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AA Fresh Start

Time to face reality and stop making excuses for my weight!

Since I started university 5 years ago a size 12 my health, physical and mental, has taken a downward spiral with me occasionally losing control of my life all together (resulting in my current dress size 18).

Although I graduated easily with a 1st class engineering degree, I'm still unhappy which is likely due to my current weight (about 90kg but I haven't weighed myself) and state of my mental health (I suffer with high anxiety which often ruins any plans I try to make).

However, I start my PhD in October, I've just moved house to a much nicer, friendlier and safer area and I've had time to think about how I want to change my life.

Next week I will start with a gym induction, a new hair cut and a major push to lose weight, gain back my self confidence and hopefully gain back control over my mental health and happiness.

Motivation to lose weight is going to be a key struggle since I really am a couch potato and over eat like crazy with no self control. I have incredible self control and motivation with my studies, so why not with the rest of my life?

Any tips or motivation would be great :) Wish me luck!

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>> I have incredible self control and motivation with my studies, so why not with the rest of my life?

Because eating, like other primal drives, is not under conscious control - or at least only to a very limited extent. You eat what your appetite demands. The key to successfully changing your eating habits is to change your appetite, so that your body doesn't ask for the wrong things, or for too much food. If you get into a mindset of believing that it's all about "self control", you'll start berating yourself for "failure", and that's not going to end well.

Have a look at the pchuk.org website for a good introduction to healthy eating. Their writing is a bit windy, but being an academic you'll be used to that :)

I would also add that being an engineer will give you a distinct advantage, especially if you have a good background in physics and dynamic systems. You will (I hope) be instantly able to grasp the error in the mainstream calories-in, calories-out hypothesis.


Excellent response Ivan 😊


I'm definitely a self punisher and definitely do it with my eating since it works with other areas I need discipline, maybe I need to look at it all a different way like you say.

I'll definitely give that website a look through thank you!

I thought the majority of the weight loss world were over calorie counting but joining this forum doesn't seem the case. I'd say I'd know what's good for me and bad for me pretty well, however I never spend too long looking at a label anymore these days, I just eat and can't stop till the whole bar is gone.


Good luck…

People make excuses and try to complicate things, but:

Final weight = initial weight - (calories used - calories consumed)/3,500

¿What branch of engineering are you in, or will your Phd relate to?

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>> Final weight = initial weight - (calories used - calories consumed)/3,500

This might be technically true, but it has no practical meaning. All it says is that people who are overweight are consuming too many calories, which is just a sciency-sounding way of saying they eat too much. Worse, that "formula" tells you nothing at all about bodyfat distribution. You can lose weight by starving yourself, but at least half of that weight will be muscle mass, which isn't what you want. The goal is to lose fat.

To understand how to lose bodyfat (not weight) one must understand how energy (or power) flows in and out of fat cells. One gets fatter when bodyfat out < bodyfat in, and one gets slimmer when bodyfat out > bodyfat in, and the dietary preconditions for those states are non-obvious.


Thanks for this and your previous reply, Ivan. Very helpful

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Hi, IvanTheHorrible

The practical meaning is that there is no magic about weight loss, you need to eat less and/or burn more calories.

If a proportion of the mass lost is muscle, then the calories per kilo figure would need to be adjusted, as muscle is, I think, about half as energy dense as fat.

I, personally, would not see it as a problem if I lost some muscle, as my lean mass is 85kg (down from 90kg about ten years ago).

Incidentally energy is not power: power is rate of conversion (use of ) energy, or what we call work... I suppose a flow of energy could be considered to be power.


I think you missed my point: weight loss is not the goal. Fat loss is (even if you personally are content to accept muscle loss, most people aren't). There are three reasons that "formula" tells you nothing about how to lose fat:

1) you cannot know (at least not without sophisticated equipment) what quantity of energy is on your plate, or what quantity of energy your body "needs". The latter quantity is not constant in any sense - it continually varies up and down (which is one reason I used the word 'power' rather than 'energy'). It is therefore physically impossible to externally adjust your calorie input to be consistently lower than your calorie burn.

