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Matthew learns to make his goals a reality

I'm delighted to introduce you to Matthew from Queensland, who's learned a lot about goals and how to make them come true.

When Matthew first contacted me in March 2007, something in his e-mail raised questions in my mind.

Sent: Sunday, 18 March 2007 10:48 AM
To: Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis
Subject: My weight loss

Dr Amanda,

I'd like to share with you my story.

I was married at the age of 22 and at the time was at my ideal weight of around 80kg. Slowly over the next 7 years, due to a decrease in exercise and an increase in "fun eating" I steadily put on weight reaching a maximum weight of 110kg. At this point I saw how bad I looked and decided losing weight was far more important to me than enjoying the food I was eating and so went on a diet. This was hugely successful until I reached 88kg, at which point I reached a plateau and apparently gave up. This was a shame as I had gone out and bought a lot of clothes at that size thinking I would continue to lose. Unfortunately, within a couple of years, I was back up over 100kg and still heading up.

At around 107kg (about 2 years ago) I recommitted and with the help of a friend (by having a friendly competition to lose weight) I quickly got down to 95kg and for some reason, stopped and have been struggling ever since (hovering between 100-105 kg).

Four weeks ago, I worked out I had only 6 months (exactly) until my 40th birthday and decided to go into action. My goal is to be back to my marriage weight of 80kg by the time I turn 40. This equates to losing just under a kilo a week for the next 6 months. I accept this may be unrealistic, but without a target I'll lose motivation. I accept I may only get down to the high 80's, but that'll still make me happy.

Around this time I discovered your book in a bookstore in Brisbane, where I work, and it caught my attention. I've now read your book and appreciate the valuable research and findings you have presented. You've explained why we plateau and how to get through it.

I am now following your "diet" with the same goal in mind to lose 25 kilos in 6 months.

As a result, it's now been exactly 4 weeks since I started (with 5 months to go) and I have so far lost 4.3kg. I know at some point I will plateau, but thanks to your research I have faith I will successfully eat my way through the Famine Reaction.

Thank you.

Matthew

While having specific, time-bound goals such as Matthew's is vital for weight loss success, it's important that your goals fit with your lifestyle and the way your body works. I wondered what might happen if Matthew's weight loss slowed for any reason, such as the Famine Reaction or times when it's difficult not to eat more than you need. Would he get discouraged and give up as he had done in the past?

In a return e-mail, I applauded Matthew's commitment and early success, and invited him to send me regular updates of his journey. 'I'm really interested to see your progress', I wrote, 'and especially to remind you - if you do hit a plateau - that you will eventually get back to the downwards line by continuing to eat mostly nutritious foods according to your physical needs.'

A month later, Matthew sent me an update of his progress.

Sent: Wednesday, 25 April 2007 8:46 AM
To: Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis
Subject: Re: My weight loss

Amanda,

The past month has been interesting as I had to see how I'd go over Easter - a time of abundant chocolate and holidays away from home. A time I *always* put on weight!

Well, using the principles from your book I carefully monitored my eating and made sure I stopped eating when I was no longer hungry, and I also went for a 5 km walk each day.

I'm happy to announce it was the best Easter (from a weight loss point of view) I can remember having. I'm now 6.1 kilos down with 18.4 kilos more to go.

Unfortunately, for some reason, I haven't been able to get back on track with my diet since, even though I'm consciously keeping tabs and walking etc. I don't believe I've hit the "Famine Factor" stage yet even though I've hit a plateau. I think it's more a case of nibbling too much at night after dinner.

Nevertheless, I will continue on to my target goal.

I encouraged Matthew to use a Success Diary as I describe in The Don't Go Hungry Diet to help prune out eating when he wasn't hungry and thereby get over his plateau. I also reminded him that, although it's thrilling to be losing weight, maintaining your new, lower weight is just as valuable an outcome. The more experience you have at remaining weight stable, the more likely it is you'll be able to maintain your ideal weight once you get there.

