The Amazing Adventures of Diane Carbonell

Diane Carbonell

Diane Carbonell

Fourteen years ago Diane Carbonell lost 150 pounds and she's kept it off ever since.

That's a sentence that intrigues my pants off, as someone bamboozled by the keeping it off part! Diane's story at Fit To The Finish fascinates me being such a large weight loss sustained over a very long time… and she seems to be so serene about it, all with seven children, no less!

When I learned she had a book coming out I asked if she'd minding sending a review copy, and she kindly agreed. 150 Pounds Gone Forever is more an instructional book than memoir. Normally I'm more interested in the Why rather than the How, loving when an author spills their guts all over the page in juicy detail. But since this topic (mega maintenance!) is personally interesting, and I'm now down with my Whys and have moved on to the new Hows, I appreciated her straightforward and practical approach.

I was teary at times reading Diane's story, as her success made me see all over again where and why I faltered. She really did have that essential "this is not a diet, it's a plan for life" mindshift. She figured out a common sense and mindful way of living that suited her. She was not distracted by trends or what others were doing or thinking, she just quietly, consistently followed her plan. And she kept it simple and sustainable. For example, on Day One of her plan she decided walking was the exercise she could do for the rest of her life, and decided she would move every single day. So she did, and she still does. 

I felt a real calmness after reading the book. Diane reminded me that you don't have to get crazy or complicated, you just need to be consistent.

I asked Diane a few questions about her book…

Continue reading

The Amazing Adventures of Bobbie Williams

This interview came about in a most mortifying way. Remember last year I wrote about a Spinverals spinning DVD called Sweating Buckets and I described all the sweaty cyclists in it? I dubbed one woman "Granny", because "Coach Troy mentions she's a grandmother of 6. Overachiever!".

I got an email a few days later:

Hi Shauna, I am the 'granny' in the Sweating Buckets DVD.


"Granny" is known to the wider world as Bobbie Williams. Sweating Buckets was filmed in 2001, and Bobbie is now 72 years old, living in Texas and kicking all sorts of butt. In her 28 year triathlon career she's completed 7 full ironman triathlons, 18 half ironman races and countless sprint and Olympic triathlons. You can imagine my delirium when Bobbie was not only cool about the whole "Granny" thing, she was also up for an interview about her truly Amazing Adventures…


1. Let's start with the basics… name/age/location? 🙂

I am Bobbie Williams, age 72, until July, and I live in Nassau Bay, Texas (just South of Houston, near Galveston Bay).

2. You write on your blog, I've been a triathlete for 27 years. I started when there were no coaches, no magazines with training articles, no clipless pedals, no aerobars and very few rules. What prompted you to take up triathlon? How did you get started?

Well, it's been 28 years now. I was swimming in the local high school pool one night (we had a group of fitness swimmers and that was the only place we could find to swim in the Winter) one night in early Spring before the outdoor pools were open. A fellow swimmer asked me if I was going to do the triathlon. I asked, "What is a triathlon?".

He explained it was this swim, bike, run competition thing. So I asked when it was going to be held.  He said in about a month. I said, "I don't think so". It was being held at the Texas A&M campus in April. I didn't think I could be in shape for it that soon. It was an Olympic distance race with the bike and run reversed. I swam regularly, ran for weight control and rode my bike recreationally. Nothing that you could call training, so didn't feel ready mentally.

But the following year, I did enter it and it was my very first triathlon. I got a 4th place trophy which I still have and I was hooked. I had no idea the difficulty doing all three disciplines back to back and almost could not get off my bike at the finish.

3. Have you always been an active person? What other activities have you tried over the years?

I've always been an 'outdoors' sort of person. As a kid I played outdoors, ran, rode my bike, climbed trees. I also liked to ice skate and roller skate. I did all the things the kids did, jumped rope, played various ball games. All just play…

4. What is your strongest event in the triathlon? Your least favourite of the three?

My strongest event in the triathlon is probably the bike but that is because Coach Troy is my coach. I was a swimmer first and I still love to swim the most. But because of Troy's coaching I have become a better cyclist. I am a terrible runner! So obviously the run is my least favorite.

5. Tell me how you decided to step up to the mighty Iron Man distance. What was the training like? How did you feel when you finished the big race?

