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Heather

Age at interview: 63
Brief Outline: Heather has had weight issues since she was in her early teens but managed to lose weight while at university. For the last six years Heather has been following a now modified version of the 5:2 diet. She has lost about four stone and now feels confident about maintaining a healthy weight. For her, the advantage of the 5:2 diet is that the feeling of deprivation is short-lived and is followed by eating a normal healthy diet, without needing to count calories. In the past, she did a fat-free diet for two years due to health problems and she lost weight but found this diet unsustainable as a long term project.
Background: Heather is a retired teacher and now works as self-employed. She also works as an assistant exams officer. She is married. Ethnic background: white English

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Heather has had weight issues since she was in her early teens and said that the first time she took control over it was when she went to university at the age of eighteen. At university, she kept herself active playing various sports and cooking her own food which resulted in her losing and maintaining a healthy weight. Later, however, when she met her husband, her weight gradually increased due to a different lifestyle that included eating out and cooking more elaborate meals. After she married, both she and her husband put on what she describes as “quite a bit of weight”. Heather remembers that at a doctor’s appointment, she commented that she was too large if she wanted to get pregnant.

Heather attributes her weight gain in her twenties and thirties to over-eating and lack of exercise. She also has a desk-based job. At her highest she weighed 84 Kg. For more than two years she followed a fat free diet due to gall bladder problems. The thought of having to eat fat-free long term, did not appeal to her and so she decided to have her gall bladder removed knowing that if she did, she could put the weight back on again.

Heather explains that every time she has been on a diet, she was self-disciplined and stuck to it until she obtained her target weight. However, the weight would gradually come back on afterwards, and she never did anything to lose it in the early stages of weight gain.

In her forties she took up running and that helped her lose some weight, but about two years ago, she was diagnosed with arthritis in one knee and had to give it up as well as dancing. She is unsure whether her arthritis is weight-related, but she says that when she first started jogging she was very overweight. Her exercise routine nowadays includes swimming, the gym and daily walks.

Heather learned about the 5:2 diet from a newspaper article and a television programme fronted by Michael Mosley. She followed the diet by watching his TV programme and she also used Apps to help her count calories. She used an App on her iPod that gave her the calorific value of many types of food. The app had a feature where you could scan the barcode on the food packaging and it would list the calorific content of the food. She doesn’t rely on this app for calorie counting anymore and instead keeps a record of her weight on her mobile phone. She finds it reassuring to weigh herself every day despite other people’s views to the contrary.

Now she has created her own version of the 5;2 diet, where she fasts for three days and eat normally for four or “the 4:3 diet”. On her three days of fasting, she increases her daily intake by about 100gms more than the original 5:2 diet. She explains that on fasting days she is very precise about calorie intake but will eat normally and won’t count calories for the remaining four days of the week. She has reduced her portion size - something that she found difficult at first, and she also exercises as much as her arthritis permits. She routinely reads food labelling.  Heather says “I’ve found a recipe for success now in that I know how to lose the weight. She has lost a total of 4 stone in two years. Heather feels confident about maintaining a healthy weight because she feels confident that the lifestyle choices she has adopted will help her to keep within the weight range she wants to be.

Heather feels that the 5:2 diet plan works because the feeling of deprivation is short-lived and it’s followed by the expectation of being able to eat normally. She fasts every other day. In comparison, she describes the fat-free diet as “dispiriting” whereas the 5:2 diet plan allows her to treat herself to “rewards” like “a little bar of dark chocolate”. She now feels confident that she can lose any extra weight she puts on. “I can go away on holiday and eat for two to three weeks, every day lots of lovely food, but I will come home, and I will rigorously stick to the diet plan” And every time she manages to lose the extra weight.
 

Heather found apps particularly useful when she was starting out with calorie counting.

Heather found apps particularly useful when she was starting out with calorie counting.

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So, but you have used the applications to help you?

Yes. That was particularly useful when I started out, when I had no idea and it was very useful because it gave you grams or it gave you numbers of. So you could weigh things and know you had exactly what, what the calories were and I adapted recipes that I’d previously used to, so I would, sometimes we’ll have what I call, ‘chicken and mushrooms and tarragon,’ and I could, I would know that if I had two bits of chicken that was so many calories. But I could have lots more mushrooms and onions because they weren’t so many calories and you can still feel satisfied especially if you just have a little bit of the chicken.

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