A friend recently asked if we’d talk on our blog about the changes Kate and I have made in our lives to try to get healthier. After all, we’ve shed a massive 9 stone between us, but importantly we have no diet to sell you. For us it was all about getting healthy, not focussing on getting skinny, but losing weight was a by-product of getting healthier. I’m not going to lie, this is actually a really hard blog post to write, not just because I really don’t like the idea of laying myself bare for the world to read about, or because we’ll share photos I’d prefer to burn, but because I don’t think its a good thing for bloggers and social media “celebs” to offer advice on health. We are not the people to take advice from. So I am going to share some of our story, but on the agreement that you don’t take it as permission to try to do any diets or weight loss tricks or anything. If you feel you need to get healthy or lose weight, talk to your doctor first, and get some proper advice. Deal? Let’s go back a few years, you know that thing where you meet someone, you are happy, you pile on weight? Yup, that was us. Although we’d both fought with our weight for a number of years, we were happy, we stopped caring and worse, we both loved food so we started to celebrate everything with meals, usually large, rich meals. Oh and we commiserated everything with food and beer too. This photo was us, in our happy place, the kitchen. This wasn’t our biggest size wise, but at this point, all we did really was eat and watch TV. Maybe we played video games. Kate was struggling with her blood pressure, suffered from depression and found it quite painful to walk any great distance (like the 1000 meters to the train station). Something had to change. Unfortunately, at that point, it didn’t. We were happy, we accepted being out of breath trying to climb the two flights of stairs to our flat, not being able to breath when we tied our shoe laces and all the other stuff no one wants to talk about. We just decided to stick our fingers in our ears and ignore it. This photo is probably the hardest photo for me to share. We both hated how we looked here and spend most of our time in baggy t-shirts and shorts, because let’s face it, at that size, clothes don’t feel good. The turning point was a few years after this when we were planning to get married. We both realised we really didn’t want to look at wedding photos and be depressed by them so we began, slowly, trying to introduce a healthier way of life for us both. It worked, slowly, a pound at a time we both started to lose a little weight, but more importantly, we were feeling better physically, which meant we could be more active. All of which helped. Then when Kate started thinking about turning 50 she decided to step it up. She was having a hard time accepting that she was actually going to turn 50. I think it was more to do with the realisation that yup, you are a grown up. There was no getting away from it now. But the struggle to accept our aging, made us look at everything in our lives and we realised we had a pretty awesome life and we were basically cutting it short. So Kate made a decision, she was going to be fit and healthy, not fat at 50. That was when Kate got brave and joined me as a cyclist. She started small, just around the block, but began upping it. Around the block became a couple of miles, then three or four miles then in the summer she thought what the heck. She began cycling to work and back regularly and that’s when the big changes happened. Fast forward a few years, and between us, we have lost 9 stone, we both now regularly cycle for our 7-mile commute each way and we go to the gym or play sport as our fun past times. But you know what, we both still cook, we still love cooking and eating. So what changed, what diet did we go on, cause let’s be honest you all want to know so you can buy the book or sign up to the website, right? Honestly, we didn’t, we didn’t go on a diet. We still eat all the same foods we always did, we just slowly introduced some changes. Portion sizes I can’t begin to tell you how important portion sizes are, or how out of control ours had gotten. Something as simple as learning what a proper portion of food looked like made a huge difference. So for us, large bowls of pasta were replaced by 75g of pasta each. It was shocking at first to see how small that was compared to our usual bowl full, but this recognition of how much we overate was important. Veggies We found ways to incorporate more veggies into our diet and reduce the meat. We still eat meat but it’s not the main source of food anymore and not every meal. We add a couple of vegetables to every meal. NOT CHIPS that doesn’t count. The difference this has made to how we both feel is fantastic. If we have a few days where our meals lack veggies now, we can really feel the difference in our general well being. Replace needless fat and calories Do you need to fill the pan with oil or would a teaspoon do? Really try it. Instead of cream, use a low-fat cream alternative like Elmlea. It doesn’t taste any different. Instead of sour cream use natural yogurt. Replace creamy pasta sauces with tomato-based sauces or for a fantastic (UK) carbonara, replace the creamy sauce with cream cheese, we use the Philadelphia light with garlic and herbs. It’s full of flavour and sooooo many fewer calories. It’s these little things that add up. Obviously, we are not saying you can’t ever have that gorgeous creamy pasta meal again, just you can’t have it all the time. We tend to try to eat well most of the week, but Friday is our date night, that’s when we cook a nice meal together and share a bottle of wine. Reduce the booze Notice I said reduce, not stop? We still have a wee G&T of a Friday or share a bottle of wine with dinner, but we don’t drink much more than that. I notice much more now the ill effects of booze. One extra G&T and I won’t sleep well. Open that second bottle of wine and we’ll have hangovers. Excercise Sorry folks, the old adage is true, eat less move more and I can’t emphasise enough how important the move more part is. This doesn’t mean you have to start jogging, but you need to move more, every day. Not just occasionally take the stairs. Every day, increase the amount of activity you do, even if its just a walk or two but make it a regular habit. this has a huge effect on more than your physical health. We are not gym bunnies, we don’t spend every night in the gym and to be honest we’ve only started going to the gym at all in the last couple of weeks. We changed by cycling a little, together. We started with maybe a mile. Kate hadn’t cycled since she was a kid so we started small and slow. Gradually we built up how often we cycled and the distance. This was the big moment for Kate, watching her fitness increase, seeing the change in what she could physically do. It was that regular exercise that made the huge difference though, in the last 18 months since we started cycling, Kate has lost 5 stone, no longer needs blood pressure medication and no longer struggles with depression. Although I’ve found it harder going than Kate to lose the weight, I’ve lost almost 3.5 stones. We are healthier and happier and have found some fantastic new ways to spend time together. So what else are we going to do? Well, we are going to try to add some more blog posts about the recipes we make which help reduce calories and unnecessary fat. They might be as simple as use cream cheese instead of cream, but if it gives someone an idea and a place to start, then I think its worth it.