Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Personal Weight Loss Experiment

An example of my new style of eating: low carbohydrate, healthy fat.

Four years ago, in February 2012, I completed a 27-day juice fast. I felt fantastic and documented my little experiment here. I maintained my weight easily enough for the next year or so but then as I entered my mid 40s the weight started to creep up again.

My weight gain started innocently enough. Following the successful completion of my first ever Great Victorian Bike Ride in late 2013, an epic cycling journey of more than 610km, I decided to reward myself with a “calorie amnesty”.

I ate and drank my way through the festive season that summer with gay abandon; avocado on several of pieces of toast every morning for breakfast, a big bowl of last night’s risotto for lunch, working days often concluded with a packet of kettle chips, a selection of dips accompanied with half a packet or more of water crackers and a generous glass of wine or three down on the riverbank before a substantial serving of dinner. In hindsight this was not one of my finest ideas.

By the end of that summer, I’d gained 5kg and my appetite had increased considerably, to the point where I always felt hungry. Initially, I had optimistically thought the weight gain may have been muscle. You know, from all that bike riding.

It was the arrival of winter 2014 and my winter wardrobe that dispelled any illusions the extra weight might have been muscle. Muscle does not bulge over the top of your jeans like… like the top of a banana muffin!

Admitting to myself that I needed to trim down and actually doing anything about it were two different things but I did try.

I decreased my alcoholic drinks and increased my exercise… and swapped kettle chips for dark chocolate, all the while allowing myself generous servings of pasta, rice and wholegrain bread because I was a cyclist riding anywhere between 100 and 200km per week and I needed carbohydrates, right? I gained yet more weight in 2015.

Last month, despite the fact I had added swimming three times a week to my exercise regime, I topped my scales at 72kg - proving to myself you cannot out exercise a bad diet or even a good diet that is far too generous in portion sizes. I had begun to feel quite self-conscious about how I looked… and how my clothes no longer fitted me. I decided to get serious about losing the weight.

First of all I wanted to do some research into weight loss diets to try and figure out what would work best? Unfortunately, weight loss diets are renown for their long-term failure rate.

It’s all very well replacing meals with “diet shakes” and smoothies or dramatically cutting out whole food groups for short-term weight loss but if you go back to your previous eating pattern once you’ve reached your target weight, the excess weight comes straight back on, plus a bit more.

I was confident my general diet was pretty healthy and I certainly wasn't slack in the exercise department but I always felt hungry and ate far too much; far more than my body really needed.

A good mindset, I felt would be essential for losing the excess weight and I allowed myself nearly the whole of January to just think about a healthy eating plan. To help keep myself accountable, I also told my family and many of my friends and clients that I would be beginning my personal experiment into weight loss on Sunday 31st January.

The more I read, the more convinced I became that the amount of carbohydrates and refined sugars in my diet were the principal cause of my hunger and weight gain.

My personal weight loss experiment began with a 5-day juice fast; every morning I juiced a variety of fruits and vegetables to drink throughout the day. For the next five days I continued on with the juice but added an avocado and/or boiled egg, a small portion of meat and vegetables and some dairy in the form of cheese or plain yogurt. By this stage I’d read a considerable amount of information on low-carb/healthy fat diets (LCHF) and the similarly principled Paleo diet and I was encouraged by what I’d learnt.

I gave up alcohol, tea and almost all coffee and refined sugar for the month of February.

As the weight started to come off, my appetite decreased and my energy levels started to increase. The less carbohydrates and refined sugar I ate, the less hungry I felt.

Within four short weeks, I have lost 4kg and amazingly, my symptoms from primary lymphoedema (excessive swelling in my lower legs, ankles and feet), have all but disappeared. Some long-term aches and pains that I had put down to aging have noticeably reduced and my skin looks clearer.

I’m still fine tuning my general diet and will write an update in a couple of months time to let you know how I’m going and what I’ve learnt but without doubt the biggest difference for me has been from dramatically reducing the amounts of carbohydrates and refined sugars I consume. I no longer feel hungry all the time, I feel clear-headed and my energy levels have increased. I’m happy with that!

There's nothing like some before and after photos when it comes to weight loss:
Not a recent photo but how my feet, ankles and lower legs typically look by the end of the day

What my feet, ankles and lower legs looked like the other night (21.2.2016)!


