Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter 18 – Final notes and getting started.


This is the last chapter in the main part of Size Matters and there is a second section which contains some of the tools that will help you get started including food diary templates, Candida Questionnaire, weight charts and food and nutritional information. Tables do not always translate well to WP, so if you would like copies of those then contact me direct and I will send via email.

The main worry that concerns people who have lost a considerable amount of weight is that they will put the pounds back on again. I trust that you now have a better understanding of your body and the type of fuel best suited to you. The program should become a way of life, with the odd dash of high living thrown in for good measure. I have reached some conclusions about body weight management over the last eighteen years that will prevent me from ever returning to obesity.

Number one is that everybody is unique in the way they utilise the food they eat. This is dependent on lifestyle, age, sex, activity level, and to a degree genetic background. Once you have found the right dietary balance, one that offers you energy, fitness and health, you will want to continue eating that way. Take this program and adapt the basic ingredients to suit your own personal requirements. Be in control of your own eating habits and do not simply let your body dictate what you eat.

Another conclusion that I have come to is that the body has a fine-tuned detection system where food’s nutritional value is concerned. For example, if you take two people of the same height and activity level, eating exactly the same amount of calories, you may find that one puts on weight very easily, whilst the other stays at the same weight or loses weight. However, one of these diets may consist of 2,000 calories of fruit, vegetables, grains and protein, with moderate amounts of fat and sugar, while the other may consist of high levels of fat and sugar and small amounts of fruit, vegetables, grains and proteins. If the proportion of nutritional food is too low, the body may decide that there is a deficiency and start to store food to ensure that it can obtain all the nutrients it needs.

I have learned not to underestimate my own body. I did so for over forty years and suffered the consequences. This body of mine is now my most precious asset. Provided I do not meet my destiny in the form of a truck or untreatable disease, I hope to live out my natural life span with all my mental and physical faculties intact.

When I am old, I want to be active and alert, not sitting in a chair barely able to remember yesterday. I believe that the ageing process can be managed with diet and supplementation in order to prevent deficiencies which cause damage to the body and the mental faculties. Having tasted health, fitness and energy, I will not let them go easily. This one conclusion alone will keep me from returning to a heavier weight.

As you will now realise, I am very keen on my accumulation theory. My resting heart beat when I weighed 330 lbs (150 kg) was 85 beats per minute and if I was just walking gently, it would rise to over 140 beats per minute; hard work for a pump that has only one life span.

My resting heartbeat is now 45 beats per minute and it takes me 20 minutes of aerobic exercise to raise my heart rate to over 130 beats per minute. In my case, if you do the sums for the next forty years, which takes me to over 100 years old, it should convince you of the benefits of being slimmer and fitter:

Old resting heart rate

At 85 beats per minute x 60 x 24 x 365 x 40 = 1,787,040,000 beats in the next 40 years

New resting heart rate

At 45 beats per minute x 60 x 24 x 365 x 40 = 946,080,000 beats in the next 40 years

As you can see, my resting heart is going to beat nearly a billion times less over the rest of my lifetime, which has to save on a great deal of wear and tear. Remember that this is based on the resting heart rate, but the mathematics works across all levels of activity for the heart.

The same theory applies to other parts of the body, which are all now having to work less. Your joints will be able to move more efficiently at your ideal weight and there will be less cartilage damage, decreasing the possibility of wear on the joint head. Your internal organs require a certain amount of fat to cushion them from unexpected damage through accidents. However, when you reach your ideal weight, the excess fat that has been strangling the organs and inhibiting them from working as they should will be gone, and this will prevent them from becoming diseased and withered.

On the subject of fat accumulating over the years I have posted this table a number of times but it is worth taking a look at from time to time. We tend to think of things in two when it comes to food. When you put your hand in the cookie jar, do you usually pull two biscuits out instead of just one? Does your toaster look lonely when you only put one slice of bread in so you add another? Many of my clients will fill in their two week food diary before coming to see me and will point out that they have a very good diet and that they only have two plain digestive biscuits with their coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

Those four biscuits add up to 300 calories a day x 365 = 109,500 calories in a year. Each pound of body fat is related approximately to 3,500 calories. This means that by eating those four biscuits each day you will accumulate over 31 lbs of body fat. As most people are looking to lose 28lbs or so it seems logical that at least halving the intake of biscuits each day might be a place to start!

fat accumulation table

Items on the list are also healthy options but it is important to remember that you can have too much of a good thing as well. Unless you have an extremely active lifestyle your calorie requirements need to be taken into consideration and your best bet is high on vegetables, lean protein, moderate on healthy fats such as olive oil, moderate on high sugar fruits and low to moderate on grains. ‘Cook from Scratch’ and cut out the industrially processed foods.

This program is not only about losing weight to look good in a new outfit, or on the sports field, it is also about the health and functionality of parts of your body that you cannot see. When the damage has been done, it can be irreversible. Remember this when you are tempted to return to your old lifestyle. Take a look at your checklist of all the reasons why you wanted to lose weight in the first place: do you really want to go back to that? Catalogue all the benefits you now enjoy: would you want to give all that up?

New Year’s Eve 1995 330lbs

170lbs 1999

When you have finished your program, which may be in a matter of weeks, months or even years, take a photograph and put it next to the one you took at the beginning. This is your achievement and deserves to be rewarded. Celebrate a successful completion of the project and then plan how you are going to maintain this level of health and fitness.

Now it is time to design your own program and learn to live a different life than the one you are used to. Your future is in your hands. This is your chance to take back control of your weight and health and in a few short months you will wonder why you waited so long.

You will find the other 17 chapters of Size Matters in this directory. I will leave the book up on the blog until the New Year.

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015.

More details via Amazon and my own bookstore where you can also listen to an excerpt.




Size Matters serialisation – Chapter 17 – Exercise


I have mentioned walking as a form of exercise, in Chapter seven, but there are many other effective forms of exercise. This chapter will cover the most common examples. There are also several everyday activities that we take for granted but which do qualify as exercise.

chased by predators

We are designed to move fast if we need to. Predators had to be taken seriously in the past, whether multi-legged or two-legged. We have a strong skeleton, with muscles and tendons holding it together. Our joints are flexible and can withstand considerable pressure. In this day and age, however, we have come to rely on mechanical means of transport, not only when we reach adulthood but as children too.

Thirty years ago, children walked to and from school every day, although they may have graduated to a bicycle as they got older. These days, children either use a school bus service or are driven to school in the family car. Physical education and team sports can still play a part in many children’s lives, but far too many take hardly any exercise at all. This, and unhealthy modern eating practices, means that obesity in children is on the increase in most western countries.

Exercise is not just about losing weight. There are many other benefits to us. The first is to our physical structure: the skeleton, joints, tendons and muscles. All these remain healthy if put to the purpose they were designed for. Without regular use, joints seize up, muscles waste away and fat accumulates, causing stress on the body. Without exercise, our skeleton is weakened and in later years this can lead to osteoporosis. Regular exercise improves the way the body functions generally. The immune system will work much more efficiently, making us less vulnerable to infection.

Progression of osteoporosis

                     Progression of osteoporosis

Aerobic exercise maintains the body’s capacity to utilise fuel and oxygen. This type of exercise not only burns fat, it can also lower blood-pressure and strengthen the heart, rendering it less susceptible to heart attacks or valve problems. The cardiovascular system needs exercise to keep it in good condition.

Combining aerobic work-outs with a stretching and toning program helps the joints to remain flexible and the muscles supple.

Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running and weight training ensure that the bones do not become thin as we grow older. They also tone the muscles and improve our posture, thus lessening our chances of suffering from age-related structural problems.

One of the major benefits of these forms of activity is the mental and emotional strength they foster. Most people experience a feeling of well-being about twenty minutes into a moderate work-out. This is a result of natural endorphins, which are mood-elevating substances, being released into the system. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go out on a wet, windy day, but, having done so; it is amazing how good you can feel half an hour later. People often comment on how a long, brisk walk reduces stress and tension.

Toning and exercising the body is a natural way to preserve and strengthen our entire system. We have only the one body, so we may as well get the best out of it. For years I was imprisoned in my body, with neither the knowledge nor the willpower to escape. I could barely walk for ten minutes before I started the program, yet today I have no problem walking two or three miles a day. I would be miserable without physical activity and I soon know when I have not done enough: my joints, which have been damaged by all the years of carrying the excess weight, stiffen and become more painful.

One fact that caught my attention recently is that, for every hour of moderate exercise, our life span can be increased by around two hours. I have made a decision to live to the age of a hundred and still be physically and mentally active. If I maintain my program of two hours a day of brisk walking in the winter months and three hours in the summer until I am ninety-five, I will have added five years to my life.

Some of the gentler forms of exercise such as Yoga and Tai Chi are great for those starting out but it is important to have a great teacher. Even these seemingly gentle movements can cause you joint problems if they have not been used for a long time!!


Aerobics are a good way to maintain fitness, but it is not a good idea to do such a strenuous work-out when you are severely overweight, because you can damage joints and muscles and put additional strain on the heart and other organs. Before joining an aerobics class, carry out some basic research. Begin with low-impact aerobics, guided by a qualified instructor, and watch the class for a session before participating yourself. Make sure there is an adequate warm-up and warm-down period and some stretching exercises are included in the program.

You may feel more confident if you work out at home first, perhaps using a video. I started by dancing to my favourite music in the kitchen. At the time I weighed over 250 lbs. (113 kg), but I took it slowly at first, a few minutes at a time, until I felt confident about joining a class. You will soon feel the benefits. Not only will you burn fat, but you will also improve your circulation and lung capacity; your muscles will be toned and your stamina will increase.

Do not be tempted to do aerobics every day. Two or three times a week, combined with other forms of exercise, will be more than adequate. Make sure that you wear the right footwear, providing adequate ankle support, and that your clothing is not too restrictive. Keep a bottle of water nearby and stop regularly to take a drink. For every hour of aerobic exercise, you will need an additional litre of water.


Another popular form of aerobics takes place in the water. Aquarobics is ideal for someone who is still too heavy for the dry land equivalent. The water cushions the joints and offers resistance to the muscles to make them work harder. Provided you feel comfortable in a bathing suit, you can begin this as soon as you like. Again, you do not have to complete a whole hour. If you feel you are getting too tired, stop and swim or relax for a short time and then resume. You will find that, over a period of weeks, your stamina, and ability to perform the various exercises, will improve and you may then think about joining a more conventional aerobics class.

Jogging and running

Jogging and running are classified as aerobics, with the additional benefit that you are out in the fresh air. Again this is an activity best done when you have reached a certain level of fitness. Do not push yourself too hard. Start by walking and then, when you can walk comfortably for an hour or more at a brisk pace, introduce some jogging. Walk a hundred paces and jog for the next fifty. After several days, increase the level of jogging until you are completing your usual distance in a shorter time. You must ensure that you are wearing the correct shoes. Normal walking shoes will not be suitable so investing in a pair of running shoes is essential. Make sure that your muscles are warmed up before you start to jog. Walk for the first fifteen minutes at a brisk pace and then change your stride.


