At 50 I realised my diet and sleep were terrible and I was in constant pain. I was an overweight middle-aged woman; tired all the time and could not sleep because of shoulder pain. I remember seeing pictures of myself on holidays and was shocked at how overweight and old I looked in the photos. I had a my son’s wedding to go to in 6 months’ time and decided that I did not want to look like this in the photos. I also made the decision that instead of going up a jeans size I was going to go down.
I had always been very fit taking part in sports, going to the gym, exercise classes, biking and walking. Then in 2011 I developed a frozen right shoulder and was in constant agony. I had not injured my shoulder and the pain just came on suddenly one day. I could not sleep comfortably in any position, it hurt to hold a pen, to sit, to stand and to walk. My doctor prescribed anti-inflammatories, pain-killers and physiotherapy but nothing helped. My other shoulder became inflamed and I started to self-medicate as well with sleeping tablets and bottles of wine just to get some respite. I had always eaten a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables but I changed and ate anything I could. The weight started to pile on.
An unhealthy diet took its toll on me so I tried every diet going; lost weight and then put it back on again and some more. I was tired all the time and in permanent pain I realised if I did not drastically change things I would be like this forever. My lowest point was trying the intermittent fasting (a low calories day followed by a number of normal days and then a low calorie day) in the December of 2013; 500 calories was not sufficient and did not help the pain, my sleep or my mood. I decided then that I was never going to feel or be like this again.
Turning things around
In 2014 I started to regularly attend a gym and did some research into nutrition and healthy eating. I started once or twice a week doing strength training followed by ten minutes of high interval training mainly using a bike or rowing machine. Gradually over the next six months I started to train an hour a day, six days a week, taking a day off to allow my body to recover.
I used an app to log everything I ate and gradually made changes to my diet increasing the amount of protein I ate to include it with every meal and decreasing the amount of fat and carbohydrates I ate. I started eating more fish, eggs, nuts, fruit and vegetables. I made small changes and gradually introduced new foods and cut back on processed foods and white carbohydrates. I measured my weight and body measurements every month to track my results. In six months I had lost over two stone in weight and I was two dress sizes smaller. In eighteen months I had lost five stone of body fat and gained a stone and a half of muscle. I felt so much better, I was healthier and fitter. My sleep improved and although I still have pain in both shoulders it is manageable without taking any type of medication.
Becoming a Sports and Exercise Nutritionist
I enjoyed learning about nutrition and tracking my results as much as I enjoyed exercising, so I decided to train as a Sports and Exercise nutritionist. Other people, family and friends started to ask me for advice. I realised that if I could do it at my age with a substantial amount of weight to lose then anyone could do it with the right information. I wanted to be able to help other people in the same situation, that it is possible with a consistent and determined approach.
The mains thing I have learnt from my own weight-loss experience:
- You cannot change too much too quickly,
- You just have to keep going,
- Take it one day at a time,
- Make small changes for the better every week and
- Track your results.
Everybody always wants to lose body fat quickly but if it took you years to put it on it will probably take some time to take it off again and continuous effort to keep it off. There are no quick fixes, magic shakes or diets that work. If you lose it quickly you are just as likely to put it on again and add more weight too. I train six days a week and eat healthily to stay fit and healthy and to maintain my body composition which I have worked so hard to reach.
I now work alongside the gym in which I train and offer nutritional advice to clients of all ages. I tell my clients it takes time but to remember that the first few weeks of any new eating plan are difficult so:
Make small permanent changes so it is easier to manage and stick to.
Creating new habits and finding healthy foods can be fun if you keep trying different things and when you find what’s right for you it becomes a lifestyle change that works and the body fat goes.
The nutritional advice I provide is not complicated:
- Eat three meals each day and 2 healthy snacks. Space these out regularly throughout the day seven days a week and do not skip meals
- Drink plenty of water especially if you still feel hungry after eating to avoid being dehydrated
- Eat food rather than drink your calories: reduce fizzy drinks, juices, bought smoothies, alcohol and milky coffees
- Choose food that is as natural and as unprocessed as possible with little or no added sugar such as lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and small amounts of wholegrain pasta, rice, bread and potatoes.
- Plan your meals in advance and prepare your meals in bulk if you can so that the fridge and freezer are full of healthy food
- Treat yourself once per week to a meal of your choice and stick to healthy meals for the rest of the week
- Breakfast: My favourite breakfast is a two-egg omelette with spinach and salmon or bacon
- Lunch: My favourite lunch is a healthy salad with lots of chicken or tuna.
- Evening meal: My favourite is fish, chicken or steak with lots of green vegetables and sweet potato.
- Snacks: My favourites are nuts, rice cakes with some peanut butter and I enjoy 150g Greek yoghurt and fruit. In winter I enjoy porridge with a banana.
About the Author
I am a qualified teacher and also a Sports Nutritionist BA(hons), BSc, MA, PGCE and have a diploma in Sports Nutrition and an Advanced Diploma in Sports Nutrition.
I became interested in Sports Nutrition because I wanted to eat right, to lose fat and gain muscle as well as staying healthy and feeling fit and well.
I found all the advice around very contradictory and mostly aimed at young men! I decided to learn more and enrolled on a course. People started asking me for advice especially at Evolve gym which I attend in Yarm-on-Tees: my business has grown from there.
I trade as Balance Nutrition, fully insured and registered.