2) as noted, we're interested in fat loss, so the way your body partitions power flow (again, I use the word advisedly) is the only thing that's relevant here. For example, it is pointless "eating fewer calories" if your body preferentially diverts those calories to fat storage (which it does, if you eat those calories in the wrong form). Similarly, it doesn't do you much good to "burn more calories" with exercise if that results in increasing your metabolic efficiency (which it does, under all circumstances).

3) your body is not simply a set of buckets of energy that overflow into each other. It is a massively-complex collection of interlocking control loops, with various setpoints that are determined internally. Certainly you can affect those setpoints by altering what you consume, but in very non-intuitive ways. If you reduce calories, then you have no way to predict the outcome of that reduction unless you know what those control loops are doing - that is, what they're attempting to optimize. It gets worse: since they are adaptive control loops, you need to know what type of inputs will force adaptation, and in which direction.

If you want to get technical, my view is that people talk too much about energy (as if your body somehow does an accounting rollup at midnight) and not enough about power. I suspect this is because most nutritionists don't know the difference. Example: if you eat a bowl of rice, the most intuitive description is in terms of metabolic power - the rate at which glucose enters your bloodsteam, peaking at some (large) number and then tailing off. That power flow is split among various destinations, with your body making instantaneous decisions based on what destinations are able to accept the incoming energy, at what rate, and with what maximum capacity. When peak power-in regularly exceeds the power-handling capacity of those energy sinks, very bad stuff happens.

Aside from all that hand-waving, the most serious indictment against the calories-in/calories-out theory is that it doesn't work in practice. Its makes a testable prediction: eating X fewer calories results in X/3500 grams of weight loss. That has been tested, and it doesn't actually pan out, at least not with any consistency across an experimental population, or over time. It is therefore wrong; or at best incomplete.

I don't understand what you mean by 'my lean mass is 85kg'. That can't possibly be your muscle mass - do you mean your bodyweight minus fat/water mass?


Hi, Horrible… congratulations on your user name!

The purpose of this forum is to exchange information, encouragement and support to mutually assist in the reduction of body fat/weight, and subsequent improvement in health... and an acrimonious pseudo-technical exchange between us would, I think, not achieve that.

This is the NHS weight loss forum… purely because it is weight that we can easily and accurately measure, record and compare.

I know that there are massive differences between the energy in the food on one's plate, the proportion of that energy that the human body can metabolise and store, and the energy (power times duration) one can output in exercise… many exercise bikes, and some bikes, can measure power output and/or calories used.

Estimating the daily calorie intake required to give a target weekly weight loss is not an exact science, but it is what they try to achieve when they recommend a daily calorie intake for calorie-controlled diets.

If you are metabolising less energy than you use, there is something less than ideal with your body if it “preferentially diverts those calories to fat storage” if you “eat those calories in the wrong form” …but, I think that energy eaten in the evening is more likely to be stored as fat than energy eaten at breakfast.

I think the body senses blood glycogen level, and, if it cannot get what it needs from the digestive system, it uses body fat …the trick is to get your body to use fat reserves instead of telling you it is hungry!

¿Are you really trying to tell us “increasing your metabolic efficiency” is not good?

Yes, lean body-mass is body-mass minus fat/water mass. There are websites that try to estimate this, e.g. the U S Navy body fat calculator.


I don't think it's acrimonious. It's fun to butt heads with someone who knows the difference between power and energy :) I realise this debate is not going to have much popular appeal here, but I do think it's an important one.

>> purely because it is weight that we can easily and accurately measure, record and compare.

Therein, I think, lies the problem with a whole lot of modern medical intervention. People fiddle with the things that they can measure, manipulate, and re-measure. LDL-C is a classic example. People (including clinicians) are inclined to make two fatal mistakes: they confuse what they're measuring (a surrogate) with the real-world outcome that they were originally interested in; and they tend to believe the number on the readout, without keeping in mind the nature of the measurement, including its inherent precision and accuracy. Again, LDL-C is a great example because it isn't even measured but estimated from a rule-of-thumb extrapolation, but people believe that two-significant-figures printout is "real", because, like, the computer says so.

>> many exercise bikes, and some bikes, can measure power output and/or calories used.

