Thursday, 21 July 2011

My Fitness Story... - Rachel

The post today in My Fitness Story... is by Rachel, who blogs at Tales from Lewis Lodge. Rachel has lost an astonishing 100lbs (that's just over 7 stone) since last November on the Cambridge weight plan, which is largely a meal replacement plan, although it has progressed considerably from its launch in the 1980s. Rachel's driver to lose weight was being diagnosed as suffering from sleep apnoea, a condition that often affects overweight people. The diagnosis - and the machine she was given to help her deal with her condition - made her realise that she did need to lose weight to resolve the problem. So, here's Rachel to tell her story. 

The last twenty years of my life has been about repeated attempts to lose weight. Some attempts were more successful than others but for most of the last ten years, I have been somewhere between 17 and 18.5 stone (240-260lbs). Did I want to lose weight? Every day. Could I do it? Could I heck!

It was only when I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea that I truly understood how my weight profoundly impacted on my quality of life. What was given to me to manage the condition meant that that finally, things got desperate enough for me to do something about it.

REALLY do something about it.

My CPAP machine
In April 2010, after being referred to the Sleep Centre at Papworth Hospital, I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea. This condition is where your airway collapses while you sleep, so your body is starved of oxygen, goes into panic mode and wakes you up. You never get a good night’s sleep and having suffered with it for pretty much the last ten years, it’s a bit like being a walking zombie. I’d be exhausted by 10am and never woke up feeling refreshed. I’d regularly drop off back to sleep for several hours in the afternoon and struggled to have the energy to do anything.

Although sleep apnoea in some people is a physiological condition, by and large most people who are affected are overweight. It’s the excess weight around your neck that causes the problem. When you relax and try to sleep, the excess weight presses down on your airway and it closes up.

Sleep tests at Papworth discovered that I stopped breathing eight times an hour and to stop that happening, they issued me with a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This device delivers air under pressure into your nose and mouth, keeping your airways open and you apnoea free. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’re going to look like Darth Vader while you’re wearing it and you’re also going to be attached to this thing by a metre-long flexible pipe.

I was issued with the CPAP in July 2010 and by the November I’d had enough. I hated sleeping with it on and I could no longer kid myself that my excess weight wasn’t a problem. I was miserable and I desperately wanted to do something about it.

Before...... and after
To give myself a chance of being CPAP and sleep apnoea-free, I had to lose weight and so, in November 2010, I started on the Cambridge Weight Plan. I made the decision that nothing was going to get in the way of success this time; there was a real tangible benefit to my losing weight – getting rid of this wretched machine! When I meant nothing was getting in the way of it, I meant just that. Christmas came and went, so did Easter and I stuck resolutely to the plan and off came the pounds week after week.

At the time of writing (July 2011), I have reached my target weight of 9st 7lbs having lost 7 stone 4 lbs (100lbs) using Cambridge Weight Plan.

At this point I suppose I should say that it was hard, but it wasn’t; it was ridiculously easy. It was easy to follow and motivation was high because I could literally see myself changing shape as the weeks went by! Also, my motivation to succeed was based on something tangible. Success meant that my quality of life would seriously improve.

In April 2011, I attended a consultation at Papworth and got their agreement to be re-tested. That night, I recorded no apnoeas and the next day left the department without my CPAP, having handed it back and been discharged from the Sleep Centre.

It is still early days for me, but the freedom to sleep without having something that feels like Darth Vader’s mask on your face is wonderful. So many good things have happened in the last year, some as a result of the physical weight loss but others as a result of the emotional weight loss that has also been part of the experience. I have confidence where I had none, and I have ambitions where I had previously given up hope.

In the end, what did it for me was having that crystal clear goal of WHY I was losing weight. It wasn’t about vanity; it was about my quality of life. I’d encourage anyone to identify that clear goal, whatever it is and go for it!

It will change your life.

Thank you so much to Rachel for writing her story for us. I'm sure you'll agree it is an amazing transformation and the weight loss has clearly transformed her quality of life, as well as her life. I am not really a huge fan of VLCD (very low calorie diet) plans like the Cambridge but it is definitely better managed and controlled today than it was in the past - although I still  worry about the wisdom of offering very overweight people such a low calorie intake. However, it quite clearly worked for Rachel and she found it easy to stick to. In addition, I read something recently that suggested that people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can reverse it with a strict VLCD over 8 weeks. I've also heard of it being recommended by doctors to some people with conditions such as metabolic syndrome which can develop into type 2 diabetes. 

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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