We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Thank You to urban fitness gb team for doing Arch2Arc for Alzheimer's!

This is a special blog from me and Mum to say a big thank you to Urban Fitness GB who are going a little bit out of their way for charity.  These guys are going to do an 87 mile run from London to Dover, swim the English Channel and finish off with a 181 bike ride to Paris and they're going to try and break the world record for doing it.  Awesome, as young folk say these days, totally awesome.  They are raising money for  Alzheimers UK and the The Firefighters Charity.
I want to say thank you because what they are doing makes a difference to people's lives and I want them and you to know why I personally want to support what they're doing and why it matters.  It's all about me and my Mum. There's Mum in the photo - we're feeding the hens at Knowes Farm Shop. Mum has Alzheimer's and is just amazing in how she copes with it. Visiting the chickens is a happy time for us, it takes Mum back to her childhood - remembers all you ever need to know about raising hens.

But Alzheimer's is much more than just a failing memory. It is a cruel and horrible disease and if I ever needed a reminder, I got one last night.  I went round to Mum's yesterday after work and found her in tears outside her house, wandering in different directions, totally distracted and very distressed. She was looking for Dad. Dad died just over two years ago and up until recently Mum knew that all the time, now she only knows it most of the time, yesterday she'd forgotten. When she forgets, Mum hears Dad's voice calling her, hears him in the house, sees him out of the corner of her eye. Mum searches, but she can't find him, so she searches inside, outside, in cupboards, under the bed, desperate to find him, unable to understand why he's not there. Dad was there for 52 years, she remembers that, for now.

I walked her gently inside and we sat down. I stroked Mum's hand and spoke very calmly and soothingly, touch and tone communicate so much. We talked through what happened and what she did and how the problem with her memory means that sometimes she forgets even very important things. Mum says it's because she's still in shock at him going, that if it wasn't for her family she couldn't go on, and we leave it at that. Just how much reality can one person take at once.

We start to talk about happy times, and Dad bless him comes to our aid. We laugh at stories about Dad and his DIY (dire!), his love of cricket, his sense of humour and those family camping holidays (never again). Gradually things get back to what counts for normal these days and Mum smiles again, enjoying being able to remember things for now. I head home in tears. Thankful that for now Mum is okay and just has normal grief to live with.

It breaks my heart that Mum has a disease that does this to her, that tortures her like this. Each time she goes through it it's like Dad dies again for her and she is bereft.  My dear Grandad had Alzheimer's too and the irony of ironies is that Grandad, like Mum, also forgot that his wife, my Granny had died and wept afresh when he was told. In the end his children had to say she was in hospital, no one could bear going through it any more, soon I will have to do that too. Dad went through all this himself with his own father, he'd be heart broken that his dear wife was going through it, but happy that I was there as he was for his Dad.  What makes me sadder and even madder is that Mum's not alone. What scares the life out of me is how many millions more like Mum and Grandad there will be in the future unless we stop this disease somehow. It is not a natural part of aging, it's not a bit of a memory problem, it is not normal, it is a horrible disease that destroys lives, removes dignity and is very, very cruel.

I want this awful disease stopped and I want everyone like Mum to be helped. I can't tell you how scary it is for her to go through all this and how brave she is every single moment of her waking hours. Alzheimer's Scotland and Alzheimer's UK have helped me and Mum cope in so many ways and fight for the rights and dignity of everyone with Alzheimer's, their families and friends. Mum and me can't do this alone and I am glad we've got them fighting for us.  We're going to need them more than ever in future.

So that's why I want to say thank you to these amazing guys and every one who does something special to raise money for Alzheimer's charities. Mum and millions like her are what it's all about, that's why what they are doing matters. Their amazing feat will make a difference to real people like Mum.  You can help too, please sponsor these guys  Urban Fitness GB Arch 2 Arc Challenge
Guys, when your legs ache and you hit the wall, I hope you'll think of Mum and all the millions of others with Alzheimers and know that they're worth it and that we thank you for what you're doing for us. Mum says that it helps to know that there are people out there who care enough to help. It's not just about the money, it's that you care. Thank you.

