Thursday, 14 July 2011

My Fitness Story... - Fay

Today's guest post really made me feel humble when I first read it. I've read it through a few times now and that feeling has not diminished one bit. It's written by Fay, who blogs at Glass Half Full, which is a particularly apt name. Fay has remained incredibly positive throughout this year despite being diagnosed with cancer. In this post, she tells how she struggled with her weight in the past, how the extra weight may have contributed to her illness, through to her recovery and weight loss. 

This is my story which has beginning and a middle but no end yet; that has still to be written.


At the beginning of the year, I went to my GP to talk about heavy periods and her comment 'your weight may have contributed to the problem' struck a chord. It was eight words but it was something I needed to hear. I feel I've been fat most of my adult life. I've had times where I have lost weight before. 6 years ago I lost 4 stones following the Atkins diet. But three years later, it had crept back on.

I am an intelligent woman, I knew being obese increased my risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, higher cholesterol and untold damage to my joints, but the problem was that I felt fine. I regularly had my blood pressure taken; normal. Diabetes runs in my family and an eye examination resulted in me being referred for tests; normal. At the same time, my cholesterol checks came back fine. I even had an ECG and all was normal and healthy. So why should I lose weight if I felt fine?

I'd say to people I may be overweight but I'm healthy. I'd point out my sister, who has always looked after herself, exercised regularly, watched her weight still had to battle cancer twice and suffered with numerous serious health conditions, "What good did it do her? I may be fat but I am healthy". That was my excuse, my comfort blanket, my reason for doing nothing. And it came back to bite me on the bum!

So when my GP said 'your weight may have contributed to the problem', it hit me that I had been kidding myself. It was the kick up the backside I needed. Before the end of the week, I had joined Slimming World and when I had my first weigh-in, I'd lost 10 lbs.

My meals before I joined were okay, but it was the snacking which had gotten out of control. I thought nothing of cooking a roast dinner, eating it all and then an hour later eating two or three large bars of chocolate. It got to the point where I was eating it, but not actually tasting it. I sometimes worked away and would love the three courses meals, and cooked breakfasts. If I had a bad day, I would eat more. Special occasions or treats, I would eat even more! Deep down, I knew I needed to do something but until that appointment, I didn't have the incentive.

The Extra Easy plan on Slimming World lets you eat as much 'free foods' and a limited amount of 'Syns.' Free foods are all fruit and vegetables, lean meat and fish, potatoes, pasta, rice etc. Syns are fats and sugars or foods which essentially have a high GI. As long as you don't add fat or sugar, entire meals can be Syn free and you can eat as much as you want and the same as your family without feeling deprived or on a diet.

So I would cook a couple of large baked potato and beans with side salad. Cottage Pie is 'free' if you drain off the fat from the mince and use fat free yogurt in the mash instead of butter and milk. And my favourite Spaghetti Bolognese is Syn free, when you don't use oil. The plates were piled high, I felt full and satisfied which enabled me for the first time to control my snacking. There just wasn't any room for more food! Plus the rest of the family were eating the same as me and I didn't feel deprived.

By the time I been referred to a gynaecologist and offered an operation to stop the bleeding, I had lost 1.5 stone. I felt in control of what I ate and not the other way around. I loved the way I was feeling, I felt healthy and for the first time, could see a healthy person fighting to get out.

The operation however unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your outlook) found cancer cells and I was scheduled for a full hysterectomy as soon as possible. No-one needed to tell me this time, I knew my weight had caused this. My weight had messed up my hormone levels and the increase had affected the lining of my uterus causing the cells to mutate. It would have been really easy for me wallow in self pity, and go back to comfort eating. I had a great excuse this time!

But I wasn't about to beat myself about it. When a teenager my best friend's mum had given me a copy of the Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It would have been really easy for me to say 'sod it' and go back to eating all the chocolate and cakes. But from the moment I was told I had cancer, I knew I wasn't going to give in and go back to the way things were. I couldn't control what had happened in the past, or the pain and discomfort I would have to go through. But I could control how I reacted to those outside influences. I was going to be as well-prepared as possible and I was damn well going to continue with Slimming World. I wasn't about to let all the hard work go to waste.

So my plan was to have clear goals and things to aim for. My first was to take over the cooking asap! My son and husband did try, but lets say it isn't their strong point and this became my gentle exercise. I needed lots of help though as I couldn't bend down to get the pots out of cupboards or drain pans with pasta in, too heavy! I managed to keep my weight constant and even lose a little.

To aid recuperation, you are encouraged to move around as soon as possible and do gentle exercise regularly. I took my walking regime very seriously, religiously stayed on track and worked up to at least 30 minutes' gentle walking a day. And the weight, with a few blips, has continued to come away slowly.

So three months after the hysterectomy and five months after joining Slimming World, I am cancer free, 52 pounds lighter and training for St Luke's 13 mile Midnight Walk. I am healthier, lighter and have a good exercise regime in place. I no longer baulk at the thought of a six mile walk and actively look to push myself further. I honestly believe without those words from my GP and the forced physiotherapy following the operation, I wouldn't have changed a thing!

Some things I have learnt:

1. If you do something regularly, it becomes and habit and a lot easier to do.
2. Start slowly and work your way up.
3. Be prepared, plan your menus in advance and reduce your chances of slipping.
4. Invest in some good non-stick pans, no need for added fat or oil!
5. Talk to people, get their support (I love Twitter).
6. If you have a slip or miss an exercise slot, don't beat yourself up. Have the courage to know you can change things, and start back on the plan

Remember at the beginning, I said this was my story, but it didn't have an end yet? Well it doesn't. I'm still working towards my goal weight so my story hasn't ended. I've got quite a few stones left to lose. I am ramping up the exercise and I want to start running or maybe joining a gym. But the difference between now and other times I have tried to lose weight is I can see that I will be successful, I know I will reach my goal. There is no trying, only doing!

I'm really grateful to Fay for writing such a great post today - it's both honest in the analysis of the situation she found herself but her positive attitude and determination to overcome both cancer and her weight problems really shine through. Her list of things she learnt are really useful reminders. Things do become a habit if you do it enough (a minimum of 3 weeks) if you do them enough and building up slowly is the key. And you all know I'm a fan of meal planning anyway! I wish Fay the very best of luck in her quest to reach her goal weight and hope she remains cancer free. 

Feel free to share experiences, as always, in the comments below. My guest posters really do appreciate the messages of support they get from readers.

If you would like to share your fitness story, then please contact me on Twitter or email me on the address on the About Me page. All contributions are really appreciated so do get in touch, even if you feel yours is not a worthwhile story. If it's a personal experience, it is.  Do please join in - or ask your friends if you know someone has a story to tell, even if they don't blog.

Thanks for supporting My Fitness Story... and do come back for another guest post next week.

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