Certainly they are aware of, or can actually measure, the mechanical power input; it's accurate to within 3-5%. They can estimate (not measure) metabolic power, and integrate to get calories. I know this because I write software for such machines. The calories output is a guesstimate, based on an LMS regression, assuming a y=Mx+C relationship between mechanical power and metabolic power, where m is about 5 (ie., 20% efficiency) and C is 1MET.

Either way, it has no relevance to fat loss. People who exercise a lot with a carb-fuelled diet typically find that their loss rate plateaus at a high (25%+) bodyfat percentage. They crank away at an ever more feverish rate, ramp down their input calories ... and the scales don't budge.

>> If you are metabolising less energy than you use, there is something less than ideal with your body if...

You're not seriously suggesting there's a fault with our bodies if the calories-in/calories-out theory fails to work as advertised?

Your body is what it is. If people consistently fail to lose weight while reducing calories and increasing exercise (which is what happens to virtually everyone over the age of 20) then the calories-balance idea is wrong. Simple as that.

>> I think the body senses blood glycogen level, and, if it cannot get what it needs from the digestive system, it uses body fat

You can think what you like, but that isn't the way it actually works (there is no 'blood glycogen' - glycogen is stored in muscles and in your liver, and is either used within the muscles themselves or released into the blood as glucose). It's very interesting, and it makes intuitive engineering sense. The body does some pretty incredible things.

>> Are you really trying to tell us “increasing your metabolic efficiency” is not good?

Not at all. It's a very good thing indeed, because it has all sorts of health benefits. But if the calorie-balance idea were correct (fortunately it isn't) then the inescapable conclusion would be that a fat person trying to lose weight should remain as unfit as possible.

>> Yes, lean body-mass is body-mass minus fat/water mass.

Unless you are extraordinarily lean, very tall, or an Olympia-class bodybuilder, this suggests your diet isn't working too well - I'm guessing you weigh a shade over 100kg, amirite? The professional bioimpedance meters are pretty good these days (not as accurate as DEXA, but definitely within spitting distance). I recommend having a play with one if you get the chance.

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It was nearly 50 years ago I studied nutrition - and yes, the energy in the bloodstream is glucose... ¿Where does the Adenosine tri-phosphate come in?

If my weight was 100kg I would be very lean. I am trying to get down to about 17 stone, 108 kg, BMI 30 (by Christmas)... I was over 125kg. I am 6ft 3". (Further details in Wednesday Wobble Warriors.) I was an amateur endurance athlete, and I cycled 760 miles in 87 hours on the Paris Brest Paris cycle ride, in 1995.

There are two main problems with computer systems:

One is that people invariably believe what a computer tells them, without any "real world" common sense check ...the other is that people ignore what computers tell them ...without any "real world" common sense check. These are two reasons why aircraft fall out of the sky. Computers do not make mistakes, or laugh at your jokes, they just run programmes. Many aircraft "computer errors" are sensor problems.

My son works at Canary Wharf writing software for banks, and I used to write software for real-time monitoring, logging and control of temperatures in crop stores.

Given an adequate specification, a programmer should be able to write software that does what is required... but my boss thought he would save time by sub-contracting software for a potato store... and the programmer was not aware that sucked-in ambient air has to be mixed with re-circulated air to prevent frosting of seed potatoes. Fortunately, when I drove from Luton to Scotland to install the software, I took the kit to re-write the software, and re-programed the EPROM.

...And, for 20% efficiency, M=⅕!

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I assume that by "The professional bioimpedance meters" you do not mean what you can buy for under £200?

There was one at a "clinic" I went to for a health check-up, but they told me that they could not use it me, as I have a pacemaker.


Yeah, I mean the fancy ones that cost a grand or two. I'm not sure why you weren't allowed to use the one at the clinic - it was probably just to cover their backs rather than because of any genuine risk.

I suppose the presence of the pacemaker might have some effect on the reading, but there's absolutely zero chance of the measurement process affecting the pacemaker; the sense current is tiny. You could always write to the manufacturer of your particular pacemaker and ask them, I guess ... just to be sure.