Cycling can be a great pleasure, although this depends on having access to pleasant places to ride. Mountain bikes have become popular in recent years, enabling us to ride on more varied terrain than the roads, which can be dangerous. As with all these activities, you should take things easy to begin with. Plan short trips of about half an hour. Save the day trips until you have the necessary power and stamina. Wear a helmet and elbow and knee protection if you are on the road, and the bicycle should have adequate lighting if you are cycling after dark. Most gyms have a static cycle and the home version can also be effective, but they can be boring unless you can watch the television or listen to music at the same time. Cycling in the fresh air, safely, is the best form of this exercise.


Swimming can be monotonous unless you set yourself some realistic targets. You can be any weight when you start swimming. However, I found that embarrassment kept me out of the pool for a long time. I was self-conscious in a swimming suit, even when I was lucky enough to find one the right size. Usually the cup of the suit was huge and the bottom too tight. I will admit to being a coward on this one and it took me at least two years and a hundred pounds of weight loss before I ventured into the water. Once I did, however, I loved it. There is no stress on the body or the joints, and it tones everything.

Start with the objective of completing one lap without stopping and progress until you are completing as many as possible within a specific length of time. An hour is ideal.

Over the weeks you can either increase the number of laps to fill the time, or do the same number of laps in less time. No safety equipment is necessary, except for a swimming pool attendant – and strong shoulder straps!


Tennis is a game I have loved since I was a child. It is competitive and can be fast-paced so, once again, wait until you have reached a comfortable fitness level before trying it. It is easy to damage the knees and leg muscles if you overdo it, so go gently.

I began by hitting a ball off the house wall for a few minutes every day, in time progressing to half an hour. This gave me an opportunity to get used to the twisting and turning that is involved. You get an excellent upper-body work-out with tennis, but you can strain shoulder and elbow joints and your muscles. It is a good idea to take lessons at first, to ensure that you are using the correct and least damaging strokes. If you are returning to tennis, then start with doubles, progressing to singles after a few weeks. You don’t have to make Wimbledon in your first season!

Weight training

Weight training tones the muscles and burns off fat. There are some simple routines to begin with, which require no weights at all. Moving the arms and legs slowly and firmly provides some exercise. Begin with arm extensions to the side and the front, clenching the fist and slowly bringing it up and down. I moved from this to lifting tins of beans and have now graduated to a multi-gym, which I use for just ten minutes a day.

I was always worried about being left with too much loose skin if I lost weight. The walking, drinking water and aerobic exercise have all played their part in toning my skin and forming firm muscle, but doing repetitions using light weights (two to five pounds each) has added the finishing touches. It is better from a fat-burning and toning perspective to develop a routine using light to moderate weights many times. Lifting heavy weights without proper supervision can damage the back and other parts of the body. Take advice from a qualified instructor. A book may not tell you all you need to know for your particular fitness level and body type.

Household chores

Finally, we should not forget housework and its benefits as a form of exercise. An hour of active house-cleaning, gardening or cleaning the car will use up around 200 to 250 calories. This, and running up and down the stairs in a normal day, can provide you with an opportunity to work out every day – and it also keeps the home looking good too!

Whatever form of activity you choose, you must enjoy it in order to feel all the benefits. Do have an occasional rest day, when you simply take a gentle stroll in the fresh air. Too much intensive working-out can be counter-productive, since the body can become tired and possibly strained. If you have a lot of weight to lose, this obviously is not going to happen overnight. Give your body a chance to get used to the new level of activity and vary your routine so that you and the body continue to find it stimulating and beneficial the whole time.

For me, there is no substitute for the way I feel when I finish my exercise. I am restricted, to a degree, by previous injuries caused by too much strain at my heaviest weight. However, I am delighted to be able to walk, swim and do weight training.

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001-2015

Image mammoth

Previous 16 Chapters of Size Matters can be found here.

Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter Twelve – Managing the people around you as you lose weight.


Chapter Twelve – Managing the people around you as you lose weight.

I have learned a lot about myself over the last twenty years and hope that by sharing some of my experiences in this book, you will be able to bypass some of my early struggles in your efforts to lose weight.

Know who you are

We may think we know who we are, but I remember just how confused I was when I started out on this process. Over the years I had become many things to many people and behaved differently, or was expected to behave differently, with each and every one of them.

I was a daughter, sister, friend, lover, wife, employee, employer, niece, cousin and counsellor, and this is the same for everybody; it is a bit like having a multiple personality disorder. I was constantly trying to please everybody else but myself, always striving to fulfil their idea of who I should be.

Me age 40 and 330lbs

Me age 40 and 330lbs

Be prepared for some surprising reactions from the people around you when you start on your program. You are going to be making some major changes to your appearance, and some people will find that threatening. Changing from a plump, motherly, comfortable, predictable sort of person to a slim, sexy, confident and slightly surprising ‘new you’ can make the people you love uncomfortable. Most people are wary of change and, if their perception of your role in their life does not fit with your new image, a certain amount of emotional upheaval may ensue.


Ten years later me at 50 and 170lbs

The last thing you want at this point is to feel tempted to hit the comfort food. So, as soon as you hear things like ‘Don’t lose too much weight; you will look gaunt’ or ‘You are beginning to look ill’ or ‘I liked you the way you were’, you will need to sit down and discuss your reasons for losing weight.

Husbands, especially, can feel a bit threatened if their wife and the mother of their children goes from being their ideal picture of how a mother should look to a slim and perhaps sexier looking woman who might just be paid some attention by other men. Some men are delighted to have back the woman they married, but others may need some extra attention and reassurance that the changes you are making will benefit both of you.

Mothers can always be relied on to pass comment on any changes you make to your weight, up or down. You are her baby at any age and she will interfere whether you want it or not. Mothers will spend all their time telling you to lose weight and then when you do they will tell you to eat properly, don’t starve yourself and have another cake; one more won’t do you any harm. They are natural worriers, so just accept that and try to work with it. Involve them wherever possible, and, who knows, you may just change some of their habits of a lifetime.

At this time you will also discover who your real friends are. There are those who loved to stand next to you when you were fat because you made them feel good about themselves. Start looking better than they do and suddenly they will be telling you that weight loss does not suit you, and your face looked much better with a little more padding. However, your true friends will be delighted for you. Do not pay any attention to those people who want to deflect you from your goal. Respect their feelings and involve them if possible, but do not let them make you go back to a place you hated.

Inside of all of us is a child who is still afraid of the unknown, but the unknown can also be exciting, an adventure of discovery, and, with this program, the only thing you are going to lose is weight. If you manage the changes within yourself and in the people around you, it will be immensely rewarding.

Lastly, being true to yourself is your greatest strength and you are going to need that to see you through the next few months.

The art to developing willpower

baby eating chocolate

Exercise your willpower to the best of your ability, but avoid temptation like the plague in the first few weeks of the program. Do not have open boxes of chocolates within reach. Tell friends and loved ones that the only acceptable gifts are non-edible ones. However, do not stay at home and cut yourself off from everyone and everything. You will have to learn to live with this program for the rest of your life, and it important that you still have some pleasure and do not end up feeling deprived.

Tough as it may be there are times when you have to remember that you are an adult with a serious health issue and you are not two years old and zero decision making skills!

Learn how to go out for dinner or to a party. Learn to say no graciously, so that you do not give offence (‘That was delicious but I really don’t have room for a second portion’). You can start making choices about what you put into your own mouth. Do not be afraid of offending chefs; after all, you are the customer.

It does not matter if people know you are on a diet. If necessary, tell them you are on a healthy eating program, not a diet, which is quite true. However, if people see that you are overweight and making an effort to lose the extra pounds, they will most likely respect you. Most people admire willpower. So enjoy yourself, and you will soon discover that you can have just as much fun eating healthily as unhealthily, and the bonus is that you will not feel guilty. Guilt was always a bitter sauce for me whenever I went out for a meal, but I do not have to feel like that any longer. So practice, practice, practice your willpower.

On a bad day

I would be lying if I said that losing weight is going to be all plain sailing, with no hurdles and no pain. You will have bad days. Sometimes you will have worked very hard and not lost a single pound in the week. This does happen; your body is not a machine and is subject to hormonal changes, water retention and various other internal and external stimuli. Go back and read the section on ‘The Plateau’ and reassure yourself that you are on the right path. You have to persevere, pushing through the bad days and accepting them as part of the program.

Re-read your list of reasons for losing weight in the first place. Get together with a friend who understands. I often give myself a good talking to, treating myself as if I was a client who is going through a difficult phase. Rest assured; you will come out the other side. You will continue to lose weight and you will not slip back into your old habits.

Keeping motivated as the weight comes off

There have been times when I thought I had done enough. When I had lost 56 lbs. (4 st, 25 kg), my nosebleeds stopped and my blood pressure was down, as was my cholesterol. I was walking an hour a day and, although I was still a size 26, I felt and looked a great deal better. This was a dangerous time because it was easy to convince myself that I had worked hard and that it would be unrealistic to expect to continue losing weight.

Clearly it would not have taken much to push me back into my old eating habits. However, I was still 98 lbs. (7 st, 45 kg) overweight and I had made a commitment to myself that I would see this thing through. I still could not do half the things on my wish list and I was not as healthy as I wanted to be.

Every time you reach one of your goals, you must re-focus. Be proud of what you have achieved. Reward yourself as promised; then look towards the next goal. Try not to be too ambitious. I used to focus on 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) at a time, now it is 3 lbs. (1.5 kg) at a time.

It can be very hard to get back into the program after a night out, or a good holiday, or Christmas. This is the time to sit down and look at what you were, what you are now and what you are going to be in the near future. Do not throw it all away for the sake of that chocolate bar.


When I am out walking, I often spend time thinking about the new me. This is not selfish or obsessional; it makes perfect sense. When our body is undergoing major changes, we need to prepare for each one before it happens. Not only did I visualise myself at my target weight, but I also thought about how I would look and feel along the way. Instead of the word ‘if’, I would use ‘when’. When I have lost another 10 lbs. (4.5 kg), I will be a size 20 and I will be able to travel on a cheap airline with small seats. Some ambition! However, this strategy enabled me to break down the overall target into manageable pieces, giving me the opportunity to imagine my body changing over a period of time. I got used to this image and I liked it.

Having said that, I was fat for such a long time that I still sometimes experience a shock when I see myself reflected in a shop window, or when I try on a size 16 item of clothing and it fits. Because you look at yourself every day in the mirror, you do not always see the dramatic transformation that would be very obvious to someone who sees you infrequently. I still get a kick out of people’s reactions when they meet me for the first time in years. There is nothing quite like being ignored because someone doesn’t recognise you!

