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Weight change & associated health problems

What has worked when trying to lose weight? - Motivations & mind-sets

Losing weight is rarely easy, but many things can help. We spoke to people about what had worked for them.

Having the right mind-set

Being in the right place emotionally and having the right mind-set was a prerequisite for losing weight according to some of the people we spoke with. ‘Being in the right place’ gave people the motivation and commitment to make healthy choices about food and exercise. Before she broke her shoulder, Ellie was following a low carb diet. After the accident, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t think straight, couldn’t cook and felt the diet was too much. She said, “You’ve got to be in the right frame of mind to do a diet like that”. For Sue Y, “it’s all in the mind. Yeah, your attitude does have to change if you want to lose weight”. Kate successfully lost weight and said this was partly due to the fact that she was in a happy and stable period in her life.
 

Having stability in her life helped Kate lose weight. She also had distraction strategies to help her beat cravings, and was encouraged by other people’s positive feedback.

Having stability in her life helped Kate lose weight. She also had distraction strategies to help her beat cravings, and was encouraged by other people’s positive feedback.

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Yeah. What did I do instead? I was, I would say I’d distract myself but I was quite careful not to have anything in the house that I could binge on. I was actually at. There was quite a happy thing going on during the time because I was. One of my sons was living with me doing a [degree] at [City]. So you know I was happy and stable. So there weren’t great traumas or sadness going on in my life So my life was stable. So that helped. But what did I actually do if the craving came in? What I do now. I just, I bat it out again just like if I want, if I walk past people smoking, you know, outside the restaurant. I go, [mm mm] that’s nice, that would be nice. But it is fleeting and I know it will go out again. So I have a fundamental understanding that, you know, it’s only. It will pass. It will pass. I mean I could distract myself. You know, I’m on the computer a lot. The phone distracts me. You know I look at my Twitter account or something like that. So I understand about distraction and that helps as well.
 
Ok
 
But it’s actually, it’s positive feedback. It’s, you know, I was losing weight rapidly for me and I thought this is just so great. I feel that people are telling me I look good. And that, you know, so you know that was really great.
 

Confidence to tell others about her dieting, and their support, has helped Shirley to be in the right mind-set to stick to the plan. When younger she felt embarrassed talking about it.

Confidence to tell others about her dieting, and their support, has helped Shirley to be in the right mind-set to stick to the plan. When younger she felt embarrassed talking about it.

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I think as you get older you do get more confident. I think you’re, when you’re younger you’re embarrassed that you’ve got to do this plan. You’re embarrassed that you’ve got to tell people and then you hit an age where you think, ‘Who cares. It’s my life.’

Why were you embarrassed?

I think just sort of admitting that I was big. I think it was just admitting and if I had to tell people it was taking, but when I did start telling people I got the support. So it’s like a bit how your mindset works. I was embarrassed to tell people and I didn’t want people to know but when I did, and people could see me losing weight I got more encouragement so it’s finding that time when you’re ready to tell people and you’ve got to be ready. It’s no good you trying to force it, you’ve got, it’s like doing the plan. You’ve got to be ready to do it. If you’re not in the right mindset it won’t work.
Part-time work and retirement have provided people like Julie and Joan with the time and the emotional space needed to tackle their weight.

Having a focus or motivation

Among the people we spoke to there were different experiences of how to get into the right mind-set. David was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure around 15 years ago, but started taking his weight loss more seriously after being warned by his diabetic nurse that his health was in danger: “I needed a shock to start me off and to pull me back”. Angela had lost weight after having her son and while writing a novel on maternity leave: “having the baby and having the writing as well gave me that focus”.
 

Meeka was motivated to lose weight after reading a book by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

Meeka was motivated to lose weight after reading a book by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Female
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So, it’s having something to motivate, to kick start that and as I said, I read the book, ‘In pursuit of Joy,’ when my mood was low in January and that got into my head, you’re eating out of gluttony not nutrition.

Okay.

Where’s your nutritional value? How much nutrition do you need for the level of activity that you undertake, the age that you are, the health condition that you have? And so, I thought, ‘Right, I’m on a mission now.’ Got something to work for.

 

The feeling of being slimmer keeps Sue X motivated and helps her avoid the temptation of cake at work.

The feeling of being slimmer keeps Sue X motivated and helps her avoid the temptation of cake at work.

