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Friday 12 June 2015

Back Eating Packet Mix: Revisiting LighterLife 8 years on

It was strange to be back eating food prepared from a LighterLife pack. So much has changed in the past 8 years. So much is different. It feels a long time since I was in that place, eating strictly prepared food from a powder mix. A long time since I was the girl on that low calorie diet. 

But I haven’t forgotten you Other-Sarah.

8 years ago, Other-Sarah was hoping she’d been handed a magical pill, that the packs would contain a miracle. She had reached the end of her tether. Standing there in clothes too tight as she hadn’t wanted to buy clothes in the size she really was, too scared to face up to her increasing size and ballooning figure. She was full of hope, prayers, desperation. And pie. 

Smiling but unhappy
Today I was tasting the new recipes, standing in the offices of LighterLife HQ. This time aware that the packs themselves did not contain a magical pill, but that perhaps they had unlocked something that I couldn’t have accessed without them. 

I remember as part of the counselling having to write a letter to my body. It was full of hopes, apologies for blame and written with plenty of smudges and tears. But I don’t remember writing a letter with my hopes and expectations in. Now THAT is a letter I’d like to read ... and written by Sarah-of-8-years-ago, I doubt it would have involved any mention of running or triathlon and probably no mention at all of children or marriage.

My cat DID love me despite appearances ... this picture was at one of my slimmer times.
I‘d like to hold that letter and compare it to my life now. What did I want back then? Was the desire to be thin all-consuming? Did I think about exercise and nutrition and how my weight would be managed ... and whether it would be?

What made me choose LighterLife instead of the other diets was the speed of the weight loss ... but what differentiated LighterLife for me in reality was the counselling. WHY was I eating two meals in the evening? Was I attempting to self-medicate with the alcohol or was this just a leftover from the student years that I hadn’t grown out of? Sharing the stories, tears and lives of the other women in the group was heartbreaking but also cathartic. And we all had so much in common. 

I'd like it to be noted that despite being twice his size I was STILL a better shot than Simon ...
I bought recipe books that I couldn’t use but pored over the food with my eyes, eating it with my mind. And no, it’s NOT the same. No matter how many time skinny women tell you it is. It’s not. But it’s almost the same. And I realised I didn’t need to eat all the chocolate. And all the cheese. I know what cheese tastes like. It hasn’t changed. Although I still like to check every now and then. Especially with the Dorset Blue Vinny. 

I thought tasting the food packs would be awful. I remembered my time on the packs as 100 days of purgatory. But they’re fine, nice. We had trifle made up for us with the jelly and rhubarb & custard topping (delicious!) and Mediterranean risotto and bolognese. And they’re filling. It certainly makes me realise that even now I’ve probably not got a handle on my portion control. 

Portion control?? (Looking knackered after Angela's hen do)

Yesterday was like going back to my original LighterLife group. Sharing the laughter over holding our work trousers up as our weight – and dress sizes – dropped and not keeping up with the clothes shopping. And discussions on how we maintained our weight. The key seemed to be tracking. Tracking your food, not minutely and not in a controlling manner but being aware, being mindful of what you’re eating. And eating good quality food. Fresh vegetables, protein and keeping away from the processed food. On LighterLife your nutrition is managed for you. In real life? Not so much and certainly not in the processed off-the-shelf food. 

But it was the counselling, the understanding, that made the difference for me. It wasn’t the weight making me unhappy, weight was the symptom. Removing the food gave me a chance to understand the sadness and the causes and I discovered I had the means to manage this. And it wasn’t by having a full fridge and a full stomach.  

It was an interesting day. It was good to be back among people who understood the food issues that naturally slim people don’t. Having to ban certain foods from the house (or you’ll eat and eat and eat and never stop) and what it’s like not to have an off button (with food or alcohol or exercise or talking ...) and what it’s actually like to be on food packs for 100 days and probably only poo 12 times. People wonder where my poo obsession came from ... well I can confirm it started about 8 years ago in the absence of ...! 


As with the original meeting, 8 years ago I arrived with trepidation, but left with friends and a lighter heart. I wish I could reach out to Other-Sarah and let her know that everything is going to be ok.   


Other-Sarah let me write you a letter from the future. 

Let me send this back to you to arrive just as you have finished your other letter. You’re going to be happy, Very happy. You have a daughter who looks just like you and who is absolutely obsessed by Frozen and Disney princesses but who lets you plait her hair. She also ADORES cuddles. You are married to someone lovely and you all live in a small house with a garden the size of a postage stamp – but it’s full of roses. Roses that smell wonderful. I know I’m nearly home when I can smell the big white roses. And you’re obsessed with running. Yes. You read that right. You – the girl who dislikes having to walk to the shop and who smokes 20 cigarettes a day – love running. Your footsteps on the trails are the sound of freedom to you and running fast feels like flying – see you really DID learn to fly – and you make friends through it. So many wonderful friends who share this craziness! And we have wonderful adventures, running 75 miles through Essex, swimming in lakes – with massive fish!, triathlons, marathons, running laps in fields in the middle of the night. Sure, there are ups and downs but it’s all seasoning. Different flavours in this massive adventure. And it is an adventure. Life feels different now. 

Go be happy. 

Note: LighterLife haven't paid me or asked me to write this and I'm well aware that this was my journey not anyone else's. This might not work for you or for your friends but it was very personal for me and I feel that it was a big stepping stone to helping me be who I am today. I found that being able to survive for 100 days on soups made me realise that I could do so much more than I thought I could. If I could do THAT, I could do anything, right? :)


  1. You have come such a long way Sarah. Love this post and how much obviously you are happy now! :D A great example of change for the better.

  2. What a beautifully written and inspiring post Sarah! I don't comment very often but if I don't step out of the shadows for this one then I never will. Obviously as a hard as nails bloke I can't admit to having a tear in my eye - clearly the hay fever is playing up or there's some dust in the air. Whatever the reason it is definitely not emotionally driven....or maybe it is ;-)