Break­ing the ex­cuse cy­cle

How I lost 100lbs in seven months:

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Ar­lene Har­ris

Caro­line Clif­ford had been wor­ried about her weight for years.

Al­though she tried many times to shed the pounds, noth­ing worked.

How­ever, af­ter feel­ing sick fol­low­ing a short cy­cle with her son in 2015, she de­cided that if she didn’t do some­thing to change her eat­ing habits, she might not be around to see her three chil­dren – Leah (15), Ada (12) and Orí (9) – grow up.

“Since my chil­dren were young I was con­stantly pil­ing on weight and my dress size kept get­ting big­ger,” says Caro­line, who is mar­ried to Ro­nan. “I would try to lose a few pounds from time to time, but would al­ways fall back to my old ways of eat­ing too much of the wrong food.

“I came up with sev­eral ex­cuses as to why this was hap­pen­ing and be­lieved I didn’t have enough time to fo­cus on los­ing weight. But the real prob­lem was that I was eat­ing too much and do­ing too lit­tle ex­er­cise.

“Then, Christ­mas 2015, Santa brought new bikes and, on St Stephen’s Day, I at­tempted to cy­cle 3km with my son. It was a huge strug­gle for me and I felt so un­fit and even sick on the short ride. He was full en­thu­si­asm while I strug­gled to keep up. At this point I knew I needed to change my life­style as I was re­ally afraid that my health was be­gin­ning to suf­fer.”

It took three months for Caro­line, who works as a clin­i­cal nurse spe­cial­ist on the Psy­chi­a­try of Later Life team in Kilkenny/Car­low, to put her res­o­lu­tion into ac­tion by join­ing a weight loss group and, with this kick-start, she also started some gen­tle ex­er­cise.

‘Steely de­ter­mi­na­tion’

“When I joined the slim­ming group, I didn’t even tell Ro­nan as I didn’t want to say that I weighed in at al­most 17 stone,” she ad­mits. “But I had paid up for 12 weeks and knew I was go­ing to win the bat­tle. I had long been a mem­ber of Clara GAA club and wanted to be some­one who could show ex­am­ple to the club, so, with steely de­ter­mi­na­tion I set out on the walk­ing track ev­ery day, build­ing up my stamina from three laps to do­ing four miles daily.

“It wasn’t long be­fore I be­gan to feel fit­ter and look health­ier and with each pound I lost I felt so much bet­ter about my­self. I set and re­set my tar­get weight sev­eral times; but I knew my tar­get was more about feel­ing good about my­self and lik­ing what I saw in the mir­ror.”

In just seven months, Caro­line lost an as­tound­ing 7st – nearly 100 pounds – an achieve­ment she cred­its to the sup­port re­ceived from fam­ily and friends, and the fact her clothes no longer fit­ted.

“One of the rea­sons I put weight back on in the past was be­cause I never threw out

any clothes which were too big for me, so this time as soon as they be­came loose, out they went as I was de­ter­mined to never need them again,” she says. “Grad­u­ally, I was slim­ming down to how I looked when I got mar­ried and I achieved this with a lot of sup­port and de­ter­mi­na­tion – as en­cour­age­ment and recog­ni­tion played a huge part in keep­ing me mo­ti­vated.

“Along the way I set chal­lenges in­clud­ing a 50km cy­cle for Pi­eta House in Septem­ber 2016, which meant that I went cy­cling up to three times per week over two or three months. I also moved from walk­ing to run­ning with my first chal­lenge to run 1km with­out stop­ping.

“Af­ter that, I built up the dis­tance and last sum­mer, chal­lenged my­self to a five-mile run. I also started set-danc­ing classes which turned out to be great fun, even though I doubt I’ll ever win any medals for it. But ex­er­cise has be­come rou­tine for me now and is some­thing that I miss if I can’t do it.

“My diet has also changed and I eat lots of fruit and veg­eta­bles. I hardly ever eat pota­toes or pasta, I bring my lunch to work ev­ery day and eat fish daily. Also, I tend not to snack or eat be­tween meals and I al­ways have por­ridge for break­fast.”

Healthy diet

The mother of three has main­tained her weight loss by keep­ing up the ex­er­cise regime and stick­ing to a healthy diet.

“I never want to put that weight on again and am con­scious about set­ting a good ex­am­ple for my chil­dren as I re­alise that if I eat healthy and ex­er­cise, it will hope­fully en­cour­age them to do like­wise,” she says. “I al­ready see that hav­ing less junk food avail­able in the house has ben­e­fit­ted them as well as be­ing mind­ful of at the fat con­tent in the food I pre­pare for them.”

With her new-found physique, Caro­line has be­come very en­thu­si­as­tic about ex­er­cise and re­cently took part in the Reign of Ter­ror ob­sta­cle race in Kilkenny and has other chal­lenges in the pipe­line. She be­lieves ev­ery­one has the abil­ity to lose weight and get in shape, as long as they are mo­ti­vated enough.

Reign of Ter­ror “When the Reign of Ter­ror was ad­ver­tised this year, I re­ally wanted to do it so my­self and a few other ladies of var­i­ous fit­ness lev­els formed ‘The Durty Dozen’ and de­cided to take part in the 5km chal­lenge,” she says. “We all set in­di­vid­ual train­ing sched­ules and al­though reser­va­tions crept in be­fore the event, we didn’t back out. So we all fin­ished to­gether, bruised and bat­tle worn and so de­lighted to have done it that we agreed to sign up for the 10km race next year.

“Set­ting goals and tar­gets such as these keeps me mo­ti­vated and hav­ing oth­ers to share the fun –and pain – with, is so im­por­tant. But I be­lieve any­one can lose weight by join­ing a weight-loss group even for a few weeks, be­ing up front about the fact that you are on a diet and set­ting achiev­able tar­gets.

“Throw­ing out clothes as they get too big and do­ing a planned weekly shop is also im­por­tant and so is mak­ing sure to sched­ule in time to ex­er­cise. Don’t let weight weigh you down, pic­ture a fit­ter ver­sion of your­self and that will mo­ti­vate you to keep go­ing.”

One of the rea­sons I put weight back on in the past was be­cause I never threw out any clothes which were too big for me, so this time as soon as they be­came loose, out they went

Caro­line Clif­ford: When she joined the slim­ming group, she didn’t tell her hus­band “as I didn’t want to say that I weighed in at al­most 17 stone”, she says. She re­cently took part in the Reign of Ter­ror ob­sta­cle race (left) and in­tends to take on more fit­ness chal­lenges

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