Defying Gravity, Mischief Managed and Joie de Vivre

On 22 August last year I very trepidatiously stepped into a gym. I weighed 126.6kg – 3kg down from my heaviest weight of over 129kg. (Now, I confess, I did cheat a bit – having two major cancer surgeries removed a few bits and a kilo or so. My doctor tells me those kilos “don’t count”. I say all’s  fair in weight-loss and surgery!)

The week before, I rang the gym and spoke to a nice man called Peter who said, based on my height, I should aspire to be around 72kg and that would take 12-18 months solid work.

I was taken aback. 72kg! 12-18 months??? Oh, no, no, no! I wasn’t up for extreme weight loss. I wanted – needed – to drop back to a weight at which I remembered being fairly comfortable and feeling just a little bit sexy,  but that was taking things too far.

“No!” I said, perhaps too abruptly. “I’m not looking to go that far. I worked out if I can lose 1kg per week I’ll be around 95kg by next Easter. That’s all I’m aiming for.”

“OK,” he said, “It’s up to you.”

I signed up for the gym and started on a very low impact 30 minute workout. I also started eating ‘clean’ and reducing my portion sizes. Early in the piece, someone suggested I use My Fitness Pal to track my calories and that has been hugely helpful in keeping me ‘honest’.

Once I worked out how many calories per day I could eat and still lose 1kg, I just kept to that.

The mantra, “If what you’re doing is working just keep doing it,” kept me off the chocolate eclairs and on the treadmill.

Because one tends to lose more than 1kg per week in the very early stages of weight loss, I reached the 95kg target well before Easter 2014.

“Oh well!” I thought, “Might as well keep going until Easter and aim for 90kg.”

So, I did, and got there pretty much on target.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I thought. “Maybe I should just lose another 5kg so I can hover between 85 and 90.”

But, at 85, I found I was between two sizes (14 and 16) and it made buying clothes difficult.

So I thought, “What the hey! Another few weeks and I can get down to 80 and be a comfortable size 14.”

At 80kg, I decided to try for 78kg so I could do the ‘hover’ thing. 78kg became my new ‘target’ because I knew that I didn’t want to be super skinny and it was a weight at which I’d be very comfortable. This was the weight I was in my 20s. Then, because of the pressure put on women, I thought I was fat. Now, I was determined to be 78kg and wallow in the knowledge it is definitively not fat!

And today I reached that goal. Thursday 31 July 2014, 11 months and one week after I began, I weighed in at  77.9kg.

Now – don’t laugh – I will lose a little bit more just to allow for weight fluctuation, but really, that’s it. I’m done. The ‘weight loss project’ is over and now the hard work of maintaining it begins.

I don’t expect it to be hard. I didn’t go ‘on a diet’ so I won’t be changing the way I eat .- although I may allow myself three pieces of chocolate instead of two, a sandwich for lunch instead of a fruit platter, and a meringue with my coffee (on occasion).

I won’t go back to drinking alcohol – I don’t miss it; although I won’t knock back the occasional celebratory glass either.

And I will keep exercising – although five days a week at the gym is not on my long-term (or even short-term) agenda. I do try to do something – walk, gym, swim or gardening – for an average of 45 minutes per day. I’m not sure where the limits are with this new stage, but I’ll find them and, when I do, I’ll stick with whatever works.

There are some things I’ve learned on this journey, which I’d like to share.

The most helpful, supportive thing that anyone did for me was to tell me I was ‘hot’ just the way I was – that the size or shape of my body had nothing to do with how they felt about me.  Then, they both supported and delighted in my decision to lose the weight because it pleased me and they wanted me to be fit and happy and confident. Not once did they make a derogatory remark about  of how I used to look or question my weight loss decisions. They just stood on the sidelines admiringly and said, “Well done!”

That, was a gift beyond measure. It was the nicest, most precious thing anyone has ever done for me.

