Dear Miriam,

For most of my life I have been overweight and now that I am in my late 30s, it is really starting to get me down. I have tried various weight loss programmes, but can never stick to the rules and regulations and the pounds just pile on again. I would like to make a real attempt to reach a healthy weight and maintain it before I reach my 40th birthday. At the moment, I get no joy or excitement from buying clothes.

In the past, I have managed to lose a few pounds for weddings or special occasions, but once the day is over, I find myself back to square one. My husband is kind and supportive and says he loves me regardless, but agrees that I need to focus on my health and fitness as I head towards middle age. He loves to walk and swim, whereas I am more of a couch potato.

I would appreciate any guidance you may be able to give me with regard to this.

Wicklow Reader

Dear Wicklow Reader,

Thank you for getting in touch. It took courage to write that email and send it.

My first piece of advice, though, is not to be hard on yourself or to beat yourself up. Such an approach will rarely, if ever, work. So instead, let us start from a place of self-compassion, rather than self-criticism and judgement.

Comfort eating

It may help to take a step back and try to identify what is causing this situation. It could be comfort eating in times of stress; it may stem from your childhood where sweets and nice food were used as rewards for good behaviour; there may be an underlying medical cause relating to your thyroid gland etc.

While there might be some motivation to lose weight for a wedding or other celebration, it is never a strong enough reason to maintain it. Therefore, I would suggest that you see this as a lifestyle change for your overall health and well-being, rather than focusing on the scales alone.

It may help to visit your GP for an overall health check-up and to see what practical support and advice they can offer on this journey. Practicing mindfulness each day is also a good idea, as it can help increase your awareness around choices. You describe yourself as a “couch potato”, but it could just be the case that you have not found the type of exercise or movement that you enjoy.

If going to the gym is not your thing, would you consider trying a Zumba class, aqua aerobics, yoga, Pilates; the options are almost endless. Even committing to a 30-minute walk each day can make a huge difference to how you feel. Pop on your headphones to listen to your favourite music or podcast, or even better, arrange to meet a friend or join your husband on one of his walks now that the evenings are getting longer and brighter. Such support is invaluable.

Positive changes

Making positive change requires a lot of determination and persistence. Know that when people find themselves comfort eating, the reality is that they are feeding some emotional need as opposed to satisfying hunger pangs.

Try and identify the emotional need. Speaking to a professional can help you to do this and find a healthy and holistic method to deal with it. Remember that you are never alone on the journey.

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