It is always useful to have an important event as a target. This is not to say that I believe you should go on the program just to lose some weight before a wedding. However, I remember knowing that I was going to be at an industry dinner one year, where I had not seen anyone from my former workplace for over twelve months. I had lost about 84 lbs. (6 st, 38 kg). When I walked into the room, I felt a million dollars, and the compliments I received all evening more than compensated for the hard work I had put in. Do not deny yourself a little grandstanding from time to time. Your morale and self-esteem can use the boost and it will help you reach your next target. Be careful not to get carried away by all the compliments and think the job is finished if you know you still have some way to go.

How long will it take?

You may have a long job ahead. It is not just going to happen overnight. However, trust that the project will be completed according to schedule and celebrate each measuring point as you reach it. The goal is a healthy, slimmer individual who will have succeeded at one of the most difficult tasks we can undertake. Losing weight and then keeping it off is an amazing achievement and one to be proud of. I hope that this program will guide and support you through the process, because the rewards are so worthwhile.

Remember, it has taken you a lifetime to get to where you are now, so it is surely not asking too much to spend a few months, or even a year or two, putting things right. I can promise you that although there will be difficult times ahead, the excitement, rewards and satisfaction you will feel along the way will be incentive enough.

Enjoying the party

One of the most embarrassing questions you will be asked as you lose weight will be ‘Are you on a diet?’ You may feel that whenever you decline food or drink, your hosts and the other guests want to talk about it. My response always used to be to joke about it. Now I tell the simple truth and say that I am following a healthier lifestyle. Unless asked specifically, I do not discuss weight loss. I do, however, talk about my new healthy eating lifestyle, and how much fun I am having.


There are a couple of tips to help you relax and enjoy yourself, while also deterring people from commenting on your eating and drinking habits. At the beginning of a party when food is laid out, get yourself a large plate and put one of everything on the plate. Take it away, nibble from the plate during the evening and make sure you do not go back to the table. If you do not do this, you can lose count of what you have eaten (was that two or three sausage rolls?). This way you get to have a little of everything, people will not comment on your ‘diet’ and you will not be tempted to overdo it. As for alcohol, alternate your wine with a soft drink. Or offer to drive.

Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. Life is too short to miss out on meeting exciting people and trying your new social skills.

©sallycronin Size Matters 2001 – 2105

You will find the previous 11 chapters in this link.

The reason that I began writing Size Matters nearly 20 years ago was to record my journey. From a journal it became a message that I wanted to share. The misery of obesity does not have to be for life.

I am sharing this book free here on my blog because the need for that message is even more necessary today. Apart from the health issues there is nothing worse than looking in the mirror and feeling powerless.

You can find out more about my life and journey as well as my books here.

Please leave your feedback and if you would, click on one of the share buttons.. help me get the message out there..

thank you Sally


Size Matters – Chapter Eleven – Candida Albicans and Obesity

I know that I have posted on the topic of Candida Albicans before but in the need for continuity I am including this chapter.  There are some other issues that are included that I have not mentioned before and also a recipe for Irish Soda Bread which is one of the few breads I can enjoy.

Candida Albicans and Obesity.

The more I work with clients who have weight problems the more convinced I am that Candida Albicans is the secret, hidden, enemy of us all. I believe that a very high percentage of people, some sources say in the region of 70 percent, suffer from Candida overgrowth in a chronic form. However, what most surprises me is the high incidence of Candida in sufferers of most common ailments.

When I was studying the condition in relation to my own weight 20 years ago; I noted that there were literally hundreds of symptoms. But, naturally enough, I was only really interested in my own. Now that I am helping others with their nutritional health, I am discovering that they nearly always have Candida related problems. The most common seem to be arthritis, asthma, eczema, menopausal problems, and frequent throat and ear infections.

Candida Albicans is yeast, which inhabits all humans, but usually only in small amounts. An excess of this substance is also known as Monilia, Thrush, Candidiasis and Yeast Infection. It is believed that health problems caused by an excess of Candida effect over 70 percent of people in the western world and that the symptoms are so wide-ranging that doctors rarely diagnose the problem correctly. This means that treatment of the symptoms often ignores the root of the problem.

Overuse of Antibiotics and other prescribed medication.

The main precondition for a fungal disease to get a foothold is an impaired immune system. This can be the result of an illness, the overuse of antibiotics, intensive dieting over a long period of time or recurring infections.

In most cases, antibiotics are broad-spectrum which means they are aimed at a broad range of bacteria and not one specific identified bacterium. Without a laboratory test, it is difficult to identify which specific strain of bacteria is responsible for a particular infection, so the use of broad-spectrum drugs usually guarantees that the bacteria in question will be killed off. Unfortunately, it is not only the bad bacteria that are killed off, but beneficial bacteria too.

A healthy intestine contains a balance of good and bad bacteria, two of the friendly flora, Bifidobacteria bifidum and Lactobaccillus acidophilus, normally keep the Candida in balance. However, where this fragile balance is disrupted, the gut becomes vulnerable to an overgrowth of Candida Albicans.

What happens when normal Candida levels increase.

If Candida yeast is allowed to grow unchecked, it changes from its normal yeast fungal form to a mycelial-fungal form that produces rhizoids. These long, root-like, structures are capable of piercing the walls of the digestive tract and breaking down the protective barriers between the intestine and the blood. This breakthrough allows many allergens and toxins to enter the bloodstream, causing allergic reactions. Mucus also forms around the major organs and in the lining of the stomach. This can prevent the digestive system from functioning efficiently and if food is not properly digested the nutrients are not absorbed and the body begins to suffer deficiencies, leading to chronic fatigue.

The most common of the allergic reactions seen when Candida is present are; watering or dry, itchy eyes, itchy inner ears and dry throats that clear up after a few hours without developing into a full-scale infection. These symptoms are almost always accompanied by a craving for bread, savoury snacks such as crisps or for sweets (chocolate in particular). Sometimes clients tell me that they don’t have a sweet tooth and do not eat chocolate. However, when I read their food diary, it is easy to spot the biscuits, cakes and alcohol that are eaten or drunk every day.

Other common symptoms associated with Candida are: digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Flatulence, Diarrhoea, Colitis and Ulcers; disorders such as Sterility, Fibrosis, Hormonal Imbalance and PMT; Allergies, Hyperactivity, Asthma, Sinusitis, Migraines, poor memory and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

One of the most significant problems is the strain which all the toxins place on the liver, often resulting in chronic fatigue, discomfort and depression. The list is practically endless, which generally adds to the confusion at the time of diagnosis.

It is believed that long term use of other medications including the contraceptive pill and HRT which might explain the higher incidence of Candida overgrowth in women. It should be noted that if a woman does have an overgrowth of Candida and thrush that this can be transmitted to a partner.

I have included a questionnaire, later, that I recommend everyone should complete.

I still have Candida Albicans. If I do not pay attention to my diet, it can flare up again. Itchy inner ears are the first indication that I have a problem.

The treatment is straightforward and is certainly effective. You should follow a dietary program for several weeks to eliminate as many unnecessary sugars as possible from your diet. In addition, you will find that decreasing yeast intake can help. I certainly have found that eating yeast free Irish Soda Bread rather than yeast breads has made a difference. This, combined with a simple herbal remedy, is helpful in reducing the Candida to manageable levels.

Dietary help

Candida loves sugar, yeast, starches, and foods containing moulds or fungus. The latest research is indicating that it is sugars that Candida craves. However, I do react if I eat blue cheese for example and also Marmite .It is common for the sufferer to crave chocolate and yeast extract but not necessarily together!

It used to be the practice to come off all yeast and sugars, natural or otherwise and for six weeks or so follow a very rigid diet. I do think that it is a good idea to reduce the levels of your yeast in the diet simply because it comes in combination in so many processed foods with sugar, something I consider to be the real cause behind so much of our ill health today.

Things have moved on – the fact is that most natural produce is absolutely fine to eat. This includes mushrooms which as a fungus are one of the first foods to be banned on a Candida Diet. Evidence suggests that just because Candida is a fungus it does not enjoy eating a similar organism.

The other important issue is that anyone with a strong immune system can manage an overgrowth of candida provided their diet is mainly unprocessed and sugar free.

In the last 18 years I have experimented with natural ingredients in and out of my diet and I have found no reaction to mushrooms or any other natural food on my Candida levels. I have however, reacted quickly to drinking too much alcohol, eating cakes, sweets, biscuits, fizzy drinks, processed sauces, ketchup, soy sauce, milk chocolate with low cocoa content, processed cheap fruit juices etc. In the case of alcohol it is possibly the combination of yeast and sugar (or too many glasses) – and if you look at the ingredients of a great many processed foods it is the sugar content that is likely to be the main culprit.

I have some key indicators for a rise in levels of Candida overgrowth in my system. The inside of my ears begins to itch irritatingly and my eyes start watering. If I continue to consume sugars in excess I can develop thrush symptoms.

It is difficult in this day and age to eliminate all yeast and sugar from the diet, but significant changes can be put in place overnight. There are some yeast and sugar-free breads available, such as soda bread. Use sugar-free jams and marmalades, which are now readily available from health food shops and supermarkets. Breakfast cereals are major culprits, so I suggest that, for the first eight weeks, you have porridge or yeast free toast (Irish Soda Bread) for breakfast. After that, you can reintroduce other breakfast cereals into your diet, but opt for the low-sugar variety. (You will find a recipe for Irish Soda Bread below which is really easy to make and very tasty).

It is however essential that you avoid sweet foods such as cakes, chocolate and biscuits. This is where taking Grapefruit Seed Extract helped me out.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

It is not allowed to recommend and guarantee that any natural product can cure a condition. That being said I can say that it ‘may’ help get a Candida overgrowth under control.  I have used for the last 20 years for a number of applications both internally and externally particularly for its antibiotic application.

In the late 1970s a gardener noticed that the grapefruit seeds in his compost didn’t rot. This particularly observant gardener was Dr. Jacob Harich, an immunologist (and a physicist) with a particular interest in natural remedies.

When he investigated what was happening he discovered that something in the seeds appeared to be more effective, and at the same time less harmful, than any known antibiotic. It was found that the shell of the seed was anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, which makes it an excellent natural antibiotic.

Today you can buy Grapefruit Seed Extract which carries all these properties in a naturally occurring form.

Obviously, there are times when antibiotics are essential, but a healthy person with a strong immune system should rarely need to take them. Antibiotics do not cure viral infections, such as colds. However, Grapefruit Seed Extract is not only anti-bacterial but also anti-viral. In our household we put about 40 drops of this oil into our liquid soap and this helps prevent colds being passed on by touching, the most common way of catching a cold.