My friends and readers have also been hugely supportive and tolerant of the barrage of selfies and breathless “down another dress size” posts when they signed up to follow me for religious and political comment. For those who are sick to death of the weight loss thing, I’ll try to ease back on it now. To those who’ve shared my excitement and had fun joining in with my personal transformation, I say “Thank you! You’re weird, but you’re wonderful.”

So many people think they can bully or shame people into weight loss. It’s counter-productive. One (immediately ex) boyfriend said, “You used to be so beautiful … what happened?”

And most women have heard the ‘well-meaning’ comment, “You have such a lovely face, you’d be so beautiful if you just dropped a few kilos.”

You know what? I think I was beautiful before I lost weight. All that’s changed now is that clothes shopping is easier and more fun.  I haven’t morphed into Elle McPherson. I’ve still got droopy boobs and a soft puppy tummy – I’m not perfect and I don’t want to be. I embrace my imperfections – they tell the story of my life. I like to think they give me character. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!

I don’t think women should lose weight or should have to lose weight. I just think you need to find out where you’re happy.  I was happy being fat for a lot of years because it served a purpose. Then, there came a point where that protective layer of flesh just seemed – well – superfluous. It was like a winter coat in the middle of summer. I just felt I didn’t need it any more.

It’s about agency, not expectations. And I don’t think it’s helpful to suggest to a person who’s wearing a winter coat because they need it to keep warm – perhaps even to stay alive – that they should take it off. Let them decide what to do, when and if the season of their life changes,  and support their decision.

I’ve changed the decor in my house recently because I’ve changed. ‘Country cottage’ didn’t seem to reflect me any more. I’ve gone for a weird mix of French provincial/modern steampunk/eccentric Edwardian explorer’s study. It wouldn’t suit everyone’s taste but then, neither do I. (Here’s hoping ’empty bank account’ suits the new me, because redecorating – even via eBay and Gumtree – ain’t cheap!)

The redecoration is not a revolutionary change – it’s an update – a bit of zhushing. That’s a bit how I feel about the weight loss. There came a point when my life was changing and I looked at my body and thought, “Who the fuck is this? It’s not me anymore. It’s not what I feel like inside. It’s not who I want to be now.”

For me, losing weight was about being reassured that I was beautiful, nurtured, loved and admired just-the-way-I-was; that my worth as a woman or as a human being  did not depend on my body. Somehow, that realisation set me free to embark on a journey to discover ‘the real me’.   That doesn’t mean larger me wasn’t real. It just meant that I changed, my view of myself changed,  so the soft-furnishings had to go.

Of course, it hasn’t just been about the size of my body. It’s been about reassessing my life, my priorities, my goals, my attitudes and my ambitions. At the beginning of the year I chose “Defying Gravity” as my theme song and although my boobs seem not to have complied with the directive, I think the rest of me has done pretty well.

So here I am. “Mischief managed” as they would say in Harry Potter. I saw this sweatshirt on sale at Big W last week and I thought, “That’s it! That’s what I want to wear the day I reach my goal.”

And, here I am.

photo (96)Chrys Stevenson


12 thoughts on “Defying Gravity, Mischief Managed and Joie de Vivre

  1. Bill Westerbeek

    You have done very well, Chrys, just don’t go anorexic on us from here on.
    Exercising to maintain/improve health and body aerobically will also maintain your weight and you only need to do that 2 or 3 times a week. Cooper in his books ‘Aerobics’ and ‘The New Aerobics’ showed the way. (Amazingly these were written back in 1968 and 1970.)

  2. palmboy

    Congrats Chrys. Once again this shows the only sustainable reason for choosing to do anything in life, is because we actually want to make the change for ourselves, not because of outside influences.

    Having been almost a non-drinker until into my forties, and now someone who drinks regularly, I can vouch for how the high amount of calories in alcohol contributes to weight gain. I have put on noticeable weight and waist measurement since I took up alcohol.

  3. Potsie

    Good for you! You are comfortable in your own skin.