I had been doing triathlons for about 16 years, but only locally and just sprint and olympic distances. This sounds really egotistical but I always placed in the top three in the races and it had become sort of routine. I knew I was going to win or at least place high and was getting to the place where I didn't try very hard and I just showed up and finished. Some of my triathlete acquaintances were entering the Half IM so I sort of got the bug to try it too. I had a friend coach me but I got injured in my first Half IM so I hired Coach Troy from a picture I had seen in a magazine. I had actually entered an IM in Florida and told Troy I needed help. He was great. We went to work and I finished my first IM at age 60.

Troy worked my butt off. I was doing 5 hour bike rides, 4000 swims and 18 mile runs. All I did was eat, sleep and train. I talked to him every week. I was just such a novice! But Troy talked and talked to me. We made it to the race in November of that year and I finished 1st in my age group.

I was so pumped up during the race I felt like I could have gone on forever. That was ridiculous because I was exhausted. There were flashbulbs and cameras at the finish line. I never expected so much attention. I definitely got my 15 minutes of fame 🙂

Bobbie in Kona, Hawaii

Bobbie in Kona, Hawaii

6. How many triathlons have you done? Is there any event that stands out as a favourite?

I have done 7 full ironman triathlons and 18 half- ironman (70.3) races. So many sprint and Olympic Tris, I never kept a record. I have finished Hawaii ironman 4 times but I have qualified about 8 times.

All are special in some way. I really liked IM Canada. It was so beautiful. My first Hawaii IM, which was the same year I did Canada, was special. I finished 3rd in my AG with some of the worst winds in the race's history. We had 40 MPH cross winds and 60 MPH headwinds. I somehow managed to stay on my bike and got a 3rd place award.

7. What are the biggest challenges with fitness and getting a little older?

I think the biggest challenges I face now is recovery and fatigue. I get tired easier and it takes me longer to recover from a hard workout or a race.

8. What foods do you like to eat to keep your energy levels strong?

I eat anything and everything. I really stay on a pretty healthy diet because I have been doing it for so long it is just a habit. I don't change my eating at all. I'm not a vegetarian, I drink alcohol and I eat sweets. But probably in moderation. I just don't think about it too much. I'm fortunate in that I like all fruits and vegetables. I eat only whole wheat bread and drink lots of skim milk. But I do have a weight issue. I guess I should think about it more. I gain weight every winter and every spring I have to lose it. It is such a pain!

9. Tell us a little about starring in Coach Troy’s Sweating Buckets DVD. Apparently you really were sweating buckets that day?

Yes it was a hot photoshoot. The filming was in a client's home, a very large beautiful place and the owner had offered the use of her home for a Spinerval shoot. The view you see through the windows is her property. But the A/C that day was not working. It was VERY hot! The man next to me in the red cycling shorts filled his shoes with sweat… gross! All the people in the video were rather average athletes and it was not a particularly difficult workout. Troy asked each person how they/wanted to be identified at The beginning… student, Judge etc. I couldn't think of anything since I didn't work. I just said I was a grandmother of 7. Troy said,"I like that". Troy is very family oriented and has a great respect for mothers and seniors. He always said I had a lot of experience even though I was never a great athlete. He said I KNEW a lot 🙂

10. Do you have any fellow triathletes that you admire?

My favorite Triathlete is Chrissy Wellington. I love her CLASS.  She is not just an outstanding athlete , she is a classy person. I like that she is educated and can give a speech like an intelligent person. Her concern for the less fortunate in the world is admirable. As you know, she is from Great Britain.

Also, and by no means least, is Coach Troy. Troy is a wonderful person. He is kind, loving and giving. He puts his family first. He is a devoted father. At the same time he works extremely hard and manages to keep himself in top physical condition because of years of consistent training. He is an amazing person. He has worked very hard to achieve the success he has. It took a lot of discipline for him, AND he is extremely modest about his accomplishments.

11. What training are you currently doing? Are you planning any races this year?

I am currently training for a sprint tri in Kemah, Texas (that's on Galveston Bay south of Houston) on April 29 and Eagleman 70.3 on June 10th. Next Saturday we are driving to Tucson, AZ to attend Coach Troy's training camp. In September my husband Stan and I are entered in the 5150 National championships in Des Moines, Iowa. I may do another one or two but not sure yet.Hawaii is in the back of my mind 🙂

12. Could you sum up your “Formula” for living a healthy life in ten words or less?

Living a healthy life. Let's see. 10 words or less… I think I learned it as a child… LIKE healthy food and sports and the rest comes naturally. Boy I could say a lot more but you wanted it short 🙂

Thank you so much for your time and generosity Bobbie. You're a superstar!

