I'm on a mission. A mission to lose weight.
Since being diagnosed in 2001, the weight has crept up until I can no longer ignore it. I feel bloated, uncomfortable and miserable, and I have finally tipped into the bracket of having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30, which is considered obese.
But enough is enough. If I'm not careful, I'm going to continue putting weight on and on, and continue to normalise it by just buying bigger clothes and laughing it off. I know deep down though that I won't be happy that way. And I should say now that it's not a vanity thing. I've gotten used to my curves, and quite like them, but no, the reason I want to lose weight is purely for practical reasons. I know that if I am lighter it will make things easier. I'll have more energy and it will undoubtedly make things easier with the kids. I've reached the point where getting up off the floor is becoming difficult, which is never a good look. Picture if you will, a tortoise trying to get up after it's been rolled over. That's me. Okay okay....I'm exaggerating. After all I'm not THAT big. But it's the psychological boundaries that are the hard thing. I'm starting to feel self-conscious.
So what to do?
To lose weight you just eat less calories and do more exercise, right?
But that's the hard thing. What if doing more exercise is challenging? And how many calories should I be eating anyway?
Let's start with calories. The first thing I did on this quest to lose weight, was find out how many calories I should actually be having a day. I used a BMR calculator, which calculates your Basal Metabolic Rate. The interesting thing about the BMR is that, going on your age, weight and height, it shows you how many calories you burn if you were just resting over 24 hours (ideal for someone with MS).
This is a useful thing to know because we're always told that the recommended calorie intake is 2000 for women and 2500 for men. But if like me, you aren't burning many, you're bound to put on weight if you stick the recommended amount of calories.
For example, my BMR came out about 1500 calories a day (using the FitnessPal calculator, found here), which is all I should be consuming on a rest day when I'm unable to get any exercise. Needless to say I haven't been doing that, so it's no wonder the weight has crept on!
So I figured that as a basic starting point now I know my BMR is 1500, I should always try to stick to that as a maximum, then any exercise I manage to do or fewer calories I consume, is going to be a good thing. I've been using the FitnessPal app to enter in what I've been eating to keep track of my calories which has been a great help (though I confess that at first it was a bit of a faff...it gets easier though).
So how to increase the exercise when I'm not feeling good. I have to manage my fatigue, so if I decided to do some walking for example, I need to weigh up how much energy I'm going to be left with. My solution was trying to build up my exercise in late afternoon or evening. I started by making sure I try and walk the dog every afternoon, and have found that with each day and as my strength builds up, I can manage a bit more every week. I've even manage to work my way up to climbing some hills which is a real achievement! I know that if I walk the dog in the evening and come back tired, I don't have long until it's bedtime anyway, so it's manageable.
I've also learnt that doing a little bit can go further than you think, so don't feel like you will never be able to do enough. Just do what you can and don't stress about it.
I've realised that losing weight with a condition like MS is all about the long-term. There are no quick fixes here. A manic exercise regime coupled with a fad diet just isn't going to work in this case, so it's best to set yourself some realistic goals. I've given myself a year to lose weight and get as close as I can to the 'normal' BMI bracket for my height, which is about 10 and a half stone. That means a year to lose 2 stone, or 28 pounds. If I try to even lose a pound a week, I'll be on track, so I'm definitely celebrating the small victories. A pound a week for some might be disheartening, but for me it's all heading in the right direction.
So far I've lost half a stone, and I've just started following the Blood Sugar Diet to kick start my healthy eating, and curb my love of sugar. It's about cutting back on carbohydrates and obvious sugars, and increasing the amount of protein you eat - as well as following a more 'Mediterranean diet' (more fish, meat, healthy oils and veg). I'm averaging a pound or two loss a week now, and I do feel better in myself already. I've promised myself that even if the weight doesn't fully come off, I'll carry on eating this way.
So to recap how to tackle weight loss with MS I recommend trying these few tips out:
- Set yourself a realistic long term goal to strive for.
- Work out your Basal Metabolic Rate so you know your personal recommended amount of calories. Try to use that as a maximum for calorie intake.
- Use an app or website like FitnessPal to keep track of your calories for the day. If this isn't possible, at the very least keep an honest food diary. Writing things down might make you think twice about picking up that chocolate bar....it certainly did with me!
- Try changing to a Mediterranean diet and start cutting back the carbs and filling up on protein and veg instead.
- Don't beat yourself up about having a bad diet day. The way I see it I have a year long goal so the odd bad day isn't going to hurt...and it's good for the soul occasionally!
If you have any comments or tips yourself, do put them below. When it comes to weight loss, we're all in this together. We can do it! :)
Me after managing to get up the hill!