>> Where does the Adenosine tri-phosphate come in

A long way down the chain. ATP/ADP is an energy-transport device that does the heavy lifting inside cells. If your body were a hydrogen car, ATP would be the hydrogen, and food would be the fuel that's used to make hydrogen from water.

>> I am trying to get down to about 17 stone, 108 kg

I guessed maybe 106, assuming your bodyfat/water at 25%, which is about the minimum achievable with a calorie-controlled diet. So I wasn't far off :)

>> I was an amateur endurance athlete, and I cycled 760 miles in 87 hours on the Paris Brest Paris cycle ride, in 1995.

That's absolutely awesome. I start to creak after a 5k run.

>> One is that people invariably believe what a computer tells them, without any "real world" common sense check ...the other is that people ignore what computers tell them ...without any "real world" common sense check

Precisely my point above.

>> M=⅕!

Depends what you're calculating. In my description above, Y is metabolic power, X is mechanical power, so M is 5.


You had EPROMs? I bet you had a fancy-pants compiler too, didn't you? Pah. Kids these days don't know they're born. When I were a lad, we had paper tape, and we wrote code with 1s and 0s like real programmers. The boss was so stingy we had to cut the holes with a Stanley knife. Except on Fridays, when the test team got to borrow the Stanley knife. Then we had to use our teeth. But we was happy, oh yes.


...And, if it all nonsense ¿how can any of us ever lose weight?


Well ... as I implied, by recognising what your internal control systems are doing.

Since you can't directly affect either their setpoints or their transfer functions, you have to know how those control loops are adaptively tuned, ie., what specific inputs cause the setpoints to shift, or the transfer function to be adjusted. Then you'll know what to eat.

It's critical to appreciate that the body is not a passive machine that has fuel dumped into it: the body is self-fuelling, therefore one of the parameters under closed-loop control is appetite.

Also, fat is not just a landfill for unwanted nutrients. Your body stores energy there because it thinks it'll need it later, just as it does with glycogen. If you subvert the recovery of that stored energy - for example by eating doughnuts every two hours - then fat loss is essentially impossible.

Technically speaking, the control scheme used by your body is incredibly sophisticated, similar to Model Predictive Control with a combination of soft and hard constraints. System Identification is difficult but not impossible: the upshot is that a diet supplying 70%+ of your dietary energy from fat biases the various constraints towards burning stored fat - the underlying process logic, presumably, being that the body recognises a regular supply of dietary fat as sufficient reason to store less of it. As a fortuitous side effect, appetite gets downregulated, so that your body stops demanding eg., doughnuts at two-hour intervals.

This proof is in the pudding (or the lack of pudding). My BF% is currently around the 13% mark, which basically means I have visible musculature but no defined abs or striations. It took about 18 months to reach that point asymptotically.


Thank you for the info.

I'm Medical Engineer, I'll be developing a computational model for knee replacements for my PhD :) would love to really lose some weight before I start, my graduation pictures have given me a firm kick up the butt!

And thanks Ivan, your explication makes a lot of sense and I'll definitely be doing some research on how and where to change my usual diet.

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I tell medics that "Medical Science" is what we engineers do to give them better tools!

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Hi and welcome, beth1994 :)

IvanTheHorrible has given you some really sound advice and here's a link to some more information phcuk.org/wp-content/upload...

To make navigating the forum easier, we've put all the information you'll need in a newbie pack and here's the link


Please take the time to read it carefully, so that you're able to enjoy everything that we have on offer.

We ask that you also read this important information about internet privacy and security, especially as you've left your post unlocked.


Wishing you all the best :)

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Thank you for the link, point 3 is very interesting! And thanks for all the extra information I'll give it a read & pick up the courage to weigh my self :)

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Hi beth1994, I know what you mean! I just joined on this site this week, but have been looking after myself (with breaks in between) since October last year and have lost about 45lbs since then. I felt like I was waiting for my life to start, although everything in my life was going well - except for the ridiculous weight (I was 256lbs in October). I thought everything would be fine just once I would be ''skinny'', guess what? I was wrong! Once I started taking care of myself, I felt loosing this weight was part of my life, which had already started and I was just letting it go for no reason. I feel much more confident now and enjoy every day, also if I eat healthy food, as I don't make food control me, I control it and enjoy every bite of it.

