut and feeling nourished and energetic… BUT
It’s a bit of a can of worms once we start unpicking our cultural and individual attitudes to our body size though, isn’t it. I’m built like a pin-up doll. I could starve myself and I’d still never be truly slim. But my sister gets too busy for lunch and loses 3lb. Built like a racehorse…. Slim, in the Jean Seberg/ Audrey Hepburn/ gamine waif sense is never going to happen for a large part of the female population. But it’s that body type that’s implied in the word ‘slim’. So a lot of us are on a hiding to nothing (leaving aside the health benefits) and going to feel fat/ugly while forgoing a lot of pleasure.
And let’s not pretend kale is just as nice as cake, if only we could think ourselves into it!
There’s a world of difference between being 5kgs more than you could/ should be ‘ideally’ and being dangerously overweight. I think it’s worth examining how important this is because we are spending loads of brain space and energy to be SLIM.
So yeah, there’s a high risk of sounding like a nutter because it’s a fraught issue.
Emily this is so brilliant. This all made me laugh and I agree with a lot of it.
Both Polly and Giles are well-established wind-up merchants and no-one ought to take either of them very seriously. They certainly don’t take themselves especially seriously.
Oh EMILY that plate of Portuguese custard tarts in your picture . . .
The recommended serving size for a Portuguese tart is one tart per mouthful…. yes?
What I found while being pregnant and breastfeeding was that I got used to never being hungry. Which is a very nice state to be in but obviously not good for your weight. So I try and make sure I feel hungry during the day, not the awful gnawing tummy growling from school days hungry, but a definite empty feeling before eating. I’ve also got rid of processed bread which has massively helped with sugar cravings and blood sugar crashes.
We all sound like nutters when we discuss weight, it’s odd, why shouldn’t we think about it? I make sure my kids and my dog eat sensibly, exercise and aren’t overweight so why not myself?
Well quite Mrs V
Hi Esther, interesting to read your thoughts on this especially on the distinction between habitual and emotional overeating.
I’m a psychotherapist ànd definitely see people overeat as a way of managing their emotion but i disagree with your assertion that 6 weeks of cbt can sort this out for everyone.
It is immensely helpful for creating an awareness of the link between feelings and the drive to eat but i am concerned that for many people this won’t give them any different way of engaging with their feelings.
Associations between feelings and eating are often formed in the pre verbal, earliest days of life and it can be difficult to shift patterns formed at that time with cognitive focussed short term work so if other readers think ‘ i tried that and it still didn’t work’ they might feel disheartened.
In a way 6 weeks of cbt as cure treats emotional overeating as more of a habitual thing rather than the somatic and attachment seeking behaviour it can be for some people so seeks to erase the distinction you are making.
Not normally a commenter in this way but felt it was important to make the point for anyone who might be beating themselves up about their relationship with food despite having spent time ‘thinking’about it.
Thanks Laura – if 6 weeks of CBT is misleading, do you think there is a programme of talking therapy that can readjust these kinds of attitudes to food?
Yes, talking therapy (of which cbt is a type) can definitely help but for some people they might need longer term relational work to give an experience of a new way of relating with other people and the world so that food is no longer the place where people meet those needs.