The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part II

Today we continue my chat with the Amazing Jilanna and she spills the beans on her maintenance tactics. If you missed Part I you can check it out right here!

7. On New Years Day 2012 you ran a 5K race in honour of your late Uncle Brian and made me blub on the Up & Running with the tale of this big day. Can you summarise the story and what it meant to you?


Jilanna with her Uncle Brian, on her wedding day

My Uncle Brian died very suddenly at the end of July 2011. He had been the picture of health, retired from the military but still very active as a trainer and stuntman. One morning, he got up for a cup of tea and that was it.

We eventually learned that his heart was not as healthy as outward appearances had everyone believe, and that his fitness likely extended his life considerably. After the memorial, my sisters and I talked about what we could do to further celebrate his life. I knew it was time to commit to an exercise program and together we decided to run a 5K on January 1. Up & Running was already on my radar so I signed up for the Fall 5K course.

My previous experience with running was limited to merrily chasing my friends around the yard when I was little and loathing physical education classes throughout school. As an adult, I dreamed about running but I really couldn’t imagine that (a) it would ever be fun, or (b) I would feel good about it. I was convinced that I would be terrible, that I would never be able to run 5K, but I decided it would be good for me to try something new anyway.

For a long time, I thought Brian’s expectations around fitness were too high. He tried to push me outside my comfort zone and I thought he expected everyone else to be as fit as he was. Since changing my eating habits and my life overall, I can see that he was just trying to encourage us to be better tomorrow than we are today. I didn't have a chance to share this realization with him, nor was I really able to celebrate my changes with him in person. Running is / was another opportunity to push myself into uncomfortable territory and learn something new about myself. It’s also a chance to feel close to Brian.

On January 1, I ran 5K. The weather was cool, right around zero celcius and there was a crowd of about 400 runners. My husband saw me off and I started out with a former classmate. I soon found my pace, though, and got comfortable in the crowd. I was on my way down a hill when I spotted my Mum, sisters and nieces waiting at the bottom. They clapped and cheered and I waved and hollered as I ran by.

I felt a bit emotional at that point. The girls had elected not to do the run but they were there cheering for me! And so was Mum! And my nieces! I saw them all again after rounding the same loop and then, around the corner from the finish, I saw one of my sisters and one of my nieces on the sidewalk. I ran toward them, ready to give them a big high-five but they surprised me and jumped in to run the rest of the way with me.

My husband was waiting at the finish and so were the others. It was WONDERFUL to be there with all of them! Mum gave me a big hug and congratulated me on “the first of many!”. I’m sure Uncle Brian was there too.

It felt so good to have done something positive on January 1. Last year was incredibly difficult and I feel like I started this new year off right. There’s no telling what 2012 will bring but I made myself proud on the very first day! I know that my uncle would be proud of me too.

He would also be proud of my new Up & Running friends who encouraged me and did their own runs on January 1. I was blown away by the support I received from the group and I felt a bit teary each time I read that someone was out there, thinking of Uncle Brian and I as they actively celebrated the arrival of a new year.


Jilanna on New Year's Day

8. So what are your impressions of running so far? How does it make you feel – both mind and body?

Learning to run was just the challenge I needed. It helped me work through some serious grief for both Uncle Brian and one of my best friends. It reminded me that I can change my life for the better; it’s just a matter of doing the work, day by day, to make it happen. With the right support, I really can do anything. I now know that if I can change how I feel about myself and running, I can probably do anything.

Running helps me burn off excess energy and refocus if I’m feeling grumpy or stressed. It helps me feel strong and capable of change and improvement. It isn’t 100% natural yet but each time I exercise my will and actually go, or push myself to run a little farther, I feel awesome. I love feeling strong and capable.

I am connected with the women on the UAR forum and I feel a sense of solidarity with each person I see running around town. I know how good they feel and I am proud of them for getting out there. Fast or slow, getting out there and doing the work is what matters. And that little mantra keeps me connected with Uncle Brian too.

9. What’s next on your agenda?

I’ve signed up for the UAR 10K course. I love a project and a plan. I’ve been looking forward to spring and the course will help me get out there and take full advantage of the weather.The Fredericton Marathon is on May 13 – I plan to run the 10K distance that day, do my best and cheer for local runners.

Big picture, I want to make running a part of my life in the long term. I love what it does for my body and soul.