Always start on a small dosage of Grapefruit Seed Extract. If the Candida is killed off too quickly, a mild toxic reaction, with symptoms similar to flu, may be experienced. Start with four drops in a little water or juice, three times a day before meals for four days. Then, increase the dose to ten drops three times a day and after a further seven days increase to fifteen drops three times a day. As a maintenance dosage and to prevent the Candida from increasing again, I take a capsule a day, which contains a measured 15-drop dose. Grapefruit Seed Extract is available from most health food shops, but I tend to buy online at Higher Nature who I find carry most of the quality supplements I take.

Other natural remedies


Garlic is also an excellent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent. It is also a good idea to take acidophilus after a course of antibiotics. Each capsule contains billions of good bacteria, which help to re-populate the intestine. I usually take a pro-biotic every six weeks or so to help maintain healthy intestinal flora and the strength I use is 3 billion.

Aloe Vera gel is helpful to counteract the deficiencies resulting from Candida. It also helps keep body in an optimum alkaline state which is not great for the fungus.

Candida sufferers will always have to follow a sensible diet, with plenty of fresh foods, including fruit. Some people say you should not eat fruit if you suffer from Candida. My theory is that fruit provides natural sugars that our bodies are well able to process. It is the refined sugars that the body has difficulty processing. Fruit is so good for us that it would be very wrong to exclude it from the diet. Recent research on the effect of natural sugars in fruit on an overgrowth has also found little connection. I have also found that a little honey now and then on my porridge does me no harm at all. Again, it is a natural sugar that all mammals have enjoyed for millions of years.

After two or three weeks following these recommendations, you will begin to notice significant improvements in your general well-being. Your energy levels will have returned to normal, any allergy symptoms will have improved dramatically and lots of niggling aches and pains that you probably put down to age will have eased. As these improvements occur, make a note of them. They will be your barometer. For example, when my ears begin to itch inside, I know that I have overdone the sugars and I go back to a sugar-free program and the Grapefruit Seed Extract for a few days. This is a condition that you have to manage by diet, so it is important to get to know the signals your body is sending you.

Recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees – put the rack mid oven. Prepare two 14inch bread tins – I use greaseproof paper cut to size and a little olive oil around the tin so that the paper sticks.

Ingredients – for two loaves.

  • 600gm strong whole wheat plain flour (or 500gm flour and 100gm porridge oats)
  • two teaspoons of baking powder
  • Two teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • Two teaspoons of salt
  • Two teaspoons of sugar
  • Two eggs
  • 600ml milk (I use full fat) or buttermilk/Kefir

Juice of two lemons (to sour the milk if not using Buttermilk or yoghurt)


  1. Add the lemon juice to the milk and stir – leave for about 15 minutes until it thickens.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl (add porridge oats)
  3. Add in the bicarbonate, baking powder, sugar and salt
    mix in gently.
  4. Pour in the soured milk and using a fork gently stir together.
  5. Add in two eggs and mix in.
  6. Pour the mixture into the tins and place in the hot oven for approximately 60 minutes. Check after 50 and the loaves should have risen and be brown on top.
  7. When baked take the loaves out of the oven and remove from tins. (peel of the paper if you have used)
  8. You will know they are cooked if they sound hollow when you tap them on the bottom of the loaf.
  9. Wrap in clean tea towels to stop the crust getting too crisp and leave on a rack until cool.
  10. I wrap one in Clingfilm and put in freezer and because there are no preservatives you need to eat over a couple of days. I keep one in the fridge.

©sallygeorginacronin 1998 – 2018

Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter 8 – Fluids, Eating Patterns, Intermittent Fasting, Eating Out and the Demon Drink!


Chapter 8 Fluids, Eating Patterns, Intermittent Fasting, Eating out and the demon drink!

We are often told that we must drink at least eight glasses of water a day but we are not normally told why we should do this. The reason is that dehydration is a very simple way of killing ourselves. I had no idea how important it was to drink lots of water until I started doing research into my own health, and since then I have always taken plenty of fluids. It is good to know that, in fact, other fluids do count, so it is not necessary to drink eight glasses of straight water each day, although I find now that I quite enjoy drinking filtered or still mineral water, particularly when I am thirsty.

Below are some interesting facts that might persuade you to reconsider your drinking habits:

  • Our body consists of between 60% and 75% water.
  • Our bodies lose two litres of fluid each day through urination, in our breath and through our skin.
  • We require even more fluids in warm climates or if we have a high activity level.
  • Not drinking enough fluids puts a great deal of stress on the body: kidney function, particularly, will be affected and there is a danger of kidney stones and gallstones forming; the immune function will be impaired, leaving us more prone to infection.
  • Lack of water causes a number of problems that we tend to shrug off: such as headaches, or irritability – particularly first thing in the morning.
  • Children suffer from dehydration very quickly and this can sometimes be the cause of behavioural problems. Other symptoms are aching legs, water retention, poor skin tone, circles under the eyes, dull and lifeless hair, lack of energy and inefficient break-down of fats.
  • Drinking water actually helps prevent ‘water retention’. This is because our body knows that it will die very rapidly without fluids, so it keeps as much as it can in reserve.
  • Anyone who is taking medication on a continuous basis needs to ensure that their system is flushed out daily, in order to prevent a build-up of toxins in the cells, kidneys and liver.


Now we can see why water is so important. Here is something else to think about. Loss of skin tone. I lost around 154 lbs. (11 st, 70 kg) over two years initially and, while I think a tummy-tuck would be a good idea, I do not have folds of loose skin and my face has not sagged any more than is normal for my age. In fact, people comment favourably on my skin, despite all my years in the sun when I was a child and since living in Spain. I put this down to a healthier diet, walking and water. I am sure that these regimes explain the elasticity in my skin and I can assure you that I always have a bottle of water close at hand.

Water is essential: without it we die, yet many people are proud of the fact that they never touch the stuff! It was certainly something that I used to boast about. It is immensely important to get your children drinking water and natural low-sugar and diluted juices as soon as you can.

If you cannot stomach water, although this is by far the best way to take fluids, then look at herbal teas, vegetable juices and some caffeine-free teas such as green tea or Rooibos, both of which contain excellent anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants act a little like a vacuum cleaner. They travel through the body sucking up all the damaging free radicals that are causing damage to cells. Even ordinary tea has its benefits, although it is a mild diuretic, so make sure you also drink other fluids during the day.


Sweetened drinks

Do not give children diet drinks, and be sure to resist them yourself. I used to drink diet drink after diet drink, and half an hour later I would be desperate for another. Artificial sweeteners are as bad for you as sugar. They fool the body into thinking that you have taken in usable energy, whereas in fact it has received only one calorie. The body does not release any energy from the cells and you end up feeling tired, and desperate for your next fix. Artificial sweeteners are currently undergoing research because of concerns about possible links to a number of diseases including cancer. To be honest, drinking more than a medium glass of fruit juice is too much sugar each day. Eat fruit by all means but the concentrated juices are not recommended. If you enjoy them then squeeze your own and mix an alkaline juice with it such as carrot.  I usually dilute mine with some sparkling water and this is very refreshing.

Sugar in any form is not good for Candida sufferers. The only sugars that I recommend for people with Candida are the natural ones in fruit and honey. Our bodies have taken thousands of years to evolve, yet in the last few hundred years we have bombarded them with refined sugars, additives, preservatives, prescribed medication and environmental pollution. Enough. At the very least we should ensure that what we put into our bodies is as natural as possible, foods that our bodies are able to handle, such as the natural sugars in fruit and honey. If you are following the alternative treatment for Candida in the form of Grapefruit Seed Extract, you should be able to have some natural sugars without compromising the treatment.

How many times a day should I eat?

I have starved myself so many times that the question I used to ask was ‘how long can I manage to go without eating’? What I did not realise was that I was creating my own little mini-famine every time I went 24 hours or longer without food. Most days I would have a cigarette and a cup of coffee for breakfast, followed by six or seven cups of coffee during the day, and several hours later I might have some meat and a few vegetables. I was paranoid about eating after 6.00 p.m. unless I was going through one of my periods of bingeing, in which case I never stopped eating. Similarly, many of my clients will bemoan the fact that they ‘eat only once a day’, usually followed closely by ‘and I still can’t lose weight’.

If we use a car as an analogy, it is easy to see that a car’s engine has lots of moving parts. It requires fuel and objects most strongly to the wrong fuel being poured into its tank: it would come to a grinding halt if you put a pound of sugar in the tank. Clever thing: when it has the wrong fuel, it stops dead! Unfortunately, we do not stop immediately when we take in the wrong fuel. We keep going until an illness or infection comes along and forces us to stop for a while.

Like a car, our body has a constant requirement for fuel, but it has to be the right type of fuel and the mix is important. We use between 50 and 650 calories an hour, depending on our activity level, and we must have a continuous supply of fuel to enable us to function efficiently. Eating is like putting a cheque into the bank: it takes a while to clear. Often we can still feel hungry after a heavy meal. If we have not eaten earlier in the day and then have a lot of carbohydrates for lunch, we get that feeling of tiredness and lethargy. This is because we have the wrong fuel mix, where all our food is concentrated into one meal instead of being spread into other meals throughout the day.

I have experimented a great deal with meals and timings and I achieved my optimum fitness and energy levels when I introduced my body to the concept of six meals a day: breakfast, snack, light lunch, snack, main meal, snack. My blood sugar level stabilised, reducing the cravings in the late afternoon and evening, and my energy level stayed more or less constant throughout the day. I never felt hungry and I was able to complete my exercise regime at various times of the day without feeling tired.

Intermittent Fasting.

This was fine when I was losing weight as I was also exercising a great deal. Now that I am 20 years older and moderately active I have moved to Intermittent Fasting. Some refer to it as the 5:2 diet where you eat normally for five days and only eat 500 calories within 8 hours on the other two.  I admit that I found this tough so moved to eating my meals everyday within an 8 hour period.  Depending on your schedule and activities you can drop either breakfast or dinner in essence. I find that I am not counting calories.. I cook from scratch and eat between 11.00 or 12.00 until 7.00 or 8.00 each evening.

I have been following this for just over a year and find that it suits me.  My weight is fine as I swim or use my treadmill for exercise. My blood sugar levels are normal as is my LDL cholesterol.

If you want to find out more about this way of losing and maintaining weight here is a link you may find interesting.

Getting into a regular pattern of eating.

Which ever pattern you adopt it does help if you can stick to it. There is a great deal of research about the fact that we were opportunistic eaters and would go hours without food.  This is where intermittent fasting comes in as it does allow the body to process the food and also to recuperate.  However, young children, growing teenagers and also adults who have extremely active jobs or lifestyle need to eat in a more traditional pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks between of fruit and nuts if needed.

I would therefore only recommend that you approach eating in this way if you are 40+ and only have a moderately active lifestyle.

