After losing a close friend to cancer, Christine Schofield went on a health kick, which culminated with her crossing the finish line of her first ever marathon.
Essex-born Christine put on weight over 20 years ago, after she stopped smoking. Over the years, her weight gradually increased.
After losing 22lbs (10kg) and running a marathon, she credits the NHS weight loss plan with setting her life on a new course.
Why did you want to lose weight?
I put on weight over 20 years ago, when I gave up smoking, and it gradually increased over the years. I had also reduced the amount of exercise I did, which didn't help. I used to do a lot of hill walking with a friend – but when he developed cancer, I stopped. His death last year made me think about my own health.
How did you find calorie counting on the plan?
I use a book called Pocket Calorie Counter by Carolyn Humphries. A lot of people use apps, but I found using the book and a spreadsheet easier. I know some of the apps allow you to scan the barcodes on your food, but most of what I eat doesn’t have a barcode.
Did you find the weight loss forum helpful?
Yes – I got a lot of encouragement from other people who had lost weight. There are people in the weight loss community who were obese but have managed to turn their lives around, and that gave me a lot of inspiration. I would occasionally share tips that were working for me, such as eating smaller portions, using smaller plates and how to avoid getting hungry.
What exercise did you do on the plan?
During the plan, I attended aquafit classes and a running group once a week. I walk a lot anyway, and do a lot of heavy gardening. I also signed up for a 3x30 fitness challenge, which for me involved walking 3km each day for 30 days in a row, but you can also do it by jogging, rowing or swimming. I also went to the gym a couple of times a week for strength exercises.
Are you still exercising regularly?
After completing the weight loss plan at the end of 2013, I started Couch to 5K in January 2014. A friend had entered me into the 2014 Callanish Stones Marathon as a 59th birthday present. I had eight months to get from the "couch" to 26.2 miles, so I had no time to waste! I was daunted by the prospect at first, but once I started the training plan, I felt it was achievable.
I had lost weight and was feeling fitter than ever. Friends commented on how fit I looked. Everyone in my village [Carloway, on the Isle of Lewis] was so encouraging. All of that gave me confidence, and I completed the marathon in 6 hours and 34 minutes by a combination of running and walking. I really surprised myself by what I could do with a bit of grit and determination. When I was younger, I was never into running. When I crossed the finishing line, my father said he would have been less surprised if I had swum the Channel!
How did you plan your meals?
I planned my meals a few days in advance and worked out the calories. I always wrote a shopping list and usually only bought what was on it. Everything I bought was accounted for in my calorie count. I didn’t really change what I ate; it was more a case of eating smaller portions. A good trick I found was to eat with smaller plates.
How did following the plan impact on your home life?
As I live alone, it was relatively straightforward. However, I didn’t radically change what I was eating, just reduced portion sizes, so it's fine when I'm cooking for others.
How did you manage eating out?
I basically ate what I wanted and worked out the calories afterwards. As I don’t like sweet things, the huge amount of calories in most puddings didn’t affect me, and I was not tempted.
How did you deal with slip-ups?
If I go over my allowance one day, it doesn’t make much difference. I’ll make sure I even out my calorie intake over the week.
How did you deal with cravings?
Savoury things like crisps and cheese are my weakness, so I make sure I don’t buy them unless I have visitors. I'll have the occasional bag of crisps when I'm out, but not having them to hand is a big help. If I crave the crunch of crisps I'll have a crispbread with some reduced-fat soft cheese, or peanut butter with rice cakes. Celery with hummus is good, too.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
My motivation has been the tremendous change in my fitness, strength and body shape. People do a double take if I haven’t seen them for a while. I'm fitter than I've ever been as an adult, and it makes life so much easier. I'm now able to do heavier work in the garden, go upstairs without getting out of breath and carry heavy things.
How has following the plan changed you?
I now think about what I eat in terms of quantity, rather than just eating whatever's on my plate, so I make sure to weigh portions of rice and pasta etc. The plan is more than a diet – it’s a lifestyle plan, which teaches you the principles of healthy eating and exercise, and helps you develop healthier habits.
Do you still need to lose weight?
I lost 22lbs (10kg) on the plan. To get my weight in the healthy range, I need to lose another 4lbs (1.8kg). My main aim though is to reduce my belly fat. My arms and legs are really good, but I still find the tummy wobbles when doing exercise. Now the marathon is over, I'm going back to being stricter with my calories and I'll be adding a bit of variety to my exercise routine.