Thursday, 20 April 2017

How The Waist Was Won - Reclaiming My Figure After 50

Eighteen months ago I started to notice that my clothes were getting tighter. Maxi skirts that had previously fastened with ease I now found myself struggling to zip up whilst form-fitting dresses strained at the seams and showed bulges I'd never noticed before. With sadness I relegated the offending garments to the Kinky Melon rails, where customers would occasionally pull them out and exclaim how modern day women just didn't have waists that small. I nodded in agreement, not daring to admit that those clothes had fitted me not so long ago.

Although I was still within the ideal weight range for my height (I'm just over 5 foot 3") I felt bloated and lumpy and had started to dislike many of the outfit photos Jon took for my blog. Several bloggers I follow had written of their changing body shape and of piling on the pounds once they'd hit middle age. At first I read on and accepted this as an inevitability until, with a big birthday approaching and far too many wardrobe crises where I felt horrible in everything I tried on, I decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to be a flabby fifty year old.  

They say that to successfully lose weight you have to eat less and move more but the moving bit wasn't the problem. Ever since Jon bought me my Wii Fit 9 years ago I've exercised for thirty minutes a day at least five days a week, more if I'm not doing a fair. When I had my left hip replaced in 2006 I was told that my other hip would need replacing in five years time. Eleven years on, I've successfully managed to dodge the knife (although I underwent a vile intravenous steroid injection back in 2014). The X-rays show that my hip is in a pretty poor state but I walk fairly well, sleep soundly and deal with the pain from occasional flare-up. The orthopaedic surgeon says that it's all down to my positive mental attitude but I say it's taking regular exercise. I never use a twinge of pain as an excuse for not exercising, that's just giving in.

I'm an active person. I don't drive and living a mile from the town centre suits me just fine. If I break my last sewing machine needle, run out of hair dye or realise that I need a crucial ingredient for dinner I simply pull on my boots, grab my purse and walk into Walsall and I'm back home in forty minutes (unless I get distracted by a charity shop or bump into someone I know).  Although I don't class working at fairs as exercise, carrying huge bags loaded with clothes up and down stairs and spending a minimum of 8 hours on my feet more than makes up for not using the Wii Fit on a working weekend.

Nipping into to town via The Hill of Doom last Summer.

No, the problem wasn't exercise, it was food. Whilst I hate ice cream and cream, I'm not a fan of chocolate, biscuits or cake and I only drink fizzy drinks as a mixer in rum, on reflexion, my 48 year vegetarian lifestyle wasn't as healthy as it could have been. Over the last couple of years I'd slipped into bad habits, demolishing huge portions, not always opting for the healthiest option and eating between meals (something I'd never used to do.) It was time to reign in the bad habits, make some subtle changes and to use being 50 as a springboard for a healthy middle age.

The first thing to go was the enormous bowl of Lidl fruit and fibre I usually ate for breakfast (despite it's size I was always starving by 11am). This was substituted for a quarter of a tub of low fat natural yogurt whizzed up in the mixer with whatever berries* were going cheap on the market and a banana**. This is spooned over oranges, apples and grapes (or whatever other fruit is available that week) and I'll sprinkle Poundland's linseed and seed mix over the top. My new breakfast takes longer to eat and I enjoy every mouthful of its differing textures and tastes. Despite it being lighter I'm no longer hungry when it gets to mid-morning.

*Blueberries and raspberries are £1 for two punnets at the moment so I've stocked up, washed them, frozen them in zip locked bags and use them straight from the freezer. **I buy reduced to clear bananas when they're starting to turn freckly. I peel them, slice them thinly, lay them on a baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper, cover them in clingfilm and stick them in the freezer for two hours. When they're frozen  I transfer them into a zip lock bag and chuck a handful in my yogurt.

The endless teas and coffees I'd make and usually end up chucking half down the sink were replaced with a single mug of tea (made with skimmed milk) with my breakfast and either tap water or organic Pukka Tea for the rest of the day. I always used to drink Pukka but when I became self-employed I ditched it in a bid to save money. Yes, at £2.49 a box it's not cheap (but it's sometimes on offer in Holland and Barrett) but it's hydrating, tastes good and has made a surprising difference to my circulation as my feet aren't continuously cold any more. I'm not that bothered by coffee, I sometimes have a mug (white, instant & fair trade) after breakfast but I'm not fussed if I don't and I wouldn't dream of buying an expensive cardboard cup of it when I'm out.

