Question time with yo-yo dieter Claire Dyson

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 11 Jun, 2015

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Claire's story is one I think many of us can relate to. She's never been hugely overweight, but her relationship with certain foods has left here gaining and losing the same 28lbs for the past 34 years! Being an emotional eater Claire's food choices would be hugely affected by stress, worry, upset or boredom. But after 34 years of yo-yo dieting Claire has finally broken the cycle with Nutracheck and has been at a happy and healthy weight for more than 2 months now – which is the longest she has ever managed!

Here we chat to Claire to find out how she broke the cycle once and for all.

Hi Claire, let's go back to the beginning first – when did you first start trying to lose weight and why?

I first started trying to lose weight when I was 16. I had always eaten what my mother gave me, but after going to boarding school where I could make many of my own food choices I began to put on weight. This was when I realised I didn't know all that much about what a healthy balanced diet was. The shocked look on my parents faces when I returned was enough for me to know I had put on a few extra lbs! So I started following a fairly extreme eating plan, cutting out all the 'bad' foods I thought I shouldn't be eating such as sweets and fatty foods. Of course this worked, as I was eating so few calories. But once I'd lost the weight I'd go back to eating certain treat foods in excess and then feel a huge amount of guilt, which would cause me to eat more! Once my clothes got a bit too tight I'd go back on some extreme eating plan again – and so began the cycle of emotional binging and dieting.

How many and what kind of diets have you tried over the years?

Pretty much most of them! I've done Weight Watchers, a meal replacement diet back in the 80's and calorie counting using a calorie count book, to name a few. I found Weight Watchers too time consuming, meal replacements were far too boring and trying to calorie count from a book was just so impractical! I'd end up eating the same foods because they were easy to calculate – then I'd get bored and give up! All of them would work while I was doing them but I'd always go back to my old ways and the weight would come back on right away.

One interesting 'diet' I tried, was to try and put myself off scones! I used to love scones so much, and always turn to them when I was feeling sad or bored or stressed. So I decided to try and put myself off them by eating them in excess for two whole weeks. I wouldn't recommend it – but it did actually help a little. I was certainly bored with them by the end of the two weeks.

Did any of these work and were you able to keep the weight off?

Short term yes, I would always lose the weight when following a diet. But I would immediately start to gain the weight again as soon as I stopped dieting – anything emotional in my life such as stress, boredom or upset would throw me off course and I'd start binging on sweet and fatty foods, until I'd regained all the weight. There was never a time when I kept at a steady weight for a significant length of time – I have spent the past 34 years literally gaining or losing the same 28lbs.

When you've regained weight have you been able to identify certain triggers?

Absolutely, it's certainly triggered by my emotions. I never quite managed to develop a health relationship with foods, it was either nothing at all or I'd binge on 'naughty' foods because I was sad, lonely or bored! I'd then feel so guilty for eating the foods and for gaining some weight, and this would lead me to eat even more.

How has Nutracheck changed the way you view food?

Nutracheck is just so practical and full of information. The fact that no foods are banned takes away the panic feeling that I can't eat a specific food, so I've gradually learned how to have things in moderation while sticking to my allowance. There are lots of calorie counted recipes which are great for inspiration and to stave off boredom. The forums are also such a fantastic part of the service, you can always get some advice, support or ideas in there form fellow members.

Fundamentally Nutracheck has helped me understand the food basics. Now, counting calories and understanding portion sizes makes total sense to me and I can eat the food and drink I like without ever feeling guilty.

When did you reach your goal with NC and how long have you kept the weight off?

I reached my goal at the beginning of March when I hit 8st 12lbs – with a BMI of 22. I had originally wanted to get down to 8st 5lbs, but I felt good and healthy at 8st 12lbs and so I've stuck here. I found I was getting stressed trying to get down to 8st 5lbs – but really what for? Why was I so adamant to get down to this specific number? I'm comfortable and healthy at the weight I am, so I've taken the pressure off and have managed to stick at this weight for more than 2 months now – which is literally a lifelong record!

How do you feel about your relationship with food now?

I feel so much more in control now, and knowledgeable. Nutracheck has helped me to learn about portion control and that it's okay to have a little of what I fancy – but I don't have to go overboard. I've learned to manage my emotional eating better and no longer let stress or boredom derail me. Because I no longer binge on sweet stuff, I don't experience the same sugar crashes which can lead to further binges – I feel much more stable now.

Do you feel you have beaten the yo-yo of binging and dieting once and for all?

Yes! Finally I feel in control of my eating and weight. I have managed to maintain my weight loss for the longest time ever, which makes me confident that I have beaten the cycle once and for all.

Are you still using your food diary?

I've used it recently because I had a lot on and the was quite stressed, so it was like a sort of safety blanket. But this is the great thing about the system, you can go back to it at any time if you need to have a bit more focus.

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.