The biggest improvement I found in regulating my eating was in night-time snacking, much of which is caused by boredom. I would have eaten my dinner, be sitting watching the often dismal offerings on television, and have an overwhelming urge to check out what was in the fridge. I will deal with this little habit when I talk about willpower in Chapter nine. On my eating program as I lost weight, I would eat six times a day, including a snack at about 9 p.m. Some of my clients actually have two evening snacks built into their program. There is something very reassuring, especially in the early stages of the program, in knowing that you have not finished eating at 6 p.m. and that you do not have to survive with nothing to eat until 8 o’clock the next morning.

I can remember, on various diets over the years, waking up in the morning and agonising about what I would eat in the three meals I was allowed that day. Now I don’t even think about it. Even though I now skip breakfast on my current eating programme; my body knows that I am not going to go hungry, that I will be eating again in a couple of hours.

The other benefit to the eating program is that it stimulates the metabolism. Like a well-oiled engine, your body will be working away, using energy to process the food you are eating regularly. It takes calories to digest food, so look upon it as a form of exercise.

This is also where reducing the grain carbohydrates as you get older and increasing your healthy fats pays off.  It takes a lot less energy to burn carbohydrates that you eat than the good fats so you can improve your weight loss by making that change.

The biggest problem my clients seem to have is finding the time to eat, a complaint that tends to subside after the second week, by which time they are slimmer and have much more energy.

Can I still go out to eat?

Of course you can. Remember that this program (a bit like a puppy for Christmas) is for life. If you are going to embark on a new lifestyle, you must build in plenty of enjoyment.

When we used to go out to eat, I would do one of two things. If I was in ‘fat mode’, I would skip the starter, have fish or chicken and salad for the main course and no dessert. (God forbid that the waiter would go into the kitchen and tell the staff that a fat woman was asking for Baked Alaska, no wonder she is that size! I used to imagine them peeking out of the kitchen door and wondering how much I was going to eat.) After such an insubstantial dinner, I would go home and raid the refrigerator.

cake eating

If I was in ‘diet mode’, however, I would use eating out as a reward: I have been really good all week, so I deserve a treat. (Forget atmosphere, service and conversation; give me everything on the menu! I would look at the desserts first and then decide what to have for a main course.) Does all this sound familiar?

Nowadays when I go out, I go for the whole experience. I love dressing for the occasion, watching the other people in the restaurant and enjoying good service. My obsession with eating has been replaced by an appreciation of flavour and presentation. I often have a starter, but find most of the fatty choices give me indigestion, so generally I opt for soup or seafood. I do not usually have a dessert, but, if I do, I will have made that decision after finishing my main course. Sometimes I will have a cup of decaffeinated coffee and an after-dinner mint, occasionally a brandy or a certain Irish cream liqueur. Main courses with rich sauces and fats no longer appeal to me, but I do enjoy a plain grilled steak, salad and jacket potato.

The word ‘sometimes’ is the key here: ‘occasionally’ is another word I like to use. I used to do everything to excess: smoking, drinking, and eating. Today I enjoy occasions: birthdays, parties, going out two or three times a month. I no longer experience a daily eating frenzy: instead, enjoyment comes from appreciating a special occasion.

When you eat out, do not let it be an excuse to put back all the weight you have lost during the week. Most restaurants now cater for the more health-conscious diner: salad, soup or fish for a starter; steak or salmon, with vegetables and jacket potato or salad, as a main course; fresh strawberries and a little cream for dessert; a couple of glasses of wine and a brandy to finish. You presumably hope you will live a long time, and enjoying a dinner out once in a while is an important part of life. Changing your lifestyle should not mean cutting out everything that brings you pleasure. Do not become isolationist in your obsession with losing weight. Your partner/family/friends love you and want to share things with you. How many times have you been asked out to dinner and said, ‘No. I’m on a diet’? Get out and enjoy yourself from time to time. Make it their reward not yours, and just go for an extra walk that day!

What about alcohol?

Yes, indeed, what about alcohol? As with most things, I would sometimes drink more alcohol than was good for me! I still drink a little too much on occasion, but now that my system has been detoxed my body regards alcohol as a poison. As soon as I drink more than a couple of glasses of wine or spirits, I get the hangover from hell. Furthermore, since alcohol is pure sugar and yeast, my Candida is prone to flare up after a weekend of partying. So, one way or another, I now exercise a great deal more restraint than before. However, I still enjoy the odd glass of wine or a cold beer once or twice a week.

As with food, I no longer drink just because it is there. When we have a party, we might have a fridge full of beer and white wine, a cupboard full of spirits and a rack of red wine left over. However, I am simply not tempted, because I feel so much better without alcohol in my system.

Alcohol may be low in fat, but it is high in carbohydrates, primarily sugars and yeasts. If you have Candida, it will take you longer to get the condition under control if you continue to drink. I suggest that you try to give it up for the initial eight weeks of the program. Failing that, it is better for your system, particularly your liver, if you have one drink a night rather than ten on a Saturday. Again, this is about living your life. Do not deprive yourself of everything you enjoy. Moderation and a little bit of thought is the key.

The best way to enjoy drinking is to go dancing at the same time. I always try to balance indulgence with exercise. I don’t feel so guilty and I find I can still lose weight without depriving myself of a little fun now and then. The other problem about drinking is that, after three or four drinks, your judgement is impaired and all sorts of evil thoughts can creep into your head on the way back from the pub, like ‘Chinese take-away’ or ‘Fish and chips’!

How do I cope with Christmas and holidays?

It can be difficult getting back into a healthy eating and exercise program after a break such as Christmas or a holiday. You will probably have let things slip, eating foods that are higher in sugars and fats, and once you start, it can be tough to stop. It is better to find ways of celebrating or taking a holiday without straying from the program.

When we are on holiday, we generally have more free time, so make sure that you use some of this to walk and exercise more. Drink plenty of water and try to stick to your usual breakfast, lunch and snacks between. Eating out in the evening can still be fun, but choose carefully when you are ordering, and know when to stop.

As soon as your holiday is over, make a commitment to get on the scales and restart the program immediately. It is imperative to get into the swing of things as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it will become. Set a realistic target for a few weeks ahead. Find an outfit that does not quite fit and aim to get into it by a certain date. Take up a new activity. Re-focus on your original goals and visualise yourself achieving them.

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015

The previous chapters of Size Matters can be found here.

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.

Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter Seven- Part One – Calories in, Fat in, Exercise it out.

41mynoqwwnl-_uy250_3Chapter seven of Size Matters is quite long so have split into two with the second part on Wednesday.. Faced with losing 150lbs. I knew that I had to form a project plan and then stick to it. I had a great deal more questions than answers 20 years ago and over the years and with more and more nutritional research available it is much easier today to get it right.

  1. Creating Your Own Plan

So now it is your turn. Weigh yourself. I hate bathroom scales with a vengeance. They can sabotage a healthy eating programme as quick as anything. They are not always reliable, if old, the measurements are off and if you do not lose weight one week you can get demoralised and give up. I suggest that you find a chemist or other outlet that has accurate scales and visit every two weeks – same day and time if you can – on the way to work perhaps. I try to find one that does not shout the results across the shop floor! Some of these also have a blood pressure cuff so another measurement to check on a regular basis. Do still have your BP taken officially along with your LDL cholesterol levels and Blood Sugar with your doctor or the pharmacy after 6–8 weeks.

To be honest, I find using a different method to measure progress can be more motivating. One is to take a photograph, full length of you today and stick it somewhere you see it every day. In 6 weeks’ time having been following your new regimen of natural unprocessed foods and got into an increased activity programme, take another and compare them.

Another option is to find an item of clothing that is a size too small and every week on the same day, try it on. Keep going until you fit into it. A note here, unfortunately, we women lose weight from the top down usually. One of the reasons being is that we have different hips and thighs to men. We bear children and the fat in those regions would be used to nourish the baby when we are pregnant. So perhaps an idea would be to find a top of some kind or jacket to compare sizing for the first few weeks.

Determine your frame size and decide what weight you need to be by using the BMR calculator and the addition of normal activity and exercise per day. Remember: It is not healthy to lose masses of body weight too quickly. You can start to lose muscle instead of fat and that is not good in the long term. Having said that, if you are steadily increasing your activity level, you can sustain a healthy loss of 2–3 lbs. (1–1.5 kg) a week, because you are building muscle as you lose the fat.

Most one-dimensional diets work on the assumption that you walk three times a week for 20 minutes. This is hardly enough time to get out of breath! If you are walking for an hour every day, you will be achieving seven times that amount of exercise and will soon see the benefit in additional weight loss and toning. The weight loss will always be quicker at first, but, if you average it out over a 20–week period, it usually works out to 2.5 lbs. (1 kg) per week. You do not need to do the entire hour at once. Intensive and brisk walking for 20 minutes, three times a day can actually be more effective. Also, you are more likely to sustain the level of exercise in smaller segments. For me, I find that if I listen to rock music it keeps me at a good pace although does solicit some odd looks from passers-by.

As always, especially if you are very overweight, you should not launch into an aggressive exercise program without first talking to your medical adviser.

Without the use of technical equipment, and complex calculations, it is generally difficult to calculate an individual’s calorific usage during an hour of exercise. To keep it simple, I have listed only a few exercises and divided them into two main groups: Moderate and Heavy (see Chapter seventeen for the types of exercise and activity that will benefit you most).

Moderate exercise:

Walking, cycling and swimming. These use approximately 300 calories an hour. You should then add 10 calories for every 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) you are overweight.

Heavy exercise:

Aerobics, mountain biking, running, and football. These use approximately 500 calories an hour. Here you need to add 20 calories for every 14 lbs. (6.5 kg) you are overweight.

Basic Summary:

  • Weigh yourself.
  • Determine your frame size.
  • Decide on your ideal weight.
  • Calculate the weight loss required to achieve this weight.
  • Determine the amount of calories you need each day to provide basic nutrition – BMR – then add in basic daily activity and exercise.
  • Without going below your BMR – around the 1500 calories for a woman and 1800 for a man – design your healthy eating programme to provide a 500 to 750 calorie deficit per day to achieve 1–2 lbs. weight loss per week.

You will find more details on how to work out how much you should weigh in the previous chapter.

This is not exercise.. except for the bull who was never the same again!

This is not exercise.. except for the bull who was never the same again!

It is worth noting that some weeks you may lose less than in others. As you increase your activity level, you will be toning up and this will create more muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat and so you may find that you have lost inches instead of pounds. However, in my experience, it usually seems to average out to about 2–2.5 lbs. (0.9–1.1 kg) per week. Think long term, and do not become too obsessed with the day-to-day loss of weight.

You will find a personal information sheet in the section on ‘Designing your own Program’ where you can record the information you have just calculated. However, before continuing, let’s get a few more questions out of the way.

How much fat should I eat each day?

