Rewards – because you’re so worth it

Let’s talk rewards.   In this fast paced world,  we can feel pressured to be everything to everyone and to do it all in our home life and career.   Whether you’re a working mum or full time homemaker,  a dad providing for his family and diy-ing everything around the house,  a student trying to get good grades or a young person trying make your parents proud, in the modern world the weight of the traditional stereotypes still bares heavy.   All these things build up into stress,  which for me was one of the reasons I ended up at a very unhealthy weight.   I take full responsibility for myself.   I just didn’t make good choices about what I ate or did.

Making the decision to change my lifestyle was the first achievement.   As I’ve mentioned before,  the achievements that come along during the long journey need to be recognised.   Whether just mentally noted or written in a journal.   I’m a visual type of person,  so seeing my progress on paper,  in a chart or comparison photos helped me to realise how far I’d come.   I believe achievements should be celebrated in a practical way.  There is no harm in giving yourself rewards.

It’s important to be kind to yourself and take the time to do something for yourself.  Essentially we need to love life and enjoy the present.   I learnt to be kind to myself by using treats and rewards for reaching small targets/goals and celebrating non scale victories.   The main thing here is that these treats and rewards would not include food.   I had to break the cycle of food related treats,  I used to think, “I’ve had a great exercise session,  so now I’ve earned a chocolate bar”,  sounds crazy but true.   Besides my food treats can be worked into a daily meal plan as part of a balanced diet,  this way I stay in control.   I try not to make them an extra thing because this can get out of control and lead to overindulgence.

Some of my favourite treats are baths with a new bubble bath on the market,  scented candles,  nail polish, make up,  costume jewellery,  a book or a new cd/music download – somehow life feels better to music.   Some treats have helped to enhance my healthy lifestyle,  a new pair of shoes/trainers/walking shoes, leads to new socks or sports wear which spur me on to exercise more.  Then there’s gadgets and technology which I see as investments into my healthy lifestyle,  or just a simple bunch of flowers or a plant that brighten my day.

Photo of walking shoes    Be kind to yourself – new walking shoes or a bunch of flowers, some of my little celebration treats

Rewards and treats don’t always have to be new things.  I’ve enjoyed rediscovering clothes, cosmetics and toiletries I had stored at home and not used. There were also the clothes that were too tight or small that now fit.   I even had new clothes that I couldn’t quite fit into or didn’t like how they looked.  As my body shape changed,  I would try them on and be delighted when the day came that I was more comfortable in them.   This sort of thing also gave me a little target to aim for.   Whatever you’re choice of celebration is,  the thing to remember is to mark the moment……..after all, you’re so worth it!

Portion control- Have my cake and eat it too!

Eating cake sounds like a bit of a contradiction to pursuing a healthy lifestyle but in fact no food should be off limits. I’m fully aware that I have a ‘sweet tooth’ and I’ve often joked that I don’t just have a sweet tooth, I have a full set! Unhealthy habits of overindulging on sweet, sugary, high fat foods and drinks was one of the reasons that I became obese in the first place.  Having said that, I know my life would pretty boring if I were to completely cut out indulgent food.  Also realistically I wouldn’t be able to keep it going for very long either.  This is where portion control comes in.

The thing that appealed to me most about the Weight Watchers program is that they don’t tell you what to eat and no food/drink is off limits . That’s important to me because I don’t like to feel restricted, that’s too much like a diet and I don’t like diets!  I spent some time getting to know which foods are better to eat in large quantities and which foods are better in small quantities.

Throughout my weight loss / lifestyle change journey I’ve had to acquire the skill of portion control, mostly through trial and error.  Starting with the basics of weighing and measuring foods to be sure of the amount that I was consuming.  There is no doubt that this can be time consuming but I’m willing to invest my time in doing something for my own long term benefit.  I bought a set of kitchen scales, which live on the counter top and after a while this became a routine part of my food preparation.

I’ve also learnt that along with portion control, an equal measure of self control is needed to really make a difference.  I give myself permission to enjoy my favourite sweet foods in small quantities.  For me it’s better to have a couple mini biscuits most days than to try to restrict myself to one or two regular sized biscuits a couple times a week. A personal preference which works for me.

A cup of cafe au lait and mini biscuits
One of my faves – Cafe au lait & mini biscuits

It took a while for me to really get to grips with portion control.  From experience I no longer buy large slabs or share bags of chocolate.  All the good intentions in the world doesn’t stop me from munching my way through them.  My mind is satisfied when I have a full portion whatever size it may be, so mini packs it is for me.