Take care

Sue and Sue's Mum

Monday, 2 May 2011

3 Things I Do to Stay Slim: What My Diet Taught Me

Why did I have such a struggle with my weight? Why is it so easy for some folk to stay slim? You think it's be a fairly straightforward thing to sort out and we all have our own ideas, but the answer is different for every one of us. There's lots of judgement and blame dumped on people who 'weigh too much': we're lazy, greedy, undisciplined and just eat. We have to defend ourselves of course: it's not our fault, we're fat because of things out of our control - our metabolism or our genes.  But of course the real answer is a bit of both - we're all fat or thin for a whole range of reasons, some things we can control, some we can't, and the mix is unique to us.  The main thing is to know the difference between what we can control and what we can't.

Having to face up to being fat meant I had to think long and hard about how I got to be 56lbs overweight. I'd always been a healthy weight, with a few 'fat' periods over the years, but I piled on the pounds as I reached that 'certain age' for women. For quite a while I just accepted that it was inevitable and I blamed my hormones, my age and being stressed for putting on weight. Even if I did accept that I could at least take a bit of control, I just didn't have the time or the energy. I was busy coping from moment to moment and sorting out my weight was really not top of the list. Like thousands of women in their middle years I was a human dynamo, working, caring, shopping, cooking, the works; keeping loads of plates spinning, not noticing that the one with 'Sue's Health' on it was about to crash. It was only when I realised my health was threatened by my weight and that I'd be the one being cared for that I was forced to look again  (see my blog below -  Facing up to being fat: time to take control).

When I reached my target weight, I couldn't diet any more, I had to make up my own rules and I didn't know what to do at first. I realised that over the year of my diet I had learnt to eat and cook in a new, healthy way and that in the process I had come to be much more aware of what made me fat in the first place. The big reason I had got so fat was that I refused to pay attention to what I ate or what I weighed. I stuck my head in the sand, steadfastly ignoring the fact that what I was eating was making me fatter and fatter. My diet had confronted me with the truth that I was not eating healthily, that my eating habits were making me fat and ill and that if I wanted to stay slim I had to pay attention to what I was doing to myself.

I identified 3 things I now do differently and which help keep me slim:

I have taken control of what I eat.  My worst bad habit was I never ever used to think about what I ate. I ate what I liked, when I liked and felt deprived if I couldn't.  I could have written a PhD on calories and fat and all that stuff, I'm not stupid, but I never once sat down and worked out how many calories a day I was eating. When I started using the food diary, I was horrified, in particular how much saturated fat I was eating. I was amazed I wasn't even fatter given what I was eating. I ate far too much of everything. What an eye opener. No wonder I couldn't exercise it off!

I know how much I weigh - Another bit of ostrich type behaviour  - I never weighed myself before I started the diet. I didn't believe in scales, not sure why. That first weigh in was quite a shock. Now I always know what I weigh and regard this as essential information to help me keep control of my health. I don't have a set weight but I have an upper limit and I know if I'm going up and up or staying more or less stable.

I control my weight by what I eat, not by exercise -The third insight I got into why I was fat was that I have a real tendency to rely on exercise to control my weight; rather than eating less to lose weight, I exercised more. I do love exercise so it's no hardship, but it's a bit unsustainable.  To have a fighting chance of maintaining a healthy weight I had to look at what I ate and learn to eat to exercise not exercise to eat. Taking up running has really helped, I have to eat well and be disciplined in the quality and quantity of food I take in and of course I have new  running targets now to replace the weight ones.

Three small but important bits of insight into how I got fat are now helping me stay slim. My relationship with food, like many other folk, goes back to what I learnt as a child, things I took for granted and never thought to change. For me, my weight was not a problem until I came up against some brick walls - hormones and age and not being able to exercise it all away. I was out of control until I had to look more deeply at why the weight piled on when it did. That helped me find things I could do to make a difference. It's not easy but it is helping me make it work.

I'd love to know if you got a better understanding about your weight from dieting or some other way. What have you learnt about your eating habits? Has it helped you take control? What have you done that's made the difference?
Take care