At this point I think it is important to remember that our bodies have been evolving for a very long time – in a hundred thousand years our DNA will only have altered about ten times – I have said before that the body does not react to sudden changes very well! However, in the last 300 years and particularly the last 150 years since the industrial revolution we have thrown some curved balls at our bodies. Industrially produced foods with manufactured artificial ingredients is just one area where our nutritional needs are not being met – one of the others, which is the real demon in our diet, is refined sugars – addictive – available from birth to grave, within hand’s reach in shops, in our own fridges and store cupboards – and laboratory constructed fats to extend the sell-by-date on ready meals and other industrial foods in our daily diet. No wonder our bodies are in melt-down with increased health issues that lead to Heart disease, Cancers and Dementia. But back to fats …

We must not cut fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight. I use the 80/20 rule with my diet because I have to be watch my weight – 20% of my diet comprises healthy fats – sometimes I will have more because I am out for a meal etc. but basically my everyday diet comprises mainly seasonal vegetables and fruit, whole grain rice, fish, chicken, red meat once a week, eggs, moderate dairy. No one person’s diet is the same and you have to find the perfect balance for you and this includes your fat intake – as long as it is not harmful fats.

Briefly, a quick look at the fats you are likely to encounter in your daily diet:

  • One fat to avoid all together is not naturally occurring at all and that is manufactured ‘Trans Fats” Liquid oil is hydrogenated to extend its shelf life but in the process Trans fatty acids are formed – found in most processed foods including margarines and snacks such as microwave popcorn etc.
  • The other fat type, which in large quantities is not helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels, is saturated fat – if there is too much in your diet it will raise your total Cholesterol as well as the unhealthy LDL. Mainly found in animal products but also some seafood. However, provided you are not eating the rich fat around a steak or roast every day, or eating a block of cheese three times a week, or a pound of butter on your spuds, you can enjoy what is very tasty component of your diet in moderation.
  • The fats classified as healthy fats are Monounsaturated fats – which lower total cholesterol and at the same time lower LDL and increase HDL – this is contained in nuts, like walnuts and olive oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and these are found in salmon, soya, sunflower oils etc and have a very important component Omega-3 fatty acids. These can not only reduce your LDL and support HDL but are also very helpful in reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Even with people who have already suffered a heart attack including Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet reduces their risk of a fatal attack.
  • I love fish and living in Spain we are blessed with an abundance and variety so it is very easy to include oily fish at least three times a week. Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.

Cholesterol is a natural occuring substance in the body which means that it needs to be there and is essential for health. One of the types of cholesterol has smaller particles and can become unhealthy when it is oxidised, usually because we have too much toxic sugars and industrially inserted additives in our diet.  For more information and how to reduce the LDL levels… here is the link


At this point a word about cooking your healthy meals – Olive oil is great and recent research has indicated that you can use at a higher temperature to cook your steak or fish. For cooking you can use the unrefined olive oil which is cheaper, but if you are drizzling over vegetables and salad I recommend Extra Virgin Olive oil so that it has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions! Cook smart and steam bake your food – if you are eating steak put in the oven in a pan with a grid so that the excess fat drains off – if you fancy a little butter on your vegetables, why not – great taste.

A little more info on Olive Oil – great stuff – potent mix of anti-oxidants that can lower the LDL but leave the HDL untouched – obviously if you are overweight it does have a high fat and calorie count but much better to use the Extra Virgin version and get the health benefits than use the diet alternatives.

The greatest gift you can give your body and its cholesterol is to avoid eating manufactured store bought cakes, biscuits, crackers some cheap breads, pasta dishes etc. If you make your own from scratch using butter and eat occasionally you will get a better tasting and healthier alternative.

To summarise – do not take fats out of your diet – use fresh, natural ingredients in your cooking, use fats and oils in moderation, eat plenty of vegetables, seasonal fruits, whole grains, dairy and eggs.

To view the other six chapters please follow this link

If you have any questions please feel free to email me on – very happy to help in any way that I can.

Please leave a comment or share.. best wishes Sally

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015

Size Matters – serialisation – Chapter Four – Physical Triggers.

Chapter four of my book Size Matters that I began writing 20 years ago and first published in 2001. The journey that I embarked on at 42 years old was very tough at times. I had to recognise my own behaviour and responsibility in achieving this hugely successful weight gain and I also had to relive certain painful times in my life. I did at least get some comfort from the fact that there were some external factors at play that could shoulder some of the blame.

My reason for writing this book was to spread the message about obesity and how you can change your health by adopting a different approach to eating. So I would be grateful if you would share.


Physical Triggers.

Looking for physical significance in the pattern of weight loss and gain in my life has been a complicated process. The first step was to look at all the times when I was overweight and see if there was in fact a physical or emotional trigger for that particular phase.

I have been overweight, in a significant way, at least five times in my life. Up to the age of eleven I seemed to have been tall and well built, but not particularly heavy. As I mentioned earlier, photographs, taken after this time, show that I had gained a considerable amount of weight over a relatively short period. I was looking for a physical trigger for this change, apart from the upheaval caused by moving to another country and another school?

To answer this, I have to fast-forward to when I was forty five and living in Ireland. I had worked really hard and managed to get my weight down to about 210 lbs. (15 st, 95 kg), but from that point on I seemed to hit a brick wall. I was walking for a couple of hours a day, I ate sensibly on a low-fat, moderate carbohydrate regime, but I could not seem to shed any more weight. Despite this, I was experiencing some disturbing symptoms that worried me sufficiently that I had blood test done to see if that would uncover the source of my problem. I was feeling very tired and I had watery and itchy eyes, my ears constantly felt irritated and I was having mild dizzy spells. I had also developed an overwhelming urge for sweet food and bread. Having spent three years learning to control the urge for chocolate and sweets, it was frustrating and a little frightening to be in this position. At that time, a new range of biscuits and cakes came on the market which were low in fat. I had being eating these for several weeks and it was not unusual for me to eat a packet a day. My weight started to creep up again and I became increasingly concerned that all my hard work was going to be for nothing.

The blood test showed that I was not suffering from diabetes. However, I still needed to find some answers. David got on the Internet and searched for some of the symptoms that I was experiencing. We got back some very interesting information, some of which could have been relevant to the problem. However, it was the data that we obtained on something called Candida Albicans that set alarm bells ringing. Later in the book there is more information on Candida, and a questionnaire that everyone who is overweight should complete.

Candida is a fungal infection of the intestine. There is a delicate balance of bacteria in our gut and it works very much like a waste-disposal unit. However, certain conditions can activate changes in the balance between healthy flora and this opportunistic fungus, and this can result in Candida taking control of the intestine. Candida is a yeast that thrives on sugar. Among the many symptoms of this condition is an irrational craving for sweet foods and bread, which of course contains both yeast and sugar.

The list of symptoms attributable to Candida seemed endless, but when I completed the questionnaire, my score was so high that there was no doubt at all that I was indeed suffering from an overgrowth in its most chronic form. While it was an enormous relief to have identified what had been causing my problems, it was devastating to realise that Candida had been a part of my life since childhood and was likely to be one of the main reasons for my weight problems.

You will not be surprised to learn that one of the prime causes for this condition is the use of antibiotics, and also some other medication prescribed for conditions such as asthma. Once I realised this, I put together a chart showing the periods in my life when I had experienced weight gain. Bingo! In every instance the weight gain followed heavy doses of antibiotics prescribed for a variety of reasons. In one way this discovery was reassuring. Overweight people often look for a physical problem to blame for their condition, such as their glands, so it was a revelation to learn that there might indeed be a physical reason for my excessive weight gain.

Tracking back through my history, I saw that until I reached the age of ten, I did not have a weight problem. When we lived in Cape Town I suddenly developed chronic tonsillitis and was sick every few weeks, until I had my tonsils removed. Each bout of tonsillitis was treated with antibiotics and, within a few months, I had gained 30 or 40 lbs. (14 to 18 kg). The photographs taken of me leaving Cape Town, and on the ship coming home, have always been a source of embarrassment to me, including the one of me in a bright yellow dress and red shoes which made me look like a little barrage balloon!

The weight slowly dropped away from me over the next few years. Photographs show me as chubby until I was about sixteen, when there was a marked change. Remember that it was the 1960s and we had some pretty skinny role models then, such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. The mini-skirt was the ultimate fashion item of the day and podgy thighs looked horrendous in them.

I started skipping meals and hiding the fact from my parents. They naturally assumed that the money they gave me for my school lunch was being spent on just that, and not on cigarettes! My weekend and holiday job was working in a seaside café, where lunch was provided. This was always fish or sausage and chips, and I must admit to sampling the whipped ice cream from time to time – like every day! But hey! Someone has to carry out the quality checks!

The food we had at home was always filling and my father was partial to steamed duffs, as he called them. Made with suet and filled with either steak and kidney or treacle. Because it was assumed that we had school lunches, my brother and I would just have a tea during the week, but at the weekend it would be my father’s specialities.

My next phase of serious weight problems followed my miscarriage at age twenty one. This occurred quite late in the pregnancy and was very badly handled. In those days there was no counselling of any kind, which certainly did not help my emotional state. Once again though, it was the large doses of antibiotics which played havoc with my system. In the six months following the miscarriage I was on a self-prescribed course of chocolate and alcohol which did not help my weight in any way.

Between the ages of twenty one and twenty five, I gained and lost 30 to 50 lbs. (14 to 23 kg) continuously. My day revolved around shopping, cooking and eating. Nutrition was never a consideration. However, when I did decide to lose a bit of weight I would embark on the only diet that I believed worked. That was the one where you put no food in your mouth at all. A couple of glasses of wine and the hunger pangs went away. Not a healthy time from both a physical or emotional perspective. By the time my marriage broke up, I weighed about 200 lbs. (14 st 4 lbs., 91 kg).

Money was very tight over the next few years and, thankfully, certain food and drink items were no longer necessary, or indeed affordable, as an anaesthetic. I worked and lived in Sussex and in Wales, and meals were provided with my job. Hard work, eating very little, and smoking to stave off the hunger pangs, contributed to a substantial weight loss over the next three years.

sally wedding day 1980

I met David when I was twenty seven. I was at my lowest weight ever and thought I looked the bee’s knees. Unfortunately, as I realise now, I was not terribly fit. I repeatedly suffered from chest infections and thrush (Candida), and was put on several courses of antibiotics. I always had the feeling that I was just about to come down with an illness: colds, coughs, and any infection that was about. I now realise that for the two years before I met David, I was anorexic. Eating little more than 750 calories per day – and using rituals and very strict rules about any food that I did consume.

We married in November 1980. My eating habits improved and my exercise level increased, because I began helping out on the sheep farm where we were living. After about six months we moved to Liverpool and I started work in the city centre. We were saving for a house and working hard. There were little treats, however, which began to take their toll. Sunday morning breakfast in bed, for instance. Two rounds of bacon, tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches and a family packet of those tasty chocolates with the less fattening centres – that was just my portion!

