Monday, 30 January 2012

I eat healthy and I exercise, so why am I not losing weight? What the Apollo 13 mission taught me

How much do we all love a weight-loss success story?  To read about or watch ordinary, everyday people conquering a goal that is so common to all of us – losing weight – by changing their lives and the way they look is inspiring.  I know I look and think, “I want that for myself.  Maybe I can do it.”

A successful magazine or TV story is one of great contrasts; a makeover consisting of a dramatic before and after.  And it’s not just the pictures; it’s the accompanying story as well.  But too often I read of people with a fast food, 3 litres of cola or block of chocolate a day habit with a preference for being a couch potato and surmise that it’s no wonder they lost weight if they simply ate a diet based on sound nutritional guidelines and got off their butt.  That’s not diminishing their achievement in any way; it’s just acknowledging the answer to their problem was common sense.
And yet there are so many people out there, like me, who consider their diet to be pretty good or healthy and do get regular exercise but still carry excess kilos they frustratingly can’t lose. 

In the information age, we are bombarded with news about what to eat and how to look.  This month, I don’t think there was a single magazine cover aimed at women in Australia that didn’t feature a bikini shot of a celebrity showing the good, the bad and the ugly with a feature story on a diet.  Armed with an excess of ‘scientific’ information and having done so many diets in the past, I’ve got a fairly good idea what I should be eating and try to do so.  I can put my hand up to eating fresh fruit and vegetables each day.  I rarely drink alcohol, don’t like pizza or fast food, and I love grilled fish and vegetables.
Then there is the question of exercise.  I have two beagles that insist on at least an hour’s walk every day – rain, hail or shine.  I like getting out in the fresh air and sunshine.  I exercise.

So the question I grappled with earlier in my weight loss journey was this; “if I’m eating healthy and I exercise every day, why am I not losing weight?”
I have to say, it took me a long time and an ocean of frustration to figure it out.  It was in the process of losing my second 15 kilos that I finally did.  At my heaviest, I needed to lose 35 – 40% of my body weight to be within a healthy weight range or BMI of 20 -25.   As I started to lose weight I realised that the answer lay not in extremes but in the number 40 or 40% to be exact or whatever percentage I was overweight at the time.

The portion size of the healthy food I was eating was about 40% more than it should have been.   If it wasn’t portion sizes, it was the hidden extras like avocado and cheese in a roast beef sandwich that added 40% more calories than I needed.  On the days, where I was strict with my three main meals, my snacks would derail me.  To be honest, they still can (it’s a work in progress for me).  I have never eaten a packet of biscuits in one hit and, this may sound like sacrilege, but I don’t like Tim Tams – of any variety. 
I have restricted my beverages to 1 great coffee a day and 1 to 2 cups of tea but by the time I added 1 or 2 biscuits to each of these drinks, my calorie intake was through the roof or 40% over my allowance.  And that was before I had yoghurt or a paddle pop for dessert at night or ditched the biscuits and had a blueberry muffin with my morning coffee.  I mean, surely the blueberries made it healthy and if my skinny friends were eating it each day, it couldn’t be that bad, could it?
My exercise was 40% less effective than it needed to be too. Yes I walked the dogs every day and when our beagles get the scent of a rabbit, they can run with speed like a greyhound but as they have aged, they have got slower.  Although we could walk for over an hour, I was barely breaking a sweat or getting puffed. I needed to do 40% more.

My inspiration came in the form of the Apollo 13 mission. You know the moon mission where things go horribly wrong and astronaut Jim Lovell says,“Houston. We have a problem.”? It’s a massive understatement of the situation at hand and the realisation there is no quick fix. I could relate to that. The Apollo 13 solution lay in first stating a goal that ‘Failure is not an option’ (another famous quote from the mission). It required systematically working through every possible option, going through a series of diagnostics to rule out and rule in possibilities, marshalling all resources available and finding and trying a series of small solutions that ultimately got the mission home safely. Having visited Kennedy Space Centre in Florida a number of times, I also know that everyone on the Apollo 13 mission team exercised personal leadership and responsibility while working for the good of the team.

On my journey to reach my goal weight I have had to own and acknowledge I have a serious problem.  I have also resolved that failure is simply not an option.  And in finding my solution, it took me a while to find Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT that would get me home to the place where I could live my best life.  I take responsibility for my actions and have, and continue to work through solutions.  I have trust and belief I can lose weight because I know Michelle has the formula right.  It’s hard to put into words the relief I feel to have found something that works and can get me all the way to where I need to be.  I can’t say it is always easy but I have the tremendous gift of the 12WBT family that pulls together like no other team I’ve ever known. 
To reach my destination, I have to keep making a series of percentage changes.  This round, with just over 15% left to lose, my eating and snacking needs to be 15% better than it currently is.  My training needs to be 15% more consistent and effective than it is.  My mindset needs to be 15% stronger. There are other things too.  If Michelle were to ask me how I’m doing today, I’d probably say about 85%; there is room for improvement.

That said, looking for 15% is like trying to find money in a budget that is already stretched.  ‘Nickel and diming’ as my American friends call it, can feel like stinginess and a step too far.  There are tough choices to be made.  Sacrifices to endure.  And there is the joy that I am so very, very close to where I want to be. 
Champions, like astronauts, are prepared to go that extra mile, find that little bit more, and dig deep mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I am no longer weak and broken.  I am a champion in the making.  I can do it.


  1. you ARE a champion Jacqueline and what you have written really resonates with me. best of luck on your continuing journey.


  2. HAD to follow your your mindset & don't want to miss any of your wise words.

    Here's to smashing you goals this round :)