Thanks again for adding to this xxx
I really agree that a lot of this is about changing mindset. I think I have long been in denial about no longer being able to eat how I ate in my 20s/early 30s ( I am now nearly 43 FFS – you’d think I would have worked this out by now!). However (1) the baby years (I’m still in them) (2) being at home the vast majority of the time (3) having to cook hearty, nourishing meals for a (apart from me) fully male, super-energetic household on a seemingly endless rotation (4) having been one of those people who (when younger) really could eat just about anything and seemingly get away with it and (5) having next to no time to really “look after” myself (ugh, sorry I hate all that ‘self-care’ type talk, but hopefully you know what I mean), has meant that I simply haven’t looked carefully enough at what and how much I have been eating. This article has really given me pause for thought. I am definitely going to try to reduce my portions by a 1/4 and see what happens. Thanks so much for the inspiration! Lastly, but most importantly, sending ❤️❤️ to Leona above. I fully empathise with your situation and wish you and your Mum the very, very best for the future xxx
Louise all of your life circumstances make it incredibly hard to eat less – especially the hearty meals for male energetic household. I’m really sympathetic BUT reducing your plateful by just a *bit* each day will work. I usually start with a small amount and if I’m genuinely still hungry after that I’ll have more. If not I stop…
Thank you, Louise and everyone else. Your comments meant a lot to me today. Xx
Liz B says
This is so well timed for me, am a stone heavier than I want to be but would take half a stone less, but can I get it off? Can I fuck. Am at home with two small children during never ending winter of doom so I eat out of boredom or pending insanity. I need to STOP IT. Turn 35 in August. Also I eat random crap for lunch like some breadsticks and a babybel and some pomme bears. I sometimes think a formula for some meals works because if it is healthy and low cal and you don’t have to think about it then that’s great. And am off to Greece in May and will not fit in last years swimsuits so am bout to order a load of JCrew long torso in a bigger size and sob. xxxx
Liz getting any weight off when your children are not yet at school or mostly at nursery is VERY hard. Maybe start thinking about it now but really go for it when your youngest is out of your hair a bit…
Oh, and I really agree with the fermented foods thing. I have just started drinking kefir, for all the lovely probiotics, and have definitely noticed a decrease in bloating (if that isn’t TMI) 😬
but is Kefir gross?!?!?! be honest. I’ve never tried it
My mother ferments her own kefir. It’s proper Ming. Looks like regurgitated cottage cheese but once it’s fernented it’s fine and my (small) kids love it. My bloke didn’t get the memo and downed it pre fermentation-chunky cottage cheese vomits followed.
Have you discovered Symprove? It’s changed his life by largely clearing up symptoms of ibs including panic attacks (gut and brain connected…who knew!)
Ok, so kefir is DEFINITELY not “delicious” on its own! But I blend it up with banana, or berries, or whatever else you fancy and it is genuinely fine. I am currently drinking goat milk kefir (one which has been properly tested to show which probiotics it contains and which are proven to survive their journey into the digestive tract) – if you hate goats cheese this will make you RETCH, but I am now really used to it (still wouldn’t drink it straight though) in my little breakfast smoothies ☺️
Louise you’re my gut health inspo
I am 49 and trust me once you get to that age weight becomes a matter of fucking witchcraft. Fat appears where you’ve never had it before and your body hangs onto it like it’s diamonds.
I have just lost a stone in 5 weeks. I didn’t want to be skinny (I’m still not) and I didn’t want to lose my tits. I just wanted to get back to what for me is a happy weight and to shed some abdominal fat as we all know that’s not healthy.
The key was a slight lifestyle change that I knew I’d be able to maintain once I’d lost the weight – so portion control and SOME cardio. I used My Fitness Pal – which really makes you think about hoovering up leftover fish fingers – and burned 500 calories a day on an exercise bike while watching 40 mins of Netflix. Oh and I cut out alcohol during the week. If you have a daily calorie deficit you will lose weight – even at 49.
And I think there’s nothing wrong with NOT wanting to lose weight, but there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to – as long as you’re doing it for yourself.
Helen thank you! I would so never be arsed to get on an exercise bike for 40 mins, you are inspiring
Seconding the recommendation for My Fitness Pal. I lost a stone with it, and kept it off, when nothing else had worked, and it didn’t feel like being on a diet, just more conscious of portion size and a prompt to do more exercise (which is good anyway).
My husband has Type 1 so counting carbs and sugar is part of our daily life anyway; when you realise just how hard your body is working to manage that white bagel, it is easier to just have half of one, or a slice of fruit toast and not half a pack. We only have wholemeal as it is much better for sugar levels. Also if you know that it only requires 4 jelly babies to correct a hypo, you think twice about letting your kids scoff half a packet.
Moderation is the key and so agree with not dividing up food into “treats” and “not treats”. And yes to MrsV about giving yourself the same consideration as you do your children. I’ve been guilty of scoffing a bag of crisps, head in cupboard, whilst my children are happily munching carrots like the flopsy bunnies after a garden raid. It’s no way to live.
A thing about exercise – my mum was on a diet my whole childhood, and was always overweight. She took up tennis at 60 and finally lost it all without even noticing as she was having too much fun, and started eating less naturally as her fitness increased. But her goal then wasn’t to lose weight, it was to enjoy herself. So it’s all still to play for.
Cindy you’re the best
I have tried kefir but had to keep going outside to smell the roses (windy pops), so good luck i gave up plus it was as expensive as wine!