10. You’re very consistent with your exercise and have been successful at maintaining your goal weight. What things are essential to you staying on track? How do you keep your desire strong to eat healthy and move your butt?

Throughout my adventure, I have had great support at home and at work. My husband continues to cheer for me, encourages and celebrates every success with me, and continues to remind me when I need help focusing on my plan. He is my partner in this venture and has never complained about the ways it has changed his life too.

My family and friends have been outstanding, asking how they can help and listening to a whole lot of thinking aloud, providing healthy alternatives to my favourite snacks and helping me clean out my closet and learn to dress my new body. Colleagues still check in after every weigh-in, tracking my progress on my whiteboard and putting up with my stash of veggies in the freezer. Long distance and online buddies have also been great about checking in. I am grateful to each person who has cheered me on.

Here are a few of the things I do every day to make it easier to stay on track:

  • I keep at least one good snack in my purse at all times and my desk drawer is full of snacks, tea and cereal.I keep milk in the fridge and veggies in the freezer at work. I pack a lot of snacks when I travel. As long as I’m traveling within Canada, I carry fruit in my carry on and I pick up milk and a few other essentials as soon as I get to my destination.
  • I eat something healthy every couple of hours and try not to let myself get too hungry. It’s much easier to make good decisions when I’m not out of my mind with hunger.
  • I don’t worry about being perfect. I try to make the best choices I can and keep things in perspective. Today’s version of a bad day is still far and away better than a good day used to be.
  • At the end of every day, I write down what I’ve eaten and add a note about how I feel about my choices.If I’ve had a particularly good day, I give myself a little star or add a note like “More VEGS!” if I think I need to refocus the next day. If I’m traveling or go out to lunch with someone, I jot that down too.
  • I read about nutrition and healthy living almost every day, and I love to read stories about people who have overcome significant obstacles. When I feel discouraged, I remember their stories and carry on.

It’s not always easy but it is worth the effort to eat right and move a little more. I know I have improved the quality of my life and – as much as possible – I have added days to my life. If I keep it up, I will be a healthy mother someday and, in the meantime, I’m setting a good example for my nieces and others in my life. And that feels good.

11. Could you sum up your Healthy Living “Formula” in ten words or less?

Work hard every day to become a stronger, smarter, healthier you.

It’s worth it. I promise.

The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part I

As someone who's been "maintenance challenged" I love to pick the brains of folk who are keeping the pounds off without going batty. Today I've pounced on the lovely Jilanna from Canada for my next The Amazing Adventures of… interview. Jilanna talked to me about her 70 pound weight loss, her healthy living tactics, and how the sudden death of her beloved uncle inspired her to become a runner.


Jilanna – Then & Now


1. Name, age, location?

My name is Jilanna. I’m thirty five and I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

2. Can you remember how/when you started reading Dietgirl?

I don’t remember exactly when or how, but I know it was quite soon after the big move to Scotland and I've been a regular reader ever since. Your blog and book gave me hope that someday I would get my act together.

3. To set the scene for the statistics lovers out there, can you tell us your before and current weight?

 In March 2010, I set out to lose 60 pounds. I had been holding steady at the same weight for three or four years (about twenty pounds below my all-time highest weight), confident and relatively content, but it was time to make a change.  When I reached -60 lbs, I realized I wanted to go a little further. I have been maintaining a total loss of 70 pounds since January 2011. I now weigh myself every four weeks and my weight fluctuates by about a pound up or down each month.

4. What prompted you to decide to lose weight? Had there been previous attempts?

 Over the years, I made a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight.  I tried different things, like Weight Watchers or going to the gym, but I never took more than a single baby step in the right direction.

Until March 2010, I lived on beige food, believed life was too short to eat vegetables and preferred to eat my favourite, decadent treats at every opportunity. I was on continuous feed, eating while working, celebrating, grieving, cooking and watching TV or reading. I couldn’t see my way free of my habits and although I knew what should be done, I couldn’t wrap my head around actually doing it.

When I started on The Plan (as I like to call it; in my mind, diets have deadlines, plans have a timeline and focus) in 2010, I was ready to change. I had what I would now describe as a clear sense of motivation and I had identified tangible goals. I recognized that although I was self-confident, secure in my relationships and not experiencing any health issues, I would not have the long and healthy life I wanted if I continued to eat in the same way. I was newly married and hoping to be a mother someday. I did not want to teach anyone else to eat the way I did. And I was going to be thirty five before we even thought about babies. I couldn’t do anything about the risks that came with age, but I could do something about my weight.