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I think to start off with it was actually, it was disciplining myself into saying, ‘No” I don’t want that piece of cake.  At work everybody brings cakes in all the time for birthdays and that was very hard to start off with. But actually once I’d started, once I’d started losing the weight and I like the feeling of being slimmer, I found that just got easier and easier. I mean I’m no saint. I, you know, I’ve had my moments, so it’s like, you know, sometimes on a Friday night I just want fish and chips from the fish and chip shop and I, I do have it now but instead of it maybe being every Friday, it will just be occasionally and, and I think I like being slim much more than I want the, the thing to eat and I think that’s what I always say to myself now. Do I want to eat it or do I want to be slim and most of the time, it’s ‘I want to be slim’ that wins. Sometimes it's the ‘I want to eat,’ but most of the time it’s ‘I want to be slim,’ and I do, I just, I love being slimmer.
Learning new habits

According to some, losing weight was a process which worked better with honesty and self-awareness. It could also involve re-educating oneself, and reading and learning to understand more about nutrition and weight loss. Kate did a lot of background reading and research on sugar addiction, which helped her understand the need to cut it out of her diet. Maxine Mary joined a couple of online support groups to guide her through the ketogenic diet (a low carbohydrate, high fat diet). Others simply started paying more attention to the nutritional value of their food by studying food labels in the supermarket. For example, Tommy (who had taken part in an accompanied shopping intervention) said, “When I go to the supermarket, I do take more note. At one time, I’d just grab whatever but I do definitely look at the colour coding and I think that has also helped”.
 

Julie has had the time to work out what her weaknesses are and develop coping mechanisms. Avoiding temptation is key for her.

Julie has had the time to work out what her weaknesses are and develop coping mechanisms. Avoiding temptation is key for her.

Age at interview: 73
Sex: Female
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So I think it’s it is, you know, you have to be very, you have to be aware of nutrition, but you also have to be willing to actually follow the path and that takes I live alone, I can do that. I’m not tempted. I don’t have to cook for other people. I find it much easier living alone being able to control my health than I ever did when I was married and had kids, you know, and all this sort of stuff. I don’t, I purposefully don’t go out to eat a lot. I never arrange to meet friends at a, at a restaurant, you know, going out to eat is not one of my pleasures in life because I know it’s going to break my control.

So, it does happen, and I do it and I do break my control, but I know that that is a danger spot, so I don’t do it. And I think it’s also knowing your, knowing what your weaknesses are, knowing that you are going and not saying, “Oh I’m going to try not to have…” No, you will have it. I will. If I go out to eat, I will have a pudding, I know that. So, don’t, there’s no good trying to tell me, talk myself into the fact that I’m not going to have it. The best thing is not to go to the restaurant in the first place, you know.

Okay.

You, you must accept, I think. I have accepted that where my weakness, I know where my weaknesses are. I know when I go to my writing group and they have a, a big tray of biscuits, I’m going to eat three of those biscuits, no problem. They’re going to go whoosh down like this. But I know that. But I know that that’s the only place I go in the month where that’s going to happen. I don’t, I know I don’t do that, if I, if I was going to a place like that every night then I would have to revise your thinking, you know. I couldn’t, I’d have to say, “No thanks.”

Or I always make sure before I go, if I’m going somewhere, if I’m going out to eat, I actually make sure I’ve had a meal before I go, so that I won’t be that hungry.

I won’t tell anyone. I’ll just say, “Oh, I think I’ll just have a little starter tonight, you know, or something like that.” But I make my own arrangements because I know what, what I’m like.

Okay, so no that’s very good because those are your rules in order to, to control your weight, maintain healthy weight.

Yes. I think you need to find out what your weaknesses are and be prepared to cope and find coping mechanisms. But I’ve only been able to do that since I’ve been retired because I’ve had the space to think and realise what’s happening. I never had that space when I was working and busy.

So and also, I’m probably less inclined when you’re working and constantly with people and everything. When I’m retired, I’m spending a lot more time on my own, so I’ve got this space to make rules and to, and to experiment as well, you know.
 

 

Being on a weight loss programme helped Sue X feel more in control and educated about her food choices.

Being on a weight loss programme helped Sue X feel more in control and educated about her food choices.

