We all know it is hard enough to actually lose weight. But we wanted to know – what is the secret to keeping the weight off once you have lost it? Robyn Sharron Lee, 70, shares what has worked for her after losing 25kg 7 years ago.
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When we ran Robyn’s story of losing 25 kilos on the Mediterranean diet in 2015 it inspired readers to create a health kick of their own.
Linda said, “I’ve been feeling a bit blah and after reading your story feel, i feel inspired. Thank-you!”
Joan commented, “You look good Robyn. Good on you. You have inspired me.”
While Sylvia said, “At 72 I hope it works on me!”
After surviving all the fun of the holidays (and putting on the average 1.5 kilos we Aussie’s add over this period of fun and frivolity) we wanted Robyn’s tips on how she has so successfully maintained her weight loss.
Q. So Robyn, do you give yourself a ‘pass’ on certain holidays or on certain occasions?
No, not really. I've become so accustomed to eating the way I do—smaller helpings with the occasional treat—that I couldn't “pig out” even if I wanted to. For that reason, when I'm out for lunch or dinner, I find an entree sized helping is ideal.
“I don’t obsess or starve myself”
The mains are far too big and if the restaurant doesn't have entrees, so much food is wasted. I rarely eat dessert but prefer cheese and crackers or some fresh fruit and a cup of coffee for “afters”.
Q. Do you weigh yourself every day?
I jump on the scales a couple of times a week before showering but if I don't weigh myself, it's no big deal. I'm not an obsessive personality, I think I'm too lazy! What I have found is that my weight can vary between 1 kg and 1.5 kg at times, but I don't obsess over it or starve myself to shed the extra.
It appears to be a normal variation and the next time I weigh myself I find I'm generally back to my usual weight.
Robyn looking amazing at 70!
Q. How do you deal with difficult moments when people really want you to eat cake and you don’t want to?
I'm fortunate in that my friends and family take it for granted that people know what they do and don't want. However, if I did come across someone who was so persistent to the point of rudeness, I think I'd politely ask them why it was so important for me to eat whatever it was they were insisting upon. That should get the point across to them that they're being over the top and hopefully they'd desist.
There are those, however, who'd sulk, say you've hurt their feelings, use emotional blackmail such as, “But I made it especially for you!” and so on. That is their problem not yours so don't buy into it, stand your ground and be politely firm in your refusal. They may never invite you for a meal again but be thankful for small mercies!
Q. You have managed to keep off 25kg for years – a huge achievement – well done! Can you share more about how you managed to do this?
Thank you! Okay, when I first decided I had to take responsibility for losing weight, it was after a shock weigh in by the doctor and I was 97 kg—3 kg off 100! Considering I used to weigh 64 kg when I was younger and could eat what I liked without any consequences, it was the kick start
“I gave the empty shelves a good scrub, a metaphor for starting with a clean slate”
When I arrived home—in tears—I got stuck in and threw out all the junk food in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Biscuits, pastry, sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, frozen desserts, it all went.
I surveyed the empty shelves before giving them a good scrub, a metaphor for starting with a clean slate, I guess. I also had loads of books on dieting which I'd never read and they were donated to the local charity shop.
A friend had once mentioned that she often just had plateful of fruit for dinner and I'd remembered that. I'd read and heard that a large calorie laden meal last thing at night was not good for the system and understood the reasons why.
“My sugary breakfast cereals were replaced with Bircher muesli”
I poured through all my recipe books, gave away the ones for cakes and biscuits, breads, pastry dishes and decadent desserts, keeping only those for vegetarian meals, Italian and other Mediterranean recipes and various soup and salad meals. Although, I have to admit, I do love tiramisu! However, that is a special treat for my birthday only.
Q. What practical things did you do to prepare?
At the supermarket, I spent a fortune on restocking, this time with healthy alternatives including lots of fruit and veggies. My sugary breakfast cereals were replaced with Bircher muesli; pastries, cakes, biscuits and frozen desserts were replaced with fresh fruit and raw nuts along with a large amount of fresh salad vegetables plus vegetables and eggs for cooking. My credit card received a real thrashing that day.
I'd decided not to hit the scales as weight loss, if achieved correctly, is a slow process and I'd probably give up if I didn't see results quickly.
“Lunch would be my main meal of the day”
I didn't say a word to anyone about my intentions as years ago, when I'd decided to give up smoking, I made the mistake of confiding in someone who promptly scoffed at me. Fortunately, I'm the kind of person who takes things like that as a personal challenge; you know, “I'll show you!” So, I didn't mention anything about my intentions.
Q. When and how do you now eat?
I'd start with breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, muesli and Greek yoghurt. Lunch would be my main meal of the day, say, cold chicken, a mixed salad with avocado and a baked or microwaved potato which had been brushed with olive oil and garlic salt first. I used low fat cottage cheese as a dressing for the salad, but no butter or sour cream on the potato. It took a little getting used to, but I persevered.
“It wasn't a diet in the sense of weighing portions of food and counting calories, I changed what I ate, when I ate it and had smaller portions.”
Dinner was fruit. . . as much as I wanted. Apples, stone fruits, mangoes, pineapple anything and everything. If I became too hungry to sleep, a few raw almonds addressed that. I also cut out wine completely. I drink my coffee and tea black so there was no change there, however, I upped my intake of water. I've always drunk water and love it, but I knew I needed to drink more.
