Judith Wills' diet and wellbeing blog: OK, I come clean

Judith Wills / 10 January 2014

Slimming expert Judith Wills lost 22lbs on her Saga Magazine diet challenge back in 2011. Now two thirds of the weight is back, together with a litany of health niggles. 2014's challenge is to lose weight and feel well again.

I mentioned last week that I'm in need of a body revamp. I didn't really tell you the half of it.

Regular readers will remember that three years ago, I accepted the Saga Diet Challenge and shed 22lbs over ten months – at 5ft 7 ins getting down to 10 stone 6lbs, which was the lowest I'd been for about 12 years. I also got myself fit enough to climb mountains and rid myself of persistent back and joint problems – all in all, I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Then I beat the depressing weight loss statistics (that 95% of us put all lost weight back on within a year) by keeping all but 5lbs off for well over a year, then all but 7lbs or so for another.

But somewhere around last summer, it all went horribly wrong. A huge workload and seven-day weeks meant long, long hours just sitting, goodbye to all meaningful exercise and hallo to the old flabby bits, aches and stiffness. Then with no pause, a family tragedy and a hugely busy December and early January with open house for many different people saw a very stressed-out and tired me develop a sudden and unfathomable liking for sweet foods, an even greater urge than usual for pastry and a return to drinking too much wine.

So you now find me with two-thirds of the weight I lost having returned, and a body that's begging me, every day and night, to make it feel and look better.

Forget what I said last week - I've had enough of my relaxed January. I'm actually really, really fed up with being tubby, lazy, grumpy, tired and weak-willed and can't wait to begin.

I expect quite a few other Saga people are feeling similarly annoyed at the sad state of their bodies.

So let's use that annoyance, and do something about it. If we're only in our 50s, 60s, 70s, even 80s – it's not too late. Did you read about the 90-plus-year-olds in the news this week, who were given a testing exercise routine to do over 12 weeks, and all achieved huge improvements in their body and wellbeing profiles? They put me and my 2011-style, laid-back, let's take it all very easy, approach to shedding weight and getting fit, to shame.

So, what's the plan? How am I going to do it – how are we going to do it? Well in the light of the 90 year olds, I have slightly revised my thoughts on this. While I still don't want to be brutal to myself, so I shan't be doing headstands (as if), triathlons or living on air, I am going to try a few radical ideas and stop being so shackled by scepticism, common sense and tradition and – let's be honest – a fear of pushing myself.

Lastly, I do want to take a holistic view – I know that weight, fitness, health/disease prevention, wellbeing and longevity are all connected, so it seems sensible to use some of the latest research in these areas to help things along.

For starters, I'm going to:

  • Have breakfast mid-morning and skip lunch every day thus effectively cutting out one meal a day. Alternate meal fasting rather than alternate day fasting!
  • Try the 'cutting out the sugar' routine and cut back hard on all the carbs.
  • Give up white wine, and have only one glass of dry red every evening.
  • Do all I can to improve my insomnia and poor sleep patterns. Sleep, wellbeing and weight seem closely connected – more of which next week.
  • Get outside and be active every day no matter what the weather, even though everywhere's like a paddy field round here… that sinking feeling could be fun…

Over the weeks I'll be investigating everything that might help me, update my action list, and report on how I'm getting on, with some monthly stats for your perusal. Join me?


Ate last night:


Venison and mushroom casserole, serves 4

Venison and mushroom casseroleVenison is a lovely, lean, beef-like meat and this glossy casserole is easy, very tasty and satisfying while being quite saintly in terms of nutrition and weight control. Brown 600g shoulder venison cubes in a little olive oil in a flameproof casserole, remove then saute one large sliced onion and one large sliced green pepper for a few minutes to soften. Return the meat to the pan and stir in a level tbsp flour, a heaped tbsp tomato puree, 125ml red wine (dash of brandy optional), 250ml beef stock, 4 lightly crushed juniper berries (optional), some thyme, a bayleaf and black pepper. Stir well. Bring to simmer, put lid on and cook on a very low hob for 1 1/2 hours (or in the oven at 150C). Stir in 225g sliced chestnut mushrooms and a little more beef stock or water if the casserole is looking a bit dry, and cook for a further 20 minutes. Check seasoning, salt as liked. I always serve it with plenty of green or white cabbage and a small bit of mashed or new potato.

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