  1. Annie, you and I live in parallel universes, and it was so uplifting to read about how your experiences. I did a similar program last year and the pounds melted off, and then over the holidays, the weight crept up again. When you're only 4'10" put on five pounds and people may start asking, "So when are you due?" I pretty much did the same thing as you for the last two weeks - cutting out sugar and white flour products - and I've dropped a size. One of your best columns!

    1. Thank you Suzette, I'm a work in progress and will look forward to writing an update in a few months time. It's amazing how a few little changes in what we eat can make such a big difference to our health.

  2. Hi Annie, congrats on your progress! That's VERY interesting that your lymphedema is responding so well, hmmmm. If it's lasting for a few weeks, that seems quite significant. Is the swelling consistently low? What about if you revert for a meal or two? Wondering if eating part of the time that way is feasible, that would be nice.

    I too have lower leg lymphedema and posted previously about great results with chinese medicine, but due to the cost and time committment, I stopped treatment after 7 months. It had platuead anyway for whatever reason, so since then I haven't done anything. Fortunatley, its about 30% of what it was--and its not progressing, but I would like to get rid of or control the final bit eventually, if at all possible.

    I am very intrigued that you got such huge results with diet. I've played around with diet prior to the chinese medicine stuff. Usually it would take weeks to get down to no swelling then the minute I went back to a normal diet --and my diet is extremely healthy--only had extremely temporary results, fleeting I am impressed with yours from diet alone! But that makes sense if carbs cause the body to retain water, that lymphedema would be helped. But it almost sounds more than that from the look of your pictures. I would love to hear more about your progress over time. I will definitely try a bit of this and see if I can get similar results. Very hopeful...thanks so much for posting this! --Jean

    1. Hello again Jean, Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, I'm still experimenting... we are experiencing a particularly long heatwave at the moment with temperatures ranging between 38 - 42 degrees C for the past week, with another week to go and rather frustratingly my lymphoedema symptoms are back :( although this has also coincided with a few days of not so low-carb eating...! So back to low carb eating this week and I'll see how it goes.

      It will be interesting to see how it all goes after a few months and I will write an update later in the year. - Annie

  3. Hi Annie,

    Hope you are well. Love the pics of your whale shark adventure, how cool!

    Last time I posted my lymphedema was better but even though I was still trying various strategies, had plateaued. Fortunately it wasn't getting worse, but it wasn't getting better either. My legs consistently still swelled mid day and were very uncomfortable.

    Since then I tried a new strategy and now it has gotten WAY better. Basically I added a consistent stream of green veggies to my diet (which was already primarily vegan). That was after reading that green veggies can actually repair DNA. So I eat a ton of green veggies every day and include some at every meal. I make it a point to eat microwave-steamed brocolli every day and during the other seasons I grew brocolli sprouts and ate some daily (they taste good and its extremely easy to grow them). Then I drink green tea all day, which is essentially a green veggie too (soaked green tea leaves).

    I also added back yoga, which would exacerbate the swelling previously but now doesn't do that. SO maybe 20 minutes 4 times per week, then some yin yoga too, which is really interesting--maybe that promotes lymphatic flow and/or helps unblock lymph nodes.

    One never knows the exact cause and effect but after 6 months of this, my lymphedema has decreased to the point its almost inperceptible. I wear shorts with zero checking of how big my legs are freedom. This hasn't been hard as I just added the veggies and still have wine with dinner and cheat and have regular veggie pizza like once per week. I did try to replace some of the rice and pasta with beans and bean pasta, but I still have the pasta and rice, just a bit less often. So no deprivation. Just a bit more frequent trips to grocery store to reload all the green stuff.

    I am SO relieved. Wanted to pass this on, and happy to share details if anyone wants to hear them. Its something easy to try and not a lot to lose if it doesn't work (just better health). I definitely feel better too and skin looks far better too. I will keep my fingers crossed that this strategy might work for someone else.


    1. Hi Jean,

      Thank you for writing and yes the whale shark adventure with my eldest son was a magical experience.

      It has been lovely to read your success - conquering lymphoedema with green veggies. Thank you so much for sharing your news and I wish you continued success!

      Annie xo