My name is Maria and I’m trying very hard to lose weight and get fitter. I’m 40 something, married, no kids, and a classic yoyo dieter and emotional eater. I’ve tried every diet going and I’ve attempted pretty much every one of those outlandish fitness plans you see floating around the internet. All these plans have worked. In so far as they have helped me lose weight, but none of them have ever succeeded in helping me keep it off. Then about a year ago when I had a bit of a revelation; it doesn’t matter how long it takes, the time will pass anyway. Sounds simple (and in theory it is) but I’ve never really thought about the time I’ve wasted desperately trying to lose weight fast, right now, so I can start living my life.

This time it is different, I am taking my time and doing it right, not fast.

So I started my weight loss effort (again) in December 2014 by rejoining Weight Watchers. Then, in May I started having 1-2-1 sessions with Jennie at set U free. To my own surprise I have discovered exercises that I like! I have continued following the Weight Watchers plan, but Jennie has shown me how to do this in a more healthy way, and helped me understand healthy eating, so I can make my own food choices without having to rely on a plan.

When I started again a year ago, I had about 7 stone to lose (98lbs). So far I have lost 22lb. Previously I would have quit months ago either because; I’d had a bad week where I know I had put weight on, or because I’d got in a strop about not losing weight fast enough. Both those things have happened, more than once, in the past year but, with help from Jennie, and my friends and family, I am managing to stay focused. My weight loss is slower than before, but I am happier, and I am in control.

Jennie has asked me to share my ongoing journey through the set U free blog. I am hoping that sharing my experiences will help inspire some of you, and maybe hearing from more people in the same situation will keep me motivated.

So, if you too are trying to lose weight or get fitter, and you want to share the journey, then read on to find out a little more about me and how I ended up where I am today and what you can except from future blogs. I would love to hear from you if you are in the same situation as me… safety in numbers! Lets do this together.




My story so far…

rsz_green (2)Comfort Food, Comfort Fat

I haven’t always been overweight. The problems started when I left uni and got a job in Leeds, 270 miles away from home in Sussex. I was a shy, unassuming 22 year old suddenly thrown in to a stressful management job. My team were all a lot older than me, and I had no experience or confidence. Oh, and the job was in a sweet factory – that’s got disaster written all over it, hasn’t it?

I was lonely and miserable, but the real problem was that I was stubborn. There was no way I was going to admit I’d made a mistake and go back home with my tail between my legs. So I cheered myself up with food. Every time I had a run in with one of my team I would wander down to the factory floor and grab myself a few handfuls of chocolate.  It was an easy fix and I didn’t even realise I was doing it. Lonely evenings were filled by making more elaborate meals, and empty feelings were squashed with bigger portions.

Within a few months I had to start buying bigger clothes. I’m not sure if I failed to notice I was gaining weight or just didn’t want to accept it. Either way I carried on eating. It was a drunken chat with an honest friend that eventually made me realise I had gained weight and needed to do something about it. The next day I joined a slimming group.

I still remember that first meeting like it was yesterday – I stepped on the scales and was truly, truly disgusted with myself when I realised I weighed 12 stone 2. (I cannot tell you how many times over the 16 years since then I have wished I still weighed 12 stone 2). And so began my life as emotional eater and yoyo dieter.

Happy Eater

By coincidence it was about that time that life started getting better. I made new friends, some old uni friends moved to Leeds, and then I met David.  David and I moved in together and then I got a new job.  Life was looking up and I was a much happier and more confident person. So now I ate because I was content rather than because I was miserable. In the years that followed that I managed to turn myself into a world class emotional eater – Happy? Sad? Angry? Bored? Busy? Lonely? I’d eat for all those reasons and more.

Before long I was thinking about my weight every day, getting upset and hating myself. Every few months I’d get worked up to such a level of upset and misery that I would desperately try something else. Weightwatchers, Slimming World, Atkins, Cambridge, SlimFast, and any innumerable ridiculous diets I read about in magazines.  I’d stick to them for a few weeks, maybe a few months if I was lucky, and then I would ‘fall off the wagon’, and put back on everything I’d lost, and more.

 5 stone off, 7 stone on…..