Lunch used to be a big, freshly-baked ciabatta roll, which Jon could never resist the smell of when he walked past the bakery counter in Lidl. This was deep filled with a slab of cheese and salad. Now it's a wholemeal bread sandwich , usually with some salad and low fat coleslaw, and occasionally a slither of vegetarian cheese. I always used to have a bag of crisps on the side, now if I do it's the lower fat, baked alternative (but usually I don't). Lidl's 17p curry flavoured noodles are a spicy lunchtime alternative if we're pushed for time or running late.

One from the archives back in 2012! Our kitchen hasn't changed, we're still using those 1970s saucepans. 

Dinner hasn't really changed, I just eat smaller portions of it. If there's any left over we'll eat it the next day rather than finishing it just for the sake of it. After all, I'm not a bin. We try to eat our main meal before 6pm but when we're doing fairs that's pretty much impossible - that's when the healthy eating goes out of the window and we'll invariably stop off for a bag of chips on the way home (which we share) with vegetarian curry sauce. Not that the occasional lapse is a problem, half a bag of chips isn't going to kill me.

We never have a meal plan, we buy whatever fruit and veg is cheap on our local market (or the corner shop) and either Google ideas for the ingredients we've bought or leaf through our book of fail safe recipes collected over the years. This week we've had root vegetables (beetroot, parsnips, carrots and onions) roasted in olive oil with whole cloves of garlic and fresh rosemary from our garden; Roast onions, red & green peppers and Haloumi over potato wedges; Wholewheat penne (we used to buy white pasta to save a few pennies, not any more) with grated vegetarian Cheddar, broccoli, leeks and cherry tomatoes in a homemade pesto made using wild garlic foraged from our garden (there was loads so we had this two days on the run); Gobi Not Aloo (I used this recipe but substituted the potatoes for parsnips), slow cooker dhal (the recipe makes loads so I batch freeze it) and basmati rice. Tonight we're having broccoli sabzi (recipe HERE) and tomorrow it'll be Jon's homemade spicy vegetarian pizza - we used to have one each, now we share one!

The recipe book

Jon's a fiend for snacking and rarely an evening goes by without him cracking open a bag of crisps, Bombay Mix or nuts. Although I wasn't hungry I had started to get into the habit of having some too, just to be sociable. Now I just say no (and we're still friends.)

Fruit and veg shopping at our local corner shop (back in 2014!)

Drinking isn't a problem - at least I don't think so. We abstain for at least 48 consecutive hours each week. At home we'll drink either white rum and diet cola or vodka with slimline tonic. When we're out it's beer and lager. Pear cider is for Summer festivals. We usually have a drink on a Wednesday night. If we're not working we'll drink on a Friday and a Saturday night but if we're doing a fair we never booze the night before (and we're usually too tired to enjoy alcohol when we get home so we don't bother). No booze at the weekend means an all-dayer in Wetherspoons on a Monday. Of course this doesn't happen when we're in India and we'll drink every day for a month and when the festival season kicks off - in less than six weeks time - it gets messy.

Now all the Kinky Melon stock fits me (and it's not on the rails just because it doesn't) and I'm happy to model it for the website.

Since I started eating more healthily my BMI has gone from 22.26 to 20.56, my waist is back to the size it was in my 30s, I've lost a stone in weight (and maintained it for four months) and a lot of the clothes I'd unwillingly sacrificed to the Kinky Melon rails are now back in my wardrobe and that's all from making a few small changes - no starving or faddy diets or silly meal replacements or those dubious pills and potions people on Facebook are always trying to flog you. Next time somebody tells you that gaining pounds and losing your waist is part and parcel of the ageing process take no notice. It's a big a lie as telling you that you have to dress down, wear muted colours or cut your long hair off just because of a sequence of numbers on your birth certificate.

See you soon!