Esther, this is a great post, not least because I am loving all the comments. I thought I had finally cracked it 2 years ago when I managed to lose 1.5 stone doing a version of the 5:2 coupled with some weight bearing type exercise (as opposed to endless cardio), having been trying to lose weight my entire life (was going to write adult life but actually I think I was trying from the age of about 10). I was SO happy to finally feel thin – in the past when I felt fat I always comforted myself that I wouldn’t actually feel better about myself just because I lost weight, but I was genuinely thrilled, felt so much more confident, and really enjoyed buying clothes, going out etc. so much more. Inevitably though it’s creeping back on – and each time I try to do something about it, I feel like I have to try so much harder than I did before – even though it’s only been a couple of years – which I put down to being 39. I’m terrified at how hard it’s going to get in my 40s – and so annoyed that I didn’t manage to crack it in my 20s when it would have been so much easier and I could have had that confidence boost when I had unlined skin and perky boobs too. I can only diet/fast on the days I work (i.e. when I don’t have the children around) – I am in complete awe of anyone who manages to lose weight when they are at home with small children (especially if still sleep deprived).
Lucy thank you for posting this. I think it’s pretty much impossible to do ANYTHING when you’ve got small kids around except keep everyone alive, let alone lose weight…
I’m at home with a six month old and if I haven’t eaten for an hour I’m suddenly starving! When I was at work I’d happily go a 12 hour day on some soup and rice cakes, now I’m just at home constantly praying for my baby to nap so I can EAT or my husband to get home so I can have a glass of wine. There is absolutely no way I’m getting out to do any exercise but have found myself wondering whether they do an adult version of the jumparoo to help get my thighs under control!
ha ha! Polly when you have a six month old is NOT the time to deny yourself anything that will get you through the day. don’t bother even attempting anything like a diet until you’ve got some time to yourself. to pass the time sometimes when Sam was a baby I would do plies in the kitchen. I don’t think they did anything, but they made me feel less inert
Hmm I might try the plies. I once tried to do a session of HIIT training while he napped but immediately rewarded myself with a huge gin and a family bar of whole nut so totally pointless. Plus I ached so much the next day that I couldn’t get up off the floor in sodding Baby Sensory so won’t be doing it again!
Jesus fuck no don’t do that. Once your youngest is at nursery or you’ve got a bit of childcare you can do whatever you like but right now, just stay alive. Maybe go for a walk with the buggy.
You are SO right Esther. I have 3 kids but stayed reasonably slim until my 40s, when weight started slowly creeping on in a way that seemed impossible to control. I’m fairly active and generally eat well but I bloody LOVE food and wine and enjoying myself. Just over 3 years ago I decided to try 5:2 for the health benefits (my parents had heart attack & cancer very young so I worry about my genes…). I never, ever thought I could do 500 cals a day but I was pleasantly surprised. I lost well over a stone and have kept it off by fasting twice a week apart from holidays, and it’s also made me so much more aware of portion sizes on non-fast days. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s changed my life and I see it as completely sustainable for ever. I’m now almost 51 and a really healthy weight, and I never feel like I’m ‘on a diet’. I’d encourage anyone to cut portion sizes and also try intermittent fasting even if you think it sounds impossible.
Thanks Amanda xxx
Kefir is honestly not that bad! Like extra sour yoghurt. The first mouthful is a bit of a shocker but then it’s alright. And if you stick it in a smoothie you won’t notice it.
I’ve lost 5kg this year and plan to lose another 10, using the app My Net Diary. It’s very basic calorie counting. I’m on 1560 calories a day (unless I exercise and “earn” more) and the app helps me track it. Once you get into the right mindset it’s totally doable. I lose a little (about 500 grams) a week consistently and am rarely hungry.
My ultimate motivation was when my husband announced he was going on a diet and his goal weight was my actual weight. I refuse to be the same weight (or heavier!) than my husband, that just feels wrong! So now we’re both dieting together, which definitely helps!
This post has come at just the right time. 16 weeks pp and had enough of feeling grim. I miss my clothes.
ALTHOUGH Sophie, if you had a baby only 16 weeks ago, I’d take it easy, you’re probably not ready to do much more than get through the days right now…
I agree! I am 8months pp and have found the weight came off with breastfeeding and pushing the sodding buggy all the time (why won’t he sleep?!!) But definitely don’t rush into any weight loss plans – felt like I was eating to stay alive through the sleep deprivation of those first few months!!