5. What tools/methods did you use for your weight loss? How did you decide on the particular method?

 A couple of colleagues had tried Simply for Life, a program that teaches clients the basics, provided detailed meal plans and recipes for real food, one-on-one support and strategies for coping with change. I asked them a lot of questions and eventually made an appointment with a consultant. I talked to Jillian about my fears and my hopes for the future. We discussed the number of pounds I hoped to lose, but she never once suggested a number. We agreed to meet weekly and work together to reach my goals and adjust our focus as needed.

It was a big adjustment but I felt better almost immediately. Before long, I was sure I had made one of the best decisions of my life. My energy was up, I was better able to handle stress and my moods didn’t change with the ebb and flow of sugar in my system. I could feel myself getting stronger and healthier. I was shocked by the improvements and I felt empowered by the changes I was making.

Now that I’ve reached my goal, I still meet with Jillian once a month to check-in and confirm my plan. I’m doing the work on my own, choosing everything I eat and building on what I have learned.  We’ve made some adjustments in the past year, particularly as I have taken up running, to ensure I continue to get the right kind of fuel when I need it. My appointments with Jillian help keep me accountable and ensure that I celebrate my progress.

6. How did you get started with exercise?  Have you always been into fitness or has this developed during your weight loss journey?

As a kid, I played outside, swam, rode my bike and walked all over the village. Exercise was a torment reserved for gym class and I was never particularly happy to participate (big understatement). When I was a teenager, I lived with my uncle and his family for a couple of summers.  Uncle Brian was a lifelong runner and taught physical fitness in the air force.  I did cardio and strength training while I lived with them and I got a lot out of it.  I just didn’t keep it up when I came home. In my twenties and very early thirties I tried going to the gym on my own at different points and I did Pilates with friends… but, much like my plans to lose weight, it didn’t take.

When I started on The Plan in 2010, I focused only on improving my nutrition. Exercise was part of the long-term plan, but I wanted to be sure I understood and built a healthy life with food first. My theory was that no matter what, I would always need to eat.  Illness might interrupt exercise, but food was essential. So I focused on food and experienced great results.  Because my energy went up, I felt better and got out and moved more. I walked more, got more fresh air and I was less likely to hesitate if an activity was suggested. There was no routine, but my fitness improved through a kind of osmosis.

Stay turned for Part II tomorrow, where Jilanna shares how running help her cope with bereavement, plus her tips for staying in a healthy groove.

The Amazing Adventures of Svava – Part II

image from Ahoy there! Here is Part II of my chat with the Amazing Svava. You can read Part I here.

7. Your number came up on the random number generator and you won a place on the UAR Summer 5K course. Had you been thinking about running before you entered? Did you have any concerns/fears about running before you started?

Thanks again for that one! I had tried Couch to 5K but got stuck on a certain point and just never managed beyond that. I did participate in a 5K event in Race for Life and managed to run most of that and that was one of my proudest moments yet. But I never managed to get running to be a part of my routine.

I have wanted to be able to run since I started changing my lifestyle. It is such an accessible sport and I have serious logistic issues with getting to a gym. But most of all the allure for me lies in the image I have of runners, they are everything I am not – long, lean, lithe, naturally sporty. Whereas weight lifting is my natural sport running feels like a real challenge; and I can't resist a challenge.  

8. It’s no exaggeration to say you have become a running MACHINE during the Course. I knew you were one seriously determined woman when your wrote in your Running Diary that you went out for your first run at 4.55AM! What are your impressions of running so far?

When I first started all this lifestyle changing I needed to coax myself to go and do every session. Now I've managed to make it a natural part of my day to the point where I feel uncomfortable if I don´t exercise. It was the realisation that it just didn't matter how I felt before hand, that the rewards would always be worth the work that changed my attitude.

Running is pure joy now. Julia (the coach) has created a course that is going at a pace that I can manage and I can feel my progress every time I go out. I marvel at myself every time I run. I can't believe that I'm actually doing it. And not dying. That this body that used to just be a mountain of flab is now strong enough to propel me at a speed that is nothing to be ashamed of. Or that my lungs are strong enough to give my muscles enough oxygen to continue for extended periods of time. I just let my body take over.

