Today I was passing through London’s Tooting Broadway tube station when a handwritten saying on a board made me stop. The motivational words are by the late Arthur Ashe, 1943 – 1993, former Wimbledon tennis champion and social activist. He said:

To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.

You can apply Arthur Ashe’s motivational motto to weight management. Simply change the first three words to say ‘to lose weight’.

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Start where you are: even if it’s a shock, it’s also a start to find out what you weigh

Start where you are. There’s no point remaining in denial. This is where you are today and there’s no point harping back to what you used to weigh when you were 21 or before your mum died and you began a year of eating away your pain with hot buttered toast, cream cakes and macaroni cheese. There’s no point remembering and regretting that you put on a stone (14 lb)  after each baby, lost half a stone but then gained ten pounds which made all your efforts seem pointless. Forgive yourself. It’s history. Start where you are and get on those scales today. Even if it’s a shock, it’s also a start.

Use what you have.  Do you have a supportive husband, partner, colleague or friend? A dog? Three flights of stairs to your office? These are all valuable assets. The partner can promise to support you and not sabotage you by waving kettle chips under your nose. The best friend can go swimming with you once a week and agree to have coffee, but not coffee-and-walnut cake, on the way home. The dog is self-explanatory. It loves you and it loves to be taken for walks. The three flights of stairs will hurt at first but not as much as an expensive gym membership which isn’t used enough.

Perhaps you think you can’t use what you have because you don’t have enough. Watching your weight means you’ll have to splash out on a gym membership, Sweaty Betty ensembles to wear at the gym, Nike trainers in this year’s colourway, a state-of-the art pedometer to track your movements, a personal chef to devise calorie-counted, gluten-free meals tailored to your personal calorific requirements and so on.

I’ve got news for you. It doesn’t and it never did. Under wartime food rationing in Britain in the 1940s, people were healthier than they’d been in years because petrol was also rationed and anyway, everyone didn’t have a car so they had to walk or cycle to go anywhere. The idea of paying to exercise would have seemed crazy. They were slimmer not usually because they went hungry but because they didn’t have so much choice.  A typical dinner was carrot and potato turnover or carrot and potato turnover. There is only so much carrot and potato turnover anyone fancies.

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Introducing the dog: if you haven’t got one, walk your neighbour’s. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Not the same dog, of course.

Do what you can. Small changes make a big difference. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step. (Insert your own cliche here.) Small changes can include:

  • no more second helpings. Plate up and put the serving dish out of reach.
  • swap to skimmed milk from semi-skimmed or to semi-skimmed from whole milk. I hate skimmed milk in tea but can tolerate it on cereal
  • have a sliver rather than a slice of cake
  • if you love filled baguettes, share one between two or three colleagues instead of having one to yourself
  • be careful with cheese. No more than a matchbox-sized piece at a sitting. And make sure you are sitting not standing when you eat it.
  • if you tend to glug red wine with your spag bol, mix that wine half and half with water. Reaching for your glass while eating is a habit. Yes, this is a crime against a grand cru but okay for table wine.

So you see. You can do it. Start now.

I would love to know if you found this post motivational.  What steps are you going to take today to get started or continue your weight loss regime?


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