Good luck with your new start, I myself will get a haircut tomorrow, but not for a new start (that I did in October) but because I deserve it!

Have a good day and ENJOY the weekend!

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Hello hellobeaut and welcome to the weight loss forum.

Wow, haven't you done well? :) :) I'm going to start you off with a 3 stone badge (if you're not a stones and pounds person, that equates to 42 lbs, and your next badge will be coming up when you hit 49lbs/3 stone 7lbs).

You say things that many of us have found, that taking control of our weight can give us a different view of ourselves, with all sorts of positive outcomes. Good to hear you are looking after yourself.

To help you navigate the forum, we’ve put all the information you’ll need in a Newbie pack and here’s the link healthunlocked.com/nhsweigh... Please take your time to read this as it gives a full picture of the support and information available.

To get the most out of the forum, come here as often as possible. It's all free, open daily and the only requirement is to get involved and encourage others, as the forum runs on mutual support.

I do hope you'll join in as I think you have a lot to offer the forum.

You'll also find advice about privacy and security online in the link I've given you.

Wishing you all the best and hoping to see you around the forum

By the way, it would be interesting to know how you found your way to this forum :)

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Hey BridgeGirl, thank you - I will go through it all :)

I would like a newbie batch if that's okay - as I am back on track after 2 months of ignoring what I needed to do, so I want it to feel like a new start, as it always feels more exciting when I start something new!

I have found the site on the google as I was looking for inspiration to get back to it!

Thank you for the above, really appreciated!

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OK, Newbie badge on the way :)

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Thank you!

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Wow well done that's amazing! I hope you keep getting those good results sounds like you've found something that really works for you.

For me I never want to be skinny, I love my curves and lumps, so does my partner, but I don't want to be an unhealthy weight. I really want this to be a lifestyle change for me which is why I'm hoping now is the best time to do it with so many other changes going on, start as you mean to go on and all.

Thanks for your comment, enjoy your weekend too!


Oh my gosh same girl same on the first two paragraphs, are we the same person! I struggle with self control over food too, it's def harder when I don't enjoy what I'm doing cos I think "if I get through this, I'll treat myself to a doughnut" and before I know it the whole bag is gone! I don't have many tips unfortunately as I'm in the same position. I'm just trying to cut down on those excessive treats at the moment, then I'll go from there.


Gosh I love doughnuts 😩 I'm the same though, especially when I'm studying I use food as a reward motivator, I always try to do 1 hour energizes when studying but for the most part I end up sat at a desk not moving for 7/8/9 hours every day for a couple of months. You really end up in a huge hole doing that which I'm now trying to climb out of!

Hopefully we both manage to cut down on the treats! Doesn't help when the other half can eat whatever he wants and maintain a 6% body fat and I just have to sit and watch him devour all the chocolaty goodies.


Exactly the same for me here! Including the oh with the lucky metabolism ^^' I relied on food so much (jam donuts, yep) but now I've tried to switch to using exercise as my treat. The truth is that I find a good work out much more relaxing than a bag of treats. But when you're sluggish tired stressed it is hard to keep that in mind. I have a hula hoop next to my desk that I can pick up and swing around for short five minute breaks. After I hurt my back badly last November I saw a physiotherapist and she recommended getting a watch or an app on my phone to remind me to get up and move. She said even just walking into the kitchen for a cup of tea will allow your body to feel better. I was shocked upon wearing a device how little I moved in a day. Maximum 2000 steps and would sit at my desk for four hours on end!!! It was a good way for me to find small ways to get moving more and now I've built up my exercise in a way that it works as a treat rather than food. Really hope this helps as o wish you all the best!


I'd love to get to a place where exercise is my treat, I do love exercising, I used to do loads of sport when I was a teen but I get so embarrassed now because I sweat profusely and can't cool down which is why I stopped in the first place, I think I now have a fear of going to the gym but time to face those fears!