My thoughts vary from day to day. Sometimes the run is difficult and I need to make up stories about winning the lottery, sometimes it feels just perfect and I use the time to just turn off my brain and think of nothing whatsoever. Bliss.

The feeling afterwards is what I exercise for. It has become my drug of choice and I am addicted to it. The feeling of achievement, of elation and happiness is just awesome. And to think that this is how I start most my days! No wonder I'm happy all the time!

Svava-runSvava after finishing her 5K at the end of the U&R Course. Dig that grin!

9. You mentioned on the Forum that you recently finished your Masters degree. You’ve been juggling full time study with full time work, parenthood and “full time lifestyle changing” as you so nicely put it. Are you a natural born multi-tasker or is this another skill you have taught yourself? How do you stay organised and fit in the things you love/need to do without going bonkers?

I haven't quite finished it yet; I'm finished with all the exams and assignments. I've still got to hand in my thesis. I am insanely organised. I make lists for pretty much everything and tick things off. And then just let the things that don't matter slide. I wake up early and I organise things into priorities. I take time on a Sunday to write a menu for the week and cook as much as I can ready for it. I make ready baked porridge and egg muffins for my breakfast and cook lots of chicken breast and make sure that grabbing lunch and snacks is a quick and easy thing to do.

10. What strikes me from reading your posts is your positive attitude and ability to keep things in perspective when a training session don't go quite as planned. You don't dwell on things too long or give up, you learn a lesson and move on. Now how the heck do you manage to do that? Are you generally a positive person or again is this something that you have learned over time?

Many years ago I mentioned to my friend in a conversation that my "strip light of positivity" wasn't as bright today as normally. She looked at me funny and asked me to explain. "Well," I said, "the light that we've got inside us that makes us feel positive and happy, mine isn't shining today.” She explained to me that this was not a common thing; that not everyone had a strip light of positivity inside them. I was flabbergasted!

But I have held on to my shining light and I use it. I probably sound as mad now as I did to my friend all those years ago but I can't help but thinking that perhaps life would be easier for a lot of people if they could have my light installed and turn it on when things get tough. It makes it easier for me to just move on from things that would maybe stop other people.

11. How long have you lived in the UK? If you could create a SuperCountry with the best bits of the UK and Iceland in one place, what things would you take from each country?

I've lived here since 2003. I would have to say that apart from friends and family I do miss the Icelandic attitude that says that things will work out somehow and I really miss the just going out and getting things done. However it could sometimes be mixed in with the British cautiousness. Icelanders sometimes act without thinking of the consequences. And I would keep the British sense of humour.

12. Finally, could you sum up your Healthy Living “Formula” in ten words or less?
Organisation, planning, consistency, moderation and make it fun!

Thank you Svava!

The Amazing Adventures of Svava – Part I

Svava Everyone, meet Svava. She hails from Iceland, lives in Wales and is one kick arse woman. I started reading her Icelandic blog via Google Translate after her number came up in the Summer Up & Running giveaway. Despite the mangled English I was instantly intrigued. It was clear from her Before and During photos she had made some massive changes in her life.

During the Summer 5K Course Svava hooked me even more (in English!) with her determination, radiant positivity and never-give-up attitude.I'm so chuffed that she was up for this interview so I can share her story with you all…

1. First of all I have to ask about your blog title Salvelinus Alpinus… what does that mean?

I'd like to say something intelligent but really it's a joke whose origins are now lost in time. Salvelinus Alpinus is the latin name for a type of fish called murta in Icelandic. Which is a sometimes joke name for me.

2. To set the scene for the statistics lovers out there, can you tell us your before and current weight and/or clothing sizes?

When I first weighed myself just over two years ago as I started my lard busting escapades I owned scales that stopped at 130 kilos (287lb). And I could not get any numbers from that scale. So I know that I was over 130 kilos at that stage. I then first logged my weight in march 2009 at 126 kilos (278lb) and I was wearing trousers UK 24, tops in UK 26 (I'm top heavy).

I now weigh 86 kilos (189lb) and am a size 16. I set myself the goal weight of 71 kilos although I must admit that as I progress in the mental side of "fixing" myself that goal has become less and less important.

Svava-before  Svava in January 2008 before her adventures began

3. What prompted you to decide to lose weight? Had there been previous attempts?

I don't remember myself as anything but fat. And I don't remember a time when I've not been on a diet. I have always been confident and happy and I have never let my weight hold me back. However as my weight crept higher up the scales I started losing my natural confidence until I just didn't feel like me anymore. I was no longer in control of my addiction, it controlled me. I remember having panic attacks if there weren't any sweets in the house. Or if I foresaw that I wouldn't have private time to stuff my face.