This is really interesting post as are all the replies. I’d also advocate MyFitnessPal or similar calorie counting app- really makes you appreciate foods and portion sizes in particular- it’s a bit of a bore entering it all in, but eventually it becomes instinctive- you KNOW how much granola/yoghurt/rice etc is enough. This seems to work for me as left unchecked I can be a bit of a glutton! It’s basic thermodynamics- what goes in should be same/slightly less that what you put out (if you want to lose weight or maintain) Bearing that in mind, I don’t think exercise can be underestimated (food intake is most important, granted- you can’t ‘out excercise’ a shitty diet) I run 3x a week as I’m training for a few 1/2 marathons- running for an hour plus torches some serious calories! It doesn’t have to be furiously long sessions of cardio though, moving around more in any capacity will benefit- and resistance/strengthening workouts that build muscle mass help to increase metabolic rate, and burn calories more effectively, which is something that does slow as we age.
Liz B says
I used to run and I really miss it! I agree – a couple of 10ks a week at a good pace blow as a nice large calorific hole in one’s day!! Once my youngest goes to nursery in six weeks I might start again…
You should! I hated running/ cross country at school- only came to running about 2y ago, but I really enjoy it now! It can be such a sociable thing to get into now what with Parkrun and local running clubs- I’ve made some lovely friends through both x
Mrs B says
Loving this post and all the replies.. Can i just say, M&S do a really lovely Kefir drink in a handy, little white bottle. They do plain and cherry options. Both really delicious and easy to get your kefir quota in and feel like you’re drinking a yogurt like smoothie type thing. AND full of protein so make you feel full. Win win. x
I can relate to lots of this – I used to be famous for my ability to “put away” whatever food and booze I wanted in my 20’s and remain stick thin, but a few unfortunate angle photos forced me to admit that that this isn’t working for me anymore. Also, yes to needing all my kids to be at school and to finally break the breastfeeding habit of eating something every time I felt a slight hunger pang. Also, it wasn’t completely my appearance that concerned me but my aching knees, inability to run for a bus or get on/off the floor comfortably – and I wasn’t hugely overweight.
Anyway, I’m guessing it’s maybe considered a bit naff as it’s not been mentioned yet but it was Slimming World that sorted me out. It made me take a long hard look and what I was actually eating and made me think about meals much more carefully. I’ve lost nearly two stone and have a few pounds to go but have had a hiatus due to life issues. However, I’m still so much more mindful of what I eat and have the strategies now to manage that, and I think the way I will be heading in the longer term is, as you say, portion control, fibre and exercise.
Eleanor Hayward (@elliehay) says
Ah yes, the old sands of time do make it harder to maintain the same weight and shape we had in our 20s. However, if you diet without introducing (more) exercise – in the long run, you’d have more luck throwing a clay pot on a wheel with one hand behind your back. I think it’s also worth advocating regular physical exercise for mental health, thereby counteracting the emotional eating issue. As women get older, working on strength and weight-bearing exercise is very beneficial, more than just leaping up and down in a cardio frenzy. HIIT sessions tackle this idea from all directions, and can be done in 10 / 15 min bursts, bookended by a warm-up and cool-down. Yes, I am Joe Wicks bore! It works for me. Such a universal, emotive topic.
Couldn’t agree with this more- there is so much more benefit to exercise than purely the pursuit of slimness- for women especially the risk of decreased bone-density can be negated with regular exercise. I also know a few ‘skinny-fat’ people, BMI is within normal range and they wear small sizes, but their cardiovascular health is not good at all! High cholesterol, hypertension etc. Slim does not always equal healthy.
How timely! My three sisters and I post meals on a messenger group and we have a chat about ingredients etc. I realised my pics were out of proportion to the others. Enough bloody food for four people which we scoff together. Only tonight I said to them all I’m going to cut down on portions and stop snacking, except a few squares of dark chocolate if desperate. This has been a brilliant subject and I’ve been nodding and agreeing with most. I do agree that exercise is your friend, as balance and strength has been proven to be invaluable when older. Although I do know woman who are stick thin and eat empty calories all day but no proper meals, which is just storing up problems for the future.
omg of COURSE exercise is essential! I didn’t meant to suggest otherwise, but without cutting out calories you don’t especially need, exercise doesn’t work. And it’s also not “magic” – a spin class doesn’t mean you can eat cake for the rest of the day – or that you “deserve” cake… that’s all I meant xx
Agreed Esther. This has been a brilliant discussion and you have dealt with the comments fairly. I just love this blog as everybody seems so nice and informative and no nasty comments, or do you just delete them? x
I don’t get any. One or two that I feel are irrelevant and fight-starty get binned, but it’s rare. My readers are the best.