I hit a new highest weight and a lowest point, and in total desperation resorted to doing a certain well known low calorie diet that replaces meals with bars and shakes. I ate a measly 500 calories a day. No proper food, just cardboard tasting bars, lumpy shakes and LOTS of water, and I paid a fortune for it every week.

In just under 5 months I lost 5 and a half stone. I was over the moon but all my friends and family were telling me I looked awful. I ignored them. I was haggard and drawn, I had no energy, my skin was spotty, scabby and saggy, my hair was coming out in handfuls and I was an irritable, moody cow but I didn’t care. I was thin!!  And there was no way on earth I’d let myself get fat again. No way.

Then I had to start to eating proper food again and very quickly it became obvious that I’d screwed my metabolism up pretty badly.  After 4 weeks of eating 850 calories a day (and I stuck to it religiously) I’d put half a stone back on. I tried to tell myself that it was ok, that it was to be expected that I’d put a bit of weight back on and that it was just because I was eating carbs again, but I was secretly devastated.  After another 4 weeks at 1000 calories a day I’d put another 6lb on. At this point I was completely demoralised. The group leader told me I must be cheating (I wasn’t). She told me I should just go back to eating less (less than 1000 calories a day!) Then I realised how crazy it was. So I stopped going and started eating.  Unsurprisingly I put all the weight back on within 2 years. I was more miserable than ever, which lead to more comfort eating and another couple of stone.

LLMay 2012

So what’s changed?

Over the years since then I’ve considered trying the same stupid plan again (yes, I know – how stupid can you get?) but the extreme reaction I got from David, and pretty much everyone I mentioned it to, plus a long hard look at the one photo I have of me at my thinnest eventually made me realise that extreme diets just don’t work. I needed something sensible instead.

My mind set has always been “I have to lose this weight as fast as possible so I can be happy and start living my life” How many of us think like that? But I’m actually pretty happy right now, I have a great husband, friends and family that I love and who love me, and I have a job I generally enjoy.

My life isn’t perfect, but nothing is, so why am I letting what I weigh and how I look spoil my happiness?  Why am I waiting for some distant, misty future event instead of enjoying what’s right in front of me now?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t manage it every day and I still really struggle with eating my emotions but I’m slowly learning to identify what triggers it and to recognize when it’s happening. And when I do realise in time, I can deal with it and move on and that’s a pretty awesome feeling.  Weirdly, it’s also meant I keep coming back when I have a wobble. Like when I go away for my birthday & miraculously stretch it out for a week instead of a day, or when a couple of glasses of wine turns into a couple of bottles….and a curry….and dessert.

Perhaps the biggest win though is that I’ve realised that what I actually want is to be healthy and slimmer, not just “thin” and being at set U free has really helped me with that.  Thanks to Jennie I’m slowly realising that I can follow a plan but still make healthy choice. I don’t need to eat “diet” food or be scared of avocados or nuts because they’re full of fat (good or otherwise!). And I can still have my glass of wine or bit of chocolate as well. And that means I can see this being sustainable and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before.

What to expect from my blogs!

So that’s my plan, I’m working on there being more good days than bad days and on reaching a healthy weight while getting fitter and stronger. I’ll be posting regular updates on how I’m getting on, along with a few other bits and pieces.

I have no kids, but two spoilt cats and lots of hobbies. I love sewing (David would say that sorting out my fabric buying habit is more urgent than sorting out my eating habits). I also love geeky gadgets. Over the years I have been suckered in to buying a few fitness gadgets that have promised me weight loss success. One of the things I am planning to do in future blogs is some reviews of these gadgets to try help some of you make decisions if they will help your efforts to lose weight or get fitter (and hopefully save you some money on stuff that doesn’t work!)

So it’s ok, there’s no rush. I’ll get there when I get there and that’s just fine with me. Fancy coming along for the ride?

colour run 2015

If you want to stay up to date with Maria’s ongoing weight loss journey then subscribe to the blog. You wont get any junk ever, just updates when new blog posts are published.

If you want to kick start your own weight loss journey, and are interested in becoming part of the set U free crew, then check out the ways we can help.