A couple support each other losing weight

Working as a couple to support each other’s weight loss makes the process fun! – Rob and Clare’s story

Married for 25 years, Rob was 57 and Clare 54 when they came to see me. Rob was a lawyer and Clare a scientist.  Rob said that for most of his life, weight had never been a problem; he could eat what he liked and it made no difference. All this had changed slowly and imperceptibly and about 7 years ago when he noticed his weight creeping up. He used to do a lot of running but had stopped through a mixture of lack of time and inertia and experiencing knee pain when running, and suddenly found himself to be over a stone overweight.

He went on the Atkins diet which was successful but not very enjoyable; “nothing but meat for 6 weeks became a real chore and a considerable struggle”. Then came Christmas. Rob said, “To my horror when I returned to work in January I found that none of my trousers fitted and when I eventually weighed myself found that I was over a stone and a half above my normal weight”.

Clare wanted to lose some weight but didn’t have a specific goal weight in mind.  She had previously lost 2 stone by calorie counting, eating just 1200 calories a day but found that she felt very, very hungry and it made her feel ill.  She found it hard work and had horrible memories of hunger pangs and how difficult it was to overcome them. She had regained much of the weight lost once she stopped the calorie counting.

As a couple with teenage children, Rob and Clare liked the idea of losing weight together as a collaborative venture.  They both worked and didn’t want to have to change how they cooked and ate, as life was already busy enough.  They enjoyed going out for a meal on Friday evenings and wanted to keep doing this.

The work we did

Step 1: Knowing what to change

Using the Unhelpful Eating Habits Checklist Rob and Clare identified their unhelpful habits:

  • Both had portion sizes which were too big
  • Both ate when not hungry

Step 2:  Increasing motivation

  • Keeping a daily food diary and recording levels of hunger both before and after eating was a really useful exercise for both, particularly Rob and he found it helped to look back and see what he had actually eaten
  • Embarking on weight loss together was a joint project for the couple which soon became a joint hobby and something they would discuss in the evenings. They would compare notes, and said that as well as a shared experience which provided mutual support, it quickly became a fun competition!

Step 3: Reducing portion sizes

The key to Rob and Clare being able to reduce meal sizes was to start using their natural fullness signals to tell them when they’d eaten enough.  Both of them found the Appetite Pendulum very useful as a way of gauging their fullness level.  It took some getting used to initially as they had not been using these signals to guide their eating for some time, but they soon found they could tune in to their fullness signals and stop eating at “just full” (+3 on the Appetite Pendulum).

Step 4: Waiting to eat until definitely hungry

Rob and Clare had different reasons for eating when they weren’t hungry.  For Rob it was a case of realizing that there were all sorts of occasions when he’d eat which weren’t to do with hunger.

“I was eating because I was bored, because food was offered to me; I finished up all the food on my plate so as not to waste any even though I had been given far too much. I ate because I was stressed and sometimes out of sheer greed.  I was eating cakes and biscuits because people had brought them into the office.  I was hoovering up food left over on my kids’ plates because I did not like to see food wasted.  The point is that eating had become a habit triggered by stimuli that had nothing whatsoever to do with hunger.”

Clare tended to eat when she wasn’t hungry if she was feeling fed up, and sometimes out of habit.  We discussed eating as a response to feeling fed up, and the need to find an alternative to food to deal with this unpleasant emotional state.  Clare came up with an intelligent solution based on something she’d heard on the radio:

“I heard about research saying that sounds you have heard in the womb are comforting – apparently people who were living by an airport when in the womb said that they find aircraft sounds comforting – so I thought that for comfort eating, an alternative is to think about what sounds these would have been and search them out.  Whatever comforted us in the womb definitely wasn’t food! I did feel really crap one evening last week, and I was very tempted to eat something filling but I managed with some Beethoven piano sonatas (my mum played these when she was younger).”

This step for both Clare and Rob was learning to tune in to their gut whenever they thought of eating, and if they were not definitely hungry (-3 on the Appetite Pendulum), then they were to do something, it didn’t matter what, other than eat until the idea of eating passed.  Clare used the Beethoven sonatas successfully and Rob used mental distraction at times when they thought of food but weren’t definitely hungry.  They both became good at doing this and found that waiting to eat until they were definitely hungry meant that what they then ate tasted really delicious.

The outcome

Over the course of 6 months, by simply using the Appetite Pendulum to know when to start and when to stop eating, Clare and Rob were able to settle into an eating routine which suited them and their family.  They made a point of going out together as a couple for a meal on Friday evenings and they jointly decided to have a bigger meal then, with wine, and then on Saturday have brunch as they were not hungry at their usual breakfast time. This meant just two meals on Saturdays, which suited them.

Clare lost 12 pounds over the 6 months and said she generally felt better physically and more on top of things having lost the weight.  She said it had been fun doing the Appetite Retraining together with Rob and it was liberating to learn how to break bad eating habits and instead wait to eat until hungry and stop when just full.

Rob lost a stone and a half and said that he and Clare now did more planning about what they’d be eating and they now bought less food and were saving money compared to their old food bills.  Instead of chocolate they now tended to have fruit or fruit tea.

Rob’s graph:

Clare’s graph

In Clare’s own words:

Losing weight is never easy, but the really good things about Appetite Retraining are that you never have to be too hungry, and you can eat food you really like.  With Appetite Retraining my husband and I could go out for really nice meals, then enjoy feeling full for the next day and cutting down then. 

Retraining your appetite means not eating unless you’re hungry so you do eat less, but you don’t get extremely hungry… in effect, calorie counting and Appetite Retraining came to the same thing of eating less, but calorie counting was harder and no fun.  With Appetite Retraining I wasn’t counting calories but just asking myself what I wanted.  Also you look at WHY you eat and then address those things; Appetite Retraining finds your reasons for eating and you find alternatives to running to the cupboard.

Appetite Retraining also allows for your variations in metabolism during the monthly cycle – if you need to eat, you can!”

In Rob’s own words

Food tastes much better and I’m amazed how much less I’m eating.

One key point about this approach is that one is not restricted to a specific food type such as the Atkins diet. You can eat any type of food which makes meals more enjoyable and versatile. It makes such a difference knowing that you can indulge in alcohol, pastries and chocolate from time to time without feeling guilty.

Another key point is that I have found it so easy to lose weight; only eating when you are hungry means I have consumed far less calories than I used to but because I do not attempt to battle through hunger pangs I am not suffering. There were moments of weakness; when I got carried away, particularly after drinking too much alcohol and getting “the munchies” and this was reflected in the weight the next day and this provided an incentive to try harder the next day… I break habits now and again but know when I’m doing it and get back on track the next day. 

We have learned to eat less food which means our food bill has been reduced considerably.

Because you eat less you focus on what you really want to eat, like having just a plate of broccoli with butter and really savouring it and discovering that it is really delicious, just on its own.  Eating less food means we only tend to eat what appeals to us; so rather than buying lots of food just to fill up we think more about what we really want to eat and really savour and enjoy the experience. Eating has therefore become a more enjoyable experience.

It has certainly helped by dieting in conjunction with my wife; we can offer support to each other and share meals.  I can honestly say that losing this weight has been a straightforward exercise for both my wife and I with no suffering or feelings of deprivation.

 The only down-side is that I now have to buy several pairs of trousers or will have to have them taken in. They are all too big so for the time being I wear a belt to keep them from falling down!”