After about a year I developed an abscess under a tooth. This was not unusual for me, because I had suffered several in the past, but on this occasion it nearly cost me my life. Since we were fairly broke, I attended the Liverpool Dental Hospital and was treated by senior students that ‘needed the practice’, which is not to imply that they were in any way at fault. However, as is normal practice, I was prescribed antibiotics. Eventually, after several weeks of root-canal treatment and medication, the dental students were not able to save the tooth and so had to extract it. The infection was so bad that I was given an injection of penicillin. We flew to Ireland that weekend for my brother-in-law’s wedding and I became ill and was rushed into hospital in Cork. We now know that not only had the infection spread throughout my entire system but I had developed a blood clot after the tooth extraction that had spread to my lung. So it was blood thinner and more antibiotics!

After this episode, my weight ballooned to over 220 lbs. (15 st 10 lbs., 100 kg) and I didn’t manage to lose any weight until we were living in Texas in 1986. We lived in the United States for two amazing years. While there, I led a healthy, active life, with a diet which consisted of lots of fish, salads and vegetables, and I was not sick once. By the time we returned to England in 1987, I weighed about 180 lbs. (12 st 12 lbs., 82 kg), which was not hugely overweight, given my height. Encouraged by the fact that 40 lbs. (18 kg) had stayed off for about two years, I decided to lose another 30 lbs. (14 kg) and really get my life in gear.

A new diet of 600 calories per day was in fashion in 1987: a diet bar for breakfast and lunch and then vegetables in the evening. The promoters promised a weight loss of 30 lbs. (14 kg) per month and I achieved that very easily. I was hungry but triumphant at less than 155 lbs. (11 st, 70 kg). Unfortunately, within two months 40 lbs. (18 kg) had leapt back on to me from ‘nowhere’. My diet was good: three meals a day, no fried food, chocolate or alcohol. A normal, everyday eating program. So how did the weight gain occur?

When I was tracking all this at the age of forty five, I was simply writing down the sequence of events. Clearly, the use of antibiotics was a primary cause, but this was not the only factor. It was also obvious that I had been suffering from Candida from the age of eleven. What was also becoming clear was that after each crash diet I would put on more weight than before and another pattern was emerging.

By the time I had completed this particular jigsaw puzzle and done some more research on dieting, I discovered that in fact I had compounded the original weight problem by starving my body into protecting me. Every time I starved myself, my body, in its overwhelming desire to survive, stopped processing food and stored it instead.

When our body perceives there to be a food shortage, it will take matters into its own hands. It is now a medically proven fact that such a condition exists; you will find details of the research into this condition on the Internet and in professional fitness publications. It is often called ‘Starvation Response’, or ‘Famine Response Syndrome’. These terms do not however adequately describe the condition for me. The body appears to detect both calorie restrictions and nutritional deficiency. A person could be taking in 3,000 calories per day, but if the food is very high in fats and sugars and has little nutritional value, the body will consider this to be a form of starvation. I have therefore changed the name of this response by the body to ‘Nutritional Deficiency Syndrome’. This is a condition that goes back to our very origins. It is more prevalent in women, because we were always the child-bearers and had to be able to nourish the unborn child. The female body’s response to famine was to store fat on the hips and thighs. This is the source from which the foetus would have taken its nourishment. I had underestimated the power of my own body to protect me, despite myself. The expression ‘between a rock and a hard place’ springs to mind. I had been in a no-win situation for years.

So now I had acquired two important pieces of information. Not only did I have chronic Candida, but I was also suffering from ‘Nutritional Deficiency Syndrome’.

That, however, had been the easy bit. The physical sources of my problem were not too difficult to uncover, with some dedicated detective work. Next a rather more painful exercise: a close look at my emotional track record.

You can find the introduction and the first three chapters of my book here.

©sallygeorginacronin 2001 – 2015

If you would like to know about Candida and more about the sugars that severely damaged my health then you can find more information here.

Please feel free to share this post and comment.  thank you Sally

Size Matters – Serialisation – Chapter Three – A Life of Change

Part three of Size Matters identifies that part of my obesity issue was the pattern of constant change.  Countries, schools, friends, homes and relationships. Externally the stress was not visible but internally I needed comfort in the form of food.  As I began to work with others who also struggled with their weight, it became clear, that they too often had change as an important element of their younger lives.


Chapter Three – A Life of Change.

I was the youngest daughter of a naval officer. The travel log for the first twelve years of my life was: England, Ceylon, England, Malta, England, South Africa, England. We actually made seven moves, with seven new schools and seven new sets of friends. During this formative twelve-year period, my father was away for a number of years with the Royal Navy, and his presence, or lack of it, is evident in a little story that happened when I was five.

Scan7a - Sally

We moved to Ceylon when I was eighteen months old, but I do remember when we returned to England, at the age of three, to my mother’s old home in a small village. We moved again, within a short period, to the naval city of Portsmouth. Then my father was sent to Cyprus, and I really did not get a chance know him very well. When I was five he came home on leave and I screamed the house down when I found this strange man in bed with my mummy! He had lost a lot of hair by then and had put on some weight, no longer bearing much resemblance to the skinny blond man in the picture my mother kept by her bedside.

sally wedding day 1980

In the frequent absences of my father, my sisters, who were ten and eleven years older than me, took me under their wing and played a large part in my upbringing. On reflection, while travel to foreign places was exciting, there was an element of insecurity which may have steered me towards seeking comfort in food, as I looked for something constant and unchanging to cling to.

When I was very young, I obviously realised that there were certain behaviours you could adopt, when placed in an unfamiliar environment, which helped make you less noticeable. One of my neatest tricks was to adopt the local accent of every place we were stationed. Within weeks of moving to Cape Town, in South Africa, I was attending an Afrikaans school. At school I adopted a very strong Afrikaans accent and you would never have detected that I had not been brought up locally. Then, as soon as we moved back to Preston in Northern England, I changed my accent again so that I could have easily passed as a native-born Lancastrian.

With all the moves and school changes, my education had suffered. Each school or country had a different curriculum, and coming back to England at thirteen it was hard to try and catch up in the subjects I was due to take for ‘O level’. I was seriously behind in Mathematics, French, History and English. In fact, I hated writing prose – mainly because I was unfamiliar with many of the rules of grammar. So, to avoid the need for commas and colons, I wrote all my essays and homework in poetic verse, an unusual feat that my teachers actually let me get away with. I am sure that they would be hugely surprised to find out that I have been writing prose for a living for some time now.

Weight was already beginning to be a problem even at that time in my life. And in our last year in Cape Town I managed to put on 42 lbs (3 st, 19 kg) in weight. This is a big change for a child and, in the next chapter, I will cover what I believe to be the significant root causes for this gain.

Physical education following my weight gain was something I really hated at school, especially the communal showers we were forced to take afterwards. This was mainly because it was my first experience of being teased about my size.

Teenage girls can be pretty nasty when they put their minds to it, and if you have ever been at the receiving end of this kind of ‘teasing’ you will know how it makes you feel. So, in self-defence, I became the only girl in the school to have periods for three weeks out of four, and PE classes became much less of a problem. For those occasions where I still had to attend I ‘developed’ athlete’s foot so that I wouldn’t have to go into the showers. Basically, I was learning to use my imagination to manipulate my way out of situations that I could not handle.

By the time we returned to England, I was thirteen years old and when we got to Lancashire I was attending my fifth school to date. I worked hard, trying to catch up with the rest of my classmates in all the major subjects. But, the Navy being what it is, my father was transferred again. This time we moved back to the south of England, back to our house in Portsmouth, where I attended my sixth and final school and stayed there to take my ‘O level’ exams.

I actually slimmed down over the next four years. A normal active teenager, I started smoking at the age of fifteen and avoided school dinners to pay for my cigarettes. Luckily, the threat of teenage acne persuaded me to abandon sweets. Socially it was a busy time, with youth clubs and discos. Boys came into the equation rather than chocolate and, at sixteen, I was far too busy enjoying myself to spend time eating. This period of starving myself was to have a bearing on my weight gain in later years and I will explore this discovery in the next chapter.

As you can see, change was a constant part of my childhood. Moving to different countries introduced me to interesting and different cultures, but my education suffered as a result of changing schools so frequently. However, at heart we are all survivors, and when confronted with strange places, people and behaviour, we will adapt in any way we can. In my case, I changed my accent and dived into the chocolate!

Don’t think that I am trying to blame my childhood for my weight – even children have choices. But, apart from giving up sweets as a teenager, I did not exhibit much willpower where food was concerned. I couldn’t say no to anything that tasted the slightest bit sweet. To keep this in perspective, we have to remember that when we are children, and even when we are adults, we don’t always link our eating to our weight gain. We may understand intellectually but we do not understand emotionally. We do not truly accept that just one little bar of chocolate can do much damage. There is no immediate, obvious, weight gain and we don’t become emotionally committed to the belief that changing what we eat can really change our weight. Change needs strong emotional commitment. This lack of emotional commitment to losing weight was one of the missing elements all through my life until I decided to lose all the extra weight at forty-two years of age.

A quick review of the years since my late teens revealed a definite pattern. I was married far too young, at twenty. My husband and I were mismatched and the marriage ended in divorce five years later. During those years we managed to move seven times. Despite the problems within my marriage the joint decision we made to end our relationship was not taken lightly. Following a miscarriage early in our marriage we had no children, and, with or without children, it was a difficult time. Remember too that in the mid-seventies divorce was not as widely accepted as it is today. Again, the pattern was one of constant change with the added element of extreme emotional stress. This reinforced my need to establish familiar, comfortable territory, and food would never let me down.

Over the next three years I moved twice. Money was not plentiful and, stupidly, I spent more on smoking than on putting food into my mouth. Since meeting my second husband we have moved thirteen times in thirty-five years. In fact, because we have had temporary homes when we have worked in separate cities, we have actually had something like sixteen or seventeen addresses since 1980. Luckily, my marriage also brought me emotional stability that enabled me to at least change environments within a loving relationship. Not quite as scary as it might have been.

In my search for answers, I soon came to the realisation that change has been a major factor in my life from early childhood. I adapted to that change externally by acting the fool, changing my accent and trying to please people so that they accepted me. Overeating was my way of coping with the changes. When I was unhappy, I would buy a bar of chocolate. As a teenager, smoking became the sugar substitute and I lost weight. Under some circumstances, being heavy also probably gave me a sense of security and confidence. Nobody was going to bully me.

As an adult, I have also been faced with a great deal of change. However, when I look objectively at each of those changes, I can see that half of them were probably unnecessary. Change for change’s sake. But why? Now, I think that not only was it ingrained in me to expect change, but also each instance of change offered me the opportunity to become a different person. I could start afresh, in a place where nobody knew me, and then leave again before they saw behind the wall that I had built around me.

