When a mother-of-three started eating healthily and set fitness goals, everything changed.
Caroline Clifford had been worried about her weight for years - writes irishtimes.com.
Although she tried many times to shed the pounds, nothing worked.
However, after feeling sick following a short cycle with her son in 2015, she decided that if she didn’t do something to change her eating habits, she might not be around to see her three children – Leah (15), Ada (12) and Orí (9) – grow up.
“Since my children were young I was constantly piling on weight and my dress size kept getting bigger,” says Caroline, who is married to Ronan. “I would try to lose a few pounds from time to time, but would always fall back to my old ways of eating too much of the wrong food.
Caroline in 2016.
“I came up with several excuses as to why this was happening and believed I didn’t have enough time to focus on losing weight. But the real problem was that I was eating too much and doing too little exercise.
“Then, Christmas 2015, Santa brought new bikes and, on St Stephen’s Day, I attempted to cycle 3km with my son. It was a huge struggle for me and I felt so unfit and even sick on the short ride. He was full enthusiasm while I struggled to keep up. At this point I knew I needed to change my lifestyle as I was really afraid that my health was beginning to suffer.”
Weight loss group
It took three months for Caroline, who works as a clinical nurse specialist on the Psychiatry of Later Life team in Kilkenny/Carlow, to put her resolution into action by joining a weight loss group and, with this kick-start, she also started some gentle exercise.
“When I joined the slimming group, I didn’t even tell Ronan as I didn’t want to say that I weighed in at almost 17 stone,” she admits. “But I had paid up for 12 weeks and knew I was going to win the battle. I had long been a member of Clara GAA club and wanted to be someone who could show example to the club, so, with steely determination I set out on the walking track every day, building up my stamina from three laps to doing four miles daily.
“It wasn’t long before I began to feel fitter and look healthier and with each pound I lost I felt so much better about myself. I set and reset my target weight several times; but I knew my target was more about feeling good about myself and liking what I saw in the mirror.”
In just seven months, Caroline lost an astounding 7st – nearly 100 pounds – an achievement she credits to the support received from family and friends, and the fact her clothes no longer fitted.
“One of the reasons I put weight back on in the past was because I never threw out any clothes which were too big for me, so this time as soon as they became loose, out they went as I was determined to never need them again,” she says. “Gradually, I was slimming down to how I looked when I got married and I achieved this with a lot of support and determination – as encouragement and recognition played a huge part in keeping me motivated.
“Along the way I set challenges including a 50km cycle for Pieta House in September 2016, which meant that I went cycling up to three times per week over two or three months. I also moved from walking to running with my first challenge to run 1km without stopping.
Build up distance
“After that, I built up the distance and last summer, challenged myself to a five-mile run. I also started set-dancing classes which turned out to be great fun, even though I doubt I’ll ever win any medals for it. But exercise has become routine for me now and is something that I miss if I can’t do it.
“My diet has also changed and I eat lots of fruit and vegetables. I hardly ever eat potatoes or pasta, I bring my lunch to work every day and eat fish daily. Also, I tend not to snack or eat between meals and I always have porridge for breakfast.”
If the pants doesn't fit anymore . . .
The mother of three has maintained her weight loss by keeping up the exercise regime and sticking to a healthy diet.
“I never want to put that weight on again and am conscious about setting a good example for my children as I realise that if I eat healthy and exercise, it will hopefully encourage them to do likewise,” she says. “I already see that having less junk food available in the house has benefitted them as well as being mindful of at the fat content in the food I prepare for them.”
With her new-found physique, Caroline has become very enthusiastic about exercise and recently took part in the Reign of Terror obstacle race in Kilkenny and has other challenges in the pipeline. She believes everyone has the ability to lose weight and get in shape, as long as they are motivated enough.
“When the Reign of Terror was advertised this year, I really wanted to do it so myself and a few other ladies of various fitness levels formed ‘The Durty Dozen’ and decided to take part in the 5km challenge,” she says. “We all set individual training schedules and although reservations crept in before the event, we didn’t back out. So we all finished together, bruised and battle worn and so delighted to have done it that we agreed to sign up for the 10km race next year.
“Setting goals and targets such as these keeps me motivated and having others to share the fun –and pain – with, is so important. But I believe anyone can lose weight by joining a weight-loss group even for a few weeks, being up front about the fact that you are on a diet and setting achievable targets.
“Throwing out clothes as they get too big and doing a planned weekly shop is also important and so is making sure to schedule in time to exercise. Don’t let weight weigh you down, picture a fitter version of yourself and that will motivate you to keep going.”