I was diagnosed with IBS a year ago and have put on half a stone as a consequence. Can’t eat onion, garlic, stock, lots of fruits and vegetables, most soups because they contain onion, and I categorically cannot tolerate any bread other than white. I’ve learned to live with it now, but it’s still hard work, and my diet consists of more bread and carbs than ever before because it doesn’t make my tummy flare up. I can tell when I’ve put on weight by how my jeans feel. I don’t weigh myself anymore because I can feel myself slipping back into my 20s must-be-skinny frame of mind. There is a great book called Gut, if you haven’t read it. It’s help me understand how important it is to look after it – although I think I left it too late
Oh Claire! But are you now an expert on fermented foodstuffs? or too late for that too…
I read this article today and it resonated with me. I’m all for healthy eating and wanting to feel fit but weight control is such a difficult issue – I get why we feel the need to be slim but I guess I do ask myself – why the pressure? This really made me think… http://jameelajamil.co.uk/post/171287759245/i-weigh
I hear you, but personally, and I think a lot of readers here are the same, I don’t feel no bullshit pressure from no punk. I had kids, I put on weight that I didn’t want to put on. I changed the way I ate until it came off again. And that’s it.
A great read – thanks. I always start off with too radical a plan, then fail spectacularly, then feel like shit. See also: eating kids leftovers. WTF is that about. I must have been seriously deprived in a past life as I “hate waste”. Just an excuse for stupid behaviour. Anyway I didn’t do it today, so can you write this article every day please?
I’m looking forward to installments on fibre and gut health. Battle of my life. I feel better for less carbs, so generally try to stick to carb free lunch. Husband won’t eat brown rice/pasta (and the kids too small for it,) and there’s no way I can be arsed to cook 2 pans of pasta when cooking for 2 people.
So the upshot is less than ideal gut health. Throw in a bit of pmt and it’s chronic. I’m making kombucha which is great, but I need to find out about the sugar levels of the end product – a lot goes in at the beginning. Also you need to always have some fermenting away in the background, so it’s an organisational thing as well. It’s good to drink tho, no forcing it down. Decided keffir wasn’t for me.
Audrey not wanting food to go to waste is a big one – I’m always going “I’ll just tidy up those leftover sausages” when in fact we have a perfectly well-functioning food waste caddy and that’s what it’s for…
A funny side effect of my London borough (finally!) introducing kitchen compost waste bins for weekly collection is I don’t feel guilty at the ‘waste of food’ created by my kids. I just think ‘it’s going to make great compost’ and stick 90% of my beautifully cooked meals in the kitchen caddy. It’s a crying shame, but at least I’m not eating their leftovers!
Thank you for this Esther. I regularly exercise but I’m still 10lb heavier than I want to be. I love food and drink and whilst I eat healthily in my eyes I definitely eat too much. Tomorrow it starts, I’m going to cut my portions. Like you say it’s not about feeling the pressure from anyone else I just know I feel better at a lighter weight. My friend lost weight by halving her dinner and having the second half for lunch the next day. Such a sensible idea. But as she’s incredibly slim anyway I never really took her idea on board….
When it comes to weight loss, dieting, and exercising, they say whatever course you choose to take with alk that, it will always be 80% diet and 20% physical activity. So diet depends a lot! Personally, even though im in my 30s and still wear clothes from high school, my goal wasnt necessarily to lose weight, but to be healthy. I also have an overactive thyroid that can make me grossly skinny, so i also tried to pack on weight every chsnce i could get and its extremely, IMPOSSIBLY hard. BUT, when i was on a journey to be healthy, i always shopped for organic fruit and veggies, even stuff i didnt really like, and organic juice to blend smoothies in the morning. I always started my day with them and i noticed it took a lot of my cravings away, made me feel really good and happy, energized, and it filled me the fuck up! It was crazy, its so filling i could drink one in the morning and eat some small organic snacks in the evening and that would be it! I had to force myself to eat and i didnt know how to do that very well. But i got so many nutrients i needed, everything improved a lot.. skin, hair, etc. I know different things work for different people and sometimes its really hard trying to figure out what works for you.