  1. I had a come to Jesus meeting about a year ago when polyps were discovered on my gall bladder. I also had been carrying around an extra 20 pounds for about 10 years. Had to go on a restricted diet (or have the offending body part removed - NOT). So 20 pounds lighter and I fall off the food wagon once in awhile but it brings me right back to greens and veges, the stuff I never eat enough of.
    Frankly, I never would have guessed you had put on some weight ...

  2. Oh, it must be a lovely feeling to reclaim all your clothes! I never had a waist to start with, being apple-shaped (I tell myself it's because my hips are proportionally small!) but I am so fed up of outgrowing favourite clothes. I haven't passed them on to you because I can't bear to ;-) And I know it's because I sit on my bum in an office all day. I've started my three-mile morning walks now the weather's nice, and Pete's got to sort his high blood pressure out, so we may end up joining a gym. (Gyms are boring, but I'd rather spend a couple of hours a week in one than at my husband's funeral, which with his family of cardivascular disease wouldn't be unlikely.)

    I do the 5:2, but that's because it gets rid of the mystery breast pain my doctor couldn't explain.

  3. I wish i had your willpower, Well done , I might not look it but i do eat lots of healthy things , I use wholemeal flour , Wholemeal pasta lots of veg , Skimmed milk always as i dont like much milk and only have a teaspoon in my tea , I dont like coffee either , I know its the exercise with me plus the underactive thyroid but at the moment cannot do anything about that , I am slowly compensating for this with eating fewer calories , I do find it hard to give up my weekly bottle of wine though , When i was a lot more active cycling etc i was four clothes sizes smaller but only today i have done the housework and cannot move now , Just hope i have some answers soon xxx

  4. I'm doing the same thing this year. Already lost 15 or so pounds, looking at 5 a month or 50 for the year. The older we get, the more we have to pay attention to what goes in our bodies.

  5. bravo!
    i´m a valkyrie, body type wise - but having a waist is essential for my mental health. so eating millet, rice or potatoes instead of pasta every other day and going for a brisk walk up hill is required. i huge help are the unforgiving waistbands on my skirts - if they start to pinch i have to start to move and to eat less bread & noodles....

  6. You are an example to us all Vix! Current thinking is that maintaining a healthy BMI is 80% diet and 20% exercise, so that fits with what you say about being very active but it not having as much of an impact as desired. I have certainly found the same - paying attention to food and keeping up reasonable exercise has far more effect than when I was in training for runs! Xx

  7. I won't have it that hitting middle age means piling on the pounds. Like you I walk everywhere, the dog is a great help and my job is one big daily exercise route so I can't complain. I have got wider across the top over the years but that's from lifting and carting shit about so it's muscle. I'm an advocate of smaller portions and I actually use a side plate. If I tucked away what my menfolk scoff down, I'd be the size of a house. I don't eat meat and can live without chocolate quite nicely.
    If anyone tells me to wear muted colours I tell them to do one.
    Loves ya!

  8. I found that alcohol makes me fatter than anything else. Apart from the calories the body sees it as a poiso nand concentrates on getting rid of it while the carbs become sugar and are stored as fat. That said, I think life is too short to go without things we love. I stopped counting calories a long time ago and I am always the same size. Fatter than when I was 20 of course, so what?
    Much love, dear friend

  9. I love how you describe your lifestyle as well. I think some people love to act like it's effortless staying fit, but it usually takes a bit of care <3
    You look incredible!

  10. You seemed taller to me. lol. I'm 5'3 myself, so here I was, envying your tall slim figure,thinking that was why you looked so good in your maxi coats. I admire your "stick to your guns" attitude and am impressed at how easy you make it seem. Congrats on achieving your goal.

  11. I became an advocate of Forks Over Knives whole grain plant based diet and I am finding this so helpful in maintaining weight. Tip - if you see a George Foreman grill snap it up. Vegetables roast brilliantly without any oil. Here is a clip giving so many ideas.

    So easy to have the inches creep up and kudos for dealing with them. I've had my own little journey since Christmas and it is a great feeling to see it working!

  12. One word: Menopause. It isn't even that I've put on weight, I'm just thicker round the waist and smaller in the chest than I used to be and that isn't an eating or an exercise thing, that is a hormone thing.