“The decision I feel made the most difference was no carbs after 3pm”
After about three or four months of this regimen, my clothes were a lot looser, much to my delight. Friends and family noticed and asked if I was dieting. I'd answer, quite truthfully, not really. It wasn't a diet in the sense of weighing portions of food and counting calories, I changed what I ate, when I ate it and had smaller portions.
A friend persuaded me to weigh myself but I was a little reluctant. . . what if I hadn't lost very much? To my delight and astonishment, I'd lost 10 kg! I was over the moon and that result gave me the determination to keep going.
There was a funny moment at work one day when one of the doctors I worked for, came rushing out of his consulting room, took one look at me, stopped dead and said, amid a waiting room full patients, “You've lost weight! Are you sick?” (Insert eye roll here. . .)
I've managed to keep the weight off by staying roughly with this eating regimen, although I don't do the plate of fruit for dinner very often now. Usually I have a light meal of grilled or baked fish or chicken and a salad, especially in summer.
Q. How much professional help did you get during this time?
I was attending the doctor for three monthly checks for a while, related to another matter, where my pulse and blood pressure were monitored. But that was all. When I asked what weight I should be, I was told that a healthy weight was better than trying to attain the impossible. Once I'd reached 75 kg, the doctor was very happy with that. I managed to lose another 3 kg and decided I was happy with my weight.
“At first, I spent a small fortune restocking”
Once I had an idea how much in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables I'd eat each week, I visited the local markets to stock up. However, if I ran out I'd shop at the local greengrocer for top ups. I tried growing some herbs. . . basil, coriander, parsley, oregano, etc., without much luck.
I lived in a semi-rural area and the possums loved all these tasty treats I'd planted for them! I went out to check the plants the morning after planting them and my herbs had disappeared. The possums had scoffed the lot except for the basil.
At first, I spent a small fortune restocking, but once I had the basics covered and they didn't need replacing every week, it wasn't so bad. I think I probably spend less money now. What I used to spend on sugary, fatty foods went towards fruit, veges, fresh chicken, eggs and fish instead.
I don't eat beef, lamb or pork or processed foods but I do eat lentils, quinoa and chick peas. I must admit to buying a few slices of ham off the bone a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed the ham and tomato sandwich I made. The rest I threw into a risotto which I then froze in meal sized portions.
Q. Have you noticed any other changes in your life during this journey?
Due to circumstances, I've downsized and decluttered four times in the last four years. Now I'm down to minimal “stuff” because my place is small, but every now and then I can still always find something else to recycle.
“I've learnt over the last few years that people are going to say and do what they want regardless of how I may feel about it.”
Regarding emotional boundaries: I've learnt over the last few years that people are going to say and do what they want regardless of how I may feel about it. Thanks to meditation and personal growth classes, I've come to accept that what others do and say is their responsibility, how I react to it is mine and since I've taken that attitude on board, it's certainly made life less stressful. What others think of me is none of my business and that gives me permission to be who I am.
“I’m truly blessed”
I'm definitely happier when I wake up in the mornings. I don't want for anything, I have a lovely home, my two renegade cats and wonderful family and friends. I'm truly blessed. Regarding finances, I've always been reasonably good at handling money but I've found that as I've become older, I'm not as interested in material things. I'd rather have experiences and meet new people.
As for being open to trying something new, I decided to move to the Gold Coast, four years ago. I have no idea why but I felt very strongly I had to make this move. I knew absolutely no one here, except for my daughter. I had no idea of how to get around or where anything was, but surprisingly, I looked forward to the challenge of finding my way around and making new friends. I had a lot of fun as I navigated my way around the coast and found where I wanted to go.
“My whole life changed through my own efforts and I've made some wonderful friends,” says Robyn
We received a free weekly tabloid newspaper and through that and Meet Up online, I joined a writing group, sat and passed my marine radio operator's licence, joined a local volunteer rescue organisation and took up line dancing. My whole life changed through my own efforts and I've made some wonderful friends.
Q. What else have you found that is important to help keep off the weight?
Keeping oneself moving is very important as we get older, even ordinary housework provides opportunities for working up a sweat and getting some stretching in. Carrying bags of groceries in and heaving them up onto the bench for unpacking provides an opportunity for a small cardiovascular workout.
If you live in a complex as I do, take the stairs, for the first couple of flights anyway, rather than the lift if there is one. Utilise your local council's inexpensive exercise programme, have a look in your local paper to see if there is anything that grabs you and encourage a friend to join with you.
I've often heard it said that thinking one positive thought when you wake up can start the day off well. I've tried that, but my overriding thought when I wake up is, “I've got to pee!”
Robyn’s Top tip: a natural remedy if you are feeling bloated
If you do have a heavy lunch or dinner and feel bloated or uncomfortable afterwards, here's a sure fire remedy.
- Into a mug, place 2 or 3 slices of raw ginger or, depending on how spicy you like your ginger, half a teaspoon or so of ground ginger, add about a third of a teaspoon of cinnamon, poor boiling water over and stir.
- Let it steep for 10 minutes and sip it as hot as you can stand it. However, wait at least two hours after a meal before drinking this as it can interfere with the normal digestion of food.
- If you want a bit of sweetness to it, add a teaspoon of honey. . . delicious. It works just as well as bicarb but tastes a lot nicer.
What are your biggest issues when it comes to weight loss? Or maybe you have a great success stories? Let us know in the comments below!
We want to hear more inspiring health stories from WYZA readers. Something to share? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org