A month later, in mid-May, I received another update from Matthew. With changing jobs and subsequent loss of his usual hour-long walks at lunchtime, coupled with additional social activities such as weddings and an all-you-can-eat chili night, Matthew's weight was on the rise, up by 1.2 kilos.

Not to be deterred from his goal, Matthew purchased a treadmill to use in the evenings instead of snacking on fun foods in front of the TV with his wife after they put their children to bed. 'Wish me luck for next month!' he wrote. However, when we next communicated in June, Matthew had gained back more than half of the 6.1 kilos he initially lost.

Several months went by and I heard no news from Matthew. I often wondered how he was going in his goal to reach 80 kilos by his fortieth birthday, and optimistically hoped that no news meant good news. But after 5 months, I began to suspect that Matthew may have given up on his goal.

That's why I was overjoyed to receive the following e-mail one evening in November.

Sent: Wednesday, 14 November 2007 8:08 PM
To: Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis
Subject: RE: My weight loss

Dr Amanda,

Long time no write/hear. A lot has happened diet-wise since we last communicated. I have LEARNED. Never before have I dieted *for life*. Diets for me in the past have always been a means to an end. Your book has taught me many things. Mainly that a diet and the way we eat is a permanent thing, and secondly HOW to listen to my body when it's hungry and when it's full.

At the beginning of this process my immediate goal was to quickly lose weight. This has evolved into a desire to lose weight, but at my body's pace. As a result, I am continuing to lose weight, but I've removed the time frame. My *long term* target is 80 kg, and in time, I believe I will achieve this.

Once again, I thank you for your wise and sensible advice from one of the best books on the subject in print!

Matthew

P.S. Attached is a graph of my progress, kept updated since my last contact.

Looking at Matthew's weight chart, he had made excellent progress since the weight gains he experienced in the middle of the year. He now weighed 93.0 kilos, down by 11.5 kilos from the 104.5 kilos he weighed when he started The Don't Go Hungry Diet nine months previously.

'While I haven't lost the amount I had planned, within the timeframe I had set, I have still lost, and more importantly, have made a change to ensure I WILL get there', explained Matthew in a subsequent e-mail. 'I've finally gotten my mind around the principle that whatever I do, I keep doing for life, and to LISTEN TO MY BODY. I'm now at the stage that people who see me every week are starting to ask "Have you lost weight?" I've had to buy new sized pants and shirts and that's a good feeling, well worth the hit on the budget.'

At that point, I knew that Matthew had 'gotten it'. Losing weight is rarely effective in the long term when you do it as a big put-your-life-on-hold affair. Instead, the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to let it happen in the background of your life, as you get on with other things. I now have every faith that this time, Matthew will indeed achieve his weight goal.

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What our readers say...

"Dear Amanda, Just wanted to say Hi before Christmas and let you know how I’ve been getting on. I am pleased to say that since I was at your workshop in May and started e-mail coaching with you I have lost 5 kilos. I know it may not seem like a huge amount in 6 months but don’t forget I hadn’t been able to lose 2 kilos and keep it off in about 7 years of dieting. The six months has also been quite a learning journey for me. I did take quite some time to really change old habits and adjust to a new way of eating and thinking. After some rigorous diary keeping I soon came to realize that I was still managing to squeeze into my diet quite a few foods that were not “real” foods. Crackers here and a couple of biscuits there when I wasn’t hungry. As I used the diary to really look at what I was eating, I also noticed that over the course of a week I might of only had 5-6 pieces of fruit, or gone a few days where my main meal had only a side serve of veggies/salad. And I noticed toast and crackers popping up everywhere in my diary. Now I feel I have a working understanding of “real” foods in my diet. I notice days when I don’t eat 2-3 pieces of fruit and a large salad/veggies. When I am ready to eat a snack I plan to have some lovely fresh fruit or yogurt, or a little cheese with celery/carrot. I’m not keeping the diary any longer in terms of satiety, but I still write down what I eat during the day and check every few days to ensure bad habits are not coming back. So thanks for the journey this year. I feel I am well on my way and will let you know when I lose the next 5 kilos! Hope you and the family have a great Christmas."

- Carolyn, Melbourne, VIC