It got to the stage where I was waiting for an appointment to see my GP about weight loss surgery but then lost my nerve. It felt such a big operation and with such massive possible complications. I thought to myself that I needed to give myself one last try, one last go at losing the weight. But I also knew that I needed to approach it somehow differently than normally.

So I sat down and reviewed every attempt I'd had at losing weight in the past, found the common denominator and then did away with that. It turned out that I had always set myself far too lofty goals in a far too small a timeframe. This time I set a much smaller goal. Instead of saying "I am going to lose 50 kilos (110lb) in a year", I said "Im going to lose 10% of myself in 4 months." 13 kilos (29lb) was so much easier to think about than 50. And then in the same way as you would climb a mountain, I set off, one bleeding step at a time.

4. What tools/methods are you using for your weight loss? How did you decide on this particular method(s)?

I have tried every diet under the sun. If it's been invented I've tried it. And diets work – it's humans that don't work. I am no exception to that; I have never been able to stick to a diet. So armed with that knowledge I sat down and thought about what would work for me. I understood that I would have to eat less and that I should choose my calories more carefully. I also knew that I would have to make some serious changes.

At first I just counted calories but then started being more mindful of what I ate. I am now aiming at eating clean for the most part. I believe passionately in moderation and would like to be able to live according to that. I do stumble all the time and I know that sugar is a massive trigger for overeating for me. I have managed to imprint in myself now that the occasional overindulgence does not have to lead to extended periods of overeating, I can always stop myself before it spirals out of control.

This has lead me to being hopeful that I will be able to live in mindful moderation sooner than later. I don't allow myself to feel guilty when I stumble. I choose to analyse those occasions to better understand myself and how I can then either avoid the situation or better control it next time. I aim for consistency rather than perfection.

Svava-pants The Svava and Big Pants Photo – it has to be done!

5. How did you get started with exercise? Have you always been into fitness or has this developed during your weight loss journey?

I have never been athletic or exercised. And I do not believe that exercise is necessary for weight loss. I am however convinced that exercise can be the difference between simply being on a diet and making a permanent change in your lifestyle. For me it is the thing that I use to set myself goals to achieve when the scales aren't moving.

I was too heavy to do much when I first started, but instead of doing what I'd normally do; go to an aerobics class, feel fat and incompetent, get breathless and wish for death and then never go again, I decided that exercise would now be on my terms the same as my diet. So I got a Pilates DVD and just did that at home until I felt ready to try more energetic moves on Wii EA Active. I then got a book on weightlifting, joined the gym attached to my workplace and started dabbling with running as well.

As I get fitter exercising cements my new lifestyle. I feel that goals such as being able to run 5k or deadlift 80kg are much more sustainable goals than wanting to reach a certain weight. It all holds hands; I am now a healthy person, not just because I mostly eat clean but because I am fit and strong.

And I think that the most important changes I have made to my mindset come from exercising.  In all honesty it has been a fun and relatively easy adventure in the kitchen, I love cooking and I have made it a fun assignment to create healthy, appetising recipes that I enjoy eating. But exercising did not come naturally to me. That was the aspect of my life that is new and changed for me. It is the aspect where I continue to amaze and astound myself with my achievements.

6. I’ve read on your blog you can lift some seriously heavy weights! Has weight training played a role in your weight loss? What’s your favourite move?

I love all the old school "proper" weight lifting. I firmly believe that you should lift as heavy weights as possible with few reps. Squats are by far my favourite move. When I rack up 70 kilos of iron, put it on my shoulders and then squat down and stand up again… the feeling of strength, invincibility and achievement is indescribable.

Discovering weight training was a pivotal point in my weight loss. And I would recommend it for anyone who is overweight. Most of us fat people are already strong from carrying a lot of extra weight. It doesn't involve hopping about and doesn't leave you breathless and uncomfortable. You can wear much looser fitting clothing that in most other sports and you don’t have to be in a class full of nimble beings.

All this adds to building up confidence. This feeling of being strong gives such a positive body image and when you are used to thinking of your body as a useless lump this feeling is invaluable. Starting lifting was the point where I became serious about exercising and made it a real part of my life.