Hi I’m a Dietitian & I’ve found this article & all the comments really interesting.
More importantly I’m 36 & a Mum of 2 girls & by no means exempt from the post 35 struggles! I’m also at least a stone heavier than before I had kids. That bothers me some days more than others.
I actually work with more patients who are severely underweight (not through eating disorders but because of physical health). And you can imagine I see some very sad things. Some of those patients don’t want to gain weight & are still worried about ‘fat’ because they’ve dieted all their lives.
But I also run what the NHS call a ‘weight management’ clinic.
To meet the criteria it’s pretty hard so there’s lots of people we can’t help. But I’ve not seen anyone yet who hasn’t had an issue with portion sizes.
We use the book Carbs & Cals just to give people an idea of what a portion should be. It’s eye opening for some people.
I think over the years many people have forgotten why we eat & it’s become more about what we want & alot less about what we need.
All carbohydrates sugary or starchy are broken down into sugar. And the ‘white’ varieties give us the biggest rollercoaster’ peaks and dips’. Higher fibre ones take longer for us to break down & don’t push up our blood sugar so high.
Anyway just my humble opinion. I’ve by no means got all the answers but a few small changes can make a big difference to weight but FAR more importantly how we feel & overall health x
Thanks Gaby xxx
I currently weigh a million stone (I’m 32 weeks pregnant) and feel so disgusting. I’m so unfit, I got sweaty and breathless walking up parliament hill today (the little bastard has his feet up under my ribs). It makes me feel very sad that so many people are permanently like this because life in this state is a half life. Being unable to run when my five year old wants to race is crap…
HOWEVER, this baby is categorically my last – no more! I’m done! Possibly three will be too many – and I am going to get back to something approximating my pre-baby shape if it kills me BUT more than that, I want to be able to run. I don’t mind being a size 12 forever (I used to be a 10) if I am FIT and modelling healthy living for my kids. I don’t want to feel hungry (it makes me cross and unpleasant) in order to look like I did in my 20s (why oh why did I spend my 20s thinking I was fat? I looked great!) I want to be strong and well.
HOWEVER, we do all eat too much and you’re right I do eat too much at meal times. Something to think about once I have expelled this apparently-on-track-to-weigh-10lb baby…
Not sure why I’m posting this stream of consciousness… I guess diets and food really do get under all our skins…
Let it all out xxx
Esther, by your own experience, how much of an effect do you think drinking alcohol has on weight gain/loss? There is so much conflicting stuff out there!
I do find this quite problematic to be honest. Not advice on portion control – I understand that as a concept of course – but just the fact that you (and the majority of commenters) so casually accept that in order to live up to societal expectations we need to be on a diet for pretty much 90% of our lives.
I saw in your Insta stories that you don’t believe that you or your readers are under pressure to be thin. My question to you is – then why are we obsessed with it? Why is it the arbiter of how we feel about ourselves? Why is this the story that attracted a huge number of comments? Because we are conditioned to think thinness is the natural place we should want to be, and anyone who doesn’t agree with that is mental.
Reading the comments here there’s so many women beating themselves up over an extra half a stone/10lbs. No one here seems to have a genuine weight problem, but the amount of energy expended on worrying about it is exhausting and could be put to such better use.
As for me – like someone else said, I’ve been on a diet since the age of 10 and I’m fucking exhausted. When you’ve been judged on your weight for that long, and been taught losing weight is a way to get people to approve of you, it fucks up any relationship you might have with food, your self worth and your body. I only realised last year just how toxic the ‘diet culture’ narrative is – after years of disordered eating, weight loss and weight gain. As Leona said, I think we all need to stop and think exactly what drives this desperate fear of fatness. Is it worth all of this negative headspace? Why are we praised for losing weight and criticised when we put it on? If that’s not pressure to be thin, what is?
I too am sorry to hijack – but I just feel really strongly that this narrative needs to be challenged, so that we start critically examining the things we simply accept as normal.
