In the past year I have lost 20lbs in weight. (A stone and a half for my English chums) and I thought I’d write a short post in order to tell my story and maybe inspire or help people who wish to lose a few pounds themselves.
I’m not what society would call a fat person. I previously had a thirty-eight inch waist, a bit of a belly and a large gullet (family trait) which basically meant that at my heaviest (225lbs or 16 stone) you would be unable to see my chin without the aid of a beautifully crafted beard to help define the jawline. People didn’t see me as fat just a little chubby or “flabby around the tits” (to quote Bill Bryson) but when I looked in the mirror I was unhappy with what I saw.
My problem is that I love food. I mean I REALLY love food (not to mention beer). I would fill my stomach to bursting at every opportunity. I don’t know where this gluttony came from. All I know is that both my father and grandfather have and had voracious appetites.
So what’s my excuse?
Society: Why? Because growing up society would tell me to finish my dinner and be thankful because there are millions of starving children who would love to eat the meal in front of me. So as we grow up we feel guilty for leaving the smallest of morsels on the plate. This is because we still live in a society that remembers rationing. The ‘waste not, want not’ mentality has been passed down through the generations since rationing ended.
My grandfather grew up in a poor household and experienced rationing throughout his life due to World War Two. I can understand how this ‘waste not, want not’ attitude may have been transferred to my father who was born in 1953 when Britain’s food was still being rationed (Admittedly rationing ended in 1954 but its effects were felt still for several more years).
Food prices: For some reason it is cheaper in England, and no doubt in North America too, to by a microwavable meal for $1.50 (£1) but fresh fruit and vegetables are very expensive. Don’t believe me? Check out this Academic study.
Lack of culinary know-how: Whenever we had cooking classes in school, and they were few and far between, we only learnt how to make cakes and pizza (not the most healthy of foods), and we barely touched on nutrition in either that class or in biology.
In the 2004 documentary “Supersize Me” Morgan Spurlock visited a few schools in the US and showed the lack of knowledge the students had about food. One girl insisted that her plate of fries was her “one a day” vegetable portion. One school insisted that they let the students have the choice in order to help educate them to make better life choices when it comes to food.
I wonder what would happen if you offered students a choice between a Greek salad or a burger and fries for dinner? I know what I would have chosen at that age and it wouldn’t have been the healthy option.
Now I hear some of you say “Why didn’t your parents teach you how to cook?” and that is a very good question and to which I see three reasons that they didn’t. Firstly I didn’t give a crap about cooking when I was a teenager, secondly our kitchen was so small that two people in it at any one time would have been a health and safety hazard and thirdly most families have both parents working to make ends meet. They haven’t time to teach their children how to cook which also means that a single parent stands very little chance of passing on culinary knowledge if they are working full-time too. Also if parents don’t know how to cook themselves, how can they teach their children how to cook? My parents did know how to cook but points one and two are particularly valid in my case.
I became interested in cooking when I moved out and lived on my own. My former partner was a very good cook and she taught me a few basics…she also cooked a lot with butter and cream hence the weight gain.
Over the years I have acquired many recipe books and have thoroughly enjoyed trying out the many weird and wonderful dishes that these books contained. I quickly learnt how long certain foods took to cook and what ingredients go well together. I learnt how to flavour food using an interesting array of herbs and spices. Now I’m a dab hand in the kitchen and can easily whip up a plethora of dishes to keep guests happy and satiated.
I was inspired by a story of a friend’s mother who lost 70lbs on the Weight Watcher diet by following a few simple rules:
- Fill three quarters of your plate with fresh vegetables
- Be more active
- Eat foods that contain less added sugars
- Learn to have smaller treats
So that’s exactly what I did. I:
- I had more fruit and vegetables with my meals
- I ate smaller portions more often (Imagine your body as a fire. You want to keep it burning all day and all night. Do you put all the logs on the fire at once? No you add fuel as needed. Same principle for eating)
- For dessert I ate natural yoghurt with honey, berries and seeds thrown in
- I did more exercise. I played football twice a week, and worked in a job where I would be actively on my feet all day. I also had my own exercise routine consisting of push-ups and arm curls with weights every other day.
- I replaced pop and fruit juice with water
- I have lost 20lbs
- I have lost 2 inches (almost three) off my waist
- I feel happier when I look in the mirror
- My jawline and chin have returned
- My sexual appetite has increased (boy has it increased!!!)
It does take a bit of self-discipline as you are retraining your body, and your mind, to want different foods. Once I got over my initial sugar addiction I realised that I actually didn’t much like the taste of pop.
The hardest part for me was portion control. The way you get used to this is by eating slower. Put your knife and fork down after every bite and fully chew your food. It takes a while for a message to get from your stomach to your brain saying “Ok I’m full”. However even if you do over eat a little, if most of your plate is filled with low calorie vegetables then your stomach will fill and you will feel satisfied but with the knowledge that you won’t turn into Mr. Blobby. (You will also find you are brisker in the bowel movement department too).
Lastly I would like to offer these handy tips for shedding those extra few pounds:
- Calories are not bad….calories are good: They give your body the fuel to perform. If you starve yourself your body will store up any calories you take in as fat as your body is trying to save itself from starvation.
- Build muscle: Muscle eats up calories like no man’s business. Simply use dumb-bells or do some push-ups a few times a week and you will notice that you are becoming a little slimmer because you are building muscle that eats up the excess calories.
- Get off your arse!!!: It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change! Admittedly its harder if you work in a sedentary job but here’s a novel idea…walk. Don’t get the bus into town, don’t call a cab. Call some friends, meet up and simply walk.
Please tell me about your experiences with diets and weight-loss. I am eager to hear about other people’s experiences.
PS this is what I look liked in 2013