Talking to friends who have known me for some time has revealed that nearly all of them felt that it took a long time to get to know me, and that they never really knew where they stood with me. They felt I was aloof and secretive. What they did not realise and I have only just come to understand is that I spent most of my life feeling afraid. To the outside world I was a capable, adaptable girl and woman who made things look easy, whereas in fact I was just a very accomplished actress.

Happily, things are different now. I am slimmer, confident and open with people. I have helped many other people to discover how to lose weight. I find that opening up to them about my own experiences is vitally important, not only to show that I understand the way they feel about themselves, but also so that they realise that being reticent is a natural way of protecting ourselves.

Luckily, I have always had the support of my husband and my family. When I began the process of losing weight twenty years ago, David suggested that we both enrol together on some self-motivation courses. He felt that it would help support the process of losing weight by adding some extra ‘equipment’ to my tool-kit for making such a major change.


We both also believe that a shared experience is generally much more fun, more memorable, and longer lasting than one where we are alone. For me, it also meant that I would have some company on the long, hard, cold road that I would have to travel in order to lose 154 lbs (11 st, 70 kg). Apart from the fun we had together doing these courses, we also discovered new aspects to our relationship and hidden strengths that have certainly helped me overcome major obstacles along the way.

We moved to Ireland in 1998 and bought a house north of Dublin in County Meath. We were very close to Bettystown beach which provided a wonderful opportunity for long walks with our newly acquired family member. Sam, a ‘Lassie’ collie, whom I first met when he was only three weeks old.


During my first marriage, through circumstances that were beyond my control, I had to give up two collies. One female was eighteen months old and had been my support through some very hard times. The second was a male whom I had to leave behind when he was only eighteen months old, because of my divorce. My heart was broken both times. David and I had waited eighteen years until I could be sure that I could devote the time and effort needed to give a home to another dog. Sam was my companion, my fitness trainer and my great friend for ten years. There is no shadow of a doubt in my mind that, if he had not introduced me to the joys of sunrise in the dunes, I would not have lost all my weight so easily.

Change never stops, however, and just when I thought we were settled in Ireland, David was offered a wonderful opportunity to move to Madrid. For the first time in my life I turned down change. I was not actively seeking it and I did not embrace it. We had just bought our house, found Sam and I had just bought a new health and dietary centre in our local town. Apart from the financial losses incurred by both of us moving to Spain, it would also have meant that I again would interrupt something that I was involved in passionately to start all over again in another country.

However, there was no way that I wanted to stand in David’s way. He is a brilliant businessman and this job was the pinnacle of a successful career. Our relationship was strong enough to make a compromise.

For three years David and I exchanged visits between Ireland and Spain every few weeks. We also managed to spend holidays together, I loved him and missed him dreadfully, I hated coming home from our house in Spain and when he returned from a visit to us in Ireland. But this time I was strong enough – with sufficiently security to know that our relationship would not suffer because we were not together all the time.

In fact, by leading two lives we found stimulation and challenges that have strengthened our feelings for each other.

Following my nutritional studies I ran the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre in Ireland for four years. During that period and then in the UK, I worked with over a thousand clients with obesity and other dietary related problems including fertility. This close involvement with men and women who needed help to adjust their lifestyles, and to regain their health, benefited me as well, as it taught me that I was not alone in my struggle and put me in the position of role model. There was certainly no opportunity for me to backslide and it reinforced my determination to maintain my weight loss.

This travelling back and forth to Spain actually satisfied my inherent need for change in my life. Eventually we could not stay apart any longer and in 2002 I decided to move permanently to Spain. I worked between Madrid and Marbella, writing for magazine columns and providing weight and health programming for English speaking radio every week. I published my first fiction ‘Just and Odd Job Girl’ and since then six more books.

For five years, I commuted back and forth to the UK for varying periods to stay with my mother in her 90s. During the times I was in Portsmouth I presented radio shows for a local station, worked with clients and continued to write articles and my books. Following her death at home, at age 95, I returned full time to our home in Madrid and as well as my daily blog posts I have published two more books with another two due at the end of 2015.

You have a choice about the past, use it or lose it. The experiences from our childhood and young adulthood have the ability to haunt many for the rest of their lives. Certainly I was privileged to have had a loving home and family with frequent moves the only disruption. I chose to use that experience in my work, both as a therapist and as a writer. I appreciate that not everyone has such happy memories but, even then, sometimes you have to realise that you cannot change the past, only the present and the future.

Now that I accept that, I also accept and adapt to change much better. One thing that I do differently today is to think about the change that is happening, and instead of leaping blindly into the next adventure, I give some thought to where it will place me, and the effect it will have on both my health and my relationships. Of course today – moving countries does not mean changing friends. With email, Skype and social media no-one gets left behind!

The previous chapters of Size Matters are here.

Find out more about me.

All my books are available on Amazon Author pages

UK : Amazon-

Connect to me on social media

Size Matters Serialisation – Chapter Two – A Good Place to Start.

Here is chapter two of my journey from being morbidly obese at 330lbs to a healthier weight. I want to make clear that I am not some perfect role model for weight loss.  I can fall off the wagon as quick as a flash given the opportunity and for me it is a lifetime’s challenge to stay within a healthy weight range. Now I am in my 60s it is tempting to slack off but sharing this with you also helps me.  By remembering where I was and reminding me how much I hated being that weight.


A Good Place to Start

The majority of the diets that I attempted in my adult life were one-dimensional. By this I mean that the diet generally gave the dieter a list of foods to eat and the ‘right’ amount of calories, regardless of age, sex or level of activity. Little effort was spent in analysing the reasons for the obesity.

Having been repeatedly unsuccessful in my previous attempts at dieting, it was obvious that I needed a new approach, to ensure that this would be the last time I would put my body – and mind – through such intense stress.

So, I decided to approach the weight loss from a completely different perspective and from as many angles as possible. This new concept meant looking at the mental, physical and emotional reasons for the weight gain in the first place: a three-dimensional approach.

Obesity is the symptom, but the root causes are not generally immediately apparent. In fact, there are a number of different factors which play a part.

Picture this.

It is 11.30 p.m. at night. I am pacing the floor of our lounge, car keys clenched in my fist. Since 6 p.m. I have eaten a large dish of spaghetti, three chocolate bars, a tub of rich ice cream and the re-heated remains of a take-away from the night before. There is nothing left in the refrigerator or cupboards. I am desperate for something more to eat – something sweet.

The garage down the road closes at midnight. If I can just hang on another ten minutes, it will be too late to get there before it shuts. Part of me is fighting to go, throw a coat over my pyjamas and take my last opportunity to get some chocolate before the morning. Another part of me is fighting to stay, to keep away from the very thing that is causing me so much misery – the misery of being this gross person that I felt I had become. How on earth had I come to this point in my life? How on earth was I going to learn to live through this?

Over the last twenty years I have walked thousands of miles, so there has been plenty of time for reflection. When I began keeping a journal, it was to record my personal journey of discovery and enlightenment. Some of the events and feelings that I am sharing with you are very personal, the kind we do not usually reveal to strangers. The reason for this openness is to illustrate that there is usually a lifetime of accumulated baggage that makes up the person we are today. Good times and bad times are recorded and stored and replayed time and again, a bit like a stuck record. In the process, we can get caught up in a ‘poor me’ state of mind, where we blame our past and those who inhabit it, for our present.

Without being too analytical, I have tried to identify some of the factors that may have contributed to my attitude to eating and my attitude to my body. I very soon came to the realisation that I was carrying too many layers, in more ways than one!

I am going to ask you to travel with me for the next few pages and then complete your own journey. You need to establish where and when you might have unconsciously turned to food as an answer to your problems. Maybe you even developed a physical reason for your weight gain.

When you are looking for answers remember that you have to look inside yourself. You are the only person who knows what has really happened in your life. ‘Know thyself’ is a fundamental idea that has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks, and it important to remember this as you make your journey. Another famous saying is ‘You are what you eat’. Keep these two ideas in mind and they can help you to get to the root of the problem.

You will find a chart, in the actual programme (Annex 4 – Fat Accumulation Table), that will help you to ‘know thy food’ in a different way. It will help you to appreciate the cumulative effect of eating certain foods on a regular basis. The results show the long-term weight gain you would achieve by habitually eating some well-known foods. I like the cumulative approach because I feel that it really reflects how life works to help us to gain weight a little at a time, so you don’t really see it happening.

Everyday events, concerns, stress and worries also accumulate over time. Much like a snowball rolling down a hillside, we collect ‘layers’ which slow us down until we come to a stop at the bottom, pretty to look at, maybe, but it is impossible to tell what debris has been collected, along with the fresh layers of snow, during the journey.

Of course, not every layer that you add will be harmful. In my life I have accumulated many delightful memories of events and people. Humour has always been a great saving grace, especially during the hard times. On my journey, I discovered that what I really needed to learn about was the ‘dark side’. The side we very rarely show to other people, the side that governs many of our emotions – and the actions we take when we are in certain emotional states. Some people live in a world of balance. Others tend to live at the extremes of their abilities and senses. Extremes are important to an addict, and an addict is what I had become. I had developed an addiction to food, particularly to sugars, that was extreme compared to any normal consumption. Later, I will come back, in much more detail to the vital impact of sugars and how they can affect us and the way that we develop our eating habits.

The theories that I first developed all those years ago have become firm beliefs and in some cases confirmed by scientific research.

The next chapters look at the many mental and physical changes I experienced from an early age. It was only when I began writing about my life that I realised just how much I had forgotten, or put to the back of my mind. This gave me the opportunity to revisit some good times (and some confusing times as well) from the past that have shaped the person I have become today.

This is a record of my journey back to my past from a mental, physical and emotional point of view. It is a journey not lightly undertaken. When you make this journey yourself remember that it is important to try to be objective in order to learn how best to help yourself in the present. Many people have had traumatic experiences in their lives that may be hard to recall, so don’t hesitate to seek help from a counsellor, for guidance through this process of exploration, if you feel at all nervous about the process.

I see myself as an intelligent, imaginative person, with a sense of humour, keen to try new experiences. Using these assets, I have tried to look back over the years in order to identify the patterns that might have led to the sort of compulsive eating that had engulfed me.

The first place I chose to start, logically, was my childhood.

fat accumulation table

In a post recently I featured the Fat Accumulation Table and here it is again for those of you who might have missed it. Most of us have little rituals associated with some of the food that we eat. And we will often attach one or two foods together. For example Tea and two biscuits. Coffee and a Danish. When I smoked I could not drink a cup of tea without having a cigarette at the same time. Once you have developed that ritual it is very difficult to break. However, when you next time say to people ‘If only I could lose that last 10lbs!’ Take a look at your rituals and it may well be that having two biscuits with your cup of tea instead of just one might make all the difference.

Next time Chapter Three and some of the triggers from my childhood that encouraged me to turn to food as a coping mechanism.

Here is the Introduction and Chapter One.

Please feel free to share with anyone who might find my story useful to their own struggle with weight.