    You look wonderful my friend. You’re at a healthy weight.

    And there ain’t nothing wrong with having a second slice of pie every once in while. Life is short so enjoy it. ❤

  4. io1anda

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your common sense approach. I’d LOVE to know what your daily meal plans consisted of …. can you post these one day? Just a few days of what you ate …. 🙂

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Io1anda, I don’t ‘plan’. That’s the point. In normal life people don’t plan meals. They think, “Hmmm, what do I feel like having for dinner? What’s in the fridge?”

      Still, one does settle in to a kind of regular pattern of eating.

      My breakfast is always sourdough toast only because I don’t like cereal. I top it with a teaspoon of butter and salmon and lobster paste, 40g smoked salmon fillet or a poached egg. Or I leave off the butter and top it with scrambled egg (1 with a teaspoon of butter and a splash of skim milk),a mashed up avocado or spread with hommus.

      Lunch is usually fruit – pink grapefruit, cherries, strawberries, grapes – maybe with some cheese crackers topped with hommus or a slice of lite cheese.

      If I’m out, I’ll probably order a smoked salmon, lettuce and cucumber sandwich on multigrain bread and a skinny cappuccino.

      Dinner is usually 100g of some kind of protein – steak, pork, lamb or fish. I often barbecue it adding flavour with herbs or non oily marinades (maybe a little oil added). Liquid packet gravies are fairly low calorie, so I might add a tablespoon or two of one of them.
      Or I might cut the protein up and stir fry it or serve it in a home-made tomato sauce.

      Common sides are salad – probably with a couple of teaspoons of low fat dressing or a home made one with not too much oil; roast vegetables (you’d be surprised how little oil you can get away with); brown rice (but not a huge serve – around 70g), or couscous (with a little oil, chicken stock and lemon juice – often with a salsa mixed through it). I like to add lots of vegetables to add bulk to meals – carrots, broccoli or broccolini, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts etc.

      Snacks include Lindt chocolate (2 squares), hand made Belgian chocolate (1 piece), rice cracker biscuits (1 section – about 13), strawberries, cherries, rice cracker snacks (30g), darrel Lea liquorice (3 twists), nuts (30g), or vegetable sticks with a small bowl (about tablespoons) of hommus (preferably skinny) or Mexican salsa.

      I drink coffee with no fat milk with a sweetener, Coke Zero or soda water from a wine glass, or skinny cappuccino.

      But that’s what I eat. The trick is to eat what YOU like – perhaps in smaller portions or modified to be lower calorie.

      I don’t drink much any more but I’ll add a slosh of wine to a sauce. I don’t eat desserts, but I’ll have a spoonful of someone else’s. And if the only thing I can get to eat is fairly high in calories, I’ll just eat half or less or, as I did yesterday at lunch, eat the Thai Beef Salad but push the noodles to one side.

      Hope this helps.

  5. heidi ruckriegel

    Wow. You look fit and healthy and great! My aim is to get fitter. I joined the SES about a year ago and a few months ago we had to search for someone. After a couple of hours of slogging through thick bush I was knackered. Really knackered. Ditto climbing up ladders to fix storm damage. So I’ve decided that if some of the other older codgers on the team can do all that, I should be able to – time to get off the sofa and do regular exercise. Now I need to step it up a bit and it’s not easy to keep motivated, but if you can do what you did then I can get fitter, time to give myself a kick up the backside!

  6. robincapper


    Amazing story, agree with your conclusions and the results prove it. In a lesser way have done similar after finding a post on my own blog from 2006 about a year ago. It quoted my weight and it was about 10% less than my current weight. Could think of no good reason for that so decided to do something about it. Nothing radical, just ate fruit or vege when would have had junk like biscuits or chips and did a bit more exercise. Now back to 2006 weight and feeling better for it.

    You might be interested in The Hacker’s Diet By John Walker. He, with others, created AutoCAD and has retired to walk, read books and create software in Switzerland (an interesting story in itself*)



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