How To Lose Weight And Keep It Off. The Cumulative Effect

Do diets really work? Well, for some people, yes. However, most of us view a diet as a temporary way of eating that will come to an end when (if) we reach a specified weight and can then return to our old ways! I lost almost 3 stone (around 40 lb) – and have kept it off for more than two years – but not through being on a ‘diet’. My success is down to something else: the cumulative effect of certain actions! I didn’t want to diet – I wanted to create a way of eating that would serve me for the rest of my life.

So, what is cumulative effect?

Cumulative effect: The state in which a series of repeated actions have an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects (Wiktionary)

Cumulative: increasing by successive additions/made up of accumulated parts (Merriam-Webster)

Starvation diet – not recommended!

Weight has never been a problem in my family, and I was naturally slim until I got into my twenties (after I married my first husband). There was no mystery to it, I simply got into the habit of overeating. And then, I lost that weight, plus some, by existing on very little for months on end (not to be recommended!), when I started to feel unhappy in the marriage. I was motivated by my need to feel better about myself and to feel that I had some control over my life.

Anyway, that was my first experience of gaining and losing weight. Fast forward a few years to when I was with my second husband, and mother to three children. We’d moved from the city to a rural location, money was horribly tight, and the marriage less than healthy. I no longer needed my heels and briefcase, and couldn’t afford to buy new clothes anyway, so adopted a uniform of comfy trousers and trainers. And I ate – mostly junk food (because it was cheap). I was heading toward twelve stone (around 160 lbs), which is not great for someone who is 5 feet 2 inches tall and of a small build! And then history repeated itself; the marriage was dark and in tatters, and on the brink of collapse – but the one thing that I could control was my weight. Once again, I reverted to eating very little, whilst exercising and walking for miles. My average daily intake was 600 calories and I went to bed hungry every single night. I lost 4 stone within a very short space of time (people who hadn’t seen me for a while were shocked, asking if I’d been ill – which really offended me because I was incredibly proud of myself!). I actually managed to maintain the new weight for a long time, give or take a couple of pounds – until, that is, about four years ago. Now, before I go any further, I need to state, emphatically, that a starvation diet is not a good idea, and I do not endorse it. And that nowadays, I am incapable of indulging in such crazy behaviour – thankfully.

The importance of sensible eating combined with exercise

To cut a long story short, I developed arthritis in my right hip, which increasingly affected my ability to walk any distance. Then my partner had an accident that left him with a shattered heel and a collapsed ankle and life felt very limited. I turned to food for comfort and entertainment, and you can guess the rest. I expanded from 7 st 12 lbs to 10 st 12 lbs within a couple of years, repeatedly losing a few pounds before putting them back on again. I no longer had the will or the desire to starve myself, so something else was required. And, on the fourth of January 2021, I knew for sure that I had finally reached rock bottom and had to change. Despite having started kickboxing and fitness classes, I was still overeating, which is why my weight wasn’t shifting (you might ask how someone with an arthritic hip could engage in kickboxing, but that’s another story!). I felt old and lumpy and dumpy – which in turn made me sad. I feared that my best was gone, which was depressing. But then, I thought about the way in which I had achieved every other goal in my life – and realised that they’d all followed a step-by-step process. Nothing had been achieved overnight. I also recognised that going on a ‘diet’ wasn’t the way forward. I needed to retrain myself to eat in a different way, permanently. I also had to face a couple of facts; being on the far side of the menopause meant that the days of weight simply dropping off were gone. I could no longer walk it off, but I could increase the kind of exercise that I was able to do. And exercise was imperative, not just for weight loss but for overall physical and mental health and fitness (plus, the doctor and the physiotherapist both advised me to continue with kickboxing. Believe it or not, it has helped). 

My middle-aged spare tyre, when at my heaviest – I obviously gather my excess fat around my midsection!

Having just achieved my black belt in kickboxing –

2 days after my 65th birthday and 8 months after a hip replacement operation – I can’t help but smile!

From 2,500 to 1,500 calories per day

I worked out how many calories I had been consistently consuming, and decided to ease myself in by gradually decreasing the number over the first few weeks. Because I’d been consuming around 2300 to 2500 daily, I started at 1900, reducing as I became used to the new routine. The lowest daily number of calories I consumed was 1,400, but it tended to be between 1,500 and 1,700. I am not suggesting that everyone should do what I do – what works for one might not work for others. Each day I wrote down the calorific content of everything I ate and drank (by checking the packaging or looking it up online), carefully measuring and weighing where necessary. Yes, that’s a lot of work, and it definitely demands commitment – but when you’ve reached rock bottom it actually feels empowering! As the weeks turned into months, I found it easier and easier to eat less and feel satisfied and developed a routine that became my new ‘normal’. I believed that it was important to be realistic, and to eat in a way that suited me; after all, I’m not on a diet – I’m developing a healthier, permanent habit. I included a small bottle of cider and something sweet in my daily calorie count, as well as lots of salad and fruit, and some fat and protein. I’m not a nutritionist and I am sure that some will criticise my choices, pointing out where I am going wrong – but it is working for me and I feel healthy! Occasionally, I will eat and drink more because of a special event such as a birthday, but because I return to my normal routine the following day it doesn’t have a negative impact. And, to be honest, there are the odd days when I feel genuinely hungry… so I allow myself to eat more but without going to extremes. It hasn’t been a speedy process but I have never felt deprived or miserable. I take supplements daily, too, for my joints and general health, and I am drinking a lot more water than I used to (mainly because of training). I also drink decaffeinated, green, and herbal tea (not much of a coffee drinker!). I follow a routine that suits me, tending to eat my dinner late at night at least four times per week – which, despite being told by the naysayers that it is “the worst thing you can do” (a myth, actually) is a habit I enjoy! As I said, you’ve got to keep it real otherwise you aren’t going to stick with it. 

A progressive journey

The positive power of cumulative effect…

To sum up, it is the cumulative effect of actions that led to my weight loss and ongoing weight maintenance. One day of considered, conscious eating followed by another and another, and so on. A gradual, reduction of calorific intake until the intended daily target was reached. A developing fitness programme, gradually increasing in intensity. It has been a step-by-step creation of a new, permanent ‘normal’ way of eating. To quote Punch – “That’s the way to do it!”

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Intuitive consultant, offering predictions with insight and food for thought. Relationship advisor, blogger, and self-published author. With a black belt in kickboxing!

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