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I think before it was about not always making sensible choices, you know, it’s, it’s, I’m much more aware now of if I go out for a meal, what I can and I can’t eat if, you know, what I mean.  So, I know for instance, like bread is a demon for me. I can’t eat very much bread because I know I will put on weight if I eat bread. But I found ways around, you know, I found other ways of making a meal interesting without needing to have bread. And I think, I think that’s why Slimming World group is successful because you can eat masses of food but it’s all about making the right choices and I think that for me was the kind of like the lightbulb moment if you like that I can still go out, I can still eat loads of food. I can still have chips if I want them but I, but I make themselves and I make Slimming World chips. So I know that there’s, you know, no, not loads of fat in them and I think, I think that’s it now. I feel more, more in control and more educated, if you like, about what’s a good food and what’s not a good food.
Counselling and psychological support

Some people talked about how counselling had helped them to lose weight. Angela suggested that counselling should be part of any weight loss programmes “to discuss all the issues and why they come about because, you know, I know that I was a fat baby but why there are so many chubby babies around that have grown up to not be fat? Why, why me? Why did I maintain that?” June X felt it was “very necessary” to provide long term support to people who want to lose weight. She participated in an NHS funded programme that included cognitive behavioural therapy. She found that very beneficial and said that even “at this incredible late stage of my life” recording her own eating and other behaviours was “very effective” [see section - Support for weight loss].
 

Angela felt that the Lighter Life plan worked best for her because it provided counselling and support tools at the maintenance level to help her ‘ease out’ of a restricted diet.

Angela felt that the Lighter Life plan worked best for her because it provided counselling and support tools at the maintenance level to help her ‘ease out’ of a restricted diet.

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Did you have any support and advice after you have lost weight, the weight loss?
 
With Lighter Life, yes because when you do the full abstinence plan you could, it’s actually optional, optional as a maintenance plan so you, you introduce foods slowly. I found that really useful, so that you’re not, you know, you’re not, you don’t go back to being overweight again and there, even with the actual abstinence plan, you get a work book and every week you work through some aspect, you know, it’s kind of form of CBT but it doesn’t go, you know, beneath the service because they can’t, they’re not qualified psychotherapists. So the maintenance plan was the same and they actually produced a whole load of CDs as well with meditation and just, you know, how your mind can do crooked thinking and you know that when you decide to binge on something that’s it, you think ‘that’s it, it’s over and done with now, I might as well just binge for the rest of my life,’ you know, and how to regain your momentum and that sort of thing. So all those tools they were all there at that time [laughs].
 

Psychological support and recording what she eats as well as her thoughts and feelings has helped June to understand her eating behaviours.

Psychological support and recording what she eats as well as her thoughts and feelings has helped June to understand her eating behaviours.

Age at interview: 70
Sex: Female
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I have been spending a great deal of time [laughs] and effort on this and I am still not convinced that I am fully aware of all the issues which come into play. It seems almost inexplicable to me, but we’ve been doing a lot of work on the weight management programme with cognitive behavioural therapy which I think is very important and it’s an absolutely excellent tool that would seem to me to deal rather less with history as something what is the experience of the individual.

It deals more I feel with practical solutions and as such, I think it works, it works pretty well, and the hope is that I, I what do I think? I think long term support is very necessary.

Can you give me some examples of what you have learned or information acquired?

Information that we’re given. The planks of it, of the programme what we’re being advised to do, is to record out own behaviour, record what we eat and I’ve resisted that for years and years and years and years and years and finally found out at this incredibly late stage of my life that actually it is very effective. That’s making yourself look at what you’re doing is interesting, [laughs] interesting to say the least, and actually if you’re in the habit of thinking about what you’re doing, you probably make slightly different choices more often.

Okay, so it’s changing the behaviour.

It’s the examination of what you’re doing…

Okay.

… will be apt to have that affect if you do it.

You have to do it. There is a large resistance to doing that, but I would say that it’s, yes it is and I’ve been, being told that it was for a long time now. It’s taken me a long time to move round to doing it, but it is very, very effective and I’ve actually been recording what I’ve been eating, I beg your pardon, for over a year now, I think just and that’s the first time I’ve ever had a record, black and white, long term record. It’s not without the odd blank because one goes on holidays and does different things and stuff like that. It’s not always possible, but really it is, it’s a pretty good record of the year of my life, as far as what I’ve been eating and what I’ve been in the habit of doing.

Okay, so it’s, it’s eating and also activities?

Yes, to an extent but we’re not, it’s mainly you’re asked to record perhaps if you can thoughts and feelings. We get given a record book and I don’t do it in a record book, I do it in my own diary and I would, I find that more difficult? I don’t, it probably actually now I’m sitting thinking about it would, it’s probably about time I started to have a go at doing that because I can see the way in which that might begin to make you more aware of how, of thought patterns. And it is, it’s all about patterns and patterns and behaviour and what you do regularly and what you do almost automatically and yes it’s very much, very much to do with that.
 

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