PS just coming back here to make it clear I hope that the above doesn’t come across as a personal attack – I really don’t mean it to be, more a set of questions for us all. Xx
AC can you drop me an email please – firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Esther, let me tell you of my horrible, illness-induced diet.
I cut saturated fat and alcohol completely at Christmas, and cut unsaturated fat to the bare minimum because my gallbladder’s on the fritz. I’m still waiting to have it out, so I’ve now been on this terrible, soul-crushing, miserable diet for nine weeks. And I have lost three fucking stone. I fast about eighteen hours a day. I eat twice a day – once around midday, once around 6pm – loads of chicken and Lebanese flavourings because they’re delicious and don’t rely on fat. AND SKYR YOGHURT, BY THE BUCKET LOAD.
So I thought at nearly 33, with three kids and a FAT ASS, plus six months of induced-menopause last year which made me pile on weight, I would never lose weight. I was destined to be a size 18 forever. But nope, turns out cutting major food groups really works.
I do not recommend. Do not do this insane, horrible diet. I’m always cold, always tired and mostly miserable because I MISS CHEESE AND EGGS. But as a crash diet, it’s been remarkably effective. I have no idea how I’m supposed to maintain the weightloss when I have my gallbladder out and no longer have the pain incentive, but I would at least like to try.
Dex my weightloss was initially due to illness, too – and I kept it off by just eating less xx
I think that will be much easier. My stomach seems to have shrunk and apparently feeling full quicker is a side effect of no-gallbladder anyway. I hope so.
Dex you have been through the wringer
Kefir – I started making my own water kefir last summer. It was a satisfying process. I quite liked the flavour but none of my family would go near it and I couldn’t get through it all as you have to keep the process going. I was worried also about the high level of sugar that it needs for the fermenting process.They say the kefir granules “eat” the sugars but it seemed to me it’s a bit like alcohol – you can’t really taste the sugar. I was left wondering if this was another fad that would later be proven to add weight?
Yes Ros that’s a good question… I think (boringly) like all things, in moderation it’s good. But there are also lots of other fermented food that have hardly any sugar (miso, kimchee, sourdough, live yoghurt) so you have alternatives if the kefir freaks you out
Another great post Esther with comments to match. I spent my twenties and early thirties able to eat pretty much whatever I wanted. I’ve always really enjoyed cooking, eating out and drinking. I was always a healthy size 10 /12 and then got pregnant at 38. I hardly put on any weight when I was pregnant but Jesus have I made up for that in the last 5 years.
I’ve slowly gone up from a size 12 post pregnancy to a size 12-14, 14 and now I’m hovering between 14-16. But actually I’m lying to myself, I am pretty much a size 16 which I can’t bear. My body doesn’t feel like mine and neither does my face. It’s taken several years to realise that my husband isn’t shit at taking photos of me and that he always manages to get an unflattering angle…it’s that the camera doesn’t really lie. I can take photos of myself from a flattering height, pop a Valencia filter on and generally convince myself I look like I did 6 years ago…but there’s no filter for getting out of breath when running with your daughter in the park…
Health issues haven’t helped. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when my daughter was 9 months and am just about to start back at work after 3 months off (almost totally sedentary) following a near fatal asthma attack and severe adult onset asthma.
So one of the biggest drivers for me is to get lean and fit again so I don’t conk it and leave my daughter motherless in her teens! My lungs are still not at full capacity so exercise is challenging but the potion control advice is spot on and at least gives me a place to start from. My husband spends 15 hours a week cycling and is 6ft to my 5’5 so how I think I can match him on the portion sizes..
My biggest downfall by far is wine…what’s your attitude to alcohol? For me, Nothing beats an amazing glass of red and I’d struggle to contemplate a weekend without some really delicious food and cracking open – and finishing a bottle with my husband. That’s my kind of line in the sand that I won’t cross. I need to be able to be that person who loves food and wine yet stays slim and healthy. Too much to ask? Xx
Ha ha! Cathy no way!
Thanks for taking the time to write all this.
Wine is a tricky one, it’s still calories but I would argue ESSENTIAL calories… You could have a go at no drinking Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then do what you like at the weekend.
If you’re sharing one bottle of wine on a Friday and Saturday night and then not drinking or only having one 175ml glass all other nights of the week, plus cutting your lunch or dinner portions by about 1/4 you’d be well on your way.