  13. Well done! I remember seeing one of those makeover shows a couple of years back and some celebrity hairdresser said one of the most ageing things a woman can do when she hits her 50s is to get her hair cut short, it is like saying I give in.

  14. Good for you!
    I need to move more. It's hard when it gets so blasted hot here though. Nothing fancy to eat here in Nepal & everything is made from scratch by me so noooo problems there!

  15. Well done! I've cut out almost all bread, limit it to once a week. Still have a little pasta and rice, but much smaller portions. I too eat either fruit smoothies or fruit and some low fat yogurt for breakfast. I've cut down on alcohol intake and gotten on our treadmill more. Pear cider is my choice of bevy too! I drink it with a cut up lime though (getting lots of vitamin C these days). I've only lost 5 pounds but they were the toughest 5 pounds to lose since January. Hubby has lost 10 although he needs to lose more than I do. I am aiming for 7-10lbs more. Slow and steady with permanent changes, not temporary ones. I am cooking smaller portions, definitely. Where there is a will there is a way!

  16. Well done you! I need some of your willpower. I've never been good with exercise, but I do walk a lot, especially as like you I do not drive. My breakfast is the same as yours, yoghourt and fruit, which Jos kindly prepares for me the night before, otherwise I wouldn't have the time. I eat a packed lunch, consisting of brown bread sandwiches, and snack on blueberries or cherry tomatoes. But on a bad day, I tend to nibble, and it's hard to resist crisps and the like. It's a good thing for my waistline I no longer drink alcohol. I've never dieted, I'm just eating smaller portions and avoiding snacks whenever I'm feeling things are getting a bit tight. xxx

    1. Don't you get to thin Ann or your clothes won't fit me haha xx

  17. Oh what??? My body has also spread out and much as I don't like it, I accepted it was just what happened with age. You've burst that bubble. Now I'm going to have to actually do something about it. And at a time when the house is filled with eleventy billion bastarding chocolate eggs.
    Er, thanks for that.
    P.S. you look great! Well done. xxx

  18. You are an inspiration to women of all ages my friend and I don't know anyone who rocks a maxi dress as good as you.
    I love being the age I am and like you doing my own thing clothes wise and okay we all go off the rails now and again but moderation is the key. So I'll just put the biscuit barrel back haha xxx

  19. Very good post Vix, thanks. I have been finding my clothes a bit tight and realised I had got into having second helpings and big portions, just having smaller portions and using a side plate instead of a dinner plate has totally done the job for me! I have gone back to being veggie as my brief affair with chicken actually made me feel crap. Recently discovered zumba classes and am addicted. I struggle with being 58 as in my head I am still 30 - but decided this year that it's just a number and am reinventing myself! You are a great inspiration.

  20. Good for you! I'm trying to loose weight at the moment, a stone has crept on over the winter. I don't feel I look any different, but a lot of my wardrobe is now out of bounds so I'm determined to shift it! I've never gone for fad diets, it's all obvious really, we all know when we're eating stuff we shouldn't be. My worst habit is portion control, I cook all of my meals from scratch but it can be difficult to judge amounts when it's just for one. I'm getting into the habit of either cooking two meals and saving half, or learning to just throw it away instead of forcing myself to eat past being full.

  21. This site might be worth investigating for your Pukka tea. It looks like they don't charge postage either

  22. By the time I finished reading your post I was dribbling!

    You look fabulous; congratulations on regaining your previous waistline. It's no mean feat. It does seem that our metabolism slows down as we age and it is much harder to lose weight as you age. You have to work much harder at it, for example. I was wondering if you like porridge at all? It's very filling I find and it is good for you. I put berries, bananas, seeds and nuts on mine!

    Love all those outfits - they look wonderful on you and you make a fabulous model.


  23. Hi Vix, I never noticed that you put on a little weight, good for you for making healthier eating choices. I have noticed that some of my skirts are tight too, I have to remember to just eat when I'm hungry and not continuing to eat when I'm full. I do find that I enjoy exercising at home, because I put on my music and enjoy it. Xxx

  24. Well done, and as much as for your figure as your body strength. I know how to lose weight, what to eat, how to exercise more, and I need to just stop making excuses and do both.