Check out Part II of the interview when Svava talks about her running adventures, her "striplight of positivity" and her formula for healthy living.

Svava-iron Svava at the gym

The Amazing Adventures of Philippa

Philippa Philippa, from Hampshire England, is a longtime Dietgirl reader. She's just finished the Up & Running 5K Course and inspired my socks off with the amazing changes she made over the eight weeks, inside and out.

I asked if she'd write about her running experience for you guys and she kindly obliged!

Running was for fit people. Cool, confident people with bouncy ponytails who never broke a sweat. Not people who once ate a whole takeout pizza, plus side dish, plus dessert for dinner, nor people who got breathless walking up stairs. Running was for other people.

So how did I end up in the park on my day off, wearing trainers and a sports watch!?

A year ago I'd been in much the same position. I'd downloaded the Couch to 5K programme and gave it a go… for a whole 10 days. I turned purple, almost hacked up a lung and proved all the things I thought I knew about running, including the fact that I couldn't do it. I went back to the couch and the calorie counting. This had worked for the last few years, taking me from 220lb to 162lb. There was never much exercise involved; I didn't stick with anything for long.

So why would running be different this year? I was still a bit overweight, I still hated public exercise and I had already established that I just couldn't do it. I wrote to Shauna about Up & Running and she assured me that being a bit overweight and unfit wasn't a problem. My negative little brain insisted, C'mon, she doesn't mean you, you're a whole new level of couch potato! But Shauna gave me a firm nudge, saying that if I really wanted to do it, it was possible.

I really really wanted to. I signed up for Up & Running and for the next eight weeks I walked, skipped and stretched. I did arm swings, side-stepped and skipped some more.

And I started to run. Slowly.

It was so slow that I could probably have walked faster! But the first time I ran I laughed out loud, right there in the park. I was like a kid in the playground going down a slide, that feeling that makes you want to shout, Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, look at what I can do! That first 10 seconds of running was amazing. That was what got me out there for the next session – I wanted more of that feeling.

Occasionally the training messed with my head. I had to push Little Miss Grumpy out the door when she didn’t want to go. I'd doubt my abilities as I read the training plan, “They want me to do what?". If I had a 'bad' workout I'd be convinced the magic was gone and everything was about to come crashing down. Years of negativity about my abilities weren't going to disappear in a few weeks. But it wasn't magic that had got me running – that wasn't going to disappear either! It was simply an off-day and with the support and advice from Coach Julia and the other ladies, I got back out there and kept going.

Along the way I've learned so much more than just how to run. The person who started the Course didn’t know what she was capable of. She was scared of so many things, with failure being top of the list. She hated what she looked like and she sure as hell didn’t want to draw attention to herself either.

PhilippaBut now? Looking in the mirror I can still see the stretch marks and a belly roll and thighs, but when I run it doesn't matter. My thighs aren't monsters any more, they're strong and powerful. And they work! I've never treated my body very kindly, damaging it and filling it with substandard fuel, but it's mine and despite what I've put it through it still works. Whenever I run it does what I ask it to do, rewarding me for treating it more kindly.

The Course finished with us completing a 5K race. Each training session had covered a maximum distance of 4km, so I wondered if I had it in me.  As I started my stopwatch I was terrified. The old feelings of self-doubt were there until I ran past a little old lady. She asked me how many miles I was running.

"Three miles!" I said.

And just like that the fear was gone. She saw a chick in running clothes, running. She saw a runner. So of course a runner would be running a few miles on a lovely sunny morning! God bless that lady.

I finished my run in 37 minutes 8 seconds feeling good. Not anything amazing, just good. I came home and it all felt like a bit of an anti-climax.

But then the tears came.  Wonderful tears, as another Up and Runner called it, "talking with water". Thirty years of fearing failure poured out out with the realisation I’d accomplished something I'd never thought possible.

I'm planning my running future now. I did a 5k local parkrun this past weekend, then in mid June I'm going to Scotland to run with some of the other Up & Running ladies. I'll meet Shauna and thank her in person for being a huge part of my journey (and to apologise for using that cheesy word!).

I still have some weight to lose but it's not the only goal now. I want to run well and I know that being a little lighter will help, but I want to achieve things with this body of mine. I want to run 5km FAST! I want to do the Up & Running 10K course in September and I want to run a marathon some day!

I don't know how yet or what else will happen along the way, but I do know my body can do amazing things now. And I won’t let fear stop me any more.