It’s not for me to say (but that usually stop me…sorry) but it strikes me this is a really helpful piece of advice …an actually achievable step that will make a difference if followed and is not way out of step with what is practically possible, all things considered.
Love the post, love the comments! Esp the comment about everyone in Korea being super slim – which is totally true.
I have been reading your blog and have been wondering whether you will do a post related to diet at some point.
Do you think drinking tea all day helps? I was wondering whether that keeps off hunger (to a degree)…Wondering if anyone here has tried it. My excuse is I will wait till my younger one is slightly older till I start putting hot mugs everywhere, but I wanted to know whether this actually helps or not… thanks!
(I am Anna’s mum at nursery btw, LOVE your blog and your writing style)
HELLO!!! Welcome. Yes – plenty of fluid generally is always recommended everywhere as being essential to general function, let alone a weight maintenance thing. A lot of people think that hunger and thirst are two pangs that can get confused. Personally, I drink tea in the morning and then have about two cups when I get back from the school run. I used to have sugar in it but now use Total Sweet, which is the street name for Xylitol… basically I reckon if you’re hungry between meals have a cup of tea and see if that helps xxx
Great post & really interesting comments. I have a 2yr old & 4yr old and just recently started Crossfit because my body just felt weak after 2 rounds of SPD (hideously painful loose ligaments in pelvis) in pregnancy. If it helps me lose that bloody 1/2 stone that clung on after baby 2 then great but I’m only really bothered by it the first day on holiday when I have to put a bikini on! We eat pretty well, fruit/veg/brown bread etc but I do like chocolate! Although as a few have mentioned I wouldn’t let the children binge the way I do sometimes. For those that hate kefir or the thought of it, I started making Kombucha last year which does the same sort of thing and is made from sugar/teabags/water and a Kombucha culture called a scoby. Happy Kombucha is a great site.
CROSSFIT ARE YOU MENTAL???
Haha! I LOVE it – I like to pretend that after every session I’ve completed my own version of SAS Who Dares Wins!
I sympathise I had SPD badly (on crutches for whole second pregnancy) it’s hideous and unfortunately it’s never fully gone away for me – I couldn’t walk any distance for the first few months and after 4 years I still have awful flare ups and I have to be incredibly cautious with exercise, if I do the wrong thing it can set me right back, but even just with walking and Pilates I’ve got a lot stronger.
My recent brainwave on all this is to consider whether I’d let my 4 year old eat something – if not, then why do I think it’s ok for me to eat? And I think you’re right about mind set – I need to stop categorising things as ‘treats’ as I then feel punished if I don’t have them and instead considering types of food as the necessary path to healthiness.
viewing any food in any “moral” terms is awful and it starts so young … is your child a “good” eater or a “bad” eater. WTF? they eat when they’re hungry… ITS A CHILD. it’s not “good” and “bad” it’s “this Twix is going to do this to my blood sugar, my mood and my general temper” and “these 2 oatcakes with honey will do THIS to my blood sugar, my mood and my general temper”. I mean, bit of a mouthful but you don’t have to say it out loud.
God, I’ve just realised I do this – my eldest eats everything and has always been called a ‘good eater’ and my youngest (11 months) is so awkward, eats only if she chooses and not when/ what I’d like her to and I have complained to my husband that she’s a rubbish eater. I grew up with mealtimes being a battle (I was the fussiest eater ever) and I’ve always tried hard not to replicate this but unless I keep a watch I think frustration can get the better of me.
If this is bothering you, (and what my kids ate always bothered me HUGELY), a very entertaining, useful and comforting book to read is called “My child won’t Eat!” It’s just terrific xx
Very interesting post and comments. Ive been fat and thin and somewhere in the middle. Totally agree its all about portion control. The minute I try and exclude a food group I become demented with it. I once lost loads of weight (post 3 babies) drinking shed loads of wine and not doing any exercise. The problem with portion control is WILL POWER. Esther I think that would be a very interesting post as IMHO thats what it all comes down to.
Leona sending you all good wishes to you and your Mum. My elderly Dad spent the weekend in hospital and it was totally awful so I know a bit how you must be feeling.
Life is tough thats why we find portion control so bloody hard
I don’t know what 5:2 is. (I’m dutch)
Hiya it’s a diet called “The Fast Diet” where you eat normally for 5 days and then for 2 you eat only 500 calories – there’s a book xx