  25. Excellent, Vix. To see these remedial changes have such an impact on your body and general state of mind is an inspiration. It was a brutal, brutal winter here, which for me meant lots more BAD EATING. Heh. My consolation was food. Now I'm heading back to where I was at before with a simple reduction in snacking. It is much easier now nearing 55 to slide than it used to be. But I can handle it - for now. You look smashing.

  26. Congrats.Vix. You have amazing will power. You looked great to me but you know how you feel best. Don't 'waiste' away though. How do you get iron for energy. ? I eat fish and chicken. Do you ? I often wonder if that is enough but we do eat eggs often. My weakness is rue sauce or beconaise as they call it now. Sorry about the hip. That is nasty. Lots of cheese if you don't like milk. Xxx

  27. You're talking about "mindfulness", aren't you, Vix. Being aware of where you are and what you are doing/eating rather than simply bustling through the days and weeks being busy and "productive". Like you, I make diet and exercise a priority because my joints are already over-taxed carrying my years. Unlike you, alas, the result is a fit Corgi rather than a sleek Greyhound...

  28. 'After all, I'm not a bin' I like that! Andy is often baffled that I don't finish the last few mouthfuls of a meal, but when I'm full, I'm full. I'll repeat your words at him next time he asks ;)
    This is all such good advice, small mindful changes are so much better than a quick fix. Your breakfast looks amazing!!

  29. Well done on the weight loss, it's not easy. I'm always worse in the winter and want to eat stodge... I felt positively podgy beside you at Camden! Since then I've lost a few pounds but perhaps I also need to bin the Aldi F&F and pop down to Poundland for some of those rather tempting seeds?
    Glad you're loving Spin, I'm on nights tonight so I'll be catching up over the weekend. xx

  30. Good Afternoon Vix, Firstly congratulations on your weight loss.... you look fabulous in your Kinky Melon dresses.... and as for having the same waist measurement you had in your 30's I think it is wonderful.
    If I am truthful, I have slipped into that snacking regime. When I first married, I only ate breakfast, lunch and dinner and that was that. But my husband's family were 'supper' people and slowly but surely, I succumbed.... but I am going to take a leaf out of your book and cut out those Lydl breakfasts (yes I buy the same) and have more fruit and yoghurt for breakfast and just cut down on my portion sizes. I am not as young as you are as I am 65 years, but it would be nice to have the waist I had when I was 50... now that would be something.
    Best Wishes to you.

  31. I'm totally with you on the need to maintain a healthy diet, especially as we get older. I love your diet, it's similar to mine. I'm a massive fan of lentils and spinach too, having it tonight in fact! You must be getting it right- the clothes look great on you :) xxx

  32. You look amazing as ever! As for being the same size as you were in your 30's, you're about the same size as my tiny 17 yo daughter!

    Also, I have the same '70s enamel saucepans. They're just gorgeous aren't they? x

  33. Vix, what a courageous and beautifully written post. Thank you for writing this article. These are truly tips that could add years to our lives, and life to our years. In the past 12 months I've gained 27 POUNDS because of over-eating (it's mostly due to the medication I started taking). Your strength and resolve has motivated me. My biggest weakness is sweets. I'm doing my darndest to switch from several chocolate bars or pastries a day, to fruit. It's a constant struggle, that's for sure.

    The photographs of you modelling the Kinky clothing in the garden are gorgeous. Beautiful poses and artfully taken. I'm so glad you're not worried about getting those zips's a great feeling, innit?

    happy thrifting ;)

  34. Bravo to you for making these changes to your eating habits. I am pretty active too, but it is food that has done my waist in over the past few years. I've also been eating way too much sugar, which I never used to have a problem with. I would love to have the same size waist I had when I was 40, but I don't think that is realistic for me unless I started working out every day, and I know myself well enough that won't happen. I am inspired by your discipline and resolve to lose the weight (which I didn't notice).

  35. Well done you!! They say move it or lose it, a moment on your lips forever on your hips...... so many sayings that ring true. You obviously have self control and will power something I lack in. My will power says 'why YES I WILL have that'!! My hair is staying long and getting longer, my colours are bright and will also stay, 55 this May and no intention of joining the beige brigade, not now, not ever!!


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