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Changing my Stay at Home Lifestyle: A Case Study

By: Meg Russell - Updated: 26 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Healthy Choices Low Calorie Weight Gain

Just imagine how much energy a young mother uses up looking after young children, doing the school run, shopping, cooking, cleaning and playing. How could anyone leading such a busy lifestyle day in and day out ever gain weight?

That is why a young Edinburgh mother could not understand why her weight was increasing all the time. Fiona is a stay-at-home mother of two who rarely sat down to a proper meal yet was piling on the pounds. "I know I gained weight after the births of both my children", says Fiona, "but I thought with all the running around I was doing that I was sure to get back to my ideal weight. Besides, I felt I was not eating much, mainly snacks on-the-run." That, basically, is where Fiona was getting it wrong.

Getting by on Snacks

"What I failed to realise", Fiona says, "was that I was snacking all day long. I couldn't believe the amount of calories that added up to."

"On a typical day, I would make breakfast for the children, munching on some of their high calorie cereal. When they left for school I would finish up the leftovers and make myself some toast. I was generous with the butter too."

Coffee, Cakes and Calories

Going around the house doing the chores Fiona would be continually nibbling at biscuits. "Coffee with a neighbour usually meant more cake or biscuits. It was worse on days when I met up with friends for coffee and shop-bought cakes."

"I would be snacking all day then possibly having a treat, like ice cream, with the children when I picked them up from school. Later, when I made the children's meal, I would help myself to some to keep me going until I had dinner with my husband. When I took stock of all of this I was shocked at just how out of control my eating had become."

The 'Before' Calorie Count

"The worst part was that I was feeling exhausted and less able to run around after the children. That was when I knew I had to make a real lifestyle change."

Fiona started by working out exactly how many calories a day she was consuming and was shocked to find that on a typical day the total was well over 2,700.

The most important move she had to make was to make better eating choices. "I was genuinely surprised to be told that I could still have snacks. But when you think about it, people on the go all day do need energy top-ups, though now I choose healthy, low calorie snacks. I don't go around feeling hungry and I don't feel I am depriving myself at all'.

The 'After' Solution

By making some simple changes, Fiona has managed to almost halve her number of calories.

  • By switching to a nutritious whole grain cereal for breakfast, Fiona swapped 300 calories for only 80.
  • Her morning snack is likely to be fruit, like a 100 calorie banana, in place of a 260 calories slice of cake.
  • Before lunch she might have a healthy, sweet snack like slices of fresh pineapple, costing 40 calories.
  • Sitting down to a proper lunch of a light salad, with a low-fat dressing, means she can have some cake if she feels like it and still keep within her calorie count.
  • A small portion of the children’s meal in the early evening - say half a cup of macaroni cheese - keeps her energy levels up for only 200 calories.
  • Dinner with her husband is much as it was, but with a few stealthy changes to the balance of the meal. For example, a quarter chicken, a cup of rice and half a cup of vegetables works out at 520 calories. Switching to a cup of vegetables and half a cup of rice brings the meal down to 440 calories. Increasing the vegetables, and decreasing the simple carbohydrate rice, is a healthier choice.

Small Change - Big Impact

Simple changes like these brought a typical calorie count for Fiona down to just over 1400, allowing her to lose weight, since she was burning up much more energy than she was consuming. When she has reached her ideal weight again Fiona will maintain it by keeping her calorie count in line with the energy she is using up.

"I can't believe how much more energy I have", Fiona says, "I buy more nutritious, healthier foods and I feel that the changes I have made are benefiting the whole family. I don't feel at all guilty if want to have the occasional high calorie treat, because I know that I am in charge of my eating habits and not the other way around."

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