Another way that I work indulgent foods into my week is to plan for them.  If I have a birthday or similar celebration coming up, I take extra care to plan sensible healthy meals, as well as keeping up my exercise in the days leading up to it.  This helps me to fully enjoy the celebration without feeling like I’ve let myself go.  To me, special occasions should feel special and different to my daily routine.  Every day may be someone in the world’s birthday but that doesn’t mean I’ll be eating to cake everyday.  Know yourself and stay in control.

Make your Christmas a cracker!

With the holiday season well underway and the big day just around the corner,  you may be wondering how you’re going to make it to the New Year without piling on the pounds.   As a Weight Watchers member for 13 years,  I’ve had a range of experiences during the festive season.   My post Christmas results have always reflected the approach I’ve taken and my actions during the holidays.

Like many people,  my Weight Watchers journey began in the month of January,  I seized the New Year spirit and resolved to lose weight.   By the time I encountered my first Christmas as a member I had reached 54 pounds weight loss and felt pretty good about myself.   At this point,  my view of Christmas was a no holds barred 2 weeks break from thinking,  pointing or tracking anything I ate and drank.   To me this meant I was free to indulge or should I say over-indulge.

Christmas photo of CC before WW
The Christmas before I joined Weight Watchers – 19+ stones

My festive treats actually began in October when the supermarkets began running the promotion on tubs of chocolates.   What a bargain,  a whole tub of my favourite chocolates for £4,  I bought two tubs.   But despite being placed safely in a cupboard to be saved for December, those chocolates didn’t see the end of November as the “I’ll just have a couple” phrase became one of my daily sayings.

After getting caught in that trap for 3 years in a row,  I finally learned that if I don’t want to eat a tub of chocolate then I don’t need to buy promotional tubs of chocolate in October.   Now I just don’t buy them at all.   My children get an individual chocolate selection box,  which is more than enough for them.   As for myself,  I buy a chocolate advent calendar,  which gives me manageable individual pieces to enjoy one a day.

In reality Christmas is a season rather than a day.   Like all events and occasions,  it requires some thought and planning.   All the tools and strategies learnt during the year become very useful at Christmas time.   I know what my danger zones are so I mentally prepare myself if I don’t want to indulge at that time or simply have a little less than I would if I wasn’t thinking about it.   I also make sure that I stock up on my favourite healthier snacks so that I’ve got an alternative to reaching for whatever goodies are on the dining room table.

One strategy I particularly like is to make a personal decision about what type of season you want to have… maintain the loss you’ve already made, to register a loss at the scales after Christmas or to be comfortable with a weight gain.

Photo of CC at Christmas
My first Christmas as a Weight Watchers member after 54lbs loss

After my first Christmas as a Weight Watcher,  I gained a whopping 9 pounds in the 2 weeks between weigh-ins.   It took me a full 6 weeks to lose those pounds and get back to my pre-Christmas weight.  The following Christmas my weight gain was 5 pounds, which took 2 weeks to get off and my third Christmas registered a 2.5 pounds weight gain.   As I believe, ‘when you know better, you can do better’.

The difference over the years has been the experience and knowledge I gained not just about making better choices but more importantly about myself,  what I wanted and what works for me.   I’ve always tried not to beat myself up about not sticking to my best intentions and plans,  I try to use so called ‘failures’ as learning experiences and move forward.

For many years I’d heard about people who can lose weight over the Christmas period.   I thought it was a myth and wondered what kind of people they could be,  until it happened to me!   Two years ago,  I made a firm decision that I wanted to maintain my weight.   I continued to plan and track my meals in the run up to Christmas Day.  I decided not to track my food & drink on Christmas Day itself and Boxing Day and to resume planning/tracking on the 27th December.   I also planned in some exercise for the days that I would be at home, all in an effort to balance Christmas indulgence and healthy lifestyle.   The result was a surprising 0.5 pound weight loss!   This may not sound like anything to shout about but I was absolutely delighted. It opened my mind to what is possible and what I am truly capable of achieving.

Photo of CC Christmas 2018
Christmas 2018 – maintaining goal weight

Now this Christmas,  I find myself in a good place – at my goal weight.   The introduction of the Weight Watchers Flex/Freestyle programme with the emphasis on including more high protein/fibre foods with meals, suits my tastes and lifestyle.   I will again be keeping my meals healthy during Christmas week,  making sensible choices when attending functions and indulging on my favourite festive eats & treats on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.   I’ll be twirling my hula hoop to some Christmas tunes and probably racking up some Fitbit steps in the January sales.

So how will you approach your festive season?   Whatever you decide,  the most important thing is to enjoy yourself.   After all ‘tis the season to be jolly!   Have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.