Energisers are so essential but we all know we don't do them enough, it's good that you're actively working on that, I used to always walk to another building to use the toilet at uni to get moving but would always end up getting a snack on the way back :(

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It is good knowing that you actually enjoy exercise! I think in that case the trick is to slowly start building strength and confidence. I was so unfit half a year ago that I started by increasing my steps to 8000 a day. Then, I started planning a twenty minute walk three times a week. I would get up early when it was still quiet out and the shops were still closed to resist temptations. From there I went to having daily half an hour walks. Then I did a couple of one hour walks and then I felt ready to start the couch 2 5 km programme. Once I completed that I felt ready to join a gym again. I guess I was lucky though as I had the physiotherapist guiding me and she then gave me an exercise referral to see a personal trainer to help me get active again and regain my exercise confidence. In addition my uni has a great program to help guide people I to more active lifestyles who consider themselves unfit or are struggling to find time or are just shy or worried about it. So I had tons of support. Feel free to message me if you need support or suggestions :) you'll get there! I think you've made a great step in the right direction already by coming to this forum, assessing your issues and being willing to find a way forward.

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I might try walking frequently, I do like a good walk. I mostly go swimming since the sweating thing isn't such a problem and I enjoy it and do about 1k in an hour session,i just don't go regularly enough.

Thnaks for all your help, I'll definitely get in touch if I have any support, I might look into that uni support thing you mentioned.


Hi beth1994! I'm also a PhD student and struggle with my weight as I overeat when anxious or not feeling well. In addition PhD life can be pretty stressful as well as enjoyable! The upside is definitely that you'll have a lot of flexibility which will allow you to make time for looking after yourself :) I also know what you mean about being really disciplined when it comes to studying but having zero self control when it comes to food. I always used to say to myself nobody is perfect and you can't be 100% disciplined in all aspects of life 100% of the time! But now I know there is a difference for me between letting myself go and forgiving myself for bumps on the road. I find it much easier to make healthy choices based on menu plans and meal prep. It saves a lot of money but also it takes away the need to be disciplined. The choice has already been made, the food is prepared in the fridge all you need to do it hear it up. That for me takes away the moral guilt of decoding whether I deserve to have that treat each time I feel like it. If it is part of the plan I enjoy it, if it is not scheduled then I don't need it. Hope you have a great start to your PhD and best of luck with your healthier lifestyle!

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Thanks for your tips, I'm really hoping to get into a good lifestyle rhythm before I start so it will be easier to maintain.

I'm definitely going to try meal plans, the problem is always eating out or getting g takeaways which I do a lot mostly because I'm out socializing 2-3 times a week which always breaks my original eating plans. I also try to eat vegetarian so it's really frustrating when the only menu options are packed with cheese or cream!

Thanks again :)

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Cheese or cream don't have to be your enemy if you consider a low carb high fat diet. I find that if I eat my days without carbs I naturally stomach much less and feel full and satisfied much faster! Socialising os hard. I have a part time job where I organise social events that always include snacks and pizza and the like. The best way I have found for myself to deal with it is to prepare my own snacks in advance and stick to those. At first people asked a lot of questions eventually though they just seemed to think I had food allergies or something and they're totally cool with it now. When friends want to eat out I often just eat my own meal in advance at home and then just order a starter and a drink :)


I really need to figure out the eating before going out or taking healthy snacks, I'm just never organised enough to do that. I'll give a think to how I could do that though

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I put weight on while studying, now I realise I could have counted my nibbles into a daily calorie allowance, not had them as an add on!


I think tbh they probably were in my calorie allowance since I barely ate meals, but I did little to no exercise and had zero daily routine often sleeping 5 hours and studying 8 on a cycle so never got my metabolism going.


I have no scientific basis to anything I do with my diet as I quite simply don’t have the academic ability to understand much of what is written above. I’m not knocking it; just saying I’m not able to process it all. I was a legal scholar and as such, my specialisms lie within housing law, which has little use here. For me, I eat less than I burn. I’ve stopped eating rubbish and I exercise now, every day. I lost 8 stone in a year doing that and by maintaining my practice, it’s not going back on and cycling gives me more muscle and less fat bulges, so I’ll just keep going that! Kill or cure!! 😂

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Wow you've done amazing congrats! I think for everyone it's finding the right formula that works for them but being able to maintain it as part of a new, lifelong lifestyle is the key. I hope you keep making the progress you're wanting :)


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